Here is a text transcript of DBSA Podcast 71: Discoveries You Envy, What Makes for Great Romance, and Reader Email About Alpha Males. You can listen to the mp3 here, or you can read on – and on and on and on!
Recently, a listener contacted me about transcribing for us, as her dayjob is professional audio transcription. Many thanks to Garlicknitter, who transcribed this for us!
Here are the books we discuss in this podcast, in case you want to learn more about them.
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to the last DBSA podcast for 2013. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me is Jane Litte and also Sarah MacLean. When I interviewed Sarah MacLean earlier this month, we started talking about books that you’re envious that someone else is getting to start for the first time and then about the realism of characters and how that makes a really memorable and terrific romance. I brought that same question to Jane, and we talked about it a little bit, and then we took on a reader email about that reader’s feelings about the misogyny that she thinks that she’s seeing in new adult and contemporary romances, particularly those that were finalists in the Goodreads Awards.
Our podcast sponsor, Intermix, would like you to know about Castle Hill, the new novella from Samantha Young, a followup to the bestselling On Dublin Street.
And now, on with the podcast!
Sarah M: Oh, I have the next Lorraine Heath, which I haven’t started and I’m actually considering saving for the hospital. Lorraine Heath, I think, is like the unsung heroine of the historical romance world. Like, I think her books are so, so amazing, so I’m super excited because I hear she’s starting a new series, and this is the first in the series, and I’m very, very excited about that.
Sarah W: I had, basically, a love letter to Lorraine Heath’s books from Jesse Edwards, who works in the publicity department at Avon.
Sarah M: Oh, who loves them!
Sarah W: Who loves –
Sarah M: She and I together are, like, the biggest fangirls for Lorraine ever.
Sarah W: And she said that the first time that she made a complete fool of herself at her new job at Avon was when she walked into Lorraine Heath’s editor’s office and saw all the books and completely lost her mind, because Lorraine Heath is the author that makes Jesse just go absolutely batshit. Like, she just goes bat-guano loco over how awesome Lorraine Heath is.
Sarah M: Yeah.
Sarah W: I think you’re right; the Unsung Heroine of Historical Romance would be a really good title for her, ‘cause not enough people know –
Sarah M: No!
Sarah W: — how good she is.
Sarah M: It’s so shocking to me, ‘cause she’s been writing for a long time, too.
Sarah W: Oh, she wrote historical Westerns.
Sarah M: Oh, I know! I’ve read them all!
Sarah M: And the thing about, yeah, the thing about her is she’s so gracious in person, you just, she’s just the most lovely human being you’ve ever met, and I feel like there’s — When you meet people who are big historical fans, like BIG ones, who’ve read, you know, every Stephanie Laurens, every, you know, every single everybody, and then you say, “Well, what about Lorraine Heath?” and they’re like, “Oh, I’ve never read her.”
Sarah M: Never? How is this possible?
Sarah W: Let me fix this for you.
Sarah M: And then you’re so jealous of those readers, ‘cause you’re like, “Oh, my God, you get to discover her!”
Sarah W: Isn’t that the greatest reading jealousy? There has to be a word for that, the jealousy and envy you feel when someone is discovering for the first time books that you love.
Sarah M: Yeah.
Sarah W: Like, oh, I wish I could go back and feel that first absolute falling on my butt joy of loving those books so much.
Sarah M: What’s the book that you are jealous of people for reading for the first time?
Sarah W: Oh, there’s a couple of them. In the mystery genre, the Julia Spencer-Fleming series, In the Bleak Midwinter is, once you start that series, it’s like crack; it’s really hard to put them down.
Sarah M: I’ve never read that, and I’m writing it down right now.
Sarah W: Oh, In the Bleak Midwinter, it is, it is, it is perilous going for the romance reader because it is a mystery, and Spencer-Fleming has been upfront about the fact that she knows that she has a large component of readers of her books that are romance readers, but in the beginning, the heroine and the hero are very much opposites. She is the new, young, former army helicopter pilot, now Episcopal priest of the local parish in upstate New York –
Sarah M: Wow!
