Title: The Duchess of Rosia -A Contract Marriage? How Did This Happen!?- (Dareka Kono Joukyou wo Setsumei Shite Kudasai Keiyaku Kara Hajimaru Wedding)
Artist: Kinosaki Kazura
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Fantasy, Shoujo
Volumes: 4 / 25 Chapters [Ongoing]
Japanese Publisher: Frontier Works
English Publisher: Renta!
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Renta!)
This Review is Based On: The first 6 chapters.
Synopsis: Viola is the daughter of a destitute earl from a famine-stricken kingdom. Cersis is the rich, handsome and eligible duke of Rosia. He asks for her hand in marriage, but only as his “contract wife”! Instead of undying affection, he promises her a comfortable life with the freedom to do as she pleases – including having a boyfriend! Read on and watch her embrace life as a “pretend wife”! We are happy to finally be able to present this comedy manga of a “contract marriage” between a destitute earl’s independent daughter and her handsome duke husband and his nomadic girlfriend! (Renta)
I went into this manga thinking that it would be somewhat predictable. And when I briefly read ahead, I saw that some of my initial predictions about this title do appear to play out in later chapters. But, it’s what was different along the way that really caught my attention.
The foundation upon which the story is based is this: Viola is proposed to by Cersis, the Duke of Rosia. He needs a wife in order to appease his family because they disapprove of his existing relationship with a woman named Calendula. Marrying a woman will get his family off his back because they’ll think he’s broken things off with Calendula. In return, Cersis will pay for Viola’s family’s debt; Cersis and Viola’s marriage would just be a business arrangement. So in order to save her family, Viola agrees to Cersis’ proposition. (But of course, it doesn’t help that she’s going to be taken care of for the rest of her life right?? She can even get a boyfriend too!)
What really attracted me to this manga was the strength of Viola’s character and her ability to be on her own. She don’t need no man! From the very first chapter, Viola sees her marriage as only the arrangement it is meant to be. She’s got no romantic attachment to the Duke (and he to her) because they don’t know each other. I imagine she was also helping out her family back when she was living at home, so she’s not used to be waited on by her own personal staff. She’s kind, thoughtful, and has no immediately apparent major flaws.
When Viola first moves into the Duke’s mansion (he lives elsewhere on the property in a smaller house with Calendula), she has two goals: to get to know the members of her waitstaff, and to make the lonely mansion feel more like a real home. Viola starts by asking her staff to eat meals with her (so no one’s eating alone at a big table), and she also dresses down in more casual clothes This reduces the sense of formalities between her and the staff. She eventually progresses to using plants from the garden to dye different fabrics to use in redecorating the mansion.
Slowly the waitstaff begin to open up to Viola about things like how lonely they’ve been (since the Duke is always with Calendula at her house and doesn’t need the waitstaff), and what they really think of the Duke’s relationship with Calendula. The older woman has a personality an almost polar opposite of the Duke’s, so Viola’s waitstaff have their own theories about why the Duke has been so interested in Calendula for so long. (Spoiler: she’s beautiful but can be quite nasty.)
As I read these first few chapters, I was really struck by Viola’s independence. I have not read about many genuinely “strong female characters” (please excuse my use of the trope), especially those who are not interested in a romantic relationship. Viola really, truly has no romantic interest in the Duke at the beginning of the series. Knowing that she will be comfortably taken care of for the rest of her life with the Duke’s money, Viola is free to be herself. She can dress as she likes, engage in the activities she likes (usually cleaning or redecorating the mansion), and talk to whomever she likes. Sometimes she is forced to play pretend, such as when the Duke’s parents come to visit the “newlyweds,” but otherwise she is left up to her own devices.
Viola’s a really charming character, very honest and open-minded, and the Duke seems like a genuinely nice person too. If there were an opportunity for these two to fall for each other (providing Calendula were out of the picture), I feel like they’d make a really lovely couple.
Do I Recommend This Title to Others?: Yes! I enjoyed what I read of it very much. Viola’s cute if a little naive, and the supporting cast spans a wide range of friendly faces and personalities.
Final Score: 9/10