Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1)   

Author: Alyssa Cole

Publisher: Avon

American release date: February 27, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Contemporary Romance/384 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Naledi has received scam emails before, but this one takes the cake! Someone claiming to be his assistant thinks it’s funny to tell Naledi she is the betrothed of an African prince and to please send her personal information in order to verify her identity. As if! Orphaned at a young age, Naledi (Ledi to her friends) has had to become a strong and independent woman. Life is hard enough, what with her post-graduate studies in epidemiology, and staying afloat by waiting tables at the university, without someone trying to sell her false dreams!  Add to that a supervisor who keeps throwing off all of his grunt work onto her, instead of anyone else or even himself, and a best friend who at her best is unreliable and at her worst can be a drunken critical mess.

Thabiso is the prince of the African nation of Thesolo. It’s bad enough that people in his country are suffering from a mysterious illness that he is helpless to do anything about, but there is a major corporation seeking to make inroads into his nation, and Thabiso isn’t sure what they want will be in Thesolo’s best interests. But people of high rank are clamoring for him to sign off on this deal, and he feels pressured to do so. If that’s not enough, he’s had his assistant, Likotsi, search for his long-lost betrothed, a girl he knew in their childhood when they became engaged, but whose parents whisked her away so that she disappeared from his life. The good news is that Likotsi has found her, living under another name in New York City. The bad news is she is not responding to Likotski’s emails. What is a prince to do but go to New York himself to bring her back?

Thabiso shows up at Ledi’s place of work, intending to let her know who he is and that she needs to come back with him, but when she unexpectedly mistakes him for the new server, he sees an opportunity for her to get to know him for himself, not as a prince. So he doesn’t correct her, answers to the name Jamal, and takes the other man’s place. Who knew working in a restaurant could be so difficult, or that a royal prince could be so inept?

He can only stay so long in the States before he must return to Thesolo and deal with things there, including his parents, who are clamoring for him to get married and are unaware of his hunt for his betrothed. He’s determined more than ever, now that he has found her again, that Ledi shall be his bride. But will he have enough time to win her heart, so that she loves him for who he is? Somewhere along the line, as Likotsi reminds him, he has to tell her the truth about himself, or all will be for naught.

Ledi finds Jamal to be very sexy, if somewhat inadequate to his job. But she patiently shows him what to do, and she finds herself growing more and more attracted to him. She tells herself she has no time for men like him, her life is already complicated enough. But the more she sees him, the more he worms his way into her heart. No good will come of this, she knows, as she waits for the other shoe to drop… and drop it does, blowing her mind and threatening to destroy her world. Not to mention, most importantly,  he has lied to her. She’d rather stay safe and alone in her sterile academic world than risk her heart… wouldn’t she?

A Princess in Theory is the first book in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series. It was recommended to me by my daughter, and I fell in love with it right away. Ledi hasn’t had an easy life, but she takes what comes and doesn’t complain. She is a very strong, very likeable heroine. I rooted for her from the beginning.

On the other hand, Thabiso is a handsome and sexy but somewhat sheltered, entitled prince, who doesn’t really understand a lot about what the real world is like until he meets Ledi. His original idea is to get her to go back to Thesolo with him, to do her duty and finish what was begun so many years before.  But he quickly discovers that won’t be as easy as he expected, since he is lying about who he is. Every day he falls for her more and more, and we watch him grow as a person and as a man as he tries to figure out how to handle the situation he finds himself in. You can’t help but hope he succeeds, and that these two will receive the fairy tale ending all princes and princesses deserve.

I love Alyssa Cole’s writing, she draws memorable characters and situations, and this story is both romantic and sensual. I know there are at least two more books in this series and I look forward to reading them. If you enjoy a good romance with an ending to die for, give this book a try. You won’t be sorry you did.

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 4 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 4           

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: February 11, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/218 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Akihito has moved into humble lodgings, occupying part of a house once owned by Ishizaki’s old housekeeper. As far as the servants at the manor know, he is staying at the Ishizaki villa. This is a brand new world for Akihito, who has no practical knowledge of how anything works, including such basics as using a sink or a stove. He has a lot to learn! The reason for downgrading his lifestyle is that Akihito plans to relinquish his title in favor of Katsuragi, which he confides to Ishizaki, even as he strongly impresses upon him that Katsuragi must not find out.

