Dear Bitches, Smart Authors Podcast

39. Getting the Billionaires Right

Jane and Sarah discuss getting the habits and attitudes of billionaires right – and when depictions of wealth in some romances leave us laughing. We also talk about burgling Nalini Singh's home, and the books we're looking forward to in 2013.

Here are the books (and shoes and handbags and documentaries and magazines) we discuss in this episode: 

Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James Mystery Man - Kristen Ashley Robb Report

Architectural Digest Love, Irresistibly Julie James Carolina Moon - Nora Roberts

Born Rich - Jamie Johnson Ivanka Trump handbag Ivanka Trump Heels

When You Dare  - Lori Foster  Untitled Nalini Singh #12  Lauren Willig - the Ashford Affair

Our music in each episode is provided by Sassy Outwater. This podcast features a song by Three Mile Stone titled “Snug in the Blanket.” You can find out more about Three Mile Stone at their website or on iTunes.


Many huge thanks to Harlequin for sponsoring the podcast. They have things to tell you! Here's one:

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Discover the stories that caught the attention and hearts of the Carina Press team. Check out the Best of 2012 at


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Thanks for listening – hope you enjoy! Happy New Year to you!

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  1. 1
    joann says:

    Just to clarify: The Camero driving hero from Kristen Ashley’s Mystery Man is not a billionaire (or even a millionaire).

  2. 2
    cbackson says:

    This podcast was full of hilarious truth.  I’m a former private equity wife, and I, too, always eye-roll at how much free time romance billionaires always seem to have.  I remember snickering, in particular, at a scene in “Bared to You” in which the hero and heroine agree to meet at 5 PM to go to the gym, with dinner to follow.  You don’t make a billion dollars (or even a million dollars) by leaving work at 5 PM.  Unless you’re coming back afterward for another 5-6 hours at the office.

  3. 3
    Rue says:

    Awww, I kinda liked Born Rich and Jamie Johnson. Good podcast thought.

  4. 4
    Karen Wapinski says:

    Thanks for the podcast; happy new year!
    Lol i laughed so much when you brought up 50 Shades. I had the same experience reading it, being like when does he actually make money if he’s ALWAYS texting/emailing Ana?
    I will be checking out the Ashford Affair now too; sounds too good to pass up ^_^

  5. 5
    Nikki says:

    When you think about it I am no where near millionaire but have access to some of the basic things authors get wrong i.e doorman, security etc.  In addition the time point was HUGE!!  Anyone who is ambitious thinks my time is worth more than this and it is something I became more aware of once I started independent contractor work.  All of a sudden when people wanted me to do things I considered how much I was losing by taking the time to do it instead of working. 

  6. 6

    I am so very tired of millionaires and billionaires. I was just telling my husband yesterday that I wish I could filter my BookBub suggestions to exclude both of those words and the word wealthy. I have trouble suspending my disbelief for these stories because there just aren’t that many billionaires in real life—the same reason I object to all the dukes running around in historical romancelandia.

    Another problem is that when I think about the super-wealthy, I can’t help picturing the spoiled, selfish, ignorant, douchetastic Peter Brant II. Side note: I thought you didn’t get a Roman numeral after your name until there was a third generation. Shouldn’t it be Peter Brant, Jr., at least until the little shit reproduces and names his miserable offspring after himself? Somebody with more knowledge, please enlighten me.

  7. 7
    Lenorejp says:

    Yes, no numbers until 3. I have a friend who presented her husband witha Albert the 5th. In true Texas fashion the tiny scion is called Cinco!

  8. 8
    cleo says:

    Enjoyed the podcast.  It actually made me re-read big chunks of Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton (contemporary m/m) – one of the heroes is super wealthy and he meets your criteria for billionaires – he never waits for anything or flies commercial and he doesn’t have to deal with people if he doesn’t want to.  He inherited his wealth and uses it mostly to travel. Perhaps it’s my middle class sensibilities, but I kept waiting for him to find more of a *purpose,* – to come up with something to *do* besides live a leisurely life and fall in love with Jonathon.

