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April 14, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Harlequin Highlights 7

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 100-200 points a piece, which is just over a dollar (you can buy 500 points for $5.50).  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 Lord Calthorpe’s Promise I and II, and A Most Suitable Wife.

Lord Calthorpe’s Promise, another Harlequin/Digital Manga title, is drawn by Rin Ogata, with original text by Sylvia Andrew.  Katherine Payne has recently learned that her brother, the head of the house, died in the battle of Waterloo.  Before the battle, Tom made his commanding officer, Adam Calthorpe, promise to look after his sister if he died.  He sends Katherine a letter offering to aid her if she ever needs any help.  It’s a promise Katherine finds herself needing to call upon, when her uncle and his family, who have inherited her manor, move in to claim what is theirs.  Unfortunately, what is theirs is the manor only; the fortune, which came from Katherine’s mother, will stay with Katherine.  This does not sit well with the Payne’s, who want to debut their own daughter, also named Katherine, into society so she can marry a wealthy husband.  To afford this, they want Katherine’s inheritance, and they’ll do everything to get it, including marrying her off to Walter, her uncle’s son.  In desperation, Katherine sends a letter to Adam Calthorpe, but receives no response.  Several months later, wishing to check in on her, Adam arrives at Katherine’s manner and discovers how badly the family has been treating her.  With encouragement from his mother, the Calthorpe’s arrange to take Katherine away to their home and train her to debut into society.  The stubborn, strong-willed Katherine is hardly the graceful, demure sort of lady that populates London’s social circles, and Adam thinks this coarse girl is a stubborn shrew who can’t be polished.  As the two spend time together, and Katherine begins to blossom, Adam begins to realize that he may want her for himself.

Next, we’ll look at A Most Suitable Wife, art by Chizuko Beppu, original text by Jessica Steele.  Taye is scrambling to find a new roommate after her previous female roommate skipped out on her soon after they got the slightly expensive apartment together.  Unfortunately the only person to respond to the ad she posted is an enigmatic (but beautiful, obviously) artist named Magnus Ashthorpe.  Taye’s first impression of Magnus isn’t entirely favorable; he comes across as rather unfriendly, unsocial, and a little weird.  Which may (or may not) be better than Magnus’s impression of her as a gold digger.  The fact that she only seems to date rich single men doesn’t help his impression, but she’s not simply looking for money.  However, the situation turns a little desperate when her father divorces her mother, a woman who lives for money, and her brother’s educational future is in jeopardy.  Taye is not the person Magnus assumed she was when he first set eyes on her, but Magnus isn’t who he says he is either.  Will their misconceptions get in the way of love?  And just who is Magnus Ashthorpe anyway?

Lord Calthorpe’s Promise is a sweet, romantic story, but it’s very unpolished.  The nature of these things – novels that are squished down into a manga format – often results in an unpolished, rushed, and a slightly scattered story.  Splitting this one into two helps a lot, but it still feels a little messy at times.  Katherine is a strong, spunky heroine, and carries the story fairly well; but Adam can be a little one-dimensional at times, a little flat in his development.  Also, it would have been nice if they had taken a little extra time to work on the font; using a different font now and then would do away with any confusion regarding spoken dialog (in the moment, or flashbacks) and inner thoughts.  A Most Suitable Wife…the title is a little misleading.  It’s got nothing to do with anyone looking for a proper wife; Taye is sort of looking for a husband, but that’s about it.  Magnus isn’t searching for a wife either; he’s trying to track down his brother’s mistress.  So I’m not sure what the title is supposed to be referring to.  The story seems to take a few leads from Jane Austen, but in the end, the characters are flat, the art unappealing (to me anyway), and the flow of the story a little rushed and awkward.

Both parts of Lord Calthorpe’s Promise, as well as A Most Suitable Wife, are available for 100 points at eManga.com.

Want more Harlequin reviews?  See all of my past reviews here.


All images copyright © Harlequin.  Access to eManga provided by Digital Manga Publishing.



  1. Oh, the foibles of young love!

  2. Billy

    I think I like the second one best (A Most Suitable Wife). 🙂

  3. […] Kristin continues her survey of DMP’s Harlequin manga line at Comic Attack! with reviews of Lord Calthorpe’s Promise and A Most Suitable Wife… Rob “Panel Patter” McMonigal shares his thoughts on volume two of Usagi […]

  4. Kristin

    A Most Suitable Wife does have a rather sweet ending, but I tend to prefer my romance with a side of 18th/19th century.

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