Harlequin Manga: Valentines, Revenge, and Secrets

Sometimes when reading one wants the equivalent of a decadent Sacher-Torte and other times one might want is a Ho Ho Snack Cake. Is Harlequin manga good? Could the question essentially be meaningless? Sometimes the combination of hackneyed plot tropes and rushed manga adaptations comes together to produce something extraordinary, although most of the time I tend to find it adequate and that’s ok! Sometimes you just want to eat a Ho Ho or read a Harlequin manga. There’s fortunately plenty of selection available on Kindle Unlimited and here are three that I’ve read recently in honor of Valentine’s Day:

Valentine Vendetta by Sharon Kendrick and Miho Tomoi

Valentine Vendetta is the story of a successful party planner named Fran Fisher. Her alcoholic friend Rosie claimed to have been callously used for sex by Sam Lockhart. Rosie wants to be smuggled into a party that Fran is planning so she can confront this terrible womanizer. When Fran shows up at Sam’s house she’s a bit surprised that he’s living in a mansion in the country as a literary agent. Even more mysterious is the fact that Sam is sporting some unconvincing stubble in the first few panels that introduce him, but then he leaves Fran to take a call and comes back clean-shaven. Was he really taking a phone call? What happened with his beard? I honestly spent most of this manga speculating about stubble and wondering when it was coming back only for that mystery to remain unresolved. Sam drives Fran to the train station, and she’s immediately attracted to the messy state of the backseat of his car, it doesn’t match up with the playboy image she has in her head.
Fran just learns how wrong her assumptions were when Rosie and a pack of other women show up and cause a scene at Sam’s Valentine’s Party, and it turns out that they are all upset because they were essentially stalking him! Fran’s put her party planning business on the line for some extremely questionable reasons! Sam however keeps popping up in Fran’s life, she learns more about him and his family and eventually falling in love with him! Miho Tomoi’s adaptation is clear and easy to follow, but I would have appreciated a bit more visual interest, just because the plotline of this title was fairly bland. I wanted more vendettas!

Valentine Vendetta

Alexei’s Passionate Revenge by Helen Bianchin and Yu Mahara

After being a bit let down by Valentine Vendetta, I was hoping for more dramatic plot twists in Alexi’s Passionate Revenge. Revenge doesn’t work when it is too dispassionate, does it? This volume kicks off with Natalya Montgomery being blackmailed into working for the CEO who bought out her father’s company who happens to be her ex-boyfriend Alexi. Now Natalia is stuck being Alexi’s personal assistant unless she wants the secret of her father’s affairs to be released to the media. The plot of this story proceeds in a lovely smorgasbord of tropes including parental alienation, a pregnancy scare, a private villa in New Zealand, a gay best friend, and even more complications that ensured just because Alexi and Natalia had actually managed to have a conversation about their feelings before engaging in blackmail-based business practices. The character designs and illustrations for Alexi’s Passionate Revenge were a bit blocky, and not as delicate as I would have liked, although it was all adept enough. One thing I’m not a fan of is that the revenge in this story was pretty one-sided. Where’s Natalya’s revenge? I hope that she’s planning on something in the future but I won’t count on it.

Alexi's Passionate Revenge

Her Secret Valentine by Helen Brooks and Akemi Maki

This manga has more of the old school quality to the art that I enjoy in Harlequin manga adaptations, although even that isn’t enough to save it from a rather lackluster story with little dramatic tension. Everyone’s eyelashes are three inches long and the heroine has starry eyes all the time. In my mind, this makes up for a certain lack of detail in the backgrounds. Ward Ryan is a widower with a young daughter. Jeanie is his colleague at a law firm who has been crushing on him for years. Ward discovers her crying with frustration about her crush at the office one day and invites him home for dinner. He’s assumes that she’s crying over a man, and says that Jeanie’s imaginary boyfriend is no good for her! Jeanie helps out at Ward’s daughter’s birthday party and they grow closer, while Ward becomes more and more upset that Jeanie’s man doesn’t appreciate her. It is fairly amusing to constantly hear Ward bashing himself to Jeanie. Eventually Jeanie decides that she can’t keep nurturing her crush and quits the law firm, and Ward decides to start pursuing her. Really, there wasn’t very much dramatic tension in this story, and the curly eyelashes didn’t make up for it.

