Romance Roundtable #2: Closer Encounters

This article is a part of Summer Lovin’ Week 2017.



Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where all four editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing Closer Encounters by Merline Lovelace (Author) and Kazuna Uchida (Artist) — an inspirational tale about finding love and siphoning government resources to fund your personal horny ghost exorcism.

Warning: many images in this post are borderline (?) NSFW, so make sure that your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder before you get any farther into this post! Unless your boss is a fan of sexy boob romance manga. Then it’s fine. Probably. 


Carolynn: ok so one thing I want to do this time is to summarize the plot of this book together
Ashley: ya
Jenny: bad spy hunts ghosts
you think it’s going to be aliens but then it’s ghosts

Carolynn: Also the ghost is super horny
and possessing a woman who is 50% boob, 50% hair
Ashley: lol very important detail
Carolynn: and maybe a hacker
Jenny: bad spy hunts horny ghost
Ashley: maybe
Carolynn: they try to solve the ghost’s sexy murder
Ashley: by exploiting government resources and secrets which is GOOD
very radical
Jenny: and they throw a wheelchair old man down the stairs
Carolynn: because he sold her uncle out to Nazis for heroin???
Ashley: omg true
he deserved it though
Jenny: esp considering how bad his facial hair was
Ashley: for being a hypocrite and THE REAL MURDERER
Jenny: and he had a ponytail
can’t trust a ponytail
Rachel: looking at you, JETHRO COLE

Jenny: so this one had a lot more boobage
and I like this guy better than jethro
Carolynn: yeah same
Rachel: ok so literally the second page

Jenny: right??
like the title page!
Ashley: haha yeah that’s at the very least an errant thumb
Jenny: I have the same image saved but I named it boobcupping
but he’s really going for it
Carolynn: ya she’s totally stacked
Ashley: that’s not how you rescue someone but okay
Carolynn: there’s a panel near the end where I literally said DAMN out loud
Jenny: was it the boat sex part?
Carolynn: I think so
you see a ton of sideboob
Ashley: omg that reminds me of a real life grope that happened to me
a person i formally considered a friend was hugging me goodbye and his hand touched my ass
Jenny: YIKES
Ashley: it’s like, a hand should be nowhere NEAR the ass region in a hug, right??!!!???!
Jenny: yes
men are terrible

Rachel: god yeah there’s so much boob in this comic though
like, I thought about screencapping some of them
but it felt… weird?? Inappropriate?
I did not want those screen caps on my phone
Carolynn: literal bosom heaving
Ashley: I literally wrote “giant boobs tiny butt” for pg 9

Carolynn: ya he says she lost weight??? (also wtf) but I guess she didn’t lose any boob weight
Jenny: that’s probably from all the stress-related weight loss

Ashley: oh yeah that was weird
Carolynn: imo that’s the first thing 2 go
Ashley: also her hair is like a whole foot longer
Carolynn: all her calories turned into hair
Rachel: and boob
Ashley: lol CC you beat me to that comment
Carolynn: ok but as gratuitous as the titty was in this comic
this is one horny harlequin manga

Rachel: lol and just a little ab showing!!
Jenny: where he’s doing the broken back boob-butt combo
Ashley: oh yeah this one was actually kinda sexy
jenny lollllll nailed it
Carolynn: somebody alert the hawkeye initiative
Ashley: hawkeye project pose
Rachel: her eyes in this page are also great
the ~*~female gaze~*~

Jenny: boobcupping aside this guy was way better than the last one
Carolynn: this guy reminds me less of a secret agent and more of a sexy calendar fireman
Ashley: oh i liked this guy for sure
Jenny: like, a little weird but better
Carolynn: “you’re such a strong woman” swoon

Ashley: he’s a bad secret agent but a good ghost hunter
Carolynn: look that is the #1 way 2 win my love even tho I’m a huge wimp and couldn’t handle being haunted by a sexy ghost
Rachel: yeah he and his CIA friends really just rolled with the punches on that one
they didn’t skip a beat
Ashley: oh I didn’t get a cap but you know he’s gonna be not good at his tough spy job when you get the shoujo floral screentone during his intro on page 11

