There will be spoilers for the manhwa series Hold Me Safe.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to stalking, kidnapping, attempted murder, violence, blood, being outed, gossip, break-in, homomisia, harassment, manipulation, plagiarism, corruption, BDSM, implied illness, abuse, and public humiliation, as it appears in the manhwa.
Han Jaehwa is a prolific mystery and crime novelist. He's so prolific that his work is being adapted into live-action. Unfortunately, while he is a beloved novelist, those who know him in person aren't as big of a fan of him. He's prickly, never mincing words, no matter how harsh they may be. This leads to a lot of gossip, including rumors about him being gay (which he is) and having sex to get what he wants (which he doesn't). Jaehwa couldn't care less about what people have to say about him, just happy to live the way he wants without appeasing anyone.
Life is all good until Jaehwa comes home to find things moved around. Someone has been in his house. Fearing for his safety, Jaehwa hires a bodyguard Seong Taekyung. As it happens, the bodyguard is exactly Jaehwa's type, and after some heated moments between the two, they shift their professional relationship into an intimate situationship. The two are having fun together, and Jaehwa feels much safer, so everything is set to return to normal.
That is until a fan letter full of razor blades, comes in through the mail. The stalker has clearly not been deterred by Taekyung's presence, and it seems their moves will only get more violent. Can Taekyung catch the stalker before he becomes someone worse? And can Jaehwa keep his relationship with Taekyung casual, or will he inevitably fall in love with his protector and the only person he can trust right now?
I have to talk about the art. This art style is unique, and it will be very hit or miss with most people, but I love it. The art and coloring style are probably my favorite part of this. The colors are muted and cool-toned, which is very easy on the eyes and fits the mystery genre of this. The art style is very sketchy and inconsistent at times, but the coloring style is unique enough to overshadow any inconsistencies for me. There's just something endearing and pleasant about this style overall. I love it so much.
Along with the art style, I love the character types we get here, particularly Jaehwa. Jaehwa is no-nonsense and doesn't care what anyone thinks, which is fun to see. Admittedly, he is an unnecessary asshole most of the time, causing drama and trouble that very easily could've been avoided with just a little tact. That doesn't mean he deserves what he gets because no one deserves to be stalked, assaulted, or plagiarized. It's just that it can be rather annoying seeing how many of his issues he set up for himself just because he refuses to be tactful.
However, this thorny personality works well with his relationship with Taekyung. Taekyung is much more relaxed and chill, while Jaehwa is always on the offense. Taekyung uses this to his advantage, often teasing Jaehwa, leading to entertaining and fluffy moments between the two. It also enhances the smut, as it usually involves tearing down Jaehwa's walls. It's fun to see the prickly and self-confident Jaehwa melt underneath Taekyung. There's also a nice side story where the bodyguard role is swapped. I actually think Jaehwa's personality aligns way more with the bodyguard role, and it's great seeing Taekyung be an actor and playboy. They are just a perfect match, and I wish I could see more of their dynamic because they just work together.
Unfortunately, while I love so many aspects of this series, I am just not a big fan of the overall story, particularly the stalker mystery. The stalker turns out to be the cafe owner, which is cool. He gave creepy and obsessive vibes, but what was his reason for targeting Jaehwa? Cause he could. I suppose that is as good a reason as any, but it was unsatisfying. There is actually a reference to this happening to another writer at the same company who eventually faded into anonymity. I was hoping the owner would be that writer, and jealous of Jaehwa's success, would carry on the mantel of the person who did it to him, but it turns out he was that same guy. It was just a really disappointing reveal on top of a satisfying romance.
This would have been a fave had the stalker mystery not played out as it did. It just didn't make much sense to me and ended in such a quick flurry. It didn't feel all that satisfying. I loved the romance and the smut, and I think you should read it if those aspects are essential to your enjoyment of BL. However, if you're hoping for a satisfying mystery to go along with it, this isn't it. It was still a fun time overall.
Have you read Hold Me Safe? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!