Her Secret Valentine

I would say that out of the three of these volumes, Alexi’s Passionate Revenge was probably the best example of the genre, there were enough inexplicable and yet entirely predictable plot twists to satisfy most Harlequin manga connoisseurs. Now that I’ve revived my Harlequin manga habit, I will continue my quest to find the perfect example of insane plot points and rose-petal filled art.

Harlequin Manga: His Virgin Mistress and Night of Love

I recently read several Harlequin manga, and there was not a single kidnapping, secret baby, or case of amnesia in any of the titles! Despite my disappointment, there were a few manga in this batch that were entertaining. I’ll have another Harlequin manga post soon!

His Virgin Mistress by Anne Mather and Kazuko Fujita

This title seems very logistically complicated, or perhaps not very useful, because it seems like having a virgin mistress would be counter to the purpose of having a mistress in the first place. In this case, Joanna has agreed to pretend to be the mistress of a Greek tycoon who is struggling with a horrible illness. He’s returning home for his daughter’s wedding and doesn’t want his family distracted with the knowledge that he’s suffering from an incurable disease, so he decides to distract them with a beautiful young fake English mistress instead. Does he have a handsome son? If you have to ask you have never read a Harlequin romance! Demitri is incredibly perplexed when he meets Joanna, because she seems far too serious and intelligent to be a mistress. He’s instantly attracted to her, and horribly conflicted because he doesn’t approve of his father having a mistress.

The art in this title was a few steps above what I come to expect from a Harlequin manga. The character designs are attractive and distinctive, and Fujita illustrates the interactions between the characters with great fluidity. Demitri stomps around in the throws of angst, and Johanna is much more disposed to dealing with her turmoil inwardly. I’d recommend this title if you enjoy romances with a Mediterranean setting or virgin mistresses.

Night of Love by Diana Palmer and Harumo Sanazaki

I bought this title because the cover made me think that it would be a good example of the 80s manga style Harlequin manga adaption that I find particularly delightful. However, when I started reading I was a bit distracted because all the male characters were strongly afflicted with a case of triangle face. Most of the illustrations of men in this book basically gave them the facial structure of a guitar pick, with insect-like eyebrows. I did find this title entertaining because the heroine Meg was a prima ballerina with an injury who is forced to return home to recuperate. She’s spunky and still carries a torch for Steven, a businessman who she used to be engaged to. Their families conspired to break off the engagement for both of them. There is much emotional trauma when Meg and Steven meet again and their attraction to each other is immediately rekindled. There are many panels of sad people with flowing hair with roses in the background, which always adds that special touch to any Harlequin manga adaptation. There’s a lot of “I hate you but I love you!” in the relationship between Meg and Steven, and they gradually realize that they’ve both been making incorrect assumptions about each other’s feelings. There’s a random prince from the Middle East and a spy-related subplot to add additional suspense to the story. I have to say that I found the ending of this book a bit disappointing, because Meg demonstrates plenty of spunkiness throughout the book, yet towards the end of the book she just decides to give up so many of the things she’s been invested of for so long. This isn’t uncommon in Harlequin titles, but it is a little too old fashioned for my taste.

Harlequin Manga – The Venetian’s Midnight Mistress and the Italian Prince’s Proposal

I do enjoy a Harlequin manga now and then! Here are a couple random titles I bought for my kindle recently.

