Romance Roundtable #19: Tug of Love

very little tugging, actually

April 1, 2020 at 11:37 am

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing Tug of Love by Reiko Kitagawa (original novel by Penny Jordan). Get ready for a whole buffet of Terrible Men, a Very Normal (?) amount of Oedipal possessiveness, and—what’s this?—a complex protagonist??.


Jenny: ok so can i just start out by saying:

Jenny: that’s it. that’s the book

Ashley: HAHAHA YEP

Rachel: LOL
nailed it

Ashley: it’s clearly the 80s or 90s… they didn’t invent therapy yet

CC: ok but also
counterpoint / part 2:
tl;dr (too long, DID read; but):

Jenny: h o n e s t l y

Ashley: yyyyyyyyyyep

Rachel: lol ok ok but before we dig in, let’s summarize

Jenny: a single mother, Win, is dating her boss, who hates her son; her ex husband moves in with her??? and she rejects the boss and remarries her ex
the son is an absolute shitheel

Ashley: and has a really bad oedipus complex

CC: also the son WATCHED A FAMILY DIE BEFORE HIM
just, like you do
for Stakes

Ashley: lmao yeah… that felt… forced

Jenny: not handled well!

Ashley: i will say, this was one of those special Harlequin Manga where every single character sucks shit

Jenny: truly!!

Ashley: they are all extremely reactive and bad at acting like we live in a society / family unit

CC: everyone sucks but heather
the supportive girlfriend

Jenny: BLESS HEATHER

Ashley: AS USUAL the cute friend is the best character / should have been the love interest!!! lol

Jenny: just gals being pals

Ashley: a tale as old as Romance Roundtable

Jenny: lol loved this moment too:

Jenny: very casually tell your friend how sexy she is
👀

Rachel: oh i also got that screencap but my name for it was
“what is with these font choices”
the “BECAUSE YOU’RE SEXY” font is a CHOICE
that someone MADE

CC: heather screaming

Ashley: yeah this was a very special “how to lettering????”
although i appreciate that they were being like, experimental
that being said… does Harlequin manga… have… editors?
show me the receipts because i think these comics are edited by poor AI

Jenny: a good question!
does harlequin manga need editors?? (yes; hire us)

Ashley: HA
okay new approach: maybe let’s talk a little about each character one by one? there’s a lot to unpack

CC: there is definitely a lot to unpack here

Ashley: let’s start with Tom because trashing men is fun

Jenny: and also he’s the first character we really meet

Jenny: in this classic: you’re not my REAL dad!
also the vocabulary on this kid!

Ashley: also my fave bit,
where he CORRECTLY diagnoses the source of their “relationship” as sexual harassment

Jenny: good points from this child, tbh

Ashley: also sadly the best style of any other person / panel in this comic
anyway Tom… is so very clearly a creep!!
i was sort of hoping that the choice between the two love interests would be difficult…
and it was…
but in a completely opposite way where they are both way gross
instead of both desirable

Jenny: honestly!
but also like!!
how did she not see these MASSIVE red flags from Tom??

CC: OMG truly

Jenny: open your eyes girl!

Ashley: yeah…. it took her a while to cop to the charlie thing… and the bad sex thing…
but let me say, from personal experience, i actually did find this interesting and believable
young single mom is desperate for connection and overlooks glaring flaws? yeah, that hits for me.
also THANK GOODNESS there was like, some actual sex talk in this book?
like a surprisingly frank discussion of desire and good and bad sex?

Jenny: more than “fumble fumble” you mean?

Ashley: LOL

Rachel: YEAH

Rachel: i was intrigued that there was sex and also some kind of evaluation of sex and what it means to the character!

Ashley: yes!

Rachel: also, there were boobs and i wish there had been at least a dude butt

Ashley: boobs WITH NIPPLES!!
DIFFERENT WOMEN’S NIPS!!

