I got a phone call today that three people I knew had gone to be tested for the Covid-19 virus. They've been sick for a week (more or less) but there's also a regular cold going around town as well, so hopefully it's that and not Covid-19. Some of my friends have been laid off of work as well, which sucks. It's all just super crappy.
I'm taking a small break from the news. I'm normally an avid news reader but until Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx tell me it's safe, my butt is staying home. Also, I think I hurt my head from rolling my eyes so hard when Trump would talk during the pressers. Like, he adds nothing to these things and I don't know why he's there. Which is a sad thing to say about the President of the country but...truth.
I've read quite a few books this year. I think I'm almost to one hundred, if not over. Annoyingly, I haven't gotten all the photos or even prepped my thoughts to write about them. I have cleared out some of my home office since I'm working here. I also installed my bidet, so that's been *refreshing*. Luckily, I've read this book a few times (Stuart is my go-to chill out author). I have the e-book, the audio book and a paperback. The audio book is narrated by Xe Sands. Sands does a lovely job and I have to note that her voice is very calming. Jilly (one of the characters) has a 'voice' in a higher range than Sands own voice but it's not unpleasant. Sands has narrated a few of Stuart's books (including the one after this).
Title: Fire and Ice (#5 in the Ice series)
Author: Anne Stuart
Page Number: 379 pages (paperback)
Genre: romance, romantic suspense
Publisher: MIRA books
Broken-hearted, brainy beauty Jilly Lovitz takes off for Tokyo. She's expecting to cry on her sister Summer's shoulder, but instead she's snatched away on the back of a motorcycle, narrowly avoiding a grisly execution attempt meant for her sister and brother-in-law. Her rescuer is Reno, tattooed Yakuza punk & secret agent.
The main characters in this book are related to the characters in the third book of the series. Reno is the cousin of Taka (hero of book #3) and Jilly is the younger sister of Summer (Taka's love interest). Both Jilly and Reno make appearances in book #3, and Reno appears again in book #4. So, while they aren't new characters they get more fleshed out.
The book begins with Jilly headed to visit Summer and Taka in Tokyo, impromptu, because of a bad breakup of sorts. She is unaware that Taka has taken Summer into hiding because of the volatile environment with the events surrounding the end of book #4. You don't have to read the previous books to follow along but it can help. Reno is in London, having joined the Committee, but flies back to Japan to make sure Jilly doesn't become an unwitting captive (forcing Taka out of hiding). Hopefully that explanation wasn't too jumbled. Basically, everyone heads to Japan. Most of the book is set in Japan. I haven't had the ability to travel to Japan yet so I don't know how accurate the descriptions Stuart creates are, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.
Reno is Japanese, grandson of a local oyabun (a leader of a local yakuza). The yakuza group in this book are not quite like the yakuza I've read about in the past. They're more light gambling (no drugs) in order to make money. This allows Stuart to craft Reno (real name: Hiromasa) as scary but still "good," he's good-ish.
Jilly Lovitz is Summer's half-sister. Daughter of a socialite and financier. She's quite book smart in the series (although not really socially smart). She was studying physics or chemistry (I think) in the third book, having started college early. In this book she's studying archaeology or art history. For some reason I thought she was looking towards conservation (as chemistry + art degrees work well with that considering how you have to use chemicals to clean the painting without stripping the actual paint) but I'm not sure her end goal is ever stated.
Of course, (because the book would only be two chapters if not) Jilly falls afoul of some bad guys and Reno has to intervene and rescue her. The actual settings, food, and travel around Tokyo (and it's outskirts) take the cake for me. At one point Reno and Jilly end up at an onsen (springs + inn). I've always wanted to go to one. No real reason, it just seems fun as we don't have anything similar near me. I got to go to a Italian spa that still used ancient roman spa rooms and that was amazing. Also, I just really enjoy spa time things. They also end up at a ryokan and then a capsule hotel, which seems cool as well. Some of these capsule hotels are really nice. Like, nicer than some of the hostels I've stayed at. Granted, I love a good hotel stay (Air B&Bs are okay but I'm always heavily uncomfortable staying in other people's houses...especially if I don't know them) so I thought it was a neat way to bring some aspects of Japan into the book.
Overall, I loved this book. I loved the setting, I loved the story, I loved the writing. Reno and Jilly are younger than the other characters, less hardened but it works between them. Reno is really still a newer agent (or agent-in-training) and the Committee is slightly in shambles with the events in book #4 so there's less Committee intrigue. Instead, Stuart uses intrigue within the oyabun's group to create that same suspense. It's vastly different than the other books in the series because of it. Considering what happens to the Committee in the rest of the series, this type of approach is good because it holds for a good glue in the series in order for Stuart to set it all up. The setting within Japan was great, simply because the series (except for book #3) features Europe and America mostly. Granted, South America will feature in the coming books. I like how worldly the series is.
Some elements are repeats (bad boy hero, fighting attraction, the on the run from the bad guys) but I don't mind them. If you're looking for completely new elements here, it ain't happening. I like these types of tropes and plot devices/aspects but I'll read the same type of book (murder-mystery with a serial killer/sexy FBI agent) over and over. I'm just noting because it doesn't even phase me but I can see how it would drive some people nuts. I feel that way about the "too stupid to live" characters or the inability to talk/miscommunication trope.
So, while some of her tropes are similar (doesn't bug me), her writing is still tight and enjoyable. The backstory that could explain Jilly's motivations or Reno's switch (from Hiromasa to Reno) isn't really fleshed out and that's kinda sad.
I think Stuart really likes J-Rock, so it's easy to see Reno (or Taka) as Miyavi or Hyde, as I believe she's mentioned them before. Stuart also wrote a short-story about Jilly and Reno that was available on her website for awhile ("Married to It").
Harlequin has an except from chapter one on their website (as well as the book for sale).
I tried to find short videos of the capsule hotel and onsen, but there are longer (more in depth) videos all over Youtube. It's also something to note that not all the capsule hotels are sci-fi pod like. And you can also rent a room instead of a pod. Also, some capsule hotels are considered more "luxurious" so that's of note as well, although I'm not sure what's luxury here as I'm not as familiar with pods to begin with.