Crossing the Line
Stephanie Vaughan
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Jamie MacPherson knows that looks aren’t everything — money counts for a lot, too. And that’s a good thing, since he’s got none of one and plenty of the other. Money may not buy happiness, but it’ll sure buy you the kind of misery you like best.

Ryan Van Alstyn knows that looks don’t mean a thing when your life falls apart and money can’t bring a loved one back.

When Jamie walks into Ryan’s restaurant one night, Ryan looks better than anything on the menu. Attraction leads to sex. It could be more, but Ryan can’t be bought and Jamie thinks he has nothing to offer but his money.

I can’t quite decide if I liked this one or not.

For one thing, there were a few months in between my first reading and this review, and at some point in the interim, I forgot the story. How does one simply forget a story? Nevertheless, I had to go back to Crossing the Line, since I discovered that I remembered almost nothing about it. As I did so, a lot of the details that I had either liked or not liked in the first reading immediately jumped back into focus.

Jamie and Ryan are not a sterotypical yaoi couple – they’re easily identifiable as just men, in all their flaws and virtues. I don’t think I particularly liked Jamie, but that might have been because I was floundering a bit. The face he presents to the world doesn’t look the same as the man he percieves himself to be, and neither image is how he is seen by others outside himself. He’s a bundle of nerves and insecurities and contradictions. The further into the story I went, and the more the POV shifted from Jamie to Ryan and back again, the more confused I became as to how I, the reader, was supposed to see him. This made Jamie seem less like a fully-realized character to me, and more like an unstable one. I never did manage to sort him out in my head as a whole person instead of a collection of bits and pieces.

Ryan, however, I adored. Ryan was the one thing about the story I did manage to remember, and the best thing about the second read. I don’t want to use the word “angsty” to describe him, because it seems like such a shallow word to use regarding the real, heart-breaking emotional problems this poor man has gone through. I think I’d rather use the word “sorrowful.” Vaughn gave Ryan the kind of backstory that I can easily imagine a real person having, that common sort of tragedy that no one ever really wants to talk about, and no one ever really wants to listen to, anyway… unless you fall in love with him, that is. Ryan is that guy you see on the bus, or in the elevator, and he greets you with a smile and a cheery word about the weather, and you never realize that he’s trying his best just to get on with life.

Loved the cat. Hated the step-son. Was bemused by Ryan’s mother.

On the surface, Stephanie Vaughn is a competent, capable writer. Under the surface, though, Vaughn slipped some choice moments of sheer beauty into this story, not so much in the words she used, but in the concepts underneath the words. Things like Ryan’s refrigerator full of take-away boxes, or Jamie’s celebrity-watching at the Lakers’ game. The cars rushing down Pacific Coast Highway. The mini-characters that drift in and out of the restaurant where Ryan works. It’s like the very small daubs of paint an artist uses to bring light and shading to a large-scale landscape; Vaughn used ordinary things to make an extraordinary impact.

Recommending this book reminds me of recommending Here Be Dragons, but in complete reverse. I was fully aware that there were almost no redeeming qualities to Dragons, but I had fun reading it anyway. There are a lot of redeeming qualities in Crossing the Line… but while I certainly appreciate all the fine things about it, I don’t think I can say that I had much fun reading it. I think this might be another case when no one should take my word for it.

I cannot express in words my complete and utter satisfaction with this book. I really can’t. But as I am charged with reviewing it, I will have to make an attempt.

Crossing the Line was so perfectly natural in the way it unfolded, I felt as if I were reading a biography rather than a fictional romance. Jamie and Ryan were so very real. At first I was a bit put off by the O.C. mechanic thing, feeling as if it was just going to be a fan fiction of one of those reality shows. Oh, boy, was I wrong. Jamie is such a wonderful character: gruff, honest, reliable, competent, and a bit stunted in the emotional department. He goes after other men who are pretty young things and discovers how to “buy” them. Not in a sugar daddy way, but in an attempt to keep them with him. It was heartbreakingly clueless and sweet at the same time.

Ryan, on the other hand, is much more savvy in the relationship area but is still hurting over his previous lover. But Jamie’s straightforward and earnest attention begins to thaw Ryan out, much to his consternation. I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan’s blossoming, through each hiccough and panicky halt.

What was really wonderful about Vaughan’s writing was that she slowly revealed the facts, letting me get closer and closer to the characters a bit at a time. Not only did it make me want to know more, but it made me really care about and sympathize with them. I could feel Jamie’s frustration at not knowing how to handle the situation and not wanting to “play games”. I could understand Ryan’s reticence, more and more as his history was revealed.

The sex scenes were truly hot and involving as only ones rendered with emotion can be. It’s a slowly building fire, but magnificent once it flares. I enjoyed every scene and could feel them using sex as another means to truly discover each other. Their personalities were so clear and yet so different even in sex: Ryan’s openness and willingness, Jamie’s need to get it on and wanting more, but unsure how to get it or if he deserves it.

And that was another thing that I appreciated. For once, it was the more “manly” man who had self-doubt and self-esteem issues. The rich man who believes he can only get what he can buy because he’s not good enough to catch someone on looks and personality alone. I liked that part of Jamie, again, making him real and solid as a character.

Not only was it a great story with amazing characters without all the tired over-emotionalism, but as a bonus, I found no technical errors in the writing.

I whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who wants to read a good story about a couple of guys with plenty of baggage but without the need to open up and examine every suitcase and weep and angst over it. Two guys who fall into love and struggle to really understand it and keep it. Excellent book!

**Note: Crossing the Line is being moved from Loose Id to Torquere Press. Unfortunately, we must have scored our copy just before Loose Id lost it. When it becomes available again (with a possible name change) we will update the info here ASAP! We sincerely apologize for being book teases. is being re-released on May 28, 2008 by Torquere Press. For more info, please see the author’s website Stephanie Vaughan