Tag Archives: May 2011

Heidenkind’s Guest Post/Review of A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori

Hi everyone! A treat today! Double post, and with this, something definitely new, and interesting! Shelli is on vacation so we weren’t sure if she would be able to get her post so me, so I went to twitter to ask for help, and Ms. Heidenkind immediately stepped up. I haven’t read manga in a long time, but I know it’s even more popular now. I’d also never heard of this series, and as you see, it’s gorgeous. So everyone, give Heidenkind a very warm welcome!

A sekret: I am a bit obsessed with Mongolia. I have wanted to go there ever since I wrote a report about it back in high school. So I was super-excited when I heard that Kaoru Mori, who wrote and illustrated the fabulous Emma (review here), was working on a manga series set in 19th-century Mongolia.

If you’re unfamiliar with manga, it’s basically a type of comic book that comes from Japan. If you enjoy any kind of genre fiction, there’s probably a type of manga out there for you–the categories are highly specialized. I started with vampire romance mangas like Midnight Secretary and Vampire Knight, both of which are extremely unputdownable and full of win. I think most of the appeal of these books is their exoticism, and the fact that by US standards they’re pretty subversive. A bit like soap operas, mangas can go on forever and usually have tons of characters, and A Bride’s Story isn’t any different.

A Bride’s Story centers around Amir, who at twenty is extremely long in the tooth to be getting married. Her husband, Karluk, is only twelve. Awkward! Actually that’s less than the age difference between me and my bother, but it’s still kinda skeezy. But obviously that’s just my modern bias. And if you think there’s no sexual tension going on in these books, well… you’d be wrong, although Karluk does pull a Louis XVI despite Amir’s wiles.

It’s small wonder that Amir hasn’t been married before now, because she’s a little odd. And not just in a, “You’re not from around here, are you?” sort of way; also in a, “Why are you watching me sleep like that?!” way. For realz, I think she might be a little unbalanced. There were times when I felt like I was reading Fatal Attraction: Mongolian Edition.

Amir is watching you. Always watching.

But there are tons of other characters, of course, including a bad-ass grandma, an anthropologist from England, Amir’s friend, Pariya, who always looks angry; a street-smart guide; Amir’s evil male relatives; a pretty nomad woman who lives with her mother-in-law; and the rest of Karluk’s family. The only secondary character who’s been explored with much depth so far is the anthropologist, Mr. Smith, but I’m sure as the series goes on other characters’ stories will be fleshed out.

The art in A Bride’s Story is also gorgeous, full of tons of detail, yet still easy to read. Mori isn’t one of those manga artists who only has 3 faces in her repertoire (coughBrideoftheWaterGodcough), and each character is completely individualized and recognizable. As with Emma, it’s clear Mori has done tons of research into this setting, and I can always appreciate thorough research.

I’m not as into A Bride’s Story as I was into Emma–not yet, anyway; sometimes it takes a few volumes for me to really get into the story–but I do think these volumes are a promising start to the series. I love being transported to Mongolia, and a few of the characters are really interesting, so I’ll definitely be continuing series.

Thanks for guesting with us, Heidenkind, and also for sharing about A Bride’s Story – and manga in general!

Review: One Last Night by Melanie Milburne

One Last Night by Melanie Milburne
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents May 24, 2011

When Maya met Giorgio Sabbatini, he married the penniless waif and stray despite her inferior breeding. So her decision to divorce him now is made with a heavy heart. Giorgio belongs to a notorious blue-blooded family, and their duty to maintain its lineage is unquestioning. Unable to give him the heir he craves, Maya knows she has to walk away.

But the ink on their divorce papers isn’t given the chance to dry; after one last reckless night of passion, there’s a very shocking announcement….

So you all know I’ve been reading a positively gluttonous amount of Harlequin Presents lately, and I’m not going to make any apologies for it. There have been some lemons, but some excellent ones as well. Perhaps the most interesting/odd thing about it is that I’m not reviewing a Helen Brooks title, as she’s been about 90% of my recent reading.

