Romance Roundtable #32: Wishes

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. That’s right y’all — we’re back in Harlequin Manga Hell as we cover Wishes by Mieko Tachibana (original novel by Rita Clay Estrada). Join us for an extremely 1997 Austin, Texas romance, with a side of cursed lamps.


Rachel: it’s been so long since we did a harlequin story that this really felt like a trip to me

Jenny: oh you mean michael dell: the untold story?

Virginia to Wilder: "You were so focused. As expected from someone who leads America's second biggest computer company."
Wilder, internally: "Second?"
Wilder, to Virginia: "Could you not say it so loud? Our shareholders think Ace is number one."

Jenny: truly i’m not sure who else to read this

Rachel: i have weird feelings when things are set in Austin!!
like i’m delighted but also like, please do not perceive me or my city

Jenny: i mean very same

Virginia to her co-worker: "Right? She lives near Lake Travis. She's a wealthy person."

CC: i mean where is the lie tho
also the timing of this story
the skyline

Jenny: yeah that’s how you can real place the timing
they only really drew the steps building

CC: is this 1997 austin (when the book was written) or 2016 austin (when the harlequin manga came out)?
this is legit the view from my office at work (just south of the river LMAO)
but it feels like some stuff is missing

The Austin skyline.

CC: i haven’t been downtown in a year so I cannot remember LOL

Jenny: it definitely feels like 1997
bc there’s no frost tower — that went up when i was in middle school

CC: OH YOU’RE RIGHT
you’re a For Real hometown girl Jenny I forgot

Rachel: i’m sure it’s like, the manga artist googled austin skyline and went with whatever image they found that fit the angle they liked

Jenny: fair, tbh

Rachel: google was a thing in 2006 right??
just ask jeeves, “show me austin skyline please”

Jenny: LOL
ask jeeves was def the preferred search engine
made me feel like a fancy man

CC: yeah but this manga came out in 2016! that’s like 19 more years of skyline to pull from

Rachel: oh whoops!!

CC: so maybe she really did that research
if so like hats off, that’s way more than most of these books pull off
it definitely feels like Austin In My Memories (circa mid/late aughts) more than Austin Now to be fair rachel! it has that vibe!

Jenny: honestly yeah — a lot of it hit home, in a way that the other texas books we’ve read definitely didn’t
like the small town outside of houston that was also somehow in the mountains
or the detective in san antonio who had to deal with swamps?

CC: I hope Harlequin Manga flew the artist to Austin, for research purposes
I hope she got to eat at fancy downtown restaurants or whatever fancy people do when they come here

Jenny: lol i hope so too!
i hope herlequin fired up a time machine and sent the artist to austin, circa 1997

Pete to Virginia: "We can take a detour and celebrate with some ice cream on Sixth Street."

Jenny: there is ice cream on 6th!
the only softserve in town!

CC: there is??????

Jenny: yeah right by easy tiger
so all the way by 35

CC: ………
….i miss……..places……
;__;

Jenny: s a m e

Rachel: i feel like this is also a good sign of like, a bygone era though
you don’t just “go to sixth street”
where are you going to park my dude!!!

Jenny: LOL
fair

CC: LOLLLLL
they parked in a garage across town and lime biked over
couldn’t show it bc it’d ruin the mood

Jenny: god remember when we were upset about lime scooters?
remember when those were like, the thing to be upset about. so small, compared to the whole total hell we live in now

Rachel: wow yeah
jeez

I pretend I do not see it
but in reality I do

Jenny: oh to go back in time
harlequin please share your time machine w me

CC: I mean some of this was a wayback machine to college in austin tho

Virginia, with her head in her hands and the lamp on her table: "I messed up. So I won't have electricity until next week's paycheck."

CC: where do yall think she lived

Jenny: oof
bay window makes me think hyde park

Rachel: oh i could see it

CC: apparently there WAS a culinary school up by north loop
(that is now permanently closed as per google)
so you might be right jenny!!! dang!!!!

