Romance Roundtable #22: Big-Shot Bachelor

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing Big-Shot Bachelor by Motoyo Fujiwara (original novel by Nicola Marsh). We’re finally hitting our stride here at Romance Roundtable: yet another book that we don’t actively hate! Good art punks teach big money man to love and also value local communities!


CC: right off the bat: nice to have a second harlequin manga in a row that was mostly just fun and sweet and not more than 50% problematic and terrible????

Jenny: truly!! this one was, i felt, just p normal and ok!

Ashley: a breath of fresh air

Jenny: honestly such a rare boon

Rachel: we deserve it honestly

CC: treat yourself
y’all wanna summarize real quick?

Rachel: The Female Gaze™️
that’s my summary

Ashley: HA

Jenny: LOL
hot land developer wants to buy up properties in an historic art punk district of melbourne; learns to love instead

CC: yeah!

Ashley: PERFECT

CC: also mends his relationship with his dad along the way????
LOT of people talking about their feelings in a healthy way too?????

Jenny: felt good

CC: goth neighbors collectively helping to purchase beloved neighborhood staple??????

Rachel: the goths and also CC’s other fave style

Rachel: steampunk central baybeeeee

Jenny: lolololololol

CC: LMAO NOOOOOOOOO

Ashley: ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh]

CC: I knew y’all would be coming for me when I saw those hat goggles LOL

Rachel: the steampunks will stop gentrification

CC: guess THAT’s what all the gears are for

Jenny: truly lma

Ashley: we all know in reality the steampunks LOVE gentrification

Jenny: facts

Ashley: so this is a welcome break from reality i guess
(insert deep inside joke about the austin steampunk bar scandal here)

CC: WOOF
AU where steampunks help stop gentrification

Rachel: lol
i’m so interested in the fashion research the artist did for this book
also v curious what year it is

Jenny: felt VERY 2008
imo

Rachel: because THIS
what time period was this a reality in????
make a living off my ART

Ashley: lol definitely early 2000s

Rachel: UGH

Jenny: we must remember that australia is always 3-7 years behind

Ashley: HAHAHA oh i did indeed forget
i really feel the combo of the fauxhawk, blazer, and spiky necklace

CC: somebody PLEASE tell me if mesh shirt with shoulder cutouts is still aesthetic af in melbourne rn

CC: but also: i love this punk
this is my favorite character in any harlequin manga so far
wholesome neighborhood punk

Jenny: honestly i had so much respect for this artist’s reuse of background characters

Ashley: HAHAHA yes

Jenny: like you’ve made something this good! show it off!!

Rachel: yeah!! i appreciated seeing this tall punk troll baby doll in various backgrounds of panels

CC: LOL
also australian nana over here

CC: ring a ling

Rachel: WHO IS SHE
why is she not the main love interest????

Ashley: CHELSEYYYYYYY

Jenny: a good question tbh

Ashley: she bears a remarkable resemblance to my non-binary casual romantic imaginary they-friend, Flick from Animal Crossing

Rachel: LOL YES

CC: maybe chelsea and troll doll punk are an item

Rachel: oh this also features australian thirst-hero

Jenny: god i love her

Rachel: love this lady who just wants to surround herself with tasteful thirst traps

Jenny: i took this same screenshot lol

Rachel: she WON’T PUT A LIMIT ON THE PRICE

Jenny: HONESTLY!!
like IT’S FOR CHARITY!!
I WON’T SAY WHICH CHARITY THOUGH
But definitely charity and not my personal use

Ashley: oh my god, okay, i do love her and also
it’s hilarious that she’s like, the one rich friend of this whole social group?
rich people suck except the benevolent horny ones

Rachel: oh yeah!! it makes me wonder if she’s like an ex-punk who married rich, murdered her husband, and then used his fortune to hire all her artist friends to paint nudes

Jenny: i mean she is now!!!

CC: I want to read that

Jenny: 100%

CC: also, the charity is def to fund more thirsty paintings
#supporthearts

Ashley: lol i hope we’re saving all of these offshoots for our own thirsty endeavors one day

Jenny: addressing the needs of the community

Rachel: oh yeah we need a google doc going to start collecting this story gems

Ashley: also, i just remembered sophia’s last name is Montessori, lol
wife to the heir of the great Montessori School fortune, etc. and so forth

Rachel: bless

Ashley: but – since we’ve gushed about side characters, should we do a main character roll call?

CC: bless this book for having this many amazing side characters worth talking about tho tbh

Rachel: LOL yes probably

CC: but yes!

Rachel: in the same theme, love that our main protag Ariel was won over by his body and THEN by his mind/heart/etc

CC: agreed LOL

Ashley: like a GRECIAN STATUE
best detail work on the eyes we’ve seen in all of harlequin manga, gotta say

Rachel: yes so good!
the art was p good for this one
mostly proportional

CC: also I loved the Looks in this one
like they’re extremely 2008
but the attention to detail was fun

Ashley: i unabashedly LOVE that look
also her vintage Pretty-in-Pink meets 2000’s-??? party dress for the charity function

CC: with the beading!!!!
it’s very good!