Sarah W: — and it’s, if you’ve ever been to Glens Falls or Schenectady, Millers Kill is just like those towns, like, she gets it so right that when you read them you’re like, okay, this is – and they mention, oh! we’re just borrowing people from Glens Falls. I’m like, “Yes, ‘cause it’s right down the road, of course it is, ‘cause Millers Kill is real, right? Of course!”
Sarah W: So, in the first chapter of In the Bleak Midwinter, the first line is:
It was a hell of a night to throw away a baby.
A baby has been left on the steps of the Episcopal church, and the heroine, Clare, finds it and takes the baby to the hospital, and the baby is fine, but there’s a note on the baby’s blanket that says, please give to this couple, who are members of the church who have been trying to adopt a child for a very long time. They are fascinating characters, because you picture, you know, adoptive parents as this kind and benevolent and loving and nothing but cookies and rainbows and puppies, and these people are ruthless, because it is hard to adopt a baby –
Sarah M: Wow!
Sarah W: — and they are seriously ruthless about desiring to have a family, and they are not going to let anyone stand in their way. The hero is – and it’s really hard for me to say hero and heroine, because this is not necessarily a romance series – the two of them pair up to figure out who abandoned the baby and where the baby’s parents are. The man in the series is Russ Van Alstyne, and he is the Chief of Police. He is much older; he was born and raised in that town. He is also former army, but of a completely different generation. He is a local, and he’s married. And so they are really drawn to each other, and they become friends instantly, but they have this very clear boundary that they cannot cross and neither of them is willing to cross.
Sarah M: ‘Cause he’s married.
Sarah W: ‘Cause he’s married. And he is older, she’s younger, she’s the Episcopal priest, he’s the Chief of Police, he’s local, she’s from the South, she has a bit of Virginia accent, but they have so much in common, and they have this incredible friendship that, reading the progression of the series, when people start discover it and they’re like, “Oh, my God!” and I’m like, “I know, I know, it’s okay, it’s okay, keep going, it’s okay, keep going.”
Sarah W: That is something that I wish I could, you know, I wish I could re-experience how amazing that was. Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis is one of those books that, you hear people talk about how this book changed my life?
Sarah M: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
Sarah W: I read this book, and I thought, I want to take my family skiing. And now we go skiing every year.
Sarah M: Was that life changing?
Sarah W: Yes! It really was! Like, I snowboard, I convinced my husband to learn to snowboard, both of my children are really good skiers, and they’re eight and six years old. My younger son started skiing when he was three, and his skis were like little spatulas. I mean, they were so small. But I read this book, and the power of the setting and the devotion of the characters to – the heroes in the series all run an outdoor adventure company, and the heroine, Katie, had survived this horrible accident where she was the only survivor in a bridge collapse and realized that she had just gotten a second chance at being alive and didn’t like her life. She was very bored, and she thought that she lived a very beige and vanilla life, and it was time for her to take more risks and be more daring and be more alive, so she takes a job as a temporary assistant in this outdoor adventure company, and the hero is a former Olympic, world-famous snowboarder who blew out his knee in an accident and has just not been interested in doing anything ‘cause he can’t do that one thing anymore, so he comes home, and his brothers are like, “Thanks for all the money for the company, but we’re running it, and you know, there’s not a lot for you to do unless you want to do some of this stuff.” And because he can’t do the one thing he wants to do, he’s pouty, and a pouty, hot hero can work really well if he gets over the pouting fast enough. The two of them are amazing.
Sarah M: Mm-hmm.
Sarah W: Oh, they’re so good.
Sarah M: Well, Jill Shalvis –
Sarah W: She gets better and better.
Sarah M: Yeah.
Sarah W: She’s another one who writes characters where I’m like, okay, those people are real.
Sarah W: Like, I fully believe the Wilders are in the Sierra Nevada snowboarding right now.
Sarah W: These people are real! And I realize that makes me sound crazy –
Sarah M: No, it doesn’t at all!
Sarah W: — but I think they’re real!
Sarah M: It doesn’t at all, but, I mean, that’s really the moment, right? It’s – and I think about this when, there are sort of a few books that in my head I can remember sort of having slight remorse to think that they were fiction, to think that these characters didn’t actually exist –
Sarah W: Totally!
