Kaoru Mori's Emma, #1
Or something like that.
I think if I had known manga was similar to graphic novels, I might not have waited so long to make my first attempt. As it were, thanks to Read Harder 2019, I begged the internet to recommend some historical romance manga, and across the board, folks recommended this series.
Holy crap, it was so charming.
Emma, Vol. 01 by Kaoru Mori (森 薫)
Copy from public library
Historical Fiction and Read Harder challenges
Set in 1885 London, our heroine, Emma, is a maid for a retired governess. The governess' former ward, William Jones, is now a young man tasked with managing his family's business and fortune. He's immediately smitten by the quiet Emma but social constraints prevent him from openly pursuing her.
There's not much more to the story than that, and the delight is in William and Emma and their circles. William's classmate Hakim visits from India, with a curious entourage that includes elephants (Hakim is hands down my favorite part of this series) while Emma's employer can't help but try to play matchmaker.
Though translated, this manga keeps with the Japanese right-to-left orientation, which initially intimidated me, but I grew accustomed to it quickly. Mori's art is sweet and full of movement and expression, punctuated with full pages of landscape to establish mood and place.
My only complaint is that things felt a bit superficial to me -- especially the infatuation everyone has for Emma. We see more of William and his life in this volume, and I find him interesting and charming, but Emma is just sort of an enigma. (She's flushed out a little more in volume 2 but even then, I don't have a strong sense of her.)
Still, I liked this first one so much I've gone out and gotten the next four volumes, as well as Mori's other series, A Bride's Story. Such a pleasant surprise from this reading challenge!