Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Monday, December 23, 2019
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“Secret Admirer’s Christmas Wish #2”
When a former ugly duckling and the former class heart-throb come together as adults, they find out they have more in common than they realized.
Glenda Shaw knows firsthand what it’s like to be an ugly duckling, and now, she is roped into helping to organize her tenth-year class reunion. The speaker this year is none other than Hunter Teegs, the object of her dreams since their sophomore year in high school. She’s a dedicated social worker with a heart the size of Texas, but her hectic schedule doesn’t allow much time for dating or entertainment.
Hunter Teegs is a self-made financial powerhouse with a boatload of charisma and a winning sense of humor. He’s also a notorious womanizer and heartbreaker. He has no interest in settling down any time soon, if ever. To make matters worse, he has recently noticed details from his childhood that cause him to question everyone and everything he’s come to believe.
When Glenda and Hunter are brought together again, fireworks nearly knock both of them off their feet, and not necessarily in a good way. Glenda knows more than one secret about Hunter, and sharing the most crucial one could mean the end of their relationship before it even gets started.
Free with KU
Glenda felt the heat from Hunter’s hand on her lower back. The way he’d looked at her! It astounded her. Yes, she had grown up, but she’d never met anyone recently who’d known her back then. Hunter hadn’t really known her either, he’d just looked at her…once.
His small speech about how this would be good for her? She never looked at it like that before. All she had thought was how humiliating it might be. His reaction swayed her. Maybe.
If he, the most popular guy in school, thought she wouldn’t be humiliated, then maybe she should give it a chance. She did need to get over her stigma, leave the past in the past. After all, that was all she had been doing these last ten years – leaving her geek past behind her. Maybe Hunter was right. Face these people head on and look them right in the eye, show them what she was really made of. Not run away like the shy girl she had been back then.
They went in and walked down the halls while Glenda tried to steady her heartbeat, keep her mind focused on the task at hand instead of getting lost in the myriad of physical and emotional responses just being close to Hunter evoked. Even after ten years, not much had changed, and that not only included the appearance of the school, but her feelings for Hunter. The realization made her uneasy, to say the least, and her back radiated heat where he touched her.
The halls were still lined with Scholar’s Bowl trophies and tributes to former students, and to her surprise, her name was among them.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Welcome to BRB, everyone!
My apologies. I know it's been a very long time since I published a post. But my writing career is heading down a different road, not that I've given up on Blak Rayne, but this pen name will be evolving in the new year to include straight romance and thrillers. Whereas my new pseudonym, which I will publish under in 2020, will be strictly adult science-fiction and fantasy. Anyway, I've been entrenched in writing, editing and preparing for my forth-coming publications, a quadrilogy. So, thanks for sticking around!
In manga there are countless stories that deal with non-consensual sex. For some reason many authors in this medium seem to use a common theme: the victim falls in love with their rapist or another way of putting it: the rapist claims they love the victim and instead of treating them in a deserving manner they get scared and rape them to get their point across.
Yeah, I know, creepy isn't it.
I understand that rape happens in books, fiction or otherwise. It's usually a case where the rape is a catalyst to the protagonist's behaviour and/or it is an essential plot point. However, when the rape is uncalled for and it happens over and over, and then the perpetrator(s) are caught but not punished accordingly, basically let off, and the victim is portrayed as believing they somehow brought it upon themselves, it really makes for a lousy read. Of course, I understand it's just a story, but it makes me question the cultural attitude towards sex crimes. Hey, I'm no different than the next person. I like a good romance, even the hot steamy sex. But when I grit my teeth with every page something is seriously wrong.
So, here are two stories, both mangas deal with rape, but they are at completely different ends of the scale.
My Teacher, My Pet by Sakuya. Konomi starts teaching at a school for delinquents. Things seem to go well until she meets her childhood friend's little brother Ryuhei, and she discovers one of the female teachers is sleeping with multiple students at the same time. Then she finds out she's their next target.
My favourite line (sarcastic, of course) in the manga is when the gang bangers get caught raping Konomi and the principle says, 'You may be minors, but what you've done is a crime. We're gonna have an emergency meeting!!' F*** the emergency meeting, you should call the police asshole.
Now that would've made the story more interesting.
Nothing, not even the art can make up for this rape fest or the male lead's deplorable treatment of the female lead, his friends, family, and the other female teacher. I can handle decent smut, but this wasn't decent. This was bad. Honestly, I don't mind a student and teacher getting it on either, goodness knows I've read enough of it in comics and books throughout the years, but blatant abuse, ugh. Buyer beware with this manga. 1 Star and that's for the art.
Omega-verse, drama, yaoi, Kiraide Isasete by Hijiki. Koga Naoto, an omega, is raped by his alpha classmates and gets pregnant. Regardless, he decides to keep the child and raises her on his own. But due to that traumatic experience, he hates alphas and doesn't want a lifemate or to bond. As a result, his daughter becomes his strength in a cruel world that treats omegas unfairly. But his life suddenly changes when he meets Tsuchiya Hazuki, a younger alpha who does care.
I'm not big into omega-verse because, again, rape is a common theme and the m-peg thing is just weird, but every once in awhile I do come across a gem. This story is good. Yes, the rape is the reason Naoto has a daughter, and it is the reason he lives as he does and, of course, it also influences how he meets Hazuki. But it isn't constantly shoved in your face, page after page in gory detail. This story is touching, and you can't help but root for both male leads. There's a ton of feels in this one. 5 Stars!
By Blak Rayne
Saturday, July 20, 2019
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
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.