Thursday, February 10, 2011

YU by Joy Shayne Laughter

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Open Books Press
Pages: 226

Ross Lamos has built a successful career in dealing with Asian art and antiquities. His specialty is jade carvings, and his astonishing gift is his psychic touch, that is, whenever he holds jade, the stone’s yu (its internal chi power) reveals its history to Lamos. He sees visions of what the stones have witnessed.

The story begins when a mysterious woman enters the antique shop where Lamos works, asking him to appraise three carved jade stones. The stones are all from the same period, Han Dynasty, and worth millions on the black market. Lamos has never worked with such exquisitely crafted carvings before. They are the work of a master craftsman. But more than the stones’ value, Lamos is intrigued by their history.

One by one, he holds the stones, and they tell three connecting stories of a forbidden love in China’s Imperial Court during the Han Dynasty. Within this unfolding tale, Lamos comes to realize that both he and this mysterious woman, in their former lives, played a part in this unfolding drama.

Each stone presents a piece of the puzzle that tells of a love between a prince and his father’s concubine, and the poet caught up in the middle of a deadly game of intrigue. But which former life did Lamos play? He will do anything to find out.

This story is so smart and so polished that I found it nearly impossible to believe that it is Joy Shayne Laughter’s debut novel. It is one of the most delightful books I’ve read in several years. I truly loved every scene, every page, every character.

Each character is richly drawn and complex, as are the relationships between the characters, both in contemporary times and ancient past. Interlaced with the three views of the past, are Lamos’s own tribulations with his career and gay love life. The author delicately weaves the past and present stories together, enticing the reader into this mystery, giving only glimpses of the whole, until it all comes together in a shocking and unpredictable ending. It left me stunned.

Joy Shayne Laughter has, with this one novel, risen to the top of my favorite authors list. Her delectable prose carries the reader along in an enchanting dream. She has demonstrated the power to captivate me with wonderfully unique characters, effortlessly drawing me into their drama, and then crushing my senses with an overwhelming love story.

My only complaint with this novel is that I have to wait until the author’s next release in order to enjoy more of her superb talent. For anyone who relishes romance novels or mysteries, this is a must read. Brava!!!

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