Monday, January 15, 2007

Review: Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell

All right... Elizabeth Lowell... I have to admit, I don't know where I stand with Ms Lowell. Her books are good I guess, but she's never been able to make me go crazy with her books. There's just a blockage somewhere inside of me that makes me find her books a bit bleh... actually, I'd say I find her writing a bit too clinical/sterile/cold. Go wonder why... She's definitively not on my list of favorite authors, yet I can't stop buying books from her from time to time.

When I went to buy Shards of Crimson, I came across Amber Beach, Jade Island and Pearl Cover. Obviously, these three books were part of a series, given their similar cover, and I bought them on impulse. Basically, the books are about the Donovan siblings whose family is involved in gem trading. See, I always found this topic quite interesting and intriguing, but never found a book that depicted it well. I guess this is why I bought the books.

I was going to read Amber Beach, but then put it down and picked up Jade Island instead, because the main characters sounded more interesting. So I might be missing some background information on the Donovans. Still, here is my review of Jade Island.

Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell: 3.75/5
published in April 1999

Lianne Blakely is the daughter of Johnny Tan and his mistress, Anna Blakely. Lianne is 30 years old and her parents had had a relationship for 31 years, yet Johnny Tan won't acknowledged her and neither will his family. Wanting to belong to the Tan family who are involved in the jade business, Lianne pours all her energy into learning the business as well as learning to speak Mandarin and Cantonese. She even becomes the apprentice of her grandfather, Wen Tan, and builds her own business... Yet, she is not considered as family.

The past few weeks, Lianne has been choosing beautiful jade pieces from her grandfather's collection for a jade exhibition. At the same time, her father has been pushing her to introduce herself to Kyle Donovan, but he won't tell her why. This wouldn't be a problem if Lianne wasn't attracted to the man. On the other side, Archer, the eldest Donovan, has asked Kyle to get acquainted with Lianne as well. Turns out that there are rumors that the Jade Emperor tomb has been discovered and the jade treasures taken away and smuggled. China are threatening to cease any business with the United States if any jade pieces appear on American land and Archer has been charged to investigate. Since he does not know much about jade, he has enlisted the help of Kyle... However, both are deep in a very complicated conspiracy.

Series: The Donovans (4 books and Jade Island is the 2nd book)
Genre: Romantic suspense

Review: The story was quite interesting, although very complicated and confusing. It was also very technical about the jade and so, it lost me a bit. Although the story was interesting, I have to admit I was more interested in the relationships between Lianne and her family as well as Lianne and Kyle. Even so, I had difficulty to get involved in the story and care because I found the writing a bit cold as I mentionned earlier.

Characters - I loved Lianne's character. A really complex character in a very complex situation. The woman is strong, has guts and courage and should be admired. First, her birth... Lianne's mother and father love each other and have been together for more than 30 years... and everyone is aware of it. Anna has taken care to always remain out of sight, but there's no doubt that both loves each other. Still, what does it say about a woman who is willing to be someone's mistress for so long? No matter how much her parents love each other, Lianne remains an illegitimate child and in addition, she's mixed. She tries hard to be part of a family who doesn't want her AT ALL. If her father won't acknowledged her, then it's hard for the other to accept her... Plus, she has a myriad of half-siblings and cousins who are probably jealous of her relationship with her grandfather (master and apprentice). She also hasn't been lucky in love. Her only serious relationship was with a Chinese man who got married to Lianne's distant cousin to enter the Tan's family and expected Lianne to be his mistress. Basically, the man has never loved her, just saw her as his entry ticket to the Tan's family and when he saw it wouldn't work, he found another ticket. Then, in the story, Lianne is accused by the Tans of stealing jade, which in that family, must be the worst crime ever. All in all, I really liked Lianne's character, because she's not just a feisty and strong and tough heroine, she's actually very sensible and vulnerable. Complex character who's weakness is not just a weakness the author tackle on to make her weak.

As for Kyle, I liked him better than his older brother, that I have to admit. I guess Kyle used to be the happy-go-lucky sibling, till some event that happened in Amber Beach. Basically, Kyle was used by a woman during that book and this left him a bit cynic. Okay, try very cynic. Still, I think he was a good match for Lianne... my only problem though is that he's very similar to all the other male heroes in the Donovans series, except he lacks a military background. I think that if Ms Lowell was going to write a series, to try to make different kind of characters would be a priority... because it gets boring to read. Still, Kyle was my still my favorite, but probably because he was paired with Lianne.

Story & Writing - The story was well written, but as I said, too clinical. There's something missing in Ms Lowell writing that'll make readers get completely absorbed and captivated. Or maybe, maybe the story is too intense. A lot is happening, plus add all the technical terms and possibilities of conspiracy and it's too much for the readers. The result is that I had to skip a couple of pages, find another interesting passage and resume reading.

As for the story, as I said earlier, complex. Also, I can't help but wonder if this kind of story is real... is there so much conspiracy in the gem trading business :P Still I have to admire Ms Lowell for not taking the easy way - choosing between romance or suspense. She made both the romance and suspense complex, perhaps a bit too much, but it sure made it more interesting than if she'd had made the suspense or the romance too easy and stupid.

The Cover - I like it. Black is a classic color and it fit the mood of the series. I also liked it that you only see the silhouette, makes it more intriguing. However, why is it a woman on every cover? Why not a man, when the Donovan character is a man?

Am I keeping the book? Yeah. (what a surprise). I guess this book is my favorite Ms Lowell book so far.

Anything else? I'll probably read Amber Beach at one point. I did read Pearl Cove, but skipped the beginning ^^; It's interesting, but I don't like the heroine in Pearl Cover as much... However, I was quite glad to see that Lianne was pregnant with twins :P Anywa, all I can say is that Amber Beach and Pearl Cove are both as complex as Jade Island, that's for sure.


  1. Hey Hunny! I've been busy with life and work and such- but I'm here!

    I read this series when they came out and from what I can remember, Amber Beach was just so-so compared to the others- I liked Jade Island and Pearl Cove and there is one more- "Midnight in Ruby Bayou", which I liked as well. I think Pearl Cove was my fav though. None of them compared to her old Mackenzie/Blackthorn series (which were originally category releases.) Loved those.

  2. Hey Zeek :D

    Yeah, from the first few pages of Amber Beach, I knew that it didn't care for much. But I really liked Jade Island :P I'm also going to try to get my hand on Midnight in Ruby Bayou... it just wasn't there when I bought the rest... Hmmm... Mackenzie Blackthorn series... going to have to look for it. If I'm lucky, maybe they'll have it at a library!

  3. I think the first in the series is Fire and Rain- it's only a little over 250 pages, like the rest in the series, so it's a fast read. I liked these alot, for what it's worth!