Romance Roundtable #6: The Outrageous Dowager

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 Outrageous Dowager by Sumiko Sonehara (original novel by Sarah Westleigh): the story of one woman’s complete refusal to accept casual relationships, breakups, and outerwear.


Jenny: yeah this book
get the destiny’s child charlie’s angels theme playing
bc this is an Independent Woman

CC: i mean it’s not Kaoru Mori tier historical romance manga but there is A Lot to love here



Rachel: her blushing determination
to get that D

CC: she saw that plan through to completion

Ashley: she’s like a Napoleonic Horny Jane (from jane the virgin)

so true
I laughed out loud when she said she probably had more life experience than that dude bc she’d been married
A widow! at 22! kissing men in the street and challenging them to horseracing to get that d!

Rachel: omg the horse race

Ashley: ahhhh okay my favorite horse-related content was
when she invites him and his whole family over to her country house for an only-slightly-below-board summer fling
and rolls up all sweaty basically in her underwear riding a horse like
that is Such Good Game

Jenny: she knows what she’s doing



Jenny: and she’s gonna do it

Ashley: lol yess
this has to be a new pome emoji

CC: my favorite horse-related content is really more horse adjacent



CC: those have got to be some massive sheeps

Ashley: HAHAHA omg you’re right
also grown men should not try to ride sheep
they are turning all the way up

Rachel: I am just a city girl who doesn’t know about sheep, but it seems like a bad idea to try to ride them into town

Ashley: they’re so wasted, rachel

CC: ooh before we get too far in
let’s summarize this piece

Ashley: oh gosh, for the first time possible ever SO MUCH happens it’s hard to sum up
the heroine is a 22-year-old widow who wants romance after being married for SIX YEARS to an old man
i mean he was only in his fifties but i guess that was death’s door at the time

CC: I’d summarize this comic as: an outrageous dowager crashes through like, 80% of all the trashy 18th and 19th century romances I can think of on her way to reform a rake; she gets that d in the end and also marries him
you’ve got like:
-married to a much older man; -“my house in ~~ THE COUNTRY ~~ vs my house in The City” -omg i can’t believe this trashy ass girl SANG in the OPERA
there’s just so many tropes & I wanna thank harlequin manga for allowing me to use literally anything i learned through my mostly useless degree ha ha

Ashley: man i felt bad for the beautiful opera singer

Jenny: same

Ashley: actually there’s a very good alexander chee novel about a slutty opera singer but i digress
anyway, i think it is important to note that this dowager DOES like to get it on

Rachel: I loved her petty bullshit though, stomping in, making a scene, then going BACK to the house that Storm (ughhh) had procured for her and then kicked her out of, and then left an earring there to let everybody know that she fucking knows


Jenny: the perfect solution!



Jenny: she is v bold

Ashley: and that they have a whole summer of boning !!

Jenny: she has “no shame”

CC: I kept waiting for some plot contrivance to explain away Storm’s behavior
which is like, what ACTUALLY would have happened in a regency novel lol

Ashley: HAHA
yeah, it’s like, okay there is an obstacle to them marrying TECHnically, but mostly he just have to get over himself

CC: like, I thought it’d turn out that these women were his brothers’ mistresses and he was fessing up due to protecting the family from shame or something, somehow
it is refreshingly direct that he was just a douchebag LOL
that brother was drawn to look shady as hell

Jenny: even when he’s being “gallant” he’s a douche

Rachel: lol he just wants to join the military and fight with a sword



CC: it’s not a secret if you tell everyone there’s a sword in there, my dude

Ashley: so for the purpose of summary: he had lots of affairs because he inherited his dead brother’s fiancee
and our Dowager is the one who finally seduces him into abandoning family pride and marry a slutty widow lol
storm def had his cute lil Tuxedo Mask moment

CC: ugh

Ashley: extreme fuckboy with too much pride
but still hot

CC: look for all his faults, mamo is no womanizer (I guess except for a hot minute in the 90s anime where he dates rei??? I guess???)
also mamo Loves commitment whereas this dude is just like “lol i can just get you a new mansion”



Ashley: of all our douchey swains, i like this guy the most
he’s at least up front about not wanting to marry



CC: there is some really good paneling and background work in this piece too!



CC: i can’t believe this is a harlequin manga

Ashley: oh yes, this was definitely the best artwork we’ve had so far i think!

CC: like, introducing storm’s extra ass painting (of his “ancestor”)

Ashley: there was actual perspective
and good detail



CC: good paneling! v cinematic!

Ashley: oh yes
i liked many of the black panels
simple way to dramatize

CC: also the Look for the hot opera singer

Ashley: she was VERY WELL DRESSED!!