Rachel: basically Ariel as a character was very bohemian, traditional art teacher vibe, loved her gallery and her community

Ashley: she actually did feel very real! her motives/interests etc. were all pretty sensible
she was abandoned at the age of 8 :disappointed: and taken in by Aunt Barb, the original owner of the art gallery
which was described at one point as like a halfway house, but cheerful…

Jenny: tbh i feel like a lot of the characters felt p rich and well-developed, but so many of them got so little screentime : /
like, most everyone seemed to have something going on in their lives, and it was really nice!

Ashley: aw, yeah, like cooper vance (the rich real estate developer love interest) secretly being interested in science

Jenny: YEAH! but also it did sometimes feel like this was supposed to be prose w more backstory and explanation, and something got a little lost or went unconveyed through comics

CC: genuinely, the second time I thought to myself, I wonder if there’s more in the original novel
like, wonder if I should buy the source material
ha ha ha

Ashley: i would, actually!

CC: I want to know everything there is to know about Barb

Ashley: i think this one feels a little more coherent than the last one we had like this, but definitely cramped for space on character-building stuff
yeah, Barb is fascinating, and so is the idea of the art gallery itself
like it really feels more like a community project, and i wonder how it all even worked?

Jenny: i think the transition to an art school made a lot of sense
and also tied in to one of my fave parts

Ashley: oh man wow

Jenny: LAND DEVELOPMENT CANNOT BE CALLED A SUCCESS UNLESS THE AREA SUITS THE PEOPLE LIVING THERE

CC: LAND DEVELOPMENT CANNOT BE CALLED A SUCCESS UNLESS THE AREA SUITS THE PEOPLE LIVING THERE!!!

Ashley: what a rosey outlook

CC: probably the strongest statement on gentrification we’re gonna get in one of these tbh LOL
but you know what, I’ll take it, as so many of these titles hinge on weird ideas about the nobility of wealth lol idk

Jenny: i mean, even though the area was ultimately saved by appealing to investors from the rich people party, there were a few moments like this that just felt good to see

Jenny: like — the government??
the government just cares?? about art???

Ashley: oh my god i forgot about that
the saddest thing is, it’s true, they do have that 😥

Jenny: good for australia though — on this at least they are ahead

Rachel: the confusion i felt about this is similar to the confusion i felt when i learned about all the government support that shows like TCAF get!!
like
DANG
that’s… so nice

CC: what a world
uh, but
on a completely separate note
only related through ~ the arts ~
can we talk about our LI, aka grecian statue land developer?

Rachel: oh yes, please

Ashley: yaaaaaaa

Rachel: this hot dumb dumb

Ashley: omg YES extreme himbo

CC: I love that he’s just like ok I guess I’m a nude model now lol

Jenny: he really just went w it!! love to see it!!

Rachel: this was a moment i liked
the internal double take

Jenny: the realization of love
i do want to mention that he’s really just out here feeling his feelings
conveying them honestly as they occur
great but also can be weird
ex:

Ashley: omg hair kissing nooooo

Rachel: LOL i’ll NEVER understand this weird move!!!!!

Jenny: this when they meet up for plein air sketching and business talk

Ashley: it’s like, so pure for a HM boy though?

CC: show of hands tho
has anybody had a real life human just smooch a glob of your hair???? it does not sound like a real thing to ME but I have dated so few people and it happens in a weird number of these books hahaha
butterfly meme: is this romantic?

Rachel: lollll

Jenny: lolololololol
this has not happened to me — feels weird and unrealistic

Ashley: HA

Rachel: yeah i’ve never had anybody grab a bit of my hair and smooch it

CC: maybe my hair has just never been long enough

Ashley: i don’t think i’ve ever even had hair long enough for that

CC: LOL

Jenny: was just about to say the same thing

CC: long haired pomes: please tell us if this is a thing you have to deal with

Jenny: call to action

Rachel: i feel like if somebody did that to me, it would highly motivate me to cut it all off
go full bisexual buzz

CC: the relationship AND the hair

Jenny: LOL
for all potential hair smoochers out there: consider ^^

Ashley: if anyone of our pomes has married a benevolent real estate developer with cash to lose, yeah, i definitely wanna hear about it

CC: I mean same
also might I recommend: our patreon???

Rachel: oh true!! do we ever have an investment opportunity for you

Jenny: lolololol https://www.patreon.com/pomemag

CC: so about this couple tho
I really do think they make a good couple!!!!
one moment I REALLY loved

CC: he’s right!!!!

Ashley: that was SO sweet and sincere and like, actually relevant to their whole situation

Jenny: v true! dumb dummy feels his feelings to great effect here

CC: I mean I can def relate! all the success I’ve had in creative endeavors truly has come from unexpected connections
like
heckling the same man in a book signing line

Ashley: 😊❤️

CC: or working in the same newspaper basement

Rachel: 🥰

CC: or through family friends of friends’ college employers ;D

Jenny: lol an ex-boss’s daughter’s best friend’s godparents’ daughter

CC: see! chemical reaction!

