The Red Thread of Forever Love by Nicole Kimberling
A "Not Quite New Year" Story!
Folklore researcher and PhD candidate Hank Caldwell has a problem. He’s come to Japan to get information for his book on supernatural creatures called yokai. Along the way he discovers that yokai are not only real, but one of them is determined to make Hank his forever lover.
Translator Daisuke Tachibana knows all about the shadowy figure in a business suit who keeps accosting Mr. Caldwell. He knows the creature must be stopped, but how? Their upcoming research trip to a remote, hot springs resort will be exactly the opening the yokai is looking for. Now if only Tachibana could stop thinking about Mr. Caldwell’s naked, freckled body submerged in steaming water long enough to formulate a plan to keep the amorous creature at bay.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Red Thread of Forever Love is a great holiday story. I wonder if this gem got lost in the shuffle of so many stories since I haven’t read much or heard about it. I picked due to the author and her writing skill. This quick novella has all the highlights of Kimberling’s strong writing, quirky characters, and vivid setting. There is humor, sex appeal, tension, spirits, and even a very cool mystery. In fact there isn’t much wrong with this delightful story and I think readers will be really pleased to indulge.
Hank Caldwell is in Japan for the holidays doing research for his folklore book. Initially the Canadian born academic didn’t believe in any of the ghosts, spirits, or yokai so he was merely preserving ancient fairytales. When Hank ends up with his very own yokai admirer, Hank’s forced to change his opinions on what is real and what’s not. With the help of his translator and general bodyguard Daisuke Tachibana, there might be a happy ending for all involved.
The story is set in Japan and offers an incredibly vivid background. Not being familiar with the culture I can only assume the details are correct and they bring the world to life as if another character. The traditions, garments, attitudes, and language all combine to offer a truly eye catching and engaging setting. This is one story I didn’t want to end simply for the great unusual world brought to life. If nothing else you’d want to read this novella for those interesting details.
Alongside the great setting are well developed characters. Hank is an openly gay academic that occasionally struggles with Japan customs. He is initially put off by the yokai attracted to him, a spirit Hank nicknames Fingers for well…obvious reasons. Fingers is an overly enthusiastic suitor claiming love and devotion and offering sexual favors. Although Fingers is a spirit and not real, Hank finds himself amused, annoyed, frustrated, and turned on by the spirit’s charm. Not helping matters is Tachibana, the translator who harbors a secret love for Hank but can’t admit his feelings.
The dynamic between the two is fresh and fun. They banter, talk, console, and work well together as friends before the romantic element is introduced. The couple has a good dynamic and a solid foundation that helps their relationship feel real and authentic. The detail about the red thread is very romantic and a good touch. The yokai offers a great deal of whimsy and humor to the situation with his outrageous declarations and later bravery in the face of the Devil. The brief mystery of the sunken boat is another good detail and it keeps the story moving with tension and focus without overwhelming the novella in a complicated mystery. Instead it’s a nice parallel story that is interesting and works well.
I don’t really have any complaints and finished the book satisfied with the length and story. If anything I simply didn’t love the story to pieces but that’s not fault of the author at all. In fact I easily recommend this and think a lot of readers will find the humor and sly wit very entertaining and the setting engaging.