I stumbled across this astonishing review on Madame Butterfly’s blog. She’s not officially a reviewer, she just loves romance books and writes reviews because she enjoys it. The incredible part for me is that she has lived in Japan and is very knowledegable about Japanese culture. So getting her stamp of approval only added to my jubilance!
Men of Tokyo: Sudden Bliss is an incredibly sensual and deeply erotic love story that stole my heart. The setting, the story, the characters, are all written with such depth and soul that I was blown away, really; absolutely in awe. Ms. Guillone totally captures the essence of the Eastern mind and culture, particularly the Japanese, and brings its uniqueness so vividly to life through the characters and love story. Plus, there’s some really delicious man/man loving. I just adored this book.
Koji is a typical Japanese salary man who sacrifices his personal life to service of the company. By choice he works from sunrise until late into the night every day. Even more so, he’s an extremely conscientious person and feels responsible for all the lives of the patients at the hospital if he fails to keep their computer systems going. When he’s told by the company’s CEO that he is going on a forced vacation because he’s an asset to the company and they can’t have him burning out, he’s horrified and feels shame. But he manages to get the CEO to agree to send him to The White Tiger, a ryoukan in a part of Tokyo where gays hang out, instead of the company hotel.
Naoto is an employee at The White Tiger and is assigned by Kiku sensei, the hotel’s owner, to take care of Koji. Naoto has had his own issues. His lover was murdered by Yakuza and he’s never gotten over it, feeling survivor’s guilt. When he meets Koji though, something starts stirring in him and he wants nothing but to care for and help heal this lost, stressed out being.
As these two come together, they must decide whether or not to go with their hearts even if it means disappointing those around them and for Koji, coming out.
I don’t even know where to begin talking about this book. There are just so many things I can say about how it affected me and yet, much of it falls within the realm of trying to describe the intangible.
The setting: The White Tiger is a hotel where men can go to be “taken care of.” It’s in essence a brothel/spa for gay men if you will. But it’s totally different than any similar type of place in the west. First it’s run by Kiku. Kiku was a former powerful Yakuza who wanted out of that life for a more simple and spiritually fulfilling life. He’s an older wise man who’s kind of psychic and he uses sex and TLC to heal broken and fragile spirits.
Most of the workers there were men saved by Kiku after some traumatic experience having to do with Yakuza. There they are trained in meditation and the art of using sex for healing the soul. I know you might be rolling your eyes here, but Sedonia Guillone keeps this part of the story very reverent and it never enters into crude or base territory.
**This is totally believable to me because actually, in Japan, service is an ingrained quality in everyone; it’s expected and even men are quite caring in that manner. And The White Tiger being a ryokan is especially noteworthy because ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel and personal service is expected and given in such places as opposed to a western style hotel where service is less intimate. Not only that, spiritual concepts are infused and intertwined with every day acts and way of thinking in Japan, so I never had to suspend disbelief that such a place could be more spiritually oriented.
The characters: Koji and Naoto are just so sweet together. Naoto’s heart breaks and opens at the same time as he reaches out to Koji, who is so tense and wound up, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. All through this story Koji is driven by duty. Duty to the hospital patients, his job and his family, but particularly his father, who beat him regularly and wants him to get married. He’s basically sacrificed who he is essentially for obligation. And he’s hiding the fact that he’s gay, which is also killing him.
As Naoto helps him relax, it slowly comes out that Koji was in love with his step mother who died and that there were definite, strong, romantic and sexual feelings between him and his step mom. She was the only one who stood between him and his father and she loved and protected him until she died. Koji is still mourning her death deeply. So when Koji sees Naoto for the first time, something deep in him responds to Naoto, whose long hair and soft, loving energy reminds him of his step-mom, even though he’s not so consciously aware of it.
Naoto is in deep need of healing himself. He’s still haunted by his love for his murdered lover Lee, and feels loyal to him even though he died years ago. He starts falling in love with Koji’s innocent and conscientious manner and finds himself struggling to not cross the line as Koji is just a client. He’s also feeling guilty that he might be betraying his former love by having such feelings for Koji. But as he and Koji open up to each other, he slowly accepts that it’s time to heal and let go.
Being the type of hotel that it is, of course their first interactions are sexual in nature and the way these two are together sexually is so intensely erotic, passionate and caring and they find they cannot stay away from each other; there’s such a deep need on both their parts to be together. This part is so poignantly and hotly written. The sexual/ romantic dance between Koji and Naoto is very tender and giving and their ache for each other burns hotly as they deal with social pressures that would keep them apart. Wow, just wow.
There isn’t one bad thing that I can say about this book. Nothing. It was all good. Men of Tokyo: Sudden Bliss is just so beautifully and gratifyingly written. Between the characters being so real and compelling, having a profound complexity about them, and the intense passionate sex and love story, this book grabbed my heart and ran with it.
**And just a personal note, I really enjoyed all the little details that were thrown in here like the mention of Ueno Park, sitting on blue tarps and drinking and singing karaoke during O Hanami. Ueno Park is THE place to go for cherry blossom viewing; it’s where it’s all happening. So I could see Koji walking around in that and what it felt like to him. And I used to party a lot around (Ni) 2-chome in Shinjuku. So these details totally added to the story making it very realistic and satisfying for me.
Sex rating: commando/ tantric. Very hot, intense and passionately tender m/m love, anal.