Lovefool 11.21.11 | The Return of Romance Roundup

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Our Lovefool pits the rather forceful Harlequin romance An Arranged Marriage against the yaoi workplace romance Entangled Circumstances in a no-holds-barred Romance Roundup.

 

Hello, nerdlings! You know the drill – two books go in, both books come out but I talk smack about one a little more than the other one. This week, we've got An Arranged Marriage going up against Entangled Circumstances and, oddly, my pick is the smutty yaoi. No, really. I know, right? Somewhere, our reviewer manga hook-up (Hi, Yoko!) is laughing her head off.
 
An Arranged Marriage (Harlequin Manga)
Staff: Written by Susan Fox. Art by Toyo Issiki.
Heroine: Cheney Bank heiress Allison Lancaster is very blonde and very rich and every inch a romance novel heroine, God love 'er. Quiet and helpful, she marries a dude to keep her family happy and latches onto the even slightest indication that he's not a jerk to keep herself a little happy. There's really not much more to her. Except for blinding stupidity, at one point.
Hero: Blue Summer is not good at this romance stuff, as evidenced by the fact that his proposal to delicate Allison consists of him listing off all the stuff he owns, but is fairly attractive, as these gents tend to be, and has that rugged thing going on. I, of course, am not into rugged, necessarily, but it does seem to be the type in this, ahem, literary genre. He does buy nice presents, though, and looks good in a cowboy hat. Cowboy hats are cool, you know? Unfortunately, Mr. Summer also absolutely forces himself on Allison at one point and that is bad bad bad bad bad. That's not sexy, it's a criminal act, and where Allison's blinding stupidity comes up. If that happens, you go. Period. You don't stick around waiting for your husband to start loving you enough to stop doing things like that. Seriously, that's what happens in most of the romance novels before the heroine meets the hero because the hero rescues her from this dude.
Stars A-crossing: Weeeelll, I imagine being ordered by your uncle to marry a farmer you've met for approximately 35 seconds when he changed your tire complicates matters a little. And being told to “keep taking the pill so you can come back” by your aunt, despite her good intentions, is probably pretty gross. Blue also has some issues stemming from his childhood that tend to get in the way of his actual feelings which, as far as I can tell, are mostly jerky ones, anyway.
_____ Will Keep Us Together: Allison's sheer and inexplicable determination.
Read If...: You know, I'm not sure. The rape pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks. I wonder how it was presented in the book because it's pretty stark here and there are absolutely zero consequences for Blue. I don't think Allison even gets mad at him the next day.
Frame or Fridge?: That cover could use some work. Otherwise, the art is actually really good.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Well, we've already covered the ugliest of the ugly. There is a delicious bit of scandal with Allison's uncle that crops up in the back half of the book that made me laugh, but then he pops off and hits his wife so that's no good. This book is pretty shocking and fairly gritty, truth be told. Blue also decides, about a third of the way through to book, to have a child in case Allison leaves him so he never has to be lonely again and Allison lies about being on the pill. Really, the only redeemable characters are the butler and Allison's aunt, and they get married so that's pretty cool. The art is fabulous, too, which is not always the case in these.
Hearts: <3 <3 for the art and the aunt.
 
Entangled Circumstances (Juné Manga)
Staff: Story and art by Kikuko Kikuya.
Hero: Himeko is a lovely, nice boy who carried around the nickname of “The Prince” (which seems a bit silly to be calling a college boy, but whatever) and had a fanclub for most of his life. He and college pal Shibui seem to have landed themselves hot shot jobs at the same magazine, where he seems to be continuing his reign of terror as a nice, attractive dude. He's actually pretty great, doing things like “accidentally” ordering sweets for Shibui when he's too shy to order them and getting him home after a work-related bender. At one point, he even saves Shibui's job. Admittedly, he's a bit Machiavellian when they meet in college, chasing away all of Shibui's girlfriends and setting up all of his friends so they don't have time for him and he and Himeko are pushed together.
Hero: Shibui is a little goofy and pretty much in deeeeep denial about the fact that he's in love with Himeko. He's stubborn, tends to get distracted when he's bothered by something but, more importantly, he is always himself and there's something to be said for that. He's also a bit of a...well, he's a little goofy. But in a sweet way.
Stars A-Crossing: Shibui's denial that he's in love with a dude tends to get in the way of him being with said dude.
_____ Will Keep Us Together: Himeko's quiet love and Shibui's willingness to admit that he might have made a mistake.
Read If...: You don't mind a little smut (okay, maybe a medium amount of smut) with your sweetness.
Frame or Fridge?: Mmm, frame, I think. It's well done and the sex scenes, while graphic enough to keep the fangirls happy, are somehow not terrifying. Not one for the kids, though.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: I really don't want to admire Himeko's divide-and-conquer techniques but, dammit, I do. It's presented so amusingly and Himeko goes away when he's asked to and comes back when he's asked to and...love is complicated, why should yaoi be any less so? I really don't have anything that I found terribly objectionable about this. Sure, it's definitely not one for the kids, but it does come with that 18+ label so you're warned going in (this time) and it wasn't enough to get my squick meter high enough for me to get shouty. Maybe I'm just tired? Desensitized after my binge a few months ago? The epilogues were pretty fun, too.
Hearts: <3 <3 <3 <3 I love me some revelatory romance. Doubleplus bonus for an office setting, which does something for me every time.
 
So there you are, The Return of Romance Round-Up. I hope you enjoyed it, nerdlings, but don't try a single itty bitty bit of it at home. Lovefool sez: No means no and office ink should stay in the office! Or something. | Erin Jameson
 
Purchase your own e-copy of An Arranged Marriage at eManga.com.
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