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March 16, 2011

Bento Bako Lite: Harlequin Highlights 10

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). 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 Accidental Mistress and Angus’s Lost Lady.

Title: Accidental Mistress
Author: Junko Okada (Jack and the Princess), original story by Cathy Williams
Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Vintage: Original novel in 1997, Harlequin manga version in 2009

Lisa Freeman was about to go on the first real vacation, a holiday abroad. Unfortunately, during a storm on the way to catch her flight, she was hit by a car driven by the handsome and rich Angus Hamilton. Angus offers to pay her hospital expenses, but Lisa refuses his offer to compensate her for her missed holiday as well. Instead, Angus tracks her down several weeks later and invites her on a cruise. The “cruise” turns out to be a vacation trip on his private yacht with his friend Gary and his wife Liz (with their small daughter Sarah), and his friend Caroline. Planning to have fun, but to keep away from Angus to avoid getting closer to him than necessary, Lisa is sucked in by the beauty of the places they visit…as Angus is sucked in by the beauty and passion of Lisa. On the last night of the trip, they spend a passionate moment together, but Lisa is convinced that Angus only did it to make up for ruining her previous vacation, and leaves planning to never see him again. But then Lisa finds herself pregnant, and although she has no plans to tell Angus, with some jealous interference from Caroline, the man shows up making insulting demands, including a loveless marriage for the sake of the child. When Lisa refuses, Angus decides to do whatever it takes to raise the child himself, even if it means taking it away from Lisa. Lisa is rather strong for the heroine of a Harlequin story. She’s stubborn, independent, doesn’t like being indebted to people, and is willing to face her problems head on. She resolutely refuses Angus’s help, wanting to raise her child by her own efforts. She recognizes that Angus’s money will make life easier, but she keeps to her integrity. For his part, Angus seems to think that every situation can be solved by throwing money at it, so he’s frustrated by Lisa’s stubborn refusals of his support. It also draws him to her, as he’s used to being surrounded by careless, money crazy women. Of course, without the baby incident, they probably wouldn’t have had any further relationship. So…go unplanned pregnancy, I guess.

Title: Angus’s Lost Lady
Author: Kazuko Fujita (Sale or Return Bride), original story by Marie Ferrarella
Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Vintage: Original novel in 1998, Harlequin manga version in 2008

Detective Angus MacDougall is surprised when a beautiful young woman shows up at his office one evening, soaked from the rain. The woman claims to have no memory of who she is, and the only clue she carries  is Angus’s business card. Moved by her plight, Angus takes the woman into his home, hoping she will regain her memories. When his daughter Vikki notices a wound on the girl’s forehead, she has a sudden rush and remembers being shot. Choosing the name Rebecca, the woman tries her best to remember what happened to her. Angus keeps an eye out for missing person reports, but none have been filed. Meanwhile, Angus is being swept away by Rebecca’s beauty gentleness. As they trace Rebecca’s footsteps and scattered memories, Angus starts worrying that Rebecca might have a boyfriend somewhere, while Rebecca starts falling for her knight in shining armor. Just as they finally give in to their feelings, a fiancé shows up asking after Rebecca. Angus senses that something is off, but lets Rebecca go on her way, leaving his life. Vikki is not so willing to let go, and follows after Rebecca, where she gets caught up in a deadly trap. This one runs about thirty pages longer than most of the Harlequin titles, which serves it well, as it provides time for things to develop. It’s a lot less rushed than usual, so the pacing is more relaxed. The characters aren’t that strong. Rebecca is…well she’s literally a blank slate, and mostly seems to be there to bring some comfort and light into Angus and Vikki’s life. Angus has more personality, and struggles through most of the story to separate his personal feelings from the job he has undertaken. This fight to see Rebecca as merely a job is hampered by how well Vikki takes to her, and how the vulnerable Rebecca almost clings to him. The art is simple, but nice, and works well with its detective mystery elements.

[Click here for other editions of Harlequin Highlights.]

There will be no Bento Bako Bonus this Friday, as I’m working on a review of a longish graphic novel for its creator. That will either go up in place of my regular Friday column, or sometime next week (not affecting next week’s Bento Bako reviews).

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_Kris

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

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