  9. 9
    courtney says:

      The clothing always bothers me in millionaire/billionaire stories.  I’ve read many contemporaries with bad clothing, but I hold m/b characters to a higher standard.  I imagine that nearly everyone that rich uses personal shoppers, at the very least to save time.  I expect that to mean that they are at least classically stylish at all times and wrapped in high-end labels.
      The podcast talks a bit about cars but I rarely if ever have seen a clothing brand.  A wealthy hero inevitably buys the heroine a gown for an event.  If it’s Armani or something, I think most readers would understand the caliber of his gift whether they would know an exact style or not. 
      I concede that specifying brands may be the publisher’s call and it’s not a deal breaker for me, since the author can describe expensive clothes without naming a label.  Dressing them poorly is inexcusable.
      It ruins stories for me when the author has no clue how people under 40 dress.  The book will clearly be set recently but the characters are dressing around 1995.  I just can’t get behind the story when a wealthy heroine wears mom jeans, hair scrunchies and long floral skirts because she’s so modest and casual.  It kills me she’s supposed to be into fashion and still dresses that way!

  10. 10
    Amy Raby (Alpha Lyra) says:

    I actually knew a tech industry multimillionaire who drove a Mazda Miata. He loved the Miata and wasn’t interested in driving anything fancier. But if I were an author writing this guy as a character in a book, I’d make it clear he’s the sort of guy who isn’t interested in showing off his wealth.

  11. 11
    Converseleigh says:

    I don’t think I have ever met a billionaire but I have known few multimillionaires, some of them from old money. Probably one of the richest ones was a lady who drove a 20 year old station wagon. When the wagon was in an accident the insurance company totaled it because it was worth like 5 cents, so she paid to have it restored because that was what she liked to drive.

    On another occasion my sister came home laughing.  She had been to dinner at a multimillion dollar home, she was surrounded by these wealthy people, and the conversation was about how much money they were saving by shopping at costco. Of course they weren’t actually doing their own shopping but still they were saving by buying in bulk.  Rich people can be surprisingly cheap in odd ways.  But again these were millionaires not billionaires.

  12. 12
    Maliha Aqeel says:

    Totally agree about Christian Grey. I’ve had clients that were millionaires and billionaires. Their emails were one or two liners, to the point. You know why? ‘cos they just don’t have time to take away from running their business.

  13. 13
    Heather says:

    Not to be nit picky but in Carolina Moon the hero is a plantation/estate owner. I think you were thinking of Carnal Innocence where Tucker appears to be very lazy and is very laid back, but he does manage the family’s properties.  I enjoyed the podcast overall but that stood out. Sorry if I’m wrong.


  14. 14
    Pennyellicott says:

    I think you are a Jr. if you are named after your father but II if you are named after someone not your father (like an uncle).

  15. 15
    smlundberg says:

    In my experience, this is correct – my oldest boy is a Jr. (though my husband may give you the evil eye for calling him that), but our kid-in-progress, if a boy, could be a II (although, again, we wouldn’t tack that on to his name), because he would take a family name that is not necessarily his father’s. Incidentally, if we’re having a girl, she’d also be a II. I hadn’t thought of that before (stupid gender-conditioned thought processes!).


  16. 16
    Anonymous for this comment says:

    @courtney: I know billionaires and millionaires.  Bad clothing happens because a lot of these people are too busy making money to care about labels.  One of the richest men I know drives a truck that’s older than me.  I have family members who are millionaires and you wouldn’t know it to look at them (although there are some who can’t resist LV, God knows why).  I will reach millionaire status and have no intention of giving up my 13-yo Honda Civic or shopping at Wal-Mart and Costco.  I have some nice pieces, but really, I’m (usually) too busy with work and school to obsess over labels.  (I’m actually begrudging the time I’m spending writing this comment, but nothing irks me more than people who think reality TV somehow represents reality.)

    BTW, I’m under 40, but I dress in low-heeled pumps, knee-length dresses, and pearls.  I’m sure in your mind all i need is a shawl to complete the dowdy image.  At home, it’s sweat pants and scrunchies.  I don’t make money to spend it frivolously because being wealthy is not only about making money, but also about keeping it.

    (And I’m going to post anonymously because I really don’t want people to know my financials, vague as they may be.)

  17. 17
    Rue says:

    Wow, I thougt i was the only one that hated that spoiled piece of shit

  18. 18

    Rue, I think everyone hates him. I suspect that he may even hate himself (I know I would, if I were him).

  19. 19
    Amy Raby (Alpha Lyra) says:

    I enjoyed hearing about billionaires in the podcast because I know nothing about that world. It makes sense that they would use their money to insulate themselves (no waiting in line, no having to talk to people). Although in a way it’s also kind of sad!

