Jade Harbour Capital, Book #2
Heat Factor: Gentle and affirming
Character Chemistry: The buildup was great, but maybe there was a little too much of a jump into the recognition and acknowledgement of feelings
Plot: Elvin is Ray’s long-time EA at a financial investment company, Ray is tasked with auditing an asset, everything personal goes well while everything else goes sideways
Overall: Decisions were made here. They’re good decisions, but are they romantic decisions?
This book looks like an employee-assistant unrequited love situation. Maybe there’ll be some new, unexpected forced proximity that will force them to come to terms with their intense relationship? Maybe there will be some seduction using the trappings of the wealth and power? Maybe we get some illicit relations?
Y’all. I was not prepared for this book. Here’s your notice: there is going to be some material I discuss that could be considered spoilery.
Look, if you like some moral grayness in a romantic hero, this is a book for you. And, honestly, the blurb does include several very specific keywords that will give a prospective reader clues that all is not necessarily going to be on the up-and-up. I had forgotten the blurb between the time I picked up the ARC and the time I read it, so for me the criminal prosecution component departed from, like, any generic verisimilitude that I can think of associated with criminal protagonists in romance novels. Was it the morally upright and ethically focused decision? Yes. Was it what I wanted in my happy ending? Not gonna lie, it exited fantasyland too much for me to really feel satisfied by the conclusion.
There is 100% an audience for this romance, like, for example, a good chunk of TSR followers on Twitter. I feel a bit morally corrupt for enjoying other books with criminal protagonists while having that be a sticking point for me with this book, considering that in this book the crime is in no way excused.
Elvin has positioned himself as indispensable to Ray, coming to his house to make him cappuccinos before work instead of simply meeting him at work, spending long hours with him simply because Ray is also a workaholic. It’s not a super healthy relationship, yeah? The thing is that Elvin is demisexual and has fallen in love with Ray over the course of his employment, so these extras that he’s attached to his job are a way of being close to Ray. The problem is that Ray picks up a new bed partner, like, every night, so how could virgin demisexual Elvin even compete with that? Also Ray is Elvin’s boss, which is actually a bigger problem.
Y’all. I think I’m gonna need to write a piece on how power dynamics in intra-office relationships are actually a concern, because I keep getting a vibe that these characters think a simple “I said yes” from the subordinate person is sufficient, and that might be true in Romance Novels but it is SO not true anywhere else. And actually it shouldn’t even be true in Romance Novels because it kind of completely misses the point, but I digress.
When Ray is tasked with auditing a company that has been recommended for an IPO, he and Elvin end up in a few situations that throw them together in new ways (Hello to the “only one bed” crowd!), which leads to a romantic liaison, even as Ray continues digging into deeper trouble with the assignment at hand.
I really enjoyed the book; I finished it much faster than most of my recent reads. But there were moments that the thread of the story variably bunched and pulled taut. For example, I understand that we need to meet Jade Harbor’s new outside counsel, but why do it as a sexy exchange at an art fundraiser like it’s going to be a huge plot thread when the attorney shows up twice more and barely speaks? Or Ming, a lateral colleague of Ray’s, spends a lot of time being a shit-stirrer and jealousy-inspirer early on, only to fade into the background. Ray’s family is a huge emotional weight for Ray, and instead of leaving the family outside of the story, his dad is nowhere, appears for one very significant moment, and then disappears again. The power dynamics of Elvin and Ray’s relationship is the reason they can’t be together for the first half of the book, and then after a private conversation it is no longer any concern? Or, maybe more importantly, some of their emotional entanglement is not initially seated in a really healthy place because they’re both kind of filling emotional holes in each other, but the deeper emotional work of personally taking care of those holes for their own health and wellbeing doesn’t happen.
Can you tell I’m having so many feelings about this book? I like that, though. As I said, I read it much faster than I’ve been reading lately, so it was definitely engaging for me. And I liked that the power and influence of the ultra wealthy is specifically called out. (Think of speeding tickets, yes? In the US they’re a set cost so as long as people can pay for them then they don’t necessarily care at all if they get caught, but in Finland the cost of a speeding ticket is based on income so it’s more impactful when it’s issued. The executives at Jade Harbor Capital exist in the US speeding ticket world almost all of the time, which is a problem for Ray.) I would have liked it even more if the legal consequences hadn’t existed (definitely a Me issue), and if some of those uneven moments in the story had been ironed out a little bit more.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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