Title: Five Spice: Yin and Yang
Author: Kara Larson
Length: 10,000 words (39 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Six months after At the Sign of the Ancestors, Drew and Kit have settled into their relationship. Though Drew doesn’t quite share Kit’s love of Muay Thai, he’s come to accept it and its role in his boyfriend’s life. But when an accident at the gym forces Kit to take temporary leave, Drew realizes that he has to come up with something else to fill the void in Kit’s life. So they decide to try out a new martial art together: karate. Neither of them anticipated how competition might drive a wedge between them, or how the attention of another black belt might make Kit react — with jealousy.
Drew and Kit are back and things are going well for them personally. They’ve met Kit’s family who are open about Kit’s homosexuality and while Drew’s family haven’t made any overtures, they aren’t outright hostile. However there seems to be something going on in Kit’s life. He’s stressed, tired and Drew’s not sure how to fix it.
An interesting twist the author took here, was the first story was told from Kit’s perspective and this one switches over to Drew. He sees his boyfriend needs help, he’s just not sure what to do and Kit just keeps saying it will be fine, however things just keep building up. When a jerk at the gym says something that rubs Kit the wrong way, he takes him on and ends up going through a plate-glass window. That’s when it’s suggested he take a break, which just throws him even more into the doldrums, which Drew tries to alleviate by the new karate classes.
It was interesting to see Drew’s perspective this time of the Muay Thai and what was happening with Kit. I also thought Kit’s reaction to the karate was well done. I could imagine a guy who is at the top echelon of his sport, being frustrated by not being automatically the best at a similar sport, and perhaps being a bit put out by not being the “athletic” one of the couple.
My main frustration with this one is that you never really know why Kit is so off. He makes reference that he thinks his students are questioning his sexuality, that the jerk at the gym is all about being a tough guy and not the culture of the sport, and he’s not sure if he wants Drew to move in and his family has been asking, so I got that it was a lot of little things probably building up, but I wasn’t sure they were ever really resolved in the end. Nothing really changed and even his break from Muay Thai was just adding more stress with the difficulty of karate for him. I would have liked to see a bit more resolution to some of his stress to ensure that it was gone.
However once again, there were some great secondary characters. Steve is back and Jon, who may or may not be hitting on Drew, was a character I would love to see more of, and even snarly Janice at the dojo was pretty well fleshed out. The author seems to be able to make people who don’t have major roles be complete people which is always nice.
There is less emphasis on the culture of Muay Thai, as much of the book takes place when Kit is not practicing, it’s more focused on the relationship between the two men. I was hoping there would be a more firm resolution to their relationship by the end, but if you enjoyed the first book it’s definitely worth following up. It could be read as a stand-alone but will be more satisfying if you read the first one because the culture of Muay Thai and why it’s so important to Kit will be clear.