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Title: Stepping on Roses V 1
Author: Rinko Ueda
May Contain Spoilers
Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi’s financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition: he’ll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi fool high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?
Soichiro’s reputation becomes tainted when Sumi’s true background is exposed, and even his position as president of his company is threatened! Sumi feels terrible for the trouble she’s caused Soichiro, so she decides to leave him. Will Soichiro choose to let her go, or will he forsake everything for her instead?
I just love this series! Rinko Ueda has a knack for telling beautifully illustrated romances with lots of angst and melodrama. These are better than afternoon soaps. Seriously! If you ever enjoyed a soap opera, download the sample chapters from the Viz Manga website and start reading Stepping on Roses. I love the elegant drawings and the historical setting. The contrast between the wealthiest and some of the most humble Japanese at the time makes for so many opportunities to add almost insurmountable challenges to Sumi’s life. Now, after Nozomu’s diabolical plans, Soichiro has lost control of Ashida Products, and he’s forced to face a life of poverty head on. After throwing his lot in with Sumi and refusing to give her up in order to keep his company, he’s discovering just how unpleasant life can be. So long abundant food, clean clothing, and warm baths! I used to despise Soichiro, but my feelings for him have completely reversed in the last few volumes of the manga.
Now, Nozomu, on the other hand, has turned into a complete slime ball. After his plot to wrestle control of Ashida Products comes to fruition, thanks in part to Sumi’s lazy, greedy brother, he let his true colors show. Brilliantly! Complete with a new evil-guy, slicked back hairdo, all of his focus is aimed at destroying Soichiro and stealing Sumi away from him. Her feelings don’t matter to him. All he wants is what his ex-BFF has. What is wrong with this guy? How could I have so completely misjudged his character? Nozomu is the perfect villain, because part of me still feels some lingering affection for him. I can’t help it! He was such a nice guy, and it’s hard to accept that he’s taken an irreversible turn to the dark side. He always seemed so gentle and kind! Maybe he still is, somewhere in there, under all of his jealousy and hatred for Soichiro. I am so dying to find out what is going to happen next, so this manga is a great example of the correct way to use cliffhangers, at least to keep me engaged in the plot. How can I not want to know what happens next, with all of these high emotional final pages?
While Sumi slips seamlessly back into her former life, privileged Soichiro has a much harder time. He was willing to give up his company so he could be with Sumi, but things aren’t going to be a cake walk. He can’t find a job, Nozomu keeps popping up at the most aggravating times, and the loss of his company stings. From being one of the movers and shakers to barely scraping by, Soichiro’s new reality is going to test him in ways he can’t even imagine. When is he going to start resenting Sumi for his reduced circumstances? When will he begin to blame her for everything that’s happened? I so want to hope that his feelings for Sumi are real and that he’s grown up and is willing to take responsibility for his new life, but I’m also afraid that he won’t. Argh! Good thing I have volume 8 so I can get another fix soon!