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Digital Review: Prisoner of the Tower

It’s the social season, and 17 year old Emma heads to London, with her family’s hope of finding a rich husband weighing heavily on her shoulders. One night, a mysterious man approaches her. A refined handsome face, curly black hair and deep blue eyes… Emma falls in love at first sight and shares with him her first kiss. 12 years later and now a widow, Emma visits the Earl of Greyston to discuss the marriage of her stepdaughter. It is the Earl’s younger brother who is betrothed to her stepdaughter, but the Earl never shows himself. While staying there, Emma spots the man she kissed all those years ago in a portrait on the wall…!

Prisoner of the Towerby Karin Miyamoto, Gayle Wilson
Publisher: DMP/eManga/Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Historical, Romance
Price: $4.99 Kindle/Digital Edition
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’m not a big romance fan, but when I was given the chance to read some of the Harlequin romances from DMP, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  For the most part, I found the stories to be entertaining but formulaic.  One story did stand out; Prisoner of the Tower.  This is a historical romance that hits all the right marks.  It captures the feel of  Victorian England without being overbearing, and has characters that are believable and likable at the same time.

Victorian England wasn’t the best time or place to be a woman.  Women were treated more as property than people, and were often married off for the benefit of the family than for love, especially among the upper classes.  This is the situation Emma is in when we first meet her.  She is going to the Court at London to find a husband of means that can save her family from ruin.  She knows this and hopes for the best that she will find a man that will be kind to her at least.  But before reaching London, her first kiss is stolen by a mysterious man who is headed off to war.  Neither expect to see each other ever again after that night.

12 years later, Emma is going with her stepdaughter and brother-in-law to meet Earl Greystone and get his permission for her and his younger brother to marry.  Emma wants Jorgina to have a good life with her true love, something she couldn’t have herself.  The only thing standing in their way is the Earl himself.  Alexander has no problem with his brother Jamie marrying Jorgina, he just doesn’t want to meet with Emma.  Honor was very important to the upper classes, and with his disfigured face, and the disgrace he feels from his time in the war, he doesn’t want to face anyone.

Even though it’s Jorgina and Jamie that are trying to get the blessings to get married, the story is really about Emma and Alexander getting together.  Both have given up on finding love.  Alexander doesn’t believe anyone could love him because of his disfigurement and disgrace, and Emma is ready to just accept the life of a widow and live alone and out of Jorgina’s life.  Emma doesn’t realize though, that Alexander is her mystery man from all those years before.  What follows is a series of miss communications and missed opportunities as these two star-crossed lovers stumble toward their happy ending.

I really liked the setting of this story.  I enjoy stories where the main characters spur the conventions of their time and/or society, and that is just what Emma is trying to do for Jorgina.  The characters are very well developed, even for a short manga.  They felt real to me, especially with their foibles.  I really wanted to see Emma and Alexander get together, and felt some frustration at their every misstep.  I really wanted to slap Alexander for his assumptions about Emma.  Emma’s determination to win over Alexander was well done.  She was strong without being overbearing which fits the time perfectly.

I also really enjoyed the art.  The 70’s shojo style with the big, sparkling eyes, flowing hair and elaborate clothing fit the story perfectly.  I was drawn in more because of it.  The only thing that marred the look was the typesetting, which looked like it was typed in with a typewriter.  The font is stiff, and the words don’t fit into the text or word bubbles.  But this was the only problem I had with the volume.  It’s only available in digital form, either for the Kindle or through eManga.  I can’t speak for the Kindle, but the eManga site is very easy and intuitive to use.  The story is also short enough that reading online isn’t a bother.  It is smart and well written.  If romances were more like this, I would gladly read them more.

Review copy provided by publisher. Images © Digital Manga Publishing

Manga Drive By: Harlequin Manga @ eManga.com

eMangaI’ve never been much of a romance fan, and have never read a Harlequin romance novel in my life.  So, when I was given the opportunity to read some of the Harlequin manga released by DMP on their online manga site eManga, I decided to check some of the titles out.  I read 7 titles in total, that seemed to run the gambit from historical to modern settings, and from chaste fade-to-black love scenes to those slightly more explicit, but not enough to rate a M rating.

Some general observations first.  DMP’s eManga site is very well done.  The navigation is clean and concise, and easy to get around.  The reading list displays all of your titles, including how long your rental will last.  The manga reader is also easy to navigate.  It allows for either one or two page viewing, as well as zoom in and out.  The two page view fit my monitor just fine though, and I could read the text easily without zooming.  My only complaint here was about the bookmark feature.  It didn’t really work.  I tried to use it, but it didn’t remember my page when I came back the next day.  Luckily had written down my last page as well, so I wasn’t too inconvenienced.  It would have been nice though, if it had worked properly.

For the most part, I enjoyed the Harlequin titles.  They all went fairly quickly and make for good light summer reading, such as a relaxing day at the beach. They are very much wish fulfillment, with strong, independent women (in their own way) meeting men that seem jerky at first, but then turn out to be kind and great lovers. They were fun, but they’re not anything I’d be interested in re-reading.  They can get rather formulaic and cliche, which gets boring fast.  The only real problem I had with all of these titles was the text.  It doesn’t appear that much time or effort was put into it.  The text looks like it was typed in, and no effort was made to make the text fit in the word balloons.  You do get used to it after a while, but really, even scanlators do a better job.  For something you’re paying for, you expect a better presentation.

Honor’s PromiseRating: ★★½☆☆ – I liked most of the characters in this story,  especially the protagonist.  She was feisty and fun.  The plot wasn’t too over used, though the Greedy Family Lawyer as the villain was kind of obvious and cliche.  It’s a decent read, and was a pleasant introduction.  Would Trade For.

Keeping Luke’s SecretRating: ★★★½☆ – I really liked this one.  I enjoyed out the protagonist, who is a historian that was asked to write a long awaited biography, stays true to herself, and her work.  She’s not looking for money or fame.  The story ends with a bit of a twist and a fairy tale ending.  Must Buy.

Marriage Under An Italian SunRating: ★★★☆☆ – This one I also enjoyed.  It was a well written story and the setting in an Italian villa was nice.  The story had a nice mature feel to it, as it dealt with different kinds of loss and trying to make the right choices in order to be happy.  It had some nice twists that kept it from becoming predictable.  Must Buy.

Millionaire Husband: Justin’s StoryRating: ★★★½☆ – This was my second favorite story of the seven I read.  I liked the switch up of making a guy the protagonist instead of it being a woman.  I found his portrayal to be realistic considering his past and his slow by steady change to be well done.  Must Buy.

Prisoner of the TowerRating: ★★★★☆ – This was the best of the seven I read.  I love historical dramas, and this fit right into that.  The characters were well developed and very likable.  I found myself rooting Emma on and wanting to slap Baron Greystone.  The art is also a treat.  I highly recommend this title and a full review will be forthcoming.  Must Buy.

Sale of Return BrideRating: ★★☆☆☆ – This was the most cliche of all the stories I read, both in story and in characters.  I was predicting every story element before they happened, and the ending was no surprise.  It wasn’t badly written or anything like that.  It was just predicatable, and that lowered the enjoyment for me.  Good Way to Kill an Hour.

The Sheikh’s Reluctant BrideRating: ★★½☆☆ – This was another average title.  The Middle Eastern setting and situation with the female protagonist was different from the other titles I read, and I did find it refreshing.  Again, the characters are well written and the story isn’t as predictable, but neither is it very interesting.  The old school feel of the art was a nice touch too.  It just wasn’t all that appealing to me.  Good Way to Kill an Hour.

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