Akihito confronts Amamiya at the manor. Amamiya is surprised that Akihito bears him no animosity, considering that he has been working to ensure Katsuragi inherits the Kuze house, unaware that Akihito has the same goal. His surprise becomes even greater when Akihito makes Amamiya the new butler of the Kuze household. However, Akihito is adamant that Amamiya not use Katsuragi’s old room.

Katsuragi has taken on the task of instructing Ishizaki, as once he did Akihito. While discussing the arranged marriage for Ishizaki, Katsuragi reveals knowledge of ishizaki’s true love, a geisha, and tries to tell him that he can have both. Ishizaki laughs, saying that is what Kuze has said too, so why can’t the two of them manage to do that themselves? Katsuragi has no answer to that, and Ishizaki silently wishes he could do something to help the two of them.

Getting into an argument with Katsuragi, Ishizaki inadvertently lets on that Akihito has done something stupid because of his former butler.  Learning the truth, Katsuragi goes to see Akihito in his new home, and Akihito serves him tea, while trying to gauge how much he knows. Akihito confesses to burning some bridges and the reason for doing so. Not surprisingly, a heated discussion between the two men ends with passion. The next day, Katsuragi is convinced he knows what he must do in order to save the Kuze house, but he must act quickly.

When Akihito returns to the manor, he is annoyed to learn Amamiya is in Katsuragi’s old room. But when he goes to confront him, he is surprised to find Katsuragi there as well. Amamiya leaves the two men alone, and they discuss the future of the Kuze house, which will necessitate their working together. Katsuragi makes the first move this time, and passion once more holds sway, which leads to a surprising admission on Katsuragi’s part.

It’s interesting to watch Akihito and Katsuragi go to such lengths, each for the other. It reminds me of The Gift of the Magi, in which a young couple each sacrifice something of value to them in order to give something of value to the other, but the sacrifices negate the gifts, leaving only the love. I’m hoping that’s how this turns out for these two. From the bottom of my heart, I want nothing more than for them to end up together, whether at the Kuze manor or somewhere else. I’m not sure they’re at that point, and it won’t be an easy road to happiness, but I believe they can do it. I love the passion between the two men, and the way Akihito doesn’t care about status or lack of it, he loves the man Katsuragi is and wants to be with him forever, even if he forfeits his own status and wealth to do so. Akihito is the seme in this relationship, and I wonder if Katsuragi’s accepting the role of uke is indicative of something in his past which we aren’t privy to yet. Only time will tell.

Ishizaki is proving to be a very good friend to Akihito. I have to believe his words spoken in anger to Katsuragi were simply a Freudian slip and that he wanted Katsuragi to do just what he did, in the hopes he would be able to talk some sense into Akihito. And now, with another candidate for head of the Kuze household looming on the horizon, what happens next remains to be seen. We’ll have to meet this other person to get a sense of his worth, or even his willingness to assume the Kuze title.

Wheels within wheels and a great deal of machination going on. Where will it end? No one knows. Loved this volume, can’t wait for the next one.

 

 

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 3 by Tito Kube

Bleach, Vol 3     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 12, 2004

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Ichigo and Rukia deal with the problem of the Mod Soul by inserting him into a stuffed lion and naming him Kon. Now Ichigo has two roommates – Kon and Rukia, who is sleeping in his closet.

The anniversary of Ichigo’s mother’s death arrives, and the Kurosaki family head to the cemetery to pay their respects. Ichigo’s friends know in advance not to expect him to be in school on that day. Surprisingly, when they arrive, they find Rukia there. Ichigo takes her aside to ask why, and she explains she wants to be near him in case a Hollow should show up.

Ichigo was nine when it happened. Even then, he could see dead people, but he couldn’t always distinguish between the living and the dead. So when he first saw the little girl standing by the river, he wanted to protect her and went to her. His mother, who was with him, came rushing after him. He didn’t see what got her, but when he looked she was dead. Since then, he’s blamed himself for her death.

Waiting for Ichigo, Rukia senses a hollow, although there hasn’t been an order. She and Ichigo hurry toward its spiritual pressure, which is close, only to discover Karin already there, on the ground. Worse than that, the same little girl is there who was by the river six years before, when his mother died. Will he be able to settle the past, or will the Hollow defeat Ichigo by dredging up his guilt surrounding his mother’s death?

