Alex Schmidt, $3.99, ISBN 978-1310187131
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Learning How to Lose, in Six Easy Steps (Volume 2) is – what else? – the second installment in Alex Gabriel’s yaoi-flavored romance between Ryuu Shiwasuda and Takashi Hiroshi, both aging boy band members who are also trying to carve some semblance of a post-boyband career for themselves once they hit the inevitable expiry date. The title of this series is a play on Ryuu’s competitive nature as he tries to beat the easy-going Hiro at everything from video games to career, although we all know he’d be conquered by love soon enough.
If you have been waiting for the steamy sex scenes to start, well, you’d probably be a little cheered up when this story rolls in. However, Ryuu is still grappling with his developing attraction to Hiro by rationalizing that he just needs to find a girlfriend, although he is less sanguine when Hiro seems to be getting along well with a female friend far better than Ryuu could. The poor guy – Hiro continues to fluster him by making thing just so easy – the same things that Ryuu tries so hard to excel in.
The whole “this could have been a romantic bara written by Takeshi Matsu” vibe is even more stronger here than before, and this brings with it its own sets of pros and cons. On the good side, I do have a soft spot for romantic bara, even with its often one-dimensional portrayal of straight-acting “gay for you”, and the author has captured the whole feel perfectly here, so I can’t help but to be charmed by the whole silliness happening here. However, the story is probably a little too long for its own good – Ryuu’s increasingly one-dimensional state of frustration-induced jerk of the hour antics becomes repetitive soon enough, and the story becomes too easy to put down as a result. I wish the author had done something to break the monotony here, as the whole story relies too heavily on Ryuu getting annoyed or irritated to carry itself to the finish line. This story is too long to be that reliant on just that angle.
Readers who have invested time in this series probably won’t find Learning How to Lose, in Six Easy Steps (Volume 2) too painful of a chore. It’s a pleasant if somewhat forgettable fluffy read, in fact. But readers new to the series may want to read the previous installment first, as this one doesn’t sell the series as well as the previous part.