By Hisaya Amagishi and Esora Amaichi. Released in Japan as “Fukushokushi Lucia wa Akiramenai: Kyō kara Hajimeru Kōfuku Keikaku” by MF Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Osman Wong.
When you have a hit series, there’s always the temptation to do the exact same thing. Most publishers do this by having a different writer do something with a very similar plotline, or the same vibe. But there’s also the spinoff route. If you have a character who’s flitted in and out of the series so far, supporting our hardworking heroine, why not write the same sort of book only focusing on her? It would mostly deal with her career but there would also be the potential for romance! That said, Dahlia in Bloom, the parent series, is very much a one-man book. Dahlia may be surrounded by handsome men, but there’s only one man she’s prepared to be in denial over. That may be an issue with Lucia as well, as she’s clearly set up to be the love interest of Forto, her employer and clear frontrunner in the handsome man sweepstakes… and also married. Fortunately, the books always put career first.
Lucia is a young couturier with dreams of owning her own boutique, but at the moment still helps out at her parents’ gloves and socks business. All that changes when Hurricane Dahlia hits the city and the family is approached by Fortunato to go to the Merchant’s Guild with him to see if they can help with Dahlia’s new “toe socks” invention. Since the men of the family are all massive cowards, Lucia is the one who goes, and this ends up leading to her becoming head manager of Forto’s magical garment factory. As the book goes on, we see her overcoming adversity and handling the fashion dilemmas of an old man who wants to look less scary to his granddaughter, twins who have always been treated the same wanting to look different, and a man feeling awkward about wanting his clothes to be a bit more flamboyant. Lucia handles this all with aplomb.
Most of this book takes place at the same time as the second Dahlia in Bloom novel, and we see one scene from that book from Lucia’s perspective. That said, this was clearly meant to be read between the 6th and 7th Dahlia books, which means that sadly licensing difficulties have struck once more, and the book has lost a lot of its impact, because we know what Lucia’s reaction to “will you become my second wife?” will be from that book. The other odd thing in this book is a running theme of the city Dahlia and Lucia live in being LGBT-friendly. Lucia discusses wedding dresses for two brides, says to one of the twins that her partner might be a man or a woman, etc. That said, in terms of the main characters and the romances, the series sticks to what its audience wants and remains very heterosexual. I was sort of expecting the guy who wanted flamboyant clothes to be secretly gay, but no.
That said, this is a very solid spinoff, obsessed with clothes as much as the main series is obsessed with alcohol. It’s a must read for Dahlia fans.