Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
I Will Cook with My Fluffy Friends
Summer is coming and figurehead queen Laeticia is determined to get all of the strawberries harvested and cooked before it does. Her past life memories of the fruit have stood her in good stead in her new role as the temporary queen of Wolfvarte, and she plans to continue to use her cooking skills to smooth her way. But when another one of the candidates to replace her as the true queen invites her over, Laeticia learns that staying in the kitchen and out of politics may not be entirely feasible.
It's hard to argue with an isekai heroine whose grand plans include “baking lots of strawberry pastry” and “building a dog park.” I Will Cook with My Fluffy Friends' second volume definitely treads closer to iyashikei territory than the first, mixing that with Laeticia's growing realization that completely staying out of Wolfvartian politics isn't necessarily feasible. It's perhaps more correct to say that she wants her story to be a soothing, relaxing one about baking and petting fluffy animals – but she's learning that maybe she's going to have to have a bit more going on than she'd necessarily like.
That she's coming to this realization is thanks to the events of the previous novel, specifically the incident where one of the four queen candidates stole her proprietary (in this world, anyway) chiffon cake recipe. That turned out to be a farther-reaching incident than Laeticia had thought, and the result is that she's ended up befriending Natalie, the girl who facilitated the theft. Laeticia quickly learns that Natalie isn't entirely to blame; she's been a puppet of her family from the start, and prior to meeting the figurehead queen, she didn't realize that standing up for herself was even possible. Interestingly, this has almost nothing to do with the fact that Laeticia is a reincarnated woman from modern Japan; instead it's a case of Natalie belonging to a strict and old fashioned scheming family, because in both this book and the previous one, we see other women who are perfectly capable of doing what they want. Natalie is a product of her family, not her time and place, and that means that friendship with Laeticia is more about a change within herself than revolutionizing the world.
As far as our heroine is concerned, both of those things can be accomplished with a judicious amount of tasty food and what we call in my house “fuzz therapy,” i. e. petting animals. If there are two things that Laeticia misses from her past existence, it's world cuisine and her Shiba Inu Jiro, and both of those continue to influence her as she makes peace with her current life and her past one. In some ways, the cooking takes precedence because it's something she has more control over. Her reclaimed memories include her baking hobby, and that's where she focuses a lot of her energy. Certainly this coincides with her love of animals; Berry, the Garden Cat she befriended before, remains a major part of Laeticia's life. Since Garden Cats are a magical species who can aid plants in their growth, that means that Berry's favorite fruit, the strawberry, is of necessity a large piece of Laeticia's baking, and this volume sees her largely overcoming the local resistance to the fruit. (As you may recall, it closely resembles a poisonous plant.) It is this that leads her to find a new outlet for her cooking in feeding Glenreed, her husband in name only. Glenreed, both in his human form and in his unknown-to-Laeticia wolf form as Lord Aroo, is not fond of eating. Laeticia finds this both odd and sad, and so she begins working to tempt his palate, correctly realizing that the necessity of testing each dish for poison before serving him means that the poor man has never had a hot meal. One of the most fun parts of this novel is watching how Glenreed's behavior as the man affects his actions as the wolf; once he tastes hot soup and toast as a human, Lord Aroo suddenly develops much more of an interest in trying various Earth delicacies, such as pizza, at Laeticia's house. In fact, it becomes very clear that Glenreed is taking advantage of his Lord Aroo form to spend an awful lot of time at Laeticia's villa – and that his motives aren't entirely food-based.
Obviously that's partly because Yu Sakurai is building the romantic subplot. It's almost taken as understood that eventually Glenreed has to realize that he wants Laeticia as his queen permanently, and he's presented as the more difficult of the two of them to convince. Laeticia, for her part, does like Glenreed (although not, it must be said, as much as the wolves), and she's perfectly happy living in Wolfvarte. Therefore, it is Glenreed who must come to the conclusion that she'd make a good queen and that he cares about her. He's certainly well on his way, although he's not particularly astute when it comes to his own feelings. He does have a vague realization that there may be some truth to the old saw about the way to a man's heart being through his stomach (a phrase trademarked by The Settlement Cookbook, which is amusing), but mostly he's beginning to be very impressed by the way Laeticia is handling political matters.
Her resolve to limit her interactions with the four queen candidates has, unsurprisingly, been upended by her involvement in the chiffon cake incident, which led to her befriending Natalie. Once that happened, two of the other candidates sought her out, which forms the political storyline for this volume. Beast person Kate is the major player this time. Kate is considered one of the better aspirants to the throne, but her personality, which is very emotional, and a rivalry with her younger half-sister Sienna are working against her. Kate wants Laeticia to throw her political currency in Kate's bucket, but that's not something the queen is willing to do. Instead she agrees to work with Kate to resolve the issue with Sienna, which is less likely to be interpreted as Laeticia backing Kate; it just says that she'd prefer Kate over Sienna without saying that Kate is the best candidate in general. What she doesn't realize is that all she's doing is proving her own superior candidacy…something which does not escape anyone's notice except her own.
Despite its political elements, I Will Cook with My Fluffy Friends' second volume is appropriately light and fluffy. There are more serious moments, but on the whole this is a pleasant, comfortable read. Laeticia's past life is clearly something that she misses and the romance plot is building, so there may be more serious storylines ahead in volume three. For now, though, this is a nice bit of escapism, albeit one you may not want to read when you're hungry.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Pretty illustrations, good pace for the more serious developments. Comfortable reading.
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