Carolynn: I like that we got shoujo florals and a pretty detailed drawing of the White House in one book
Rachel: also he like, almost immediately brings her into his VERY SECRET spy life
oh i’m a spy and here are all my spy friends
Jenny: no hesitation — that’s how deep his love goes
Ashley: He’s like, “I’m a humble blue collar man with three stunningly beautiful geniuses for friends on the other side of the country from where I told you I live”
Carolynn: “this is Lightning, Cyborg, and Tiger”
I don’t remember their secret code names
the girl’s name wasn’t cyborg, was it
Rachel: if it wasn’t it should have been
Ashley: Lightning is one
Com and Cyrene are the others
Carolynn: WHOOPS close enough
I like that this gal is immediately suspicious
she is way more perceptive than what’s her face who bought that husband
Ashley: yeah she’s smart
Carolynn: she hacked into her boss’s computer for sentimental reasons
Ashley: being haunted makes you cautious I guess
Carolynn: that’s kinda cool??? idk??
Ashley: PROBABLY hacked
she’s PROBABLY a hacker
Carolynn: she guessed his weak password
idk if that counts but I’m willing 2 round up
Ashley: lol jk I know she did actually do it but I liked the part at the beginning where they’re like “she PROBABLY is a hacker”

Jenny: major security risk
Ashley: maybe security risk amirite
Carolynn: Googles “does 2-step authentication protect against ghosts???”
Jenny: lol
Ashley: here is the weird thing
overall I liked the plot and pacing – I was expecting low-rent X-Files and got low-rent Vertigo instead which was cool but
after she explains the ship thing he’s like, okay she’s def telling the truth and all his colleagues agree and the case is closed
like dude, what, can you even read
Carolynn: “and they never saw tracy (??) again”
Ashley: you’re not very perceptive for a spy how do you know she’s telling the truth
Jenny: the power of love is how he knows
Ashley: mmm good point
and the power of boners
Carolynn: HOOCH
Jenny: those are great powers
Ashley: that’s gotta be a localization error right
Carolynn: that 40s slang was painful
Ashley: hooch is a real word but it means like moonshine!!
not just booze
Carolynn: hooch is real tho
it’s a real old people slang word
wait now I’m not sure
Ashley: sorry not to bring up a hooch argument but hooch is SPECIFICALLY bootleg liquor
Jenny: no it is a real old people slang word
there’s a song on the Scrubs soundtrack about it
as a general alcohol term
Ashley: whaaaaaat weird
maybe it’s regional
Jenny: the Scrubs soundtrack obviously being a definitive text

Rachel: wow I found that page you were talking about CC
posting it feels pornographic???
Carolynn: aw man send me the screenshot!
I can use my shoujo brushes to bleep stuff out!
I downloaded a whole bunch
Ashley: gimme the porno rachel
Rachel: but let it be known he was wearing his wristwatch while naked
Jenny: what a nerd
Rachel: get ready

Carolynn: at least, this made me say damn out loud
the watch is a weird detail for 2014
they have iPhones; was the Apple Watch out then?
Rachel: it’s probably a Spy Watch
like, it has a decoder ring built in
Jenny: but also DAMN
Carolynn: or like, you know, if he gets compromised
you know what nvm
I don’t want 2 think about the watch it’s making me sad
Rachel: but all the boob in that panel!
and the muscles!
they are having a good time
Carolynn: yeah this was a sexy comic!!
Ashley: yeah that’s a sexy panel
this comic was legit sexy
Rachel: wayyy sexier than the last one
Carolynn: and this dude is like, in the top 10 least sexually coercive love interests in a manga aimed at women or girls that I’ve ever seen
Ashley: yeah def
Rachel: it’s like, I almost don’t believe it
I’m like, looking for flaws
Carolynn: his flaw is that he’s a bad spy and a ghost hunter
Ashley: he like, stops and doesn’t make her feel bad about it
and is like honest about his boner in a cute rather than weird way
Jenny: and he doesn’t talk about how he should be praised for being decent
Carolynn: omg ashley you’re right
you too jenny
also his face is like 60% eyebrows
I’m a fan
in the meantime, just to establish something
the ghost was named Tracey and the titty hacker was Terri?
Ashley: no the ghost was Trixie and the hacker was Tracy
Carolynn: oh goddamn it
Jenny: titty hacker = Tracy
ghost = Trixie
no Terri’s involved
Carolynn: jeez
idk where that came from