    I know a ton about millionaires, though, because I worked for a decade at a tech company where millionaires were so common you couldn’t walk down the hall without brushing shoulders with one. Much of the following applies to west coast tech industry millionaires. These people tend to be mavericks by nature (by which I mean they are nerds). They have little to no desire to conform to society’s expectations of them, so they may differ substantially from millionaires in other industries, or even in other parts of the country.

    First, a million dollars isn’t what it used to be. You could retire on it, but you sure wouldn’t be jetting around the country from vacation home to vacation home. If you took that million dollars and invested it in a sensible mix of stocks and bonds, it’s generally considered safe to withdraw 4% per year, so that million dollars can generate an income of $40,000 annually. Above the poverty line, but below the median U.S. household income (which is around $50k). $2M will generate $80k/yr, $3M will generate $120k/yr, etc. In some circles of wealthy people, people with less than $10 million are not considered part of the club.

    First-generation millionaires were raised in non-wealthy households. They tend to have middle-class values and are different, culturally, from people who were raised in wealthy households. Some of them would rather eat McDonald’s than go to a fancy restaurant. Some would rather drive a Toyota than a Mercedes. It’s just the way they were brought up.

    I know a highly paid corporate lawyer who drove a 20-year-old Toyota Camry until circumstances forced him to give it away. He replaced it with a new Subaru Outback, and it irritates him when people comment on the new car. Because of certain events in his background, he considers the display of wealth offensive.

    I know a multimillionaire with two cars: a fancy Mercedes convertible and a Toyota RAV4. One car to show off in, one that’s ordinary. I know another multimillionaire with only a 10-year-old Toyota SUV. Some people just don’t care about cars, but usually the money goes somewhere, into something the person really cares about. The millionaire may have a fancy boat, or a show horse, or a custom audio system. They might vacation in Europe instead of Disneyland. But most of them are pretty frugal. They have ordinary cars and ordinary clothes. You wouldn’t know them from Adam. I think it goes with the territory—you’re less likely to become a millionaire if you spend it as quickly as you get it.

    Another interesting source—this falls in the billionaire category—is a book called Driving the Saudis. It’s a collection of a vignettes from someone who chauffeured for the Saudi princesses in Los Angeles. Different type of billionaire than a U.S. businessman, as there are major cultural differences, but interesting all the same.

  20. 20
    Levitzs says:

    Wait!  If there’s a living grandfather (Charles), but the son is not a Jr (not a Charles), and the grandson IS a Charles, wouldn’t that make him Charles II?  I really have no idea, just following the naming pattern.

  21. 21
    Awaskyc says:

    I saw “Born Rich” a while ago—just wanted to let you know that Jamie Johnson did a second documentary, “The One Percent.” What I found fascinating about both is his access (Nobel prize winner? Prince? Warren Buffett’s grand daughter? Got them on speed dial!) but also how unflinchingly unflattering they are, even of the filmmaker. He seems like a guy who’s trying to figure himself out and maybe find a different way, but at the same time is completely unable to break away from the privelege he grew up with, so even as he’s espousing liberal ideas, the privelege still sometimes smacks you in the face in a very uncomfortable way.

    Anyway, just wanted to recommend his other film. And apparently he had a column for Vanity Fair for a while.

  22. 22
    LJmysticowl says:

    When you mentioned philanthropy (or the lack thereof) in billionaire books it made me think of Jo Leigh’s “Have Me” (Jane reviewed the series on Dear Author, which is how I found it). The heroine in that book is a scion of an extremely wealthy family and she chose to be in charge of the family’s charitable foundation. The hero, coincidentally, is a “blue collar” one – a retired-due-to-injury ex-cop.

    I loved listening to your insights into the world of billionaires. I’m originally from a country where’s there virtually no middle class, there’s a poor and the wealthy and then there’s let’s-buy-an-English-football-team-as-a-hobby-also-I-own-all-of-the-oil wealthy. (Which country could I be talking about? Hmmm!)

  23. 23
    Ros Clarke says:

    I think for me the thing about the time is part of the romantic fantasy. Sure, he’s ridiculously busy but he makes time in all of that to call the heroine or send her an unnecessary email. It’s a way of showing how important she is to him.

  24. 24
    Emma Dement says:

    I’d be interested in this thesis about why Kaleb’s the Ghost. Mostly because I don’t think that he is, it seems TOO obvious if you know what I mean.

  25. 25

    I think Kaleb’s the Ghost, although I agree it’s obvious. But then, the Ghost is meant to be the most powerful person in the Net and Kaleb’s a double cardinal…

    I’d be interested to see the thesis as well – just out of interest!

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