Hugh Harris is half Japanese, half American. He relocates to Kobe, Japan and feels like he doesn’t fit in at all. Even though Hugh knows his heritage and his mother raised him with Japanese culture, all the citizens of Kobe see is a tall, muscular man who doesn’t fit. When Hugh heads to a bar to drink away his frustration, Ren snags him out of line and drags him to the Dusk Parlor.
The place is high class and Ren suggests Hugh gets a job there, but the owner, Kaito, doesn’t like him. Or so he thinks. Kaito gives him a chance, and Hugh does his best to learn quickly and properly. Kaito is all about what is proper, and the Dusk Parlor is a high end club. When Hugh steps in to protect Ren and the club, the staff knows how special he is. and it bring Hugh, Kaito, and Ren closer together.
But there are secrets in Kaito and Ren’s past, and Hugh inadvertently gets in the middle of it. And once he’s in, he can’t walk away. Instead, Hugh helps the two men in ways only he can. And things change between them.
For International Week of our Reading Challenge Month, I was excited to pick up this book, as it takes place in Japan. So let me start with that. I have some mixed feelings on how well the book succeeded in showing the culture and life of Japan. At times, there were clear indications about the differences, especially with Kaito’s exacting standards about proper Japanese culture. But at the same time, the club is hosting an American themed month and the story is told entirely from Hugh’s first person POV, so things are colored by his perception. For me, it didn’t always work at “feeling” like Japan, but I thought the author did a good job overall of portraying some cultural aspects.
I enjoyed Hugh as a character, his big heart, his frustrations, and his loyalty. He was a great narrartor. However, there were times where I just didn’t understand the why of things. For example, when he first goes to the Dusk Parlor, he thinks about how he doesn’t fit in. But several paragraphs later, he says he feels comfortable there. He’s attracted to Ren, but I didn’t fully feel that was an adequate reason for going back and getting a job there. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why he decided to move to Japan in the first place. So his motivations for some things in the beginning didn’t work for me and felt more like points for ease of plot.
However, as the story progressed and more of his character came out, Hugh’s actions for the rest of the story made complete sense for the kind of guy he was. His attraction to both Ren and Kaito, two very different men, was believable and I could see why he was drawn to them. And when they got into a spot of trouble, it made perfect sense that he would be there for them and help them out. To me, though, his connection to Kaito seemed a little bit more real than his one to Ren, and I wished we could have seen more of that explored.
I will say this, though. I wished the author had chosen some other bad force or conflict point that the yakuza. While I know that it’s a harsh reality of Japanese life, it seems like they play a strong roll in every story I’ve read about Japan. I knew they were going to play a part, it’s in the blurb, but I still wished for something different.
Overall, this was a quick read with great writing. Some of the plot points didn’t work as well for me, but I enjoyed the glimpse into Japanese culture. And while it works incredibly well as a novella, it’s to the author’s credit that I wanted to see more of these guys and their life together. It definitely fits the bill for a international read.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for International Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a prize pack of some of our favorite International Books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a Kindle Fire filled with Dreamspun Desires/Beyond books, plus a 3-month subscription!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on International Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.