Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where all four editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing Raintree: Inferno by Kazuko Fujita (original novel by Linda Howard). Get hyped for casino scams and supernatural nonsense!! Just kidding: welcome to hell, and also a deeply problematic mullet king’s second-best mansion.
Just a heads-up, POMEs: today’s RR might not be for everybody! This one touches on some gross abuser dynamics-related subject matter.
Jenny: so this book was So Much
but i want to start out with why we were so drawn to it, initially
the official description
“Professional gambler Lorna lives the drifting life: hit one casino, clean house, and then move on to the next. Her luck runs out when savvy casino owner, Dante Raintree notices her unusual winning streak. She expects an interrogation, but what she gets is far more eerie: he reveals he’s psychic, just like her! Dante, convinced Lorna’s a supernatural spy sent to collapse his clan of psychics, drags her to his home as a captive! In book 1 of the Raintree miniseries, Lorna travels on a journey of self-discovery and passionate romance!”
Rachel: there was so much PROMISE in this description!!
Jenny: SO MUCH PROMISE
SO MUCH POTENTIAL
Ashley: The first like, 3 pages were really good????
but i basically started skimming after That One Horrible Part We Will Get To
Jenny: it def went way down hill way too fast
CC: what emotional whiplash, honestly
Jenny: the first three pages were like “who is this badass lady grifter” and “ooh spooky candles — kind of scary kind of sexy”
and then immediately
Ashley: hoo boy
really set the tone
Jenny: just a lesson in how to use your psychic powers for evil
Rachel: a real fucking red flag
CC: ya like
an ON FIRE flag
Ashley: that’s like a red neon sign
CC: dealbreaker, ladies
shut it down
Ashley: textbook bad
like, they didn’t teach consent in sexual health units at school, only abstinence, but if they did, Dante Raintree would be first bad example
CC: i figured this guy was gonna be a piece of work right from this nonsense right here
Jenny: dear lord
CC: this firebending-ass dweeb
Jenny: honestly my biggest issue w this part was just what a bad job it did of building this world
was so bad!
the stream of information! hard to follow!
but also def — who even talks like this
who determines the classes??
what does “class-a” mean??
Ashley: at the beginning, he talks about spooky solstice power and it’s like, COOL DUMB WITCH/ELF SHIT but then his power ended up being that he was too horny :disappointed:
Jenny: is there some kind of review board??
Rachel: yeah honestly you only ever meet these 2 characters
there are no other characters in this whole story
Jenny: god! yes!
what is that about??!?
CC: i guess there’s that sniper who gets merced
Rachel: hard to build a world when it’s 2 people and 1000 faceless extras
Ashley: in a way, it perfectly encapsulates abuser dynamics because step 1 is ISOLATION!!
Jenny: A FAIR AND GOOD POINT ASHLEY
Ashley: like on a structural level, this book is hurting the reader as much as possible lol
a trivial point compared to the rest but
if YOU were the scion of one of two warring firebending mafia families
CC: wouldn’t you like
invest in LITERALLY THE MOST FLAME RETARDANT INFRASTRUCTURE
Jenny: also a good point
CC: all your casino staff have flameproof vests or w/e???
you COMPLETE IDIOT
i’m not even a psychic and i saw that coming
i mean like, in hindsight, once I knew his main enemy was essentially up on the same crap as him
Ashley: but who needs a fire extinguisher when you can simply physically force everyone to leave using your brain and very bad attitude
also because mind control??
is a thing???
Jenny: and he uses it ON HER??? like
ALL THE TIME????!?!?
Rachel: THIS WAS THE STUFF
THAT I HATED
and the worst part is, Dante never has any fucking remorse about it
CC: it’s for her oOoOoOowWwWwnNnNn goOooOooOOood
Jenny: motherfucker says sorry but doesn’t mean it even once
Ashley: yeah, he’s just like “at least I took full sexual advantage of you instead of just automatically killing you”
CC: uh YOU’RE WELCOME
Ashley: i HATE more than anything on this earth
Ashley: justifying something actually violent and demeaning with like some dumb plot reason
CC: who knew I’d get to use this AGAIN in a romance roundtable????