Jenny: oh yeah! i actually got a great deal on kitchenware when it went out of business
like, a really nice skillet, a couple of half sheet trays

Rachel: oh nice!!
ok well, i have weird feelings about this being set in austin
but let’s do a quick recap of the story!

Jenny: a great point

CC: OOF LOL you’re right

"Five hundred dollars cash... or a magic lamp that grants wishes. Which will you choose?"

Jenny: our girl is training to be a chef, but rn she is waitressing. a rich old lady left her wallet at the restaurant and our girl returns it. as a reward, she has to choose: $500 or a magic lamp!!
also the rich old lady’s son is hot!!

Rachel: love that she goes with the lamp just to spite the handsome Dell man
relatable

Virginia thinking about Wilder's reaction to being spited, giggling.

Jenny: honestly whomst among us hasn’t made a stupid decision out of spite!?!

Rachel: it’s true!!

CC: also a whole ongoing thing about this lamp that may or may not actually grant wishes, or if it’s just a mom-generated marriage plot

"Make your wish in one sentence. Be cautious of the words you use. Be specific with all requests."
Virginia lights the lamp...

Rachel: i did fully expect this to be a monkeys paw situation

Jenny: oh for sure!
i kept waiting for her wishes to backfire somehow
but honestly i kind of respect it: no consequences, just vibes

CC: if I’ve learned ANYTHING from children’s cartoons it’s to never trust a magical wish granting device
no matter how small the wish it’ll get ya
I’d take the 500 just to opt out of the obligatory curse honestly
even then, it might just be $500 in scam money!
I was gonna go on a tangent about scams but I don’t trust wish magic

Jenny: i mean, i feel like it would be $500 real monies

Rachel: that dell money is good here

CC: that 1997 dell money
that’s like buying beer in canada

Virginia to Mrs. Hunnicut: "Mrs. Hunnicut... about today's schedule, there's lunch with Mrs. Tiller in the French room at noon. You have your monthly dental checkup at three."

Jenny: it’s true
and also
monthly dental checkups??

Rachel: LOL i did not catch that

Jenny: that’s how you know they’re for real rich

Rachel: and also maybe masochistic
ugh, the dentist

CC: going to the dentist every month
I can’t even imagine
ok can we get this out of the way
the lamp
….the lamp….

"A Native American motif. It's a traditional lamp."

Jenny: yeah not good

Rachel: very bad

CC: this 1965 looking oil lamp

Jenny: clearly an ancient native treasure
and therefore magical

CC: jesus

Jenny: would’ve vastly preferred, like, just a table lamp from like the 80s
one of the ones w like an ugly pattern of like, ducks flying over a lake
feels like it’s going to get that weird chalky powder on your fingers if you touch it

CC: my grandma had one and it did!!!!
cursed lamp either way

Rachel: yes, god!!!
just some weird vaporwave lamp

CC: 100% prefer weird vaporwave lamp that may or may not grant wishes

Jenny: a little of this action

A truly great peach colored lacquer lamp with a swirl.

CC: oh yes very nice

Rachel: yes, god

Jenny: really would’ve sold it for me, is all i’m saying
seems way better and possibly more fun to draw
but also hey
you know
maybe i’m just too irish

Mrs. Hunnicut yelling at Wilder: "Wilder! Not everyone thinks about profit like you. Virginia is Irish. She can believe in strange powers."

Jenny: ready to believe in strange powers
just whenever

Rachel: this made me think i’ve been doing irish wrong
this grandma though

Jenny: oh yeah she’s great

Rachel: i know she’s not technically a grandma, but she does have that aesthetic

Jenny: not YET

CC: the most relatable moment in a harlequin manga:

Mrs. Hunnicut, thinking to herself: "They are the ones... who changed their destiny."

CC: it me
just a crone with shoujo eyes

Jenny: feels good and right

Rachel: at first i like, who is this grandma and why is she jumping to these conclusions

Mrs. Hunnicut: "I wanted to give it to someone who would understand its value. Like you, Virginia."

