(Mild spoilers) If there's one quick way to ruin a love story for me, it's with a love interest who isn't appealing and shoujo manga is really good at making me question many of my fellow reader's tastes in men. Shoujo romance with an action element has an especially common pitfall of trying too hard to make a man "dangerous" or "jealous" to the point of being anywhere between uncomfortable to straight up no-holds-barred abusive. After years of rolling my eyes at this trashy trope, I am proud to announce that I have finally found the abusive love interest that easily takes the cake as the worst male lead I have ever seen in a shoujo manga, and it's out supposedly dashing bishounen Edgar in The Earl and the Fairy.
Edgar is a bad boy, and the manga has no problem reminding us of this frequently. He lies, cheats, and manipulates throughout the entirety of the series. One character tries to point this out to our heroine and he almost kills her. Then he almost kills said heroine. Why on Earth does she stick around then, any sane reader would ask? Why, because one time he said the color of her hair was pretty when random strangers constantly told her it wasn't.
I'm not kidding. That's... literally the only reason she stays for the first half of the series. Then, in the second half, we learn Edgar had a difficult past, which apparently also excuses every horrible thing he has done or attempted to do. Except it really, really doesn't. The mangaka clearly isn't blinded by Edgar's charms, as we are reminded how manipulative the young man is very frequently, so this isn't a case of the writer being blind to their character's flaws. On the contrary, the writer constantly tells us more about how awful Edgar is and we're still expected to find him appealing because sad childhood weh.
Now, granted, The Earl and the Fairy is an interesting manga outside of its romantic element, set in a fairy-laden historical England. The problem is that the romance and the characters are the main focus of the story, and all throughout four irritating volumes of the worst romance I have ever seen in a shoujo anime I was too busy rolling my wishing I could slap every character involved to care much about what this manga does differently.
Only read this one if you're as desperate for historical fantasy shoujo as Lydia is desperate for someone to complement her hair.