Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Ebony Eyes by Kei Swanson
Kei Swanson is clearly eavesdropping in on my brain. She truly knows about my love for Asian men. If not, then she must be a serious admirer of Asian men, just like me. Laine Tanizaki was completely, utterly fantastic. Sexy as all get out, but sweet and kind and honorable. I kept picturing Ian Anthony Dale as I read this book, and badly in need of a bib to catch all my drooling. But, I don't want to objectify him. He was a fully-realized character that I fell in love with, just as Corie did. Helping people is in his blood, and being an undercover police officer wasn't something he enjoyed, but it was a way to do what he felt was necessary to keep people safe. He was so loveable, and lickable too (okay, mind out of the gutter). I like that Kei wasn't afraid to have a hero who is Japanese-American, but one who didn't cement or pander to stereotypes. I felt as I read this story that we are of the same mind, ethnicity doesn't control our lives. It's who we are, but just a part of our identities. Laine was an American who happened to be Japanese. He had some of those elements of his ethnicity and heritage, but he also was just like any other American. To be honest with you, I could give this book five stars just because of how much I adored Laine. He was just one of those heroes who claims my heart early on and doesn't let go. I loved how he watched out for, loved, and truly respected and liked Corie. He was a dream man, in my opinion.
I liked Corie, but she's the vulnerable type. If readers don't go for the kind of heroine who is always in need of rescue, Corie won't be your thing. I was okay with her, because I felt that she was the right woman for Laine, and I felt the chemistry between them. Also, she went through a tough experience, and came out of it a survivor, even though she was worse for wear from the experience. And, she gets points for running a bookstore, owning a cat, and seeing what a fine, sexy, hunk of burning love Laine was. I liked that she was also a character who didn't fulfill stereotypes about Black women. She's about as far as you can get away from the uncultured, uncouth, loud, bitter, mean Black woman that seems to be used as the poster child for women of my race. She came from upper class, born into money, but strayed when she fell for a man who turned out to be a straight-up hoodlum and drug-dealer, who beat her so badly, she lost her baby and was in the ICU for two weeks. Now, she lives in fear of him, which was a little frustrating. Although I could understand that fear can control us. I wasn't always happy with the choices she made in regards to dealing with her ex-husband, but I've never been in her shoes, so I didn't hold that against her too much.
This was a well-paced, well-written romance. The chemistry builds deliciously, and you feel the emotional bond between Laine and Corie. Even though they can't open up about who they are, there is a connection between them that drives their interactions. I liked the dialogue and the intimacy in their everyday interactions. When they make love, the fire has stoked to a tingling level of anticipation, and I was not disappointed.
I had a bad experience with the last interracial romance I tried to read. It also had an Asian hero and a Black woman, and that woman was also battered by a man in her life. This execution was so much better. There was nothing tawdry or disturbing about this story, but the abuse that Corie suffered was clear. Laine never came off as an opportunist or a user, but a man truly in love who knew how to care for his woman and to love her. Just what she needed. And, Corie turns out to be right for Laine, giving him a connection and the love of a woman, when he's felt so isolated, with only a dying father in his life, and his job. I am thankful to Kei for her deft handing of this tough subject. I loved how she dealt with the racial and socioeconomic differences, and how lovingly she brought Laine to life. It sounds really bizarre to say so, but I have a heart for Asian people, and I want to see more stories that show Asian Americans as they are everyday, minus the stereotypes that seem to cloud a true vision of a group of people who are diverse and rich in culture and personality. As a Black woman, I feel that on a personal level everyday, and it's not pretty. So, when I read a book that doesn't go in that direction, I feel very happy. I cheered for Laine and Corie to get their happy ending together, because I felt that I truly knew them as lovable, good people. If they were real, I'd definitely want to go to their wedding.
Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.