Sarah M: — and so it makes me happy to think that they are still together and they are still alive –
Sarah W: Oh, yeah! I wrote a whole entry about that, how I don’t want ever want to see them age and die. Immortality exists in every genre for me. Once you’re done with your book –
Sarah M: Exactly!
Sarah W: — you live forever, and you are always that age, and you never die.
Sarah M: You know, it’s interesting because I have – so, one of my – I’m very conflicted about the Jude Deveraux book A Knight in Shining Armor –
Sarah W: Yep!
Sarah M: — which a lot of people say, one of the top, top, top of the historical genre, like, ever, and I love it, and I think it’s so, and I re-read it regularly, but that last chapter –
Sarah W: Mm-hmm.
Sarah M: — always, I don’t read it. I always sort of get to the end, and then I’m like, it’s just better if I don’t read the last chapter. [laughs]
Sarah W: YUP. Because you’re never really sure that that is really the happy ending, that that really is okay.
Sarah M: Exactly! And so, and it’s – I totally get that it’s the way the book has to end, and I think, and I, I mean, I love this book, and I have read it, you know, I’ve had multiple copies of this book, ‘cause I’ve read it so many times.
Sarah W: Of course!
Sarah M: But –
Sarah W: Mine’s in three pieces.
Sarah M: Yeah, yeah!
Sarah W: That’s not right, no. There’s a couple books, there was another one that was on sale, and people were like, “That book’s great; just don’t read the epilogue,” and then in the comments later on, someone was like, “I read the epilogue! Why didn’t I listen to you? You were so right! I can’t unknow this!” And I’m like, “See, you gotta listen!”
Sarah W: If somebody says, “Don’t go near there,” don’t go near there!
Sarah M: Yep! There are moments where you think to yourself, like, there’s just, there’s no way that I can live with myself not believing that these people are real.
Sarah W: Yes.
Sarah M: And that’s the whole, I mean, like, that’s the best romance.
Sarah W: Oh, it really is. And you can think about them as if they are alive in your head and they aren’t characters, and I think that part of what happens is that when you emotionally connect with a fictional character, your imagination adds so much to the character that they become real in your mind, and when you meet another person for whom that’s true, it’s really kind of revelatory.
Sarah M: Mm-hmm! Absolutely!
Sarah W: It’s amazing. This is why conferences are awesome.
Sarah M: Yeah, absolutely. And I know that it sounds crazy, but there also is that hero piece where you sort of fall for great heroes in a weird way. It’s a very strange feeling, and again, I have, I have only, there are very few heroes who I’ve felt this way about, but by the end, where you’re thinking, Yeah, if this guy were real, I would leave my husband for him.
Sarah W: So, what’s one of the heroes where you think, All right, dude, if you were real, it is on like Donkey Kong.
Sarah M: Well, I have to say, the very first time I ever felt this, and again, I’m not, I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about him, is Lisa Kleypas’s Sebastian St. Vincent from The Devil in Winter.
Sarah W: The Devil in Winter, oh, tortured, emo, angsty hero goodness.
Sarah M: So! Right?
Sarah W: Oh, God, yes!
Sarah M: The trouble with, the thing about him is that his evolution is so beautifully done on the page, and you believe –
Sarah W: And you can tell he does not like it!
Sarah M: No, he doesn’t like, he resists it at every turn, but at the same time, at the end, you sort of think, There is no way this guy is ever going back to that, that other person who he was before.
Sarah W: He has changed so completely.
Sarah M: Yeah! And it, and it’s so authentic, and it’s so believable, and he’s been put through the wringer, and so has she, and there’s just – it’s such a deserved happy ending, and I can remember finishing that book, lying in my bed on, like, a Saturday morning, finishing that book and just thinking to myself, like, This is the perfect hero.
Sarah W: Yep.
Sarah M: This is the perfect man.
Sarah W: Totally.
Sarah M: And so, and I mean, it’s been, it has, it’s not common, but for, he is one, I mean, I can remember having that moment and then thinking to myself, like, Oh, my God, Sarah, you’re being crazy.
Sarah M: You know?
