Review – Non-Stop Till Toyko by K.J. Charles

Publisher Samhain
How did you get the book: e-arc from publisher
Release date: April 29th

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.

nonstoptokyoTrapped 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.

Warning: Contains graphic violence, swearing, and implied sexual abuse.

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

When I saw the blurb of Non-Stop Till Tokyo, I immediately said yes, gimmie the book. Non-Stop Till Tokyo is a action-packed suspense with fabulous characters that had me glued to the pages. There’s a romance but it’s very light because, well, it’s hard to fall in love and have lots of sexy times when the mafia are after you. One of the reasons I enjoyed this book is because the suspense was the driving force of the book, and the romance came second–or perhaps even third.

The book starts off super fast. Kerry is running away because the Yakuza, mafia, are after her because the Bitch Kelly set her up. The Bitch Kelly is an American hostess who shafted and killed a very important member of the mafia. She frames Kerry and the Yakuza men are not interested in listening to Kerry’s side of the story. Kerry knows she has to get out of Tokyo when her roommate becomes collateral damage and is savagely raped and beaten. Kerry is horrified to learn that her other roommate and friend, Yoshi, also gets dragged into this mess just because he’s associated with Kerry. But Kerry is not alone for long when Taka, a former crazy acquaintance, sends a friend of his along to help Kerry.

Chanko and Kerry’s romance is on the quiet side. But the tension is there and it’s visible. They don’t get along at first; both have tempers, especially Chanko, and he makes incorrect assumptions about Kerry in her job. Despite the fact she could be calculating and manipulative, I really enjoyed Kerry’s character. She was loyal to her friends–even to the detriment of her own safety–and she loved them. Kerry was able to speak numerous languages and the author goes into depth and rules of how the Japanese language is spoken. Her past is also briefly touched upon, and I became to understand her character so much more. I had so much fun reading this book learning about the locations and food by going online and using google. And no, I wasn’t taken out of the story by looking up the location on google!

Chanko’s character was great. He’s an ex-sumo wrestler who is built like a tank. He’s also on a diet. I loved that he wasn’t your typical hero and I loved the banter and wit exchanged between them both. Chanko has some serious fighting skills, and his background is a little sketchy. It’s not revealed who he really is towards the end and and I loved Kerry’s response and acceptance. The romance simmers quietly and I suppose my only complaint would be the fade to black scenes. Darn it. I wanted my smexy time between Chanko and Kerry lol. They spend a lot of alone time together as they travel and evade the thugs after them. Kerry soon relies on Chanko for her safety, but he also becomes a comfort to her and I really enjoyed how tender Chanko became towards Kerry.

There’s very few white characters in the book. It’s a case full of multicultural characters and it goes into the different cultures. I loved the diversity and the setting felt so alive and vibrant. I especially loved the descriptions of the scenery. The author also explains how insular the Japanese can be, and an example of that is Chanko and how he’s never really felt that he’s belonged.

You’re not Japanese,” he said.
“Great observation.” I mimicked his earlier tone, still fizzing with rage.
He checked the traffic, then turned and looked at me. I pulled off my sunglasses and stared back.
“O-kay. Got you. I, uh, may have lost my cool a bit there.” He’d switched to English, American style.
“You don’t say.”
He sighed. “Look, I thought you were saying—”
I wanted him to grovel, the obnoxious son of a bitch. I wanted him to squirm and feel humiliated, and to milk his embarrassment for as long as I could.
I needed him to be on my side.
“You thought I was asking if you could use chopsticks.” I put as much understanding in my voice as I could manage. “I know.”
He glanced at me again. “Yeah? Yeah, I guess you do.”
I did, actually. You live in this country, you love it, you submerge yourself in the life and speak the language, but you will never, ever be quite accepted, and there is always someone who doesn’t notice your perfect speech, your perfect manners and behaviour, your desperate desire to belong. All they see is a gaijin. And they ask, often with the kindest intentions, “Can you use chopsticks?”
One day I will scream, “The whole goddamn world can use chopsticks!” and then stab my questioner in the eye with them. I suspected Chanko had reached that point. I spoke perfect Japanese and could often pass for a local. He didn’t and couldn’t and never would, and being Polynesian would put him several rungs down the ladder with a lot of people. Not everyone, but enough to make a difference.

There were a few fat insults made in the story that made me go hmm but this is a book full of sharp characters. There’s a lot of violence in this book but I didn’t find it to be overly graphic. There is also sexual abuse but it happens offpage and is only alluded to. The mafia in this book are scary. Super scary. Everything the author described and shown felt so believable that sometimes I was wincing at what occurred. The secondary characters are also fully fleshed out and I loved how they all came together to figure out a way to get out of this ugly mess. And it was totally, fucking epic. And scary. Super scary.

There are many flawed characters and it just made this book even more enjoyable. I hope the author returns to Chanko and Kerry because I feel that their story is not quite done, and I would love to see how their relationship is explored–and maybe sexy times? The ending is a HFN but it’s a perfect fit for the story.

I give Non-stop Till Tokyo a A-

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