Daisuki by Hildred Billings
(Ren’Ai Rensai, #1)
Barachou Press, 2012
My Rating: 4/5
Description (From Goodreads.com):
Aiko and Reina have been together for almost 20 years, yet one thing remains unsaid between them: “Daisuki,” or, “I love you.” As they approach their anniversary, their relationship comes to an impasse as Aiko the Japanese housewife begins demanding “I love you” with a side of marriage and romance.
But Reina doesn’t understand complex concepts like “love” or other heavy emotions. She’s spent years supporting her girlfriend via a soul-sucking salary job and tending to their mutual needs in the bedroom. Isn’t that sufficient? In a culture demanding Reina choose between the “feminine” and the “masculine” worlds, it’s bad enough she’s trying to find her role without Aiko adding extra pressure.
Some words need not saying, but “I love you” is about to destroy a relationship already surviving strange side-lovers and even stranger exploits.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but I am very pleased that I read it and will be reading more of the series. On the surface, it is a book about hot sex between two Japanese lesbians. If you dig a bit deeper, then you will find it is also a book about Eastern vs Western cultural norms, relationship status differences, societal expectations, family shame and honor, and many LGBT issues including sexual privacy, gender identity, and marginalization.
The two main characters, Reina and Aiko, felt like real people to me. I was especially drawn to Reina – she considers herself to be more masculine than Aiko, works in a company filled with (perverted) men, and she reminded me of myself and some of my close friends. She has an insane sex drive (as does Aiko), but also engages in poly* activities. I liked that we saw some poly* in the book, but a part of me fears that someone new to LGBT literature might confuse lesbianism with poly*ism. At the end of the day, all characters that engaged in sex felt like real people with real issue and needs, but with a playful side too.
This is a book in the erotica genre and there are lots of opportunities for sex. These scenes can be read for pleasure, but they also add to the sub-plots in the story. If you dig a little deeper, you can see the seeds of foreshadowing for major themes later in the book. Obviously, this book is recommended for adults due to the mature content.
The writing was quite good. A couple of times near the beginning I came across some odd word choices (i.e. fornication, gyrating) that I felt didn’t fit the mood for the passage. However, there were some beautiful passages and the ending was absolutely fantastic. These characters really grow on you, and the writing just adds another dimension that can’t be ignored. Our characters are Japanese, and so some Japanese phrases are included in the writing. They are added in a way that the reader can easily catch on to what is being said and even adds a bit of a cultural air and realism to the dialogue.
As this is a romance novel the plot was predictable to some extent. Despite this, there were a couple of sub-plots that contributed to the overall story arc and really made this book unique. There are quite a few things to consider once you finish reading the book. Yes, the story takes place in Japan but the issues there are similar to the issues here and I think most people can relate to someone in this book.