Goodbye, Overtime! This Reincarnated Villainess Is Living for Her New Big Brother, Vol. 1

By Chidori Hama and Wan Hachipisu. Released in Japan as “Akuyaku Reijō, Brocon ni Job Change Shimasu” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Rymane Tsouria.

First of all, because I know it’s the first question on everyone’s mind, there’s no incest subtext in this book. OK, there’s no sexual incest subtext. There’s tons of Brocon/siscon stuff, and the usual “I’m never marrying anyone I’ll just stay with you” nonsense, but there is zero sexual attraction between the two leads beyond Ekaterina thinking her brother is hot. Which he is. Secondly, in the afterword, the author says they got the idea for this series after reading another villainess book. They don’t say which one, but if it’s not My Next Life As a Villainess, I’ll be very surprised. This, like quite a few villainess books, reads like someone wanted to write the same series only with the main character being less of a complete dipshit. And this not only includes Ekaterina trying hard to avoid her doom, but also includes her befriending the heroine, who seems to fall deeply in love with her. That said, this will likely be about as canon as Bakarina as well.

Rina Yukimura is an OL in a Black Company-type job, who ends up dying of overwork and exhaustion while playing an otome game she loves. Now she wakes up as… the game’s villainess! Ekaterina Yulnova is the sister of a duke, and spends most of the game bullying the heroine until she eventually gets her comeuppance. So Rina has several things she has to do. First, she and Ekaterina start off as very different people, and meshing their personalities (well, more like Rina takes over) takes a lot of energy. Secondly, she has to work hard to not be the villainess, which means actually study hard and also read up on her family history, which was not gone into in the game, and turns out to be a lot darker than she expected. This is all before she gets to school, and meets Lady, Flora, a commoner who is now the adopted daughter of a baroness…

If that summary made you roll your eyes a bit, I don’t blame you. It’s a bit boilerplate, yes. Ekaterina is fun, though. Having died from overwork in her past life, she sees her brother running the entire dukedom and panics that he’ll do the same thing… while remaining blissfully obvious that she’s fallen into her own overwork habits from before. Flora is a shyer, more reserved Maria Campbell, but they even bond over good food – in this case, potato and bacon crepes rather than sweets – and seems to hero worship Ekaterina just as much, and some other ladies also look smitten by the end of this volume. That said, she’s also gaining male followers. In addition to her brother, who reads like Keith Claes only without all the creepy, there’s the Prince, who reads a lot like Jeord but without all the creepy. Oh yes, and there’s also monster attacks, which Bakarina doesn’t do as much but does allow Ekaterina to help save the day with her “common” Earth magic… which again, feels like a comment on Katarina Claes and her Earth Bump.

If you like villainess books, this isn’t bad. If you want Bakarina with the serial numbers filed off, it’s also not bad. Just… expect the yuri to go the same way it’s going to go in Bakarina.

The Invisible Wallflower Marries an Upstart Aristocrat After Getting Dumped for Her Sister!, Vol. 2

By Makino Maebaru and Murasaki Shido. Released in Japan as “Kon’yaku Haki Sareta “Kūki” na Watashi, Nariagari no Dan’na-sama ni Totsugimashita” by Mag Garden Novels. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by piyo.

Last time I said that I enjoyed a romance with a few jagged edges, and this second volume provides. In fact, it provides a bit too much. This volume features sexual assault, threats of sexual assault, past histories of both sexual assault and murder, drug addiction, forced drug addition, kidnappings, and use of sexual language to degrade. And that’s all just Mikhail. It’s less “jagged edges” now and more “the floor is lava”. At its heart, though, like so many of this genre, the story is about examining the aristocracy, the power that they hold over the working class, and how it can be abused without anyone knowing or caring. Now, eventually they do care, trust me. But it takes a lot of evidence, and it also requires Iris to endure a large amount of the above, all for the sake of her husband, who people still don’t trust. It’s a lot.

