By Ichibu Saki, Nemusuke, and Ushio Shirotori. Released in Japan as “Moto, Ochikobore Koushaku Reijou desu” by Mag Garden Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Andrew Schubauer.
The author admits in the afterword that a lot of the fans of this work were very thrown off by the twist at the end of Book One, and even more by the start of the events in the second book. I can’t really blame them. Book one read like a nice, pleasant villainess story with a happy ending. A bit boring, but not actually so much so that you walk away. And now we’re back to the start, and we have to do things all over again. The trouble here is that our heroine does not quite have the self-esteem needed to try to regain her fiancee, so we get nearly an entire book of “it’s OK if he doesn’t love me this time around, I’m fine with being friends”. The other issue, of course, is Charlotte, who remains The Absolute Worst. It’s never quite made clear if she also has memories from Japan, but there’s certainly a lot of “I’m the heroine, why is everything not going my way?” to her.
After the events at the end of the last book, Claire finds herself back where she started, in her old country and about to get her old baptism. She manages to make a few quiet changes (like taking her mother’s note to her so it can’t be used by Charlotte), but for the most part everything goes as it did last time. Except… her family seems a lot nicer and more considerate? In fact, she’s being sent off to school in the country that she fled to in the last book, and can reunite with her old friends and old fiance. But there’s a hitch. Claire is not the only one that went back in time for a redo. And the forces of evil are using the power of capitalism to try to destroy any chance Claire has at getting the powerful magic she needs to achieve her happy ending.
The book keeps its feet firmly in the fantasy in this volume, with almost no mention of the “Japanese game” part of the series. For the most part, as I noted, the most interesting part of the book is Claire reacting to her family being nice to her. Claire never explicitly states this, but being treated like garbage in the previous world hurt her a lot, and it means that when her ex-fiance or brother are kind and caring towards her (indeed, the fiance is trying to fix the ‘ex’ part) it just throws her off. There is an iffy part of the book, though, which involves brainwashing someone. First of all, the setup to this is ham-handed and obvious, and I rolled my eyes. Second, even though the person being brainwashed is an antagonist, and Claire freaks out and tries to undo it, it really seems like an easy “get out of bad plots free” card. Fortunately there’s still Charlotte around to make everything worse, but still.
This book does NOT end with another loop, much to my relief, and there is a third volume in the series. I’d put this in the middle tier of villainess books.