The Amalfi Bride by Major & Ai Digital Manga Review

 

Title: The Amalfi Bride

Original Story by Ann Major

Manga by Marito Ai

Available at eManga

My stress levels are up at work, so I find myself wanting to read brainless fluff.  I turned to my trusty Harlequin manga for a shot of happiness, reading this title during my lunch break.  I needed the fix.  The story actually delivered, despite the somewhat convoluted plot.

Regina is suffering from unhappiness.  She is lonely, having failed at love, and she feels that her family doesn’t really love her.  To make up for her feelings of inadequacy, she has thrown herself into her studies, and how she is a successful lawyer.  Her best friend, Lucy, has decided to become a single mother, mainly because men are unpredictable and unreliable.  Regina ponders a visit to the sperm bank herself, in an attempt to find the fulfillment that she’s lacking in life.  But first, she takes a vacation to decide if she’s really ready for this huge step – motherhood is forever, after all!

Once in Italy, something very extraordinary happens.  Regina falls in lust.  With a gigolo!  Will she be able to afford three days of pleasure with him?  Will she be able to go back to her boring life afterwards?  Throwing caution to the winds, Regina gives herself up to one last fling before single motherhood snatches this irresponsible behavior from her forever.

All right, so right off the bat you know that there this more to Nico than sponging off of rich old women.  There has to be!  This is a Harlequin!  And sure enough, Nico is running away from his responsibilities.  He is a wealthy prince, and he is under a great deal of pressure to marry a suitable woman.  Only problem – he doesn’t want a loveless marriage with a woman his mother picked out for him.  Only problem: he is too much of a wimp to stand up to her and say a big, resounding “No!”  So instead, he, too, will have one last fling before he’s shackled to a woman he has no interest in.

Yes, the plot is extremely predictable, and Regina’s behavior doesn’t exactly put her in a good light, but darn it, here are two people who deserve happiness!  They have both felt unloved for so long!  While their courtship was too rushed to be convincing or believable, we do have a page constraint to fit this rather complex plot into.  Only 128 pages!  I wasn’t impressed with Regina’s reconciliation with her family; that was just way too easy, for everyone involved, but I did suspend belief enough to enjoy the resolution of Regina and Nico’s relationship.

The art was quite pretty, with sleek, attractive character designs.  Both Nico and Regina looked comfortable in their exotic setting, and it was easy to believe that they would be quickly attracted to each other.  They both have a commanding presence, and they both demanded second glances in their direction.

Though not exactly trend setting, The Amalfi Bride is a pleasant diversion from reality.  If you have about 20 minutes to fill, there are certainly worse ways to spend the time.

Grade: B

Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

 

Title: The Replacement

Author: Brenna Yovanoff

Publisher:  Razorbill

ISBN: 9781595143372

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful horror novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong.

This was so not what I was expecting, but that turned out to be a good thing.  Many times, when you see a cover for a book or read a blurb about it, you build an incorrect expectation about it.  In this case, the read was better than I imagined.  I was not expecting a vulnerable protagonist searching for a place he belonged.  The Replacement is a gripping read, with a very likable lead, a little touch of horror, and an emotionally fulfilling coming of age story.  I read it in a couple of hours, and was literally glued to the sofa until I reached the last page.

Mackie is a young man who doesn’t belong.  Anywhere.  He has a secret, and it’s one that might destroy him.  He is a Replacement; he was left in the crib of a human baby who was snatched in the middle of the night by very scary creatures.  Mackie has to keep a low profile and he must stay hidden in plain sight so that the people of Gentry don’t suspect that he is anything other than human.  With his violent reactions to blood and iron, it is surprising that nobody has caught on.  His skin starts to blister if he steps on consecrated ground, making life even more difficult for him; his family, like many of the townspeople, are active in the church, a place where Mackie can never enter.

Man, this kid has it rough!  Iron is poison to him, and when you think about it, iron is in pretty much everything.  He’s sick all the time, the smell of blood is like kryptonite, and he is under pressure to just be normal.  But in Gentry, what does that mean?  There is no normal here, but everyone is skilled at pretending that it is.  Children aren’t being snatched away in the middle of the night, replaced with creatures that aren’t human.  That’s just not happening.  Gentry is a prosperous town, and it is quickly apparent that there is a horrible price to be paid for its good fortune.

When a classmate’s sister is snatched away in the night, Mackie starts to learn the sinister truth about himself and the place where he lives.  When he learns that Tate’s sister is alive, but soon to be sacrificed by the dark creatures of Gentry’s underworld, he has choice to make.  Pretend that everything is all peachy and let a little girl be murdered, or take a stand, find the courage  and the strength to save her, and quite possibly put himself in danger instead.  Like the townspeople who live around him, Mackie sees that it is easier to do nothing and to pretend that nothing is wrong.  But can he live with himself if Tate’s sister is murdered?

Despite a few pacing issues, I thought The Replacement was a great read.  I loved Mackie, especially when he made a bad decision, realized that he’d made a mistake, and then did everything in his power to make things right. The Mackie at the end of the book is a far more mature version of himself than at the beginning, and the character growth was convincing and felt real.  I can hardly wait to read more by Brenna Yovanoff.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by We Love YA Tours