When we last left Iris and Lucas, she had gotten a letter from her sister, who basically wrote (in nearly illiterate script), “come do everything for my engagement party because I demand it”, which causes Iris to briefly have a bit of a breakdown. After this, though, she resolves to not only return to her family to help with her sister’s engagement party, but to use this opportunity to cut things off with her family once and for all. Which, of course, is tricky because the first prince is still determined to ruin Lucas, and the easiest way to do that is through Lucas’ new wife. Iris also has her work cut out for her: her dad is drunk and gambling away all his money, her stepmother hates her, and her sister is a jealous spoiled brat who can’t even read or write well. Oh yes, and there’s her ex-fiancé, Mikhail. See above.

How much you like this volume may depend how much you can tolerate “I will stoically endure for the sake of my future happiness”. The scene at Mikhail’s mansion is harrowing, and this is even with Iris taking guards and maids just in case. Her family’s dissoluteness turns out to have been engineered, which does not make her sympathetic to them, but it does mean that at least we don’t long to see them die horribly like, say, we long to see happen to Mikhail. There’s also a fake ending, as I wondered if the main conflict would be wrapped up 3/4 of the way through the book and the series would end with a consummation at last. But no, this series turns out to be three volumes, not two, and the main villain escapes so he can once again kidnap, threaten, and exude his sexist fantasies at Iris. Worst of all, he’s not killed off (at least not on the page), so I suspect he’ll be back.

This is a good series, and Iris and Lucas’ romance is very well done. But man, there’s a lot of stuff to endure here. Jagged edges are best in moderation.

By a Twist of Fate, I’m Attending the Royal Academy in Disguise, Vol. 1

By Ringo and Tsukasa Satsuki. Released in Japan as “Wake Atte, Hensō Shite Gakuen ni Sennyū Shiteimasu” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Alex Castor.

I had talked about artifact titles only a couple of days ago, and this is an even better example: after the first forty pages, the title becomes totally incorrect, as this book does not take place at the academy at all beyond that point. Which makes sense: like the best LaLa titles, this started off as a complete in 40 pages short story, which was then expanded, and is now a volume, with a second one on the way. Despite that… yeah, she’s still not attending the royal academy. Oh well, I’ll happily read it anyway, because I like the main couple. We have a heroine (and yes, for once it’s not a villainess or fallen noble but is playing the cliche straight) who is straightforward and blunt and also perhaps doesn’t care enough about her well-being, and a royal prince who is far more similar to her than he’d like. But she’s a commoner, so they can’t marry. Certainly not with everything getting in her way this volume, at least…

As the title suggests, Cesia is at the Royal Academy pretending to be Selene Diane, a noble lady who is a bit of a bitch, and doesn’t want to deal with the bullying she’ll get from being engaged to the handsome lothario Lord Raymond Chaser, so Cesia has been there the last two years in her place. A pile of money awaits her at graduation… unless she’s working for evil nobles. Oh, no, she’s working for evil nobles! So, after escaping from her imprisonment, she resolves to attend graduation to try and get some revenge… even if she has no idea what it is. Then she runs into Marcus, the second :Prince, who not only is here to help her with her revenge but also seems very familiar… After this, the rest of the book plays out, which basically involves Cesia working for the government and ending up in constant life-threatening danger.

There are several interesting aspects of this book, but my favorite is probably Maria. Maria was an acquaintance of Cesia’s at the academy… and also turns out to be Prince Marcus, who can disguise himself to magic to be a woman. Despite discovering this, Cesia continues to see Maria and Marcus separately. Part of this is likely due to the fact that Marcus is royal and it’s easier to be more casual with Maria, but a lot of it is simply subconscious, Cesia is more comfortable with Maria. Which makes Marcus… feel a bit ambiguous. The rest of the book is not all that original (jealous younger sister who turns out to be a total sweetie pie, decadent nobility taking drugs, Cesia almost dying like 4 times…) and ends with a nasty cliffhanger, but Cesia is fun, and really needs some self-esteem. Marcus calls her a “stray cat”, never wanting to settle down, and he’s not far off, but he’s also ignoring his own lack of self-regard, as he’s not the heir.

The second volume is coming out relatively quickly, which is good. For those who like a bit of thriller in their commoner/noble romance.