Precious Things Review

Title: Precious Things

Author: Gail R. Delaney

Available in eBook?: Yes

Genre: Contemporary (Clean) Romance

Final Verdict: Buy

My Take: It’s rare to find a well written romance novel featuring a deaf hero; Ms. Delaney has created a deep, interesting character and her knowledge of ASL shows through in the text.

I’ve been reading a lot of romance and erotic-romance novels lately as I work on UnConventional. As a result, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Precious Things, while not flawless and not quite five stars, is definitely one of the good. Even if you aren’t attracted to the concept of ASL or a deaf hero, it’s worth reading if you enjoy a clean romance.

The story is basically told from the two perspectives, in alternating third person, of Jewell and Benjamin. Jewell is a financial markets executive assistant (EA) and is interviewing for a slightly beneath her position at a Mutual Funds group because she desperately needs more money now that her younger college-age sister is living with her. While waiting for her interview, she meets the jerk of the office–Benjamin Prescott Roth–a man who treats all his assistants and secretaries terribly and as a reputation for being an asshole. He’s also completely deaf (even though he speaks well and lip reads), and Jewell, as a CODA (child of deaf adult) and fluent in ASL, calls him on his behavior instinctively.

Of course, she’s convinced that her actions (telling Ben he should say “please,” etc.) has cost her the job. She’s surprised when she gets a call a week later telling her she didn’t get the position she interviewed for, but instead, has been hired to be Mr. Roth’s new EA. She’s shocked, but especially since this job is more fitting of her qualifications and pays even more than she expected, she accepts.

There’s immediate chemistry between Benjamin and Jewell, and the initial part of the book is focused on the two of them trying to avoid the dreaded work romance while trying to steer clear of the office rumor mill. Of course, since this is a romance, Ben and Jewell can’t stay away from each other long, and the majority of the book is largely about their relationship and Benjamin’s demons resulting from his rather strained relationship with his parents.

“On nights like this, when not another soul occupied the huge house with him, his silence seemed too quiet. Nights like this, silence was something beyond the lack of noise. It was the lack of life.”

One thing that makes Precious Things a delight to read is that despite his issues with his parents (which do, at least initially revolve around his deafness), Benjamin is well adjusted. He’s very successful, smart–and despite his tendency to be a bit of a dick–likeable. He’s fluent in ASL and has also mastered lipreading and speech and is very proud of how well he manages in the hearing world. Although his deafness is central to his character and the story, Precious Things is not really about his disability. Although deafness works beautifully for the themes of this book, you could easily recast the main character and still have a compelling story–after all, when it comes down to it, Benjamin’s true conflict is about acceptance–and who doesn’t want acceptance, especially from their parents? (I was particularly attracted to this conflict because it’s one I explore briefly in UnConventional and hope to expand in the sequel.)

Some of the complaints lodged against this novel have revolved around the issue that it’s almost as if it’s two books–starting off with the office romance and segueing into a slightly more melodramatic conflict involving his sister, his abusive father, his timid mother, and his godfather (who also happens to be his namesake and his father’s business partner). Personally, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, partially because the characters are interesting and the writing is generally very rich.

Gail Delaney obviously has a talent for writing a detailed scene – and these moments are particularly excellent when experiencing the book from Benjamin’s perspective – what you can see, what you can smell, what you can feel in each scene is sketched out carefully so that each scene really comes to life. I also loved the way she captured ASL – such a visual and expressive language – in print.

“[H]e signed, using the jerk of his hands to emphasize his point, doubting his voice could.”

ASL is a “foreign language” – it is not simply signed English – and so she elected to print the signed portions in italics (just as you would any other non-English language) – which I thought was a brilliant choice. I also thought she did a great job of describing some of the key signs and how a person signed, or the facial expression they used when they signed, because that is such an important part of ASL. Just as in spoken English how you say something matters, so, to, does it in ASL. She also made the point of showing the limits of lip reading and that not all deaf individuals know how to lipread or speak.

One element that bugged me, although fairly minor, is the fact that Benjamin says he never used an interpreter before Jewell. I understand his personality and that he worked really hard to become functional in the hearing world, but I find it hard to believe that he had never even once used an interpreter – especially since once he meets Jewell he not only uses her several times but also uses an official interpreter later in the book as well. I think it would have been more likely for him to say he rarely used one or had only used one a few times than to say he never did… but this was a minor grumble.

The other thing that struck me, and I could be ignorant on this part, was how much Ben and Jewell spoke in the book. I would think that reading lips would be cognitively taxing (not to mention talking if you’re completely deaf), and that the two of them would have communicated far more in ASL when they were together than they do. I realize that Ben had a lot of issues and part of it was a sense of pride in being able to function as well as he did in the hearing world, but it just seemed like they would have shifted to ASL a lot more than they do.

I also was disappointed by how “clean” the book is, but that could be because I’ve been reading a lot more erotica or erotic romances lately. This book is a clean romance–they kiss and touch each other but it never goes beyond that. Even though the characters do ultimately have sex, we don’t see it, and I found it a bit disarming how Benjamin never seems to have an erection. Call me weird or perverted if you want, but it was just one of those things I kept expecting in the description (even if it was a suggestion) and it never really appeared. It just seemed a little too clean-cut for me. But that could come down to personal taste.

Overall, the book was excellent. I did think the pacing was a bit off at times, and the twist at the end was pretty predictable, but I didn’t mind so much because Benjamin was an interesting character. I think I may have preferred to have Jewell as a dynamic character as well, especially since half the story is told from her perspective, but it’s a concession I’m willing to make. Precious Things was an enjoyable book and I was disappointed Ms. Delaney doesn’t have any other books like this one; I wouldn’t mind seeing more deaf characters from her.

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