However, I enjoyed this book, and it’s the most recent one I finished, so review ahoy!

I want to say Maya is an interesting character, but she’s not, really. She’s rather typical, in fact, of a romance heroine. Nevertheless I liked her. She’s – once the book starts – smart, and has self respect. Her situation is a bit interesting, and difficult – she married Gio because she loved him, and hoped that he’d come to love her. Maya doesn’t believe it’s happened, and after five years and four miscarriages, she’s calling it quits. I thought that was an interesting element that added a lot to Maya and Gio’s strained relationship. Maya is generally sensible, but throughout the book she’s got pregnancy hormones going a bit crazy, but I think any non-pregnant could and would have easily said and felt the things she did. I also can sympathize with her thinking Gio doesn’t love her. Considering how emotionally unavailable he is, and their situation – both in how/why they got married and currently. She’s not a flighty heroine, for sure. I feel like I’m mucking up the explanation, but she’s not annoying, as many authors might have written her or made her out to be.

Giorgio was actually much more of a static character. I did, however, like that he admitted – both to himself and Maya – that he didn’t love her when he married her. He’s incredibly sexy and autocratic and I think we’re supposed to classify him as “alpha” but… I more got that he was cold. Something of an automaton, and almost a jerk. Not that he doesn’t care about other people – he’s fiercely protected and concerned about his family, but he does what he thinks is best without any consultation or explanation. In fact, Gio can come across as selfish, based on his “we’re going to be together – end of divorce proceedings” decision. I did, however, love his honesty. I appreciate that he’s trying and realizes (finally) how things looked from Maya’s point of view.  It shows he’s growing, and changing.

What I’m not quite clear on is why he married her in the first place. Sure, Ms. Milburne emphasizes many times the pressure and important for Giorgia to get married, and quickly. But why Maya? Considering he’s upper class all the way and she’s quite regular. He could have married anyone. I think the idea is we’re supposed to say “oh how sweet, Giorgio chose Maya out of all these women.” But Ms. Milburne never actually comes out and says it, and I’m not quite comfortable assuming that. I also don’t think I should have to. Especially as everyone is quite clear that when Giorgio married Maya, he didn’t love her. That happened later in their marriage – possibly even as late as when Maya left him six months before the book begins.

My other problem was how Giorgio and Maya reconcile. As in, they don’t exactly. They pretend to get back together to comfort Gio’s dying grandfather. Then Gio decides they’re going to stay together and that’s that. He doesn’t say why, or explain it to Maya… and she just goes along with it. Of course at this point, Gio does love Maya, he just never says it. I think that’s supposed to smooth the way for the reader to be happy for them.

The secondary characters were great, but I’m not going to seek out their stories. If I stumble across them, yay. If not, I’ve got other books. I also have this feeling the last Sabbatini brother’s book – Nic – will be him and his grandfather’s “spoilt heiress goddaughter” which is not my cuppa. I could be wrong. But I don’t want to be right.

Nevertheless, the writing and flow was excellent. I enjoyed seeing Maya and Gio work on, and work out their issues. Albeit often not verbally. Giorgio internalizes everything and has a hard time communicating his feelings. I’m okay with that – it’s his personality, and part of Maya’s growth is her understanding and accepting that. It also goes to show that Gio does love Maya – and he does say he loves her. I suppose it’s the realization of the fact and culmination that I don’t quite “follow” as closely.

I did like the book, and even wavered with giving it a B- grade… and it started out as a “C+” review, but as I wrote the review I realized just how much some of the issues bothered me. :X Whoops.

Grade: C-

*ETA: Right! And if you’d like the chance to win and try your choice of any category romance by Olivia Gates… leave me a comment here! (Hint  – you have to click the link.) Yes, that give away is still open! I want thoughtful comments about categories!