Greetings everyone! May 2014 brings you happiness. Here’s my first post of the year to update my raws collection with my latest acquisitions. Two of them are already translated and published, but I could have the Japanese versions at a bargaining price so I didn’t hesitate and purchased them.

Harlequin comics

As usual, if someone is interested in scanlating one or more stories presented in this post or listed in my Harlequin & Romance comic raws collection, you can submit a request for the raws HERE.

Now, let’s have a look at these mangas.

. HAPPY NEW YEAR .

Harlequin comics

HQcThe Italian’s Token Wife (translated)
By Julia James & FUJITA Kazuko
amazon

Italian millionaire Rafaello di Viscenti vows to marry the first woman he sees–who just happens to be Magda!
She’s been desperately trying to make ends meet by cleaning Rafaello’s house. His proposal of marriage comes with a large financial reward–all she has to do is spend six months as Rafaello’s wife in name only.
But though Rafaello hadn’t planned on sleeping with his new wife…he can’t resist her!

HQcThe Fiancee Charade
By Darcy Maguire & OBIKATA Yuu

THE DIARY OF JESS THOMPSON…
Friday 7th: My business is struggling — need to get inside info from arch-rival businessman Alex Calahan. He’s looking for a bride — and my colleague thinks I could help….
Wednesday 12th, a.m.: Alex has hired me to teach him the art of romance! Note to self: must not fall for Alex. He might be gorgeous — but he seems to be after that snob Natasha Bradford-Jones.
Wednesday p.m.: Eek! He’s persuaded me to pose as his fiancee to make horrid Natasha jealous! But why does he want her? I’m the one for him!
Friday 14th: His fiancee charade is having opposite effect — he seems more interested in me!
Note to self: can I fall for him now?

HQcAmber by Night (translated)
By Sharon Sala & TAKAYAMA Mayu
amazon

AMELIA BY DAY
From nine to five, she was Amelia Beauchamp, typical small-town librarian. But when the sun went down, she was miniskirt-clad cocktail waitress Amber Champion. And she’d caught the eye of the town’s biggest rake, Tyler Savage. The name said it all — and this was one Savage, “Amber” knew, who would never be interested in her if he knew who she really was. She had to keep playing the game . . .
AMBER BY NIGHT
Or did she? Tyler, it turned out, was well aware that proper Amelia and flirtatious Amber were one and the same — and he was having a fine old time playing along. And as for romantic dinners and long, moonlit nights together, really, they were all part of the game. One which he had every intention of turning into reality . . .

HQcThe Greek Millionaire’s Mistress
By Catherine Spencer & HANATSU Yoshiko

Gina Hudson is in Athens to settle an old score, not fall into bed with her enemy’s right-hand man. But she’s underestimated the power of Mikos Christopoulos.
No-strings sex is what Mikos expects. But soon his mission becomes more, and he whisks Gina away to his island retreat. He thinks she is a perfect part-time mistress– until he starts to want this woman for the rest of his life….

My, I already like Hanatsu-sensei because she has a keen sense of comedy. But with this manga, I discovered she’s also quite good at drama, and is totally able to draw smoking hot sex scenes. It’s tastefully done and so smexy. Mikos is just so sweet and seductive here, makes me want to read the novel and see if he’s as gentle as he seems in the manga.

HQcA Secret Sorrow
By Karen Van der Zee & OGIMARU Masako

Don’t lose your head over him…
Firmly Faye cautioned herself. No way could she risk getting involved with someone–not after the accident that so completely changed her life. Yet falling in love with Kai Ellington had been easy. His gentle sensitive nature had soothed away her mental scars. — And now Kai had a dream–to marry Faye and live in a white Texas ranch house filled with freckle-faced children. Their children.
But it was only a dream, a dream that Faye knew could never come true….

HQcThe Desert Prince’s Convenient Bride
By Meredith Webber & AI Marito

Sheikh Tarik Sa’idi has travelled to Australia to bring home the four-year-old heir to the sheikhdom of Suleila. But there is an obstacle in the form of little Mika’s aunt, a feisty nurse named Hannah McIntosh – and it seems to Tarik that the only solution is to return with a bride-to-be as well…

I don’t know why and this is not just about Ai Marito, but often in sheikh theme Harlequin mangas, I have the impression the artists mix Arabian and Indian context. Must be the 1001 nights syndrome…

About The Desert Prince’s Convenient Bride, the more I look at Ai Marito’s art style, the more I feel it’s getting old with those 80’s hairdos. Why, the little kid in this manga looks Asian and reminds me of the chara design in old anime shows from back then. The story seems sweet and some scenes have charm because of that kitchy style.

