Wednesday, August 9, 2017

HJ Brues - Yakuza Pride

When yakuza underboss Shigure Matsunaga meets Kenneth Harris at a boring social event, he’s surprised to find himself attracted to the blond gaijin with the mismatched eyes. Shigure is even more pleased when he discovers Ken not only speaks Japanese fluently, but is fluent in Japan's ways, even the more violent of the martial arts. Ken’s expertise at kendo is not his most striking quality—it’s the passion beneath his quiet, almost fragile exterior that ignites Shigure's lust, and the two come together as explosively as they spar.
Shigure is a dangerous man in a dangerous position. He’s been trying to keep the peace with the Daito-kai—his hated rivals—but the danger on the streets is escalating, threatening those Shigure most wants to protect. He may claim to love his gaijin, but before he can keep Ken safe, Shigure will have to overcome hostility from his people, a hidden enemy, and, the most insidious opponent of all, his own hard-won pride.

Comment: I've decided to add this book to my TBR for unknown reasons now. It's been years now since I got it and I can't really remember why...probably because of the different culture of each main character and I was probably interested in seeing how a relationship would be played out.

In this story we meet Kenneth and Shigure, two very different people.
Ken is Caucasian and he is living in Japan, in a friend's house, because Japan's culture is something he likes and understands but one day he will need to get beck to the USA. His life changes when he meets Shigure Matsunaga at a reception and they start talking. Ken is an artist and they sort of bond over a drawing ken makes.
Shigure is a member and a yakuza boss, usually called the Japanese mafia. The yakuza, however, have rules in the way they act, always trying to maintain the traditional Japanese values of honor and rituals. Shigure feels very attracted to Ken and soon they start seeing each other frequently. But there is someone who doesn't like to see them together...

I admit I feel quite surprised by how much I liked this story. I'm not usually a fan of stories where the characters are part of gangs or mafias or stuff like that because the whole mentality usually attributed to these groups makes me angry, so I avoid that. I expected a lot more talk about the yakuza's actions abut thankfully it was so superficial that I had no problem with it. Or, maybe, it's a Japanese thing and it didn't annoy me as much as perhaps more western groups would.

The plot is quite interesting, it basically follows Ken and Shigure's relationship but the focus is not only on them. We see little glimpses of their interactions with others and how that affects everything, including their own relationship. I liked a lot to read about the difference in both cultures, how each one is perceived by others and, because the action takes place in Japan, how Japanese people and also the more reduced number of yakuza members see Ken who, being from a different culture, country and background, is always assumed to be too different. As the plot moved along, the way some people still see the western world can be quite the challenge but, as with everything, it's not a generalization.
There's also a mystery going on and Ken eventually gets himself int he middle of it. I liked how the author dealt with emotions and tricky situations but she didn't run from the biggest problems and, at the end, appearances still matter a lot.

When it came to the plot, I was pleased enough by how things worked out. Maybe some scenes were quite difficult to read through, there's some violence and abuse ( by the villain!) but I'm very happy to see things ended up well.
Still, the way some issues resulting from the abuse were dealt with in a way I can't say I agree 100% felt too easy. I also think some sex scenes were unnecessarily detailed. It was interesting to see them give in to their attraction at first but from a certain point on, it just felt like it was on the way of the plot, so...

Ken and Shigure, as a couple, were likable enough. It was quite interesting to see them as individuals and also as a couple. Who they were as persons and who they were together allowed for a captivating comparison and I liked reading about them in both levels. It was interesting also how their feelings were explored and how much they thought about when it comes to others' opinions and such, especially Shigure's yakuza members (the closest ones to Shigure of course).

All in all, this is quite the story, very detailed and addictive to read. I saw there is a sequel, some people haven't liked it much but I have hopes it can be at least as interesting as this one. I'll try to get to it in the future.
Grade: 8/10

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