As far as debuts go, this contemporary multicultural romance has some flaws, but Ms. Robinson creates a heroine for whom the reader can’t help but root.
The story kicks off with our African-American heroine Reye Jackson hurrying through an airport to catch a flight back home to Austin, where she is a student at the University of Texas at Austin. She has a chance encounter with Stephen Stuart, a dreamy law student at the university. Sparks fly between the two and they embark on a complicated relationship.
Reye is an engaging character to whom it is easy to relate. She has a strong work and study ethic and professional aspirations once she completes her studies. At the beginning of the novel, she is fulfilling an internship at a community center for disadvantaged children tutoring those with learning disabilities. She relates well to the children, as she struggled with school herself, and tailors her tutoring to the learning styles of each child. In her spare time she plays on an intramural soccer team, as does Stephen, which figures prominently in their courtship.
It was more difficult to connect to Stephen. He comes from a wealthy family who has high expectations for their only child. They expect him to complete his studies, move back to Dallas, and join the family law firm. Unfortunately, he does not share Reye’s depth and determination to succeed and I found it quite hard to think of him as hero material. This is highlighted by some particularly bad choices on his part, though he does atone for his mistakes later.
For me, the story was difficult to sink into. It started off slow and didn’t really pick up until about a third of the way into the book. Even at that point I still felt like I was slogging through mud trying to finish it.
Ultimately, I was not overly optimistic about Reye and Stephen’s long-term chances. Their youth combined with Stephen’s self-centeredness left me doubting exactly how happy their “ever after” would be. However, I do think the author did a good job of showing Stephen’s transformation as he stood up to his family and made amends to Reye for some of the ways in which he wronged her.
Reye’s Gold is a quiet book. There are no serial killers running amok, vampires lurking, or megalomaniacs plotting world domination. It’s the story of two people attempting to forge a relationship in today’s world. The strength of the novel really lies in Reye’s characterization as she meets obstacles with quiet dignity and strength. The scenes with Reye interacting with her family were highly enjoyable and I would have liked more than just a glimpse into her loving, supportive family. Overall, this is not a bad effort for a debut novel, though I think it would have benefited from slightly more plot to increase the pace.