I’ve read comic books for years, and worked in a bookstore when the manga craze hit. I knew how popular they were, but I hadn’t read any manga, so when Blythe said that she had some Harlequin novels in manga form, I asked for one. Harlequin Violet: Response is based on one of Penny Jordan’s Harlequin Presents titles and it’s completely illustrated in purple ink to match the purple prose. I had to get used to the format – it’s printed so that you read it back to front, but the publisher gives a diagram on how to read a manga in the front of the book and it wasn’t hard to catch on. My initial verdict – not too bad, but not as good as a classic X-Men story.
When Sienna’s father dies, her brother asks her to come live with him in London. She takes a job as a secretary while her brother is off covering a story in El Salvador. Sienna enjoys London and her job and then one day her world is changed when Alexis Stefanides walks into the office.
Alexis is a Greek god (as we are reminded many, many times) and rich as Croesus. He needs a secretary to accompany him on a business trip and asks Sienna to help him. Naturally she accepts, naturally she falls in love with him, and they make love. But Sienna’s happiness is shattered when Alexis coldly informs her that he took her virginity to pay back her brother for taking Alexis’s sister’s virginity. Sienna passionately defends her brother and it turns out he was innocent. Sienna rushes off into the street where she is hit by a car.
When she wakes up, Sienna is on a beautful island married to a handsome man named Alexis who swears his eternal love and devotion. But what will happen when she gets her memory back?
The story line for Harlequin Violet: Response is nothing out of the ordinary. Readers of the Harlequin Presents line have read this story many, many times. When I worked at Waldenbooks, I noticed that the manga format was especially popular with younger people, especially those who normally are not readers. I heard several of them mention that they “don’t like to read, but these books are different and I love them”. With the audience for series romances getting older, Harlequin needs to capture a younger reading group and since this format is popular, they are giving it a try.
For someone who never reads comics, this book may be hard to get into. The storyline is very compressed and the artist uses lots of symbols. Alexis uses a rose to symbolize the progression of his feelings for Sienna, from bud to thorns, to crushed petals and finally to full blown flower. Since the storyline is so compressed and dialogue is so minimal, I can’t say much about them as characters. Sienna is a sweet young woman, and Alexis is a handsome tycoon and that’s about it. I will say that it was nice to actually see Alexis in full grovel. It’s great to read a story with a good grovel but it’s something else to see it.
Despite the purple ink and purple prose the artwork is not explicit. There are a few drawings of bare-chested Alexis and Sienna in her underwear, but most of the love scenes are illustrated with swirling clouds, blooming roses and flashes of light. It’s sort of like the old movies when the hero and heroine would go into a passionate clinch and then the camera would cut away to a scene of fireworks or a train pulling into a tunnel.
I may have to give another romance in manga form a try. I know from working in a bookstore that this format is very popular with younger people including many who normally are not readers. I’ve heard many of them say something like this: “I don’t like to read, but these books are different and I love them.” With Harlequin’s audience getting older, manga may be the key to getting younger readers. I know that other series are trying this form as well. Today in the library where I work we just got a copy of The Hardy Boys in manga form.