Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Ex-Navy SEAL Brendan O’Farrihy’s life was never the same after his SEAL team deployed to Afghanistan on a near suicidal covert mission. It ended disastrously, killing two of his team members and shattering the lives of the remaining SEALS. Now Brendan works for a Washington lawyer and boyfriend, helping his clients by conducting investigations and acting as security. Then Brendan is sent to Honolulu on a new job for their client, Senator Harris. It seems that the Senator’s youngest son has gotten involved with the Yakuza and brought them back with him from Japan where he had been kidnapped. The Senator’s son, Kenneth Harris, is living and working at Honolulu dojo , a suspected front for a yakuza syndicate. Brendon’s job is to investigate and extract the son as necessary. The first step in Brendan’s investigation? Enroll in a kendo class being given at the dojo in question to get close to his subject and observe the situation.
Kendo instructor, the cocky, short-fused, gorgeous Kinosuke Yonekawa has arrived in Honolulu along with his former yakuza underboss Shigure Matsunaga, other ex yakuza members and of course, Ken Harris, Matsunaga’s gajin lover who is helping to see them established in the US. Kinosuke feels cutoff from all he knew, especially his place in Japanese and Yakuza society. American culture and customs confuse him and he feels adrift from the very people who make up his family. Then a new student arrives in class. Freckled, outgoing, handsome and yet respectful. The feelings he engenders in Kinosuke just add to his jumbled state of mind.
As Brendan becomes more involved with Kinosuke, the less sure he is that the Senator has been telling him the truth. The Yakuza are protectiave of Ken and seem to have left their criminal connections behind them in Japan. So what exactly is going on? When Ken disappears from the dojo, Brendan must decide whether to stick to his original plan or reveal his investigation to Kinosuke and the others in order to help them find Ken and bring him home. But will Kinosuke ever forgive him? And will it all be in time to rescue Ken from a danger closer than Brendan had imagined.
Yakuza Courage, the second story in H.J. Brues’ The Way of the Yakuza series, represents yet another new series and author for me. Her special combination of suspense, romance and all the elements that a variety of cultures bring really made this story (and series) a real highlight for me. I am working backwards here so I was missing the first installment, Yakuza Pride, where Ken Harris and Shigure Matsunaga met in Japan and the kidnapping that occurred there. However, I didn’t feel as though that lack of a complete backstory was necessary in order to get connected to the men, the romances and histories central to the plot here.
Words that come to mind when trying to describe the characters, and plot? Densely packed, beautifully constructed, and always complex. That applies to everything here. The characters are especially marvelous. On one side you have Brendan O’Farrihy and the remaining members of his SEAL family, a damaged, closeknit, and over the top competent group of warriors devastated by a mission gone wrong. And soon to be reunited in Hawaii. On the other side? A closeknit group of Japanese warriors…a segment of the criminal gang that is Yakuza. They too have been separated, not from each other, but from their material and emotional foundation in the Yakuza organization in Japan. Two teams or families adrift by circumstances and one man who will bring them all together. What a great plot! And to make them all feel alive H. J. Brues steeps her story and characters deep in the culture of Hawaii. Here it is the white people or haole who are outsiders. Not so those of multiracial backgrounds found throughout the Hawaiian Islands, where it can take a true polyglot to understand the mixture of dialects, colloquialisms, pidgin mashups of English, Japanese, Samoan, and much, much more that has become the language of the people there.
I loved the manner in which Brues folded her knowledge of the various cultures (of Japan, Yakuza, Hawaii, and SEAL) together in such a way that they remain distinct yet commonplace elements of the people and story lines. Her characters speak the language of their home and cultures and it feels as natural as breathing. Along the way other details and facets are thrown in, such as the clothing worn by kendo masters and the slippers and furnishings found there. Want to know more about what it is like to don (and take off) the hakama pants worn by Kendo Masters and students? Then read the scene that highlights the difficulty and time it took Brendan and Kinosuke to remove their hakama pants while half crazed with lust. It comes across as both authentic, and funny. Dialects swing back and forth from Japanese to colloquial Hawaii then to standard SEAL speak and English and then around again. A tremendous merry-go-round of vivid imagery, local flavor, and layering that can make your head swim if other cultures and languages are not your thing. For me it felt as if each new page brought another present to unwrap.
There is a tremendous amount of information here and plot complications to include so at times the reading can slow down, the narrative sluggish under the weight of all those great elements and tactical maneuverings. Then its starts to pick up as the other SEAL team members arrive and the rush is on to accomplish several missions, save Ken, and complete a HEA for all. That race towards the resolution is really gripping, the author’s sentences creating a picture of tension, danger, and imminent discovery. So many great action sequences coming together for a jam packed explosive finale.
I loved this story so much that I went back and grabbed up the first in the series, Yakuza Pride. But that is a review for a later time. But if you haven’t read that story, don’t worry you can start here as I did. From that glorious cover to the equally stunning story inside, this is one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best of 2014 and highly recommended reads!
Cover artist Reese Dante’s cover is lush, beautifully rendered and spot on for this story.
ebook, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published July 31st 2014)
seriesThe Way of the Yakuza #2
Book in the Series to date:
Yakuza Pride (The Way of the Yakuza #1)
Yakuza Courage (The Way of the Yakuza #2)