I have to admit to being at a complete loss as to how to rate Yakuza Pride (HJ Brues)... In fact, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to think of this book. I feel the positives outweigh the negatives, but the negatives will be, for some, deal breakers. Where to start? I loved the setting. I very rarely read books set outside of North America, and to read a book set in Japan was refreshing to say the least as I know next to nothing about Japan and less that nothing about its culture and society. Luckily, the author avoided the pitfall of dumping information on both Japanese caste and manners, but instead embedded it seamlessly. The characters themselves are also interesting, and not just the primary characters - there were definitely secondary characters who had page space and who used it to present themselves in a three-dimensional way. I liked how...human they were, with all the foibles humanity brings. On the other hand, the two main characters kind of remind me of the characters in a yaoi manga. I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps because they fall into some clearly defined roles (in some respects). What I found interesting is how the author portrayed Kenneth (or Kenshin-san as he is known for most of the book). It's like the author wrote him as a foreigner (and thus less 'acceptable' to the Japanese), but gave him many qualities that the Japanese would admire - his fluency with the language and his understanding of Japanese culture and customs, his mastery of kendo, and his strength and honour. Both Kenshin-san and Shigure-san (the other primary character) represent one of the themes of the book, that nationality and/or caste is a label, and that it is who the person is that reflects their honour and their worth.
Anyway, I digress... This book feels like a book of many parts. And not in a beginning and an end kind of way, but more in an intimacy and action kind of way. Unfortunately, I felt both the intimacy and the action were...stretched (as in too long and too detailed), often too far. Which meant the pacing was...uneven. Plus, at least initially, the author had a tendency to use very long (80-90 words long) sentences during the sex scenes. And this led me (invariably) to re-writing the sentences (in my head) to add in a full-stop (or two). Not good. Especially considering the scene. So, I began to look forward to the sex scenes (not that there were many, but they were...out in the open on occasion) finishing and..the plot moving forward. And then we hit the middle of the book and where the suspense plot kicked in. One of the characters is kidnapped. Yes, huge spoiler, but I wanted to mention it because of what happens during the kidnapping. Torture. And it is described. In detail. And it's not easy to read. And there are escape attempts, more than one, which fail, until you are about to give up hope entirely, and then...success! Did I mention that things felt stretched? And that fact that Shigure spent a lot of time not working out who the villian was, when I (of all people) did, meant I thought less of him. At one point I was hoping that I had got it wrong, but I didn't.
And then I got to the scene I STILL can't get my head around. I'm not sure about the exact time line (as in how soon post-rescue this sex scene occurred, but bandages were present so I'm guessing a day or two?) Remember me mentioning the torture? Well, the result of that torture (physically) was wounds, burns and tears.... And then this happened:
Shigure's mouth followed the same path down that his hands had taken on their way up, his tongue probing mercilessly into and around the open cuts, Ken squirming wildly under the torture, noises pouring out of him without control.Yes, you read that right. INTO the open cuts! No. Just, no. The human mouth has millions of bacteria in it, bacteria that would probably love to make a home in a warm, nutrient-rich environment. But wait, it gets worse. There is a rimming scene.That in and of itself isn't the problem. The problem is that there are tears in that area, which led me straight back to the pain and risk-of-infection issues. All of this to someone who has just been tortured? And then to go from rimming straight to another area, which has burns. *heads desk* I mean, maybe it's me, but...the whole scene didn't work because I spent the whole time thinking about the pain and the risk of infection. I can understand why the author included a sex scene at this particular point in the story. My issue is with what the scene consisted of.
So, you're no doubt asking yourself why I rated this book three and three-quarter stars. I think the author has a lot of talent.I think the book is for the most part well written, with an interesting setting and premise. I think if the stretching of both scenes and sentences was...lessened, it would help immensely. And maybe my issues with that one particular sex scene is just a me thing as I haven't seen any one else mention it. But I do think that anyone that reads it should be warned that it is, in a number of places, very disturbing. The cover is, however, gorgeous!