Rachel: BUT THEN

Mrs. Hunnicut, hiding behind a bush: "Look, Virginia! Under your feet! No, turn right!"

Jenny: LOL yeah that part GOT ME
just scheming to make young people fall in love
lying about possessing magical items

CC: that is gonna be all of us when we’re old
when the harlequin manga isn’t powerful enough to scratch that itch

Rachel: me to youths: NOW KISS

CC: y’all know I love to NOW KISS
when I get my crone powers it’s just going to be an unreal amount of that
sorry to all the youths I meet who don’t want to be in love

Jenny: i will say
she was great at both the subtle manipulation
and ALSO the absolutely savage takes

Mrs. Hunnicut to Wilder: "Your father and I... didn't raise you to be such a pathetic man."

CC: YESSSSSSSS
literally a line the granny from boys over flowers says too
i love this

Jenny: !!!!!

Rachel: one of my favorite things about this book was how often people just dunked on this guy

Jenny: incredible!!
he deserved it!!
i did not like him!
like big red flag right off the bat:

Virginia, thinking: "He's even working in the car."
Virginia, noticing Wilder: "Checking the stocks? So passionate. Such long, beautiful fingers."

Jenny: he’s a millionaire CEO of whatever is second place to microsoft, but he works out of a van?? like one of these old chevy conversion van??

Rachel: “so passionate”
no girl, run away

CC: those passionate, long stock fingers

Rachel: and his complete lack of respect for her or her goals

Virginia confronting Wilder: "You might not care about my dreams, but I trusted that you supported me. When you look down on me like that... it upsets me."

CC: I LOVED THIS
this girl is right and she should say it, consistently!!!
very refreshing!!!!!!

Jenny: oh yeah she was GREAT!!

Wilder, trying to convince Virginia not to take a job in Dallas: "I could find (a job) for you."
Virginia, indignantly: "No, thank you. I was able to confirm tonight... that I can go anywhere with my own strength."

Rachel: when he’s like “I CAN’T ADMIT MY FEELINGS FOR YOU BUT ALSO I CAN’T LET YOU GO TO DALLAS”
and she’s like “FUCK OFF”
you love to see it

Jenny: she was honestly really good!!

CC: oh yeah, DALLAS, wow
this guy who definitely has got to own a plane or something can’t go to DALLAS LMAO sure pal

Rachel: their relationship was really confusing to me honestly???
like it escalated really quickly
they were just like, around each other and then suddenly having sex

Jenny: oh YEAH

Wilder standing outside Virginia's room: "Rapunzel, let down your hair."

Jenny: just like THIS
out of NOWHERE

Rachel: yeah it’s surreal!!

CC: I thought it was a dream sequence tbh
until the plot just kept going???
like ok cool this party dress is a negligee and this is all just kind of a for real coincidence

Jenny: same!

Rachel: and her response

In bed, Virginia soothes the hair of a sleeping Wilder: "Such a careful person. Even in the moment, he doesn't say 'I love you.' In a way, he's really faithful."

Rachel: what??? is this logic?????
“in a way, he’s really faithful”
WHAT
HOW

Jenny: truly makes 0 sense

CC: OK look this made sense to me, in a “I am 19 dating a 25 year old” kind of delusional way
like you might talk tough but you are still baby

Rachel: imo just another case of a competent lady giving someone dumb more consideration than he deserves

After sleeping together, Wilder wakes up in the morning and leaves. To Virginia: "Thank you. I was able to refresh thanks to you."

Jenny: yeah i’ve got to say like
he’s a massive ass about sleeping w her
like, this guy SUCKS
but then she just sort of accepts it? and is like: ok so that’s what this is, and i’m going to be fine w it

Wilder, thinking to himself: "She actually looks less interested in me. Why? Was I not satisfactory last night?"

Jenny: and then he gets all pissy about her being chill about it?