Rachel: YES, several instances of NIPS

CC: surprised by the amount of nips!

Ashley: but yeah, more full frontal and rear…al… male nudity please

Rachel: give us a butt you cowards!!! 🍑

CC: ok but, TBH I don’t want to see either of these dudes in any less clothing than they are currently wearing LOL
I DO want to see some grade A harlequin beefcake

Ashley: HAHA fair, not THESE dudes
they all had across-the-pond massive foreheads
and necks you could drive a truck on

CC: ninehead to fivehead

Ashley: LMAO

CC: while we’re on the subject of tom
might I just add

CC: love this swift comeuppance, also, get it girl
take all his money and get as many elaborate 90s manicures as you like
get like, 15 car phones

Ashley: i swear Lisa’s model was based on Courtney Cox

CC: or uh
the girl from Addams Family?
god I can’t remember her name

Ashley: i was ALSO thinking joan cusack from addams family values lol
babe of the century imo

CC: i am here to: look hot, take yr money aesthetic

Jenny: TRULY!!

Ashley: YES!

Rachel: you love to see it

CC: I don’t really wanna “live to work” either I mean honestly
good 4 u
sincerely

Ashley: Lisa the receptionist said honeypot rights

Rachel: LOL ashley
ok we spent too much time talking about nasty tom
let’s pivot and talk about nasty james

CC: hahahaha so fair

Ashley: okay yeah, JAMES
the tech exec from down undah
i did LOVE that they straight up just had a panel full of koalas whenever australia came up
down to a branded polo James wore that said “coara”

Jenny: was cute
also
another GREAT heather moment

Ashley: HAHA heather really is a good friend
also her hairstyle with the little wispies confirms: DEF the mid-90s
but anyway… okay so did anyone believe that James really thought Charlie ran his “make dad move in with us” scheme by Win???

CC: absolutely not

Jenny: lol NOPE!

CC: this feels like it’s out of some terrible divorced dad playbook

Jenny: this is not the face of a man who assumed everything was approved

Ashley: HA
great point

CC: no dad who asked permission to spontaneously move in would take their kid to an amusement park that often
I’m just saying

Ashley: you mean, ONCE???

CC: uh
so quickly?
LOOK
I’ve never been to a disney theme park I’m SUSPICIOUS

Ashley: lol
no, you’re right, this is a super divorced dad who forgot his kid existed move

CC: ALSO he was super quick to want to drop charlie like a hot potato when things didn’t go well

Jenny: yeah! a bad look!

Ashley: yeah, i’m not over that
he did straight up admit at the end that charlie was a cover for, “sorry, i was just really horny?”

CC: LMAO
YOU’RE RIGHT

Rachel: so true
and like, for a second, he had me
i was on board

Rachel: like, that’s a good thing to say to your son!

Jenny: i mean — p good parenting, but also!!
he absolutely jumped her the moment they were both out the door

Ashley: OH YES I’M SO GLAD YOU BROUGHT THAT UP

Jenny: it was like: look how good i am at being a dad; also i just failed to save two people and their child from burning to death, BC OF STAKES, so i need to be comforted also

Rachel: oof you’re right
it was so disappointing

Ashley: Charlie CONVENIENTLY and MYSTERIOUSLY got way jealous of James the night after they has crazy sex
and the whole time they’re discussing his “jealousy” i’m like… has no one considered the very real possibility that he HEARD / SAW them??
by Harlequin manga standards, that sex scene was WILD AF

Rachel: YES
like it started literally in the hallway OUTSIDE HIS BEDROOM DOOR

Ashley: yes!!!!!!!

