A Royal Proposition by Marion Lennox and Harumo Sanazaki: C-

Before he died, the king of a vaguely European country called Castaliae drafted a will to reign in his son’s profligate tendencies. This will calls for the next would-be king to marry a woman of faultless virtue before he can ascend to the throne. Alas, that son is now dead too, and the new heir, Alastair, must also abide by the bizarre terms set forth by his predecessor.

Enter Penny-Rose, the perfectly angelic damsel who agrees to a one-year marriage contract with cynical Alastair and wins him over with her emotional availability and courage, as demonstrated by working as a stonemason to provide for her siblings’ education and darting into traffic to save an injured puppy. (Please believe that I do not normally snicker at injured puppies, but I could not help it this time.)

I try not to expect too much from these Harlequin manga, but this one is particularly lackluster. Both main characters are bland and their uninteresting romance is propelled by some amusingly melodramatic circumstances. I suspect most of the problems can be attributed to the original source material, but there’s nothing about the art or manga adaptation to compel one to overlook such flaws.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Jack and the Princess by Raye Morgan and Junko Okada: B+

Karina, the 22-year-old princess of Nabotavia, is going to be returning to her home country soon and getting married to an aristocrat of her aunt’s choosing. Lonely and looking to enjoy her final summer of freedom, she attempts to befriend Jack, the new head of security for her uncle’s Beverly Hills residence and only other young person around. Jack’s resistant at first, owing to the gulf between their social circumstances, but the extent of Karina’s isolation coupled with her resigned acceptance of her duties prompts his interest in her to grow and, in what will come as a surprise to no one, they fall in love.

The result is a sweet romance that, even though it contains far too many kidnapping attempts for a story this short, works well in the manga format. I think the reason Jack and the Princess was able to be adapted from the original novel so successfully is that the story is so simple. Lonely princess meets suspended cop who sees the woman, not the title. That’s essentially all that’s going on here, and while it’s definitely nothing new, the end result is still satisfying.

Junko Okada’s clean and attractive artwork complements the story well, with shades of early shojo in Karina’s character design and an appropriately studly look for Jack. While lettering problems persist—some of these lines really could fit the bubbles with only minor tweaking—this volume is completely free from grammatical errors and the script reads smoothly.

The original novel is evidently the first in a series (Catching the Crown) featuring more members of the Nabotavian royal family hooking up with ordinary folks. I have no idea if the others received the manga treatment, but if they show up on eManga, I’ll definitely check ’em out.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Married Under the Italian Sun by Lucy Gordon and Mayu Takayama: B-

When Angela—an actress who’s been playing a “dumb bimbo” called Angel for eight years—is jilted by her wealthy husband, she’s too weary to battle his lawyers and instead accepts an Italian villa for a divorce settlement. Upon moving to Amalfi, she meets Vittorio, the former owner who assumes a lot of negative things about her character, given the life she comes from, only to eventually be proven wrong when she makes sacrifices for the sake of the villa’s lemon grove and opens up to him about her background.

The relationship between Angela and Vittorio is rather shallow, but I suppose that’s what happens when a full-length novel is condensed into a short manga like this one. It’s entertaining for the most part, but sometimes they behave inexplicably seemingly only for the purpose of putting an obstacle in the way of their just being happy together. There’s also a pretty unusual twist on the love triangle idea, resulting in some amusing scenes of the unlikely threesome sightseeing together.

Mayu Takayama’s art is fairly attractive, though pages have a tendency to look a bit too busy when depicting the villa and its grounds. My main quibble with the visual presentation of the book is actually not the lettering—which, as other bloggers have noted, doesn’t even try to fit into the word balloons—but with the grammar problems in the text. Sometimes these are minor (“Can’t… breath…”), but sometimes they affect the meaning of what’s being said: “I think I will thank you” and “I think I will, thank you” mean two different things to me.

As a final note… guess what never happens in this book, despite its title?

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.