Rachel: but ok here’s the deal
I’m very sad there weren’t any aliens
Jenny: SAME
Carolynn: oh man same
this was a very misleading title
Ashley: yeah that was a bummer
Rachel: how DARE they name this “Closer Encounters” and there’s not even ONE alien
Carolynn: I too was mad it was ghosts and not aliens
Ashley: it’s a sex thing
it’s about sex
Jenny: could’ve been a ghost of an alien
easy fix
Carolynn: y’all know I hate ghosts
Jenny: but the aliens probe
that’s a sex thing
could be
Ashley: this series will end with us having 100 great pitches for Harlequin Comics
Carolynn: ok but 1940s alien ghost spy is so Doctor Who
Rachel: do the aliens also have gigantic knockers
Jenny: obvs
Ashley: duh Rachel
Rachel: also, knockers is my new fave term for boobs
at least, for the moment
Ashley: how else will they lure our species
Rachel: they’ve studied our media, they know it’s all we care about
Ashley: exactly
Rachel: that’s also why her legs are 10000 miles long
Carolynn: what if she was actually just a deep cover operative the whole time
Ashley: lol ya
I mean that was the closest thing to an alien sighting we got
Carolynn: I guess she did get a job with OMEGA right?
Jenny: yeah — as like a counselor??
Carolynn: and the last page with the author’s note alludes to a sequel
Jenny: was that it?
Ashley: I think like a paranormal investigator
Carolynn: man idk, I was mostly paying attention to all the sexy kissing
Jenny: researcher
paranormal researcher
Ashley: there you go ya
Carolynn: yeah maybe this was the intro we need before we see them tracking down aliens as a cute married couple
10/10 A++ would buy
Ashley: mmmm ya I’d be down
we’ve moved past this point in the plot but I also want to note
my strongest moment of identification with tracy was when she saw the dude’s nice apartment and was like, “I feel like I’ve failed at life” or something

Carolynn: omg same
Ashley: I was like damn read me
Carolynn: ok actually, my strongest point of identification in this whole book
was when Tracy tells Eyebrows McBadspy that she’s being possessed by a ghost and
he says “I don’t want to offend you but have you seen a therapist”
Jenny: same

Carolynn: ????????????????????
at least he wasn’t immediately like yes, it’s definitely ghosts
I hate that!
Ashley: lollll
Carolynn: I mean he did come around p quickly but still
Ashley: yeah that was reasonable
Carolynn: and very polite
Ashley: I like how she told him to fuck off and he was like okay let’s try it your way
Jenny: he’s a polite boy
Rachel: man all in all he was just a hot, polite dude
Carolynn: so I noticed we’re not really talking about Tammi
Rachel: who is Tammi??
Carolynn: Trini
Rachel: lol
Carolynn: Tambly
Jenny: Tracy?
Carolynn: no the other one
Rachel: Trixie
Jenny: Trixie
Rachel: old Trixster
Ashley: Trixie
Jenny: Trix are for kids
Ashley: she was drunk the whole time
Carolynn: “alligators”
Jenny: constantly
Ashley: a wasted ass ghost
like she can’t even remember the dude who killed her
Jenny: died drunk stayed drunk
Carolynn: well I guess in the afterlife
she can have
all the spirits she wants
Jenny: ZING
Ashley: also okay
this is a controversial take
but I felt like she was a whitewashed lift of Billie Holiday????
Jenny: I could see that
Carolynn: ooh ya
Ashley: she was a drug addict, she always had that magnolia in her hair, she sang lonely songs and had that silly non-real slang
Carolynn: I didn’t get all the music refs bc I’m trash but AFAIK the records that Eyebrows kept mentioning were blues tracks right?
Ashley: like when she called everyone “jive cats and ALLIGATORS????”
Carolynn: like ooh hun no stop
@ the writer
Ashley: yeah
for real
lol that scene where the second makeout with trixie is about to happen
and dude is like, “huh those are funny words”
“wow she’s really into old stuff”
“why do i suddenly feel like i’m kissing my grandma”

