Monday, April 18, 2011

Red Light by Thom Lane

TITLE: Red Light
AUTHOR: Thom Lane
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 32k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Jeff is on vacation in Provence, the vacation he was supposed to take with his ex. A chance lunch with a young man named Benet leads to an evening, and then a night, and then another day. Jeff keeps reminding himself this is just a vacation fling, though that gets harder and harder as Benet takes him to the vineyard where he works and Jeff is sucked into the family he meets there…

This book’s predecessor holds a special place on my virtual keeper shelf, and though this displays many of the qualities I loved about that one, it doesn’t quite rate as highly.

Jeff is an English doctor on vacation in Provence. The trip was originally meant to be a vacation for him and his boyfriend, but when they broke up a few months prior to the story’s start, Jeff decided not to let the tickets go to waste. At the top of the story, he’s sitting at a restaurant, wishing the waiter wouldn’t refuse to serve him the bouillabaisse when he overhears a nearby customer trying to order the same thing. Jeff offers to share the dish with him so that they might both get what they want, and thus starts a delicate song and dance as he meets Benet, another Englishman currently working for a vineyard in an attempt to learn French methodology. Their lunch eases into the afternoon, then the evening, as their attraction grows. Jeff is all too aware this is only a vacation fling, but the more time he spends with Benet, the more he likes the young man. That inner struggle is only exacerbated when he drives Benet back to work at the vineyard, where Jeff is immediately sucked in by the family.

The true star of the first book was its delicate, sensual prose that brought to life the French setting. That voice is back in this offering, and while it served to entrance me for the first two-thirds of the story, it ultimately wasn’t enough when I started getting frustrated by the narrator. The novella is told in 1st person from Jeff’s perspective, and while he’s likeable, he is blind to his own emotions and too stubborn to consider alternatives to what he’s already decided. While I can certainly appreciate that he’s only recently broken up with the man he’s spent most of his adult life with, he seemed far too intelligent to be quite as rigid as he was. I was frankly surprised to discover he was only five years older than Benet’s twenty-four. He acts much older and treats Benet like he’s much younger. I’m sure that colored my initial perceptions of him, because I fully expected him to be more attuned than he actually was. Inevitably, I spent the last third of the story annoyed at him more than anything else, and not even the prose could overcome it.

Because of Jeff’s blindness and the POV, it’s much harder to get a real grip on Benet as a fully fleshed out character. He’s presented as the pretty but whimsical casual fling, a role he fulfills magnificently. He’s charming and funny and very much fits into the French holiday vibe the prose works so hard for. I know his job and his age, and I get a feel for some of his personal peccadilloes, but Jeff is so good at keeping him ensconced under the label of not long term, that was all it felt like I ever discovered.

Where the book excels is exactly where the first story did – the loving, sun-drenched detail of the vineyard and the slow, serene pace of French life. There’s a sweet sensuality to the way it’s portrayed, a trait that comes through in more intimate scenes as well, so enjoying the author’s voice will go far in appreciating the story for what it does. It might not be for anyone. The languid pace at which the story travels will likely be considered too slow for some, and the ending, while an HFN, was mildly unsatisfying in that it didn’t seem to actually resolve the issues that really do plague these two. Characters from the first book make a reappearance here, but that doesn’t get in the way of enjoying this as a standalone. They are merely the backdrop for Jeff, Benet, and the setting – because France is most definitely a third character in this, that much is made clear with the care given to its presentation.


8/10 – Sweetly sensual though it drifts the longer the story goes on

Hero #1

6/10 – His stubbornness about his celibacy and lack of love seemed extreme for a man of his intelligence and age

Hero #2

6/10 – Charming but with everything from Jeff’s POV, I never felt like I got to know him

Entertainment value

7/10 – Sweet and sensual, though I didn’t enjoy this as much as its predecessor

World building

9/10 – The prose is in love with its setting, and it comes to life in loving, sun-drenched detail



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