Safe & Sound in the Arms of an Elite Knight, Vol. 3

By Fuyu Aoki and Minori Aritani. Released in Japan as “Doinaka no Hakugai Reijо̄ wa О̄to Elite Kishi ni Dekiai Sareru” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Dawson Chen.

Yes, as you can see from the cover art showing a wedding, this is the final volume in the series. (The imprint has yet to let a light novel series go beyond Book 3, so that’s also not a surprise.) Actually, lack of surprise is a feature of this entire book. Every single plot point in this book can be seen coming from at least ten pages away. That said, this is perfectly fine. You really don’t want big surprises from this series. You want adorable romantic moments between two very pure people, getting past horribly abusive and traumatic pasts with the help of good communication, and yes, OK, you want our heroine to knock her evil mother unconscious and tie her up. You don’t read this for plot, you read it for emotional grandeur, and it has this in spades. When the long-lost one good maid from Chloe’s past shows up, I did not roll my eyes, I said “oh good, they can apologize to each other for pages on end.” Which they do.

Last time we saw Chloe and Lloyd confess to each other, but as you can imagine, that hardly solves anything. In fact, it actually makes their lives worse for a week or two – neither one have much experience with this feeling, and so they’re on eggshells around each other, and getting distracted. It takes several heartfelt talks to get it through their heads that repressing everything is a bad thing, particularly with Chloe, who has the self-confidence of an asthmatic whelk. After doing so, marriage seems an obvious step – even though they only confessed a week earlier, they’ve basically been behaving like an old married couple for a while. That said, there is the small matter of Lloyd’s tragic past he still hasn’t talked about, and, oh yes, Chloe’s mother, who is coming to visit, and she’s brought her knife.

As with the previous book, Chloe’s family is beyond evil. Her mother is horrified to find out that Lily’s action might have consequences for her, appalled to hear that this is actually going to a trial with a judge who will (gasp!) follow the law, and quickly decides that the best solution is to kill every single witness, starting with Chloe. (I feel bad for the terrorized household help back home, but honestly, they may feel relief to be out of a job.) The great thing is that the attack comes at a time when Lloyd can’t come to her rescue, so Chloe has to overcome her mother on her own, and has the realization that she’s younger, stronger, and smarter, so why is she so terrified? It’s a great empowering moment. As for Lloyd’s tragic past, we don’t see it, he just relates it to Chloe has guilt, so there’s not as much impact. But he gets to cry in her arms, which is also nice.

As with the previous two volumes, if you like to see abused young women recover and thrive after escaping from their situation, this is a great little romance series.

Safe & Sound in the Arms of an Elite Knight, Vol. 2

By Fuyu Aoki and Minori Aritani. Released in Japan as “Doinaka no Hakugai Reijо̄ wa О̄to Elite Kishi ni Dekiai Sareru” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Dawson Chen.

This series continues to be excellent in terms of how it handles its heroine, who has spent most of her life being terribly abused. In the first book Chloe successfully ran away (after avoiding an attempted murder) and settled in as Lloyd’s “housekeeper”, but the trauma does not magically go away. She notes that she’s gotten better with knives now, but attempting to tell Lloyd about her past sends her into a huge panic attack. What’s more, when she runs out of house to clean and wonders what to do, it becomes apparent that being worked like a dog as a child has left her with no room for any hobbies. She doesn’t know how to do downtime. Fortunately for Chloe, she comes across the same answer that so many of us do: reading books. Indeed, she’s reading romance novels, ones with a lead man who is very, very reminiscent of Lloyd. Unfortunately for Chloe, family is hard to get away from completely.

The first part of this book is relatively light and fluffy. Chloe discovers the world of books. She’s also getting along very well with everyone in town, and even the bookseller is starting to fall in love with her. Unfortunately for him, she only has eyes for Lloyd… even if the two of them are both still a bit too broken to actually confess these feelings. Meanwhile, Lloyd is having to deal with new recruits, including a noble who has good skill but unfortunately is also an asshole who feels he’s above everyone else. This would normally not be that big a deal, but Lloyd forgot his lunch, so Chloe goes to the castle to bring it to him, and the new recruit menaces her. Cue boss music.

I’ve talked before about how a lot of these light novels have “cartoon villains”, which is to say bad guys with no redeeming features who are there to be as evil as possible. Don’t given them pets, they would kick a puppy. The interesting thing in this book is that we get two definite antagonists, but one of them is, when it comes right down to it, just a massive jerk. He’s abusing his privilege, looks down on everyone, and expects the world to be handed to him. But that’s fine, as he’s also a knight candidate with skill, so he can have the jerk beaten out of him by Lloyd. Lily, however, Chloe’s sister, is not going to get an out. This is why Luke merely menaces Chloe (and gets Lloyd destroying him in a duel for his troubles), while Lily beats the crap out of Chloe until help arrives to arrest her and throw her in prison. Now, Luke invited Lily to the town to begin with, something she tries to take advantage of near the end. But he’s not an evil villain. Just a jerk.

There’s a third volume of this, and I wonder if Mommie Dearest will show up. But definitely a wedding regardless, I think. Good romance novel fluff/angst.

Safe & Sound in the Arms of an Elite Knight, Vol. 1

By Fuyu Aoki and Minori Aritani. Released in Japan as “Doinaka no Hakugai Reijо̄ wa О̄to Elite Kishi ni Dekiai Sareru” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Dawson Chen.

This one starts off rough, and I would not blame some people for noping out of the title when they read the first 30 pages or so. If you took Cinderella but made the abuse much, much worse, you’d have the start of this book. That said, AFTER the first thirty pages or so of the novel, you get to the reason it exists, which is basically “healing”, with a small side of romance. The romance is definitely there, don’t get me wrong, but our two leads are both too busy trying to get over past traumas and their own issues to really pledge their love to each other just yet. However, they *can* both be the best thing that ever happened to each other, and we se that here. Chloe allows Lloyd to see those around him and to feel warmth and softer emotions again. And Lloyd literally saves Chloe’s life, and also patiently waits for her to cope with some very real trauma. “Safe & Sound* is the important part.

Chloe was born deep in the mountains to a margrave’s family. Unfortunately, she was born with a large birthmark on her, during a famine, and her father and one of her siblings died shortly after this. As a result, she has the reputation of a “cursed child”, and is treated like a slave by her mother and sister. One day her mother snaps and tries to stab her, and Chloe flees the house and runs away to the capital… a mere three-week long journey through dangerous woods. On her arrival, she’s exhausted and confused, and is almost taken by some hooligans before being saved by a passing young man. The young man is Lloyd, the shining star of the Elite Knights in the capital. He takes Chloe back to his house, and after a lot of back and forth she agrees to be his housekeeper.

This book is definitely about overcoming trauma, but it’s not exactly the most subtle about it. Chloe’s mother and sister are cartoon villains, as are the ones who accost her on the street. Moreover, the moment I saw that she was having trouble cooking meals because knives gave her flashbacks to her mother’s attempted murder, I knew exactly how the book would end, and I was right. Still, the main reason to read this is the healing vibes, and it gets that perfectly. Chloe is just the right amount of “complete lack of self-esteem” that would naturally come from her background without being over the top, and I appreciated that Lloyd had his own childhood issues (also a bit ridiculous, to be honest) to cope with, rather than being the perfect boyfriend immediately. There are also several plot points left hanging for a Volume 2, including a possible confrontation with her abusive family and telling Lloyd about her “curse”. I suspect that one of those will go better than the other.

So yes, not revelatory or anything, and it paints in broad strokes, but this is a solid romance for fans of the genre.