Carolynn: LOL
Rachel: man what a chill dude, he really just rolls with whatever
“this is fine”
Jenny: part of his spy training
kept “roll w it” lost “don’t marry your mark”
Carolynn: I also thought the weird dichotomy between Tracy and Trixie was weird
sexy goofus and gallant
madonna ghost dichotomy
Jenny: sexy goofus and gallant!
Ashley: it’s like when you’re about to bone a dude and you spot a horrible tattoo and you’re like “too late now I’m past the horny of no return”
Carolynn: “Tracy hacks the pentagon to figure out if her neighbor killed a blues singer”
“Trixie appropriates slang and has a heroin addiction”
also tracy is “innocent” and doesn’t hook up on the first date & trixie is ready to go
Rachel: also I don’t really get why Trixie was trying to make Tracy die
Jenny: ghost sadness
Ashley: yeah her motivations were murky
Jenny: like w the fire ghost at the end of ahs s1
they don’t know why they do it
Carolynn: I think she wanted to retroactively get revenge on Tracy’s uncle/neighbor
by killing someone he loved???
Rachel: I mean…. I… guess????
Carolynn: I think she got possessed when she went to the island to scatter his ashes
Jenny: even though he’s already dead
Rachel: ghost logic
Ashley: yeah I don’t even remember the justification
Jenny: didn’t the ghost like transfer to her after his death?
Carolynn: this is so much!
ghosts just make everything too complicated
team aliens
Ashley: there was also the stuff when the ghost was finally “at peace” and like, “I’ll see you in heaven Johnny” but it’s also like… but you’ve already been dead for decades??
Rachel: yeah Johnny is seeing other angels now
Johnny has moved on
Ashley: lol
he’s just not into your immaterial spirit, gurl

Carolynn: ok my big takeaway from this story is that you can get the CIA to take care of your hauntings for you
that is a thing they can and will do
Ashley: using government secrets for personal closure is a Very Good Idea
and we should all learn how
Rachel: ok my takeaway is DON’T DO DRUGS because it affects your ghost brain, apparently
Carolynn: so tru
Jenny: I want to get my theory out there to end on
Rachel: yeah girl hit us with it!!
Jenny: virgin?

Jenny: virgin??

Ashley: lolllllll
Carolynn: omgggggg
Jenny: virgin???

Carolynn: OMG
Rachel: JENNY
Ashley: dammit Jenny you’re a genius
Carolynn: you should work for OMEGA
Jenny: for why he gets so intense so fast about his commitment
and dragging her so far into his life
Ashley: alternate theory
he’s bi and experimenting with women for the first time
Rachel: I’m into that too
Jenny: yeah
Ashley: but that last part of your theory holds up better re: moving fast on the spy stuff
Rachel: I am into this big knockered alien lady being the first babe he’s ever boned
Jenny: into it
Carolynn: it’s possible but imo he’s so bashful & ready 2 commit
Jenny: (takeaway: aliens are better than ghosts)
Carolynn: regardless, he had a close encounter w a vagina for the first time
delete my comment jenny’s is a better way to end this

Jenny: last thing:
I think we all need to thank Denise (an unappreciated part of this spy/ghost-hunting team)
Carolynn: oh shit denise!!!!
thanks denise

Ashley: thank you denise!!!!!!!!
Jenny: thanks denise



Join us for our next Romance Roundtable, where we tackle The Italian Playboy’s Secret Son: a Harlequin manga with F1 racing, tragic accidents, and sexy intrigue. See y’all next time! 

CC Calanthe

CC Calanthe

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!!
Rachel Weiss

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.
Jenny Mott

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.
Ashley Gallagher

Ashley Gallagher

Ashley writes comics and emails from zir burrow in the Pacific Northwest. Ze is a sentient subtropical swamp fern whose favorite food is old words.
POMEgranate Magazine