After his family was thrown off their parcel of land, Genji Sakura was sold to a traveling theatre troop and left to make his own way through the world. Though life is anything but glamorous for a man stuck moving constantly from town to town and being obligated to service his patrons for the right price, Genji would never give up the stage.
Genji’s troupe arrives at their next stop and he manages to steal a quiet afternoon alone to bathe in a secluded hot spring. The locale is idyllic, beautifully calm and serene. It is exactly the kind of place he’d want to share with someone he could claim as his own…but the seedier side of the stage necessarily means there is no hope of Genji ever finding one true love. Then, while mulling over the disparity between a job he loves at the cost of selling his body, he hears someone approach.
Daisuke Minamoto is a man at loose ends. When his wife was brutally murdered five years before, he swore revenge on the loathsome lord who committed the act. Having crisscrossed the country honing his samurai skills, he finally finds himself wandering through a tranquilly green space close to his former home…only to discover the supposedly deserted hot spring actually hosts a fine-looking guest.
For all that he looks utterly wild from his long travels, Genji can tell there is the heart of a samurai beating in Daisuke’s chest—not even the brevity of their meeting can hide Daisuke’s true and honorable nature. It is a quality quite rare among the kind of company Genji is usually required to keep…rare and compelling. Before long, Genji and Daisuke come crashing together in an afternoon of unforgettable passion.
Yet how can their tenuous, if intense, connection survive when Genji is owned by the theatre and Daisuke has been a slave to his rage for years? The two must find a way to overcome their pasts if they have any hope of finding a future.
The set up is trite as hell and the overall book is pretty saccharine sweet in its own way. The sheer melodramatic-ness of the piece didn’t strike me until about halfway through, but at that point, we are pretty much into full blown “bodice ripper” mode. Daisuke is the strong manly man with a secret gentle side that only Genji has been able to coax out. Genji is a relentlessly independent type, willing to pay any cost to remain “free.” Over the course of the book, both men undergo changes. I don’t mind the shift in Daisuke as much as I did mind the shift in Genji—only because it seemed to me that Genji was relegated to a weak, secondary position (ugh, I hate to say it, but he turns into a “little woman” while Daisuke goes off and Takes Care of Business). This aspect isn’t super duper pronounced, but I definitely picked up on it and was disappointed by it.
So! Japants! I lived there for a decade, I make my living using the language. That said, I know next to nothing about this particular era, so it was great fun to read about some of the elements. Mostly, the idea that “musuko” might be a euphemism for “penis.” I found that tidbit especially interesting because one of my final acts before leaving was to ransack “Virgin Road” (that’s the street in Tokyo that caters to all the ladies who like slash-y stuff) and buy all the M/M fanzines for my favorite fandom as I could. And yeah, they are explicit AF…yet no one ever calls a dick a “musuko.” Despite taking place in forever-ago-Japan, the book struck what I think is a good balance between familiar cliches and genuine inclusion of realia. Nor is there an overabundance of loan words and the few that are used are pretty clear from context. You don’t have to know a thing about Japan to enjoy this book.
I really enjoyed seeing how Genji’s attachment to the theatre really drove a lot of the action, despite the reader being stuck with Daisuke for the climax of the story (a sort of show-down scene, if you will). The two main characters might fall in love, and certainly into bed, at the drop of a hat, but it’s presented in such a way that it doesn’t feel like instalove for the sake of the two main characters getting to bang each others’ brains out—and effort at story planning/developing I quite enjoy. There is an appreciably large supporting cast who help round out our main characters and bring a little more realism to the story overall, also.
In short, if you’re a fan of sweet, fluffy stories in the vein of tried-and-true romances, this would be a great book.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.