Saturday, February 26, 2022

Secrets of Castillo Del Arco by Naomi Watanabe


Look, I'm not all that difficult to please, okay? Give me an angst-ridden storyline with some Gothic elements and some really good character arcs, and I'll be a happy girl. It's as simple as that. And a book with a title like SECRETS OF CASTILLO DEL ARCO sure seemed promising. First, it's got "castle" in the title, which is only a step away from one of those lurid Gothic pulps that had some maiden fleeing from a crumbly cliffside manor. Second, it's about secrets and I love nosing around those puppies. GIMME.

In case you're familiar to the concept of Harlequin manga, they are literally Harlequin books in manga form. Which is AMAZING. Obviously, the books can only be as good as the source material and sometimes the art can suck, but sometimes you get a good story and an amazing artist and then it's like the perfect marriage of trashy goodness. And that's basically what this was for me.

This book is about Gabriella and Raoul. Gabriella is this shy and sheltered rich girl who's been living under the care of her grandfather and he wants her childhood friend Raoul to take care of her after his death to make sure she's not taken advantage of by predatory rich men. Raoul is this aloof rich guy who isn't mean or douchey, but he does kind of project "I might be dangerous" vibes. Also his wife died under mysterious circumstances and he has weird locked rooms in his castle. Red flag? More like blue flag-- for a Bluebeard. Amirite? Of course, that isn't going to stop Gabriella for falling for him. Because abs.

Like I said, I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. The art is great. The story is great. I liked the Venice setting and how it has all these Gothic and fairytale bits woven in. The heroine was sweet but not TSTL (even though she's clumsier than Bella Swan-- how do you fall out of a WINDOW?) and I thought Raoul was the perfect blend of sweet and dangerous. I don't always feel like chasing down the novel editions of these books, but for this one, I actually might.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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