By Hayleigh Sol
★ ★ ★ ★ 4 STARS
Anthony, the eldest son of the late viscount Bridgerton, and current holder of the title, knows he will die young. His father died only thirty-eight years old, so why should Anthony be any different. Which mean he only has eight, nine tops, years to live, and it's about time he did his duty to the title. Marry and produce an heir. Oh, and don't fall in love with wife.
He already has a perfect candidate for his viscountess. Beautiful, delicate, fair-colored, reasonably intelligent Edwina Sheffield. She will do nicely. She'll look good on his arm, bear him children, but most importantly...He won't fall in love with her, because the spark just isn't there. Perfect indeed. Pity, she has a big flaw. In the form of older sister, Katharina "Kate" Sheffield. She's tall, dark-haired, opinionated, and she hates his guts.
At least the feeling's mutual...Or is it?
Ooh, the sparkage. You could see it coming off the pages whenever Kate and Anthony shared a scene. They argued, they bantered, they traded barbs, they wanted to kill each other...And yet...Sparkage. Where there was none with Kate's younger step-sister, Edwina, there was plenty with Kate. And I relished the sparkage as much as these two would-be adversaries did.
And once more what started as animosity, slowly grew into an unlikely friendship that slowly transformed into something more (something that was there from the beginning, but they were too stubborn to see it. I just love romance novels where the main relationship has a foot to stand on in friendship and camaraderie.
I loved the whole phobia subplot that resulted in the two finding themselves in a position that neither was prepared to admit they secretly wanted. When I first read this book, I was convinced the compromising would stem from Kate's fear of thunderstorms (what with them huddling under a desk in the middle of the night with her only in her nightgown), so it was a double pleasure to read it was once again the man's fault. Namely, Anthony exaggerating over an unsuspecting (and in the end, unfortunate) little bee.
From then on it was just a matter of time when Anthony would forgo his stubborn refusal to fall in love with his wife, the problem was him getting to admit it, which ended up being the catalyst for the last hiccup in this relationship, which also (when you'll read the last chapter, you'll understand why) ended up being quite useful in Anthony yet once more playing the hero.
I missed the Bridgerton banter and meddling that was so present in the previous book, but since the hero was the head of the Bridgerton family (and a male) that was to be expected. Still, we got a nice little showing of the eldest siblings rivalry in a lawn game.
Another quick and (very) fun and witty read with a great main couple and supporting cast. It offered plenty of laughs, a tear or two, and just the right amount of drama to keep it interesting.
Daphne Bridgerton is a woman on a mission. Find a suitable match that actually sees her more than just a friend, while also pleasing her matchmaking mama.
Needless to say she's not really succeeding.
All the suitable men find her pleasant and "normal", while pursuing the belles of the ton blessed with "the right" coloring (blond and blue-eyed), relegating her into the wallflower territory.
Until her oldest brother's best friend, newly minted Duke of Hastings, recently returned to England, concocts a fool-proof plan to make Daphne insanely desirable and himself safe from other matchmaking mamas.
They'll pretend to develop a tendre, until Daphne finds a suitable match after which she'd jilt him...Unfortunately, the prospect of jilting the handsome duke becomes every day more unpalatable.
I read this book a long, long, long time ago, but decided to do it again, after the Netflix series dropped, to refresh my memory.
It was a very good decision, I've forgotten how much fun the Bridgetown brood can be. And maybe this time I'll actually read all the books in the series.
Daphne, the fourth child (and oldest girl) of the Bridgerton family and Simon Basset, the new Duke of Hastings, might come off as an odd couple at the beginning, but as the story progresses, and they develop an easy friendship that slowly evolves into something stronger and lasting, end up as a perfect match. Two completely opposites that somehow, also with plenty of help from her family, find a middle ground where they can both be themselves with each other.
It was nice reading about a regency-era relationship that stemmed from friendship and camaraderie instead of just two characters thrown together by happenstance, intrigue or whiff of scandal.