HQcDefying Her Desert Duty
By Annie West & MINATO Yoriko

Chained by silk and jewels
Across the bustling nightclub, bodyguard Zahir El Hashem watches his latest charge swaying temptingly on the dance floor, his pulse quickening. Returning the Princess to her bridegroom might not be such a simple operation after all…
Soraya Karim has always known one day she must resume her royal obligations-just not so soon! Clinging to the last shreds of her freedom, Soraya insists they take the long way back to Bakhara – and their attraction reaches a dangerous fever pitch…
Once they reach the gates of the palace such a liaison will be utterly forbidden. From then duty must reign…

2 things in this manga tick me off greatly.
First, in the opening scene, I’m displeased by Soraya’s outfit. The stiletto heels don’t bother me. But the mini-skirt, sleeveless bustier baring her belly button for all to see, tattoo on her upper arm, aren’t befitting the dutiful fiancée of an Arabian dignitary. She looks like a Western bimbo tease. However in the novel, it is said she’s wearing a modest dress in the introduction scene. That’s the first mistake of the manga because after that scene, Soraya wears decent clothes till the end.

The other point which is very much disturbing me is that Soraya looks too fair: fair-skinned, fair-haired, fair-eyed… At first, I thought she was a Westerner. But rereading 3 times the synopsis and some excerpts of the novel, I realized she is Arabian — maybe mixed-blood? I know by shoujo manga standards, the girl is often fair and the hero dark-haired. When you see on color illustrations a brunette or redhead heroine, sometimes in the black and white pages, the hair wouldn’t be screen-toned or shaded, as if the heroine was blond. So it’s not that strange for Soraya’s hair to be left toneless and shadeless.

But the fact is that the glaring contrast between her fairness and Zahir’s tanned skin and dark hair, as well as the dark complexion of most natives from Bakhara, clashes visually. Soraya looks out of place among her compatriots. If only the mangaka had shaded her hair or colored it black, evoking at least a potentially Mediterranean type, maybe I wouldn’t have felt this unease.

The manga looks intense and enjoyable notwithstanding. I was attracted by the idea of an Arabian bodyguard for whom the heroine is falling hard. Minato-sensei’s design for the hero is a little different from usual. He looks harder, more mature than her usual pretty boys. It’s not really your typical Harlequin romance, which is also quite a nice change. And considering it’s drawn by Minato-sensei, the sex is deliciously smexy.

Ruvingia/Maritz

Duet with cousins, one being the prince of Ruvingia and the other of Maritz.

  1. HQcPassion, Purity and the Prince
    By Annie West & KUSUNOKI Kei

    Untamed prince…
    Prince Alaric of Ruvingia is as wild and untamed as the remote kingdom he rules. Women fight to warm his royal bed, but he ensures that none outstays her welcome. Then prim, bespectacled archivist Tamsin Connors uncovers a shocking secret…
    Or rightful king?
    Now Tamsin has Alaric’s undivided attention – he is drawn to her purity and she is quickly promoted to His Majesty’s mistress! Duty demands only a temporary arrangement but their powerful passion is enough to fuel a lifetime’s love…

  2. HQcPrince of Scandal
    By Annie West & KUSUNOKI Kei

    Ruling prince…
    Raul, Prince of Maritz, is furious that an archaic law is forcing him to wed. But scandal and unrest has dogged this prince for years, and a marriage to recently- discovered princess, Luisa Hardwicke, will help bring stability to the monarchy.
    …reluctant princess
    Only Luisa is an outspoken, mud-splattered, farm girl, who isn’t going to come quietly! Even as she’s reluctantly transformed into polished perfection, Luisa challenges Raul at every turn, and he finds himself anticipating their wedding night with an excitement he never imagined he’d feel…

I’m not a fan of Kusunoki-sensei but I always thought this mangaka’s art really cool and consistent. For me, the cute chara design is more shounen-like than shoujo-like. And the combination of sensei’s professional drawings with Annie West’s sweet stories results in an agreeable manga series.

. HAPPY NEW YEAR .
Romance Comics

Now, the non-Harlequin comics!

