Jade Island, by Elizabeth Lowell

>> Sunday, October 31, 2004

I started Elizabeth Lowell's Donovan series basically because I wanted to read the third one, Pearl Cove. Book 2, Jade Island wasn't even in my radar.

Wild and restless, Kyle Donovan has freed himself from the constraints of his family's high-powered gem-trading empire to rove the world as a treasure hunter.

Now the president of Donovan International has given Kyle an assignment with explosive ramifications. A case he must take.

When one of China's legendary cultural treasures is stolen, Lianne Blakely, a mysterious and beautiful jade expert, is accused of the theft. It's Kyle's job to get to the bottom of what could be a potential disaster for the Donovans as well as Lianne. Kyle finds himself irresistibly drawn to the exotic beauty and captivated by her fierce claim of innocence.

Soon they are in dangerous pursuit of the real thief, drawn deeper into the perils of spiraling power plays, and linked by a passion as powerful as the lore of the ancient culture and as enduring as the splendor of the treasured jade.
Not having particularly anticipated reading Jade Island, it was a surprise how much I enjoyed it. It was very close to an A grade, but a few little niggles about the romance kept it at B+, still a very respectable grade.

Kyle has become my favourite Lowell hero. He was macho and alpha, like all her heros, but he was no sexist jerk and I liked that he always treated Lianne respectfully and nicely. Even when he was so sure she was trying to use him, he felt drawn to her and was prepared to treat her well and protect her even from his brother. I also liked that she was the knowledgeable one about jade here, and Kyle had no problem listening to her advice. He was actually attracted by her intelligence and expertise and confidence in this area.

As for Lianne, I ended up really liking her. At first, I found it difficult to warm up to her because I thought that her practically killing herself to please a family who so obviously don't care about her and who don't deserve her effort, was very stupid. I didn't change my mind throughout the story about the fact that she really should have consigned her family to hell, but I came to understand Lianne and her desire to be accepted by them. It made me terribly angry the way she and her mother were treated by the Tangs, but it did make sense that Lianne could react by craving their acceptance in spite of herself, even as she resented their indifference. At least, there was some validation for her in the end, as her family ended up giving her more acceptance than she thought possible. I especially liked how Kyle stood up for her in front of them and demanded she be treated well.

The romance was both one of the strongest and weakest elements of the book. I'll explain: Lowell did very, very well in showing them gradually falling in love and in building sexual tension. Plenty of angst here, enough to give me that nice stomach-clenching feeling. However, I thought Lowell dropped the ball with the pay-off in the romance, just as in Amber Beach. The love scenes themselves were strangely short and un-intense (and remember, this is Lowell! I know she can write beautiful, intense scenes) and the conclusion of the romance was a bit unsatisfying and much too short.

The jade-centered suspense subplot was excellent. Also like in Amber Beach, this was not break-neck speed, on-the-run suspense, but something more leisurely, with plenty of time for the romance to develop. I also loved the info about the jade. I'm sure it might be considered a little excessive by some, and a couple of little sections do smell of info dump, but I thought it was so fascinating that I didn't care, and actually, I thought most of the "lectures" were written to be pretty naturally integrated to the story.

Jade Island reminded me a bit of an old Lowell I read years ago from my high school library, Tell Me No Lies. I liked this one so much, that I'm going to have to look for TMNL and see if it was as good as I remember.

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