Romance Roundtable #3: The Italian Playboy’s Secret Son

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where all four editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing THE ITALIAN PLAYBOY’S SECRET SON by Rebecca Winters (Author) and Takako Hashimoto (Illustrator) — a tale of a Formula 1 fuckboi, an American soda heiress, and some Italian bullshit.



Jenny: ?? so this book was bad???
Rachel: god it was so bad
Carolynn: jesus christ
Ashley: I formally apologize to y’all for choosing this one
Carolynn: oh ok before we get any farther
let’s summarize this book
for the folks @ home
Ashley: hoo boy
Jenny: literal prince and Formula 1 racer works through his man-pain about being a bad driver by taking it out on the woman he had sex with for a few weeks one time six years ago bc it turns out they have a son and she didn’t want to deal with his drama
Carolynn: this was basically the story of a woman who spends many years in “love” with a terrible dude for no understandable reason; men take no responsibility for anything and everything is a woman’s fault, although there are some shady women too; humanity is terrible and don’t deserve dogs
by “shady women” tho I’m referring mostly to the racecar prince’s brother’s ex-fiance and the mean maid lady
Jenny: the maid lady comes around
Ashley: the mean maid lady got chill after she saw Sarah’s weird obsessive scrapbook which proves her love
Carolynn: I can’t believe what won them over in the end was scrapbooking
Ashley: lol cc you know those Italian uppercrust and their scrapbooks!!!

Carolynn: it is truly the most Italian of hobbies
Ashley: when the moon hits your glossy photos like a big pizza pie that’s amore
Carolynn: hahahahaha


Ashley: also there’s cringey disability stuff around Cesar being immobile and then getting his mobility back
Carolynn: …………yeah………..
Jenny: I can’t believe that any of them thought that a soft drink heiress needed to “raise her station” by keeping her son safe from the limelight for five years
Ashley: she’s new money Jenny come on
we all know that ol’ chestnut
Carolynn: ya like it’s v low rent Downton Abbey
fanfic-from-a-teen’s-marble-composition-notebook Downton Abbey
(^ signed, a former teen with a lot of marble composition notebooks)
Jenny: with all of the requisite plot holes
Ashley: yeah I mean not knocking fanfic or teens on a general individual basis but this was bad teen fanfic
Carolynn: it’s no Jupiter Ascending tho that’s for damn sure
Ashley: more like Jupiter Descending heh
Carolynn: womp womp wommmmp
Ashley: lol told y’all I was grumpy
Carolynn: I’m sure this book didn’t help either this dude sucked
Ashley: but yeah plot: confusing and bad, relied mostly on exposition. characters: bad
the only two characters I liked were the Steven Universe-esque son Johnny and the clearly AU lesbian CC that was in her Italian class

Carolynn: I liked the massage therapist even though her outfit was bargain bin modcloth bad
Jenny: I liked her too
Carolynn: she’s got a real good smirk

Ashley: lmao omg I forgot about the camoooooooooo
oh fuck that reminds me
maybe Italians are just a decade behind on fashion
Carolynn: it’s still 2003 in Italy
I think this book came out in 2009
Ashley: on my train to Seattle this week I saw two adult men clad head to toe in Hollister and A&F and stuff with tons of shopping bags full of same, and I was like why
and then I heard them talk and they were literally Irish from Ireland
like oh, that explains it
Jenny: Europe disgusts me
Carolynn: LOL JENNY
Ashley: Jenny outs herself as the Ron Swanson of our group


Carolynn: y’all can we talk about this lettering

Jenny: IT’S SO BAD
Carolynn: what is happening with these fonts


Ashley: also that line “you always used protection” so like what happened then?

Jenny: 99% effective
obviously they had sex 100 times
Carolynn: she got pregnant from precum like that lady from Scrubs
Ashley: omg cc precum wtf
I never watched Scrubs but dear god why
Carolynn: I was a sexual health peer ed and people always cited that damn episode
like, it happened to Zach Braff, it’ll def happen 2 me
Ashley: tv will kill us all if it doesn’t save us
Jenny: if I learned anything from the mid-2000s it’s that we are all Zach Braff
Ashley: I mean I don’t think any of us four deserve that on an individual level but then again we all collectively do as human beings maybe

Carolynn: new fb sticker idea yall

Ashley: hahahaha
Carolynn: what is happening w her eyebrows

Jenny: also v applicable
Ashley: DARN hahahahaha
Sorry I’m just lost in reacting to everything y’all are doing god damn
Rachel: DARN is the best screenshot
Carolynn: also my face when reading this


