Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Are Diamonds Really a Girl’s Best Friend?

Maybe not, but gems are a reliable trope in romance novels.  (Hey, I’ll read almost anything if it has jewels.  Or cowboys.)  And since I’m a gemologist, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some novels that focus on gems and jewelry.
Going straight to my keeper shelf, I found seven novels by Elizabeth Lowell/Ann Maxwell that fit the bill, so that’s where I’ll start.  She’s famous, she’s a good writer (a little over the top sometimes, but always excellent), and she does her homework.
Lover in the Rough was originally published in 1983 and reissued in 1994.  Yes, it’s a real oldie, originally Silhouette Intimate Moments #34!
Plot:  Reba Farrall, owner of half-interest in a California gem mine, is devastated at the death of her dearest friend and employer. When his disinherited grandson threatens her, she is saved by rogue gem hunter Chance Walker. After she decides to reopen the mine, she hires Chance to help her, not knowing his sister owns the other half.  They explore the mine together, discovering that it is unbelievably dangerous. Facing death in the smothering darkness of the mine is a potent aphrodisiac, but when Reba learns of his connection to the mine, she leaves him. Chance is devastated and returns to the mine in spite of its imminent collapse to bring Reba a treasure trove of tourmaline.
The critique: Lowell’s research is solid. She drops in lots of interesting facts about tourmaline, and she gets downright lyrical about the beauty of gemstones and geologic features. (Hey, gemologist and geologist here. Of course I like this stuff.)
The text: The story opens in Death Valley, where Reba is supervising the photographing of art and jewelry for an upcoming sale.  A white jade dish, a baroque pearl cluster, an ivory sculpture, green gemstones, and a carved tiger eye figure are displayed against the rocks of Mosaic Canyon. “…precious objets d’art resting on the ledge of natural marble. Pale marble walls rose on either side of the dry streambed, walls polished by water and time into flowing curve sand hollows.  Bands of cream and pale yellow, gold-grey and eggshell wove through the walls, giving depth and subtle texture to the satiny stone.  Above the marble rose steep, deeply eroded hills of vermilion and black and chocolate, volcanic rock so new that the sun hadn’t had time yet to bake out the intense colors.”
There is quite a bit of description of the geology here.  “Polished marble walls…jagged debris of past volcanic explosions.  bent broken, canted on edge, the banded marble strata were almost shocking in their smoothness…fierce, naked land…Minerals both common and rare were jumbled together, colors and textures juxtaposed in a haphazard way that told much about the violent geologic history of the valley.  Earthquakes, molten rock flowing thickly, seas and lakes alternating with grinding drought, floods eroding mountainsides, strata of rock sinking, rising bending, breaking; it was all here, written across the hard surface of the earth.”
This sets a perfect frame for the violence of the dangers of the mine and the fierce love story that unfolds.
After many travails, Chance brings to her the spectacular pink tourmaline he has found in her mine, and “For an instant Reba felt as though she were inside a gem, a place of shattering beauty and brilliance, a faceted world as complex as the man who had turned the room into a fantasy...”
So...happily ever after.