Reviewed by Heather C
Title: Non-Stop Till Tokyo
Author: KJ Charles
Heroine & Hero: Kerry Ekdahl & Chanko
Genre: M/F Romantic Suspense Thriller
Length: 105,000 words
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Available at: Samhain Publishing, Amazon, All Romance eBooks and Barnes & Noble
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: A man with a past is her only hope for the future.
Kerry Ekdahl’s mixed heritage and linguistics skills could have made her a corporate star. Instead, she’s a hostess in a high-end Tokyo bar, catering to businessmen who want conversation, translation and flirtation. Easy money, no stress. Life is good—until she’s framed for the murder of a yakuza boss.
Trapped in rural Japan with the gangsters closing in, Kerry doesn’t stand a chance. Then help arrives in the menacing form of Chanko, a Samoan-American ex-sumo wrestler with a bad attitude, a lot of secrets, and a mission she doesn’t understand.
Kerry doesn’t get involved with dangerous men. Then again, she’s never had one on her side before. And the big, taciturn fighter seems determined to save her life, even if they rub each other the wrong way.
Then her friends are threatened, and Kerry has no choice but to return to Tokyo and face the yakuza. Where she learns, too late, that the muscle man who’s got her back could be poised to stab it.
Contains graphic violence, swearing, and implied sexual abuse.
A non-stop action thriller with a side-dish of romance.
Kerry Ekdahl is like a chameleon. She can change her entire appearance with only a few tweaks to her wardrobe and learn any language within a few weeks. She uses her unique skills working as a bar hostess…interpreting and mingling and flirting with wealthy businessmen…including powerful yakuza members. When Kerry is framed for the murder of a yakuza boss, she flees the city of Tokyo hoping the whole misunderstanding will straighten itself out. But when the danger turns on her friends, Kerry can’t leave them unprotected and must bend to the demands of the yakuza family, and ends up putting her life and trust into the hands of a man called Chanko, a former sumo-wrestler on the path to a new life.
Setting: This was very Japanese. No, I’ve never been to Japan, nor do I know much about the country other than what I’ve learned from a high-school foreign exchange student many years ago and a few more language and cultural references I have picked up over the past few years by reading Japanese influenced stories. This was very Japanese! From the language to the mannerisms to the hierarchy of social structures, not to mention the geography. Everything about this book screamed “THIS AUTHOR KNOWS HER SHIT!!” It was so vivid, I felt like I was right there in Kerry’s nightmare.
Pace: The initial feel of the story was this overwhelming sense of urgency: Kerry trying to get on the train and out of Tokyo before the yakuza guys notice her, but the tempo tended to get bogged down occasionally with the frequent details and descriptions and explanations and interpretations of the Japanese culture. Yes, I found all that fascinating but, for me, it made for slower reading during certain scenes because I had to take it all in and digest it before I could comprehend what was really going on…or what it meant. That is not a complaint, because I feel that in order to keep the story legitimate and accurate to the culture, those details needed to be there. And for someone like me who is a bit slow, needed those interpretations. It just wasn’t “easy” reading for me…I had to use my brain A LOT!
Mystery: Oh man, I was so into the complexity of who did what and how Kerry was going to get out of the bad situation. It had a little bit of who done it, what are we going to do about it, where did they go, why did they do it, how did they do it?????? Back to what are we going to do about it? And the way it all worked out in the end…loved every bit of that! In fact, it would make an awesome movie.
Characters: So many complex characters running around here. All well developed and true to their character. I liked how Kerry didn’t always make the best decisions, but she was selfless to the point of sacrificing herself in order to protect those she cared about. And Chanko, not your typical romance hero as he doesn’t fit the sexy stereotype. (I would love to see an image of who inspired his character, because I was totally crushing on Chanko!) He was like a big block of ice in the beginning and I loved the early scenes with him and Kerry and all the insults and banter flying back and forth. Then we get to know the warm cuddly, teddy bear that can turn into a charging giant at any moment. Then there was Yoshi, one of Kerry’s best friends. While I wanted to strangle him throughout most of the book, I was still afraid something bad would happen to him and Kerry would never forgive herself.
Romance: The romance definitely takes a backseat to the mystery/suspense plot line, which was entirely what I was expecting. I was feeling all the sexual energy between Kerry and Chanko anyway: every word, every look, every touch… And when they finally gave in to the attraction, GAH! I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room because it was FADE-TO-BLACK!!! I know, I know. That makes me a big, fat hypocrite, but I wanted to see that sweet intimacy between Kerry and Chanko…NAKED! Was it because he was “fat”? I don’t know, but that wasn’t stopping me from wanting it! I don’t believe it would have interfered with the pace of the story, either. 😦
Ending: The big showdown at the end between the good guys and the bad guys was one of my favorite scenes in the entire book! Come on, that’s not a spoiler. I said this was a thriller and a thriller always has to end with a BIG showdown. It’s a bit HFN, when it’s all said and done, but it’s left open ended enough to where there would be plenty if room and potential for a sequel. Please.
Overall Impression: I Really Liked It!
*I received a copy of this book from the author in return for a fair and honest review.*