Author: Jan Suzukawa
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Michael Holden, Shinjaro Kaminishi
POV: 3rd person
Setting: 21st Century California/19th Century Japan
Genre: Fantasy/ Historical/ Romance
Cover Rating: 5
College student Michael Holden wakes up in an impossible reality: mid-nineteenth century Japan, face to face with Shinjaro Kaminishi, a living, breathing samurai warlord Michael has seen in a dream. Imprisoned by the warlord and interrogated about the future, Michael has no idea if what he’s experiencing is real… and then he finds himself back in present-day America.
Shinjaro’s commanding presence and smoldering sexuality draw Michael again and again to the past, where dangerous information is revealed and Shinjaro’s life is threatened. Through the mists of time and in the reality of modern Japan, Michael searches for the truth—and for the man who now owns his heart—Shinjaro Kaminishi.
A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.
Michael Holden is a man who has little direction in his life; he has no sense of purpose, nor a sense of duty. A wealthy, self-involved mother and an absentee father have done little to provide any sort of stability for their son, whose attempts at romantic relationships have each been unfulfilling. His indifference has lead to his most recent break up with his girlfriend, who is now his closest friend. Michael is a student at UC Berkeley, majoring in Asian studies; he’s overstressed and underwhelmed by life, in general, and is entirely unmotivated by any thoughts or prospects that exist beyond graduation. Bouts of vertigo and vivid dreams of a beautiful samurai warlord have begun to plague Michael and dominate his thoughts.
For Shinjaro Kaminishi, direction, purpose, and duty are the very things which have molded his life and his character; serving his domain, its people, his Shogun, and his country is what Shinjaro was born to do. To the samurai warlord, moral obligation is fundamental; honor is a code by which he lives and serves—and is a code by which, if broken, the samurai warriors would forfeit their lives to repair. Honor was more than personal integrity; it represented an unfaltering allegiance to country, to moral principal, and to responsibility. Honor was so central to the samurai nature that to violate the code warranted an act of seppuku, ritualistic suicide conducted as atonement for the transgression.
Two very different men from two vastly different worlds collide in this fantasy adventure when Michael inexplicably travels back in time to 1851 Japan, to a time before the gaijin, the outsiders, had begun to explore the country. He is an object of suspicion and mistrust, who is at first prisoner, then lover to the enigmatic warrior. Michael and Shinjaro meet under the most impossible of circumstances and form a bond that will span the centuries, a bond that even death cannot destroy.
Kaminishi is an epic tale of territorial dispute, family legacy, and a Judas’ betrayal. It is a conflict of accountability as Michael struggles with the burden of his knowledge of events that have already come to pass in his time. Will sharing with Shinjaro his knowledge of the future serve to alter history, or is history immutable? Will the world-changing events of the future occur, regardless of Michael’s interference? For the two men in this story, those questions are answered in a profoundly life-altering way.
Jan Suzukawa has crafted an incredible tale of a love that transcends time and defies explanation. The strange and sudden leaps between centuries are as much of a jolt to the reader as they are to Michael and Shinjaro, lending a perfect sense of affinity for the characters and their story. The separations and shifts in time lend a dramatic edge to the narrative, which kept me eagerly turning pages to see what would happen next.
Kaminishi isn’t a traditional happily-ever-after romance. What it is, however, is a love story between two men who contrast in every way, yet whose physical and emotional bond with each other is all encompassing. It is a story of a love so compelling it refuses to be erased from existence by time or distance. The ending was the beginning, a full circle story that has left me hoping for a sequel to this wonderful book.
Reviewed By: Lisa