Harelequin Manga Quick Takes: Maddie’s Love Child, Expecting the Boss’ Baby, The Royal Marriage, and Word of a Gentleman

I went on a .99 cent shopping spree in the Harlequin manga section of the Kindle store recently, so here are some quick takes on bargain romance manga.

Maddie’s Love Child

The Maddie in question in this title is an Australian headstrong leather-garbed interior designer, who enjoys making rich and remote men fall in love with her and then stomps on their hearts. She’s also longing for a baby but not a husband, so she is determined to track down the perfect sperm donor. Miles McMillan, remote and rich British businessman comes back into her life. Maddie and Miles met previously but he rejected her advances because he was engaged. Now that he’s broken things off with his fiancee, he decides to return to Australia for business…and something else. Maddie and Miles start to date, but will her baby making schemes and romantic foibles, combined with his emotional reticence and uptight British ways result in a romance or just a whole bunch of emotional trauma? Maddie’s internal dialogues sizing up Miles’ fatherhood prospects (“My child would never learn his arrogance or cold pride. And I could give it all of my love!”) were pretty hilarious. The art in this title was a little stilted, but generally attractive. Maddie’s personality and forthright nature was refreshing compared to other Harlequin heroines, so if reading about emotionally distant British businessmen falling in love is one of the romance novel tropes that you enjoy, this title was worth the .99 cents.


Expecting the Boss’ Baby

In Harlequin world billionaire bachelors with attractive secretaries end up accidentally impregnating them FAR TOO OFTEN! Michael is a rich emotionally distant man who accidentally celebrates a business deal with his capable secretary Kate a bit too much. She’s now secretly pregnant and harbors feelings of affection towards Michael the millionaire robot, but he is oblivious and doesn’t want any sort of emotional connection with Kate. When he makes his feelings known to her, she promptly quits. Michael is emotional remote because he grew up in an orphanage, his only friends are a couple of other millionaires who dispense warped advice about women and relationships. When Michael realizes that Kate is pregnant, he’s determined to ensure that his child won’t grow up without a father. This was very much a middle of the road title for me. Both the story and art were about average in terms of what one would expect from a Harlequin manga adaptation. This is part of a trilogy, as I’m sure Michael’s millionaire bachelor friends also find themselves promptly married off in later installments.

The Royal Marriage

This title had the vaguely retro art that I tend to enjoy most when reading Harlequin manga. There are plenty of big eyes and flowing hair abounds as Gabriella, the Brazilian heiress finds herself trapped in a marriage with Prince Ricardo. Ricardo has the reputation of a playboy, but when Gabriella’s father dies, leaving her with no family and a will with some very odd provisions, she decides to go through with the marriage. Gabriella settles into her new rule as princess, while trying to figure out her feelings towards her new husband. There’s a bit of palace intrigue, and Gabriella is a bit sassier than the usual Harlequin heroine. Along with Maddie’s Love Child, this was the title I enjoyed the most out of this batch of four manga.

Word of a Gentleman

I tend to take notice when I find a Harlequin title with decent art, because mostly I tend to expect somewhat lackluster art. Of the batch, this had the worst artistic adaptation, with stilted, out of proportion characters. The sub-par quality of the lettering was also distracting. This was a bit of a shame, because aspects of the story were a bit interesting. Clarissa decides that she’s going to hire herself a poor husband in order to get away from the machinations of her evil guardian Uncle and the loutish pawing of her cousin. She fixates on Hugh Richfield, who actually decides to take her up on her offer to pay him to elope with her. Hugh and Clarissa take off for Gretna Green and have some adventures along the way. Unfortunately the happy ending where everybody suddenly becomes rich strains even my willing suspension of disbelief.

Harlequin Manga: Angus’s Lost Lady and The Seduction Bid

Although I’ve read a bit of manga on the Kindle app for my iPad, I haven’t actually read any manga on my newest toy – a Kindle Paperwhite. When I discovered that there were actually several Harlequin manga for sale for .99 cents on amazon, I wasted no time in purchasing them. I was particularly interested in these two titles, because I’d previously read another title adapted by Kazuko Fujita, Sale or Return Bride. I tend to assume that the art for these Harlequin adaptations is going to be fairly rushed, but either Fujita’s art is among the best that I’ve seen in a Harlequin manga. Her character designs are attractive, and she manages to convey a great deal of nuance in their facial expressions, with the end result that she ends up elevating the stories in these volumes. Backgrounds are sparse, and if you read Fujita’s manga one after the other you will notice that she only draws one basic hero, but she does draw him very well.

