Stepping on Roses, Volume 9 by Rinko Ueda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
**Slight spoilers ahead**
A fitting and beautiful ending to a historical, romantic, shojo manga that kept me on edge! Probably my favorite manga series so far.
In a nutshell, for those who haven't read the previous volumes, the main characters, Sumi (a poor girl) and Soichiro (heir to wealth), agree to marry, although they are strangers, for their mutual benefit. Through their shame marriage Sumi gains the money she needs for her family and Soichiro gains his inheritance and the respect of his grandfather.
Throughout the course of the series, it seems like Sumi and Soichiro could truly fall in love if they would just put their differences and conflicting personalities aside. Soichiro's best friend, Nozomu, also causes conflict, because to begin with Nozomu and Sumi have a mutual crush on each other. As the series progresses, Nozomu more or less becomes the villain, forcing Sumi to leave Soichiro against her will.
Nearly every chapter ends on a cliff-hanger...almost soap opera style. I ran through volumes 1-6 in a matter of days because I couldn't stand the "not-knowing" what was going to happen. I called it my manga "Downton Abbey."
I was a little surprised that Vol. 9 was the final volume, but a little glad too, because the overall conflict couldn't have realistically lasted much longer. In my opinion, the volume didn't feel rushed and all the loose ends were tied up, plus a few I hadn't really thought of.
My only, and very small, compliant, is that Sumi didn't stand up for herself in the end. She, seemingly, has the opportunity to save herself from a bad situation and doesn't take it. Soichiro rushes in to save the day, which makes for a more classic, romantic ending, but it wasn't the one I was expecting.
But with that aside, when I have more free time, I'm looking forward to re-reading this series again and again! I think it's safe to say I'm going to be a life-long Rinko Ueda fan.
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