Rose Lerner has a new Audible exclusive audiobook out this week, The Wife in the Attic. It’s a f/f retelling of Jane Eyre (I just heard a whole bunch of you one-click to buy) and fear not, the ebook will be released later this year. In this episode, Rose and I chat about the differences between Gothic and historical romances, and why (and when) Gothics surge in popularity. We also talk about the subgenre I’m calling “Earl Had to Die,” and about Rose’s adoration of the Raffles books.
Plus, stay tuned for a sample of The Wife in the Attic!
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
You can find out more about Rose Lerner and her books and backlist at RoseLerner.com.
We also discussed:
- Rose Does the Research
- Rose’s Patreon (I recommend it! Her newsletter is delightful!)
- Angela Toscano’s Patreon
- Rose’s prior episode with me, Episode 350: Rose Does the Research: History and Professional Wrestling With Rose Lerner
And don’t miss our limited merch: Stay Golden, Horny Girl! If you liked our crossover episode with Melody and Erin from Heaving Bosoms, don’t miss out on a tshirt or a hoodie. All proceeds benefit National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the favorite charity of Robin Lovett, author of Toxic Desire!
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Thanks for listening!
This episode is brought to you by The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley – and don’t miss the audiobook sample at the end of the episode!
Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable—a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she’s ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she’s the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she’ll also abduct a handsome duke.
Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father’s mistakes. To repair his estate’s ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family’s legacy to follow true love?
Grab your copy of The Duke Heist at your favorite store!
There’s a special bonus for a limited time: if you buy The Duke Heist and register your purchase on Erica’s website, she’ll send you a free bonus Wynchester novella! Just go to EricaRidley.com for more information.
❤ Click to view the transcript ❤
Sarah Wendell: Hello there. Thank you for inviting me into your eardrums. I am honored to keep you company for a little bit. I’m Sarah Wendell. This is episode number 444 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books – that was really fun to say! My guest today is Rose Lerner. She has a new Audible exclusive audiobook out this week, The Wife in the Attic. It is a lesbian retelling of Jane Eyre, and I think I just heard a whole bunch of you pause this so that you could go one-click buy. Fear not: the eBook will be released later this year if you are a reader, not a listener, but we are going to have such a good conversation, because I’ve recorded it and edited it, so I know that it’s good, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. We’re going to talk about the differences between Gothic and historical and why and when Gothics surge in popularity. We’re also going to talk about the subgenre that I am calling Earl Had To Die, and we talk about Rose’s adoration of the Raffles books. Plus I have a little sample of The Wife in the Attic at the end of the book, so you can enjoy that too, I hope.
I will have links to where you can find Rose and all of the things we talk about in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.
This episode is brought to you by The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley. There is some serious trope catnip in here. We have secret identities, forbidden love, opposites attract, found family, heists, and if you like the show Leverage, you’ll like this one. Regency bad boys doing good things, like Robin Hood with dukes and carriages, right? Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable – a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she’s ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she’s the first one her siblings turn to to steal it back. No one expects that in doing so, she’ll also abduct a handsome duke – oh dear. Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father’s mistakes, and to repair his estate’s ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. But when he finds himself in a carriage being driven down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to listen to him, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family’s legacy to follow true love? The Wynchester siblings represent a wonderful diverse and inclusive cast in terms of sexuality, gender identity, class, race, and abled-ness. Many of these elements are #OwnVoices for Erica Ridley, who is biracial, bisexual, and has a chronic disability. If you are curious about this series, there’s a free prequel novella called The Governess Gambit, and I have a link for you in the show notes. Grab your copy of The Duke Heist at your favorite store, or visit ericaridley.com for more information. And there’s a special bonus for a limited time: if you buy The Duke Heist and register your purchase on Erica’s website, she’ll send you a free bonus Wynchester novella. Visit ericaridley.com – that’s E-R-I-C-A-R-I-D-L-E-Y dot com!
I have a compliment. I love this so much!
To Elizabeth G.: A recent doctoral thesis on environmental history has revealed that the light patterns through the leaves in ancient woodlands spell out your name on the forest floor as a tribute to your awesomeness.
