Raymond Chao is an operating partner at Jade Harbour Capital, an investment firm in Toronto, Canada. He’s a ruthless problem-solver, fixing the companies that Jade Harbour manages in order to sell them at a profit. Ray is the only son in his family, and his father is a highly esteemed businessman, managing a huge wealth portfolio company in Hong Kong. His dad wasn’t happy when Ray announced his intent to work for Jade Harbour instead of the family business, and now hardly speaks to him. Ray’s pansexual, and hates being alone, but hasn’t ever thought to settle down with anyone. Maybe, because he’s so well-cared-for by his personal assistant, Elvin Goh.
Elvin is the eldest child in a working-class poor family, and a big caretaker of his parents and younger siblings. Due to a back injury and chronic pain, Elvin’s father doesn’t work and has little patience or ability to manage the home. Elvin’s mom works 6 days a week, and Elvin contributes his earnings and time to keep everything running smoothly. He’s been Ray’s assistant for several years, and he’s pretty much been in love with Ray for a long time. As a demisexual gay man, Elvin’s had few deep attractions in his life and Ray seems to be the one that’s lasted. It’s bittersweet that Elvin has to keep shuffling Ray’s one-night stands out of Ray’s penthouse condo just to get on with the workday.
Ray’s now tasked with overseeing a paper company operating in remote Quebec. Their numbers look too good to be true and Ray’s decided a surprise audit is necessary. His boss partners Ray with a colleague on the investigation, much to Ray’s chagrin. Ming, a numbers whiz, is super irritating because he wants Ray to set up a meeting between the principals at Jade Harbour and his father, to see if their investment firms could work together. Ray’s lack of family status, and shame over it, make this an untenable ask. Also, Ming seems to want to get to know Elvin a LOT better, and this rubs Ray the absolute wrong way. Unwilling to bear the trip with Ming alone, Ray insists on Elvin coming along to assist him, which is a first. And, well, the remote location, plus the last-minute change of plans, means Ray and Elvin will share a room at the bed-and-breakfast they are booked into. A room with one bed. Though inappropriate, Ray hopes his sharing a room with Elvin gives Ming a back off signal. Because now that Ray finally has his eyes open, he recognizes that Elvin is his closest confidante and a partner he cannot live without.
The trip is a debacle of epic proportions, and Ming, Ray, and Elvin are put into serious legal, ethical, and physical jeopardy, based on their findings. This imminent danger ultimately solidifies the us-versus-them dynamic between Elvin and Ray, and sleeping in the same bed increases the emotional intimacy that’s grown between them over the years. The intense drama fuels a physical intimacy they’d never breached, but once done, Ray’s unwilling to let go. He’s determined to protect Elvin at all costs, but he’s also got a lot to learn about this man he seemingly unwittingly committed himself to years ago. Elvin’s precarious home life is something Ray could easily fix, but Elvin’s too proud to accept that help outright. And, well, Elvin’s afraid to become dependent on anyone, least of all Ray who—to this point–had never slept with the same person twice.
Without revealing the situation, I’ll just say that Ray’s management style dips heavily into a gray area of legality, but he’s never been called on it due to his acumen and status. Elvin acutely feels that privilege as he has had to scrimp and save for everything his whole life. And, Ray’s mishandling of the paper company situation, while trying to keep things on the down-low to save the company getting bad press, goes wrong in ways Ray never could have imagined. Now that both Elvin and Ray have finally become committed lovers, it’s a hardship to imagine what could become an extended separation.
I know this all sounds vague, but the plot is very much tied to Ray’s cavalier business practice and the bizarre situation he discovers at the paper company. His foremost desires, to keep Elvin physically and financially safe, drive Ray’s poor choices in the second half of the story. That motivation, however, has redeeming qualities and I was glad to see him stand up for himself and take the heat for everything he’d done wrong. Elvin’s love was definitely worth it, and Ray’s ability to make good out of chaos is even applied to his own personal and professional life, it seems.
I love the family tensions and the Asian experience that is so present on the page. The notion of honor and dishonor are so palpable, and the differences between the family dynamics for Ray and Elvin are stark. Those contrasts in terms of both familial wealth and affection are enormous, and I liked seeing Ray break free of that austere mold and chase the lively and lovely Elvin. He was a man worth the sacrifice, and their happy ending might be delayed, but it is only sweeter for the longer wait.