Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where all four editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing Her Hired Husband by Kazumi Kamiya (original novel by Renee Rozsel). This book features some of our FAVORITE fake dating tropes, plus the bonus of a main protag with a super cool day job?? Not bad at all!
Jenny: should we start with a summary?
Rachel: Yeah this was a wild one
Jenny: local woman, uncomfortable sharing emotions with relatives
a young woman gets herself pregnant and convinces a stranger to pretend to be her fiance so that she doesn’t have to deal with her judgmental new england grandparents being dicks to her
Rachel: and when we say “gets herself pregnant” we mean that because there’s a history of fertility/health problems with the women in her family, she artificially inseminates at age 28
Jenny: yes to be clear
she does it herself
with a doctor
not like with a turkey baster
CC: 28 years old
elderly in anime years
barely hanging on
Jenny: practically dead in the pokemon universe
Rachel: i think prof oak is 28 years old
CC: PFFT he’s 22 if he’s a DAY
CC: he just graduated from pokecollege with like 19 degrees
like you do at 16 when you’re An Anime
is this what new englanders are like? bc sources say it’s true:
Jenny: LOL they’re from BOSTON
just imagine matt&ben
u tink yer betta than me??
CC: i only know boston as the city fallout 4 is set in LMAO
Jenny: i heard recently that during the revolutionary war
there was real, genuine concern that boston would just split off into its own country and conquer america
bc they just fought everyone
all the time
Jenny: they’ll kick your ass, they’ll kick your mom’s ass, they’ll kick their own ass
Rachel: they were proto texas
texas, but with winters and also “wicked” instead of “y’all”
i can’t even imagine
Rachel: ok so they live in not-boston
and she’s pregnant
CC: aka houston LMAO
Jenny: a small town outside of houston, she says
before we get there!
i want to just start with the opening panel
Jenny: it’s VERY UNCLEAR
like, a) explicitly states that she HAS A FIANCE and they live together? and b) implies that he just supports her and he has no job?
but we soon enough learn that she DOES NOT have a fiance??
CC: doesn’t she live with her brother?????
Jenny: I THINK SO
I think her brother DID NOT move out
Rachel: i think this is the lie she tells her family
or like, the lie she’s planning to tell them
it’s the fantasy she’s presenting
Jenny: but then would she just be telling them that all her brother’s shit in the house is actually her fiance’s??
i guess they are estranged grandparents so maybe they wouldn’t know
Rachel: honeslty i don’t think she’s thought this through very well
Jenny: lol yes ok v true
CC: so ok I am dying to know
what did y’all think about sally and noah, our two main weirdos in this one???
Jenny: i love her
i love sally
Rachel: ok so i don’t know if it’s just the trash fire thatw as the last book we read
but i really dug these two and also this book
she’s a WELDER
Jenny: BIG SPOILER
SHE’S A WELDER
Rachel: ok also yes this article will have hella spoilers lol
CC: sPOILER ALERT
the fake married couple gets real married
Jenny: ok ok fair enough
i really loved sally and i AM a huge sucker for fake dating at all costs
the pacing in this book made no sense
and the welder thing was not mentioned anywhere
so it really snuck up on me!
Rachel: do you think it’s legally required that if your main character is pregnant, the climax of the book has to be at the baby’s birth?
100% of stories featuring pregnant people are setup in this way
Jenny: chekov’s fetus
if and or when y’all have kids
you just wanna
get in an elevator and be like “OH NO”
anytime you have to go up like 20 flights
bc like, idk if I’ll ever have kids but if I do do not get into an elevator with me LMAO
one thing i also liked about this story was how low key the stakes were
like, it’s a small family dynamic
the stakes are — will these people judge me????
with is v relatable
and again, nothing like the last book
CC: v v v v good
Jenny: oh yes truly
Rachel: UGH i had such hopes for that book
Jenny: we could’ve had it all.mp3
Rachel: this could be us but you are a dub nonsensical and problematic piece of romance fiction
CC: the harlequin manga that must not be named
Jenny: lol def
but THIS book!
it had everything I need
Jenny: people are too lazy to explain artificial insemination so they make up an elaborate fake dating plot
Jenny: and there was ONLY ONE BED
Rachel: OF COURSE
only one bed is also a fake dating essential plot device
Jenny: i live for it
CC: where does her brother sleep
even if his room is being used as the guest room
it’s gonna be wild when the grandparents notice pictures of him all over the place idk maybe that’s….normal…??