Jenny: g r o s s
Rachel: god his whole fucking raintree clan bulllshit
we never saw him ONCE do anything kingly
CC: oh well rachel
does his own laundry
which is like
so noble of him
Rachel: here are his bureaucratic obligations????
Ashley: okay but like clearly that’s not even his real mansion
because the cliffhanger ending has the bad guys running off to attack the house where his sister and some other complete off-screen stranger live, called “sanctuary”
“Sanctuary: a maximum security wealthy estate hidden from all but a chosen few”
CC: sure buddy
your REAL secret mansion
i’d just like to point out that the book ends w his abandoning her at the regular mansion (which just got shot up), so that he can go secure the family estate
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PLACE THAT
would be a safe place to house the woman you’ve just proposed to after 2 days
Ashley: and likely inseminated with solstice sun juice
Jenny: lol but also gross
CC: this is a real greatest hits album of CC Memes I know but like, for real tho
Ashley: gotta bust out the heavy hitters for this nonsense
Jenny: i do want to mention that one of my biggest frustrations throughout this is the out-of-nowhere switch on this protagonist’s character
she starts out, having been kidnapped and mind-controlled by some guy who forced images of the two of them having sex into her mind
she starts out a little too calm but mostly freaked out
Jenny: yes — you do need to find a weapon
you need to kill this guy
Jenny: and it’s just like — where did this even come from??
Jenny: “He doesn’t hold back but he plays fair”????
Jenny: What part of mind-controlling you into following his every command is “PLAYING FAIR”?????
Ashley: i think we have reached the parts where i began skimming lol
what the hell was the deal with this shit right here:
Ashley: i really Could Not give this my full attention after the part (only about halfway in) where he forced her to take off her clothes so he could find a dumb enemy fire clan birthmark
Jenny: gross gross unnecessary
like — jesus christ dude
you can’t just tell her what you’re doing and/or why???
you can’t just COMMUNICATE with this woman you’ve taken hostage???
Ashley: (also images aren’t loading for me so i can’t react properly)
Rachel: that was the number one worst thing that happened in this book
CC: the fertility charm
wHY DOES HE JUST
W H Y? ??????
Jenny: and WHY IS IT IN HIS OFFICE AT WORK????
that’s just a cool fun thing brothers do, i guess
they make fertility charms for each other
Rachel: i don’t have any brothers, jenny is that what your brother does for you??
my sister has certainly never made me a fertility charm
Jenny: gross no
CC: mine neither
Jenny: i think only two boys brothers
CC: but they have that sister too! right???
Rachel: i will have to ask around, take a poll
Jenny: you know how boys are always joshing each other about fertility
Ashley: yeah but she doesn’t get the special sperm enhancer
shut up about the sun
Jenny: yeah it was specifically mentioned that he and his brother exchanged these charms — probably the sister had enough sense to know how weird of a thing it is???
Ashley: i do not want to find out
i do not wish to continue reading this series
Jenny: it’s just one of those weird worldbuilding things that they just never followed up on
oh but agree
Ashley: even Twilight had the decency to move to morally dubious pregnancy only at the beginning of the 3rd installment
Jenny: as much as i would like to know who is in charge of and what method of classification they use to determine class-a, class-b, etc magicians, i do not want to know badly enough to read book 2
CC: yeah i was really hoping for some delightful messy romance but
they really just cut straight past all the good stuff
CC: yikes dot com
Rachel: yeah this was
i mean it’s such a contrived, standard romance trope but
i hated it
Jenny: very same
and i usually love contrived, standard romance tropes
CC: if I wanted this, I’d pick up one of the many “the [adjective] man’s secret baby” romance books
this dude is straight up THE WORST
Jenny: it’s true
but tbh as much as i hate the scenes where he’s actually on the page, idk that i could even go on listening to our protag talk about him
get out of here w this shit
CC: you RUINED ME
Jenny: i’m begging you
Jenny: what does that even mean???!?!
