I was lucky enough to savor a long lunch this week with the woman behind the Elizabeth Grayson books. She enjoys her anonymity, so I'll just say this: she's one heck of a woman and in reading her newest book "Moon in the Water," I discovered she is one heck of a story teller. Her element is water, so it seems only right that this book features the mighty Mississippi River as a wonderful backdrop to the action. She told me she gets to know her characters so well that she worries about them as flesh and blood friends almost, rather than fictional creations. This immersion shows in her characterizations and how her characters make choices and grow over the course of the novel.
Disclaimer: I'm not a Romance genre fan, and so I enter this review through the side door. As I read this novel I felt I could identify the conventions of the genre, but that the author Elizabeth Grayson goes beyond formula to turn in fine characterizations that grow over the course of the novel. "Moon in the Water" offers descriptions of bluffs and water, insight into life in the city as well as on the frontier, adventure, flashes of humor, a plot filled with little mysterious turnings, and a continuous thread on the importance of family solidarity and loyalty.
This was just the right book for me to read at this time, filled with many links to my life. "Moon in the Water," begins in 1867 about five years after my great grandfather quit his work on riverboats that ran along the Mississippi and founded a horticultural estate on the bluffs above that great water. The action starts in St. Louis and continually folds back to St. Louis. Louis, where I now live, so I was fascinated to find place names and learn tidbits about places known about in passing. The point Grayson describes at Hardesty's Landing could well have been my own stone ledge I went to in girlhood when I needed to sort out my thoughts.
But Grayson's descriptions are so good I think any reader could enter the world she creates and happily stay there a long time throughout its 468 pages. Here's a passage I particularly liked as Chase gazes upon his wife and new baby:
"Every man stores up memories, flickers of time that crystallize in the chambers of the mind, instants of beauty and simple truth that warm him when the world goes cold. Images that resonate as long as he draws breath." (p. 337)
The core story of "Moon in the Water" is about honor and loyalty and that's a story that will remain contemporary as long as we care about our humanity.