Ashley: HAHAHAHA it’s so beautiful

Rachel: aww y’allllll

CC: ❤️❤️❤️
the real crowdfunding punks are the friends u make along the way

Jenny: 😭💖💯

Ashley: that does hit a good point though, which is that i think this might be the most relatable harlequin manga we’ve read

CC: except that irl none of our partners are real estate developers who decide not to gentrify a neighborhood due to learning the value of community through an art show flyer
but otherwise really
v relatable

Ashley: well sure, rich hunks are for romance novels only

CC: proletariat hunks only zone

Rachel: ok this is a thing i found to be both relatable and it soothed one of my big artistic pet peeves

Rachel: i loved that they had various hairstyles throughout the book!!

Ashley: oooooo, nice catch!

Rachel: this is such a small thing but when your characters are recognizable and still have difff hair styles, it makes them real people

Ashley: also it’s cute that she says his bangs are slightly too long in the beginning, and when they’re married they’re just slightly less too long
nice visual progression of the narrative there

Rachel: LOL yes!! i didn’t even notice that but i love it
small details really make it for me
good job, harlequin artist

Ashley: best harlequin manga artist award!!!

CC: I legit want to see more of this artist’s work!!!!!!
oh man before we get too close to wrapping up, one more thing I wanna talk about
I just love the vibe between these two???
I am a sucker for a “love interest internal monologue about why they love this cool babe” moment

CC: it is my favorite romance trope
it’s corny, but i love it

Ashley: it’s good, it’s very Mr. Darcy

Jenny: V DARCY

Ashley: perhaps the originator of this trope

Jenny: esp i think bc this page is followed by:

Ashley: 😭

Jenny: she’s just finding out you’re interested and you’re talking about the rest of your lives???

Ashley: HAHA oh god yes

Jenny: pure darc

Ashley: incredible
love a himbo being “shook to his core”

Jenny: lololololol

Ashley: like what was that, realizing that people who were/are poor can be cool and interesting? don’t care, it’s fine, he’s cute, it’s fine
maybe it was “taught me the aesthetic value of steampunk” idk

CC: NOOOOOO

Jenny: never

Rachel: LOL showed me how to love… through these purely aesthetic big goggles

CC: aesthetically large rose colored goggles

Ashley: THE FUCKING CACKLE I JUST CACKLED

Rachel: ahahahahahah
well on that, should we pivot to final thoughts?

CC: oooh yeah
I’m ready if y’all are!

Ashley: ready!

Jenny: ready

CC: mine is

CC: I kinda wanna go to melbourne now???
like ok I know there’s steampunk but there’s steampunk everywhere
I wanna see this cool punk neighborhood now

Ashley: steampunk immersion therapy

Rachel: HAHAHA

CC: NOOOOOOOOO
NEVERMIND I TAKE IT BACK

Rachel: TOO LATE I GOT OUR TICKETS
AND OUR GOGGLES

Ashley: good call, you’ll be instantly outed as wealthy gentrifiers without them!

Jenny: lma!!!

Rachel: ok well my final thought is a criticism on the art that i know i’ve been praising so far

Rachel: this book does have a mild case of yaoi hands

Ashley: HAHAHAha

Rachel: like i KNOW its foreshortening but COME ON

Ashley: his hands are fully 1/3 of his six pack

Rachel: lolllll
that’s just not how hands work!!
look i just don’t want to have to choose between hairstyle variety and yaoi hands
i want it all

Jenny: v fair
truly

Rachel: cursed image 1032

Ashley: wow

Jenny: i think my final thought is that, as much as this was v sweet and corny and horny, it was also p funny in parts!

Jenny: like this whole exchange
GROSS!
herbal tea??!?

CC: …….

Jenny: I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE

Ashley: hehehe i like how it sort of stereotyped both of them for laffs

CC: look I’ve come around but for a long time for me this was extremely #relatable #content LOL

Ashley: we love to come full circle
my final thought is pretty predictable, for me, as the only chemical reaction left in my brain:

Ashley: i do indeed get dejected, constantly, just thinking that i’ll be surrounded by rich people

Jenny: a v real stress

Rachel: more evidence of the relatability of this book

CC: BIG OOF
extremely same

Rachel: hopefully the next one we read doesn’t revert back to the usual wealth-worship we get in these books

Ashley: this is like the sisterhood of the travelling harlequin manga, there really was something in here for everyone
and yeah, if we could keep up this streak it’d be real nice

CC: otherwise let’s just scrap this project and start working on Hunks of the Proletariat for ourselves!!!!

Ashley: i’m so ready!!!!!!!!!!!
“Comrade Himbo”

Rachel: LMAA

CC: LMAAAAAA

Jenny: that’s going in the google doc!!

Rachel: pleASE
!!!!!

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.
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.
Carolynn Calabrese

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 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.
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