Jenny: lol NO i didn’t even think of that!!
but re: the brother — i mean:
i don’t get it y’all
Rachel: lol honestly it doesn’t bother me
the brother is a nothing character that only serves as a vehicle to get this nice, hot doctor into the picture
Jenny: i think what it is is that the brother maybe just RECENTLY moved out?
and that’s why his snorkeling goggles are still there (bc who would pack that in a move)
which is why noah ahs to go to the house in the first place — to pick those up
CC: that’s reasonable!
Jenny: and maybe he took his bed when he moved out
but tbh none of this is in the text
we don’t even find out who the brother is until page 37
CC: oh yeah I thought that was weird
I really wanna talk about something important
can we please PLEASE talk about
noah’s relationship to his GF?????
Jenny: oh man yeah
they’ve been growing apart, so he plans this double couples vacation with our girl’s brother and his wife
but when he’s supposed to head back out to meet them at the airport, he gets a call from his gf and it’s weird?
she’s changed all their travel plans to be more about luxury and less about nature, i guess
which like — i think we’re supposed to be against her bc of the indulgence of it, but i’m mostly just against her for changing plans without consulting the others first
but i love to indulge so i have no judgements on that front
CC: I guess it seems like she changed the travel plans just to mess around with some dude????
like, did she know her old friend would be there?
she was planning on spending most of the trip at the hotel bc of her “delicate skin”
Jenny: that’s a good point
she could have been cheating for a while, i guess
CC: i read that and was thinking oh no she is up to NO GOOD but that didn’t seem like what noah was upset about lol
Jenny: i think i had assumed it was a coincidence, but you make a good point
could be premeditated
CC: idk! i feel like the cheating element served no purpose in the story
on his side or the weird GFs
since he didn’t seem to care enough about her to mind lol
maybe the intention was to make noah seem ~*~forbidden~*~ but that is a shitty way to do it
and definitely they are not broken up when he pulls this shit
Jenny: fully out of nowhere, it seemed to me
CC: he is really throwing himself into the role of Fake Husband lolll
CC: gearing up for fake husband oscar season right here
the most effort anybody has ever put into being a fake spouse without money or property being attached to the deal
Jenny: lol gotta love that commitment
just doing it to be nice
CC: like u do
this is even better our of context honestly
noah x grandpa, two ships passing in the night
Jenny: i am for the most part
kind of lukewarm on this guy
but working in the free clinic was great
he does probably say this to all of his patients
but i thought it was v cute and sweet
CC: oh man now that you bring it up tho
the OBGYN thing
this book is probably the closest a harlequin manga has gotten to saying the word “abortion” outside of some side character’s tragic backstory
to approaching the concept
bordering on recognizing the complexities of unplanned pregnancy
Jenny: oh yeah — the fact that he advised that teen to put her baby up for adoption
definitely June (2007) to maybe the eventual The Obvious Child (2014)
maybe in another 7 years harlequin will get there
Rachel: it was an interesting choice to make the main conflict between the two characters her feelings about doctors
makes the choice of including a girlfriend that you try to cat in an unfavorable light even more weird???
Jenny: yeah! another great point of keeping the stakes very low/personal/interior
oh but yeah
(a pacing thing again)
Jenny: we don’t hear about her backstory (why she hates doctores) until we’re 86 PAGES IN
CC: lmao maybe HE just moved out
Jenny: oh shit
that actually makes a lot more sense
but i feel like they’ve been broken up for a while? since before she got herself pregnant?
CC: i really appreciated how many Moods there were in this book
Jenny: oh god oh man
CC: I’M GOING TO BED, GOODBYE
i yelled I’M UNCOMFORTABLE out loud LOLLL
i’m not sure what kind of mood this is
Jenny: but it was like
every time i saw the grandmother
whatever this is
Rachel: if you cover up one side of her face in that drawing, she looks EXTREMELY threatening
cover up the other side and she’s like a nice grandma!