Rukia pushes Kon into Ichigo’s body while he soul reaps, and she and Kon tend to Karin and Yuzu, taking them home, so Ichigo can do what he needs to do. Afterward, Rukia returns to Ichigo, but she’s promised not to interfere, as he says this is personal, and he has to do it. Can she keep from joining the fight, if Ichigo’s life is on the line?

This is a very poignant volume of Bleach and deals with a lot of what makes Ichigo tick, starting with his mother’s death, which changed him forever, and for which he blames himself.  Ichigo and Rukia’s relationship is strengthened. I have to believe that at some point they will become a couple, but as I’m 169 episodes into the anime and that hasn’t happened yet, I guess we have a ways to go before we see that happen.

The scene with Ichigo and his dad at the end is priceless. And having seen the anime, I realize something I hadn’t noticed before, but that would be shenanigans to call that out so soon, so you’ll just have to figure it out yourself or wait for the revelation, which is a ways off. Kon’s character has toned down, maybe because he’s stuck in the lion body or maybe because he isn’t in fear of being killed now, and he isn’t alone.

Next volume should be great, as we meet Don Kanonji!  Can’t wait!

 

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 3 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 3     

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: November 12, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/224 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Akihito is beginning to take greater control of Kuze family matters, much to Katsuragi’s surprise. All letters in regard to bank business are to go straight to Akihito. Meanwhile, Akihiko is paying his court to the fifteen-year-old Chikako, of the Sajo family, and spends their time together playing games with her. He realizes the gap that exists between the Sajos and the Kuzes, and intends to call upon the —Moriyama, as well as the Ashizakis. Meanwhile former houseboy Amimaya is visiting with the retired housekeeper, Kiku. He reveals to her some of his thoughts regarding Katsuragi, but the older woman makes no direct comment.

Akihito requests that Ashizaki act as his agent in the matter of his proposed marriage, explaining his reasoning behind this decision, which Ashizaki concurs with and agrees to help. But that help will come with a steep price. Is Akihito willing to pay such a price? Afterward, Akihito goes to Katsuragi, and initial conflict becomes into their usual method of resolution—lovemaking. Later, Katsuragi thinks on the original plans he made when he was first put in charge of Akihito’s education, the revenge he intended to extract for promises made to him but never kept, for unforgivable behavior toward him.  Has something changed now?

Akihito is not pleased that Katsuragi no longer dines with him. He tells the two highest ranking servants that they will dine with him from now on, which makes them uncomfortable. When Katsuragi arrives, Akihito informs him that he will be joining them as well.

When Amimaya returns to visit Kiku, he learns she has returned to her hometown, to his dismay. Furthermore, she has left instructions for him to clean every corner of the storehouse. Furthermore, her instructions emphasize papers that he will find there, given to her by Lord Kuze. Is this significant? Amimaya grasps what he perceives to be the meaning behind Kiku’s actions and agrees to do as she has requested. Maybe his lifelong dreams will come true after all.

Akihito seeks Katsuragi’s opinion on household matters, and as they work together, the butler does something quite unexpected—he kisses Akihito. A thrilled Akihito responds in kind, kissing Katsuragi’s hand. But the moment is spoiled when Katsuragi demands Akihito release him, and he walks away, to Akihito’s dismay.

The next day, Katsuragi receives a request for him to go to the storehouse, where Amimaya has something to tell him. Meanwhile, at school, Ishizake searches for and finds a despondent Akihito, who is no mood to talk. Ishizaki can only imagine what has him so upset, what is usually the cause of his upset—Katsuragi. Ishizaki knows what is being asked of Akihito, and he asks can he actually go through with it, but Akihito doesn’t want to listen and asks, instead, what message Ishizaki has from Katsuragi’s brother.

Amimaya lets loose some rather nasty accusations at Katsuragi. Akihito goes to see Katsuragi’s brother, and learns the former houseboy has made accusations of his own. But the elder Katsuragi also warns Akihito not to trust Tomoyuki.

Back at the Kuze manor, Akihito and Katsuragi now dine alone, as the other servants have begged off, due to their discomfort. Alone, they can talk more freely concerning what Amimaya has alleged.  Will this new information tear them apart or drive them closer together? What is Akihito willing to do in order to stay by Katsuragi’s side and raise the Kuze house, as he has sworn to do?