CC: also that sex scene just looked loud

Ashley: lol for real though
bless Win though, her moments when she’s honest with herself about Being Horny as a Normal and Not Remotely Spiritual Endeavor are when i love her best

CC: related-ish??? but even though he is absolutely made out of day old garbage I did appreciate James being somewhat self aware here:

CC: what’s that? you’re worried that your TEENAGE girlfriend, your BABY GIRLFRIEND is not emotionally ready for this relationship but pushed it anyway???
I guess at least he realizes it, which is a big up on like, the entire relationships subreddit

Ashley: HA

CC: what i am saying is, this is a very low bar

Ashley: yeah, when they’re finally honest about it all, it’s like, okay this can be problematic in a very Human way! as a treat!

Jenny: i do want to mention, kind of to this point: their misunderstanding of each others emotions did, for the most part, actually feel p believable
like

Jenny: this felt like a perfectly reasonable assumption

Ashley: oh yes
this is almost the plot of Carol
and also every divorce ever

Jenny: yeah!
this guy comes back into your life, after spending the summer w your son, and he’s criticizing you
felt like a logical jump
and it was actually p fun and well done to watch her point of view on this evolve
like

Ashley: hahahaha

Jenny: when james whisks the son off to an amusement park, foiling Win’s plans to make a nice breakfast!
v funny!
well done!

Ashley: indeed

CC: love a protag w chocolate on her face
coffee?
chocolate shavings in the coffee right?

Ashley: def chocolate
but i think this is a good time to pivot and focus on Win (short for Winter)
she makes bad choices left and right, including when it comes to trying to seem like a good parent
and even though she’s kind of nasty and reactive… i… actually think it worked?
like, finally a Harlequin manga character who isn’t a cardboard cutout of an angel from a pickup line?

CC: love 2 see a protag in these books who can actually make mistakes
not just the victim of circumstances
not ENTIRELY the victim of circumstances I mean

Ashley: yes!!!
you put your finger on it right there
she’s just as responsible for her misery as the men in her life

CC: yeah — I am glad she was willing to kick tom to the curb in the end though

Jenny: but also would like to remind everyone that the men in her life are also responsible for some level of misery
ex:

Jenny: this fucking asshole

Ashley: LOLLLL

Jenny: but also def she is world more complex than most harlequin manga protags

Rachel: lol, and again, the bar is so low

Ashley: this is true

Jenny: i did like that she had v relatable dreams, though (when it comes to romance)

Rachel: this was CUTE

Jenny: #couplegoals

CC: please give us a harlequin manga about THEM
i wanna know EVERY DETAIL

Ashley: omg yESSSS

CC: but also, for all we know they just started hooking up

Ashley: EITHER WAY
i’ll order 5, please!

CC: LOL agreed

Ashley: also, while we are all canon in favor of old couples…
this hit hard during quarantine… 😥
look at them, surviving to old age… being outside together… no hand sanitizer in sight…

Rachel: oof yeah

CC: the 90s-a few weeks ago really were a different time 😥

Jenny: i mean yeah — this was the 90s so this couple is probably dead now
not to be That Guy
but
good for them, y’know
really dodged the bullet that is 2020

CC: this is fine dot gif dot jpg dot tiff dot exe
but!!! anyway!!!!!
to pivot away from the wider tire fire around us to the more centralized tire fire that is the characters in this book
heather called it: these dudes ARE all super weirdly and creepily possessive

Jenny: ALL OF THEM!

CC: is this the time bud?

Ashley: OOOOOOOOOOOOF
yeah, this is like, reaction-image-palooza

Rachel: (note to readers: this was right after they put their son to bed after he woke up SCREAMING because he’d just seen a whole family die in a horrible accident, and then her nightgown was slightly askew and he got a peek at the outline of her boobs)
(so, very CLASSY)

Ashley: just a little light objectification humor in a crisis!

CC: look
sure, this gif might be more applicable re: tom, but

Ashley: we got enough rope to hang em all

Rachel: it’s definitely not NOT applicable

CC: LOL

Rachel: well, with that, are y’all ready for final thoughts?
cause i have one

Jenny: yeah

CC: I’m ready!

Ashley: ready!

