Original text by Betty Neels
Art by Chieko Hara
Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp., 126 pp.
Rating: YA (16+)
Henrietta Cowper is a low-level assistant to an insufferable physician at a London hospital. Adam Ross-Pit is a well-respected surgeon at the same facility. When Henrietta falls ill in the middle of her shift, Adam forces her into an extended hospital stay, ultimately resulting in the loss of her apartment and her job. Feeling responsible, he steps in to take care of her cats and ends up finding her housing and a new job as well—as a tour guide in a large manor near his country home. Though Henrietta and Adam are each drawn to one another, their social stations place them worlds apart. Is it possible for two gentle souls like these to overcome societal barriers?
Very little happens over the course of this manga, but that’s actually what makes it work so well. While more ambitious stories fall to pieces under the constraints of manga adaptation, this simple, quiet romance slips perfectly into place with no obvious cuts or awkward shifts in tone. There’s no real drama here—no true villains or any genuine conflict. The romance is inevitable but lazily pleasant, like sunlight on a Sunday morning or a cat stretching out after a long nap. Do these comparisons sound ridiculous? They’re not. If you’re now picturing a lazy cat stretching in the sun, you’re actually right on track.
Betty Neels’ protagonists are sweet in an vintage sort of way, reminiscent of the quieter characters of Louisa May Alcott or L.M. Montgomery, perfectly matched by Chieko Hara’s old-fashioned shojo character designs. The art is a real highlight of this volume overall, especially in terms of pacing and emotionally rich imagery. Though the lettering is as sloppy as all the books in this series, its stodgy font choice actually feels rather appropriate.
Though Only By Chance delivers neither high drama nor epic romance, this gentle little love story is truly a breath of fresh, spring air.
Only By Chance is available now at eManga.com. Review access provided by the publisher