I’ve always loved a good period drama, with the elaborate costumes and the comedy of manners that arises from characters trying to navigate the rigid social standards of their time. Thus, I was immediately interested in Goodbye, My Rose Garden, a historical romance manga, by Dr. Pepperco, set in England during the early part of the 20th century that focuses on the love between a noblewoman and her maid. That’s a juicy sounding topic for a yuri manga if ever I heard one, but right from the word go, Goodbye, My Rose Garden proved to be a more serious minded work then you might expect.
Hanako moved from Japan to England in hopes of meeting the novelist, Victor Franks, whom she greatly admires and whose works have given her hope and comfort. However, meeting the elusive author proves to be much more difficult then she imagined and no one seems willing to help her – except for Lady Alice, a kind nobleman who finds Hanako when she is at her lowest point and gives her a job as her lady’s maid. Hanako’s gratitude towards her benefactress quickly begins to deepen into more tender feelings as the two become friends, but, despite being born to wealth and status and being gifted with both beauty and grace, Lady Alice’s poise seems to conceal a deep misery and Hanako learns that she’s tormented by rumors that are being spread about her relationship with her former governess. Hanako wants to help Lady Alice, but doesn’t know how to go about it; that’s when Lady Alice approaches her with a terrible proposal. Lady Alice offers to arrange for Hanako to meet Mr. Franks at last and, in exchange, she begs Hanako to kill her!
Beautiful, dramatic and tinged with melancholy, Goodbye, My Rose Garden directly addresses the harmful consequences of prejudice and restrictive societal expectations on the lead characters. Lady Alice views her attraction to women as a sign of sickness and lives in fear that she will bring ruin, not just to herself, but to all of her loved ones. She has a strong sense of duty and can’t stand the thought of being the cause of suffering for her family. Lady Alice has agreed to an engagement with the man who is in line to inherit her family’s estate after her father’s death, but, despite all her efforts, rumors continue to dog her and she can’t prevent herself from feeling attracted to Hanako. With all of these pressures constantly weighting on her, death begins to seem like the only way out. Hanako doesn’t feel the same kind of shame about her sexuality that Lady Alice does, likely because homosexuality isn’t viewed in quite the same way in her culture as it is in Europe at this point in history, but she also suffers due to prejudice and frequently feels belittled and dismissed due to her gender. The judgement and cruelty of society seems like an insurmountable barrier to these two ladies’ finding happiness, but, even so, there is hope. Hanako hasn’t given up and is determined to find a way to save the woman she loves. I desperately hope that she’s able to succeed, as I’ve fallen in love with these two lovely and sweet ladies and I want them find a happily-ever-after together!
I’m not a dutiful enough student of history to know how accurate this manga is in its depiction of the period of time in which it’s set, but Dr. Pepperco does seem to have paid a high level of attention to historic details. Both Hanako and Lady Alice wear a variety of stunning period outfits and there are mentions of plot-relevant, then-current events, such as the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for having committed “indecent” acts with men and his later death while in France. The mention of this real world tragedy only serves to highlight how high the stakes are for our heroines, as homosexual acts are not just frowned upon, they’re against the law and more than just their reputations are at risk if they’re exposed.
Thanks to the lovely art, sympathetic leads and griping drama, I’ve been completely drawn in by this heart-string tugging tale of romance between a dignified lady wearing a mask to hide her pain and the sweet and open friend who wishes to rescue her from her sad fate. I’m rooting for Hanako and Lady Alice to find a way to be together and will eagerly await the release of the next volume, so I can discover what will become of their love story.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
For more information on this manga, visit Seven Seas website: https://sevenseasentertainment.com/books/goodbye-my-rose-garden-vol-1/
What did you think of this manga? Do you love a good period romance or do you prefer stories set in the modern day? Let me know in the comments. You can also check out some of my other recent yuri reviews: