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Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

“She had always thought that it was merely a loveless arranged marriage, but it turned out that the marriage happened under his perseverance and determination.  The only loveless person in this marriage was herself.  If there was indeed reincarnation, she was willing to try to respond to his love, to repay his unconditional love for the past ten years.” (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Chapter Five)

“The level of attention and apprehension made Jiang Yao feel guilty and remorseful. .Honestly speaking, everyone in the Lu family treated her very nicely.  Even Mrs. Lu, who had never liked her very much, had never liked her very much, had never given her a hard time despite some mild verbal chiding ever since she was married to Lu Xingzhi…Se reminisced about what she had done to this wonderful family in her previous life.  She was the reason this family had lost their only son and were also left with no descendants. Unspeakable remorse filled her heart to the brim.” (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Chapter Sixteen)

Jiang Yao has escaped into the mountains, choosing to work in remote villages in order to get away from her husband, Lu Xingzhi. However, one of the guards sent to escort her and her companions to safety from a mud slide turns out to be her spouse, though she hasn’t seen him in years.  After he dies protecting her, Jiang Yao reads his will and discovers the depth of his feelings for her.

Waking up in her marital bed, Jiang Yao discovers that she has been transmigrated to the day after her wedding, years in the past.  In her former life, she had entered college and volunteered her skills as a doctor in remote areas to avoid Lu Xingzhi. Now given a second chance, she wants to explore her relationship with Lu Xingzhi from a new perspective.  With a new attitude towards her spouse, Jiang Yao will surprise those around her, as well as herself.

Some readers might find it very sweet that Jiang Yao took Lu Xingzhi’s side after his death.  The young woman is clearly remorseful after realizing that her husband loved her, despite their arranged marriage.  However, I found it really obnoxious that she immediately regretted her past actions. She blames herself for his death, even though he was the one who followed her after she made it clear that she did not want to see him. He acknowledges that she didn’t care for him and that he was stalking her! I understand that she didn’t realize that he loved her, but her reaction is a little overblown.  Jiang Yao made it very clear that she wanted nothing to do with him, but Lu Xingzhi did not respect her wishes.

Jiang Yao classifies her past actions towards Lu Xingzhi as emotional abuse.  I disagree with this statement.  After an arranged marriage, she made it clear that she was not interested in Lu Xingzhi and left to pursue her own goals.  While he was never violent, his kindness does not automatically guarantee his wife’s love.  This novel views love in a very simplistic way, believing that love deserves reciprocal feelings, even when these feelings are not natural or desired.

Though the initial stalking plot bothered me, the story moves past it, with Jiang Yao attempting to live a better life (on her terms) with her husband.  Her grief in his death, especially the effect it would have on his family, makes Jiang Yao want to be a better wife, daughter-in-law, and person.  This is both to the benefit and detriment of the story.  Jiang Yao wants to learn from her past, but the way she does it does not always ring true.  It is never wrong to change for the better, but Jiang Yao’s motives do not seem to be her own.

The real issue with this novel is that Jiang Yao decides to change her life for someone else.  Her attitude, demeanor, and actions are all swayed by how they might affect Lu Xingzhi.  This is not an enjoyable position to see a female protagonist in.  Though readers can respect the fact that she has decided to change her life after her transmigration, it is sometimes hard to swallow the fact that she is changing everything about herself to please someone else and make up for past actions that no longer matter.

Following a theme of transmigration in romance novels, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You uses time travel to give Jiang Yao another chance at love.  However, unlike other transmigration romances, Jiang Yao was not hurt and betrayed by her family and enemies.  Instead of a juicy plot of vengeance and retaliation, readers watch Jiang Yao alter her personality to suit the desires of another.  She has been given a second chance at love; that is all.  While this could create a sweet story, it may not be enough to keep readers interested.

This romance hits the necessary tropes to make it a part of this classic genre, but in the process removes the agency of its female lead.  Jiang Yao decides to transform herself after transmigration, though she was not a bad or weak person before.  She had fled an arranged marriage with a man she did not love; she does not owe Lu Xingzhi her love, though this novel wants us to believe that she is responsible for his death in her past life.  Without a strong plot of revenge, passion, drama, or comedy, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You failed to capture the interest and curiosity of this reader.