Overall this was a nice sequel to the first story. It left me immediately wanting to read the third in the series because of course it ends on a cliffhanger. It was confusing to begin with--there are so many characters and the intricate relationships were ridiculous. I kid you not: I had to make a family tree on paper that I kept updating. It was so complicated the lines overlapped.
Cole and Jae are getting closer and I need Jae to step it up. Cole is incredibly patient, although I was reminded they’ve only been together for three months. I liked that Cole’s own family was contrasted with Jae’s so it’s clear that Cole has already lost his family against his will. Jae can consciously choose to do so; Cole didn’t have a choice. Shunning is one of the worst punishments imaginable. Amish and Mennonites use it because it’s incredibly effective without being violent. I think it’s cruel.
And yet I feel that we’re supposed to think it would be so much worse for Jae because family is so important in their culture. I find that kind of offensive. How many gay people have lost everyone because of their sexual orientation? It’s true that extended family isn’t as important in many white cultures as perhaps in Korean, but not in all and certainly not in many other cultures such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Chinese, and so forth.
And judging just from the book, it isn’t true that a Korean man would automatically be completely shunned. The book itself has characters who are still accepted up to a point. They have had to get married or are being pressured into it, but at least one brings his lover to places where his family is. Plus, each has at least a sibling or a cousin that is still supportive and sticks up for them. One character is treated like crap but he’s still kept around. The book is filled with gay characters who are Korean in the city where they live. A new extended family is right there.
I do get that it’s different, that a man has nothing without a family and descendants. But these people live in the US so they are exposed to other ways of life. I don’t judge people who make the choice to remain closeted but I think the excuse that it’s worse for them is ridiculous. Losing your family is losing your family. Just the potential has sent how many gay kids to commit suicide recently, white, middle-class kids?
I figure Jae’s going to come around because most M/M romance thankfully has happy endings. (Not the book I read last night but my fury at that is for another review, not here.)
Moving on, the pacing is excellent, a lot of action, danger, and death/near-death. The writing is mostly good, although occasionally overwrought:
“A silver urn steamed a fragrant promise of nicely roasted and brewed beans, while a tempting array of dainty cakes glistened on a plate nearby. Poking at one of the frothy concoctions with a fork, I asked…”
The mystery was good and I was definitely surprised at the end, although it kind of came out of left field to use a trite metaphor.
Some other things I feel the need to comment on:Pros
So nice to have someone else acknowledge that clay is slimy. Brick tiles at my university nearly killed me a dozen times.
Some really funny parts, like when a guy’s penis is stuck inside a glass bottle he was trying to pee into outside his own store (that had a bathroom) and his stupid employee tried to shoot it off but his lay for the day instead breaks it with a rock resulting in him having an ER nurse pick glass out of his ding-a-ling for hours.
They eat a lot of Korean food and describe it. Even though it sounds disgusting, I think the authenticity is great and the attempt to make it sound appetizing is wonderful. (I love most ethnic food I’ve tried from Afghani to Ethiopian, from Thai to Native American, but I just have never liked and Korean food I’ve had. I probably have just never had the good stuff. Lest I sound biased, the food of my own heritage, Scottish, is full on disgusting and/or boring for the most part.)
Cole doesn’t idealize Jae nor his dead lover, nor does he canonize either. He sees he had to make compromises with Rick but he still remembers how much they were in love. He knows he has to make compromises with Jae.
There was an adorable reference to Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English. The
I spied the Cloak and Dagger bookstore before we hit our next turn. Bobby followed my gaze and murmured, “Ever go in there?”
“Yeah, it’s a nice place. Mostly mysteries, I think,” I said, remembering the last time I’d made it out to Pasadena. “Guy who runs it is fucking hot.”
That series isn’t for everyone but I loved it and it was cute having Adrien referred to as if he were real.
The book starts to acknowledge that family isn’t necessarily genetic:
“I think God knew that I’d one day get bored with retirement and go looking for something to do,” Claudia said softly. “He knew that there was a broken gay boy who’d been treated with such little care that he’d need someone like me in his life. I just had to know how to love him. And if I couldn’t find it in my heart to love the son I already had, how could I learn to love the one I would find?” Cons
Blow up dolls do not come blown up, they are packaged in a box deflated. Don’t ask me how I know this. It’s just common sense, but yes, I do know. To be honest, I don’t know how I know, I have just seen a box with a blow up doll in it in the past.
They never solve the case they’re working in the beginning. In fact, they never address it at all.
There were some racial/cultural stereotypes and some ways of referring to people that were a little derogatory like referring to folks as “granola munching.” I don’t know why (I am so not a hippie so it’s not personal) but that phrase just sounds rude. Worse were things like
Trust me; you don’t want to get into an argument with two Asians about money. You’ll lose every time. It’s like going against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”
No family in the story, in any of the stories, is nice. There are a tiny handful of nice people but for the most part, families are awful, evil beasts.
They flush their condoms. This is bad for so many reasons but it’s just plain stupid if you own your own home.
In one sex scene, the author got confused about who was on top physically.
At one point a character says something along the lines of, “I’d been raised that being gay was a sin, and nothing he did would save his soul.” That is not Christian belief at all, not even right wing Christian belief. The whole point of Christianity is that all people sin and Jesus died for human sins. Anything can be forgiven as long as the person repents. So even in ultra conservative Christianity, if this person recanted being gay and “became” straight, then his soul would be fine. There are ministries run by ultra conservatives devoted to turning gay people straight. Plenty of parents still kick their kids out, but the character is claiming that she was raised to believe that which doesn’t make any sense.
During sex scenes, she kind of doubles the ending, like in porn where they show the ejaculation twice from two different angles making the orgasm seem longer than it is. (Not that I have watched any porn myself to have seen that. (***whistling, looking around in the air anywhere but at the person reading this***) Here’s an example (warning, this is explicit):
“My climax hit with a force that dropped me. My lungs were taut, depleted of everything except the heat of Jae’s skin, and my mouth was filled with his taste, a salty sweetness he only shared with me. I could barely bring my fingers up to my lips when the first wave of my release hit, and my body jerked uncontrollably when I swallowed Jae into my throat, spilling myself into him until I was afraid I would black out over his back.”
Overall, I really liked the book and am about to read the next one. 4.5 stars rounded up because the cultural information is so well done.