By Miri Mikawa and Aki. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Beans Bunko Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.
Frequently in romance novels, in both English and Japanese, I find myself waiting for the bomb to go off. It’s always really easy to spot the bomb. It’s the guy who we first meet. He’s not on the cover art. He’s usually a Swell Guy ™. He loves the heroine. He says so. A lot. Ignoring whatever she might have to say about it. Sometimes everyone else around her also assumes that they’re fated to be together. And, credit to our Sugar Apple heroine, she is deeply aware of this and runs away at the earliest opportunity. Alas, the bomb follows her. That’s when I started to get annoyed. I was on edge, waiting for the Asshole Bomb to go off, and when it finally did, I breathed a sigh of relief. Now, it does mean the identity of the villain in this first book is immediately obvious from about page 3, but that’s fine. This first book is not about Asshole Dude, it’s about a teenager who just lost her mother weeks before trying to cope with overwhelming grief.
Our story takes place in the Kingdom of Highland, where they have candy crafters, the highest ranked of which are Silver Sugar Masters, whose candy is basically endorsed by the Crown. Our heroine, Anne, has bee traveling the country with her mother Emma, learning at her elbow and growing up. Then Emma gets sick and dies. Anne resolves to travel to the main city of the Kingdom so that she can pass the test to become a Silver Sugar Master. She needs to do this by the next holy day, so that her mother’s spirit can rest in peace. Of course, she can’t make it in time till she takes a nasty and brutal shortcut… for which she will need a bodyguard. Fortunately, this Kingdom also has fairies! To be their slaves.
So yeah, I liked this book, but it has a very high bar to clear. There’s slavery here, and our heroine immediately buys a slave, because she needs a bodyguard to get there in time and does not have the ability to stick to her principles. She talks about slavery being wrong, and frees him at the end of this book, but… yeah. Fairies are still slaves, that’s not going away. As for the rest of the book, the romance was OK, but I think my favorite part was exploring Anne’s attempts to be plucky and have gumption in the wake of her mother’s death, which the book needs to remind us a few times was only about three weeks before the start. She’s an excellent candy crafter, but she’s not making her OWN candies, she’s making the candies her mother made. She needs to accept her grief, then she can flower as a true artist. That’s the good part of the book.
I also enjoy Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, by the same author. This series came out before that one, and is 17 volumes, so we have a ways to go. If you like romantic fantasies, and can get past “slaves are bad, but here I am buying a slave”, this is a solid start.