Spell of Desire Volume 1
The author of Midnight Secretary returns with another supernatural romance, although many will find the lead here more interesting. Tomu Ohmi’s latest translated manga series, Spell of Desire, has the same naive young lady forced into close contact with a mysterious, brooding, darkly handsome, magically powered man from a group of fantasy creatures, but this version adds cute animals.
Kaoruko runs a small-town herb shop on her own after her grandmother’s recent passing. She’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s never known her parents, since her mother disappeared shortly after her birth. Then a tall stranger dressed in an all-black suit named Kaname appears to tell her she’s a witch, her mother is a witch queen leading a coven of black witches, and her grandmother had been an immensely powerful white witch.
Since Kaoruko has no idea of her birthright, she has no idea how to use her natural powers, which spring up when she gets upset. So of course, to calm her, Kaname has to kiss her. He’s her knight, to guide and protect her, and they end up living together (pretending to be engaged to avoid the village gossip) so he can fulfill his duty.
Looked at analytically, these are all standard romance elements — the couple forced together until they admit their love for each other, the metaphor of the woman with power who needs a more experienced man to teach her about it — overlaid with a bit of fantasy and family drama. (How many volumes until Kaoruko meets her mother?) But I liked reading the series, because it’s all done in accomplished fashion, and I could relate to Kaoruko feeling out of place and unsure what to do with her new knowledge.
Plus, there are cute animals: Unicorn, a lovely long-haired cat, and Dragon, an adorable puppy. They’re also familiars, so when needed, they transform into large magical beasts. Most of the time, though, they’re props for Kaname to carry around to soften his look in a dark suit. (There’s a marginal cartoon by the author where she explains why he doesn’t have the problem of the white pets shedding on him.)
The characters are well-drawn for their roles, with handsome Kaname matched by tall, innocent Kaoruko, often garbed in light, flowing clothing to contrast with his severe suit lines. At the end of the first chapter, Kaoruko is thinking to herself about all the revelations she’s just been exposed to, summing it (and the series) up as “a witch queen’s power… beasts… a mysterious man… and kisses”. Makes for a tasty stew of fantasy romance reading. (The publisher provided a review copy.)