A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
In seventeenth century Japan, during the golden age of samurai and of the Kabuki theater, young actors known as “flying fish” traveled the countryside, performing for audiences by day and giving their bodies to their samurai patrons at night.
Genji Sakura is one such flying fish, yet he dreams of the day he’ll find the man he can give his heart to and leave the loneliness of his itinerant life behind. Though he loves theater, he doesn’t love every part of his profession, especially some of the patrons. So when a handsome ronin, or masterless samurai, comes upon him stealing some solitude for a bath in a hot spring and their encounter turns passionate and profoundly erotic, Genji’s surprised and delighted.
Daisuke Minamoto’s past fills his life with a bitterness that grips his soul and makes him dangerous. Yet his passion takes him when he spies on a graceful young man bathing naked in a hot spring. He has always loved women but he can’t deny the call of his heart or his baser interests.
After an afternoon of sexual bliss, his heart and soul are tormented and torn. Keeping this miraculous lover will require giving up the one thing that has kept him alive for years: his hatred for the lord who murdered his wife. If he loves another, how will he go on and who will he become?
Sword and Silk Trilogy
Flying Fish is the first book by Sedonia Guillone that I’ve read and I’m glad that I took a chance on an author that is new to me. Successfully packing a lot of emotion and story in a small space, FF is a gentle romance that is unusual in its setting; I’ve not read any stories set in Japan, much less feudal Japan of several centuries ago. I am certainly no expert in Japanese culture, so I cannot speak to the authenticity or accuracy of the book, but it worked for me, and the little bit I looked into further as I read seems correct. I found the story to be well-written and -paced with three-dimensional characters.
Genji is a twenty-five-year-old kagema, a traveling Kabuki actor who also, as part of his job, pleasures samurai clientele after the show. Feminine in features, he is initially mistaken for a woman by Daisuke, a masterless samurai or ronin, as he is bathing in a secluded hot spring. Genji immediately can sense sadness in the handsome, brawny, very masculine samurai, who discloses that his wife was murdered by the lord of his province five years before. Daisuke feels a very strong, unexpected attraction to Genji; it is returned and the two have a quick, passionate tryst before Genji must reluctantly return to work. Daisuke reminds himself not to forget his mission to avenge his wife’s death, but is unable to forget his afternoon with the beautiful Genji, and as a result, puts into motion actions that change both of their lives.
I liked both protags very much. Genji is a very interesting character. Taken as a boy from his pillaged village and sold to the theater troupe, he never had a chance at a normal life and his life — nor his body — is not his own. He is not permitted to have a personal suitor, much to his unhappiness, but in some ways he is content with the only life he’s known for thirteen years; while he would love to leave the troupe and be with Daisuke, it is all he has. Incredibly attracted to Daisuke’s passionate yet gentle nature and raw masculinity, he feels torn about his new circumstances, yet also feels like he never has before. Daisuke in some ways restores Genji’s innocence, which he never thought possible considering his profession. Minamoto made him feel virginal, new, just by the look in his eyes.
Daisuke is fascinating in a way that characters just aren’t any longer. His samurai training and bushido moral and ethics code speaks to a chivalry that is probably dead: truthful, gentlemanly, polite, honorable, strong and brave when necessary. Perhaps dichotomously, he is also very innocent in some ways, naïve, in awe of Genji and his feelings for the feminine man. He has strong emotions, ranging from being consumed by vengeance and darkness; shame by his actions, feelings of hatred, and how he has let himself and his life go; desire for Genji that he doesn’t understand (yet accepts).
There are strong yaoi overtones, and our heroes easily fit into uke and seme roles. In saying that, though, Genji isn’t a classic emo uke as he is generally able to control his emotions (no uncontrollable crying here!) and can easily stand up for and defend himself — though he really likes how protective Daisuke is!
This is a Gay For You story, though it’s done well enough for it not be problematic for me. I had anticipated issues with Daisuke taking a male lover, but, as the author’s notes state, in samurai culture it apparently was not uncommon for the warriors to participate in what I now know as nanshoku, or the “love of the samurai.” On the other hand, when Genji is introduced to Daisuke’s family as his new wife, Genji pretends to be a woman and allows for the misunderstanding to continue (for as long as the story continues, that is). I thought that if it really wasn’t a big deal, the truth would have been made known without worry of prejudice.
I also found parallels in their pasts and emotions; both had tragic pasts, their current lives are torn apart, and they face uncertain futures. The smexxin, though not alluded to, is sparse and beautifully described with flowery prose like “jade flute” and “the feral scent of a man in the wild depths of his need.”
If you’re looking for a well-written, lovely, gentle romance in an unusual setting, Flying Fish is one you should definitely try.