CC: damn
get it, hermione

Ashley: yes, actual costuming!!!
lol compare that to, say, the Hat That Never Ends

Jenny: i was really hoping that’s where the story was going (after “she’s so beautiful”)

Rachel: “hermie” is a gross nickname tho

CC: omg this story and nicknames

Jenny: ughughugh



CC: i highly doubt anyone before like 1982 ever went by the nickname “lexie”

is was very sudden


Jenny: and ‘no’ means ‘yes’ apparently

CC: also there’s like, a background character in the beginning whose name is like, lord snorebum or something and I couldn’t stop laughing



Jenny: count snordon

CC: well NOT AS GOOD as I remember but still good

Ashley: that’s someone we won’t be meeting again

Jenny: he’s my fave
bc he doesn’t get up to this kind of shit



Jenny: “the more i grew to love her, the angrier i became”

Rachel: UGH

Jenny: that’s not cool, my dude
count snordon wouldn’t do me like this

CC: also this pickup line:



Jenny: ugh

CC: “my husband died” “well I wouldn’t ever die if I could be hitting that, and by that I mean you, ur hot, haha u up”

Ashley: count snordon probably has wrinkly junk like her old husband!!! let a gal tap that Problematic Ass



Jenny: i want to talk about the meet cute though

CC: her old husband was hot for an old guy in a harlequin manga
i don’t care i’ll say it

Jenny: i mean that’s true
he was v well groomed
kept it tight

CC: he had a kind face what can i say
and i think glasses?

Rachel: the body of Joe Biden and the mind of George Clooney

Jenny: lololol

Ashley: i mean, i have the hots for ted danson in the good place a lil so i’m the last to judge

Rachel: oh yes, def

CC: a high quality old man crush
we’re all the mom from ristorante paradiso

Ashley: i do like that she refers to her relentless pursuit of storm as her “first crush”

so casual, so chill

Rachel: here’s the deal, I know who we are in this comic



Ashley: lmao


Ashley: fuuuuuck
called out

CC: not wrong

Ashley: s/o to supportive Horny Old Ladies in harlequin manga
aka us

Rachel: that face tho
they are consistently our favorite
and for good reason!

CC: ok but another character I related to



Ashley: that was a very cute ending!!!

CC: she didn’t give a fuck all throughout this story lol

Ashley: this artist actually knew her stuff man
that is a fact
i think that’s also why i didn’t judge storm so harshly
they clearly had an understanding of some kind In My Opinion

CC: look if I’ve learned anything from the relationships subreddit
it’s that even if you’ve been married to your partner for 25 years
unless you have a NOTARIZED FORM saying you’re exclusive, you don’t get to complain when your SO bangs somebody else

she did not seem to have any intention of complaining and in fact i’d argue she was secretly seducing the shady lil bro the whole time
also remember, she was the dead brother’s fiancee!!!
i wouldn’t want to inherit a fiance lol

CC: hard same
maybe she’s just biding her time til she runs out of brothers in this family

Ashley: maybe she’s the secret cougar of the story

Jenny: the secret cougar this story deserves
i want to come back to the meet cute for a sec
like, 1 – our heroine is bold and daring; she dresses up in her maid’s clothing to sneak into the city to see a parade

Ashley: omg YES that’s right
so good

Jenny: 2 – she gets mugged and is again bold and daring in her refusal to accept the mugging
3 – the muggers turn rapey and regency mamo appears to save her
4 – they lose her necklace (the object of the mugging) in the struggle
5 – regency mamo hits on her and then kisses her
what the fuck bro
she’s just been nearly assaulted
she’s not in the headspace for your tongue

Ashley: he’s a cad!!!!!

CC: also lip kissing?? in public??? In like 1820 or w/e???? dude wtf?????

not just then but all through the book

CC: yr horny rococo ass shit

Ashley: y’all i bet there was so much back alley horndoggin in the day like
shit was boring

Jenny: i mean yes
but back alley
not public parks
but also yeah probably public parks
idk man i wasn’t there

Ashley: you know a cad and a housemaid did it in a public park

CC: i like how ~ lexie ~ is v adamant that she doesn’t give making out in public a second thought but then



CC: this cutely paneled second / third / fourth thought lol

Ashley: hahaha
so good
i like how she was like, “i’m a dumb idiot but thems the breaks”

Rachel: oh yes this is my proposal for newest POME emoji



CC: lol amazing

Jenny: perf

Ashley: mfw choosing the irresponsible fuckboy option in the regency otome
i mean actually okay not irresponsible

CC: okosan irl

Ashley: he was putting up his ladies in their own individual mansions
fairly considerate
i’m ashley and i’m your garbage cheerleader for today

CC: (for reference) (rachel’s bf)
aw fuck pls ignore everything I’ve said
I forgot which pigeon was which

Ashley: lol

CC: this one
snooty pigeon boyfriend
thinks he can do whatever he wants until he falls in love~
this metaphor is a sinking ship pls help
get me out of here

Rachel: you dug this pigeon hole
now you have to roost in it


Ashley: omg accurate tho

CC: you’re…’re not wrong
anyway, to go back to an earlier point, ashley I think you’re right that this trash guy is less trash than our usual suspects
like, still trash, but not evil trash, just yr standard literary rake trash
also maybe the hottest trash love interest we’ve had so far

Ashley: yessssss
right like
he’s horny but he’s doing what he can to mitigate the damages
he’s read the ethical slut and still maybe needs to take a closer look at how his inability to be vulnerable is hurting him in the long run, but AT LEAST HE READ IT

CC: didn’t just leave it in his amazon cart

Ashley: def the actual hottest
normal sized legs, nice hair, non-animorphing jawline

CC: v nice hair

Rachel: a very solidly featured man!