Sarah W: Oh, now you’ve done it, now you’ve lost your mind.
Sarah M: [laughs] So, thanks for that, Lisa Kleypas!
Sarah W: You’re welcome! [laughs] It’s happened to me too!
Sarah W: So, the other thing I wanted to ask you for the podcast while I was doing the interview with Sarah MacLean, she and I got on the subject of books that you’re jealous that people discover because you wish you could experience them again for the first time. Is that something that you could talk about a little bit, or is that, like, not within your frame of reference?
Jane: Oh, no! There’s people who are just now discovering, like, Kristen Ashley, and I wish that I had not read all of her good books yet. Yeah, you have some nostalgia for that, especially when you’re going through a slump, you’re like, Gosh, I wish I hadn’t read those books, because I could really use a good book right now. Early Linda Howard, but I don’t think anybody’s re-reading those these days. Nalini Singh.
Sarah W: It’s always nice when someone discovers Nalini Singh because there’s a lot of books now. Like, you’re set for, like, six months.
Jane: I think that that can be pretty intimidating, ‘cause I know that when I go and look at a series and there’s, like, more than three books, I’m like, I just don’t know if I want to invest in that, so I think that that can actually be a detriment.
Sarah W: That’s true. It’s difficult to figure out if you really want to read the whole series. Like, I saw Angie talking on Twitter yesterday whether or not if you, reading the Women of the Otherworld series and you only want to read about Clay and Elena, can you just skip to the Clay and Elena books and skip the other ones, and somebody was telling her that it’s totally doable.
Jane: Yeah, I think so, although I think she would – and I meant to _____ (13:11) her, but I got distracted by something – but I think that you could, that she should read the Jaime and Jeremy book, or, I can’t remember if that’s the name of the girl; I think it is.
Sarah W: The alpha is definitely Jeremy.
Jane: Right. Because I think that their romance is very unique, and I really enjoyed it quite a bit. And Jeremy is such an interesting alpha anyway. I think she would like it, so, Angie, if you’re listening to this, you should read that story.
Sarah W: Yes. You should only listen to the podcast, and you should read that story.
Sarah W: Anything else you want to recommend? Or that you, that you wish that could discover again?
Jane: We mentioned Jayne Ann Krentz last week. I think LaVyrle Spencer is a really smart, contemporary author.
Sarah W: You ready for one more question?
Sarah W: Okay. This is a totally different topic. This is an email from Heidi:
Dear ladies, I love the podcast and your blog, though I think your recommendations may make me broke. Goodreads ran their best of 2013 contest, and checking out the finalists in the romance category had me feel, made me feel extremely out-of-step with the genre. Out of the 20 nominees, I read only one of them cover to cover, and I hated it, Emma Chase’s Tangled, and I DNFed two others, Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Bastard and Katy Evans’s Real. All three of these books struck me as really misogynistic, both with hero behaviors and attitudes towards women and the narrator or heroine’s internalized misogyny; every female character but the heroine is portrayed as a bitch or a slut. So, I was complaining about this to a friend who has a somewhat antiquated attitude towards the romance genre, and she asked, “Well, how is that misogyny different from the bodice rippers of the ‘70s and ‘80s where all the heroes raped the heroines?” For me, the difference is that the misogyny in the newer books is in a contemporary setting, which to me is more disturbing than the misogyny of the old-school bodice rippers, which are settings far removed in time and space, and heroes are pirates or Vikings or highland lairds and bear very little resemblance to the men I know and my hypothetically date, were I not a happily married lesbian, that is. Although the misogyny in the books written in the ‘70s and ‘80s reflects the more obvious misogyny of that era, and I feel like socially we should have moved on from that, it frustrates and saddens me to note this recent trend towards pretty extreme misogyny in new contemporary romance. Am I being too sensitive? Sometimes my feminist rage sensor is more finely tuned than other people’s, but I would love to hear you discuss this topic.
What do you think?
Jane: Let’s see, I’ve read Real, Tangled, what was the other one?
Sarah W: Beautiful Bastard.
