otaru Odagiri returns with the second volume of the Only the Ring Finger Knows series of novels, and unlike many a sequel, it does not disappoint. Charting the still hesitant steps of young love flying in the face of convention, we get a tale of steadfastness and passion. Odagiri knows the flush of a new love in its beginning stages: the need to text I love You's, Good Night, and Good Morning; the day dreaming, the anxiety, and above all, the yearning of the body to intertwine with their lover. The introduction of upperclassman Masanobu and his turn of affections towards Wataru provides an interesting element to the tale; both wishing to have Wataru, but also wishing him well in his love with Yuichi, he is a complex figure that both flummoxes and stabilises Wataru's swaying emotions regarding Yuichi and the public acknowledgement of their love. Shohei, Yuichi's older brother, adds a dynamic twist as his forceful scheming personality promises to continue in his attempts to undermine the relationship the two lovers have. It is not that Shohei hates Wataru, but rather that he feels Wataru is unworthy. Wataru is seen as average both in looks and accomplishment, his only stand out feature as far as Shohei can see being his large dark eyes. Then there is the other problem as far as Shohei is concerned: his gender. While Shohei is not openly derisive of homosexual relationships in general, it is out of the question as far as he is concerned when it concerns his brother. He genuinely seems to believe that Wataru has exerted some strange influence over Yuichi, and if he can but pry them apart and introduce Yuichi to a suitable girl, things will work out and Yuichi will be well set on the path of a socially acceptable and lucratively successful lifestyle. He is not so bent on this though as to be completely dismissive of the emotions the boys claim to have, challenging Wataru to convince him that their feelings are real, and deep, and that they won't be swayed. Then, and only then will he accept Wataru as Yuichi's life partner, as he knows that the social path that their prominent family treads, and the spotlight of Yuichi's future business contacts, will be filled with those who harbour strong sentiments about the personal love choice Yuichi has made. He desperately needs to know that the two can stand up to it, and support each other through it, without crumbling emotionally under the pressure. Is Wataru up to the challenge? Yuichi is strong and determined, but will the shy, wavering from the public spotlight and its scrutiny Wataru be able to rise to the challenge? As we read on to find out these answers, the emotionally charged pages are of prose text are again punctuated at key plot points by the delicate drawings of Satoru Kannagi. From the water colour effect cover art and frontispiece to the shaded and toned precision of the black and white illustrations, her drawings are a visual feast. The faces of the characters inscribe themselves firmly in the mind, so that as the pages turn, one sees in their mind's eyes the person doing the talking as words slide across the page. The second in a five volume series, it is again rated 16+ due to mildly explicit sexual content and mature themes. As always, June present the novel in their signature format: slightly compact, glossy heavy card stock cover with wear resistant spine, heavy acid free paper on the interior, and smudge resistant ink. It is not a pulp paperback designed to be read a few times and tossed , rather it is an edition designed to be read over and over again without damage or yellowing, and to look smart on the bookshelf. Priced again in the modest £5 range, it represents excellent value to the book buyer. Indeed, resale value for the series shows the books resell for nearly as much as the original cover price, so if you are the sort who reads then sells it on to fund buying your next read, this is a safe bet.
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