Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
Can two men find happiness in a country that doesn’t accept their love?
When Jack Calloway is transferred to his firm’s South Korean branch on Jeju Island, he’s assigned a valet, the beautiful but shy Song Woo-bin. He stirs feelings Jack has rarely experienced for another man, but everything seems to be against them—Jack is older and Song Woo-bin’s supervisor. He is just beginning to understand the new culture surrounding him even as he accepts his own desires for the first time, and Song Woo-bin is closeted, inexperienced, and estranged from his family. Their path to each other is full of obstacles and societal disapproval. Will the two men eventually come together amid the clash and complement of Eastern and Western culture… and find a home among the yuchae blossoms?
I have to say I was very conflicted when it came to writing my review for The Yuchae Blossom (World of Love) by Asher Quinn. One, this is the author’s debut novel and I thought Quinn did a wonderful job with several elements here. It’s those sections that really raised this story up for me. Primarily, the Korean setting, the author’s knowledge of the south Korean culture, use of language and settings which added not only considerable depth but obvious affection to the story and characters.
It made me want to visit several places Quinn mentioned, and I spend time searching out pictures of places and dishes to better familiarize myself with a place that already felt like a destination I needed to fly to.
On top of that? Amazing secondary Korean and American characters that I seriously treasured, from one grandmother housekeeper to an Assistant who needed to be wearing a cape. They came off real, personable, and compelling in their own right.
No, unfortunately my struggle here was with the main character of Jack Calloway, who, although supposedly familiar with the region, acted with all the finesse of a bull in a china chop. Angry, borish, rude, with little regard to the Korean customs and people working for him. Yes that changed ….mostly. But here is a man who had a sister in a committed lesbian relationship but left his son to live with his bigoted parents (they wouldn’t let her partner come for the holidays) for three years while he was going to be living in South Korea getting his “project” underway. Really? With all those assistants, and you are leaving your son with them? It was one thing after another that just kept me from connecting with this man. Even to the end, it was other people keeping him out of jail and suggesting ways to thwart the “evildoers”. Smh!
Song Woo-bin on the other hand is a wonderful character, easy to relate to and someone who will grab onto your heart. I wanted more of him, his backhistory, just more him, less Jack. The author never made a case for what Song saw in Jack. Because all Jack did was yell, bluster, crash over the niceties of their culture. To mix national monsters…Jack came across as a bit of a American Godzilla. See? Mixed bag. Way too good for Jack. Had the author been able to make the readers see exactly what made Jack so attractive to Soon Woo-bin I might have bought into the relationship and the “deep love” they said they had for each other. But I never got it.
The intolerant attitude towards homosexuality in South Korea is only lightly addressed and considering the role it played here, more information should have been relayed about the current laws and cultural family framework that holds this society so tightly in reign. Of course, maybe that’s asking too much of 162 pages and a light contemporary romance.
This is a coming out, sexual discovery story too for two men of two different cultures and that sort of got glossed over in favor of a “love almost at first sight” story. As I said there is a lot going on here.
So while I may not have fallen in love with Jack, I did with his household and its surroundings. Asher Quinn did a lovely job of bringing small parts of Southern Koren alive for me, along with several great characters. I can’t wait to see what this author does next!
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht Lovely cover with the character of Song Woo-bin and of course, the Yuchae Blossom of the title.
ebook, 162 pages
Expected publication: April 5th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English