Rating: 3.75 stars
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When economics professor Ryuu Tanaka spots a gorgeous man sitting in the park, he is immediately drawn to him. Daniel is attractive and clever, and Ryuu is relieved to find the man is not a student, but Daniel is pretty clear he is not gay and not interested. But after their encounter, Ryuu finds he can’t get Daniel out of his mind. He needs to know him, even if as just a friend. And after about a week of basically stalking Daniel near his last known location, Ryuu finally tracks him down again.
But things still are not all smooth sailing. It is clear that Daniel has some major psychological issues. Not to mention a mysterious past and a lot of secrets he refuses to talk about. But Ryuu is determined to get to know Daniel better, quickly falling for him despite his issues. Ryuu loves Daniel’s clever wit, his sweetness, and is incredibly attracted to him. And soon it is clear that Daniel is interested in Ryuu as well. But Daniel becomes increasingly mentally unstable, slipping into the fantasy world of his mind and Ryuu begins to wonder if he is able to truly help Daniel. At the same time, trouble with one of Ryuu’s students leads to an even bigger risk for both men.
All right, I am of sort of mixed feelings on this one. My thoughts are a little all over the map, and I am thinking it is partly because this story seems to cover a lot of different elements, not always completely smoothly. So first off, my favorite part of the story was the interaction between Daniel and Ryuu. Their banter is snappy and clever and there is great energy to their dialog. Ryuu is a bit arrogant and bossy, used to getting his way. And Daniel is so clever, frequently able to outmaneuver him. So watching the two of them negotiate or work through things was a lot of fun as they play well off of one another.
I also really liked Daniel and totally fell for him. He is clinically mentally ill; this is not someone who is just a little quirky or unsettled. Daniel has been hospitalized and even with treatment has breakdowns that make it clear that he not a healthy man. At the same time, I found him charming and clever and interesting. He has a fascinating background that slowly unfolds with the story, and often surprised me and kept me guessing. I sometimes felt Ryuu was sort of steamrolling him, and I liked to see that for the most part Daniel could hold his own. I just wanted to hug Daniel as he struggled and found him a very endearing character.
I found myself less fond of Ryuu, and never really warmed to him throughout the book. I found him just a little too arrogant, a little too certain that what he wanted was the right thing, and not as cautious as I wanted him to be with this disturbed man. Right from the start Ryuu is sort of out of control. I mean, he literally stalks Daniel for a week. Upon finding him, Ryuu goes right to his hotel room and marches right in. Daniel is a stranger with whom he had a brief conversation a week before, yet Ryuu feels no qualms about totally invading his life (not to mention that is clear to Ryuu even early on that Daniel is mentally disturbed, just compounding the problem).
From there the story takes on a level of unreality as Ryuu convinces Daniel to give him five days to make Daniel fall in love with him. Which can only be done if Daniel moves into Ryuu’s home, of course. Again, this man is mentally ill. They barely know each other. This can’t possibly be a good idea for either of them, yet Ryuu sees this as totally reasonable. Just moves Daniel out of the hotel and into his home. And of course, their relationship of three days or so is enough for Daniel to totally connect with Ryuu, to want to sleep with him when he barely wants anyone else near him, and for Ryuu to fall in love. I hate to say it, but this just all seemed so unrealistic that I couldn’t ever fully get past it to buy into the rest of the story. And it is not just how far-fetched this plot device was, but the fact that Daniel clearly needs a level of care that Ryuu isn’t really equipped for, at least at this stage of their relationship. There is so much about his past and his condition that he doesn’t share but that makes it all but impossible for Ryuu to look out for him the way someone needs to. Yet Ryuu is determined to make a relationship work in five days, rather than taking things slow and really learning about Daniel. I just found myself frustrated that was all breezed through so lightly.
Toward the ending things take a bit of a turn toward the suspense, and there were some interesting twists here that I liked. But I do think maybe just too much happening here and it was not all as well developed as I would have liked. A story about dealing with a growing love involving a man with mental illness could have stood well alone, or the mystery/suspense plot as well. But with both of them together, I think things just got a little disjointed and neither was fully fleshed out. So overall I think there was a lot to like here, and pockets of real cleverness and nice twists, but it just didn’t all totally come together for me.