A guest review by Kassa
Luck and an impromptu jam session bring college student Quinn Yamamoto to the Blue Rose, a small R&B nightclub. He meets handsome club owner Enjoji Tatankata and it’s love at first sight, but no one said love would ever be easy.
It’s one thing after another: keeping his grades up and working to make ends meet, learning about a family he didn’t know he had, reliving buried memories of horrifying abuse in his nightmares, discovering that his new lover has dangerous secrets… nothing in his life could have prepared Quinn for this.
Blue Rose is an odd story with two seemingly unrelated parts to it. The first part is so sweet it may test even the most die hard romantics. The characters meet, exchange their life stories in a bar, sleep together, and are soul mates before the sun has come up. They’re totally in love, swearing eternal fidelity and moving in together for the long haul. This of course ignores some major issues the story has set up but who cares since love at first sight cures everything. The next part of the story deals with Enjoji and Quinn’s family expectations and the typical over the top evil villain – who actually has henchmen. The second half is marginally better than the first but the syrupy sweet love made me roll my eyes too much to enjoy this one.
The blurb warns readers that the characters fall in love at first sight so it’s not a big surprise that they immediate have sex (without lube or condoms mind you) but it’s still too much when they’re declaring they are soul mate status mere hours later. This stretches any kind of belief since Enjoji is not only straight but engaged to be married. Quinn thinks nothing of this since it’s a Japanese arranged marriage and is all about getting in Enjoji’s pants anyway. Although Enjoji’s never been attracted to a man before, he’s well into the sex (even rimming Quinn). The fiancé and straight status are never thought of again as Enjoji and Quinn can’t spend a moment apart from each other. Quinn immediately moves in, they declare their undying love constantly to each other and everyone else, and the story then skips ahead time while telling the reader why they’re so happy, happy in love.
I admit I had some problems with this since the story spends considerable time setting up Quinn as near perfect. He’s the oldest son of a widowed mother with a younger sister and he’s not only working several jobs to put himself through college but to send money home too. He’s brilliant, good at nearly everything, handsome, charismatic, and falls in love with his soul mate the first day back at college. The love of his life wasn’t gay but turns gay at the first kiss and is totally devoted to Quinn with no qualms about suddenly being gay. Likewise Enjoji is near perfect. He lives a somewhat humble existence above the music bar that is his passion but is filthy rich as the family CEO and the head of the Yakuza.
For those that don’t know the Yakuza is a Japanese crime syndicate but don’t worry since Enjoji is turning it all legitimate with great results. So perfection is really the main descriptor here as Enjoji’s money and influence (all for good mind you) pretty much cures any problem that crops up. There are some problems later on in the story with a twist on Quinn’s past. These introduce the tension and conflict into the story. There are some issues with Quinn’s grandfather – the evil villain with henchmen – but again Enjoji clears these up rather quickly, all the way calling Quinn his beloved, “my love”, and no one batting an eye at two men openly affectionate at the head of a Japanese crime family.
The story has some good elements, most notably the quirk regarding Quinn’s past and upbringing. This actually is what pulled me back into the story when I wanted to die from the sugary sweet overdose. The twist – without giving spoilers – is interesting and clever and actually plays well to the Yakuza history. The villain is over the top without a shred of subtly but I almost could have gone with that if the resolution hadn’t been so bland and boring. There are way too many coincidences as well that just conveniently take care of any problem and the resolution with Quinn’s mother had me groaning at its obviousness and ridiculousness.
I think the easiest way to describe this book is extreme. From the good to the bad, the story goes over the top in the descriptions, actions, and characters. The men certainly communicate but they are constantly reassuring each other that they love each other, they’ll never leave, they’re soul mates, they could forgive anything, and the language used is often very corny. Lines like “their love took them higher than any man-made machine could ever take them” (pg. 139) litter the writing and make the story difficult to enjoy. On the one hand this makes for a romantic story with a definite happy ending, but on the other hand it’s just too sappy sweet for me. I need something to cut through that and give some good tension and release.