has also reviewed:

Amber Beach

Autumn Lover

Desert Rain

Forget Me Not

To the Ends of the Earth

Where The Heart Is

 
Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell
(Avon, $23.00, R) ISBN 0-380-97403-7
*
Okay before I have all the Elizabeth Lowell fans out there spamming my e-mail and yelling at me, let me make something clear: I do not hate Elizabeth Lowell or have it in for her. I am not blaspheming her. The fact that this book was assigned to me was purely random. I am merely a reviewer assigned to give my honest opinion of this book.

So here it is: don't bother.

If you're looking for a book with ridiculous and often raunchy dialog, a plot that is more geology lesson than mystery, and a hero and heroine who inspire not one whit of romance, then by all means, read Jade Island. On the other hand, if you like a little romance with your romance, and a three hundred page lesson on the socio-economic importance of jade to China isn't quite your bag, I'd recommend you look elsewhere for some autumn reading.

Set in Seattle and Vancouver, Jade Island is the second of Lowell's books starring the handsome/beautiful/rich/brilliant/
talented Donovan family. The central character here is Kyle Donovan, who is winding up his recovery from some disaster that befell him in the first book in the series, Amber Beach. The Donovan's are in the gem and mineral business, and Kyle's particular interest is jade.

That brings us to Lianne Blakely, the illegitimate daughter of a high powered Chinese businessman and his long-time paramour. Lianne has devoted her life to the study of jade in order to gain acceptance by her father's family, the rich and powerful Tang clan. Her expertise is put to good use on the family's large jade holdings, but she is always an outsider. When important jade artifacts begin disappearing from mainland China, Lianne is suspected. The Donovan's owe Uncle Sam a few favors, so Kyle and his brother Archer are assigned to case.

It's not quite a co-inkydink when Lianne and Kyle meet up at a huge gem/jade auction. She has been instructed by her father to meet Kyle and, if necessary, seduce him. He's basically been told the same thing. So when sparks fly from their initial meeting, its an added bonus. Kyle isn't sure if Lianne is involved in the high stakes jade thievery, but he sticks close and manages to pick up quite a bit of knowledge on the history/social significance of jade. In this, the author is quite impressive. The book is impeccably researched, and there is no doubt Lowell spent countless hours reading up on every fact she could find regarding jade. Unfortunately for the reader, she includes each and every fact in the book. And though I might have been impressed by the author's research, it makes for some really boring reading.

Worse still, the author seems to think that she can spice up the action by throwing in some heavy breathing between two characters who show more concern for a bunch of old green rocks than they do for each other. The sex scenes (no "lovemaking" here) are inventive, but more primal than passionate. I like a good "down 'n dirty" as much as the next girl, but when there are no emotional ties binding the reader to the characters, it's just plain sex between strangers.

Still, I think I could have forgiven the rather unpleasant randiness of the couple if it wasn't for dialogue like this:

"I was screwing you because you got me so hot I didn't know which end was up. I'm still picking splinters out of my butt from the dock. Wasn't I a gentleman, sweetheart? You only got splinters in your knees."

Sounds like erotica from the pen of a fourteen year old boy. From Page One the dialogue is that immature. What is supposed to be "fun" banter between brothers reads as incredibly callous and just plain mean-spirited. Kyle and Archer spend half their time cursing at each other. And they're in good company. One of the female characters uses language that would not only make a sailor blush, but would cause him to run out and buy a bar of soap to stick in her mouth. I'm certainly no puritan who can't handle a little blue language in my romances. But is the author's unrelenting use of the word d**k supposed to be representation of "realistic" dialogue? It's not the word itself that bothers me (to my great shame, I've used it often enough.) It's the fact that it is used so gratuitously sprinkled almost arbitrarily throughout the proceedings.

No reader is fooled by that sort of vulgarity for vulgarity's sake. At times it was glaringly out of place. I found myself wondering why all the characters were so miserable that the only way they could express themselves was through four letter words. Beyond that, much of the dialogue is simply inane:

"Okay, boys and girl," she said. "Listen up. Some really big elephants are at play. Right now, you're the grass underfoot, soon to be ground into mud. If the idea doesn't appeal to you, grab hold of Uncle Sam and climb up for the ride. You'll be a lot safer."

Yeah. Whatever.

Jade Island is a strange book. I even wondered if it was authored by two different people. It's one half sleep-inducing dissertation and one half bad B-movie dialogue. In either case, it's a shame, because there is one element of this story that I haven't yet mentioned that is truly unique: how often to you come across an Amerasian heroine? Or a romance dealing with Chinese/American culture? Unfortunately, what could have been one of the book's most fascinating elements is completely lost in the aforementioned morass.

So after all this, if you're still inclined to read Jade Island, for heaven's sake wait for the paperback.

--Ann McGuire


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