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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Harlequin Romance - The Manga Storm #mustread #manga #romance #harlequin


Harlequin Romance - The Manga Storm

As I’m sure everyone’s aware, there’s a hell of a lot of romance literature out there, because everyone and their dog has written a romance novel. That’s why the big publishers are quietly walking away from the genre. Sadly, the market has become saturated with it—small houses and, especially, self-publishing has taken control, which poses a dilemma for anyone who feels inspired to pen a romance. According to the stats, so far as of today’s date and time 1,443,059 books have been published worldwide, and almost 50% fall under the romance category. What does that tell us?
How do you market yourself in a world with too much romance? Do you find a niche?Finding a niche isn’t a menial task either, considering few exist. Fictional romance can be as down-to-earth or bizarre as you want, but I guarantee there is a book out there somewhere with a similar plot, setting or characters. Let’s face it; every plot, known to mankind, has been done. We’re all human and, unfortunately, sooner or later we all produce the same ideas. So now stories are regurgitated. What matters is how the plot's rewritten—the uniqueness of the characters and the world in which they live.
Should you go from novel to comic? Perhaps, but don’t get too excited because Harlequin Romance has been doing this for a while. They noticed that manga sales were on the rise not just in North America but worldwide, so they jumped on the bandwagon.
I'm not a big fan of Harlequin romance novels; most are too cookie-cutter for me. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t the odd gem. Harlequin authors follow a formula—a formula that has worked well to keep sales above average for the company. I won’t get into sales stats or the past controversies associated with Harlequin, but what I do want to address is Harlequin’s involvement in the manga industry. I wanted to know how the mangas held up against the novels and, honestly, I’m not impressed, and I’ll explain why.

The following list is a handful of Harlequin manga titles I’ve read to date. The only way to understand is to research, and that’s what I did. The stories are not in any particular order. Also, I’ve added my opinion of each plot along with art and story star ratings. Something else I should mention, and this is important, these manga titles are approximately 129 pages each, give or take a page.

The Italian’s Deal for I Do
Artist: Shion Hanyu
Story: Jennifer Hayward
Art: 4 Stars
Story: Predictable. 3.5 Stars


The Promise / Taggart’s Bride
Artist: Yukako Midori
Story: Sharon Sala / Allison Leigh
Art: 3 Stars
Story: Good at first but then trickled to boring fast. 3 Stars


Salzano’s Captive Bride
Artist: Banana Sarusuberi
Story: Daphane Clair
Art: 4 Stars
Story: Interesting, but the male lead was difficult to like. 4 Stars


The 200% Wife
Artist: Megumu Minami
Story: Jennifer Greene
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Charming story, cookie-cutter, yes, needed more at the end. 4.5 Stars


Married for the Tycoon’s Empire Brides for Billionaires 1
Artist: Kazuna Uchida
Story: Abby Green
Art: 3.5 Stars
Story: Nice story and down-to-earth characters. 4 Stars


The Best Man and the Bridesmaid
Artist: Yohna
Story: Liz Fielding
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Typical friend zone story, cliché as hell, but still a good read. 4.5 Stars


Claiming His Secret Son - The Billionaires of Black Castle IV
Artist: Takako Hashimoto
Story: Olivia Gates
Art: 3 Stars
Story: Not long enough for the amount of backstory, rushed. 3.5 Stars


Pregnant by the Greek Tycoon
Artist: Haruhi Sakura
Story: Kim Lawrence
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Good right to the end, with some interesting twists. 5 Stars


The Unmarried Bride
Artist: Megumu Minami
Story: Emma Goldrick
Art: 5 Stars
Story:  Feel-good read, and the lead female was tough and funny. 5 Stars


The Husband She Never Knew
Artist: Yutta Narukami
Story: Kate Hewitt
Art: 3.5 Stars
Story: Male lead’s actions are illegal and creepy, female lead too forgiving. 2.5 Stars

The last two books I’ve added for comparison are a Harlequin and a “love” manga.


I Can’t Help but Love Him (182 pages)
Artist and Author: Yoko Ito
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Funny, office slice-of-life romance with a perfect length HEA. 5 Stars


The Man Behind the Scars (145 pages)
Artist: Masami Shinohara
Story: Caitlin Crews
Art: 5 Stars
Story: Well-executed and in-depth with a perfect HEA. 5 Stars

Okay, now you’re wondering why I made this list. Most of the Harlequin manga I read were way too short. Period. The beginnings were quick, the initial meeting and inciting incident, and then the build-up as to whether the couple would get together was appropriately paced for most of the stories, which is standard for any romance. But then it was WHAM BAM THANK YOU, MA’AM! The stories ended abruptly in just a few pages, sometimes even less. Kissy-kissy, they’re in bed or walking down the aisle or popping out the kid, et cetera, and it was over. Of course, that isn’t to say the novels these mangas are based on conclude in the same abrupt manner. The written word is vastly different from telling a story in comic strip form. But that’s my complaint. These mangas were expensive considering the page count, an average of 129 pages, and the endings, as well as some of the plots, weren’t that great. In most instances, I felt cheated—I wanted a better ending--I felt even the characters got ripped off.
Now, I've come to the last two books on my list. The Man Behind the Scars is the best Harlequin manga I’ve read to date. And oddly enough Masami Shinohara, the artist, addressed the “abrupt ending” issue in her postscript message. She felt the book needed more to give it the ending it deserved, and her decision was perfect. The added sixteen pages made me smile. It gave The Man Behind the Scars a one-up on all the other books listed.
Page count shouldn’t matter, but it will if the story build-up doesn’t flow seamlessly into a satisfying “happily ever after.” There’s no room for excuses here. Come on, Harlequin! What’s a few more pages?
I Can’t Help But Love Him is a 182-page “love” manga. Love mangas are comparable to the HR mangas due to content. It cost a bit more to purchase, but the story was worth it. It had a funny HEA worthy of its characters. I’m not suggesting Harlequin has to get into hundreds of pages, but stretching the stories a bit more wouldn’t hurt.

