There will be spoilers for the manhwa series This Villainess Wants a Divorce!.
Trigger Warning: I will discuss child abuse and child marriage as it appears in the manhwa.
This is a good old reincarnation story. A young Korean woman is reincarnated into a novel, and the person she has taken over happens to be the villainess of the story, Carnelia Easter. She just so happens to reincarnate right after her marriage to the crown prince, Caesar. If the original novel were to play out as it should, she would marry the male lead Caesar under the direction of the empress in an attempt to weaken Caesar's claim to the throne in favor of her own son. Caesar would eventually go off to war, return a hero, proving that he is worthy of the throne, and fall in love with the female lead Gracie Lancaster, who Carnelia tries to get rid of only to cause her own execution, resulting in Caesar being free to marry Gracie and to take over as emperor.
Not willing to set herself up to die this time around, she makes a concerted effort to help Caesar thwart his stepmother's plans as well as grow closer to Caesar. She does her best to ensure Caesar still achieves all of his goals while she cheers him on from the side in hopes he will grant her an amicable divorce so she can live out the remainder of her days in peace. Unfortunately, not everything goes to plan as Gracie and Caesar don't seem interested in each other, and Carnelia herself begins to fall in love with the prince instead. As a result, the story starts to change. Will Carnelia be able to keep herself alive in this unpredictable story, or is she destined to die no matter what?
I really, really enjoyed this manhwa. The art is great 99% of the time, and that 1% isn't even worth mentioning. The story itself is also super interesting and is actually fairly built out compared to some romance manhwa, where the story takes a backseat to the romance itself. If you are a big fan of politics and espionage, you will not be disappointed. All the plotting and the relationships between the families are fleshed out and interesting. I found that I was just as interested in the politics as I was in the romance, which was really refreshing.
However, that is not to say the romance wasn't fun. Once they finally get together and express their feelings, they are an incredibly sexy couple. Some of the scenes we get with them are some of the hottest I've seen in manhwa. We also get a pregnancy announcement, which I wish there were more of. It's crazy to me how much sex occurs in manhwa that does not result in pregnancy. I think pregnancy adds a nice layer to the story, so I really look for it in manhwa like this.
However, it is worth noting that 99% of the romantic tension is based solely on random misunderstandings. Caesar is a super awkward guy and isn't very good at picking up on hints, which results in many unfortunate circumstances. However, I also found that most people in this manhwa are not all that great at picking up on social cues. For example, there is one particular moment where there is a rumor that Carnelia has a romantic relationship with Noah, Caesar's half-brother and rival to the throne. Rather than ask either of them, Caesar starts avoiding them and stalking them to see if he can figure out if it is true. Then, one of his guards ends up overhearing Carnelia and Noah quibbling over an embarrassing moment when they were children. Noah wanted to go to bed with Caesar and Carnelia during their scheduled night together.
Of course, now that they are adults, Noah is completely embarrassed by this, knowing what the purpose of that night is for now. However, the knight hears it, assumes this confirms the rumor, and ends up tattling to Caesar. My thing is, if they were being so jovial and open about it, my first thought would not be that it was a confirmation of Carnelia cheating. I doubt they would be so dumb as to admit to something like that in front of Caesar's closest guards and confidantes. That misunderstanding really irked me.
However, something that didn't irk me in the least was the development of the side character Gracie. She is supposed to be the female lead, which ultimately ends up with Caesar based on the original novel. But, as Carnelia soon discovers, it might not be because Gracie loves Caesar that she wants to be with him. In reality, she doesn't want to marry him at all. Instead, she longs for the freedom to do as she pleases and would love to take over her father's position as head of their house, but because of her gender, she is limited to what her husband will allow and can't be in the running for her father's position.
Because of Carnelia, she finds the strength to go against this arbitrary law and seeks to change her fate and take power into her own hands. She is such a boss, and I absolutely love it. I also love that this manhwa goes against the stereotype that Gracie and Carnelia have to be enemies because Gracie sought Caesar's hand in marriage. Instead, they find common ground and become the best of friends, which leads to them passing a law that says women can be considered heirs, which is just everything. If you love women supporting women and kicking ass, then you will love this.
I think this definitely worth a shot. It does some things that really refresh the whole isekai/reincarnation story structure and breaks some of the stereotypes we often see in love triangle-style romances, which is super refreshing. Of course, if you have a problem with the whole “we don't communicate, so we end up causing unnecessary misunderstandings” trope, this will probably be a hard pass because that is what most of the romantic tension is based on. I really, really enjoyed this, regardless, and I can't wait to read the side stories as they come out!
Have you read This Villainess Wants a Divorce!? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!