Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: Everything East of the Sumida River by Kaneyoshi Shikaku & Heiko Shihenki

Reviewed by SinChan
Everything East of the Sumida River by Kaneyoshi Shikaku & Heiko Shihenki
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 344pgs
5 Pants Off

Japanese businessman Takamatsu Masamune takes great pride in the empire he built from nothing. His shady past and connections to the underworld prove he has no problems getting his hands dirty, but his fondness for beautiful things gets him into trouble.

Captivating Naoya Tashimo performs as a traditional dancer in sordid underground clubs. While he loves to dance, other men viewing him as an erotic object has left him numb. Caught in a summer storm, Naoya seeks shelter inside a local import shop where company owner Takamatsu and his PA, Koji, are attending to some business. Immediately smitten, Takamatsu woos Naoya and wants to give him the world.

When they learn each other’s secrets, it tests the tenuous trust they’ve built. Takamatsu wants to own Naoya for himself. Having dealt with greedy, possessive men, Naoya turns his back on all that Takamatsu offers. In exchange to truly have what he wants, can Takamatsu give up everything he built?

Takamatsu is a rich businessman with an import/export empire in Tokyo after traveling the Western world. When a rare beauty, Denka, walks into his store, Takamatsu is immediately taken with him. Denka's traditionalist family pressures him with dancing and entertaining guests until he threatens to break. Takamatsu tries to win Denka over and give him hope to live freely out of his mother's influence. However, negotiations with Denka’s mother for Denka’s freedom stall when they threaten his business empire.

Denka is a geisha and all his services are managed by his mother. Patrons can buy him for an evening and his earnings go to his mother. He's tired of false words and selling illusions, but his mother cares too much about money and power to let him go. When his mother pressures him to con Takamatsu into buying him an expensive kimono, that kimono becomes a symbol of trust in Takamatsu for Denka. I really enjoy the struggle of how Denka copes as a geisha living around drunken patrons and trying to live as a normal teenager. His relationship with Takamatsu is like a patron-geisha relationship that deepens into something Takamatsu would risk everything for. They don't say "I love you" but it's clear their feelings run deep.

I'm super envious of Takamatsu for having a PA like Koji. Koji almost seem superhuman when he caters to Takamatsu's whims and completes his duty to perfection. However, his services seem to come at a price and it's interesting to see the dynamic between Takamatsu and Koji when Takamatsu is not the "master." I like how each characters have their eccentricities. Takamatsu seems like a gentleman and doesn't take advantage of Denka but he has his own secrets too.

This novel is a build up of several intricate layers of plots and written with a very Japanese feel to the story. It's fitting for the story with its atypical contemporary romance and political/economical intrigue. The novel has beautiful language and descriptions of clothing that are almost too poetic for the novel. The story line moves subtly and may seem confusing, since the dynamics between key political players aren't clear and a lot of business dealing happens behind the scenes. Even now, I still don't quite understand what happened beyond the romance. However, as a romance novel, this is a great work that offers a very different vibe from other contemporary romance novels.

5 Pants Off

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