Amy Tasukada’s Blood Stained Tea is an interesting book. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but in the end I’m very happy I read it.
This is not your everyday romance, not even close. Is it a romance at all? Yes and no.
Deep down in its core, the Blood Stained Tea is not a love story, though romance plays a very important part in the big-picture way of thinking.
Nao, a former yakuza and member of the Matsukawa family, is broken inside. Memories of the past and memories of a past lover haunt him. The only peace and quiet he has had in years is when he’s making tea. The process soothes him and centers him.
Saehyun is a fast-rising member of the Korean mafia trying to overtake the Matsukawa and to take over Kyoto. His past is as seedy and violent as his present.
The story begins when Nao is on one of his walks. It’s something he does to calm his mind, something he needs to stay sane. This walk turns out different from the others, though, as he comes across a man in the river. The stranger doesn’t want to be taken to a hospital so Nao takes him home.
From there begins a relationship between the two that is filled with longing to be with one another, but one that is also filled with lies and half truths. Neither man dares to be really truthful with each other. Sometimes not even with themselves.
Saehyun and Nao juggle their relationship with each other and both their own lives. In their case, love is blind. Or at least very choosy. There are so many opportunities for both men to really catch on to just who the other one is that it seems impossible they’re able to keep their façades up for as long as they can.
But in the end it’s all revealed. The rivalry between the yakuza and the Korean mafia comes to a head, and Nao and Saehyun learn who the other one really is.
The end is violent. Blood flows and lives are lost. There is no happy ending for these two. In fact, for Nao, it’s not so much an end as it is a return to the past.
A new beginning.
I’m actually very surprised at how much I enjoyed this story. It doesn’t really fit in to what I like to read. But I was drawn to it for two main reasons:
- The cover. Look at it! What is there to not like?
- The yakuza. I probably understand very little about the yakuza, all my information comes from (mostly romance) novels, but I’m always intrigued by it.
There are moments of pure naiveté in this story, moments when I wanted to shake my head and/or slap Nao or Saehyun for being so stupid to not see what’s right in front of them. But I never wanted to not continue reading. I was pulled in from the start and had to keep going until the end. And as firm believer in happy endings as I am, the fact that there isn’t one for these two didn’t bother me at all.
I guess that’s partly because I didn’t really feel the connection between them. It wasn’t natural, not even if you think of them as star-crossed lovers, two people from the different side of the tracks trying to make a future for themselves. And that’s all right, maybe it was the intention even.
Amy Tasukada is a new author to me but one I will be keeping a close eye on for in the future.
The next book in the series, Better than Suicide, is released this spring. Cannot wait!
Blood Stained Tea gets four charms from me.
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Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions above are my own and have not been influenced by anything other than my reading experience.