Love Control, by Ai Hasukawa, is a guilty pleasure yaoi read, but for me the balance definitely falls on the "pleasure" side of the reading experience.
Continuing from volume 1, elite businessmen Okumura and his interior designer, Kei, are now officially a couple, but since they are both men they allow ridiculous notions of pride get in the way of communicating their feelings. Kei always feels he's being messed around by Okumura, who is the very definition of a yaoi seme -- tall, smart, cool and incapable of behaving like a normal human being. Kei's like a prickly cat (pun intended *cough*) who can never really be satisfied as long as he is uncertain about what place he holds in his lover's heart. And because this is yaoi, he can't just *ask*. That would negate any need to struggle oh so prettily to obtain the traditional happy ending.
Enter a meddling third party -- attractive and rather puckish bartender Sasatani -- who has an eye on one, or possibly both, of the men, and you've got a heady mix of misunderstood intentions, hurt feelings and desire swirling around in a big morass in Kei's heart. Kei's confusion radiates out and disturbs his relationship with his lover and pretty much his entire life. In the real world I think jealously is messed up and useless, but in romance stories I can't help but find myself swept up in lovers behaving like crazy people because they really are just that much in love. And also insecure. Like insanely insecure. I can totally relate to that.
One of the pleasures of this title is that Kei and Okumura are for the most part competent adults with full, busy lives who are struggling to maintain their sense of dignity (& failing, of course) while falling in love. Damn idiots.
The second half the title is devoted to the bartender and his devoted pursuer, Ichinose, who is a rather straight laced young businessman. Ichinose crosses paths with the mercurial and cold Sasatani when he escapes the clutches of a zealous colleague with a penchant for sexual harassment. He falls in love with Sasatani and in a rather rare reversal, he pursues the dominant partner, who also happens to be younger than him. Poor Ichinose. Sasatani is a complete bastard who only likes to chase and thinks being chased is boring. Watching Ichinose slowly win over Sasatani felt like rooting for the underdog, instead of watching the "inevitable" and bizarrely random hook-ups that often populate yaoi stories. Sasatani is a beautiful and exciting man, and Ichinose works so damn hard to keep up with him -- sexually, socially, what have you -- you can't help but hope he gets his object of desire, even if that person is a complete and total ass. (A very pretty ass, but an ass nonetheless).
Hasukawa excels at handsome -- almost bordering on beautiful -- men. She doesn't have a lot of range in terms of figure types, but oh my. There is no doubt that she knows how to bring the pretty. Love Control isn't a particularly deep representation of adult love, but is actually a deeply romantic depiction of adults messing up in love because they aren't as half as smart as they think they are. For me the story remains emotionally relatable even if the characters often have a tendency for overly-melodramatic responses to completely normal insecurities that accompany the great undertaking of love.
Review Copy provided by DMP.