Blak Rayne

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Ideal Side of Love #gay #mustread #mmromance #adultfiction



The Ideal Side of Love

‘Average, but extraordinary, and only twice in a lifetime.’

Stephen Prichard is a resilient and self-made man that has it all, a successful business, great husband, and a summer condo on the waterfront, until life throws a curve ball. After twelve years together, his husband Myron dies of cancer, leaving Stephen to confront a future of uncertainties alone.
Then, fate lends a hand when not one, but two chance encounters with the same stranger put his feelings to the test. First and second impressions are lasting. Stephen longs for companionship, and the stranger is attractive, however, he’s also enigmatic and cold, and the memories of Myron are still painfully fresh.
Can a man Stephen barely knows renew his faith in love? But, more importantly, is he willing to let go of the past?

Excerpt:

Wong’s Market had been on the corner of West 21st. and Lonsdale Avenue since Jesus was a baby. It started off as a small general store, six aisles deep with one aisle dedicated solely to the sale of personal hygiene products and the deprivation of young boys. I didn’t think there were so many porn magazines. Busty, Black Booty, Asian Tighties, White Cream, and Hot Mamas. When we were kids, my mother would send us to pick up a short list of groceries—the basics like milk, butter, and bread. I always did the shopping while my brothers hovered around copies of Oui and Playboy, ogling the centrefolds. Mr. Wong would yell in broken English from the counter, telling my brothers to get away from his dirty magazines.
“Not ol’ enough!” He’d say.
By the late nineties, Mr. Wong’s son took over the business, realizing that the family sat on a gold mine—two acres of prime commercial real estate. He tore down the old market and built a modern grocery store, adding shopping carts, self-checkout tills, and an ATM machine. No more living above the store, no more rat traps out back by the garbage bins. Wong’s Market was a thriving business, raking in over ten million a year.
The shopping cart had a wobbly wheel, making it difficult to steer. You’d think with all his wealth, young Mr. Wong would fix his damned carts. But, whatever, I didn’t plan on purchasing much, just a few items. Actually, speaking from personal experience, when I lived alone, I never consumed near as much of anything, and I certainly didn’t keep a regular schedule.
I pushed the cart through the juice aisle. Unlike most men who considered themselves hunters when they shopped, I rather enjoyed grocery shopping and preferred to take my time. Strange as it might sound, I liked to read labels and peruse the multitude of items available.
A litre of cranberry juice was already in the cart. Moving ahead three paces, I placed a bottle of blueberry beside it and wandered to the next aisle. The cashiers were moderately busy, and the sounds of easy listening created background noise. The activity in the grocery store beat sitting at home alone. Pushing the cart through aisle after aisle, I leaned on the handle, walking at a casual pace with no set goal in mind.
The wheels shimmied to a stop as I bent over to pick up a box of cereal. Then, a baritone voice carried from some area beyond my location. Dropping the box of corn flakes, I pushed my cart quickly, turning into the next aisle. And there he was, the man of my delusional fantasies.
Carson and an elderly gentleman holding a bag of brown sugar were talking. Keeping my distance, I used a stack of tinned beans as cover. It was embarrassing to admit, but the first thing I noticed was the crotch of his soft, faded blue jeans…snug fitting faded blue jeans. After a moment of concentrated staring, I finally looked away and pretended to analyze a shelf of bottled spices. My hands trembled, and the only thing I could say was, wow. There I was, actually entertaining sexual thoughts about a man I hardly knew, a stranger. What kind of pervert hovers in the spice aisle at the grocery store, fantasizing about licking some stranger’s cock?
The men parted company, and he strode in my direction. I didn’t want him to spot me, so I yanked the cart back and crouched in behind, that way I’d be out of visual range. Have you ever had an itch you needed to scratch? That was how I felt. In the end, the temptation became too great, and just as I turned my head to take one last look, his gaze pierced mine. For that fraction of a second when we made visual contact, everything switched to slow motion—his body and my breathing—the fluid movement of his hard torso with each step. Talk about a gorgeous man!
He didn’t stop, but his eyebrows rose in surprised recognition as he passed.
Little by little I stood up, wondering if I should follow, even say something like a normal human being would. The man was a dick magnet, and I was finding it increasingly difficult to control mine. But just as I mustered the nerve, he vanished.
“You’re such an idiot,” I grumbled in a sullen tone, shoving the cart. “The guy’s straight, remember?”

Purchase Link: