Romance Roundtable #20: Levelling the Score

Spoiler alert: the scores remain unleveled.

April 10, 2020 at 8:19 am

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing Levelling the Score by Kei Kohsaki (original novel by Penny Jordan). Get ready for a romance comic drawn like a horror manga, totally normal, platonic compliments between gals, and lotion-scented intrigue.


CC: y’all wanna start off by summarizing this book?

Jenny: it’s fake dating!!
my favorite!
tragic lesbian, in love with her straight college roommate, settles for said roommate’s brother

Ashley: Here’s my take: otherwise completely sensible career woman, gets lured into a fake engagement by her best friend’s brother, who, she has reportedly been in love with since she was 15, for literally no reason. Blah blah blah they get married and so does the best friend.
it’s actually incredibly hard to summarize because the events just seem to happen in sequence with very little impact on the following events
and the reasoning behind every plot point is shockingly threadbare

Jenny: like trying to make sense of a full season of riverdale

Ashley: HAHA, i imagine so
also sorry about all the errant commas up there idk what’s up, everything hurts

Rachel: Also, they make a big deal about how this gal is a virgin, and how she has to cover for her “promiscuous” best friend

Ashley: oooooooooooooof yeah. yep.
i can’t remember their names even though i read this book like two hours ago, bad sign, but the lawyer-brother is SO MEAN to her, apparently (revealed at the end after they have sex, AFTER he says he wants to get wasted to PREVENT himself from boning her) because she’s so slutty
EVEN THOUGH he then subsequently admits to being horny for her when she was 15 and he was 23
and is also a massive slut, himself

Rachel: lol god this guy
Ok let’s do what we did last time and break it down by characters maybe?

CC: I’d be down, except I have no idea how many people are in this book because they all blur together in my head honestly

Jenny: ^^simon

Rachel: SIMON UGH

Jenny: paragon of self control

Ashley: LIKE DUDE YOU CAN’T EVEN RAPE CULTURE PROPERLY WTF
it’s opposite!!

CC: could he be any less appealing

Jenny: you mean to tell me that the ascot is not an enduring #look

CC: he has a bad face and a bad ascot

Ashley: truly could not. also NOT JOKING about the HUGE NECK (you know what they say about dudes with necks):

CC: they have….
huge phlegm

Rachel: His neck HAUNTS this boo

Ashley: this is the protag’s dumb american bestie
who waxes poetic about dating a married woman who got married DURING their relationship ???

CC: def a person to take romantic advice from
his tiny glasses show that he has it all figured out

Jenny: truly This Idiot
but also specifically this panel

Ashley: LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

CC: amazing

Ashley: that guy is not in a relationship with a married woman, he’s talking about his waifu pillow
who he makes kiss with like a bishonen pillow every night

Jenny: are we sure he’s american and not actually an alien who doesn’t know what human bodies look like

Ashley: Jenny, great point, we are absolutely NOT sure

Jenny: could be worse

Ashley: all of these men look like lizards in human skin

CC: I was genuinely confused when our gal’s boss shows up like halfway into the book to sexually harass her to I guess let simon come to her rescue, for reasons???
bc he also had tiny glasses

Ashley: what other option? ma’am, your evil fake fiance is a LAWYER

Jenny: i just watched an episode of murder she wrote w this exact same plotline

CC: well clearly where things went wrong was not hiring a crone PI

Jenny: could’ve saved herself so much trouble

CC: but ANYway, ok, so: we’ve got simon, and we’ve got tiny baby glasses adultery guy, and this terrible boss

Jenny: craig is the friend
our girl is jenna
and her best friend/college roommate is??

CC: susie?????

Jenny: that sounds right
susie
lol i try

CC: all the characters in this book

Ashley: oh do NOT forget the milf, Emma

Jenny: oh man the milf!

CC: i totally forgot about her

Ashley: i remember her just fine, lol

CC: OHHHHH

Rachel: LOL THIS PAGE

CC: LOL THIS FAMILY

Jenny: that was A Lot

Ashley: i have that same screenshot and named it, “normal mom stuff”

CC: I guess there was also a grandma in this book?