Jane: Beautiful Bastard. I thought Tangled was very funny but had a lot of difficult parts to it, and I, I couldn’t tell whether you were supposed to see his transformation, because protagonist _____ (16:05) is a very strong female who goes head to head with him in business, and he ultimately thinks that she’s the greatest thing ever, smarter than anybody, and maybe even him, but he only has that view of her. That doesn’t change his worldview of women. I didn’t see Real as being super misogynistic, but she said she didn’t read that one.
Sarah W: No, she DNFed it.
Jane: Yeah, so, I don’t know, I didn’t see that book as misogynistic, and Beautiful Bastard, those were two characters who hated each other and had angry sex during the entire book.
Sarah W: Well, if that works for you.
Jane: So, again, I don’t know if he was just insulting her because he hated her, and she gave the insults right back to him. Are we seeing more misogynistic writing than there was 20 years ago? Probably not. Are these books super popular that have misogynistic writing? Sure. Should we be more advanced? Probably. I think the challenge that you have is writing alpha male characters, because gendered insults are the core of a lot of male banter. Not banter, that’s the wrong word.
Sarah W: Trash talking?
Jane: No, it’s just, I think that some authors, and I see that with, for example, Tangled, in order to make the male character more male, she uses a lot of gendered insults. So, referring to other people as “pussy” to identify that person as weaker, and those sorts of things. I think that has to do with authors not being very self-aware.
Sarah W: It’s interesting, because for Tangled specifically, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. They compliment the voice, the style of the story. Perhaps it’s not so much misogyny that’s making a comeback as what you called the angry sex, or fight ‘em and fuck ‘em books, where people are angry at each other most of the time, and there’s, there’s dueling, basically, verbal and physical.
Jane: I think Tangled, it’s told from the male point of view. I think that Emma Chase has a real problem in trying to write another book, because that is such a distinctive voice –
Sarah W: Mm-hmm.
Jane: — and then if she goes back to that well to write a different character, a reader might be going to say, “That sounds just like what’s-his-face.” But I guess that’s neither here nor there. There are a lot of writers that don’t write gendered stuff and that are very successful, but the uber-macho male is appealing. There’s a book I read recently where the females were constantly referred to as sluts.
Sarah W: Bleh.
Jane: And I can’t remember what it was, and it was just, like, echh. You know, I just don’t want to read that, or I’m really tired of that, and I feel like that’s how some authors will separate your heroine from the hero, you know. What book did I read recently where the — ? Oh, it was Until You by Penelope Douglas, and the character is, the narrator is a male, and the male says it’s women that run down other women for their sexual preferences, not men. And I thought, That’s such a friggin’ lie. [laughs] But that’s how she tried to sell her slut-shaming in that book, by saying, oh, you know, it’s not men who are running women down, it’s women who are choosing to use that type of language against other women. So, I just think it’s, I think it’s twofold. I think authors, they have to justify how this man-whore can sleep around and then still love this other woman, and they have to justify it by saying this woman is different ‘cause she is not a slut. Kristen Ashley does that, unfortunately.
Sarah W: Mm-hmm.
Jane: She does some things like, well, she’s not the type of girl who would have one-night stands. Well, does that mean that the women that would have a one-night stand don’t deserve to have that kind of romance? I just think people aren’t thinking it through.
Sarah W: I have to say, I’m not really qualified to answer this question, because (a) I have not read any of these books, and (b) I already know that this is not a genre that I would enjoy. I don’t enjoy fight ‘em and fuck ‘em books, I don’t enjoy angry sex books as much, and I don’t enjoy the ranking of women according to sexual activity. Whether or not it works out in the end, it still bugs the shit out of me. As far as this, as Heidi feeling out of step with the romance community, the romance community that she’s out of step with is the one that’s on Goodreads voting for the books. That’s not the whole romance community. It’s a good part of it, and they have a great deal of impression on the market, but I don’t think that many people thought Lover at Last was all that awesome, except at Goodreads, where it won.
Jane: I don’t even know, you know, you just have the biggest army.
Sarah W: Yep, whoever can rally their army.
Jane: Yeah, I have to say, I’m pretty surprised by Tangled’s success in that Goodreads poll, because she doesn’t have the fan base that other readers, other authors on that list have, so I was a little surprised by that. But, you know, she may just be better at mobilizing her little army.