Their relationship was still rocky, especially thanks to Simon's demons and his stupid vow to a dead man (we cannot have a romance book without conflict and the big rift, now can we), and granted, the whole thing was rather quickly resolved (even that highly questionable act on Daphne's part), but the initial friendship and ease between them made it more believable and easier for the reader to accept the swift resolution.
And, because this is a series about a family, that family must not remain unmentioned, since it was a third main character in this story. The Bridgertons were a hoot to read about and they provided plenty of love and friendship, a touch of drama, and a whole lot of support for both Daphne and Simon (albeit in a more roundabout way).
Reading this story was like having a glass of refreshing lemonade and a perfect choice to break my reading fast. A fun, quick and easy read, that made it easy to empathize with and root for the characters; it made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me (once more) eager to read more. On to the next.
When she was a child, Asako was bullied for the way she sweated, and she's been painfully self-conscious about her body odor ever since. She now works in the Finance Department of her favorite toiletries and cosmetics company, Liliadrop, and although the company's soaps and other products give her happiness, she still worries so much about her body odor that it pretty much dictates her whole life. She keeps quiet and still so she won't work up a sweat, and she spends her work breaks reapplying deodorant.
Then one day a man comes up to her at work, sniffs her, and declares that she smells amazing and that, for the good of the company, he must sniff her every day. Natori is a planner in Liliadrop's production development. He's supposed to come up with ideas for the company's Winter soap lineup, but he's been drawing a blank. Asako's scent inspires him and, although the idea of being sniffed makes her anxious, Asako wants to help the man behind the soaps she loves so much. But what if there's more than just soap inspiration brewing between them?
Before reading the review that inspired me to buy this, I'd seen this work around multiple times and always scrolled past it without even bothering to look at its product page. I honestly didn't even know how it was tagged or what age range it was aimed at - I saw the cover art and automatically assumed it was rapey porn aimed at guys with a particular interest in on-page bodily fluids.
In reality, it's a quirky workplace romance that includes some steamy moments and a couple non-explicit sex scenes. There's more on-page nudity on her part than on his, but it's of the Barbie doll variety, with nipple-less breasts. The focus is more on Asako and Natori and their developing relationship than on sex.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I've actually read it three times now and am very much looking forward to the next volume. Natori wasn't the alpha jerk the cover art had me assuming he'd be. He was confident about his sense of smell and abilities as a soap creator, but more awkward when it came to his and Asako's romantic relationship, even though he didn't have Asako's pile of insecurities. Asako had spent so much of her life being small and quiet that it carried over into their relationship - she'd avoid talking about things that worried or upset her because she didn't want to upset or bother Natori. This caused some minor problems, but I was pleasantly surprised at a conversation they had at the end of the volume, and I'm crossing my fingers that jealousy (on her part) won't become volume 2's big issue.
In some ways, Asako and Natori's relationship made me think of Kimi no Todoke's Sawako and Kazehaya. Natori was the popular guy, always surrounded by people and generally comfortable in his own skin, while Asako, like Sawako, was more reserved and painfully aware of the negative effect she might be having on others (although in Asako's case it was more in her head - there was zero indication that anyone in her adult life thought she smelled bad or sweated more than other people).
The beginning of this volume, in particular, may throw some people off. Natori's Asako-sniffing sessions tended to look like quick workplace trysts, and there was one bit where he got a little too into it and started to cross a line, freaking Asako out. While I liked that he realized he'd done something inappropriate and apologized, I wished Asako hadn't felt the need to say that she was the one who should apologize. During my rereads, though, I realized that it fit her character - she was smoothing things over and avoiding conflict as best she could.
I wish I'd discovered this series after a few more volumes had been released - I'd love it if I could immediately read more. I'm looking forward to seeing where the author goes with this. Here's hoping the next few volumes are as enjoyable as this one.
