Title: Cigarette Kisses
Author: Nase Yamato
May Contain Spoilers
After his friend’s sudden marriage, Yusuke has been avoiding Soji, thinking that distance will mend his broken heart. When they meet again in their company’s smoking room, a storm of emotions are awakened within Yusuke. Since they were children, Soji has been the center of his life, and even though he has a wife now, Yusuke just can’t shake his feelings for him. When he is picked to work on a project with Soji, will Yusuke be able to keep his mind on his work?
Cigarette Kisses has an almost tragic past, and I was getting nervous that it would never see the inside of a bookstore. Originally licensed by Broccoli Books, it was rescued by Deux Press, where it has languished while that publisher has struggled with financial problems of its own. I had written the title off because the Deux release date had come and gone, so I was pleasantly surprised when it showed up at Amazon. Nase Yamato’s Pet on Duty was a cute read, so I was curious to read more of her work. Cigarette Kisses didn’t disappoint, and it comes across as a much more mature offering from the artist.
Yusuke’s emotional turmoil is very effectively captured, both through the art and through his heartfelt internal monologues. He and Soji have been friends ever since middle school when they were on the same baseball team. Soji has always been charismatic, and his confident personality and encouraging words made him a leader from a young age. The heir to a successful company, he had been groomed for leadership since childhood.
After Soji announces that he’s going to marry the daughter of one of his father’s business associates, Yusuke is devastated. He can’t envision a life without Soji, but he forces himself to put some distance between himself and his friend. He has fallen for Soji, but he doesn’t want to cause any conflict for his friend and his new wife. Time passes, and he thinks he’s resolved his love for Soji, until he runs into him in the company break room. Life then gets very upsetting and complicated for Yusuke, because he is chosen by Soji to work on a project with him, and he is forced to spend hours working on a new product with the man he loves.
To add to the angst, another childhood friend, Masahito, begins working with them as well. Masahito hints that he has feelings for Yusuke, but Yusuke doesn’t want to listen. Masahito’s seduction begins to prove to be too much, though, and Yusuke gets caught in the middle of a very passionate love triangle. Part of what made this such a great read is the fact that both Masahito and Soji are likeable and charming. While it is obvious that Yusuke only has eyes for Soji, it’s not so clear which of the two men makes a better match for him. This adds another layer to the story – even if Yusuke manages to get together with Soji, is that really the best choice for him?
The ending seemed a little abrupt, and while it does deliver a satisfying conclusion, it was a little disappointing. The conflict resolution needed to be a bit stronger. It was just too convenient, and it didn’t do justice to the rest of the story. Yusuke has been pining after Soji for years and years, Masahito has been longing for Yusuke, yet the conclusion shortchanged all of their pent up emotions. The art was also slightly problematic, as there were times that I couldn’t distinguish between Soji and Masahito.
Cigarette Kisses turned out to be worth the long wait after being shuffled between publishers. This is a title that proved to be worth saving, offering up some honest to goodness angst and a compelling love triangle.