By Fuyu Aoki and Minori Aritani. Released in Japan as “Doinaka no Hakugai Reijо̄ wa О̄to Elite Kishi ni Dekiai Sareru” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Dawson Chen.
This series continues to be excellent in terms of how it handles its heroine, who has spent most of her life being terribly abused. In the first book Chloe successfully ran away (after avoiding an attempted murder) and settled in as Lloyd’s “housekeeper”, but the trauma does not magically go away. She notes that she’s gotten better with knives now, but attempting to tell Lloyd about her past sends her into a huge panic attack. What’s more, when she runs out of house to clean and wonders what to do, it becomes apparent that being worked like a dog as a child has left her with no room for any hobbies. She doesn’t know how to do downtime. Fortunately for Chloe, she comes across the same answer that so many of us do: reading books. Indeed, she’s reading romance novels, ones with a lead man who is very, very reminiscent of Lloyd. Unfortunately for Chloe, family is hard to get away from completely.
The first part of this book is relatively light and fluffy. Chloe discovers the world of books. She’s also getting along very well with everyone in town, and even the bookseller is starting to fall in love with her. Unfortunately for him, she only has eyes for Lloyd… even if the two of them are both still a bit too broken to actually confess these feelings. Meanwhile, Lloyd is having to deal with new recruits, including a noble who has good skill but unfortunately is also an asshole who feels he’s above everyone else. This would normally not be that big a deal, but Lloyd forgot his lunch, so Chloe goes to the castle to bring it to him, and the new recruit menaces her. Cue boss music.
I’ve talked before about how a lot of these light novels have “cartoon villains”, which is to say bad guys with no redeeming features who are there to be as evil as possible. Don’t given them pets, they would kick a puppy. The interesting thing in this book is that we get two definite antagonists, but one of them is, when it comes right down to it, just a massive jerk. He’s abusing his privilege, looks down on everyone, and expects the world to be handed to him. But that’s fine, as he’s also a knight candidate with skill, so he can have the jerk beaten out of him by Lloyd. Lily, however, Chloe’s sister, is not going to get an out. This is why Luke merely menaces Chloe (and gets Lloyd destroying him in a duel for his troubles), while Lily beats the crap out of Chloe until help arrives to arrest her and throw her in prison. Now, Luke invited Lily to the town to begin with, something she tries to take advantage of near the end. But he’s not an evil villain. Just a jerk.
There’s a third volume of this, and I wonder if Mommie Dearest will show up. But definitely a wedding regardless, I think. Good romance novel fluff/angst.