Romance Roundtable #5: Hostile Engagement

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where all four editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss a Harlequin romance manga. Today we’re discussing HOSTILE ENGAGEMENT by Jessica Steele (Author) and Sena Kurebayashi (artist)a cautionary tale about the evils of wealth masquerading as a passionless romance between two bland poor communicators



Jenny: ok so i would like to just go ahead and apologize for picking this mess
really tried to force all the tropes into one thing

Ashley: lol we all pick a bad ones from time to time
your last one was a hit

CC: my summary of this one is: hostile engagement is the story of a young woman who falls in love with a hostile yet surprisingly milquetoast bajillionaire who she thinks purchased her dead mother’s stolen ring; for some reason, they fall in love??? and every other woman in this story is a more compelling character than she is.

Jenny: Lucy is a fancy english lady whose irresponsible parents fritter away all the money, and then her shitheel brother gambles away more, but rather than let herself be too bothered by this, she throws all of her focus into reacquiring her dead mom’s ring, which was sold to her hot (?) neighbor by her shitheel brother. She does this by agreeing to pretend to be his fiance? but eventually she decides that the ring isn’t worth it and just gets a job.
you’d think that would be the end, but no
then her shitheel brother manipulates her into coming back home/pretending everything is fine, and that’s where she finds out that everything apparently is ACTUALLY FINE, bc that dude who coerced her into fake intimacy bought her brother and her house and also they’re in love

Ashley: rich people lie to each other and call it romance

Jenny: so this heroine
is insecure? about her appearance and morality?
but also all anyone ever says is how beautiful she is
but no one talks about her morality so ???

CC: except her


Hostile Engagement """"receptive"""


Jenny: maybe that’s unspoken subtext

Ashley: well, as we all know, it IS immoral to be rich

Jenny: fact

Rachel: I love how her come-to-jesus-moment is like
let’s get JOBS

Jenny: WILD

Rachel: so crazy~~~~

Ashley: speaking of which
i did the math, and if rupert works for 5 years to pay back $400,000, that means Jud is paying him $80k to like, take out the compost
although Jud is also requiring Rupert to pay his own house staff on that???


Hostile Engagement -- what is british money even i mean we don't know


CC: i mean to be fair
I think jud is paying rupert to pay someone else to actually handle the compost
there’s no way this dude is actually getting anywhere near compost

Jenny: ~~aristocracy~~

Ashley: also it’s POUNDS not dollars so it’s like $750k or something

CC: jesus
I’ve been saying this since I watched season 2 of the crown
we gotta just bite the bullet and eat the rich

Ashley: yes ma’am


Hostile Engagement -- literally the White House


Jenny: like this is v clearly not a house
by no one’s definition is that a “house”

Ashley: okay that’s literally the white house tho
literally actually the white house

Rachel: LOL


Hostile Engagement -- LOL terrorizing the help


CC: related
like, sure

Jenny: lol so fun to attack people who work for you

CC: that butler looks Distressed

Ashley: cute how in those fond memories the children are literally assaulting the help with rusty weapons
(i imagine they’re rusty anyway)

CC: rust from centuries of dried peasant blood

Jenny: or else the help JUST polished them

Ashley: (i’m sure we’ll get to this but the art was… something)

Jenny: god the art was so bad

Rachel: oh my god the art
I have so many screenshots


Hostile Engagement -- awk smooches

Hostile Engagement -- 1000 yard stare


Jenny: how does he get his collar to stay up so high??
that’s what i want to know
dried peasants blood probs

CC: peasants eat a lot of potatoes so their blood is naturally v starchy


Hostile Engagement -- creepy baby


Rachel: this baby will literally give me nightmares
look at its eyes

Ashley: HAHAHA
the baby’s eyes make it look like the brain from pinky and the brain

Jenny: oh god that baby

CC: I do not understand the purpose of showing the baby
this is like, the only time I’ve ever seen somebody really try at backgrounds but all the figures look like they’re melting

Ashley: the one good expression is when Jud is putting something in her hand and she looks like he just dropped a fresh dog shit in there


Hostile Engagement -- dog shit proposal


CC: that ring is so tacky


Hostile Engagement tacky


Ashley: does she have bionic eyes or some shit???
far as i can tell she was standing like 20 feet away

Jenny: right?? she never actually goes up and talks to them
maybe it just called to her heart
maybe the ghost of her mother is inside it

Ashley: I WISH

Jenny: that would make this so much better

Ashley: any or all of these options would help
it’s just like… okay usually this kind of a situation would make me mad
because this dude has a lot of power in the form of wealth and in like, normal human relationships he would basically be holding that over basically a young stranger’s head to coerce her into MARRIAGE
but these people acted so little like people that there isn’t even really enough text to support reading that far into it lol
it’s like a comic written by an AI

Jenny: lol yeah — accurate
and also let’s remember that he is 35 and she is definitely younger than 25
definitely that age gap is more than 10 years

Ashley: yeah i mean at least she’s not confirmed sixteen or something but ????