Rachel: i don’t think this is how the pill works

CC: IT’S NOT

Ashley: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA omg i’m so glad

Rachel: if it is, then i have gotten VERY LUCKY

Ashley: not even Ms. Rona could do that!

Jenny: i’ve heard that that happens, but i think it is urban legend
sometimes people just don’t take them regularly

Ashley: tbf, in this scene she is 19 at the OLDEST
so she’s probably like… yeah, uh… yeah a cold,

CC: honestly the only, ONLY thing related I can think of
is I guess there are some antibiotics that I think used to conflict with the pill? or that people THINK can interfere with the pill’s effectiveness but in reality I don’t think really do????
I am a little rusty on this stuff, as I haven’t taught a Managing Contraception class in over a decade
but I can’t think of one reason that a cold should be able to interfere with your birth control pills LOL

Rachel: i feel like if this is a real thing, my doctor would have told me about it
what a wild urban legend tho

CC: unless you were sick and forgot to take it!

Rachel: that’s probably it!! (re: jenny’s point!)

Jenny: my final thought ties in a little bit to earlier points: all of the dudes are gross and possessive; this child is an absolute shitheel

Jenny: this is “your house”??
check w the bank, my dude

Ashley: kid can’t even define “mortgage” smh

Rachel: lol to be fair, i was some version of this kid to an extent
i definitely got in fights with my mom because I had RIGHTS and i was her EQUAL
EQUAL RIGHTS

Jenny: lolololololol

CC: kids in the 90s!
snarfin ‘za with their buds
hangin 10
idk LOL what did kids do

Jenny: in their YoYo t shirts

Rachel: playing with pogs

Ashley: that they bought with THEIR OWN money

Jenny: no cell phones

CC: that brings me to my final point

CC: capitalism

Jenny: it’s the worst

CC: love 2 get sexually harassed at work; definitely rewarding & fulfilling experience
every dude in this book is bad but i hate tom the most

Rachel: he is definitely the worst of the lot
and also i’m mad because he gets no comeuppance
i’m used to the obvious villains getting obviously punished in these books lol

Jenny: yeah hiring an incompetent young woman for you to flirt w isn’t as much of a comeuppance as i wanted

Ashley: TRUE

Rachel: my head canon is that she married him and killed him for the money
secret black widow

Jenny: LOL
HELL YES

CC: blessed content

Ashley: love it

CC: i’d love 2 see it

Ashley: okay my final thought is:
don’t read and gestate, kids
it could hurt the baby!!!

CC: LOL
jesus
not even once

Rachel: especially if that baby is a lady baby
can’t have her reading too soon

Ashley: also, it’s illegal

Rachel: LOL

Ashley: thanks for going on this journey y’all! it was a juicy one!
i gotta go eat the dinner that my non-psychotic husband made us

Jenny: nice!

CC: love is real!!!!!

Jenny Mott

Jenny is just a Silly Nerd with a lot of Feelings about Comic Books and Friendship and also This Capitalist Yoke We All Share; she enjoys Dogs and Sleeping and Cartoons. Her three favorite words are: Breakfast All Day.

Carolynn Calabrese

If you prick your finger and write “Cat Fancy” on your mirror during a harvest moon, CC will appear behind you and make you put human clothes on your pets. CC is Head Crone in Charge at POMEgranate Magazine, as well as the co-host of Moon Podcast Power MAKE UP!!

Ashley Gallagher

Ashley is a writer, a subtropical swamp blossom transplanted to a temperate rain forest, and a 100% organic mansplain repellent. She enjoys yelling about the media and pop culture zeitgeists that everyone has moved on from at least six months previous, and headcanoning her favorite fictional characters queer.

Rachel Weiss

Rachel is a designer and artist from Texas. She is pro-feminism, pro-crones, and pro-dogs. She's also Boss Crone at POMEgranate Magazine, and one day hopes to be able to drink her tea without so much milk and sugar.