The Springtime Chime of Marielle Clarac

By Haruka Momo and Maro. Released in Japan as “Marielle Clarac no Harurin” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Philip Reuben.

It’s been a while since we’ve last seen Marielle Clarac, but she’s still worried about whether she’s too childish. That said, I don’t think she has too much to worry about. Since the start of this series, she’s improved by leaps and bounds. She’s able to listen to people when they tell her she’s going too far or saying too much. Best of all, Simeon is learning when it’s a good idea to just let her off the leash and do whatever she wants. Marielle is featuring in a Murder, She Wrote knockoff, where everywhere she goes she can’t help but get involved in dangerous situations. There’s no murder here, but the same thing applies. That said, this is more than just a thriller or a mystery this time. It’s also a gothic ghost story, complete with creepy castle and ghosts that are said to curse those lying within. Now, neither Simeon nor Marielle believe in ghosts. But Marielle loves the IDEA of believing in ghosts a lot…

Marilee is dealing with a lull in her book series at the moment. People still like her books, but they want something a bit more bittersweet. A bit more adult (no, not like that). Unfortunately, despite her vigorous nighttime activities with her husband, Marielle is not sure she is mature enough to understand the appeal of a bittersweet love. She and Simeon, however, have bigger things to worry about. The prince’s uncle has recently passed away, and his wife asked asked Severin to come along and help her with a problem she’s having. Going along are Julianne, Simeon, and Marielle. Once there, they find that Laetitia, the Duchess, wants to leave the duchy and return to the town she grew up in. And take her daughter with her, despite the fact that her daughter doesn’t know that town at all. And what’s more, she wants to do it IMMEDIATELY. Why? Could it be… ghosts?

Given that this series started with Marielle being (according to herself) being the sort to be unnoticed and only listen to others, it’s really great to hear her give a few smacktalk speeches in this book. There’s a lot of people not communicating with each other in this one, and (of course) there’s also international intrigue, again. (No Lutin, though.) Honestly, for once Simeon is the more worrying one. When Marielle is in danger (again, yes, it’s that sort of series – at least she’s not successfully kidnapped this time) he grows terrifying in his desire to punish those responsible, but even scarier is his rage when some other man finds his wife attractive. The best part of the book might be how, in acquiescence of his wife’s wishes, he does an interrogation while holding his riding crop. The Simeon of only two or three books ago would never have done this. They really are in love.

There are suggestions that Marielle imagine what being a mother is like towards the end of this book, but I don’t think the series is ready to go there right now, if ever. It’s far more content watching Marielle sneak around in disguises she brought herself, find clues that her husband already knew about, and get in and out of peril. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Festivities of Marielle Clarac

By Haruka Momo and Maro. Released in Japan as “Marielle Clarac no Shukusai” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Philip Reuben.

We’re nine volumes into Marielle Clarac, and she’s been happily married for quite a few of them. That said, the audience is still more interested in her as the heroine of a mystery/thriller than it is her as a socialite and wife. Which she would probably think is a good thing, as Marielle is starting to doubt herself as a socialite and a wife. Growing up inevitably means feeling that you have not grown up enough, and Marielle is worried that she is not really bringing to her marriage the things that wives should be doing. Instead, she’s getting kidnapped, solving crimes, causing international incidents, etc. Fortunately for her, her husband is having the same sort of issues, wanting to always be there to protect her but knowing that that’s impossible, and still dealing with being jealous of any other man who’s remotely close to her. Which, in this series, is pretty much every man. Basically, they’re both awkward dorks, and made for each other.

The main plot of this book concerns Prince Gracius, the orphaned son of Orta’s former king. He’s recovered his memories, but is now having to deal with something that all rich and powerful people have to: sycophants and hangers-on. Indeed, the people around him seem particularly bent on making sure he listens to them, and they seem to hate Marielle in particular. She doesn’t really care about that, however, as she wants to make the prince experience Noël, their Christmas equivalent, without fear of getting assassinated. Even if this means having to call in Lutin in order to disguise him. For once things actually work perfectly, but Marielle does not endear herself to Gracius’ entourage. And now there are rumors that she’s being unfaithful?!

There’s a running gag in this book that’s actually about the series’ main running gag, which is that Marielle still thinks of herself as being able to blend into the background and be dull and plain, and it’s increasingly untrue. Sure, she can get away with it while hiding from those who want to frame her by having her sexually assaulted (a rare unpleasant part of this otherwise pleasant book), but when she’s around her peers she is now increasingly the center of attention… mostly because of what she’s been doing the previous eight volumes. This also means that the rumor doesn’t really go anywhere – anyone who knows Marielle even a little bit will know how ridiculous it is. I was also amused to see that she’s learning – she suspects a letter from Gracius is fake, brings her servants and a guard, tells Simeon where she’s going… and STILL gets drugged and kidnapped. Sorry, Marielle, it’s the genre, not you.

This series is simply a barrel of fun, and also one that is easy to recommend to casual readers, as Marielle’s BL obsession is the sole “this is definitely Japanese” element – no reincarnated villainesses, no isekais, and no game stats. Just a series of mystery thrillers.

The Applause of Marielle Clarac

By Haruka Momo and Maro. Released in Japan as “Marielle Clarac no Kassai” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Philip Reuben.

This is another one of those volumes where all I want to talk about is the last quarter of the book, but I will try to restrain myself. This is not to see the main storyline is not good or interesting, as it’s very good. As you can imagine with that title, the story revolves around the theater, as an acting troupe that Marielle and her husband go to see is suddenly interrupted by a threatening message… from Lutin! Or is it? This doesn’t seem like his style. We know Lutin is around because his master, Prince Liberto, is there to meet his fiancee Henrietta, one of the princesses of the kingdom. Everything seems great there… till Henrietta notices that Liberto always has a mask of “charming smile” going on, and begins to worry that she has no clue how he really things. Marielle needs to solve both these problems, and she does so with her usual talent of getting involved, accidentally stealing evidence, getting captured, and flirting with her husband.

Marielle is growing up in some ways, and I can’t really call her a scatterbrain anymore. Indeed, as we see near the end of the book, her ability to analyze and lay bare the emotional turmoil around romance is second to none. That said, to Simeon’s frustration, she’s always going to get involved in potentially lethal situations, because that’s just the sort of series that the two of them are in. It was amusing to see that, after going undercover, escaping, getting caught and interrogated by Lutin, and falling asleep in a cold room, she finally comes down with a bad cold, something she was proud of never having had before. (I thought at first it might be signs that she’s pregnant, but if that happens it’s not in this book.) She’s the very model of an amateur detective, and everyone has basically stopped trying to discourage her from this and instead they use her as sort of a guided missile of “trouble follows her” to get to the bottom of things.

The mystery is solved way before the end of the book, and we’re left with the last quarter, where everything is taken to another level. Henrietta is having a nervous breakdown over the fact that she can’t tell what her fiancee is thinking, and the solution is apparently to have her (and her allies, including Marielle and Julianne) locked in a tower with only one high window, which Liberto must scale to prove his love for her (and also to show that he can make faces other than “pleasant smile”). This works even better than planned, as Marielle’s plan is essentially to humiliate him until he snaps, and it works beautifully. This is topped by his true feelings towards his fiancee, which are entirely political and not romantic in nature… something she promptly accepts. It wasn’t that she worried he didn’t love her, it was that she worried she had no idea what he thought AT ALL. Now that he’s said what he thinks, a steady foundation can be built.

So all in all an excellent volume, and I don’t even mind that these books tend towards the lengthy. It’s worth it to spend more time in Marielle’s head.