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by Rebecca Silverman,

Before You Discard Me, I Shall Have My Way With You

Volume 1 Manga Review

Before You Discard Me, I Shall Have My Way With You Volume 1 Manga Review

Agnès has been in love with the crown prince ever since they were children, but she knows all too well that he doesn't return her feelings. She's hurt, but not surprised, when he announces that he's throwing her over for Lilie, the daughter of a rival family, but she's also not going to allow him to destroy her own. To that end, she and her father hatch a plan for her to sleep with Lucilleur so that the specter of pregnancy will protect her, but when Luc unexpectedly hunts her down to continue their sexual liaison, Agnès isn't sure what to think. He really did discard her…right?

Before You Discard Me, I Shall Have My Way with You is translated by Amber Tamosaitis and lettered by Giuseppe Antonio Fuseo.

Content Warning: Sexual Assault


This is a tricky one. Before You Discard Me, I Shall Have My Way With You is, to all appearances, a story that opens with a sexual assault. Agnès has been betrothed to Crown Prince Lucilleur since childhood, and she's been in love with him just as long, so she's hurt when he tells her that he's breaking off their engagement to marry Lilie, the daughter of a family opposed to Agnès' own. Both crushed and frightened, Agnès and her father come up with a plan to protect themselves from Lilie's family: Agnès will sleep with Lucilleur and create the possibility of pregnancy. After all, if Agnès is carrying Luc's child, she and her family can't be killed while they figure out if the pregnancy is viable (or real). But since neither of them believes that Luc will sleep with her of his own volition, Agnès incapacitates Luc and rapes him.

If that's not a terrible way to open a romance, I don't know what is. In genre terms, it's not unprecedented; veteran romance author Johanna Lindsey's 1991 novel Prisoner of My Desire opens the same way, and the 1919 romance The Sheik essentially created the romance genre myth of the “romantic” sexual assault. Things only get worse from here, with Luc chasing down Agnès after she's fled the country and imprisoning her in a bedroom, where he proceeds to have a lot of dubiously consensual sex with her as “revenge.” It's a premise less likely to be as widely appealing as many of Steamship's other releases because this is a particular niche within the romance genre. While all romance is fantasy, and no one should be judged by what they enjoy fantasizing about, you want to be informed before picking this series up.

But…what if all of this sexual assault is solely performative? That's almost an equally uncomfortable possibility that the book plays it straight, but it's difficult to ignore as the volume continues. The first clue to this is certainly the tropes of the villainess genre. Although Agnès hasn't done anything horrible to Lilie and is never accused of doing so, the denunciation scene is a quieter version of what we've come to expect. And Agnès is very clear about Lilie's two-faced nature; there's no need to “discover” that she's not as sugar-sweet as she seems because Agnès has been fully aware of her true disposition from the start, which is partially why she and her father are so worried about Luc switching from Agnès to her. All of this raises the specter of Luc also being aware of who Lilie is and pulling something of a Soveishu from The Remarried Empress with even less communication.

The hints are that this may be the case and that he's actually as in love with Agnès as she is with him and just really bad at expressing it. A flashback to their childhood indicates that, but the bigger sign is that he refuses to disable his half of the contract spell binding them together in betrothal. After doing the deed, Agnès immediately undoes her half, telling him as he leaves that he is now free to take his part and throw it away. She later realizes that he has not, and that spell allows him to find her months later. Then there's the admittedly less convincing factor that when he locks her in a bedroom, he takes care to ensure her pleasure; he knows that she didn't enjoy their first time. Add in that he's fairly desperate to keep Lilie away from her and the final scenes of the volume, and it begins to look like everything was just a terrible misunderstanding based on his total lack of communication. And now that they've had sex once, why not just keep on keeping on?

A second volume is necessary to find out if this supposition is true, and frankly, after the first, it may not be palatable to even think of reading book two. There's a sense that the story is trying to play with the villainess tropes by spicing them up, and this does follow a fairly straightforward romance subgenre that has remained popular since 1919. I also have to give artist Selen props for more historically accurate undergarments than manga typically portrays; Agnès doesn't wear underpants (modern or otherwise), has garters holding up her stockings, and we see a few petticoats for good measure. The art isn't otherwise all that remarkable, though it is nice enough, and the explicitness level is fairly high. If you can stomach the rape elements, this may turn out to be interesting, but it also doesn't offer enough to make those pieces of the story worthwhile if that's not your preferred subgenre.

Overall : C
Story : C
Art : B-

+ Relatively historically accurate underwear, some intriguing plot possibilities.
So-called “rape romance” elements can be a major turnoff.

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Production Info:
Original story: Takako Midori
Original Character Design: Mami Surada
Art: Seren
Licensed by: Seven Seas Entertainment

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Before You Discard Me, I Shall Have My Way With You (manga)

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