Author: A.J. Llewellyn
Genre: M/M Romance, Gay Romance, Historical, Historical 20th Century
Imprint: Ai Press
Price: 2.99 USD
Flame rating: 4
Cover art: Louca Matheo
In 1946 Hawaii, Tomeo Yamaguchi harbors a secret that would be considered shameful by his traditional Japanese family—he aches for the caress of other men.
Which makes it particularly devastating when Tomeo’s father hires a tanomoshi—a matchmaker—to find a bride for his son.
Tomeo spends time with the tanomoshi, Shin Yamada, and as the men come to know one another, deep feelings emerge, the transition from friends to lovers inevitable. They fall into a clandestine affair, their hushed and hidden lovemaking as beautiful and breathless in their eyes as it is torrid in the eyes of others.
More time spent worshipping Tomeo’s body means less time finding him a suitable bride. Shin’s forsaking his duty and risking everything…but mating Tomeo is worth every stolen second. No matter the cost…
Honolulu, Hawaii, April 16, 1946
Tomeo sat outside the house and waited. It was almost six o’clock and his mother would worry if he didn’t go straight inside, but he dreaded what awaited him. He watched the sun setting, spreading fast across the horizon, like peach jam on a slice of very blue toast.
He had to stop thinking in what his father called artistic terms. Art was for sissies.
Tomeo swallowed hard as he glanced up at the sky. He had thought the tsunami of two weeks ago had been a brilliant diversion in his parents’ marriage plans. Not anymore. They weren’t buying his excuses of extra work because of the incident. Over a hundred people had died, but after the first few, chaotic days, it was true that the islands had returned to normal.
The sun’s brilliance made the clouds seem like a cluster of ripe fruit up there in Heaven. He sighed when his favorite song, Prisoner of Love came on the radio. He turned up the volume and gripped the steering wheel of his most prized possession, his cherry-red 1940 Chrysler Highlander. He’d bought it dirt cheap from an American Army officer forced to return to the mainland. Tomeo loved the car so much he wished he could marry it.
It had one bullet hole in the trunk and another lodged in the plaid fabric of the backseat thanks to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but other than that, the car was perfect.
He hummed along with Perry Como. Tomeo was a terrible singer but a pretty good hummer. Como’s voice and the lyrics haunted him, especially the lines, “I need no shackles to remind me, I’m just a prisoner of love…”
Tomeo felt close to tears. He longed for love. He longed to experience the pain and anguish of loving somebody so much… He just knew he would never find it and now…now he had to go inside and meet the tanomoshi.
He forced himself to relax. He touched the walnut panel on the dashboard, hardly able to believe this thing of beauty belonged to him. He’d saved for two years to buy the car from his boss’s brother-in-law.
Tomeo worked hard for his money. He had a good job and was considered a handsome, eligible bachelor. And that was why inside the house, the tanomoshi awaited him. His father had mentioned this strange custom to him several times, but Tomeo had dismissed the idea from his mind.
He didn’t need a match-maker. So far, he’d managed to avoid missing the man three times. Now his parents were beginning to suspect something was very wrong with him. They’d asked him if he was sick. He did, after all have a very physical job managing a pineapple cannery, but he wished his sickness was physical. He wished he could explain his hideous malady.
Tomeo Yamaguchi had an illness…what else could it be when only a few men he knew suffered the same thing?
He preferred the attentions of other men.
There. He’d finally allowed himself to admit the truth in his own mind. He was homosexual…or, as he’d heard it in a bar recently, gay. Gay. What an odd word. Gay meant happy, and he was far from it. At the age of twenty-three, he was fast approaching the mark of doom, twenty-four, when he would be considered too old to be a decent husband in the bloom of his youth.
But I am in my prime. I think of sex…all day long.
He knew the tanomoshi was inside because Tomeo was parked behind the man’s pristine black Ford Coupe. Of course his car is pristine. I bet his whole life is fantastic. I bet he has the perfect wife, and the perfect children. I bet his car doesn’t have bullet holes…
The truth was, he was afraid of what the tanomoshi might have found for him. Some well-bred, very Japanese girl from the mainland, or worse, Japan? He could barely speak the language. Long before Pearl Harbor had been struck it had been illegal to speak anything but English in Hawaii. Now, five years later, if he found himself with a Japanese bride he wouldn’t even be able to talk to her!
Three of his friends had all been married by proxy and they seemed happy enough. However, like Tomeo, their Japanese was poor and they hardly spoke to their wives.
“You don’t need language when it comes to sex,” his best friend, Koh, always said. “You just take your clothes off. The body speaks for itself.”
But Tomeo didn’t plan on having sex with his wife so he would need to say something. Maybe he could learn some jokes, or some poems and keep her laughing all day long.
Fool. Nobody laughs all day long.
Okay. I can’t sit here all night listening to tunes on the radio.
Why not? I like it out here!
He brushed off his pants. They had a fine dusting of bamboo powder all over them. He’d spent the last hour lying on the ground inside the bamboo rainforest up on the Old Pali Road, watching woodchoppers working. A few were very attractive to him. He glanced back at the house. Would she be here, his future bride?
Maybe I can get a look at her before I have to face the music…
He turned off the engine just as Perry Como got to the good part about how the woman he loved had another. Now that would be convenient if his intended bride didn’t want him. He could go back to his life secretly hungering for men…
Tomeo didn’t want a traditional Japanese bride. What would he do with a woman? It was bad enough having a sister, for Lord’s sake. He sneaked around the side of the house. It wasn’t easy when his father had spent so much time planting tropical flowers all over the grounds. Spiky palm fronds dug into his arms and legs as he reached the living room windows.
He could hear his father talking. The windows were closed but his father was loud.
“I think the boy is too soft. He has ideas of romance and American girls.”
No, I don’t!
“What are you doing?” a voice beside him asked too loudly.
Tomeo jumped in fright. “Shhh!” he hissed.
“What are you doing out here?” Asuka asked again, peering into the window.
“You’re mean. They can’t see me.”
“Of course they can see you with all that stupid stuff in your hair.” She looked like a walking fruit bowl with the kanzashi lacquered to her artfully piled locks. She had hair sticks, cherry blossoms, ornamental fans and combs galore. In English, Asuka’s name meant smelling good tomorrow. He sure hoped so because the yucky stuff in her hair reeked like diesel fuel right now.
His nose twitched.
She tilted her head and before he could move out of the way, one of the sticks shot straight up his left nostril.
“Ow!” he screamed. Blood gushed everywhere.
Tomeo grabbed his burning face, petrified of the pain and all the blood escaping through his fingers. He tried not to panic and hold his head up but the window opened, smacking him right in the chin. It sent him flying into a kiawe tree behind him.
He shrieked as the thorniest trees in all the Hawaiian Islands shoved their way into every available inch of his body.
Tomeo went into shock. He heard the sound of running feet, heard his father saying, “Aw, nuts. I was hoping it was a burglar. I wanted to shoot him!”
“Easy, easy, I’ve got you,” another, kinder voice said.
Tomeo looked up into the most beautiful almond eyes he’d ever seen and said the first thing that came into his idiotic mind. “I’m all cut up. And after all my efforts to keep my elbows smooth.”
And then, he passed out.