In this volume of Blue Morning, we learn about Katsuragi’s parentage, and we also get a glimpse into the boy he was, and the expectations he was raised to have by Akihito’s father. There are still pieces of that puzzle that are missing, and if they include, as I suspect, Katsuragi’s sexual abuse by the older Kuze, that will explain much. At the same time, we see more of Katsuragi’s own feelings for Akihito, as his tightly wound façade beings to unfurl at Akihito’s continued tenderness and unswerving loyalty, something he has received from no one before and certainly did not expect from the target of his own ambitions. No wonder he’s becoming confused and uncertain, as he never saw this coming. Will he embrace his feelings for Akihito or deny them in order to proceed with his plan? I’m leaning toward the former, but I am also a hopeless romantic. I’ll be very disappointed if this series ends and these two are not together and very much in love. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

As usual, the artwork is superb, the story excellent. Both men are very lovely to look upon, but especially Katsuragi. I’m looking forward to the next volume.

 

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 2 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 2     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: August 3, 2004

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

After the strange encounter with the Hollow, Ichigo takes Chad to his family’s clinic to be treated. But the next morning, to his dismay, Chad has disappeared! Ichigo questions his friends but no one has seen him. Rukia is helping Ichigo search, but she has no sense of any Hollow presence. Ichigo has the idea to feel for Chad’s parakeet’s spirit presence, although Rukia claims it is too faint to detect. When Ichigo manages to detect it, she is rather taken aback and greatly surprised. Chad and the parakeet are in hiding, and the parakeet, whose name is Yuichi, tries to get Chad to leave but he refuses. He runs into Rukia and Ichigo at the same time as Ichigo’s sister Karin appears, drawn by something she can’t explain. When she faints, Rukia tells Ichigo to take her home and she’ll chase after Chad.

Unfortunately, the Hollow finds her first, and she’s in no position to fight him, not without her powers. When she throws a spell at him, not only doesn’t it work, but he realizes she’s a Soul Reaper. Yuichi tells chad that Rukia is being attacked, although Chad can’t see the Hollow.  Chad puts Yuichi in a safe place then runs to help Rukia. He punches him, which takes the Hollow aback, but he decides it was a lucky punch. Working together, maybe Rukia and Chad can defeat this Hollow, or at least not die before Ichigo has a chance to return. When Ichigo learns what the Hollow has done to Yuichi, it only infuriates him all the more.

Rukia realizes she needs to stock up on a few supplies, so she makes her way to an innocuous-looking shop—Uruhara Shoten. A boy and a girl are sweeping in front of the closed shop, and they admit her. The shopkeeper, Kisuke Uruhara, sleepily greets her. Obviously he is acquainted with the Soul Reaper. Not only that, but he seems to carry supplies such as a soul reaper might require. When Rukia inquires about an order she’s made, Uruhara sends Ururu to get it. To Rukia’s dismay, it’s not the one she ordered. He tells her that was out of stock, this is the second most popular choice, so she is forced to accept it.

The next day, Rukia presents her purchase to Ichigo – a dispenser of sorts marked Soul Candy. The dispenser has the head of a duck, although Rukia had wanted the bunny. She explains that when he takes the candy, in order to perform soul reaper duties, his empty body becomes animated by a proxy soul. Back at Uruhara’s shop, however, the shopkeeper realizes, to his dismay, that a terrible mistake has been made. Can it be rectified in time, even as Rukia demonstrates to Ichigo how it works and they suddenly receive an order to fight a Hollow. Or will the defective soul Uruhara inadvertently sold Rukia ruin Ichigo’s reputation for good?

In the second volume of Bleach we meet Kisuke Uruhara and the people in his employ—Tessai, Ururu, and Jinta. Remember them, you’ll be seeing a lot of them.  We also discover how stubborn Rukia is, very much her own woman who does what needs to be done. She still isn’t sure what to make of Ichigo, who is like no one she’s ever encountered before. For a human, he has some pretty amazing skills. For his part, Ichigo seems to be taking to being a soul reaper—even a substitute soul reaper—like a duck to water. Since he’s used to seeing the dead, he doesn’t think twice about being able to see Hollows, and doesn’t even question their existence, as some might.  Someone else to remember for future volumes is the defective soul who’s taken Ichigo’s place and doesn’t want to give it up. (It helps that I’m also watching the anime).

Tite Kubo uses humor well in his manga, but he is also capable of dramatic, more soul-intense moments which will bring tears to you eyes. He’s good at manipulating emotions.  Rukia’s annoyance at not getting the “chappy” she ordered (the bunny dispenser) not only pegs her as pretty human and far from perfect, it’s also damn funny.