HQcBROTHERS OF THE ABSINTHE CLUB 1
Arabian Pearl
By Emma Wildes & NATSUO Kou

The guest of a foreign prince, Robert St. Claire is given a beautiful slave for his pleasure. Unusual customs aside, he finds himself in a terrible dilemma. Not only is she English, but the daughter of a friend. In order to rescue her from captivity, he must use her like a harem girl in every way possible…
Lady Celia Davenport has been abducted, sold into slavery, and now finds herself in the bed of an Infidel lord. If she gives him erotic pleasure with subservient eagerness, there is a glimmer of hope in her future. Anxious to escape, she finds that perhaps sexual servitude isn’t the prison she once imagined. Besides, every time she gives her lover satisfaction, she receives a rare and valuable pearl as a reward.
An English lord and a lovely slave find that circumstance and fate have a hand in granting those rare Arabian Pearls…

After the surprise of A Devil’s Bargain, I knew what to expect from Natsuo-sensei and was prepared for the graphic sexual contents of Arabian Pearl. In fact, I was surprised that there was more plotline than sex this time. LOL. After the smutty scene at the beginning, I was waiting for the next hot moment, only to realize after 10 sexless pages that the story was moving on without relying on pr0n. Well, my pervy side was kinda disappointed.

Oh, there’s still much more pr0ny smut than in your usual Romance comics and far more explicit. It’s just that it’s not as much centered on the sex scenes as in A Devil’s Bargain.

RcGigi
By Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette & NAGASAKI Maoko

This is the classic story of a young girl who wins at the game of love.
Gigi has been brought up by her Grandmama and Aunt Alicia, an old-school courtesan, to be a stylish coquette and set her sights on a rich man. When Gaston visits, he brings her candy and lets her cheat at cards, captivated by her girlish ways. Now 16, Gigi is ripe to put away childish things and prepare to become Gaston’s mistress. The clever girl however, has other plans…

French authors write dreadful, disheartening, bitter and snobishly bleak books. I studied Colette like any French pupil in junior school. And I disliked her gloomy stories so much I never touched any other book by her afterwards. I wonder why French teachers don’t choose happy stories to study instead of depressing books which only make teen minds brood over humanity’s unworthiness, failure and sorrow.

Years later, I happened to watch a musical comedy on TV, past midnight during some holidays. It was Gigi with Leslie Caron.
Musicals aren’t my cup of tea but I watched Gigi till the end, not for the songs nor the dance but for the likeable characters, witty lines, nostalgic old France atmosphere and cheery feeling this optimistic tale gave me. And I didn’t even know it was based on Colette’s novella. Now, I can say that I like one story by Colette. But it’s the only one.

About the manga, I wasn’t too keen on Nagasaki-sensei’s art style in the past. But it must have grown on me as I think of it as charming in Gigi. The artist really succeeded in conveying the joyous liveliness of the story and racy characters, definitely inspired by the musical film and not by the novella itself — for which I’m really glad. For one, there’s this uplifting quality of the manga pace which reminds me of the movie. Then, several scenes of the manga are copied from the movie version. And I noticed the use of English written news articles once or twice in the manga, which is strange for the adaptation of a French story in a French setting, but isn’t surprising if you consider instead that the manga is adapted from the 1958 American musical film in English language.

. HAPPY NEW YEAR .

Barbara Cartland

With the holiday season, I was in the mood for Barbara Cartland’s manga adaptations. You see, I wanted sweet light romances to accompany me through yuletide.

RcThe Queen Saves the King
By Barbara Cartland & SAITOU Chiho

Pythia was aghast at her own daring. The diminutive young beauty had impulsively taken her cousin’s place in a marriage decreed by Victoria herself! Now, settled in a distant land, the lovely imposter is determined to be a worthy Royal to her new subjects — and a true consort to their dashing, cosmopolitan King. Wed in name only, Pythia had fallen in love with her husband… and vowed to win his errant heart. But just as they discovered the radiant promise of their union, deadly treachery flared. And Pythia must act boldly once more — to foil a foreign monarch’s plot — and claim love’s deep and enduring miracle!

This manga is probably more for the die-hard shoujo fans. I can feel in the storytelling and layout a reminder of old school over melodramatic shoujo style. Some scenes are a bit too theatrical and flourishingly shoujo-ish for my liking. I was never much receptive to Saitou-sensei’s style but still wanted to get an idea of what a Romance comic drawn by her looks like.

In the end, it is a nice manga overall. Just not my type. And why the colorized pages?! It’s just the first third of the manga, but I dislike those artificially colorized pages. Cheap digital colorizing mostly hurts my eyes due to the abuse of too glaring hues like color blocks.