Ashley: yeah, she only appeared on page like, twice

CC: and simon has a girlfriend???? who appears in like, one panel, just to smirk?

Ashley: ah yes, a blonde
because apparently jenna thinks her red hair makes her unlovable

Jenny: this is the panel and the whole page is actually a treasure
mostly the “don’t say a word craig”

CC: definitely easy to tell who is a blond and who is a redhead in these b/w pages

Jenny: i mean bw manga is just the destined format for this story

Ashley: i’m surprised based on some of the sound effects that there weren’t labels saying “blond,” “red,” on every page

Rachel: Oh yes I wanna take this opportunity to talk about the comics-ness of this story
Where they choose to draw everybody either extremely close up and you can see half their face, or you can just see a body part
But no mid shots
Or wide shots

Ashley: YES
this comic was drawn like a horror comic, basically! it made the plot barely intelligible!

Rachel: It’s SO CONFUSING
What is even happening????

Ashley: complete with huge double page spreads of just background, which s clearly what the artist prefers to draw

CC: extremely hank hill voice:
i am here to draw backgrounds, and background accessories

Ashley: the file name but it’s: “hank hill but make it british i guess”
the backgrounds are really nice. also the fashion is actually good. very dim bright spot

CC: this enormous castle spread

CC: side note: why????
is this the same castle they spent the night at in the beginning of the story??? or another castle???
I read this book yesterday but everything about it is a fog to me

Jenny: w e a l t h

Ashley: why, indeed. absolutely no clue. but make me a jigsaw puzzle of it.

Jenny: so many castles
the basic plot though, right:
our girl’s bff wants to run off w her bf and asks our girl to cover for her w her brother, whom our girl loves but who is a dick and also does not approve of his sister’s bf
the sister/bff says she’s staying at the country house, but when the brother and our girl get there, respectively, they realize she’s not there
but it’s too late to drive back to town and

Jenny: and there was only one bed (classic)
they’re discovered in bed together by the maid the next morning, and the brother tells the maid that it’s ok bc they’re engaged (they are not)
but then the maid spreads it around to their families, and our girl doesn’t want to disappoint them, and the brother of our girl’s bff is just trying to trap her into marriage, so she goes along w it
unrelated to this, her boss is pimping her out to clients, she refuses to sleep w them, and is fired
so she has some free time to go to a villa in the south of france

CC: wait that guy wasn’t even the boss
I’m so confused

Ashley: nah the guy in the hotel was a client

CC: oof
my bad
but also this comic’s bad!!!
why are there so many different characters????
how am I supposed to keep up with all of them???? I have a full time job and a dog!!!

Jenny: it’s so unnecessarily confusing!!

Rachel: It has a bad story but it’s also bad as a Comic
Like, it’s bad at the medium

Ashley: rachel, AGREE
here’s an illustrative page i called: “i should have known from the first panel this would be hell”

Ashley: MF SAID “TWITTER”
it took me SOOOOO long to figure out that abstract shape was supposed to be… light…?

Jenny: christ almighty

Rachel: IS THAT WHAT IT IS

Ashley: i think so?????????
like, sun beams refracted through a (invisible) window?

Rachel: Dang, that is… a choice
An illustrative choice
Also v ambitious for this artist in this black and white format

Ashley: we really need to turn romance roundtable into an investigative report on harlequin manga, because this book just screams “i was paid to draw this in 24 hours for minimum wage”

CC: how are there so many
how does harlequin manga make money on all of these
but, getting back to this one specific book
I have a question for you
is….jenna rich???? and if so, why does she work at this terrible office?????
and if not, how did she grow up with people who own multiple castles???????
weird zoning issue, or????

Ashley: her parents are dead, so i think probably not?
susie and simon are rich, though
susie gets a trust fund at 25

CC: I guess jenna grew up in a village with her granny? but also near susie and simon?

Ashley: i think when she talks about “asking grandma for help” when she gets fired, it’s like, regular generational wealth gap and not Rich Grandparent

Jenny: i’m not sure if this is more “i would rather draw backgrounds” but
i love the implication that this bridge murdered her parents

CC: who’s to say it didn’t?

