I’m Loving: Harlequin Manga Adaptation Previews

Harlequin Josei Manga comiXology thumbnails, screenshot, page one

I’m loving — I mean I am LOVING — the existence of Harlequin Josei manga. Good grief! I’m loving it with all the passion and fire of a green-eyed shipping magnate! I’m trembling with anger like a handsome golden-eyed playboy at the thought of his brother’s beautiful ex-wife with a common teacher and at the thought of paying $5.99 for each volume despite my attraction! I’m head over heels like a twenty-eight year old florist and shop owner thinking back to the rugged charm of that Colorado fireman who saved me from drowning when I was a naive secretary of just twenty-one and for the completely bonkers nonsense that happens in Harlequin romance, subsequently in Harlequin manga, and then again in the tiny little blurbs for both:

Blackwolf’s Redemption

“Sienna Cummings is out on an expedition in Montana. She is with her university crew to research a canyon owned by a man named Jesse Blackwolf-an ultrarich hero of the Vietnam War who suddenly fell off the radar in the mid-1970s. What exactly happened? The truth remains unknown. Just when Sienna d0zes off, lost in her thoughts about the mysterious hero, she blacks out in the sudden presence of green lightning. Meanwhile, Jesse Blackwolf is twisting his head in confusion. He finds Sienna knocked out on top of a dangerous cliff. Who is this blonde beauty, and where did she come from?”

Raintree: Sanctuary

Harlequin Josei Manga comiXology thumbnail: Raintree:Sanctuary

Mercy Raintree, princess of the Raintrees, has a surprise visitor: Judah Ansara, heir to the Ansara clan! She claims he’s an old flame and a faint memory, but how can she forget him when they share a daughter? As the war between the Ansara and the Raintree comes to head, Mercy must take up her clan’s fabled sword and fight for a future her daughter can proudly live in! Is Judah truly a man worth trusting? Can their daughter, who shares the blood of both clans, be the key to ending the conflict? Don’t miss this exciting conclusion of the Raintree miniseries!

Reluctant Mistress, Blackmailed Wife

Katie is a single mother with two twin babies. Having lost both her job and house, she decides to swallow her pride and ask the father of her twin children for help. Alexandros, the father, is a millionaire and president of a large bank. Katie loved him body and soul, yet he played with her feelings and dumped her in no time. It has been a year and a half since he dumped Katie, and he does not believe her words when she tells him about the children. Instead, he coldly tells her, “You need to get a DNA test. I’ll take responsibilty if they are mine.”

BIZARRE. Absolute claptrap. From wonderful, nigh psychedelic adventures to “men are the worst, but forgive them because they’re secretly in pain or whatever I guess.” Magnifique.

You can read a little about the adaptation process at the Harlequin blog. Comixology uploads don’t list the creators names apparently, you have to squint at the little cover previews until you have them on your shelf, but the series seems to be existing — classic, in some cases — Harlequin titles which have, over the years, been adapted and illustrated for Japanese, graphic readers by established Josei Mangaka. That is manga creators who work in comics that are for and about adult women. And in the last few years, someone realised that they should translate them all right back into English! A neat crossover! There’s some enjoyably different art in the mix, (almost) all of it extremely capable. Which really is shocking, for how under-advertised they are.

There are a range of styles to be enjoyed, some more and some less contemporary. If you can get over the Harlequin “romantic” concept (dangerous idiots pass-agg each other interminably, until one of them imprisons the other somehow, then they have sex. Also babies fix relationships), you’ll find something to fit your eyetastes.

Some — get this — last TWO volumes. Bonanza! I am a broken marionette, strung up between “awful” and “amazing.” I genuinely love it, but I genuinely ~cannot even. Oh, the complexities of a modern woman!!

I have acquired all of the available free previews that Comixology offers which is sixty four, and I am going to tell you about some of them. Some read right to left, some read left to right. If you try to go the wrong way, the comixology reader will tell you your mistake. A moment’s irritation. Why aren’t they all the same?

The first preview I tasted was of Accidental Mistress. It is a ten-pager about a woman missing her first holiday abroad due to being hit by a handsome man’s car, and when I unsuccessfully clicked “next” for the eleventh page, I said “shit! shit!” Something within me is hungry for this.

Next on the virtual shelf is The Amalfi Bride, misspelled on the cover as The Amalfi Braide. Hmm. This is a fifty-two page preview, and so I shall save it up for later. (post-writing update: this was wrongly listed. The preview was in fact twelve pages long — this has been reported and updated.)

The Apartment starts well featuring a woman escaping her anxiously over-loving mother to drive a car (with the top down!) off to a new city where she’ll live alone and not even access her trust fund. Original text by Debbie Macomber, not Jarvis Cocker. I checked. It’s explained almost immediately that her mother became this way after the death of our protagonist’s father — does that increase or decrease her complexity and interest for you? Anyway, then some guy turns up while she’s asleep and is really grumpy about how he’s supposed to be the one renting the apartment. Buddy, when a girl’s in her pyjamas, you back off whether you have a key or not. Ryo Arasawa, the illustrative creator for this adaptation, is actually trackable as an artist. Their first credit is from 1991, and the art in this book at least tends towards elongated limbs, sparse backgrounds, and storytelling that’s light and breezy.

Backwards Honeymoon is entirely serviceable. Rich woman discovers fiancee is a no-good money-wanter, decides to flee, and takes marriagable-aged gardener’s son for help. Pretty odd hairstyle (do people still use that much gel with curlers? I guess wedding hair has different rules), nothing particularly to distinguish it, but I was fully willing to keep reading.

A Bed of Sand features the monologue excerpt, “I became madly in love with his exotic hazel eyes” and is about a hot boss who is also a Sheikh. It begins with a wedding, and I can’t tell if it’s a dream or not. Oh, no, it’s a “fake wedding I devised…!” which the hot boss has unexpectedly shown up for. It’s very confusing and possibly crosses over with a separate Harlequin novel (they sometimes come in flocks) which may or may not also be a manga now. The art here is maximum dreamy, peonies and sparkles and glowing orbs everywhere, ten thousand eyelashes and heavy lower lips. Do you want to know why Sheikh Sakir Al-Nayhalm needs Rita Thompson to marry him? I sure do!

Harlequin Josei Manga, Bedded or Wedded, Author(s):Julia James Artist(s):Ichiju YukoBedded or Wedded is basically perfect from the title alone. It also features an extremely sassy, unpleasant brother (right) and some very nineties fashion choices. Go forth, good friends. Read the sad, but ultimately triumphant story of, I think, a hostess or sex worker of some level whose romance is sabotaged by a bigoted and judgemental man. Or maybe some other story, I can’t really tell from these ten pages. Chance it.

The Billionaire’s Secret Baby opens with a tabloid news report on the various women in Jack Tarkenton’s life while an appreciably demure woman gazes out just past our heads holding a pregnancy test. Bingo! A+ comicking, I mean that. Ogumaru Masako’s googlable credits also reach back to 1993 — twenty years well spent, evidently. She decides to keep the baby, then we skip to several years later: a funeral, a small child, “he was a good husband and father.” Glad she found someone to keep her company in her time away from the narrative. And then up turns Jack Tarkenton, and he’s a total dick. Ooh, it’s all go in this one!

Harlequin Josei Manga, The Billionaire's Secret Baby, MASAKO OGIMARU/CAROL DEVINE RUSLEY

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money