The Venetian’s Midnight Mistress by Carole Mortimer and Yuko Ichiju

This was an enjoyable Harlequin manga, but I expected something a tiny bit more dramatic and angst-ridden from a story called “The Venetian’s Midnight Mistress.” Dani is a driven interior designer with the type of complicated family situation that seems to drive Harlequin heroines into the arms of a tall, dark, and handsome man. Dani’s grandfather is a jerk. He’s unhappy that his only heir is a woman, and he treats Dani’s father horribly for only producing a female grandchild. He’s arranged his will with a penalty – if Dani doesn’t produce a son the family will get nothing. Dani’s worried about her reproductive choices robbing her parents of the fortune that they’re entitled to, but she’s already had a disastrous first marriage and doesn’t want to enter into a relationship again. Dani’s best friend Eleni has a tall, dark, handsome, and arrogant older brother named Niccolo, who says seductive things to Dani like “When I think about kissing you, it makes me kinda sick.”

Sure enough, Eleni throws a masquerade ball and Dani and Niccolo are overwhelmingly attracted to each other when they are both wearing masks. They hook up, and Dani is horrified to realize that she’s slept with Niccolo. She escapes, but Niccolo soon figures out who his mystery woman was and heads after her. Dani soon finds out that she’s pregnant and Niccolo promptly proposes, but her psychological issues with commitment are going to prevent her from being happy with her new fiance.

The art for this title was fine – a bit middle of the road and generic, but that’s what I tend to expect from most Harlequin manga. I wish there had been some slightly more exciting plot elements like amnesia, a terminal illness, or a kidnapping, but for a nice predictable read featuring a masked ball, this volume delivers.

The Italian Prince’s Proposal by Susan Stephens and Kaishi Sakuya

This volume focuses on a marriage of convenience. Emily is substitute singing for her ill sister in a club where she’s spotted by Prince Alessandro. He decides that she’s the perfect fake bride for him. He arranges a meeting and feeds her chocolate from his home country. She slaps him. Clearly they are perfect for each other! Alessandro needs a bride so his father can abdicate the throne and officially retire. Emily needs money to help out her ailing sister. As in most Harlequin volumes focusing on a marriage of convenience, the couple soon develop feelings for each other, but a terrible misunderstanding threatens to tear them apart!!

The character designs for this volume were attractive, and the art was clear and easy to follow, if not very detailed. I appreciated that Emily enjoyed the chocolate festivals and wine making rituals of Alessandro’s home country. Really, with abundant chocolate and wine, I feel like most women wouldn’t mind the whole marriage of convenience thing. This wasn’t a standout title for me, but it was still fun for me to read. I think I need to be a bit more careful to pick titles that are a bit goofier, because I tend to enjoy Harlequins when there are more outlandish plot points than I found in these two volumes.

Harlequin Manga: The Tycoon’s Pregnant Mistress and Her Sheikh Boss

The Tycoon’s Pregnant Mistress by Maya Banks and Nanao Hidaka


The Tycoon’s Pregnant Mistress manages to hit some sort of Harlequin manga trifecta, because the pregnant mistress in question gets cast off, kidnapped, and develops amnesia in the first 30 pages! The woman with the eventful life is Marley, and her boss is a slightly dimwitted Greek tycoon named Chrysander. Marley finds out that she’s pregnant and attempts to have a meaningful talk about their relationship with Chrysander, only to be shut down and promptly kicked out when Chrysander discovers top secret business documents in Marley’s handbag only minutes after his extremely suspicious secretary pays him a visit at their home. While he might be successful in business, Chrysander has very little insight into human nature, as he kicks Marley out onto the street, where she is immediately scooped up by kidnappers, appearing four months later in an advanced stage of pregnancy!

Chrysander is very suspicious of his pregnant former mistress who has amnesia, but he is determined to Do the Right Thing and decides that he’s going to take care of her and her child. Marley attempts to get her memories back, all the while being slightly bewildered by the continued presence of Chrysander’s skanky secretary and his distant nature. The art for this title is about average for a Harlequin manga, it is attractive despite some slightly odd proportions, and while it doesn’t have the lush 80s retro vibe that I tend to love the most in these manga adaptations, everyone’s hair is glossy and there is a profusion of brooding greek tycoons.

