Please keep licensing books like this, J-Novel Club.
Miyako Florence is a former office worker who, as is so often the case, was worked into an early grave, only to be reborn into an otome game she adored as a teen. As the book begins, though, Klaus Reinhardt has just broken off his engagement with her; leaving the Reinhardt household under the scornful eyes of others she… bursts into cheers as soon as she gets into her carriage. And then she high-tails it to the Hamilton household, where she’s got a villainess to abscond with – the downcast Fuuka, herself the object of ire for having failed to clinch an engagement with Klaus. Despite being suspicious of what Miyako has to offer, she finds herself seizing the offered hand when the other girl forces her way in and suggests a way out for them both. But will Fuuka ever manage to come around on Miyako’s insistence that two women can make their way in the world without any men by their side?
I’m a bit late to the party on getting to this, as despite pre-ordering, unfortunately there was a problem with my digital copy’s file, and it took a couple tries with Kobo’s customer service to get it fixed. (I’ve previously had excellent customer service from them, so it was surprising to find myself having to tell the second person I spoke with what solution might work…) But now I’ve read it, so I can merrily report that this book is great.
Hailing from the author who brought us Sexiled, Ameko Kaeruda, I was never in much doubt as to whether Fuuka could ultimately be persuaded or not – these are books meant as empowerment fantasies, served with a heap of social commentary, written a tone which remains relatively upbeat even when things are looking a bit grim. Miyako’s new world is sexist, but she’s not going to let that keep her from going for what she wants. Even when her determination does take a beating, there are people in her life who show her that she’s been right all along, there is a way forward that need not involve marriage to a man she has no interest in.
Knowing that the conclusion was going to be a happy one did not detract in the least from my enjoyment of the process of getting there. It was fun to watch Miyako work hard to charm her beloved, while I also enjoyed getting to know Fuuka better as she slowly came to realize her own worth. In fact, as much as I grinned over the more bombastic moments toward the end of the book involving grand rescures, the best parts of this book are the relatively mundane day-to-day of countryside living that the two end up doing away from the tiresome men who can’t understand how they could want to duck political marriages.
The translation work here, courtesy of Tom Harris, is beautifully done, allowing the goofy, sincere tone of the writing to shine. In addition to nailing the oft-humorous tone of the narration, the “voice” of individual characters is handled adroitly, helping to support the characterization of the cast. I do have two quibbles, though – the phrase is “spit and image”, not “spitting image” (which is a common mistake, but the latter just doesn’t make a lick of sense), and it’s “strait-laced”, not “straight-laced”. (And this is just the latest in a long line of J-Novel Club LNs which have made the mistake on spit and image…)
In case it hasn’t been clear, I truly adored this book; when I finished the last page (having read it in one sitting), I sighed happily, and loudly enough to have drawn commentary from another member of my household. I sure hope Kaeruda keeps on writing and that J-Novel Club keeps on licensing whatever she does subsequently write, because I could read this kind of stuff until the sun explodes. Can’t recommend enough, especially if you like tales of women overcoming sexists societal strictures and yuri but found last month’s tale of queer gals attempting that, Roll Over and Die, a bit overbearing. A really cheering read.