Bento Bako Lite: Harlequin Highlights 9
If you surf on over to Digital Manga Publishing’s eManga website, where you can read digital copies of manga titles (by buying points to spend on buying or renting them), you’ll find a section of the site under the name “Harlequin.” What you’ll find there is a collection of short romance titles (most run about 126 pages). They go for 100-400 points a piece (you can buy 500 points for $5.50; and I think that’s the “to keep” price; they’re cheaper to just rent). They are essentially comic adaptations of romance novels. Since these are short, low budget titles, I feel that it would be best to group them together and review several at once. This week we’ll look at The Amalfi Bride and Amber by Night.
First up, The Amalfi Bride, by Marito Ai, original story by Ann Major. Regina, coming off a bad relationship, has decided that rather than try to find a man she loves and build a family, she’s going to go to a sperm bank and use a donor to have a baby to raise on her own. As a lawyer, she has little time for cultivating a relationship, and she isn’t confident in the family dynamic due to her situation in her own family, but she has the means to support herself and a child, and a child is what she most desires. Before she goes through with it, she takes a vacation to Italy. She buys a beautiful, flashy dress from a boutique, and which draws the attention of a man in the dining room of her hotel. Finding herself wanting his body, and thinking that he is a gigolo, Regina agrees to spend the night with him. Not wanting things to end so quickly, Regina requests that her wonderful dream continue for three days, and the “gigolo,” Nico, agrees. The two spend three happy days together, touring the city during the day, and sleeping together at night. On the final day, a group of photographers shows up outside their door, calling Nico a “prince.” Nico is actually an Italian prince and heir to the throne, who is about to enter into an arranged marriage. Obeying his mother’s wishes, he sends Regina home. Not long after, Regina discovers she is pregnant. What will she do when faced with a child formed by love? What will Nico do when he finds out? The dream turns into a nightmare as accusations fly. For such a short title, it’s paced well, and is one of DMP’s better Harlequin manga offerings. It’s well drawn, and the story is actually rather sweet.
Next up is Amber by Night, by Mayu Takayama, original story by Sharon Sala (Honor’s Promise). Twenty-nine year old Amelia moved in with her two aunts, Rosie and Willy (Willhimena), when her parents died when she was just nine years old. Her aunts have raised her to be a proper young lady, but due to her circumstances, living with two single elderly women, and being single herself, she has gained the reputation in their small town of being a spinster. With her conservative clothing, large round glasses, and her hair pulled tightly up in a bun, she fits the image of the stereotypical librarian spinster that everyone thinks of her as. However, at night, after her aunts have fallen asleep, she secretly works just outside of town at a bar, where she assumes the persona of a good-natured, beautiful, confident young woman named Amber. It is while she is acting as Amber that she runs into the town’s most eligible bachelor, the handsome and hardworking Tyler. Tyler falls for her hard, struck by her beauty, and attempts to pursue a relationship. Hesitant, but unable to convince him to leave her alone, she agrees to one date with Tyler, and has one of the best nights of her life. But because she is hiding this life from her aunts, whom she loves and cares for dearly, she refuses to give in to her own feelings and continue a relationship with him. She feels a deep responsibility toward her aunts to take care of them in their old age. Tyler, however, isn’t willing to give up, especially when he begins to suspect that Amelia and Amber may be one and the same. Can Amelia break free and find happiness with Tyler, or will she remain bound to her aunts without regard for her own desires? This is another decent title. Amelia’s struggle with the duty she feels she has toward her aunts, something she would sacrifice her own happiness for, feels genuine. Tyler, rather than try to force Amelia to decide between them or him, works with Amelia’s feelings and makes sure that Rosie an Willy will accept them being together.
Both of these titles are pleasant reads, and I’d certainly recommend them above many of the other Harlequin titles. They’re both well drawn and have nice stories, and they’re paced well for their short presentations. There’s a little jumping around and a slight rushed feeling in The Amalfi Bride, but Marito Ai did a good job piecing the story together. Amber by Night flows very well in Takayama’s hands.
For more short takes on DMP’s eManga Harlequin books, please click here!
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