Buy Link: The Red Thread of Forever Love
Author: Nicole Kimberling
Publisher: Loose Id
This book was a story I read for the second round of the Goodreads M/M Romance board Bingo Challenge. For those of you not following the first time around, the challenge is for you and your team to get Bingo by reading books in various categories/bookshelves and filling out the squares on your Bingo card. I like this game because it challenges me to read books outside my usual genres, plus I get to hang out with fun folks online. So this week’s category was books featuring mythical creatures. I’ll tell you right now this is not my usual reading area, but this book caught my eye for being contemporary and featuring an interracial couple, two things I enjoy. Plus, I heard it was really funny.
So the story opens with Canadian Hank Caldwall in Japan researching a book on Japanese folklore. While he is fascinated with the topic, he doesn’t really believe spirits are real until he meets one of his own. His particular yokai turns out to be gay, flamboyant, horny, and totally hot for Hank (and his Calvin Kleins). In fact, Hank nicknames him Fingers on account of the yokai’s inability to keep his hands to himself. Fingers is convinced he and Hank are meant to be together, as indicated by the red thread of forever love he sees tying them together. Although the spirit seems to be harmless, Hank is a bit embarrassed that he has attracted him and worries what his traveling partner, translator Daisuke Tachibana, would think if he finds out.
It turns out Tachibana is freaked out by the yokai, but not for the reason Hank thinks. Tachibana is unintentially summoning the yokai, a manifestation of his attraction for Hank. Some spirit warding charms from his grandmother help keep Fingers at bay much of the time, but frequently he gets out of Tachibana’s control and makes his way over to Hank.
As Hank gets to know Fingers he becomes amused, charmed, and eventually attracted to the spirit. And Fingers is a total riot – bold, horny, but totally bumbling in his attempts at seduction (Tachibana is an inexperienced virgin so his yokai doesn’t have too many smooth moves). As Hank opens himself up to Fingers (and even engages in some human/spirit snogging), Tachibana gets more comfortable with Hank, opening up about his life and bonding in ways the men never have before in their year of traveling together. Hank also is forced to reevaluate his own ideas about the supernatural, as he can’t help but believe after seeing Fingers. This first part of the story really worked for me — adorable, amusing, and totally out of the ordinary.
The last third of the book slowed down a bit for me as Hank and Tachibana head to a northern town to research the sinking of a ship, purportedly by a demon spirit. They hear stories that the ship is a yokai that murdered the captain by sinking itself. As things get dangerous, Tachibana must find his courage both to take actions to help Hank, and to admit his feelings to the man he loves.
I will admit that this last part drifted a bit too much into the supernatural for me, with demon spirits and yokai ships and Tachibana manifesting himself through Fingers in different ways. I don’t think I fully understood what was going on the whole time and the story lost a bit of energy for me as the plot moved away from the problems of the horny yokai and into the action of the various spirits and the sunken ship. I did like the way Tachibana is forced to face his own fears about opening himself to Hank, both regarding his feelings for the man and his role in summoning Fingers. His bravery is ultimately what saves the day so there is a nice heroic arc for him. I just wish the book could have kept up some of the lightness and humor throughout this part of the story.
One thing I did particular enjoy throughout the book is the taste of Japanese culture and folklore. There is a great amount of detail on Japanese life and culture that really enriches the story.
Overall I enjoyed The Red Thread of Forever Love and would recommend it to folks who enjoy the supernatural, stories featuring interracial/intercultural romance, or books with a sense of humor.