Buying Harlequin manga on the Kindle is a bit confusing because there are multiple editions for each title, but I’m linking to the editions that I bought and read here.

Angus’s Lost Lady by Kazuko Fujita and Marie Ferraella

Angus’s Lost Lady is the story of a PI and single father named Angus who is surprised to see a woman with with a lost shoe and amnesia on his doorstep. The only clue to her identity is the fact that she’s clutching his business card, but she hasn’t met him before. She has a head injury as a result from being grazed by a bullet. Since this is a romance manga Angus promptly moves the lost woman into his apartment, introducing her to his daughter Vikki and trying to jog her memory by giving her a phonebook to read. The woman decides to adopt the name Rebecca. Rebecca and Angus investigate her accident and missing memories, and along the way struggle with their attraction for each other. The old “woman in danger with amnesia” is not a novel plot device, but Fujita does a good job portraying the chemistry between Angus and Rebecca, and Rebecca isn’t as simpering and weak as many Harlequin amnesia ladies usually are.

The Seduction Bid by Kazuko Fujita and Amanda Browning

Perhaps it is due to my own anger management issues, but I generally enjoy it when women in romance manga yell a lot. In this case, the heroine of The Seduction Bid barges into an office and starts to chew out an incredibly handsome man who she thinks is an unscrupulous reporter for a local tabloid. Carrie is determined to defend one of her friends from scandal. While she is momentarily distracted by the stormy grey eyes of the man she is yelling at, she ends up storming out of the office ranting about “garbage journalism”. The man with the mysterious grey eyes decides that he wants to be yelled at forever and vows to marry her. Later, as Carrie is hanging out at the house belonging to the parents of her late husband she is introduced to the object of her rant and he turns out to be Lance, cousin of the gutter journalist. Lance then proceeds to relentlessly pursue the reluctant Carrie, and his charm gradually begins to wear down her well developed defense mechanisms.

The attractive art makes these volumes a pleasure to read, and the stories are basically what you’d expect from Harlequin. Reading these on the Kindle was fine – the size of the manga to fit the Kindle screen is about what you’d see in a Japanese tankobon, and since the backgrounds of the manga weren’t particularly detailed, the smaller reading size for the manga didn’t make much of a difference. At only a dollar a pop, buying these is a no-brainer for anyone who enjoys Harlequin manga.

Harlequin Manga from Jmanga.com: Cowboys, Babies, and Shotgun Vows and The Billionarie Boss’s Forbidden Mistress

Cowboys, Babies, and Shotgun Vows by Shirley Rodgers and Yoshiko Hanatsu

Cowboys, Babies, and Shotgun Vows is the best type of Harlequin manga, where the great adaptation manages to make a typical Harlequin story into something really enjoyable. Ryder (hahaha) McCall is fairly full of himself, as he thinks he is “Texas’ No. 1 bachelor.” However his womanizing ways are put to the test when he meets Ashley in a bar. He defends her honor from some creeps and she throws up on him. They end up having a one night stand, and when Ryder wakes up in the morning Ashley is gone. He returns home to work on his family’s ranch, absentminded because he can’t stop thinking of his mystery woman. He learns that Ashley is the daughter of an oil baron who ran away from her wedding, and tracks her down where she’s working in a diner as a waitress to preserve her anonymity. When he realizes that Ashley is pregnant, he decides that he’s going to keep her close until he can win her affections and offers her an accounting job back on his family’s ranch.

