Red Light is a sequel of sorts to Thom Lane’s White Flag. The characters are related in a general sense but you don’t need to read the previous book in order to appreciate this one. In fact they are so similar it’s probably best not to read them too close together. I didn’t mind the similarities since it’d been a while since I read White Flag and all the reasons I liked the previous book are here once again; the beautiful lyrical prose, the sense of ease, wonder, and vivid beauty of the setting and characters. This isn’t a heart stopping book, it’s a languid journey into love that’s satisfying for its ease and lightness than anything else.
Jeff is in his late twenties and just out of a long term relationship. He’d been with his lover since he was a student and now he’s a doctor (so I assume close to all his 20’s). However Jeff is now bitter and heart broken once he discovered his partner had been cheating on him and left him. Jeff decides to take their pre-paid vacation to France to learn about living alone and runs into the young beautiful Benet. Sparks immediately fly and the two engage in an easy vacation fling that soon becomes something more. However Jeff is determined never to get his heart broken again and refuses to believe in love, no matter what his heart tells him.
The plot is at best character driven but it really meanders along. Not much really happens as Jeff and Benet do things together, eat, talk, and have sex. The majority of this activity is told to the reader and very little is shown. Some readers may find this slow or boring, though for me the prose really captured my attention and is what held me to the story more than anything. The writing tries to capture the romance, the sensuality, and the beauty in the small moments and not necessarily the words spoken and actions taken. We never see the conversations, we’re simply told they happen. We never really see what Benet and Jeff see, we’re told they had a fun day and then onto the sex.
Part of the reason this never feels boring or frustrating is that I really enjoyed the simplicity of the writing. The imagery evoked and beauty of the settings drew me in and never let my attention wander. The first person narrator offers an intimate look at Jeff’s personality, his overwhelming fear of relationships and love, and his growing feelings for Benet. The focus is never on what they do or say but it’s on the communication between their bodies and the comfort they achieve together, the passion that never diminishes. Whether this style appeals is likely to vary from reader to reader and an example of the writing is below:
And then, okay, maybe his hand steals between your legs, maybe you reach to find his mouth with yours, maybe you have slow and easy sex in the early sun and maybe that matters as much as anything, but it isn’t crucial. Whether or not you make love, there’s still all the fun of what follows:
Arguing softly about who gets to use the bathroom first, who has to move before the other one can, who gets to lie a little longer in the soft, warm nest of the bed and watch him go, watch him come back.
The characterization of both men is decent but as with the ending, left wanting. Jeff is so desperately afraid of pain after his last break up that he acts and feels like a man much, much older than he is. Jeff is only 28 but he acts like a man well into his 40s. His thoughts and feelings are often expressed as if a generation is between he and Benet rather than a mere 5 years. This causes some disconnect and alters the chemistry between the two men. The tension in the story revolves around whether a vacation fling can turn into a real romance, if the men will let it, but this is very reminiscent to White Flag. The ending is really a non-ending with none of the very real issues worked out or resolved. There is the hope of a future though and for some readers this may be enough. Beyond the evocative writing the supporting cast of characters is simply delightful. They’re caricatures but that doesn’t diminish their enjoyment and entertainment.
For those fans that liked White Flag you’ll very likely enjoy Red Light. The story is very similar in many ways and the writing has the exact same style. I personally didn’t mind as I like the writing and prose and will happily sink into these characters whenever offered. This isn’t the quickest romance but it’s easy, lyrical, and beautiful on many levels.