The Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy by Youka Nitta (Yaoi), published Jan 2008 by 801media.com. The cover is quite arresting, featuring two gorgeous young men – I had to buy it. Within those pages you have political suspense, international intrigue and mxm love that equates to a memorable read. For those unfamiliar with Nitta’s work, she is the writer best known for her Embracing Love series. Here is the very brief back blurb from her newest release:
Yoshinaga’s genius and his gift for political maneuvering have helped him ascend to the higher spheres of the Ministry of Foreign affairs at an early age. As for Shiraishi, the prestige of his family as well as his dedication to his job has also led him to an early career in diplomacy. Yoshinaga is Shiraishi’s future brother-in-law as he is soon to be married to his sister. When the two meet in Thailand, a stunning tale of love unfolds.
This was an excellent read with beautiful artwork. I wanted to read more when I was finished but I will have to wait. The author offers a postscript, stating that she’s writing more in this series (yes!). The story is told from the point of view of Tomohiro Shiraishi, a young diplomat assigned to the embassy in Thailand. Shiraishi comes from a family of diplomats. His father was vice president of Japanese foreign affairs but was recently promoted to the highest ranking post as an American diplomat. Shiraishi is used to everybody thinking that family prestige and connections will get him far at a much earlier age, which may be true but he is more than willing to put in the work in order to build a successful career in foreign affairs.
Shiraishi’s sister, Michiko-san is engaged to the Japanese minister to Thailand, Koushi Yoshinaga. Their engagement is more or less an arranged marriage, set for the purpose of political gain and financial stability than for love. Yoshinaga is the youngest minister ever for his post as prime minister and is quite handsome. His good looks coupled with his political skills as a diplomat has made him quite popular in political circles. He is shrewd, manipulative and cunning with ambitions to be an ambassador one day.
One night, while out with some friends, Shiraishi spots Yoshinaga flirting with a man in a public bar. Shiraishi confronts him and tells him that he will keep Yoshinaga’s secret only because of the ruin it will cause to him and his family. Yoshinaga finds it quite telling that Shiraishi’s concern for his sister runs a distant second to his political sensitivities. From there the two men battle in a game of wits. Each of the men trying to ferret out secrets from the other while keeping some secrets close to their vests.
Yoshinaga is quite good as his job of diplomacy. There’s one scene that showcases his abilities and further substantiates his position as we see him convince the ambassador of China to attend a summit meeting despite the more recent diplomatic conflicts between Japan and China. The problem is that China and other neighboring countries find the annual Yasunkuni shrine visits by Japanese prime ministers a source of contention and want it to stop. It’s a shrine dedicated to the spirits of dead soldiers where 12 of those soldiers were convicted of war crimes post World War II. Yoshinaga is able to impart an intimacy of trust that makes other diplomats comfortable enough to share their personal feelings that might be in conflict to the people they represent.
But Yoshinaga’s political prowess is tainted with gossip and sexual innuendo. Rumor has it that he sleeps with most of the diplomats who visit from other countries in order to gain the upper hand with inside knowledge, making him a powerful player in foreign policy and gets him that much closer to an ambassadorship. This upsets Shiraishi greatly because he feels that skill alone should be enough to do one’s job and do it well without muddying the waters.
Despite the game the two men play – Shiraishi falls hard for Yoshinaga. The two men have a passionate affair that leaves Yoshinaga conflicted. He is betraying his sister yet this garners him the trump card to ruin the prime minster. Why would Yoshinaga risk having an affair with someone who could ruin him politically? Yoshinaga does offer him an out – but Shiraishi refuses it. He is in for the long haul despite the fact that the deeper this relationship goes the deeper the betrayal. The story at that juncture is to be continued…
The artwork is fantastic. The men are beautifully drawn and you can tell that the author sweated over the details. The author also includes useful notes written within a few frames and at the end of the novel as well that provided insight into the world her characters inhabit. This graphic novel reads right to left and is rated for Mature adults only (18+). A few of the sex scenes I found were a bit intrusive to the story for me (that’s how good it was). Just like any other romance, I just needed one good love scene to show the intimacy and emotional bond between the two men and that would have been enough for me.
I read this graphic novel three times because I enjoyed it that much and plus, there were some details I’ve surely have missed the first time. Interesting background, setting, characters and dialogue made this a wonderful read. I wish I could share a few frames with you but I don’t have such access. Yaoi fans really shouldn’t miss this one. My grade, A. I’ve seen other readers describe this as her best work yet. Do you agree or disagree?