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April 28, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Harlequin Highlights 8

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 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 A Royal Proposition, The Sheikh’s Contract Bride, and To Marry McAllister.

First up is A Royal Proposition, art by Harumo Sanazaki, original text by Marion Lennox.  Penny-Rose O’Shea is a wholesome, simple girl, who is working hard to become a master stonemason.  One day, while working on the palace grounds, she is mysteriously summoned by Queen Marguerite.  Prince Alastair must marry a woman of unimpeachable virtue quickly, for at least a year, to preserve his reign and keep the country intact, in accordance with the will of the previous king.  They have chosen Penny-Rose for this role, forgoing Alastair’s current fiancee, who doesn’t exactly meet the qualifications.  To keep the country from falling apart, Penny-Rose agrees.  Breaking the news to his fiancee Bell goes smoother that he would have thought.  She brushes it off completely, showing total emotional detachment, and not a hint of jealousy.  Though Alastair desires a woman who is more business partner than romantic partner, he finds himself a tad disappointed by her reaction.  The passionate and simple Penny-Rose is Bell’s complete opposite, but can Alastair keep his distance when confronted with her cheerfulness and honest emotions?

Next, The Sheikh’s Contract Bride, art by Keiko Okamoto, original text by Teresa Southwick (this is part of the Brothers of Bha’Khar series, which includes The Sheikh’s Reluctant Bride, a title I reviewed in a previous edition of Harlequin Highlights).  Adina and Alina are identical twins.  Adina, born first, was soon betrothed to the Crown Prince of Bha’Khar, Sheikh Malik.  As they grew up, Adina was fawned over and groomed by their father to become a queen.  Their mother having left them, Alina is mostly on her own, and grows up independent and a little rebellious.  When the Sheikh calls upon the arrangement and requests that his fiancee come to Bha’Khar for his brother’s wedding (as seen in The Sheikh’s Reluctant Bride), Adina tells her sister that she has fallen in love with someone, and does not want to marry the Sheikh.  She asks Alina to meet him and convince him to call the wedding off, but not just as a proxy; she wants Alina to pretend to be her in her place.  Not wanting to incur the wrath of their father, Alina plans to make Malik call the wedding off with her behavior…which is really just Alina being her obstinate self.  Malik was expecting a dainty, obedient wife, but finds himself intrigued by the strong, spirited woman he has gotten instead.  As Alina begins falling for him as well, she begins to rethink deceiving him.

And finally, To Marry McAllister, art by Junko Murata, original text by Carole Mortimer (Keeping Luke’s Secret).  This title (the novels anyway) is part of a series of books called To Marry the Bachelor Cousins (this is part three) that involve a group of male cousins and the women they marry.  Top model Sabina is engaged to an older, wealthy man named Richard Raisome, who treats her like his possession, as if she’s a piece of art to add to his collection.  He arranges a meeting with a famous painter (and playboy) named Brice McAllister and requests that the young man paint a portrait of Sabina.  Annoyed by Brice’s judging artist’s eyes, and bothered by his intense charm, Sabina uses every excuse in the book to make herself unavailable to be sketched.  Brice, obsessed with discovering the true nature of this beautiful woman who is engaged to such an eccentric older man, finally forces her to sit for him.  As he draws her, he learns more about her, but becomes more confused by her cold demeanor and relationship to Richard Raisome…as Sabina struggles with her own attraction toward Brice.

The set up for A Royal Proposition is interesting enough, if a little silly (the Queen is swept away by the pure, innocent look of Penny-Rose and decides on sight that she is the one they need).  Unfortunately the execution is not impressive, and neither is the art (well, it’s just not a style I care for, anyway).  In The Sheikh’s Contract Bride, the dialog is awkward, the pacing is bad, the art average (better than its predecessor in some ways, but there’s a lack of attention to detail).  The story is OK, but the characters are a little one dimensional.  To Marry McAllister is another jumbled mess.  Plot elements are thrown about haphazardly, though the relationship is kind of sweet (he’s obsessed at first, but later on he just wants to protect her).

That about wraps up the current Harlequin offerings at eManga, though I have been told that there are more on the way.  You can look at all my other Harlequin reviews right here!


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



  1. Billy

    I think “A Royal Proposition” sounds best. Tha t would be the one I would read if I had to choose. 😀

  2. Billy

    I think “A Royal Proposition” sounds best. That would be the one I would read if I had to choose. 😀

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  5. […] Avoiding Mr. Right Author: Keiko Okamoto (The Sheikh’s Contract Bride), original story by Sophie Weston Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp. Vintage: […]

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