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.

The Holy Crown of Marielle Clarac

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

While they have not realized they are in a series of fictional romance novels, the cast of the Marielle Clarac books have certainly figured out what’s going on around the heroine. Even with Simeon trying his best to keep Marielle away from anything remotely resembling danger and excitement, it always finds its way to her. What’s more, things can’t even be kept secret from her – she’s far too clever and makes too many connections, guessing the plot at times before it can even be explained to her. Fortunately for Marielle, though unfortunately for her husband, most of the actual physical injuries in this book happen to her husband. This is not to say that Marielle is not in peril, as she is, constantly, through much of this book. But, having knifed her in the arm in the last book, the author is content to emotionally abuse her by having Simeon shot, then go off a cliff, then get shot AGAIN. Again: potboiler.

Things that were simmering in the previous volumes are still simmering, as there’s war going on between two neighboring countries. No, Marielle isn’t going there – instead she’s off to the funeral of a very old relative of Simeon’s, who lived a long, happy life but who needs her, since Simeon can’t make it, to pay respects. Then… stuff happens. There’s a torrential rain, which causes a lot of the nearby commoners to be evacuated to the vicinity. Then Simeon DOES show up, along with the prince, as they’re looking for a missing royal… in fact, he’s the heir to the throne of Orta, though the monarchy was overthrown a couple of decades ago. Then some old enemies show up. Then the missing heir loses his memory. And then there’s the matter of the missing holy crown, which is the standard “we won’t believe you’re the heir without this” item. Is there a way to resolve everything without it all revolving around Marielle?

Well, no, but who wants to read a book where Marielle just hears about things afterward? She even muses that life has been too good to her lately, as someone who is unfamiliar with her treats her poorly and it makes her feel nostalgic. That said, as I noted, most of Marielle’s issues in this book are emotional rather than physical. She’s still seen as much younger than her age, and worries that Simeon is treating her like that as well, especially when they get in an argument midway through the book. She’s thinking about children, and wonders whether a boy or a girl would be easier for the noble succession/peace of mind (delete where applicable). And seeing Simeon is peril, and at one point not waking up after a horrible fall, makes her break down completely – for all her intellectual savvy and quick wit, Marielle is still very innocent at heart, and was not ready to see the love of her life near death.

All this and Lutin too. And he may stick around for the 8th book, which does not have a release date here yet but promises to finally have us meet the crown princess’s royal fiancee. That’ll go well, I’m sure. Safe and fun. In the meantime, if you love silly adventure stories, this is right up your alley.