Tag Archives: Shoko Hidaka

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 5 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 5   

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: October 14, 2014

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Katsuragi has changed, and so have the plans he worked on so carefully. Thrown out the window by his unexpected feelings for Akihito. Katsuragi has always been in control, has always known what he wanted, and what he was willing to do in order to get it. But nothing is as cut and dried as he once believed it to be.

Akihito and Katsuragi are attending an evening ball at the Marquise Moriyama’s residence, despite Katsuragi’s misgivings. Akihito notices a great number of reporters hanging around outside the gate. As they arrive, he kisses Katsuragi and tells him he trusts him, to Katsuragi’s shock. Will this confession prove to be the former butler’s undoing? Once inside the Moriyama manor, Akihito insists again that Katsuragi walk beside him, not behind him. Yanking Katsuragi into an unused room of the manor, Akihito affirms his feelings, and tells him that just knowing Katsuragi loves him, he can get through anything. Katsuragi promises to tell him everything.

Also in attendance at the ball is Akihito’s father’s half-brother, Naotsugu. Katsuragi’s plan is to have Naotsugu take on the Kuze title. Having met him, though, Akihito is not so sure this is a good idea, and he fears he may have to go against Katsuragi’s wishes. Meanwhile, Katsuragi is intent on protecting Akihito, even if that means lying to him… or about him.

Meanwhile, Akihito’s friend Soichiro Ishizaki goes to his father and begs him not to abandon Akihito, even though it was at his father’s direction that they ever became friends. His father tells him if that’s the case to come with him to the Moriyama estate.

Katsuragi demands and receives a private audience with Marquise Moriyama, outlining his plans for Naotsugu’s success to the Kuze house, which will be temporary as the man only has a few years to live, after which he wants Moriyama to help with something that is unprecedented, so that Akihito can regain the Kuze title after Naotsugu’s death.

It’s obvious to me that these two men love each other greatly, but it’s also obvious that until they stop working behind each other’s backs and work together, nothing will be accomplished. That is the only way in which they will succeed and be able to walk together, side by side, as equals. The plot is only becoming more complicated, with the introduction of Akihito’s half-uncle, and the confirmation of the seeds Katsuragi has sown concerning Akihito’s “illness”. Some of Katsuragi’s plans are coming to fruition, including the divorce of the Marquise Moriyama by his wife, which is the reason why the reporters are hovering outside the manor. They are still keeping secrets from each other, though, and not being entirely honest. That has got to give. Ishizaki is really Akihito’s friend, and while he doesn’t approve of his relationship with Katsuragi, not because he is a man but because he doesn’t entirely trust him, he wants Akihito to be happy. And he feels Katsuragi may actually love Akihito.

So much intrigue, where will it end? Another brilliant volume, looking forward to the next one, although with a little apprehension.

 

 

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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: 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: 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!

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 1 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 1       

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: May 14, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Akihito Kuze inherits the title of viscount at the tender age of ten, on the death of his father. Because of his mother’s frail health, he has always lived with her, apart from his father, who allowed Akihito to stay with her so she wouldn’t be lonely. Having never lived in his father’s home, he’s in for something of a shock on his arrival at the large mansion which is now his and meets the man who is in charge of raising him—butler Tomoyuki Katsuragi. Before he died, Kuze’s father told him to listen to Katsuragi on all things. Akihito is surprised to discover how young the butler is—only eleven years separates their ages. A reception is held in honor of the new viscount, who feels very much out of place. He notices, to his surprise, that most of the people there are drawn to Katsuragi, and actually seek him out. What sort of a man is this butler? Confiding to Katsuragi that he has never learned Western manners, the butler covers for him by telling everyone he is ill and sending him to his room.

Katsuragi takes control of Kuze’s education, and Kuze finds him a stern taskmaster. One day he notices a carriage belonging to a wealthy family seems to come to the estate often, bearing Master Shigeyuki. Curious about his reason for being there, Kuze investigates, and witnesses a kiss between Shigeyuki and Katsuragi! He also overhears the other man trying to entice Katsuragi to send Kuze away and come to live in his house! Kuze is overheard and the meeting comes to an end, Shigeyuki taking his leave. Kuze tries to get Katsuragi to explain things to him, but a clear explanation is not forthcoming. He merely asserts his desire for Kuze to be as perfect as possible.

A few years pass. Now seventeen, Kuze is taking classes at a prestigious academy, but he has permission not to sleep in the dorm. Arriving home early one night he learns Katsuragi is with a visitor and not to be disturbed. Kuze disturbs him anyway, only to find him with a woman of the noble class. Katsuragi insists that everything he does is for the Kuze family, even this. He purposely opens the door to reveal the woman’s presence, thus ensuring her cooperation in future matters concerning the Kuze.

Kuze has always sought Katsuragi’s approbation, but there’s more to that now. He finds himself attracted to the man. And when Katsuragi implies that all he has to do is command him to go to Kuze’s room, he will obey. Does he mean what Katsuragi hopes he means?

This is my first time reading this author. I especially enjoy the artwork, it’s very well drawn, and Katsuragi is certainly easy on the eyes. There is so much more here than the average yaoi manga, wheels within wheels, and I find myself as confused as Akitio at times. I’m sure things will become clearer as we go along. Katsuragi is indeed an enigma. He entered the service of Kuze’s father when he was nine, and was told in no uncertain terms not to go to the Katsuragi house ever again, which he hasn’t. Akihito particularly doesn’t understand this, especially now that Katsuragi’s father is in failing health. He begins to ask questions, and even arranges a meeting with Katsuragi’s older brother, who is in banking.

Kiku has been the housekeeper for the Kuze household since before Akihito’s arrival, but she is older now and in ill health, so has left their service. She is the only servant left from the time of Katsurago’s arrival, the only one that knows about him. But what does she know?

Katsuragi drives Akihito crazy with his cold, inflexible exterior, and yet Akihito wants nothing more than to please him. What will it take to get through to the man? Ordering someone isn’t the same as having them want to do it. Will he be able to make Katsuragi want him the way he wants the butler?

I enjoyed this volume very much and look forward to reading more of the series.