Sarah W: Yep. Or somebody mobilized their army for her.
Jane: Yeah. See, I didn’t vote in that, so…
Sarah W: So, I don’t think that this person is out of step with the romance community, I think they’re out of step with one particular segment of the romance community.
Sarah W: The value of Goodreads is finding the people who read and like the same books you like. That’s the valuable community within Goodreads. Goodreads as a whole does not match my tastes at all, and the books that have outstanding ratings are often ones where I’m like, I really hated this. And I don’t think, looking at the top finalists, I don’t think I would enjoy any of these books because of the style of contemporary romance that they are. That’s not my thing. Especially Nicholas Sparks’ The Longest Ride, ‘cause that title probably does not represent what I am thinking it would be.
Does everyone in new adult romance have to kiss where there’s water?
Jane: I don’t know is that a rule?
Sarah W: Every cover that I see now, there’s rain and kissing. It’s like everyone watched The Notebook and then did some covers. [laughs] It’s a lot of wet kissing; lots of people kissing in the rain.
Jane: Maybe they think it’s more sanitary.
Sarah W: [laughs] Yes, we’re clean, we’re really clean! We’re washing the man-whore clean before the book starts.
Sarah W: And that’s all for this week’s podcast, and that’s all for this podcast for the whole year! But we’ll be back next week in 2014, ‘cause, well, we really like doing the podcast, and we really like that you listen.
I want to thank Sarah MacLean for allowing us to use the extra content that I had cut out of the previous podcast, and I want to thank Jane for constantly putting up with me bugging on her Skype so we can record. I want to think Intermix and Penguin and NAL, which are kind of all the same group, for sponsoring the podcast this year, and also Harlequin, who sponsored us earlier in 2013, but most of all I want to thank you for listening and for finding the podcast and Tweeting at me how much you liked it and telling me on Facebook how much you enjoyed it. It is enormously fun to do the podcast, but it’s even better when you tell me how much you like it, so thank you! And Happy New Year!
The music that you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater, who I totally forgot to thank, ‘cause I’m a giant douchebucket. Sassy, thank you for all the music, ‘cause it’s so completely fun! This is a group called the Hanuman Collective. This song is called “Percolator,” and it’s available on their album Pedalhorse. You can find them at iTunes, online, and various places on the internet, and probably MySpace, because, you know, the podcast is the only place where I link to MySpace. It’s kind of cool!
Our most excellent sponsor, Intermix, would you like to know about Samantha Young’s new novella, Castle Hill, a followup to the New York Times bestselling On Dublin Street. What happens after two lovers find their happily ever after? Jocelyn and Braden first fell for each other in Samantha Young’s New York Times bestseller On Dublin Street. Now can they learn to overcome their demons and truly be together? You can find this story online wherever eBooks are sold.
Have I thanked you for listening to the podcast? ‘Cause, thank you! You want to email us, suggest a topic, ask a question, tell Jane she’s wrong, you can email us at sbjpodcast@Gmail.com or you can call our Google voice number at 1-201-371-DBSA. We like email, we like voicemail, we like hearing from you! So put messages in both of those places as many times as you like. Don’t forget to give us your name and where you’re calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.
Next week, I have a podcast wherein I quiz Jane, because, really, there’s nothing more fun than listening to her groan and moan about really bad legal romance. [evil laugh] And we also have an outstanding cover discussion about a milkmaid/pirate romance, because how do you not want to read about milkmaids and pirates, right? Of course!
Wherever you are, we wish you a very happy new year and the very best of reading.
Sarah W: Every now and again, I talk on Twitter about how I goof up and I have to re-record and I have a lot of outtakes, and recently somebody DMed me and said, “Could you share some of your outtakes, ‘cause they’re always funny?” Well, I don’t know how funny this is, but this is my outtake of trying to record the intro to this podcast. I hope you enjoy! Happy New Year!
Hello, and welcome to the next-to-last podcast for 2014. No, wait, no, I am wrong. This is the last podcast for 2014. No, it’s not even 2014, it’s 2013! Fuck this, I’m starting over.