Carolynn: ok so did yall appreciate how they tried to pass “the American west coast” off as an exotic locale? I mean, this is adapted from a Harlequin novel
it’s just weird that it’s so vague
Ashley: when did the American west coast even come up???
Carolynn: the elegant party Captain Falcon met the protag at
when she was but a young soda heiress
Ashley: lol
Jenny: mostly I was caught up on how the age of consent is definitely not 18 in the vague but exotic American west coast

Ashley: ah but he didn’t invite her over for sex until she was 20
slightly less weird but still weird
honestly tho like why
you can make them literally any age so why do this
Jenny: like she’s 17 when they meet and am I really meant to believe that they don’t have sex (or correspond at all??) for the three years between then and the sex vacation??
Rachel: god 20 is still too young
especially when he is 7 years older
Jenny: honestly I am 24 years old right now and I cannot for the life of me imagine ever being attracted to a 17 year old
Carolynn: look I dated a dude who was 25 when I was 19 for a whole minute and that was still too damn much
Rachel: ban all men
Jenny: 2017
Ashley: yeah I mean I feel like many of us have actually been there at that age but it sucks and has no place in romantic fantasies imo!!!
stop grooming girls for abuse!! i’m mad!!!!!!!!
Carolynn: also I would not visit my ex from 6 years ago in the hospital
Ashley: but what if baby CC
Carolynn: I like that she acknowledges that she was in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation re: telling him about the baby
like, if she told him I bet it would have gone the opposite way
Ashley: that is true
Rachel: I would not have a secret baby!!!!
and then pine after the dad for 6 years!!!!
Carolynn: SCRAPBOOK after the dad Rachel!!!!!
Rachel: don’t you love how he’s like
even though I know I would have reacted badly
Ashley: it is like, the one fault he ever silently acknowledges
Carolynn: “women are wrong no matter what they do”
like from his behavior I can see why she didn’t tell him lbr
Rachel: yeah what a turd
Carolynn: I wouldn’t tell him either; but then again I wouldn’t tell him anything but GOODBYE
Rachel: I miss our sweet virgin from the last book
Ashley: omg I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened if she was also like “I considered an abortion…”
Jenny: how dare you wait until my career has quieted down to tell me about my son WHEN I SPECIFICALLY TOLD YOU that I didn’t want a family until my career quieted down
Ashley: lmao Jenny ugh to the point


Rachel: honestly the thing that bothered me the most
well, one of the things
was that he suddenly decided he was in love with her again
but instead of showing it, he was like “i’m going to disappear for a while”
Jenny: it was like as soon as he saw her w that other dude
Rachel: GOD
Jenny: not even real love just jealousy
Carolynn: also yeah like three damn pages from the end IF THAT
Ashley: ugh yeah like SO MANIPULATIVE
Rachel: I HATE HIM
Ashley: “this will be our wedding lap”

Jenny: UGH
Ashley: whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
Carolynn: like “not even 10 pages ago I was telling you how I’d never ever love u even if you kept scrapbooking and giving me massages 4 the rest of my life”
“oh wait nvm jk lol”
Rachel: also I’m going to have sex with you because I hate myself

Ashley: “that’s fine if it helps!!!!”
Ashley: I know I just want to scoop her up and be like the sassy gay friend in the sassy gay friend videos
Carolynn: there’s also a part in the beginning where she’s talking about their ~ youthful fling ~~ and she says they never said “I love you”
and literally like 3 pages later in the same flashback she’s like “ilu cesar”

Jenny: what is the truth???
Rachel: god it’s bad AND inconsistent
the two worst things it can be


Carolynn: so why did they need to get married for Johnny’s sake
Johnny was fine
he was thriving
Ashley: to legitimize the bastard!!!!!!
y’all need to brush up on your patriarchal aristocracy rules!!!!!
that’s how it works in ye olde Italia
because everyone there fucks all the time and stuff
Carolynn: see I feel like I’m missing out on critical context I need to know
Ashley: too much sexy pasta
Jenny: can’t just be fuckin Johnny Sand
Carolynn: LOL JENNY
Ashley: I think it would be Johnny Pasta
let’s be real
Jenny: you’re right

Carolynn: ok also, relatable

Jenny: 100%
Ashley: that kid was cute af
Carolynn: yeah like Johnny, what the fuck kid
Ashley: oh good lord
Rachel: he’s parent trapping them
Ashley: Johnny you need to read a children’s book or five about unconventional families my dude


