Title: Trysts: Kaji Sukoshi & The Shining One
Author: Connie Bailey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: contemporary gay romance
Length: 260 pages
Rating: 3.25 out of 5
A guest review by Kassa
When the manager of Kazuki, Japan’s hottest pop star, approaches Benjamin Blume, manager of the fledgling rock ‘n’ roll band Hayate, he can’t believe their good fortune. Their plan to court publicity by having Hayate’s lead singer, Kaji, pose as The Shining One’s lover sends both groups’ popularity skyrocketing. But when the publicity stunt turns into a real affair with disastrous consequences, Kaji is left heartbroken.
Unfortunately, Ben has problems of his own. Soothing his lead singer’s pain and keeping Hayate on the road to success becomes even more challenging when his ex-lover, rock god Hagen Rune, shows up promoting rival band Voodoo. Torn between the attentions of Kazuki’s attorney, Shin Yoshiro, and the feelings for Rune that have never quite died, Ben’s decisions could send Hayate to the top of the charts—or lead to disaster for them all.
I’m not sure about other people but I wanted to read this book for the cover art. Sadly the cover art is no indication of the quality of the story but I do love great covers. It just makes me want to read the book and this was no exception. Unfortunately I found the story to be odd and detached, lacking that elemental connection of reader to characters. The writing style has several errors and the characterization is practically non-existent which left the story feeling bland and flat even with the enormous potential presented. Unfortunately the author made a mistake in the choice of narrator and the story never recovered.
The story primarily follows the career of manager Benjamin Blume as he takes care of the young men that comprise the Japanese rock band Hayate. Ben is approached by another manager suggesting a publicity stunt between Hayate’s openly gay lead singer, Kaji, and another popular singer Kazuki, also called The Shinning One. However both managers are surprised and dismayed when the fake relationship between the singers elicits real emotion. The tangled web of lies, deceit, and hidden activities that surrounds Kazuki now encompasses Ben and Hayate. While struggling to keep everything moving, Ben’s old lover returns and throws yet another wrench into the process.
Benjamin Blume is the narrator of the story, which is written in first person point of view. Unfortunately due to this choice, the other characters are never fully developed. The story only shows actions and reactions from Benjamin’s understanding and perspective which not only skews the book, but leaves virtually every other character woefully underutilized. The main source of drama and tension for the entire book is the on-again, off-again angst filled romance of Kaji and Kazuki. Since Ben is Kaji’s manager and very close friend, he is privy to some of the emotional turmoil going on between the two men but often leaves them alone to work out their problems. Ben also doesn’t understand either man very well so subsequently the reader doesn’t understand either man. The reader is shut out of the main dynamic of the book, the tumultuous relationship between the singers. The story also skips over most of the drama, summarizing lengthy events in a short paragraph before moving on to mundane day-to-day antics.
As narrator, Ben interacts with each of the band members as well as various other supporting cast members such as Kazuki’s manager, Sato, and his lawyer, Shin. However, these interactions are often brief and leave Ben confused and misdirected. Shin and Ben flirt and contemplate a brief affair but their interactions are formal, stiff, and lack any chemistry. Ben’s steadfast support of Shin later is questionable and unexplained. Just as mysterious is Kaji and Kazuki’s relationship. Frequently Ben questions the relationship and Kaji’s feelings only to be afforded the explanation that Ben doesn’t know Kazuki like Kaji does nor does he know their relationship. Unfortunately, this leaves the most interesting and intriguing aspect of the book, that very dynamic between Kaji and Kazuki, unexplained and confusing. The story offers nothing the narrator, Ben, doesn’t know or understand. While Ben is contemplating how to ensure the band is a success, the drama and tension of the book goes on around him without much depth even as it affects everyone.
Furthermore the inclusion of Ben’s old lover and renew love interest is completely unnecessary. Rune offers absolutely nothing to the story other than to give Ben the one explicit sex scene while dragging out the final resolution. Rune’s contributions to the story and ending could easily have been cut out. The romance between Rune and Ben is easy and convenient as Ben gets over his previous grudge rather quickly and picks up where the two left off, immediately in love. Thus the united duo of managers – Rune is yet another manager, this time of the band Vudu – take on the problem of Kaji/Kazuki’s rocky relationship. The complicated relationships between the managers and band members are not confusing; they just add little to the ultimate story.
Unfortunately Ben often thinks of himself as old and that translates through his voice as narrator. He often uses unattractive word choices such as consistently referring to his dick as his “willy” even during sex. This choice of language is distracting as it is hard to imagine a 33 year old man with a history in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll always saying such things as willy and bum cheeks when thinking about sex. Ben is British so perhaps that is the reason for using such terminology but it doesn’t fit with his character and ultimately the sex scene was unattractive and not sexy. Although early thirties and early forties are still attractive men, when faced with the non-stop and repetitive descriptions of how hot, sexy, beautiful, gorgeous, and delicious the various members of the bands are – Ben and Rune suffer by comparison. This ultimately left me wanting to read about Kaji and Kazuki’s relationship and less about Ben’s inept observations and lukewarm relationship with Rune.
Overall this story had a lot of potential in the dynamic between the band members but lost that spark of interest when the focus was shifted to the outsider looking in, Ben. Due to the choice of narrator, the reader is also relegated as an outsider instead of the intimate appeal that normally typifies the first person voice. The various characters have appeal, especially with their fun loving interaction with each other, but were flat and under developed leaving the men vague and indistinct. The final resolution is boring as there was no build up of tension leading to the dramatic ending event. The narrator consistently fails to understand the hints offered. Ultimately since the story chose to focus the action and intensity on the relationship between Kaji and Kazuki, the lack of understanding and insight to the characters leaves this as a failed execution.