Red Envelope by Atom Yang ~ Book Review by Lirtle

Red-Envelope-cover-1Title: Red Envelope

Author: Atom Yang

Publisher: MLR Press

Cover Artist: Kris Jacen

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 12/04/2015

Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, New Adult, Winter Holiday


The Chinese New Year is a time for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future, but Clint doesn’t want to bid farewell to his cousin’s handsome American friend, Weaver, after they share an unexpected passionate encounter.

The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, a time for family reunions, and for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future. Clint, however, doesn’t want to bid farewell to what happened after last year’s celebration, when he and his Cousin Maggie’s handsome Caucasian friend, Weaver, shared an unexpected but long-desired passionate encounter. East is East and West is West, and Weaver seems to want to keep it that way, but maybe Clint can bridge that great divide this coming New Year, and show Weaver what it means to be loved and accepted.

My View:

Right from page one, I was getting a sense of Clint’s personality and his state of mind at this point in his life. We get this story from his point of view, firsthand, and it works. I also like the supportive, no beating around the bush, loving relationship he and his mom share, and demonstrate to one another. This also told me a good bit about Clint and where he is emotionally. Oh and his cousin and best friend, Maggie. Love her!

I also got an early sense of Yang’s style, and his ability to convey emotion. I get this:

My throat tightened as if I had failed Darth Vader for the last time.

As one’s throat is wont to do when one’s heart is lodged within it.

What is, dare I use the cliché and say, refreshing is how the mix of American and Chinese cultures is portrayed. Neither is the enemy, neither is treated disrespectfully, or as second best, an easy out for comic relief at the expense of dignity. Yes, ladies n gents, you can grow up with more than one culture alive and well in your family without degrading one or the other.

A thoroughly modern tale in tone and expression for the win!

This story is also full of heart, especially in relation to loss, family, and the struggle to come to terms with self-discovery.

”I miss my dad, Clint.”

“Me, too,” I said. Uncle Gil was the first one of our generation’s parents to go, and remembering his absence was like seeing a missing piece in a completed puzzle.

This is where my brothers and my cousins are right now in our lives, too. I get it.

Yang has a number of moving parts in this story and they all play well together, creating a mostly smooth journey. There are just a couple of bumps in the road as far as clarity regarding some connections between characters. We could have used a bit of beefing up in that aspect.

The heat and intimacy between Clint and Weaver, a longtime friend and possible embodiment of Clint’s affections, are intelligently and warmly presented. Awkwardness and excitement make no room for over the top heroics or unrealistic feats of perfection. I definitely felt their connection, despite those occasionally muddled moments I described above.

This is definitely a romance but not in a formulaic way, especially in the emotion it evokes. Tender, heated, and involving two people who feel that magnetic pull trying to push through their initial uncertainty, this definitely rewards the romantic buried deep inside of me. 😉

There are a few cases of unfortunate phrasing, words that don’t exactly bring sexy back. Thankfully, their placements don’t overly dampen the fiery passion Clint and Weaver are clearly harboring and hoping for more to occur. These represent the few times we slip from the obvious modernity of this story and into something that felt discordant with it.

Yang has more than a knack when it comes to communicating human gestures and their physicality and emotional impact. His ability made it easy for me to experience his story and these characters. This is one of my favorite passages in the entire story, a moment between Clint and his mom and a hug:

She returned my hug, and I thought how interesting it’s been to grow up in America, where embracing each other was an accepted greeting and farewell. Chinese culture tended to value reserve in most social interactions, even between family members, but over time, we decided – to hell with it.

I get it. 😀

This story is definitely appropriate for those readers who land in the category of “new adult” and I think they’d eat this story up like the best pizza ordered at 2 AM while studying during finals week: exhilarating, sweet, a bit edgy, and romantic. It left me smiling. 🙂

I will definitely be reading more by Atom Yang!


Red Envelope on Goodreads
MLR Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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8 thoughts on “Red Envelope by Atom Yang ~ Book Review by Lirtle

    • Hi Christopher!

      Yes, things have changed a lot since “The Wedding Banquet,” partially because of “The Wedding Banquet”! I’m grateful to everybody in our conundrums who worked to make it possible for me to tell a story like “Red Envelope,” and I hope my own story paves the way for others and for people to be themselves and connect with their family and friends.

      Thanks for putting my story on your to-be-read list. 😊


    • Hi Laurie!

      Thank you!

      I hope you enjoy it, and would love to know what you thought of it, strong and weak points. (I don’t take feedback personally, because it helps me improve, so you won’t hurt my feelings.) 😊

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