Rachel: did anybody else notice that Cesar’s dad is a mouthless monster

Carolynn: dad has no mouth, mom has an incredible wig
I have never seen hair in a comic that looked that much like a wig
Ashley: ahhhhhhh I’m screaming ur so right
like Cinderella’s stepmom level
Rachel: no wonder Cesar is the worst
Jenny: he has no idea what a real marriage looks like


Ashley: can we all like write self insert fanfic of this where we are collectively the therapist for these characters
Rachel: or the sassy gay best friends, to your earlier point
Ashley: either one!!!
or therapist turned sassy gay friend
to continue the theme of slightly inappropriate relationships
Jenny: this scrapbook is unhealthy — burn it as a cleansing exercise
(I would maybe not be a great therapist)
Carolynn: ok but that leads me to another point
does anyone have them, with anyone?
Ashley: boundaries don’t exist in Italy
i’m blaming italy for everything, sorry
Jenny: don’t apologize — Europe sucks
Ashley: lol thank u Jenny

Ashley: omg yessssssss
Carolynn: v applicable tho and also a good meme
Ashley: ron swanson + sassy gay friend!!!!!!!
Jenny: full circle


Jenny: the mean maid when she stopped being mean encouraging Sarah to have an affair (also weird boundaries)

Rachel: hahahaha
Ashley: again, Italy!!!!!!
Rachel: that was when the mean maid redeemed herself for me
Ashley: same


Carolynn: ok there’s one other shady individual we haven’t talked about
Falco’s doctor
Ashley: omg
Jenny: right???
Ashley: that guy was like Dr. Spaceman from 30 Rock
Jenny: it seemed like he BROUGHT HER THERE???

Ashley: “his paralysis is located either in his brain…………. or his heart…………………..”
Ashley: I want Sarah to save me from depression
(actually I don’t, go live your life sarah)
Carolynn: wake me up inside
Rachel: ok it’s either in his brain or his heart, but physio therapy will help still apparently???
Carolynn: he was in a MASSIVE car accident but lol the injury is all in his head
like, maybe, he was actually…….injured????????? by the near fatal car accident?
I’m not a medical professional but I’m willing to bet there were physical injuries as well
Rachel: well he did have that one bandaid
on his face

Carolynn: lol Rachel ya
that’ll definitely
that’ll cover it
billed at like $50k on his insurance lol
Jenny: hahahahahah
Ashley: lmao omg
Carolynn: line item for: bandaid; flying in ur ex from 6 years ago and secret baby


Jenny: ALSO
the crash was in Brazil but he’s at a LOCAL Italian hospital???

Ashley: also 2 other racers hurt
that no one cares about cuz they’re not a mean prince, bye
Carolynn: yeah but like the real question is, were they hot
Jenny: fuck those guys though
clearly not hot or rich
Carolynn: just leave them on the pavement
gotta save the prince here make way
Ashley: take their kidneys for prince pazzatura


Rachel: anything we wanna hit before we wrap up?
Jenny: takeaways
lessons learned
Carolynn: yeah life lessons
Ashley: my takeaway: eat the rich
Jenny: that’s a good one
Carolynn: mine is IUDs are great
Ashley: ????????
Carolynn: IUDs are the gift that keeps on not giving and I highly recommend them to every 17-20 year old soda heiress
Rachel: dang CC that was gonna be mine
+1 to all of that
Jenny: don’t go to Europe
esp if you have the chance to live large as a soda heiress in western coastal america
Ashley: omg soda heiress…. this adventure is totally something that the Sweetums heiress from Parks and Rec would do!!!
Jenny: !!!!!!!!
Carolynn: bbbbobbbby newportttttt
Ashley: darn dudes
Parks and Rec is like the shitty Harlequin Comics bible
Rachel: this is actually just a Parks and Rec spinoff
Jenny: Sarah was Bobby Newport this whole time
Ashley: supports teen fanfic theory, I approve
Carolynn: self insert fanfic by Bobby Newport
Jenny: just Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd wrote this
Ashley: hahaha fair enough
eternal teen Paul Rudd
Jenny: hasn’t aged a day
him and Keanu and their vampiric cabal
would read that Harlequin Romance



Join us for our next Romance Roundtable, where we get through THE MAVERICK — a story that we picked solely because of this line: “I wouldn’t buy you from the groom shop even if you were in the bargain bin!” Hell yeah.


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!!
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.
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.
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