By Saki and Haduki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Albert-ke no Reijō wa Botsuraku o Goshomō Desu” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Ray Krycki.
Theoretically a short story volume, this reads more like an interquel between the series as originally conceived by the author and the “this was stupid popular, write more” sequel that we will no doubt get in the next volume. It’s meant to wrap up all the loose ends that weren’t wrapped up in the second book, which is an awful lot of loose ends. It’s also meant to show how this is a series driven by its women, and they are all awesome in different ways. Now, the men are awesome too… well, some of the men. Patrick and Adi, pretty much. And Gainas once he’s let out of the doghouse. But frankly, this is a comedy, and the comedy comes from seeing the women in the book not only be awesome, but be awesome in ways that are funny. Mary Albert is best at that, of course, but everyone gets a look in as we go along.
As Mary plots something secret in the background, which everyone except Adi believes is going to be her announcing that she will be the next head of the family, the other cast members all have their own short stories. Margaret has abandoned her old boyfriend and is trying to get a hottie by hook or by crook… even if that hottie may not quite be old enough yet. Parfette is still reluctant to forgive the penitent Gainas, so sets him a task, that will hopefully go well given it’s meant to take an entire year. Carina is still finding new ways to beat up and torture her old boyfriend, and is (unconsciously, perhaps) really starting to get into it. Alicia and Adi go around to deliver invitations to her wedding with Patrick to all her friends, which neatly connects the other stories in the book we’ve had to date. Finally, Mary unveils her grand idea to the public, though she has to destroy an evil noble family first to do so.
A lot of this book relies on the reader being OK with the cliches of “noble society set in the sort-of Victorian age” novels, so if the idea of Margaret trying to entice a ten-year-old to be her future husband is icky, be warned. That said, she pretty much knows how far is too far, so it doesn’t get too weird. I also really enjoy the running gags of Alicia greeting Mary with a flying tackle every time they meet each other (which is every day, so Mary is understandably annoyed by it. Alicia is one of those rare otome game heroines who’s enthusiastic and brash rather than meek and polite, and it’s nice to see. As for Carina… look, anytime her and her ex are on the screen, the book becomes a treatise on the joys of BDSM, and discovering you have a new kink. Like the other parts of this book, it doesn’t go too far (the only sex in the book is between Mary and Adi, and it’s really sweet) but let the buyer beware.
I’m not sure what the fourth book will bring… perhaps the opening of Mary’s Chicken Palace… but I’m definitely going to read more. This is fun.