By Tsuredurebana and Rin Hagiwara. Released in Japan as “Dareka Kono Joukyou wo Setsumei Shite Kudasai! ~Keiyaku Kara Hajimaru Wedding~” by ArianRose. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Mattias Hirsch.
Despite everything seemingly being resolved at the end of the last book in terms of their marriage, the title of this series still fits, as Viola continues to not really believe it. A combination of her own low self-worth and the guy who’s now trying to win her love being astonishingly bad at it means that any romantic progression we see here is minimal at best. To Viola’s credit, she does actually blush near the end of the book when Cercis gets in her face and says he wants them to be a real couple. But even then, there’s no real sign that she’s fallen for him, more that she’s taken aback by his actions. In order to win the girl, Cercis is not only going to have to get a lot better at not being a rich playboy type, he’s also going to have to hammer into her again and again that he loves her. Fortunately, he has several more volumes to do this.
We begin where the last book left off, with Cercis’ Mistress moving out after dumping his sorry ass. I appreciated the fact that, although she was clearly the “other woman”, the story treated her with respect anyway, and I wonder if we’ll see her again. After that, there’s various events that Cercis uses to try to get closer to his wife who just wants to hang around the mansion and pretend to be a maid. There’s balls (where Viola completely trashes a stereotypical “princess curl” rich girl by simply using her low self-image as a weapon), there’s dates (where Viola continues to be appalled at how much rich people spend, and Cercis begins to vaguely catch a clue), there’s visits back home (where we see a lot of what made Viola who she is today… her mother certainly didn’t go out of her way to praise her), and in the end there’s yet ANOTHER rumor that Cercis has taken a mistress, showing that it’s hard to reform when everyone already thinks the worst of you. Through all this, Viola blithely glides along, with her inner narration providing the snark and her outer face being mostly the perfect duchess.
I praised the translation on Twitter, as Viola’s narrative voice is the main reason to buy this. There is a caveat, though: if you’re bothered by the use of ‘modern’ language in a series with horse and carriages, you may find some of Viola’s remarks jar – at one point she uses the term “helicopter parent”, for example. But honestly it didn’t really bother me, and I found it gave Viola a snap to her lines that was perfectly in character. I do hope that future books work a bit more on her self-loathing… there’s a point where she (having slept poorly the night before) accidentally breaks a vase and she immediately loses it. She’s sent back to her earldom to recuperate for the day, but is convinced in her sleepiness that Cercis will divorce her now. The fact that this isn’t really panicked or upset but just as matter of fact as her other thoughts makes it hurt all the more. Someone needs to teach this girl confidence.
That said, right now it’s Cercis who needs to be learning lessons more, as he starts to figure out that expensive food and presents is not going to win him jack shit, and he slowly begins to see what Viola actually likes. If he continues to be a better person, and someone kick start’s Viola’s self-image, we could see this couple on paper become a real couple soon. In the meantime, I enjoy Viola’s snark a whole lot.
Oh yes, and the entire book is made even better by Cercis’ trio of drunken lady knights, who are a stitch.