Looking forward to more of the same in future volumes of this popular series.

 

 

Book Review: The Hierophant’s Daughter by M. F. Sullivan

The Hierophant’s Daughter       

Author: M.F. Sullivan

Publisher: Painted Blind Publishing

American release date: May 19, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Kindle/Urban Fantasy/267 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Disgraced Governess Dominia di Mephitoli is on the run. Member of the Holy Family and one-time ruler of the land formerly known as Italy, her sole focus is on, besides staying alive, resurrecting her dead wife, Cassandra, whom she wears in a diamond around her neck. Rumor has it that the man known as Lazarus can help her with this. But, assuming he is not a myth, no one knows where to find him.

Seeking refuge with a family in a remote farmhouse, she realizes too late that the Hierophant—her father—is there, seeking to reunite her with the family. She knows better than to trust him, however, which he proves with his actions, killing the family and taking out one of Dominia’s eyes, as well as her incisors. Dominia is no ordinary woman, she is a martyr, as are all the Holy Family—the Hierophant, who is the head of the family; brothers Cicero and Elijah (also known as the Lamb), who are husbands as well as brothers, sweet innocent sister Lavinia, and Dominia. Once Dominia’s name was Morgan, but many years have passed since she answered to that appellation. Besides possessing special strength and abilities, martyrs subsist on a diet of blood and flesh, and are restricted in their movements by the sun. The Hierophant has walked among the people of Earth for many years, and claims to come from a distant planet, but no one can either prove or disprove his story, so it remains accepted as truth. At least for now.

Once the poor family is dead, and the Hierophant gone, Dominia flees once more, taking the family dog with her. Why, she isn’t sure, but it seems like the thing to do.

Dominia reunites with an acquaintance of hers, René Ichigawa, a Franco Japanese professor, who is helping her to reach Lazarus. First, they have to get to safety, which is a challenge considering both Dominia’s restrictions and her infamy. Her reputation as a ruthless general precedes her, and not in a good way. René’s plan is for them to go to Japan, which is one of the few areas not under the Hierophant’s control, via boat. When Dominia awakens in the hold, she is surprised to find the dog still there. René assumed he was hers since he wouldn’t leave her and followed them onto the boat.

All Dominia has to do is find Lazarus—assuming he actually exists—have him resurrect Cassandra—assuming he can actually do that—and keep from being killed by a member of the Holy Family… or anyone else, for that matter. This is one journey Dominia won’t soon forget.

The Hierophant’s Daughter is the first book in the Disgraced Martyr Trilogy. I received a Kindle copy of the book in exchange for my review.  Before I had even finished reading the book, I had placed a pre-order for the paperback, which will show how very much I liked it, since I’d already been given a copy. The Hierophant’s Daughter turned out to be much more than I expected. M.F. Sullivan did a fabulous job of world-building, and gives us a creative and unique take on this world. The Hierophant is the benevolent (somewhat) holy father who has managed to gain control of most of the planet. It’s not hard to guess what his ultimate goal is. Martyrs are a unique spin on vampires. In this world, humans know they exist and co-exist with them… for the most part.

The Holy Family is most fascinating, especially the Hierophant. While I know in my head he’s the villain, it’s not quite so cut-and-dried as that, since he is at the same time terrible and compelling, a very charming man indeed. I found myself looking forward to seeing more of his scenes. Cicero is cruel and vicious but when it comes to his husband, Elijah (the Lamb, an obvious reference to Jesus), he would do anything for him, and the feeling is mutual (before anyone gets squicked out by them being brothers, they are not blood brothers, vampires don’t have children, and they were together as a couple before they even met the Hierophant). Lavinia is an unusual case in that she died while an infant, too young to become a martyr, yet she ended up growing even after death… so she is looked upon as very holy. Well, still waters do run deep.

Dominia is someone you have to admire for her strength and her character. She’s done many terrible things in her long life and she knows it. And yet, despite being a martyr, she is quite human in many ways, and vulnerable to making mistakes. Sometimes she just has no choice.

The more I read of this book, the deeper into it I got. The characters draw you in and make you want to know more. It’s a horrible world, and I wouldn’t want to live there, but reading about it is a different matter entirely. The biggest criticism I can make is that the author would have benefited from better editing. There are some especially stupid errors which should have been caught. But these do not detract from the overall value of the story.