A two-page manga-style afterword by the author, plus a two-page bonus comic about Asako's bra shopping trip after her first night at Natori's place. One thing the afterword revealed that I hadn't realized: the manga's first chapter was originally a one-shot.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Rui is tall, energetic, sweet, and prone to fretting. Yuujirou is athletic, short, and has a complex about his height. The two high schoolers have been friends since they were children. Rui had fallen into a gutter and Yuujirou rescued him. At the time, Yuujirou thought Rui was a very cute girl...and fell instantly in love. Even after he found out that Rui was actually a boy, he couldn't shake his feelings, and it's getting harder and harder to hide them. What Yuujirou doesn't know is that Rui is starting to realize that his feelings of deep admiration for his friend might actually be love.
I hate myself a little for giving Tokyopop any of my money. I'm still bitter about the licenses they left in limbo and series that went unfinished after the company imploded. But this looked really cute, so I ignored my bitter feelings and bought it.
And it was cute, for the most part. The first half was devoted to Yuujirou and Rui's mutual pining. In the second half, they'd finally admitted how they felt about each other but were still feeling their way around being boyfriends in addition to childhood friends. And FYI, unlike a lot of one-shots, the entire volume is devoted to this one couple - no spinoff bonus stories at the end, and no unrelated older works by the same author. I appreciated that, although I wouldn't have said no to a bonus story devoted to Takenaka, the sad stud doomed to unrequited love.
My favorite part of the volume was the first half. I love mutual pining. I love the anticipation of the moment the characters finally realize that the person they love loves them back. This volume gave me a good deal of that, and it was fun.
Yuujirou's efforts to push Rui away were a little annoying, but understandable (poor Yuujirou and his embarrassing and inconvenient boners). I was more annoyed by the introduction of the freshman girl who had a crush on Yuujirou - Yuujirou didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd try out a relationship he wasn't into, even in an effort to hide his feelings for Rui, and it irked me that the girl didn't even get to have a name or a face (her eyes were always obscured by her hair).
Yuujirou was more aware of his feelings than Rui, so Rui's part of the story was more about him examining his admiration for Yuujirou and realizing what his friend meant to him. He was a complete sweetheart. Also, it was just a little thing, but I got a kick out of the visual gag involving his cat. Every time Rui was on his bed, fretting about Yuujirou, his cat came by to step on his face.
The second half of the volume was where dating and sex came in. The dating was fun - Yuujirou and Rui were two adorable dorks who were interested in sex but too used to going out as friends to know how to move things along. They eventually figured things out, though, and that's where my feelings about the story got a little iffier.
On the plus side, they were both 100% on board with sex - no rapey tinge, although there was one instance of accidental voyeurism (if there really are love hotel rooms like that, then eww). On the minus side, after a whole volume of adorable awkwardness on both their parts, Yuujirou suddenly became the sexy and perfect seme to Rui's blushing uke. Considering that their sex education seemed to be a bit shaky (it sure looked like the sex advice book Rui bought was intended for women, or possibly heterosexual couples) and that they were both high school students having sex for the first time ever, I'd have expected some awkwardness.
Now for the artwork. I mostly liked it. Characters' facial expressions were great, but it bugged me a little that Yuujirou and Rui's face shapes and body types were somewhat inconsistent. I occasionally mistook Takenaka for Yuujirou, and Rui had weird moments when he suddenly looked more buff. As far as the explicitness level goes, yes, there's on-page sex, but any potentially objectionable body parts were obscured. Fairly tame, despite the "Mature, Ages 18+" rating on the back. (Side note: manga ratings drive me nuts and aren't very helpful. I have one that's rated 16+ that's way more explicit than this.)
Anyway, despite my complaints I still enjoyed this overall and even reread the first three quarters or so a couple times. It's one of those rare one-shots that I think was exactly as long as it needed to be.
Two full-color illustrations (on matte paper rather than the usual glossy) and a brief afterword by the author, with a cute illustration of Yuujirou, Rui, and a cat.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)