CC: she does say he’s about 10 years older than her

Jenny: so she is maybe 24

Rachel: I’m not sure she is human


Hostile Engagement -- our protag is twenty heads tall


CC: 25 heads high


Rachel: she’s just a piece of laffy taffy
molded into a human girl shape

Jenny: romance is different for leg monsters


Hostile Engagement -- betty spaghetti


Rachel: LOL

Ashley: this artist is either severely overworked and drew this all in like, one day OR they’re fucking with us OR they’re an AI
lol or their kink is betty spaghetti or whatever that doll ^ is called

Jenny: i’d buy the AI theory though for real

CC: i mean like
so this is my view on this whole situation
this dude was gross trash but not nearly as trash as the guy in the italian lover’s grandma’s secret baby or whatever
like, we’ve def seen more hostile engagements
everyone is just acting on how they think someone else feels about them



Hostile Engagement -- this is literally the worst proposal I've ever seen


Rachel: god such a fucking dummy


Hostile Engagement -- what we have here is a failure to communicate


CC: I THOUGHT YOU THOUGHT girl like even though he looks like an alien, he’s not a mind reader
and right back at you, JUDSON my dude

Jenny: and then he just fucking blames her for not getting it?!??!


Hostile Engagement -- protag apologizing for "failing to realize" stuff this trashboy has never said


Ashley: yeah i mean i literally thought he was just giving it to her though

Jenny: SAME

CC: yeah same!

Ashley: because he says “without conditions”
engagement and marriage are DEFINITELY conditions

CC: yeah marriage is a p big condition
one major weird ass thing about this book is that
aside from the protag’s internal monologue, it is extremely unclear that these two people think about each other AT ALL when not in the same room

Ashley: hahahaha for real

CC: “I love him so much” I mean do you ??????
being 24 and broke sucks, but not as much as being married to this dipshit

Ashley: is there even a HIM or HER to love at all?????

Rachel: she literally has more feelings about his mom

literally the best scene

Ashley: hahahha that is so true, i kind of wanted them to make out


Hostile Engagement -- mom is going to steal yr fiance jed!


the mom is like, I had soooooo much fuuuuun ????

Jenny: look at that seductive mom face!

Ashley: she is coming on to her!!!

CC: also i know I saw that dress in the cocktail gown section at stein mart

Ashley: hahaha woof that dress


Hostile Engagement -- convenient dress reveal scene


Jenny: i mean it’s her aunt’s dress from when she was young
so like

Ashley: that’s like, an iconic outcast-girl-makes-her-own-dress-and-wears-it-to-the-party-and-everyone-makes-fun-of-her Look

CC: that auntie has such good taste tho


Hostile Engagement -- boring wedding dress; auntie's shapely and tasteful bell sleeved gown


Ashley: hahaha yeah she picks out a nice dress for herSELF
that mystery woman is wearing underwear on the other hand

CC: although my first thought at this shot was “why does lucy have a pad on her head”

Ashley: HAAA oh fuck

CC: so here is my big fashion riddle in this book


Hostile Engagement -- more bowl than hat, more hat than bowl


CC: what is going on here

Ashley: well, the book it’s adapted from was published in 1984
that’s def some weird Dynasty shit

Jenny: oh shit!
polo-specific skirt suit

Rachel: it kind of looks like she’s in the middle of getting hit in the side of the hit with a pie plate???

Ashley: OMG STOP

Rachel: but I’m just a rube and I don’t know about fancy hats
pie plate hats

Ashley: i mean i definitely don’t get fancy hats AT ALL

Jenny: look pies to the face would make this book better

CC: ah yes, our heroine is sporting a huge bowl and a giant decorative fabric flower from a michael’s clearance rack

Ashley: like that fucking cthulhu hat that kate middleton’s sister wore or whatever
that flower IS like half the size of the actual hat

CC: hats are v hard 2 pull off but lucy, yr just making this harder on yourself girl

Ashley: i like that she’s trying to look Still Rich but she’s like, sporting a claire’s aesthetic

CC: ah yes, from the claire’s polo collection ~~
one thing I really liked about this book was that all these women you think will be trouble aren’t
carol turned out to be a decent person, the mom was super supportive; who could have guessed? a nice surprise

Ashley: oh yeah carol was actually a sweetie

Rachel: only the men were terrible
as usual

CC: i got one look at carol and was like whoooof here we go
a nice surprise!

Ashley: true!!

Jenny: yeah they saved all the shit for this scummy brother

Ashley: hahaha ugh that brother was honestly the most human character
the most of an actual person, though shitty person

CC: ok but,


Hostile Engagement -- the ~~ working world ~~



Ashley: haha yeah i like how this is initially presented as something… nice, and not utterly baffling and delusional???
like, “EVERYONE loves us rich people, EVERYONE would be so disappointed if you worked!!!”

Jenny: and like she tells him that this asshole fake proposed to her, and then he’s like — don’t worry about it, sis. we’ll figure something out. and she thinks that he’s a kindhearted man! FALSE! There are no kindhearted men!

Ashley: fact

Jenny: he goes and tells EVERYONE that they’re engaged
before she even agreed to it!

