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Takeyuki is looking forward to his trip. Having graduated at last, this indulged younger son has been given the trip of his dreams before settling down to the daily grind of working at his father's company for the rest of his life. With his older brother assigned to the Middle Eastern kingdom of Cassina as a junior diplomat, he isn't going to be alone at his destination as his brother, brother's wife, and staff will help look after him and keep him safe. But who is that man at the front of the First Class cabin? He keeps staring rudely and Takeyuki is getting more than little annoyed about it. Little does he know that being stared at by a stranger is going to be the least of his troubles. When his naïve arrogance leads him into trouble, Takeyuki finds out that some people intend to do more than just stare. Indeed, he finds that Cassina is even more different from Japan than he thought and safety is a relative term in this part of the world. When he is kidnapped and becomes a pawn between two robber barons, he begins to wonder what will become of him. Will he ever see Japan and his family again? And what is the link between the the man on the plane and the robber baron who rides away with him on his horse?
Amusingly enough, when I first saw the title of this light novel, I giggled. It gave me images born of far too many Mills and Boon type novels (but which I still avidly read anyway!). That didn't put me off however, as I admit I rather take a guilty pleasure in these commoners with royalty from exotic places scenario romances, Boy's Love or otherwise. So, with just the title and the cover art t go by, and not knowing the writer previously, I dug in. Takeyuki is one of those characters that you want to give a huge bitch slap to, but find an emotional connection to anyway. He's arrogant, but also naïve, and a good bit of it is because his family has indulged him and coddled him all his life. He is on the trip wanting to be free and experience the exotic just once, but his naivety and arrogance make for the worst possible combination in the situations he puts himself in as a tourist. He doesn't realise how helpless he is until it is far too late, but thankfully, a handsome prince on a charger is on hand to save him (yes, I'm serious).
It would all be a bit ludicrous at this point if it was not for the way the character of his saviour is presented. His handsome prince is a robber baron, or rather, THE crown prince leading a double life as a robber baron. He's no lily white courtly sort, though his integrity is shown in unexpected ways that are truly chivalrous. In fact, while certain moments pass between the two men, it's all completely chaste until the very end of the book. I have to admit I felt somewhat cheated here, as the book only gave me a lemon at the very tail end of the book, and not just because it was the only lemon. The way it ends on that note did not leave me with a feeling of affirmation, but rather a sense of anticipation as to what would happen next and sadly, I was left hanging there.
Looking into the matter a bit more, by actually reading Haruhi Tono's afterwards, I make a discovery that makes me feel better about the ending but also a little more cheated. It seems that this is actually sixth in a series called Aristocrat, and while the pair's story stands alone, I am guessing the books interweave and as they go on, we find out more about previous couples. So, seeing as I can't really expect to see the rest necessarily licensed and translated, I'm just going to have to knuckle down on my Japanese study. But I'm still going to be a little petty and knock off a star for it XD I will say though, that the story sucked me in enough that it has added to my incentive to study really, really hard.
Being a light novel there are not that many illustrations, but what there are really adds to the exotic fantasy. The pictures burn with intensity and I have to really hand it to illustrator Ai Hasukawa for capturing the haughty yet naïve self that is Takeyuki as well as the smouldering passion of Zayid. As the opening illustration shows, she did not even need to show us his eyes to prove his ardour: his very stance and angle of kiss practically lights that page on fire. Her use of light and shadow add to a sense of natural movement, from the way cloth falls to the sweep of a person's hair the pages are anything but static. Instead of each picture being a snapshot taken in time, it is more akin to being an observer who happens upon a scene suddenly. This quality helps draw the reader further into the story, just as intended, and also builds a sense of personal familiarity with the characters and settings that allow for a sense of compassionate camaraderie despite Takeyuki's bratty arrogance and Zayid's initial seemingly cold and calculating personality. Ultimately, despite its flaws as a stand alone novel without its companions in the series, as a whole the quality illustrations and action packed storyline came together to make a satisfying read.
I'd like to thank Digital Manga for making this available to me for reviewy.