Rachel: men are just so EMOTIONAL
if only they could be more rational, honestly

Jenny: her perspective of: i am living in a house w my hot rich boss, i will sleep w him for a while, and then i’ll move away and it’ll be over — seems p reasonable to me!
but it’s HIS escalation and HIS emotional reactions to it all that made everything difficult

Someone talking to Wilder on the phone: "You're always like that. You're always cold to women... to try to protect yourself. You're a clumsy guy who can't express his feelings clearly."

Rachel: “clumsy” is one way to put it

CC: I love how blunt everybody is with him tho
amazing
he is maybe in the upper tier of shitty harlequin protag guys imo bc he gets called out constantly
like
this gem

Virginia to Wilder: "Why are you so defensive? Do you think I'm after your genes? Stop it."

CC: HOW MANY of these stories would be cut off right there
if the head babe of the story just said this outright
amazing
i truly love to see it

Jenny: YES!
she was good

CC: DO YOU THINK I’M AFTER YOUR GENES? STOP IT
amazing
beautiful
perfect
you’re doing amazing sweetie

Jenny: ALSO

Wilder to Virginia: "Why don't you stay here and relax today?"
Virginia: "Then are you staying home from work?"
Wilder: "I can't. I have an important meeting at noon."
Virginia: "... You don't think... my classes are important?"

Jenny: when he’s like: you can take a day off but i can’t
she immediately both recognizes and calls him out on the fact that that means he doesn’t take her work seriously!

CC: she’s just like THE HELL I CAN i need 2 souffle
idk what actually you do in a culinary school class but souffle sounds hard

Jenny: agree! seems complicated!

CC: lotta chemistry!
dietary chemistry baby!!!!

Rachel: there’s no rat under my hat sir!!

Jenny: LOL

CC: yeah she’s doing this all for real!!!!!
LOL rachel amazing

Jenny: i will say in this guy’s defense, there was one moment of his that i found p relatable

Wilder, responding to Virginia saying she wants a family someday: "Wh-what about work? You're going to be a chef."

Jenny: someone asks me about kids, and i IMMEDIATELY try to change the subject

CC: i LOVE her The Secret confidence MANIFESTING this feminist labor dividing ass dude in austin texas

Jenny: she’s very powerful!! and it’s definitely not the magic lamp bc that thing is shit!

CC: like of course we’d be raising the kids together it’s almost a new millennium my dude!!!!
men nowadays don’t call it babysitting when they watch their own kids it is 1997 and this is obviously the status quo
love this for her

Jenny: truly truly

Rachel: the vibe i got from this interaction is that he got jealous at the thought of her having a baby with someone else because it meant that she’d be boning another dude, and decided to finally be supportive of her career out of selfishness

CC: L O L L L L L

Rachel: tldr; this guy sucks

Jenny: i mean, very fair reading

Rachel: “b-b-but what about your career!!! (you can’t have sex with anyone else!!!)”

Jenny: LOL
ok ok fair point
he DOES suck

Rachel: i just love to dunk on dell moneybags

Jenny: as you should

CC: this dell propaganda

Virginia, making a wish: "Help me, magic lamp. I wish for a man who will love me the most."

Jenny: i feel like we should maybe talk a little bit about the wishes she makes
first one was a decent paying job that gave her some opportunities for the future
and that’s when mike d hires her to be his mom’s secretary (a paid, live-in position that does not interfere w her culinary classes) / how she ends up in this situation, really
second one was for love

Jenny: which like, i was 1000% expecting this to backfire on her

CC: yeah i’m just not used to seeing wish-based media that doesn’t backfire
if a wish isn’t actively trying to kill u idk what 2 do with it

Rachel: def thought this would be the monkey’s paw curling

Pete: "Beautiful lady, you're like a walking gemstone that illuminates Texas's night sky."
FX: "MEDIOCRE"

Rachel: mr. mediocre over here

CC: awww i love him
i found his brand of dumbass very relatable

Jenny: LOL pete is my boy!

Rachel: he’s honestly good, i just love that the text is like “WHOMP WHOMP” at this bad poetry lol

Pete: "She laughed at my jokes last time."
Wilder, internally: "I never heard her laugh."

