Thursday, June 14, 2012

REVIEW: Rarer Than Rubies by E.M. Lynley


RARER THAN RUBIES by E.M. Lynley
Dreamspinner Press, 2011

Trent Copeland, aka gay romance author J.T. Dallas, has been in a serious rut since his lover Marc died in an accident. He spends his time watching the same movies over and over. He goes to the same restaurants and orders the same dishes. According to his agent Cassandra, his writing's also stuck, so badly that his publisher rejected his last novel. And his sex life is even less inspiring than his books.

Trying to shake him out of his lethargy, Trent's best friends send him on a vacation to Thailand, carefully orchestrated to provide him some adventure, especially of the erotic variety. However, neither they nor Trent himself count on rough trade Reed Acton zeroing in on the clueless author. Reed's involved with a bunch of vicious Thai gangsters seeking the legendary Ruby Buddha. Due to an error, a map indicating the location of the priceless relic gets slipped into Trent's backpack. Reed stalks Trent, ostensibly to retrieve the map but equally motivated by the lust Trent inspires. After Reed kills the mob boss, however, Reed and Trent find themselves fleeing for their lives, even as they become more deeply attached to one another. Reed is a hard case, unused to trusting anyone, but somehow the handsome, unworldly Trent manages to break through his shell. When they're captured by the gangsters, Reed realizes that he'll do anything to protect his unlikely lover – but he may not have a choice.

When I learned that Rarer than Rubies was set in Thailand, I had to read it. I lived in Thailand for several years and have visited it often since. I was curious to see how well E.M. Lynley captured the charm and the strangeness of this paradoxical country. Overall, she does a marvelous job bringing the sights, scents, sounds and tastes of the place to life. The courtesy Thais show to total strangers – their curiosity and fondness for ribald gossip – the contrast between their superstition and practicality – the centrality of food in their lives– the attitudes of Lynley's Thai characters struck me as wonderfully true to life. The Thailand she paints is somewhat out-dated – it's no longer possible to take a tuk-tuk from the airport into Bangkok and there are relatively few areas these days without electricity or paved roads, even in remote provinces – but the Thai character and culture haven't changed all that much.

This fascinating country provides a fine background for a steamy romance. Trent is initially sketched as overly civilized and somewhat helpless, but he proves to be more resourceful and creative than Reed (or the reader) expects. Reed is the classic bad boy, ruthlessly pursuing his goals and spurning any softer feelings. He's astonished when he realizes how much he has come to care for Trent. The sex between the two men involves more tenderness than Reed has ever experienced. The reader recognizes the emotional chemistry between the two heroes long before either of them is willing to admit it.

I can't say that there was much that surprised me about Rarer Than Rubies, but I enjoyed the ride. In general, Lynley writes with grace and power, though she's somewhat less explicit in her sex scenes that I might be. My most serious criticism was the fact that I found the names Trent and Reed to be a bit too similar. The book shifts back and forth between the POVs of the two heroes. Occasionally I had to reread a paragraph or two to remind myself who was who. That might have something to do with the fact that I generally read in bed, after a long day, and sometimes, a glass or two of wine!

If you're looking for a heartfelt M/M romance spiced with a hefty portion of the exotic, get yourself a copy of Rarer Than Rubies.

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