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The Shiraishi family are a family of prestigious diplomats, and son Tomohiro is on track to follow his father's rising star. Relying on personal connections he makes for himself and his wits, he gains the respect of his fellow junior diplomats as well as his superior. This is just as well, for his relationship with his superior is a messy one. Yoshinaga has been steadily rising through the ranks despite his young age, though his often unorthodox methods and pretty face have led to some scurrilous rumours floating about. Add in the fact that political alliances are not just made with other countries, but with others in one's own diplomatic corps, and it is no surprise that marriages are used for personal political alliances. This is certainly the case for Yoshinaga, who is engaged to Tomohiro's sister by arrangement with the politically prominent elder Ambassador Shiraishi. This doesn't make Tomohiro's posting to Thailand under Yoshinaga any easier though, as he quickly discovers that Yoshinaga is not quite what he seems. For one thing, he picks up men in bars. Confronted with the reality of this, Tomohiro confronts Yoshinaga, and the two begin their own diplomatic battle. With reputations and emotions on the line, this bartering has high stakes indeed. But can the two men come to a compromise their hearts will accept?
Nitta Youka once more brings us a sizzling tale of romance, but it is one that quite defies most BL conventions. Not that she is any stranger to that, but with this series, she really has raised the bar. The fascinating inside look at political negotiations and the inner workings of Japan's diplomatic corps was fascinating and well researched. She seamlessly integrates the professional aspects of the main characters' lives without feeling like an interruption, causing any dragging, or creating filler. The actual diplomatic encounters actually play a vital part in the world and character building, creating a setting that was as exciting as it was unusual. As usual, her background settings are lushly detailed, and her characters meticulously dressed. From the flow of the hair, to the line of the clothes, to the profile of the shoes, all are flawlessly executed with a high degree of elegant realism.
The story is emotionally complicated, and while this volume is sold as a one shot and ends in a place that could be taken as an ending, it is nonetheless a very open ending that seems more of an introduction to a longer series chronicling the development of a complicated love affair. This seems deliberate, as the story is immediately followed by a letter from Nitta Youka to her readers, stating that she had originally intended but a single volume, but had decided to extend it. Sadly, perhaps due to the reasons that led to the hiatus from which she has only just returned, she began a second volume but then dropped it just before completion, and has never picked this up again. One only hopes that is a "has not picked this back up YET", rather than this becoming an orphaned series. I for one certainly would love to see more of the negotiation table that the two men face off across, both publicly and privately, as the political scenes crackle and the romantic scenes fairly smoulder on the page.
Rated an 18+ due to scenes of a graphic sexual nature, this is available currently as a paperback which, due to the lack of censorship and the time it was originally printed, is available under Digital Manga's 801 Media imprint. In case anyone is left pondering just why that particular imprint is called 801, I'll hand you this piece of trivia: In Japanese, the "short" reading for the kanji for the number 8 is pronounced "ya", the 0 can be read as "oh" and the 1 as "I" (or "i", pronounced in Japanese as a long e), which when then read together says yaoi, which is the main name that the Boys' Love genre is often referred to by. Now you know!
I'd like to take the time to thank Digital Manga for providing me with my review copy.