Browsing in a bookstore today, I came across Stepping on Roses
(Hadashi de Bara wo Fuma) and read both volumes that were available. The story is pure Harlequin novel, set (rather anachronistically) at the end of the 19th century. Sumi is our heroine. She and her brother are orphans who care for 4 little abandoned kids they found. But Sumi's older brother is a feckless gambler and the family is always penniless and in debt. As the story opens, Sumi's brother has gone missing and the loan-sharks are threatening to take the little kids away to be sold. Desperate, Sumi decides to sell herself to the highest bidder for a night so as to get money to protect her adopted siblings. But the situation does not go as she planned - the strange young man who agrees to pay her exorbitant price has no designs to relieve her of her virginity - what he needs is a wife. He needs to be married by a certain date to inherit but also wants someone he can order around and have no emotional attachment to. He explains the situation to Sumi and gives her his condition - she is never to fall in love with him. Sumi accepts - not only does she need the money, but she is already in love with a kind stranger she met earlier in the day - why would she ever have eyes for her husband? So off they go to get married. And as Sumi walks down the aisle, she sees her kind stranger crush - he is a guest to her wedding!
So far, it's pretty enjoyable if nothing to write home about. Both the hero and the heroine are shoujo stereotypes (the author admits as much in her author's notes) but they are stereotypes for a reason - that sort of thing is fun. The hero is your usual jerk with hideous childhoodd trauma and the heroine is just-as-usual nurturing, selfless woman who ignores his jerkish ways and cures the trauma within. I like this trope when it's done well but so far it's leaving me rather cold here - usually I like it much more when the emotional power in the relationship lies with the woman in this scenario or when the hero is in the constant state of trauma - e.g. my ultimate guilty pleasure manhwa 100% Perfect Girl
- the hero is totally an arrogant jerk (he is, literally, a prince) - but the heroine in that one literally forgets him and proceeds to make out with a sexy mobster etc and hero angsts all over the place.
But here, in the first 2 volumes, while there are hints that the hubby is beginning to be seriously attracted to Sumi, and Sumi is not particularly in love with anyone (her crush is just that, and she feels sorry for her husband, but she is not lovelorn for any guy), it is not fully developed yet - I do see hints that it will be in which case I will probably like it more.
Oh, and there is no danger for my falling for secondary guy in this one, btw - not only is he incredibly boring, he likes the heroine because she looks like his mother (!!!!!). Now, that is one heck of a Freudian crush.
In drama news, I have started The Vineyard Man
, due to agreement with darkeyedwolf
and have watched the first ep. Now, if it wasn't for the agreement, I'd never even come within a 10 mile radius of TVM. Prior to watching the first ep, my breakdown of positives/megatives went like this:
* The hero is a farmer and story revolves around farming activities to a large extent. Farming may be an honorable profession but, fiction-wise, I can imagine few things that are more unsexy and boring to me. The only farming drama I'd ever want to watch would be one that would involve Huang Xiaoming, Hu Ge, and Yuan Hong as three sexy shirtless farmers who beat their ploughshares back into swords by ep 2. So yes - the topic is a huge turn-off. Not to mention, the farming in question is wine production. I don't drink wine - I hate the taste. Plus the trauma of the horrible French Kiss movie embittered me for life. So I can't even swoon over yumminess, the way I would if the guy was, e.g., a strawberry farmer.
* I am about to offend Oh Man Suk fangirls but I am shallow and the man is ugly
. He is not just plain, but plain hideous. He has no neck and his face is better covered up and in a dark room. He must be quite a good actor in order to be a leading man - in kdramas this territory is usually reserved for Greek gods. To add insult to injury, he sports a straw hat. Outside of period dramas' battle helmets and stylish fedoras, or an occasional motorcycle helmet, I dislike headgear on men intensely.
* Fluff. By all accounts this is a very fluffy drama and I dislike even well-done fluff. I crave my angsty-angst-angst. And unless I missed somewhere that there is amnesia or discovery that the OTP are stepsiblings, this looks remarkably pain-free. It is no coincidence that I lost interest in You're Beautiful the second I realized there would be no angst, and pop-stars are a lot more of a fun occupation than farmer.
* I adore Yoon Eun Hye.
VERDICT AFTER ONE EP
I will continue as promised but so far the drama is not grabbing me. Heroine is rather annoying and the drama keeps trying for cracky vibe - I have yet to find a kdrama which makes it work. Hero? Well, suffice it to say that unless he gets plastic surgery to look like Hyun Bin, he is not winning my heart any time soon, alas.