About the lead characters, I don’t like the guy. But he heroine is much better. She’s blond, certainly over-the-top-beautiful-good-intelligent-pious-yada-yada-ad-nauseam… I do like that kind of character in general. Just, I’m not into Saitou-sensei’s style. Despite all her unnerving saintly qualities, Pythia remains the saving point of this manga for me because at times, she shows she has balls guts!
Heck, she does blush and cry and swoon like any Cartlandish heroine, though not before initiating some daring action. Well done missus Queenie!

RcWalking to Wonderland
By Barbara Cartland & HASHIMOTO Takako

The Duke of Eaglefield accepts a wager to become a “regular person” by walking from London to his ancestral home. One of his adventures come when he discovers Alysia, who is running away from an unwanted marriage and manages to help her escape. However, as much as he admires her, he can’t marry an unknown girl, can he?

I remember having read a Barbara Cartland in which the hero goes incognito by foot like a commoner. I don’t have any more memories of this novel, so it wasn’t a favourite. Looking at the manga, I had that smirk on my face —many moments are so typically Cartlandish. Alysia is your standard Cartland heroine, the useless yet pretty damsel in distress. Oh, don’t get it wrong, she’s a lovely girl. And Hashimoto-sensei’s drawing makes this manga very nice and the lead characters are charming. I just have a preference for heroines with more backbone and less teary.

RcThe Incomparable
By Barbara Cartland & MATSUKAWA Yuriko

Amorita Howe and her brother attend the Earl of Eldridge’s country house party, hoping to win money for their beloved Nanny’s operation, but the glamorous and notorious Earl soon has plans of his own for the shy Amorita.

Matsukawa-sensei’s art style is really fitting the Victorian era. The earl is gorgeous — love his eyes, his hair, his elegant figure…
I can’t forget that I knew Matsukawa-sensei as a BL mangaka first and have always liked the looks of her semes. I think I have read this novel in French when I was a teenager. The synopsis didn’t ring a bell right away but after looking at the whole manga, many scenes were very familiar. I suppose I liked the novel back then. It wasn’t among my favourite Cartland books but enjoyable enough for me to keep some pleasant memories of it.

RcLove Leaves at Midnight
By Barbara Cartland & SAKURAYA Hibiki

With her flaming red hair and emerald green eyes, Xenia’s unusual beauty makes her stand out in any crowd – that is until she unexpectedly meets her long lost cousin, Johanna, amidst the wreckage of a railway accident. Incredulous at finding her mirror image and desperate for a friend, Xenia’s initial joy is soon replaced by misgivings when Johanna suggests an outrageous plan to swap lives for two weeks. However, these are soon swept aside by her forceful cousin and Xenia finds herself agreeing to help Johanna enjoy ten final days of freedom with the Englishman she loves before her arranged Royal marriage. As her cousin steals away from the site of the train crash, Xenia suddenly realises all that impersonating Johanna, even for a short while, will entail. Especially as her cousin was travelling to meet and marry her fiance, King Istvan of Luthenia, and the journey must continue so suspicions are not aroused. Surrounded by servants and diplomats, Xenia struggles to assume the Royal role that Johanna inhabits so easily and prays that her true identity will not be discovered. Arriving in Luthenia, Xenia is instantly plunged into a world of political intrigue and drama a million miles away from the quiet life she previously enjoyed in the English countryside. With a Constitutional crisis threatening and rumours of revolution, Luthenia desperately needs this arranged wedding to go ahead to cement allegiances and maintain the balance of power in Europe. As the Luthenian Court prepares for a grand State wedding and the nuptial date grows ever nearer, it seems that the beautiful cousins have only one desire in common – they both want to marry for love. But who shall be their bridegrooms?

This is good! The pitch has some similarities with The Queen Saves the King but Sakuraya-sensei’s art and story-telling are contemporary.

Both Xenia and Istvan are endearing. The cuteness of Sakuraya-sensei’s art style draws me in and makes me relate to the characters. I want to read the novel now.

I love that you clearly see them falling in love with each other. And even though we don’t see anything smutty, I’m so pleased that they have sex before the end of the manga.
I wanted to pat Istvan for saving me from snarking if he had spouted out romantically lame nonsense to avoid spending his wedding night in his wife’s body arms. And I wanted to smother him with kisses at the end!
Really, this Barbara Cartland manga is so sweetly good!