A Young Lady Finds Her True Calling Living with the Enemy, Vol. 2

By Syuu and Fujigasaki. Released in Japan as “Oguni no Kōshaku Reijō wa Tekikoku nite Kakusei Suru” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Kashi Kamitoma.

The thing I think I enjoyed best about this short series (it ends with this second volume) is that it is 100% dedicated to its title. This is not about a young lady finding romance living with the enemy, though the book does end with her marriage. That’s not as important, though, and the confession almost seems like an afterthought. What’s important here is Bertine coming alive in this new country, deciding that she’s going to introduce new cuisines, spices, and finally start up a hotel in order to gain financial independence and make herself happy. More to the point, her determination enables others to achieve the same thing, with one boy seemingly deciding to change the world just because he fell in love with her at first sight (this is not quite true – like Bertine, the love is actually secondary, but it is there). Oh yes, and we also overthrow a terrible royal family, for those who read light novels for the overthrow of terrible royal families. Like me.

Bertine is not only trying to do great things for herself, but for others as well. Her old friend Diana is the Emperor’s concubine, and she is apparently getting passively abused by courtiers because of it. She wants to gift her an amazing necklace to wear to cheer her up. This also allows her to meet Diana’s son Claudio, a twelve-year-old boy who is second in line for the throne but dealing with his father being distant, his half-brother avoiding him, and his mother being unhappy, so he’s not having a good time. Seeing Bertine galvanises him. Meanwhile, Bertine goes to Cecelio’s hometown, meets his parents, and discovers a ton of seafood and spices that the locals think are boring standard stuff, but to people not on the shore is utterly amazing. It’s time to charge rich nobles to eat some more. Then we get a slightly more serious plot: how about a revolution?

I appreciate that, in terms of the revolutio9n itself, Bertine serves as a passive influence on others rather than a direct part (though she is there). For Claudio, she is a reminder that he does not have to passively stand and accept bad things just because of his birth, but can seek his own fortune. This aligns with the Empire, who want to get rid of the lousy San Luenne royal family and now have a much easier way to do so. In addition, the fact that she and her former fiances (who had to break up with her because of politics) are still close allows them to navigate treacherous waters with ease. Everything is about making good contacts and being a good businesswoman. Until the end, when Cecilio says “by the way, marry me”, that’s her relationship with him as well. Partnership comes first.

That said, I’m glad this wrapped up fast. Two volumes seems just about right, especially give that Bertine accomplished so much in so little time. I look forward to the Soup Forest book, just licensed by CIW, from the same author.

A Young Lady Finds Her True Calling Living with the Enemy, Vol. 1

By Syuu and Fujigasaki. Released in Japan as “Oguni no Kōshaku Reijō wa Tekikoku nite Kakusei Suru” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Kashi Kamitoma.

As we have advanced into the 21st century, we have thankfully moved on from one of the more egregious fan terms (and one I used myself back when I was younger), the “Mary Sue”. Originally used as an example of a character created by a writer purely to be the “perfect” love interest for her favorite character, it then morphed into, supposedly, any woman who lacked flaws and was seen as too perfect. Which, naturally, meant any woman protagonist, if you’re a guy reading it. Meanwhile, male protagonists who kill all the monster, gets all the babes, and wind up leading the nation are a dime a dozen, and despite the attempt to use “Gary Stu” to describe them they never got any flak. And of course let’s not get into the “Strong Female Character”, as best seen by Kate Beaton’s wonderful comics. I mention all this because Bertine, the protagonist of this new series, starts her own business, unites warring tribes, shoots burglars with her rifle, and has such innate economic skills that she was raised by her father to be his successor. And you know what? It’s amazing.

Bertine du Jeanne, daughter of the Chancellor of San Luenne, an independent nation and financial powerhouse, is preparing for her upcoming wedding when she is told that the Empire, which their nation has been giving financial support to, has lost its war with the Federation. The Federation has demanded 1000 large gold coins in reparations. The royal family have decided instead to send them Bertine, as the new bride to the leader of the Federation, Cecilio. She is barely given time to hear this before she and her lady maid are bundled off to Ybit, one of the major cities in the Federation. There they are told Cecilio is away, that he never accepted the bride deal in the first place, and to go home. She can’t go home, though, as it would disgrace her country. So instead the staff at Cecilio’s estate decide to slowly starve Bertina and her attendants to death, and passively abuse them. Having had enough of this, Bertine chooses to leave the estate and make her own way in this new country.

I always enjoy novels that give greater depth to the main character as the book goes on. At first Bertine just seems like a basic “stiff upper lip” noble, though she does seem very exhausted by everything near the start of the book. We then learn that everything has been terrible for her since her mother died over a decade ago, her stepmother tried to kill her and is actively trying to prevent her returning to her own country, that she had *two* marriages called off before this, and that even when her sickly mother was alive, her father, recognizing her economic talent but being unable to properly express love, gave her hellish training that made her think he hated her. She tells Cecilio flat out that when she got to his estate and the staff abused her, she was near suicidal. Fortunately, the book wants us to know that but not dwell on it. What it does want us to dwell on is Bertine empowering herself, then empowering other women around her. There isn’t even any romance in this first novel, though I’m pretty sure she’s gonna end up with Cecilio by the second (he’s nicer than his staff). It’s just Bertine being badass. Oh, and the Candy Ma’am pun is hilarious, well done translator.

I had an absolute ball reading this. Is Bertine too perfect? Damn straight.