I was expecting to enjoy this, but it still managed to pleasantly surprise me! For a game set over the course of a few weeks, the romances are astonishingly convincing. (It helps that Iolanthe's home life is pretty unbearable, so all the eloping feels reasonable.) The dialogue was frequently quite clever, and I especially liked how the romance was understated without becoming lifeless.
I usually avoid otome games that allow too much MC customization, because that generally seems to mean either inconsistent characterization or a binary choice between being a pushover or a jerk. I like leads who have strong personalities, rather than self-inserts, so the more defined the MC is as a person, the better. But Iolanthe was somehow clever and refreshing no matter how I played her, which was lovely. (Even though I never could quite bring myself to make her leave her toothbrush behind, or sit around admiring posteriors when she could be helping the stablehand, so I'm sure I missed out on some options). It helps that no matter what you pick, she's never stupid or shy; it's just a matter of how willing she is to play the Court's games, and why she chooses to or not.
And for once the flexibility of character actually feels necessary—the love interests are quite different sorts of people, so it seems fitting they'd have different types. Leopold, for instance, almost requires the "strong, cunning hellion" that's happy to speak her mind and wreck tea parties for fun and profit, while the more reserved "commanding, diplomatic scholar" feels like the woman the Prince needs in his life to help him navigate treacherous political waters.
I really liked the subtle changes based on your chosen traits, like how being commanding means you get an additional layer of badassery at the tea party when the servant fetches a chair for you without you needing to ask. I think the only time what I chose and what happened didn't match up was on Guillaume's route. I had Iolanthe say she didn't love Guillaume, but wanted to be queen still. Then in the next scene she promptly agreed to marry him even if he renounced his title, which felt...off. But fair enough, really, since picking that option feels OOC in the first place, given everything that comes before it on the route!
This is already too long, but I'd feel weird reviewing an otome game without mentioning the actual routes, so in brief:
Bastien: Adorable. The scene where he realizes that, even if he stays a steward, Iolanthe will eventually leave him, was wonderfully heartbreaking. I would have maaaybe enjoyed more opportunities for Iolanthe to deliberately fluster him, because his reactions are so cute when she does.
Guillaume: I'm a sucker for shy kids who are forced to act like the opposite. And his argument with Iolanthe is handled just right, by which I mean it's good that she gives him the cold shoulder until he apologizes properly. She deserves as much. Overall, I enjoyed watching the MC slowly draw him out of the mindset of a figurehead.
Charlotte: Darling. I just want to spirit her away from everything and make all her dreams come true, which is exactly how the route ends, so yay!
Sofia: Nicely bittersweet and realistic in how they resolve the main conflict. Sofia's a good counterpoint to Charlotte. I made Iolanthe a scholar for her route and it was wonderful seeing two intelligent, classy ladies bond inside the gilded cage they share.
Leopold: I am here for Mr. Tilney types, who know how dumb the social rules are but play to win anyway. His reactions to Iolanthe's troublemaking are priceless; the two of them are a power couple in the making. I did feel like Iolanthe got talked into participating in his plans too quickly, but eh. He's worth it.
Secret Route: A perfect finale and deliciously angsty. It really felt like they were off in their own world together. In terms of chemistry, it might have been the strongest of the romances.
In conclusion: great job! Now I'm going to hop on over to the sequel page and see what's cooking there.