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Ruby Rest

ISBN: 1563154021

By Tyler Oaks
Reviewer: Grace Tierney

January 2009

Rubies are red, and red-heads are renowned for their hot tempers. I have neither the excuse of flaming hair nor fiery gem-stones to excuse my reaction to Ruby Rest by Tyler Oaks (www.tyleroaks.com) but the inept actions of the heroine caused my blood pressure to soar.

I knew I’d have trouble identifying with the young heroine, Edda Taylor, when an early scene revealed that she’d brought a puppy with her on a flight from Austria to California, in a duffel bag. I immediately flicked to the author’s biography on the back cover which states that she has travelled extensively overseas. Any reader who has taken an international flight will be aware that a) most countries apply strict quarantine and humane treatment laws to travelling animals, b) all hand baggage is x-rayed before boarding flights, and c) commonsense would suggest that a wriggling puppy would be impossible to conceal on a long-haul flight.

This may be a minor detail and the plot does require the dog to arrive in the US, but it’s a jarring detail in first two pages of the book, and quite frankly, it irritated me. Unfortunately this snag raised my antennae for elements later in the book which are smoothed over with the good quality writing, but nonetheless point to less than perfect planning by the author.

After a traumatic incident involving her artist boyfriend Preston in Austria, Edda inherits a cottage in a fancy coastal area of California from a woman she met once as a child. She lands on her feet with a sumptuously decorated home and a gallery job working for Shay Weiss. So far, so fairytale.

Almost instantly falling for her garden-designer, Trace Kyle, Edda learns of his family’s feud with Shay’s and of some mysterious drownings. Trace is convinced his brother (an artist working in Austria) is in danger thanks to Shay. The pair join forces to solve the riddle of the rubies which turn up in large quantities throughout the tale.

This is all be fine by me, I like a good mystery as much as the next reader, and I don’t mind some romance thrown in for good measure. It’s tricky for authors to write their books just in one category and I suspect this book would fit just as well in the romance slot. However the style is too heavy on thunderstorms reflecting the character’s inner torment, heroines swooning at the drop of a hat, and midnight musings in melodramatic language, for my personal taste, particularly given the novel’s contemporary setting.

The setting is painted well and the characters ring true. The previous owner of the cottage, Nina Rose, clearly lived a complex existence and one disappointment is not finding out more about that during the conclusion of the book. The pace of the action is swift and Tyler Oaks can certainly write, but the plot, for any mystery fan, is too simple. I couldn’t help wondering if details which would have smoothed out the plot had been edited out of the book in an effort to pick up the pace.

If Edda and Trace had shared their information when they first paired-up the book would have ended in half the time. The plot depends on delayed information as opposed to genuine detective work by the protagonists. There’s a parcel delayed in the mail, an un-opened duffel bag containing the key to the ending, plus simple delays in Trace and Edda swopping their halves of the story, and even Edda’s reason for leaving Austria is concealed until halfway. Coincidence has a part to play in plotting such tales, but there’s a contract with the reader that information won’t be with-held simply to fool them. That contract is broken here more than once.

As for the poor dog who entered the country in such an illegal fashion, he’s dog-napped and the heroine doesn’t report it or even seek the name of the criminal from nearby people who know him. She sleeps on a sofa despite having a bed in the next room, and she never thinks to put her pile of gems in the bank despite the fact that a stranger keeps searching her home for them. I began to wonder if she’d incurred a blow to the head during her sojourn in Austria. That was the only explanation I detected for how she could cast aside the love of her life so easily in favor of another.

I think only romance readers will enjoy this book, especially if they enjoy historic romance as the language and style was strongly reminiscent of that sub-genre. Die-hard mystery fans will anticipate the ending far too easily. The author, who writes a weekly column for Writers’ News Weekly (www.writersnewsweekly.com) and is working on her next novel, has genuine ability but may need to consider her chosen genre carefully.

 

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