Hanatsu’s art has a fluid, simple style that really suits this manga well. There are plenty of Harlequin stories that feature lunkheaded heroes, but there’s a warmth and humor to Hanatsu’s illustrations that make Ryder’s abrupt protestations of love amusing and oddly endearing. Hanatsu captures funny family moments as shown when Ryder’s little sister dramatically prays for his success in love clasping her hands under her chin while evoking the specter of girlfriends past and concluding “Please let my stupid brother be happy.” Ryder asks Ashley out on a second date by denying that he is weird and saying “I love you, will you go out with me?” Ryder’s enthusiasm for the possibility of a ready-made family with Ashley, and her understandable reluctance to commit to a man she barely knows forms the bulk of the story, but everything turns out as the reader would expect. This volume ranked up there as one of my most enjoyable Harlequin reads due to the simplicity and expressiveness of the art, and I’d pick up further Harlequin manga adaptations by Yoshiko Hanatsu without a second thought.

The Billionaire Boss’s Forbidden Mistress by Miranda Lee and Megumi Toda

This is one case where a somewhat tired plot can’t really be saved by the art. Leah’s father is a powerful stockbroker, but she works as a receptionist for a small cosmetics company. Leah is damaged psychologically by the aftereffects of a car accident that left her with a large scar on her leg and a divorce from a husband who wanted a physically perfect wife. Jason is a corporate raider who recently acquired Leah’s company and he is unscrupulous enough to randomly hit on receptionists, but moral enough not to want to hurt Leah when he learns more about her past. The art on The Billionaire Boss’s Forbidden Mistress is fine for a Harlequin adaptation, but there’s a bit of stiffness here and there with the character’s poses. There are however plenty of starry eyes and flowing hair, which I feel is fairly essential in Harlequin manga. Overall, this was fairly middle of the road for Harlequin manga. The main thing that was missing for me was any element of humor in the story or visual adaptation. If a volume like this is mostly non-stop angst and random misunderstandings that keep the couple apart until the last page, there just isn’t enough dramatic tension to keep me engaged in the story. This volume also probably suffered a bit from being read right after Cowboys, Babies, and Shotgun Vows, because that manga was so much more fun for me to read.

Harlequin Manga: Acting on Impulse and Vengeful Seduction

Acting on Impulse by Natsue Ogoshi and Vicki Lewis Thompson
Available on emanga.com

I always enjoy Harlequin manga when they exhibit a strong sense of humor. Acting on Impulse is plenty funny as it details the adventures of a naive farmgirl who moves to New York City, determined to live a “metropolitan” lifestyle. Unfortunately Trudy’s expectations of New York are entirely drawn from popular entertainment, which results in occasional hilarity. Trudy’s landed a job as a lowly office worker at a PR firm. She’s friends with a couple in the city who decide that her arrival is a perfect opportunity to fix her up with confirmed bachelor Linc. They ask Linc to be Trudy’s tour guide and look out for her as she gets adjusted to life in the big city. When Trudy meets Linc she pronounces him almost as handsome as her favorite actor and asks him to intone the lines “Admit you want me. I’ll give you ecstasy like you’ve never had before.” They promptly enter into a relationship where they are dating but proclaiming that they aren’t dating, because she wants to experience the freedom of the city and he is afraid of commitment. Trudy’s excess of enthusiasm and bizarre expectations of city life give her more personality than I’ve come to expect from a Harlequin heroine. The art is a little rushed at times, but the characters are attractive and the funny dialog goes a long way to make Acting on Impulse fun to read.

Vengeful Seduction by Cathy Williams and Yukako Midori
Available on emanga.com

Vengeful Seduction is the story of a woman forced to betray her true love when an evil man blackmails her into marriage, only to be dramatically confronted by her past when her drunk husband kills himself and her father in a car accident. Shortly after dealing with her father and horrible husband’s deaths, Isobel is confronted with her ex-boyfriend Lorenzo. Now a successful businessman, he appears again in her life to buy and turn around her family’s failing business. He intends to get Isobel back too, but she’s determined not to be treated like a possession again. As Isobel and Lorenzo are forced to spend more time together, details about her evil husband and her father’s potentially shady business dealings emerge. This harlequin manga had a general feeling of doom and sadness, without the touches of humor that I tend to enjoy. If I’m reading something silly I’d rather have something to laugh about, as opposed to a story that while somewhat goofy takes itself too seriously. So, I am not a fan of Vengeful Seduction, but Acting on Impulse was fun enough to make up for it.