CC: there’s gotta be a nice butt under there



Ashley: yesss
puttin my money on a tom hiddleston butt
too bad her country estate wasn’t haunted
and made of blood

that’s what was missing here tbh

Rachel: that’s what’s been missing from every story so far!

CC: I’m sure Lexie would have refused to accept those things too

Rachel: her willful denial is my favorite of her features

CC: not her
dangerous beautiful extremely sexy beautiful emerald eyes???
which, by the way, are both dangerous and beautiful?

Rachel: this comic is in black and white so I am really not buying it

CC: i wish my eyes could lead a man to ruin
too bad i’m just a boring ol brown-eyes
and not a ~ dangerously sensual ~ green eyes

Ashley: i usually lead men to ruin with my ass, sorry not sorry
wouldn’t have made it far as a dowager

CC: yeah those gowns are Great but don’t do a lot to promote the back seat

Ashley: def not, empire waist is the ultimately booty disappear-er

CC: gotta wait til edwardian times to get in while the gettin is good in those kickass ladies’ pantsuits
and the invention of the ladies’ blazer

Ashley: i think this couple would be very cutie with lexie (ew) in a suit

CC: ohhh same
but also these 2 hot people would look good in anything

Ashley: yeah
i’m actually, truly, genuinely, super happy this book had nice art
it really made it a much more fun and fantasy-inspiring read for me
probably because i wasn’t getting distracted
like quick poll: were any of you surprised by plot things? i actually was
i was kinda surprised that she was just cool with a summer fling?? like she was gonna let him go

CC: i was surprised his cane had a sword in it
but i love a good sword cane
maybe a lil too steampunk for my usual tastes but it’s def a stylish aesthetic decision

Ashley: it was his dad’s, not his fault his dad was into steampunk

CC: also i don’t think she was necessarily all that cool with the summer fling; like, I’ve been in my early 20s, I have said “oh ya I’m totally cool keeping things casual” tho lol
i think she’d chase that D to the ends of the earth after she got second thoughts

Jenny: i think i’d agree that the ease w which she accepted the whole casual affair thing, esp for the era, at least? was surprising

Rachel: I was surprised she pulled a loss on her horse race!
like, what r u doing
what is ur end game

Jenny: oh yeah!

CC: I really think she thought he’d fall too in love with her to marry that other broad!

Jenny: i genuinely thought she was going to win

Rachel: Won: One Husband


Ashley: hahah!

Jenny: perf

Ashley: The Outrageous Do-me Wager

Rachel: LOL

a 100% accurate title

Jenny: exceptional

Ashley: but yeah, even tho storm exhibited typically problematic behavior, i super enjoyed the extreme agency this heroine exercised
truly unstoppable
and she also risked everything to help fanny escape her own fate!!!!!!!
sisters before misters!!

Jenny: YEAH

Rachel: yes!!

Jenny: that was a nice subplot
crammed some more good old tropes in

Ashley: very sweet
also was super not expecting FANNY to get pregnant out of wedlock!


Ashley: i mean!!! it’s the sweet innocent ones that surprise you i guess
omg damn he was really gonna kill that dude

CC: down with love, in that I am gonna put it in the ground

Ashley: i like his irredeemable lack of ethics, lol, it makes him feel more like a real person to me, which is maybe very sad

Rachel: haha awwww

Ashley: although, then again!!! still he was pretty financially supportive of his mistresses so!
mixed bag!!

CC: y’all ready for final thoughts?

Ashley: sure!

Jenny: okay so my final thought
is that: if you CAN invite your crush to your country home for a summer of love making, you SHOULD
will def pay off

Ashley: VERY good advice
my final thought is that riding horses in your old-timey underwear is sexier than i had previously considered


CC: my final thought is: def commit to the role before cosplaying your own early 19th century maid. stash your valuables. bring your own sword cane.

Ashley: sword caaaaane
the accessory of the century imo

Jenny: fancy dead husband jewelry is non-canonical maid attire

Ashley: lol
very good point

CC: but if you are Really Going Hard and being A Lad


Rachel: oh my god
one for each of us and one for every heroine in all of these dang books

Ashley: umbrella academy but fight club but pome

Rachel: my final thought is: I hope our next book also features a heroine who is not afraid to make dumb faces



Ashley: haahahaa yes

CC: amen

Rachel: I need the 90s Sailor Moon level of expressiveness here



Ashley: lol gd me every day

CC: the same facial expression that the horny governess was making
but on the protag
i can dare 2 dream it

Ashley: praying 4 horny governess



Ashley: hahahahaha fuck ya
“i’m gonna bet on this horse race but then lose on purpose and have hot sex” face

CC: ooh i have a new final final thought
it’s not a gamble if you win either way

Ashley: hahaha
the greatest gamble of all!! HOLY MATRIMONY!!!!!!!!!

CC: lol



Join us next time for a mysterious, yet ~~ dangerous to behold ~~ Romance Roundtable.

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.
POMEgranate Magazine