“He who cheats others is a knave, but he who cheats himself is a fool.” ~ Karl G. Maeser
Jim Carney is not a happy man. In fact, he's not even content. He has spent years hiding from his desire for men, not even able to admit it himself. Jim has gone through life doing what he thinks is expected of him, not putting his heart completely into anything; and it shows. Others see Jim as just getting by in life, as not particularly smart or reliable. Everyone thinks he is a ladies’ man, which is so far from the truth it hurts; but Jim has never considered having any other choice. When Billy gives Jim the responsibility of running his company while he's away, Jim is amazed but determined to make his boss proud.
Leaving home at sixteen because he got a good friend of his in trouble, Jim continues his self-punishment by shutting down his feelings. He is on autopilot most of the time, taking things as they come. With this lack of direction, Jim often gets into difficult situations because he won't speak up for himself. Jim continues flagellating himself for ruining his friend's life, by making sure his is a disaster, thinking he doesn't deserve better. His love life is dismal at best; he can't explain his lack of interest to the women he dates because Jim doesn't understand it himself. Unfortunately, the men Jim works with think he's some kind of Casanova, having any woman he wants and Jim, to his detriment, plays along. The image is enhanced even further when the boss lady takes a shine to Jim and starts coming on to him. Again, fearing ruining things for Billy, Jim pretends to like her, trapping him in yet another relationship he doesn't want. Add his younger brother showing up on his doorstep causing more confusion and Jim has his hands more than full.
Dr. Kenji Tanaka meets Jim when he is referred to him by another doctor who has found a problem with Jim's heart. Ken takes a special interest in Jim and flirts with him outrageously. Jim feels the connection between them, but is not sure what to make of it, or even if he should make something out of it. Meanwhile, Ken has his own problems with his family, particularly with his mother. After finally accepting Ken is gay, she stops pushing women at him and presents Ken with a man from what she considers a good family. To get his mother off his back, he agrees to go out with him, but Ken's negative first impression of the man, unfortunately, turns out to be correct. The other problem is, Ken can't stop thinking about Jim no matter how hard he tries. They both know the union is impossible, but this doesn't stop their hearts from wanting to try. When the worst case scenario happens to Jim, Ken knows he has to make a choice once and for all.
This is a delicious, well-written love story not without its fair share of angst. The characters, particularly Ken and Jim, are so vividly written, I felt as though I had crawled right in the book with them. They are charming and sexy, but at one point or another, I was ready to slap both of them for being so dense. Good communication skills, especially when they involve matters of the heart, don't come easily and Ken and Jim are no exceptions to the rule. They both needed a lot of character growth before they could open up, not just to each other, but to themselves as well. I loved Jim's brother, Ian, who was often the voice of reason for everyone involved. He is so wise and practical for his young age of eighteen and exactly what Jim needed to get him moving in the right direction. I can hardly wait for his story, which I hope will be in the next book in the series. This story can be read alone, but is most enjoyable when read in sequential order. If you enjoy stories about effective communication, handsome men, hot sex, interracial dating, Japanese customs, and following your heart, you may like this book. Many thanks, Tara, for a thoughtful, charming story.