Online access provided by the publisher.

Harlequin Manga Quick Takes – Married by Mistake!, Caribbean Desire, and Marriage Wanted

All titles available on emanga.com.

Married by Mistake by Takako Hashimoto and Renee Roszel Wilson

I didn’t realize when I started this that it is a further book in a series with a harlequin manga I read earlier, To Marry a Stranger. In this book, the heroine of To Marry a Stranger has been impregnated by her husband with an eye patch. Helen starts having contractions near the infamous “Mansion of Love” so of course she and her sister Lucy are stuck with having to deal with a sudden home birth in the romantically cursed house. Lucy manages to assist her sister with having twins in the space of a panel. Let me tell you, I’ve had twins and it doesn’t happen that quickly! Lucy is exhausted after assisting her sister and thinks back about her fiance Stader, who kept postponing their marriage. This Stadler guy is no prize as in Lucy’s memory he appears with wavy hair and an odd sort of cravat. Do not trust a man wearing a cravat unless you live in the early 19th century, ladies. Lucy is woken by Jack, a man with intense eyebrows and a decent suit who is wearing a tie instead of a cravat. This looks promising.

Lucy mentions the legend that if a woman spends the night of her birthday at the mansion of love, the first man she sees the next day will be her destined love. It is the day after her birthday, and Jack looks both befuddled and horrified. He’s Lucy’s ex-stepbrother and he has loved her for a long time. It turns out that Lucy’s horrible cravat-wearing fiance has decided to get engaged to an actress and travel to Lucy’s hometown in a fit of cravat-inspired cruelty. Lucy’s family promptly decides that Lucy has to pretend to have a fiance for revenge and Jack is just the person for the job. The art in this adaptation is really much better than the typical Harlequin manga title. The backgrounds might be sparse, but the character designs are distinct and attractive. What I found most amusing was the wacky facial expressions of Lucy’s family as they cheer on her fake romance. I was especially amused by the antics of Lucy’s one-eyed brother-in-law Damian who was the tortured hero in To Marry a Stranger, as he keeps popping up in chibi form with a big grin to cheer on his sister-in-law. In conclusion, men with cravats are bad, but men with eye patches or suits are good. This is what I’m taking away from this Harlequin manga.

Caribbean Desire by Cathy Williams and Takane Yonetani

The cover for this looks good, because it appears that there are wind machines blowing the male and female leads’ hair in opposite directions. Unfortunately the inside of this manga doesn’t feature the goofy fun I tend to prefer in my Harlequin manga adaptations. Emma arrives on an island to interview the rich businessman Alastair for his biography. She develops an intense dislike for the Conrad, the man currently running Alastair’s company. Emma has a secret connection with Alastair’s family, but will she reveal her secret before it is too late? And what will she do with her growing attraction to Conrad? The storyline was as predictable as Harlequins usually are, but there wasn’t really any humor to lighten things up. The art and adaptation were pretty typical, with stiffly posed characters and sketchy backgrounds. This wasn’t a good title to read right after Married by Mistake!, because it really suffered in comparison.

Marriage Wanted by Debbie Macomber and Eve Takigawa

Savanna is a wedding coordinator with an injured leg. Dash is a divorce attorney who has given up on love. Together they find love through a marriage of convenience, as one always does in Harlequin romance world. I tend to enjoy Harlequin manga very much when the art has a vaguely 1980s aesthetic. Even though this adaptation was produced in 2005, I still see a bit of a retro feel to the art with Dash’s square jaw and Emma’s bright eyes. Savanna is convinced the she’ll never find love because her limp makes her unattractive to men. Dash comes into Savanna’s store and proceeds to lecture her about the meaninglessness of weddings when he finds out that she’s planning his little sister’s wedding. Dash and Savannah spend more time with each other and decide to enter into a marriage of convenience when he needs a wife to get a promotion and she needs a husband to get her parents to stop being so overprotective. There wasn’t much humor in this title, but the art was better than average and it was fun seeing Dash and Savanna argue with each other over the value of marriage.

Access to electronic copies provided by the publisher.