Jenny: i just did that with my hand on the screen and you’re SO RIGHT
CC: this look: judgmental but trying to be nice about it
you know what was also A Mood tho
CC: anytime some dude finds out about my anime BS and I wind up explaining the plot of like, utena
CC: THIS DOES NOT SPARK JOY
Jenny: yo though that guy sucked
she’s a WELDER
that’s SO COOL
CC: i love her
if they put “also she’s a welder” on the back cover
how much faster do you think we would have bought it???
SO MUCH FASTER, right?????
Jenny: SO MUCH FASTER!!!
CC: way to bury the lede, harlequin
Jenny: that was honestly another big point in noah’s favor
i can forgive the fact that nobody talks like this
just bc he APPRECIATES her art
Rachel: if you use zest in a convo you are trying to sell something
nobody says zest unironically!!!
Jenny: that’s true
CC: he’s about to bring up his MLML business
author cut just before he tries to sell her a pair of yoga pants
Rachel: some nice essential oils
Jenny: bottled zest
CC: “what an artist like you needs is pampering. and who could pamer you better than a chef?”
jk nobody other than middle aged suburban moms have ever sold pampered chef, also idk if it’s still a thing anyway
Jenny: it is!
they had a stall at our staff health fair
but so did a travel agency, so idk if that means anything
might just be a fair for businesses that no longer exist
CC: girl that’s not a good sign for pampered chef LOL
RIP, maker of my favorite ice cream scoop
Jenny: y’all ready for final thoughts
CC: oh god i am
Rachel: yeah def
Jenny: might just go ahead and mention that sally does reconcile with her grandparents at the end and all is well
but yeah! final thoughts!
CC: y’all mind if I go first??
i know I already mentioned this
LMAO what a twist
CC: this is truly the fake husband genre’s version of ending an article like
“what did you think??? tell us in the comments!!!!!!”
Jenny: lolol ugh
Rachel: man look at those yaoi hands tho
Jenny: he is really just all chin
CC: 40% chin, 40% hand, 20% other bits
Rachel: bits, assorted
Jenny: that’s my order at the husband store
CC: one husband with all the bits
ok ok my final thought
is, unsurprisingly, a bit of a nitpick
Jenny: they’re just outside of houston
what fucking mountain?
CC: literally cacklin tho
i didn’t catch that!!
this author has never been to texas
Jenny: the south is all the same, right?? and it’s all apalachia??
Rachel: and not a swamp in sight
CC: i am p sure there isn’t a mountain within 50 miles of houston
Rachel: well my final thought is that wow, this book makes motherhood look EASY
Rachel: look new moms!! take the hint!!
yawning will put your baby right to sleep!!
idyllic as fuck
and the opposite of anything i’ve heard about having 2 week old
CC: noah asks if she understands reality when it comes to babies
but i guess for her
idk that’s one heck of a gamble, good for her i guess lol
Jenny: if only all our best-laid fake dating plans could work out so well
CC: – making money on her art
– rolled the fake husband gamble and came out of it with a pretty alright actually husband
– had a baby on her own, has the chillest baby on earth
– also MAKES MONEY ON HER ART; OWNS A HOUSE????
good for u sally
Jenny: to be fair i think she inherited the house
she is Killing It
a true american hero
CC: but ok if it’s the house she and her brother grew up in WHERE DID THEIR PARENTS SLEEP
I’M SORRY RACHEL
I’m LOSING IT
CC: schrodinger’s property ownership & husband
Jenny: maybe the parents had the master and the kids shared w bunk beds in the room that her brother just moved out of?
i’m trying too hard to make this work i think
CC: brothers aren’t real and neither are houses
Jenny: if only that were true
We haven’t picked our next Romance excursion, but we’ll continue our Harlequin manga deep dives in due time! In the meantime, you can find more things we know about Houston and Bostn, as well as some good looks, over one our Patreon!