By Yuuri Seo and m/g. Released in Japan as “Hidenka no Bishou – Migawari Hanayome wa, Hikikomori Denka to Shiawase ni Kurashitai” by M Novels f. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Jenny Murphy.
I’ve said before that I don’t mind cliches, or books which start with the same things happening, but I will admit that I have my limits, and The Princess’ Smile was pushing them as we got about 3/5 of the way through the book. The main issue is that every major plot point plays out in the most predictable way possible. The actual princess turns out to be a terrible person, check. Schlub of an ex-boyfriend who doesn’t speak up, check. New husband is reclusive, truculent, and clearly hiding a secret, check. The secret is immediately obvious to the reader because we looked at the cover art, check. It can be a bit frustrating. Fortunately, once our heroine is nearly poisoned, things really start to pick up, and the last part of the book – with one exception – is a lot of fun to read. But getting there is a bit of a hike.
Sara is a servant for Princess Hermine, having been taken in after the death of her parents in a carriage accident. The two of them look very similar – you could almost get them confused! Then one day the King explains that Sara is going to swap places with the Princess and go get married to a prince from another country… one that recently won a war between the two nations. Sara is a bit upset about this. Then she discovers that Princess Hermine has already met her boyfriend and slept with her boyfriend. Several times. That, plus the fact that you can’t really refuse the king, means Sara is off to nearby Ferrier, there to meet her new husband. Sadly, her new husband wants nothing to do with her. And also has a dark secret.
…which is that he’s a werewolf. Sorry, but.. LOOK AT THE COVER! So it’s in that genre of books. That said, he softens up into a shy but nice young man pretty quickly, and Sara is a good protagonist. Seeing the two of them slowly grow closer if nice, even if it does not tick any boxes that have not been ticked before. Then once the rest of the plot kicks in things get better. I was pleased to see a Queen Mother who turned out not to be secretly evil, and the scenes showing the final battle with Salielles, Sara’s home country, do not hold back in showing the bloody violence of war. That said… while “selfish princess” is a well-worm trope, at the very end of the book Princess Hermine leaps off a cliff and straight into “unrealistically deranged princess”. Sara’s jaw drops and so did mine. It was so bad my suspension of disbelief was utterly broken.
That said, overall this wasn’t too bad. If you enjoy werewolf romance or women who resolve to take their life into their own hands after spending most of it being manipulated, you may appreciate this. It’s also complete in one volume.