For some reason, the “recommended read” prompt for the TBR Challenge always gets me tied up in knots. I think that’s because it doesn’t fit in very well with how my books are (not all that) organized. Since I was talking recently on Twitter about my trip to RWA in New York several years ago, I remembered that I had several books in what was left of my RWA crate that had been recommended to me by others. One of them, Crystal Caress by Zuri Day, was passed to me by an excited conference attendee who had just finished reading it. This was my first time reading this author and I definitely enjoyed myself.
The heroine, Teresa Drake, comes from a prominent African-American family in California. While her family is in the wine business, Teresa has carved out a different path for herself. Even though the book blurb describes her as a “socialite”, that really sells her short. Teresa wants to write and throughout this book, we see her actually working at it as a journalist, not just dabbling as the term “socialite” might imply.
As the story opens, Teresa’s editor sends her off to Alaska to do a travel feature. Naturally, there has to be a twist so that we can have some conflict. In this case, the owner of the paper has a son running for office in Alaska and Teresa’s travel features will of course be showing said son in a good light. This is all well and good, until Teresa gets to Alaska and meets the very gorgeous Atka. While Atka is elusive about his background, he and Teresa share a very passionate night and it’s obvious from the writing that, despite what they might say to the contrary, this isn’t a simple one nighter in either of their minds.
Passionate night with Atka aside, Teresa finds herself more drawn to Alaska than she had expected when she reluctantly traveled there for work. Even though she considers herself to be very much a city girl, she’s struck by the wildness and natural beauty and as she works on her pieces for the paper, she feels compelled to go beyond the usual puff piece and to write honestly about what she’s seeing and letting the reader draw his or her own conclusions. This may cause some issues with the paper back home, but I did enjoy getting the window into Teresa’s writing. The thought process she put into her work made me respect her, as well as to better understand her point of view throughout the story.
When she gets back home to California, Teresa learns that her family is working on business interests in Alaska with a very wealthy businessman by the name of Sinclair. And of course said mogul turns out to be none other than Atka, the man of her unforgettable first night in Alaska. Even though this kind of coincidence is rarely seen outside the realm of romance, the scene where Teresa and Atka meet again in California is still a memorable one. By this point, Atka has read one of Teresa’s articles and since she speaks at least somewhat favorably of a political candidate who threatens Atka’s business, he’s none too pleased. Atka, we learn, deals in Alaskan salmon and large-scale mining would destroy not only his business but also the environment that surrounds his community. The conflict between Atka and Teresa makes sparks fly, but they are also adult enough to actually talk about things, which I found refreshing.
In the course of their time together, Teresa learns more about Atka’s background. He is Yupik and his heritage obviously forms a large part of his identity. It is obvious that the author researched the Yupik and aspects of their language and culture are worked into the story in ways that primarily felt natural. One glaring exception for me were the references to the “Great Spirit.” I will readily confess that I do not know enough about the Yupik to know whether or not this is a term that would be used in their culture as it has been among some other native peoples. However, since it is a term that has also been used in far too many stereotypical portrayals of native peoples, it did set my teeth on edge a bit.
The other issue I had with this book came toward the end. As the story moved along, Teresa and Atka’s budding relationship and the attendant issues (where would they live, how to reconcile their very different backgrounds, etc…) provided more than enough story action. However, the author amps up the melodrama a bit in the last few chapters and this leads to a somewhat rushed ending. Even so, I enjoyed this book far more than I didn’t and I would try reading this author again.
I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.