The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson

The Fox Woman (Love/War/Death, #1)Two young foxes watch an semi-abandoned country house.
His Lordship fails at the capital and retires to said country house.
Her Ladyship dutifully follows her husband, even though a strange thing happened to her at this very country house.

The countryside. Where things are not entirely civilized.

The young fox falls in love with His Lordship, and undertakes difficult magic to become Kitsune, a magical fox-woman.

His Lordship is depressed and doesn’t know when his happy youth faded into greyness. He watches his son play in high spirits, and grieves that one day his son, too, will fade to grey. He wonders if Her Ladyship, perfectly proper wife, is lying to him. and how often.

Her Laydship is determined to be perfect, as is her duty. She refuses to reveal her secret, because IT NEVER HAPPENED NO NO NO. But she urgently wants to get out of the countryside and back to the capital.

With everyone keeping secrets from everyone else, it’s pretty easy for the magic to convince His Lordship that he’s in love with Kitsune.

Using poetry to invite someone to your room isn’t enough – it’s important to choose the right ink, the right notepaper, the right material to tie the note with. If the correct ink somehow spilled in transit, Her Ladyship must send the wrong message – the right words, the right notepaper, but totally different implication because wrong ink. Fascinating.

I love the description of women’s rooms, always in shadow, while His Lordship goes out in the wind and rain. The description of the countryside and the city is beautiful without turning lyrical, which as far as I can tell means, The author fell in love with the pretty words and forgot to focus on the story.

Eventually, the truth comes out.
Or, harder:
Eventually, His Lordship and Her Ladyship tell each other the truth, and they resolve to put some work into living happily ever after.

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