Jenny: tower bridge is out for blood

CC: i never liked the look of that infrastructure, i’ll tell u what
so many windows, and for what???
ok, another weird moment but
the part where simon walks in on jenna while she’s changing?
love 2 spin the wheel of tropes, tho, tbh

Jenny: they don’t actually kiss, but she imagines that they do (i think)

CC: and then it leads to this
super normal interaction

Ashley: okay, i was wondering about that

Jenny: i’m not sure if the top half of this was real or her imagination
but i do believe that he smells like lotion
which is,
not sandalwood, at least (the thing i feel like somehow all romantic interests are described to smell like)

Ashley: it’s so alien and normie at the same time
it’s like swooning over someone having two eyes

Jenny: what kind of lotion
i need to know

CC: this kind

Jenny: lol bless

Ashley: GINSENG

Rachel: I dunno, I feel like it’s just like
Baby lotion
Like, the blandest

Jenny: just jergens
lubriderm
generic brand unscented lotion
with a hint of baby powder
like finishing salt

Rachel: Yes, cannot be bothered with the scents the peasantry use to cover up the smell of poor

Ashley: OOOOF

Rachel: Honestly, this book was bad in a way I did not even find enjoyable lol
Normally I like getting into how fun the bad parts are!
But this one OFFENDED me, I think because of how bad it was at being a comic

CC: totally agreed
it was also very boring!!!!!

Jenny: and didn’t make a whole lot of sense!

CC: and it wasn’t even steamy at all!!!

Jenny: a boob gets cupped at one point and that’s IT

Rachel: There wasn’t even a nip!

Ashley: there was one good boob part….

Ashley: that underboob!!

Jenny: iconic

Ashley: this really should have been a horror comic about how everyone in this family is horny for jenna and it results in bad things
…. actually i guess that is what the comic is about!!

CC: you’re totally right!!!!!!

Rachel: lol it’s true!

Jenny: are y’all ready for final thoughts?

Rachel: i’m ready!

Ashley: ready!

CC: free us from the prison that is this book
final thoughts time
so ready
LOL

Rachel: ok here’s mine
this is the one visual/comics thing i liked about this book

Rachel: i love it when somebody’s mad and their hair goes WILD

CC: v cute!!!

Ashley: hahaha!!! the pearls are flipping out!
it was cute…
… it was also literally cut/pasted a few times

Rachel: lol YES
which is further evidence for the fact that this book was maybe made at minimum wage in under 24 hours
i’d copy/paste art too

Ashley: hehehe yeppppp

CC: FAIR
ok so, my final thought is
same energy:

Ashley: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHA

Jenny: how dare you make me watch this with mine own two eyes

Rachel: LOLLLL

Ashley: the guy going “what? what?” is all of us

Rachel: i’ve heard CC do this Pikachu voice so many times

CC: IT’S TRUE

Ashley: lmaoooooo

Jenny: it’s uncanny

Rachel: now when i think of it, i hear her and not pikachu
this is your legacy CC

CC: I LOVE IT
hire me, the pokemon company

Rachel: also unrelated, i just had the best idea for my maid of honor speech

Jenny: oh no

CC: LMAO

Ashley: yesssssssss

CC: “””” ITS BECAUSE —“

Rachel: lollllllll

Ashley: okay okay here’s mine:
imagine this pasted over the butterfly in the meme: “is this… heterosexuality?”

Jenny: lololololololololol

Ashley: COMPHET IS REAL AND IT KILLS!!!

CC: LOL

Jenny: this book was bad! it was badly written and badly laid out and the messages it’s pushing are bad!
that said, my final thought:

Jenny: i’m a simple bitch and i live for this

CC: LOL

Ashley: omg i snorted lol

Rachel: LOLLL
fake engagements are always a good trope, even when a garbage comic tries to use them

Jenny: you just can’t beat it


Join us next time for Romance Roundtable, when we’ll be covering Suite Seduction — which just seems to be You’ve Got Mail, but with chefs. In the meantime, check out our Patreon for just a few bonus goofs that didn’t make it into today’s roundtable, as a treat.

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.

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!!

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.

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.