CC: immediately leverages the news to help pay his debts

Ashley: omg that’s right i forgot

Rachel: yeah it literally FORCED her into accepting


Hostile Engagement -- moms gossiping about engagement


Ashley: lollll another quality drawing up in the top right too

Jenny: like he got rolled through a pasta machine

Rachel: that neck tho

Ashley: he looks like a purposefully bad/exaggerated kylo ren meme

Jenny: doc brown at the end of roger rabbit

CC: he looks like


Hostile Engagement -- yeeeeeeee



is that fucking bill nye’s face on a dinosaur, cc???
what is that, i’m cackling

CC: no that’s the yee dinosaur



Ashley: omg

CC: that meme is better than he deserves tho ngl; all praise yee

Jenny: while we’re back on the art
i want to make sure this gets in here


Hostile Engagement -- spiderleg makeout scene


Jenny: i don’t think his arm is attached to his body
swinging free in that sleeve

Ashley: also his legs must be literally ten feet long if they’re that much longer than hers

CC: the best thing about this panel
is the floral screen tones at the bottom

Ashley: i do like them
also their mouths
it looks like a melty cgi from one of tommy’s weird experimental videos
and/or my 7th grade binder

Rachel: one of my biggest complaints is that there are basically no backgrounds in this comic
there’s like 3 tracings of fancy houses
and that’s the end of it

so much white space, and also just like, so few panels???
like y’all could have just put more stuff on the page and it would’ve helped the story just with that

Rachel: yeah! like it’s definitely an AI who created this comic but it’s also an AI that was obviously not given enough time and had to rush basically every part of the drawing process
basically combining 2/3 of Ashley’s theories

Ashley: sound logic 2 m3

CC: all of the drama within this story comes from the frustration the characters feel at their inability to telepathically upload and send feelings to one another so imo it completely checks out

Ashley: we cracked the case!!!

Rachel: wow this book
it’s good to get back to reading these lol

Ashley: i think this book has made us all speechless for the longest amount of time
which is noteworthy in its own right
but yeah, i mean the weird art genuinely tickled me and made me lol so i got something out of that
the white space and overall lack of human personality was a genuine frustration

Jenny: like
she finally communicates/exposits


Hostile Engagement -- exposition


Jenny: and then she regrets it!


Hostile Engagement -- nvm jk about that exposition


Jenny: like, if you didn’t want him to know!! YOU SHOULDN’T’VE TOLD HIM ALL YOUR SHIT

Ashley: she’s a very perplexing non-person

Jenny: but at least that’s vaguely human
better than JUD


Hostile Engagement -- his name is actually jud.


Jenny: and whenever someone emotes around him he just stands silently or else walks away
like… no wonder??? no wonder we all thought you were just giving her the ring and letting her go back to the life she built for herself??

Rachel: I love how she’s like “he’s so cold, I bet when he turned down that other girl she cried and cried and he just stood there being cold”
also “why do i love him”
girl you pEGGED him why are you into this!!!!


Hostile Engagement -- noooo girl noooo




Hostile Engagement -- get out of there!!!!


Jenny: and can we all agree how drunk she looks??
like, they’re going to dinner w his mom
did she pregame? did he drug her?

Rachel: she looks like she’s pretty much always on morphine
big watery eyes and wobbly legs

Ashley: i would not rule out the mom drugging her
evidence: she wants to have “fun,” seductive face, desperate to see her son married

Rachel: oh nooooo
it fits!!!

Ashley: like who enjoys spending that much good clean fun time with their brand-new daughter-in-law to be?

CC: aw man i just want to believe in this mom ;__;
it’s like, the most human-like lucy gets is when they interact!

Ashley: unfortunately this book just left too much room for my horrible imagination to run wild

Rachel: lol honestly that’s a good segway into final thoughts

CC: ok well my final thought is


Hostile Engagement -- yacht


Hostile Engagement -- jk lol it's a sailboat


CC: that’s not a yacht
but I like that the artist didn’t bother to look it up
maybe the translation was weird; like, oh, yacht, that’s just a boat, right?

Rachel: the exact kind of thing I would expect from a rushed AI

Jenny: it can tell that a stool is a chair, but it’s not sure on yachts vs boats

Ashley: hmmm having a hard time mustering my final thoughts but
i think: if you’re gonna overwork an AI into making a comic, at least let them download media up to 2010

Rachel: lolololol
ok my final thought is that now I really really really want to photoshop pies in to all of the faces in this comic

Jenny: you would make this 100000000000x better by doing so

Ashley: hahaha please do at least one pie
for the readers at home

Jenny: they deserve it
just like they deserve for someone to pay off all their debt
bc that is my final thought
Money CAN solve your problems

CC: money can buy a lot of things, including happiness and stolen (and “stolen”) property
so i think you’re def on to something


Hostile Engagement -- pie in the face Original Content Do Not Steal


Jenny: bless


CC: rad
[kisses fingers like an italian mistress’s secret chef]

Ashley: wow jenny you were right this is instantly so much better

CC: #blessed



Join us for our next Romance Roundtable, where we recap The Outrageous Dowager — which reportedly includes a masquerade ball and a high-stakes horse race so STAY TUNED FOLKS.

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!!
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.
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