There are so many things about it that I love, including the religious allegory. It’s a terrifying glimpse into a future that could be if vampires existed on other planets and came here to make this their new home. At the end of the book is a timeline that chronicles the Hierophant’s ascent, from the time of his arrival. It’s well worth reading.

I highly recommend this book, and can’t wait for the next volume in the trilogy to come out.

 

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 1 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 2     

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: August 13, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/186 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

As a young boy, Katsuragi believed he was being groomed by Viscount Kuze to be his successor, until the viscount leaves for his other home and Katsuragi learns an heir has been born. Years later, he finds himself in the bed of his new young master and questions what he is doing and what he should do. Akihito hasn’t been to school in a few days and shows no inclination toward going. Meanwhile, Akihito’s friend, Ishizaki,  concerned about his health, is buying him some fruit when a chance meeting with Katsuragi’s brother affords him transportation to the Kuze manor.

Akihito and Katsuragi are in the library. Katsuragi is gauging how far his charge has read. When questioned by Akihito, he admits to having read all the books up until a certain point. When the decision was made to bring Akihito to the mansion, Katsuragi was forbidden the use of the library. Akihito can’t keep his hands off the butler, even in the library, and Katsuragi can do not less than obey. He has promised to stand by Akihito’s side forever, as long as he strives to fulfill the hopes of the Kuze family.

Akihito has received an invitation to a formal event being given by Marquise Moriyama, and he wants Katsuragi to go with him. Katsuragi says that as his butler, that isn’t possible, but Akihito insists that it is – if the invitation is sent to Katsuragi as a representative of the Katsuragi family and not as his butler. When Akihito returns to his room, Katsuragi learns of a visitor – Ishizaki – and receives him, telling him Akihito is unable to receive visitors in his current condition. Katsuragi and Ishizaki get into a serious discussion concerning Akihito, Ishizaki questioning Katsuragi’s intentions, which Akihito overhears.

A member of the Kuze household from many years before has arrived from Yokohama, a previous houseboy. Meanwhile, at the Katsuragi bank, the brothers suspect that their younger brother has been involved in some dealings they may not be in favor of. Perhaps it’s time that they see him.

As Akihito is being fitted for his clothes for the event, he makes an inquiry regarding Katsuragi’s measurements, and requests a suit be made for him as well. Katsuragi doesn’t want to go, but Akihito tells him he procured a personal invitation for him from the Marquise, and that cannot be ignored. He also reminds Katsuragi of his promise to stay with him forever and questions whether Katsuragi is working on Akihito’s future engagement. He promises Katsuragi that he won’t question whatever methods he uses to make it happen.

Akihito returns to school, and has a discussion with Ishizaki, who is concerned about his relationship with Katsuragi. Meanwhile, the former houseboy, Amamiya, has gone to the mansion and reveals why he is there.

The night of the marquise’s event arrives, and Akihito ensures Katsuragi’s presence by taking him with him. Once there, they seem destined to go their separate ways, to Akihito’s chagrin. A jealous Akihito watches Katsuragi’s interactions with the other guests, particularly those he knows the butler has slept with. Katsuragi is trying to make plans for a future fiancé for Akihito, but he is uncustomarily distracted by thoughts of his young master and is surprised by the unexpected appearance of his brother. His brother drops a surprising bombshell regarding Katsuragi’s heritage, but is everyone really surprised? What would Akihito think if he saw them?

The second volume of this series is every bit as good as the first. This is not a typical yaoi romance, assuming it will end up a romance at all, which is anyone’s guess, although I devoutly hope so. There is nothing stereotypical about this story at all, and a great deal to sink your teeth into and enjoy. I’m rooting for Akihito, who unabashedly loves Katsuragi and would do anything for him I believe Katsuragi has feelings for him, despite how tightly he’s wrapped up and the way he holds himself aloof. There are moments when he gives himself away in little ways.

Akihito knows he has to marry, and he’s good with that, as long as it furthers Katsuragi’s plans. I’m wondering how he will manage to keep his relationship with Katsuragi going while he’s married, and how open can they afford to be in front of a wife. Ishizaki already knows Akihito cares too much for his butler and is against their relationship, but will he do anything to jeopardize it, perhaps in the mistaken belief that he needs to rescue his friend from Katsuragi’s grip?

Looking forward to seeing where this goes in the next volume!