GR Cleanup Read April 2011
When I started Red Light I felt a distance between myself and 1st person narrator Jeff. He was a bit stuffy, proper and cold and I feared finishing this might turn into a chore. Fortunately, I was so very wrong!
Englishman Jeff was in a long-time (6 years, maybe?) relationship with a man who had been cheating on him for god knows how long. Jeff had no idea and was devastated and heart-broken when he discovered the truth. He blames himself because he’s a doctor, with crazy-long work shifts and neglected his relationship. He’s shut himself off emotionally because of the betrayal and has been coasting through the days. It’s been a few months and he’s now alone in France on a trip planned by the ex. While dining alone, he gives in to an impulse to invite an attractive young guy to share his lunch. Benet turns out to be a fellow Englishman working in France and is charming and chatty and livens Jeff’s day. His sexy looks and sunny personality awaken Jeff’s deadened libido and they spend a night sharing their bodies and having what Jeff insists will only be “a vacation fling”. But as the one day fling turns into two, three, four . . . well, Jeff and Benet are both finding it difficult to let go. And just as they are set to say their final goodbye’s Benet’s close-knit group of friends find ways to keep them together. It’s lovely, warm and heart-melting. I promise you.
This book is so sexy without being all up in your face and it manages to pull it off without excessive sex scenes that go on for chapters (not that those are always a bad thing!). I don’t know how the author pulled it off but he did. A look, a touch, a steamy kiss, the descriptions are so vivid and hot and sparingly written that I didn’t even balk when he more often than not bypassed the down and dirty sex.
“It was so far beyond French. This was pan-galactic kissing, alien and soul shaking.”
Jeff’s jaw was aching by the time Benet was done with him. Now that’s how sexy is done up right.
This is a short story but I never felt cheated as I do in so many of these shorter novels. The relationship grew at a believable pace and the characters, including a small handful of secondary characters were very well fleshed out and entirely likable. I grew especially fond of Juliette, Benet’s “boss”, who is bossy, bubbly, and nosy and can talk anyone into doing just anything for her. She traps Jeff in a car and he is just helpless. Their banter was fabulous.
“Benet is a boy; he knows nothing about you. Nothing that I want to know. Tell me how you met.”
“Oh, he must have told you that!”
“How you rescued him with a bowl of soup, yes. I do not care about the soup. And then you went to a hotel room, but I don’t want to know about that either.” Actually I rather thought she did, from the way her eyes were gleaming at me. I thought she wanted every little detail, but she certainly wasn’t getting them from me.
“You tell me, when you saw him, standing there arguing with the waiter—did you know absolutely then, that he was un gay like you? Or was that something you learned from each other when you talked? And how did you find out? Tell me…”
The only weirdness here was the fact that Jeff, who is only 29 or so, often behaves and thinks more like a 40 year old man. He behaves as if the age difference of only 5 years between himself and Benet is so much more. Even Benet comments here and there with odd age related comments about Jeff “looking so much younger” after playing in the pool. It made me wonder if the author changed Jeff’s age in the last draft.
There wasn’t a whole hell of a lot of plot to this story besides Jeff’s constant insistence that this fling would remain a fling. There are no crazy subplots or murderous stalker ex-boyfriends and I loved that best about this story. Its focus remains firmly on its characters who become fast friends in sweetly written, but never saccharine, descriptive prose.
“If he’d been seeing someone else, if he’d been unavailable—hell, if he’d been straight, which is always the acid test—I’d still have wanted to know him, still have valued his friendship and enjoyed his company.”
See what I mean?
Serious Jeff and cheerful Benet spend much of the book cooking breakfast, shopping, frolicking in the pool with friends and keeping their hands all over each other. They do all of the normal, getting-to-know you stuff, “finding out what kind of morning person he is, dour and silent or light and chatty, solitary or sharing, better left in peace or kept warm and close and intimate…” and both try to ignore the fact that they are completely compatible and this will all end far too soon. I worried for their hearts throughout the story and that’s the mark of a well written romance for me.