Jenny: honestly also this is me
she laughed at my jokes so i am in love now

CC: truly relatable content

Jenny: AND ALSO!!
the main love interest “never heard her laugh”!!!

Rachel: RED FLAG

CC: he doesn’t seem like he tells very funny jokes

Jenny: that’s how you know you’re not meant to be my dude!!
and also!
in defense of pete!

Pete to Virginia: "Let me know if Wilder doesn't treat you well. I can tell you embarrassing stories of Wilder."

CC: pete’s cute i’d have dated pete

Rachel: oh for sure

Jenny: same
will agree though that poetry is a hard sell opener
so wish #2 seems to be manifesting pete
but she’s not satisfied w him

Virginia, thinking about Pete: "He'll probably be a good husband and father. I can imagine a happy future with him. Then why... don't the ice cream or the nightlights excite me at all?"

Jenny: even though he seems great!!
and so she uses her 3rd wish on “wilder” (michael dell)

CC: wilder honeycutt
fancy lad, esquire

Jenny: she wishes for him to have a true love/to be able to let his guard down enough to actually love someone
and that someone turns out to be her!
who could’ve guessed!

CC: maybe that was the monkey’s paw all along
let’s check up on them in 2021 see how it’s going

Jenny: LOL
yeah i guess the wishes trapped both of them into fake love magic feelings (wish 2 for him and wish 3 for her)
so that is their curse

CC: what a yikes and a half!!!!
don’t mess with love magic y’all!!!!

Jenny: i did enjoy her reaction to it at the end though

Virginia to Wilder: "You're being weird. You're saying weird things."

Jenny: same

Rachel: HAHAHA yes 100%

CC: more people in these should tell people to stop being weird
i do love her

Rachel: well, with that, do y’all wanna do final thoughts?

Jenny: yeah! i’ve got one!

Wilder to his mom: "Aren't you reading too many Harlequin books? You're imagining things."
Mrs. Hunnicut: "Don't do anything careless, Wilder. (And don't make fun of Harlequin.)"

Jenny: this was a great moment

CC: tl;dr all of us

Jenny: more A+ mom content
don’t make fun of harlequin!
even though that’s a lot of what we do here, we really do it with love!!

Rachel: it’s true!! you have to earn that right!!

CC: we love to see it, that’s why we’re here

Rachel: ok here’s mine

Virginia, driving and crying on her way to Dallas.

Rachel: this is also me when driving through I-35 traffic

CC: LMAO THAT’S SO REAL THOUGH

Monster's Inc crying meme, but driving.

CC: so true
ok well here’s mine

"Checking the stocks? So passionate. Such long, beautiful fingers."
The horrible stonks meme, but with yaoi hands.

CC: golden yaoi hands

Jenny: LOL

Rachel: LOL
horrifying, i hate it

Classic yaoi hands example.

CC: he needs those long digits to invest in gamestop or w/e stonk people do

Jenny: god

CC: i don’t have michael dell money and maybe it’s been these stubby fingers holding me back the whole time from the unimaginable riches i deserve

Jenny: LOL i think you’ve hit on it — the mystery of how stocks work
the lamp was never magic, it was the long fingers all along

CC: it explains so much
well truly I enjoyed returning to the content well that is harlequin manga
it was refreshing to take this stroll down memory lane
but I’m also excited to keep on voyaging out onto other hashtag content

Jenny: yeah this one was not nearly as bad as some of the ones we’ve covered before — definitely a welcome dip back into the harlequin pond
and same!!

Rachel: yeah for sure!! excited that we’ve broadened our pool but still safe in the knowledge that the harlequin well never runs dry

CC: truly!!!!! trash & treasure at the same time!!!!


Join us next time for even more love story shouting in our next Romance Roundtable! 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.

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.
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!!
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.
#rando

Afternoon Snack

There are plenty of nasty things in the world to think and talk about, but today we’re focusing on the things that bring us pride, hope, and joy.

Read More »
POMEgranate Magazine