It is something of a mystery as to why someone would go to the trouble of hiring a T.A.G. assassin to take out a teacher at a community college. Nevertheless, a job is a job and Yoshi prides himself on being one of the best assassins at the guild. Plus, Yoshi is feeling the pressure to perform following a poor showing on his last assignment. Except, there is something tantalizing about Yoshi’s new teacher-come-mark, something that makes Yoshi’s blood sing. With his step brother helping him logistically and a cock cage to keep his libido in check, Yoshi is determined to find out just who this teacher really is.
For years, Jake has lived a quiet life teaching at community college. Life may not be glamorous and the pickings are slim for a dominant with a sadistic streak, but he was more or less satisfied. Until one night, at a club, when he meets a boy wearing a cage and Jake realizes what he wants. Except Jake’s got a couple problems. For one thing, he’s significantly older than his prospective sub. For another, there’s the matter of Jake’s life *prior* to becoming a teacher–one that he took great pains to bury. With his cover blown, he’s worried his chance at exploring a relationship with Yoshi is in very real danger.
One thing that T.A.G. You’re Seen really delivers on is allowing the reader to delve into the minds of both Yoshi and Jake. Carothers does this by having Yoshi as our first-person narrator for the first half of the book; Jake takes over for the second half. Each half of the book seems to have a very distinct tone, as well. Simply put, Yoshi basically spends his time lusting after his mark, whereas Jake spends his flagellating himself for not being (or not being allowed to be) what Yoshi wants/needs. On page, I thought these themes overshadowed any nuances. That is to say, it felt like Yoshi was reduced to a hornball who just happened to be assassin. There was so much on-page space dedicated to how much Yoshi wants to jump Jake (his mark) that everything else feels secondary. Conversely, when Jake’s the narrator, I thought there was a pretty significant disconnect between the character as described through Yoshi’s eyes and what Jake is actually feeling. Specifically, Yoshi makes Jake sound like a mysterious hottie. Jake himself comes across as an insecure mess to me.
Fans of action/spy genres might finds these same elements somewhat lacking in T.A.G. That said, much of Yoshi’s narration (when it’s not focused on how much Yoshi wants to bang Jake) details various assassin-style activities Yoshi gets up to. These include such things as planting cameras all over Jake’s home, constructing a special interrogation chamber, and several check-ins with his step brother (which provides a brief look at what kinds of technology these world-class assassins have access to). I thought Carothers’ efforts to describe a rich assassin culture fall a bit flat with Yoshi as the narrator, primarily due to the overemphasis on all the sex Yoshi fantasizes about. I felt Yoshi’s voice also made him sound pretty egotistical and immature…a point that, in retrospect, is actually pretty odd since Yoshi ultimately argues his training as an assassin means he’s basically mature well beyond his years.
The quality of the writing from a mechanical perspective feels a bit weak to me. The author switches tense within single paragraphs without any justification and there are a few grammar issues that drive me nuts (e.g. either/or and neither/nor being incorrectly paired and a character being scared to death of contracting an STI, but the dialogue saying “damn if I was going to make sure I used a condom.” In terms of content, Carothers takes time to make sure the reader knows assassins at T.A.G. are rated with code names, e.g. Mr. C, Mr. Th, Ms. Ne and so on. It was through direct references to this nomenclature that the reader learns Yoshi was demoted, yet at no point was the significance of this hierarchy explained or explored. Finally, for a story that is supposed to set up Yoshi with Jake, whatever closure or conclusions there were supposed to be between them didn’t seem to come through on-page. As noted above, as soon as Jake takes over narrating the second half, I spent the rest of the book waiting for these two to eventually fall IN or fall OUT, but neither seems to happen.
On the whole, I was disappointed with the quality of the writing of this story. Our two main characters are pretty limited in scope, but the hot and horny masochist role can be fun to read about; similarly, the tortured older lover is a treat to read…even if there is no satisfying resolution to the white-hot tension between them. And a final note to any readers, there is graphic depiction of several sex acts, both as sexual fantasies and actual acts between the characters. Some of these involve urine/water sports. There is also a lengthy scene where Yoshi has Jake in his special interrogation room and scenes involving sensory overstimulation are described.