Ashley: These are the tears of someone who is experiencing a euphoric phase of the abuse cycle
THAT’S JUST FACTS FOLKS
Jenny: god yeah where is the “journey of self-discovery” i was promised??
CC: journey of self-discovery that maybe you should just
abandon your inner self
this guy probably knows best
CC: he seems like he has it all figured out
Ashley: Give all your power to me and my baby, in both the half-baked fantasy magic sense and the all too real patriarchal sense
I don’t think even teen me would have been into this, and I ate up really questionable relationships
CC: this prince diamond ass weirdo
Ashley: God he wishes
At least Prince Diamond had good hair
CC: i know right
Jenny: god yeah what WAS this guys hair??
like a slicked back mullet??
v bad v bad not a good look
Rachel: what decade do y’all think this book takes place in?
CC: 2007 and 1987 simultaneously
the aughts and the 80s
Jenny: really such a horrible amount of overlap between those two cultural moments
I think his car is way more aughts
Although his house is way more 80s
CC: so quick side note
but a thing I didn’t realize until the end of the book bc I Am Dumb I Guess
CC: this is some sabrina [bells tolls] BS right here
abandon hope, all ye who enter here
Jenny: oh yes the inferno going up in flames
the jokes about his being a demon
all a bit hamhanded
not really backed up by the worldbuilding
CC: i’m just glad her name wasn’t beatrice
Ashley: I 100% guarantee you that the author, Linda * checks notes * Hamilton??? is a libertarian man
Jenny: no doubt no doubt no doubt
CC: that scene where he pays his respects to his dead employee?
the single one panel aside
the one employee who dies in his SURPRISINGLY FLAMMABLE BUILDING
Ashley: LOLLL he wasn’t paying respects, he was wheeling out a body!!!! Covering up an OSHA violation!!!
Jenny: the bastard
Rachel: i can’t believe there are at least 3 more books in this series
and i am so happy we will never read them
CC: do you think she
has a baby in each one
Ashley: It is truly a situation that defies reason
I don’t know but I hope she eats them all, like Saturn
CC: hope she becomes the one with the “courage and spunk” she’s always dreamed of being, i guess
Jenny: that’s how she becomes a raintree
she distills his power and consumes it
CC: one can only hope
i just can’t believe how much this series seemed to have
ok well mostly the combination of those two things
Ashley: Also, plucky scams
CC: i love plucky scams!
Ashley: ME TOO
CC: there was only like, 1 plucky scam
the real scam was luring us to read this book with the promise of plucky scams!
shame on you, linda hamilton!
Jenny: y’all ready for final thoughts?
Ashley: Beyond ready lol
Rachel: the sooner we can put this book behind us
Jenny: my final thought is really just building off of a previous point
that i’m having a hard time w this protagonist after she decides that this asshole is good, i guess??
Jenny: literally what the fuck is this
they bone and she starts crying
and she says “I’m just leaking, okay?”
what the fuck?
Jenny: what the fuck is that?
CC: he’s just returning to his oozy gelatinous form
Ashley: LOL FOR REAL
Whoever localized this did not give a fuck
her tears will melt him
CC: he’s basically just the ditto lady from detective pikachu
he can only hold his form so long
my final thought is
CC: lol i didn’t realize dante raintree worked in hollywood
Jenny: but also ughughughughughughughugh
Rachel: my final thought is basic as hell because i don’t have a lot to add here but
Rachel: me, with this whole raintree series
fuck this book
that’s it, that’s all i have
Ashley: Honestly it’s great
CC: us, at this book
I TRUSTED YOU
Rachel: lolllll accurate
Ashley: Omg I’m in pain it’s so real
Okay here is my final thought, may she rest in piece:
Be gay, do rapist murders
Rachel: fuck yeah
Rachel: hail satan
Apologies, Raintree fans: we’re parting ways with the series with no regrets. Thanks for the memories, firebending vampires!! See you never!!!! Join us for our next Romance Roundtable, where we’ll be recapping Her Hired Husband: a title that seems to be a nostalgic trip back to the Husband Store (fingers crossed y’all).
In the meantime, join us over on Patreon for some extra goofs & Jokes we couldn’t quite fit into this piece.