Her Sheikh Boss by Carol Culver and Earithen


The story for this manga is fairly predictable, but I really enjoyed the art for this title, which had a loose sophisticated style that reminded me a bit of Walkin’ Butterfly. Claudia is a highly efficient secretary working in the United States for Samir, the prince of a country in the Middle East. She’s indispensible for his business, and he decides to take her along when he goes home to his country. Samir tends to view Claudia as an efficient piece of furniture, and when Claudia goes on her trip she is profoundly dismayed to find out that her boss his traveling back to his family in order to get engaged!

Claudia has developed a secret crush on her boss, and she struggles with her feelings as his family regards her with suspicion. As Claudia visits Samir’s country he begins to see her as a woman for the first time, as she throws herself into new experiences with enthusiasm. His fiancee seems very unenthusiastic, perhaps due to the handsome male servant that follows her about wherever she goes. The art captures Claudia’s transformations and shifts in moods easily and there’s plenty of billowing hair and the occasional camel. While the illustrations aren’t necessarily very detailed, there’s more variation with the paneling and I found myself just as entertained by the art as the story. The complications that keep Samir and Claudia are resolved nicely, and overall I found myself pleasantly entertained.

Virgin Slave, Barbarian King and Raintree: Haunted

Virgin Slave, Barbarian King Vol 1 by Louise Allen and Takako Hashimoto

Available on emanga.com


This manga will appeal to historical romance fans, and people who enjoy a bit of sweeping adventure in their romance manga. Julia is a noble Roman woman who is quite horrified when her city is overrun by barbarians. She is even more horrified when a barbarian chieftain named Wulfric decides to carry her off in order to force her to serve as a slave. Wulfric’s long blond hair makes him look like a slightly more bloodthirsty version of Dorian from Eroica with Love, which I found amusing. Julia sees that Wulfric is far more humane in his treatment of Roman slaves as he’s sacking her city than their Roman masters were. She begins to start questioning her way of life and the way she unthinkingly took advantage of other people’s servitude. Julia is far too self-assured to meekly start serving anybody, and while she does start to fit in with the Visigoths, she also manages to fight back against Wulfric in some amusing ways. The art in this volume is much more detailed and assured than I usually expect to see in Harlequin Manga adaptations. As the story progresses, Julia begins to learn more of the pressures the barbarians face, as well as the political struggles that Wulfric has to deal with. My main quibble is that the ending felt a bit truncated, and I’m assuming that is because the adaptation of the story was actually split into two volumes. Still, this would be a fun manga for historical romance fans. I was reminded of Red River a bit, although this story didn’t have the complexity of story found in that manga. I’m happy that emanga.com is releasing some historical romance adaptations!

Raintree: Haunted Vol 1 by Kazuko Fujita and Linda Winstead Jones

Available on emanga.com

This manga is adapted from a series of Silhouette Nocturne Harlequin books, so I was expecting a contemporary paranormal romance and that’s exactly what I got. Gideon Raintree is a detective from a family with varied psychic powers. He can conveniently speak to ghosts, but he has issues emitting random bursts of electricity and thus will never know the joys of owning a smartphone. He is also occasionally visited by a ghost who claims to be the spirit of his future unborn daughter. Even Gideon finds this a bit disconcerting. Gideon gets assigned a tough yet beautiful new partner named Hope, who finds his numerous eccentricities suspicious even while she admits to herself that he is distressingly attractive. Gideon and Hope work to track down a female murderer who may have a connection to the occult, and along the way Gideon finds himself revealing more and more about his odd powers to his new partner. Kazuko Fujita has adapted a ton of Harlequin manga, and it shows in her attractive character designs and capable art. This is another Harlequin manga with much better than average art, and I enjoyed the way Fujita made the murderess look much more haggard and desperate than the other characters. Sometimes in manga-land everybody is portrayed as equally attractive, with just slightly different hairstyles, so I appreciated the extra attention to detail here. The story continues in the second volume of this manga, but the first volume also had a fairly satisfying conclusion. Also recommended!