There will be spoilers for the novel or novel series Limerence.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to cheating, violence, gaslighting, being outed, obsession, starvation/eating disorders, chronic illness, harassment, excessive drinking, drink tampering (with laxatives), gossip, ableism (use of r-slur), sharing nudes without consent, mysophobia (referred to as germaphobia in the text), and homomisia, as it appears in the novel or novel series.
Pei Ran and Luo Qingshan have been together since high school, three years and counting. Luo Qingshan is extroverted and overly affectionate, while Pei Ran is the opposite, more shy and reserved, and has mysophobia, making him averse to most of Luo Qingshan's affections. This often leads to them disagreeing or Luo Qingshan pleading and begging Pei Ran to relent, but they are otherwise comfortable. However, Pei Ran will give in as much as possible when Luo Qingshan's birthday comes around.
As much as he hates it, he goes out to a karaoke place with Luo Qingshan, along with a group of his friends. Everyone is drinking and smoking, two things Pei Ran has trouble being around. Another person who happens to be there is Su Nian, Luo Qingshan's close friend, who is more forward and affectionate with Luo Qingshan than Pei Ran would like. After a lot of drinking, Luo Qingshan heads to the bathroom. After a while, Pei Ran checks on him, only to find him and Su Nian kissing outside the bathroom.
Stunned, Pei Ran isn't sure what to do until Luo Qingshan's roommate Yan Zhun comes by and gets Pei Ran out of there. Comforted by Yan Zhun, Pei Ran spares no time to gather all of Luo Qingshan's things and break up with him the next time they meet. Luo Qingshan isn't ready to give up just yet, going out of his way to get close to Pei Ran and beg for his forgiveness. Pei Ran holds firm, thanks in part to the friendship he's found in Yan Zhun, but it isn't long before Yan Zhun makes it clear: he likes Pei Ran more than a friend.
Fresh out of a painful breakup, with an ex still hot on his heels and a love rival in Su Nian who bad-mouthes him any chance he gets, can Pei Ran find it in himself to fall for someone else? Or has the well of love been poisoned for good?
First off, let's talk about the writing. This isn't the first thing I've read from the publishing house Via Lactea, and while it won't be the last, this might be the worst in terms of formatting, translation, and grammar thus far. The first quarter is pretty decent, at least in line with most of their other publications, but from there, it goes downhill fast. The first thing I noticed that bothered me was the format of the editor's notes, which are in line with the narrative rather than as a reference at the bottom of the page or as a reference list at the back. It is very jarring. I like reading things within context, then, if I need additional info looking it up myself or in the notes, so having the notes in line with the novel itself is disruptive and less helpful since it muddles up the reading experience.
That is hardly a concern, though, as we get into the meat of the story. Then we see even more egregious errors. I can't decide if the formatting or the grammar is the worst part, but they're both pretty bad regardless. Sentences being cut in half and appearing on separate lines, multiple lines of dialogue from different speakers in the same paragraph, quotation marks being added to the wrong words, just generally poor or incorrect grammar, wrong words entirely, and incorrect verb forms, just to name a few. It made for a painful reading experience I had to trudge through to finish. How much is on the translator and how much is it on the original novel, I can't say, but based on Via Lactea's track record, I am compelled to think it's the former. It's also worth noting on their Amazon listings, they have a “Please do not order before the publication date to avoid getting the wrong version of the book.” notice on most of their titles, but they are all available for purchase, which feels somewhat disingenuous and weird. Why would something be available for purchase if it hasn't reached the publication date? Just strange. I hope that's maybe just a leftover from when the listings were on pre-order, but if it's not, I am stunned that they even have the option to purchase things they know aren't ready.
With all that being said, I loved the characterization of Pei Ran. He's a bit cold, distant, and aloof, which can make him unlikable, but I find him to be very strong. He has no problem establishing boundaries for himself. I can't express how satisfying it was that he broke up with his cheating boyfriend immediately and didn't let himself be swayed by him. He was my favorite character because of how honest and true to himself he was. I find that characters who are faithful to themselves are typically perceived as selfish, but I find it to be rather brave to only accept the best for yourself. Plus, Pei Ran doesn't take shit from anyone. He doesn't give a shit about anyone gossiping about him and takes everything in stride. He only goes out of his way to refute Su Nian and his bullshittery when his lies start harming Yan Zhun. He's like a knight in shining armor, and I love it.
I want to point out that the entire main story is smut-free, so if you want sexy time, you'll have to wait for the last extra to get it. If you are looking for a smut-free experience, then this is for you. Just note that the extras get pretty spicy, with the last being explicit. I would have liked more smut, especially since sex is an important point between Pei Ran and his ex. As it turns out, Pei Ran would never sleep with Luo Qingshan in all their time together due to his mysophobia. When Pei Ran does end up sleeping with Yan Zhun, it makes it clear that Pei Ran truly loves him, while maybe his feelings for his ex were never as strong. This isn't without reason. Luo Qingshan is often depicted as very self-centered and often crosses boundaries with Pei Ran, knowing what they are. Meanwhile, when Yan Zhun learns of the boundaries, he goes out of his way to ensure he follows them, even before they start dating. Pei Ran can actually trust Yan Zhun, where he couldn't Luo Qingshan, which makes all the difference.
This had so much potential. I loved Pei Ran (he reminded me of a softer version of my character Asher), and I really enjoyed how devoted and thoughtful Yan Zhun was. It's hard to say I like this, though, because of how poorly this was formatted and edited. I wouldn't say this is worth the money as it is. Assuming I did get the “wrong version,” as their Amazon listing suggests could be the case, I hope that they do upload the right version. If not, then I'd say steer clear unless you are just desperate for danmei, quality be damned.
Have you read Limerence? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!