If you would like a compliment of your very own, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. The Patreon community keeps this show going each week and makes sure that every episode is accessible to everyone, so if you are interested in joining to support the show, monthly pledges start at a dollar. Head over to patreon.com/SmartBitches!
And if you enjoyed our recent episode with Erin and Melody from Heaving Bosoms and you think you might like to own some merch inspired by Toxic Desire, heads up! In collaboration with author Robin Lovett, we have a limited time merch collection that says “Stay Golden, Horny Girl.” [Laughs] All proceeds benefit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, and mugs are available for a limited time only. I have a link in the show notes, and it’s at the top of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books if you needed to grab one, which I think you do while they’re still available, and remember, Stay Golden!
This podcast is also brought to you by Ritual, a daily multivitamin that is delivered to your doorstep. What’s in it? Ritual has a clean, vegan-friendly multivitamin formulated with high-quality nutrients in bioavailable forms that your body can actually use. What will you not find in there? Sugar, GMO, major allergens, synthetic fillers, and artificial colorant. I really like knowing what’s in the vitamins that I take, and I like that the delayed release of each capsule works: I never get nauseous. The packaging also tells me the source of every nutrient, and I kind of like knowing how the different elements were developed and how they keep it vegan. Ritual makes building healthy habits really easy. Multivitamins show up at your door every month with free shipping always, and you can start, snooze, or cancel your subscription at any time. If you don’t love Ritual within your first month, they’ll refund your first order. So you can get key nutrients without the BS. Ritual is offering my listeners ten percent off during your first three months. Visit ritual.com/SARAH to start your Ritual today. That’s ritual.com/SARAH.
I have an outstanding listener-submitted joke today. I’m very excited, so stay tuned after the show for terrible jokes, but now, let’s begin this fun conversation with Rose Lerner about all things Gothic.
Rose Lerner: My name is Rose Lerner. I write historical romance and now Gothics, and I also have a freelance business where I do editing and book doctoring and research assistance for other authors, and that’s at rosedoestheresearch.com – Always Be Plugging. [Laughs] But –
Rose: – my historical romance are mostly Regency, mostly set in the small town of Lively St. Lemeston, and yeah! That, that’s me!
Sarah: And you, you have a new book out!
Rose: I –
Sarah: Or it will be out by the time I release this, so you have a new book –
Rose: [Sings] Oooh!
Sarah: – out now!
Rose: So exciting! It’s been a while.
Sarah: Yeah. Now, I, I am a member of your Patreon newsletter, which is a damn delight, and – seriously, it’s so good; I enjoy, like, oh, it’s Wednesday! Hot damn!
Sarah: But I’ve been sort of watching this book be written from behind the scenes, and then it became an Audible Original. So just tell me everything about The Wife in the Attic. Like, just start at the beginning, chapter one.
Sarah: Read the whole thing out loud, ‘cause it’s an Audible, and then, and tell me about the process of adopting – or, excuse me – the process of adapting it for, for Audible Original development. This is really cool! Congratulations!
Rose: Thank you! I’m so excited. I’ve never had an audiobook before, and I, I’ve really wanted to have one, so this was a really exciting opportunity.
Sarah: Oh, it’s your first audiobook? That’s a, that’s wonderful!
Rose: Yeah. I’m really, really happy, and I’ve, I’ve, like, the, I love the audition from the narrator. I’ve had a couple conversations with her; her name is Elsa Lepecki Bean, and she seems fantastic, so I’m really excited to hear how it comes out. I haven’t heard it either. I haven’t heard it at the point that we’re recording. [Laughs] Hopefully by the time you’re listening I will have. But so –
Sarah: That sounds exciting.
Rose: It’s an f/f Gothic set in Li-, it’s sort of a Jane, it’s a Jane Eyre retelling, basically. So it’s like this governess comes to this remote estate to take care of this little girl, and it seems like maybe the, that her employer is interested in her, but he has a wife who she hasn’t met, because the wife is sick and never leaves her room? But something seems weird. Something seems slightly off, and as she’s there longer, she starts to realize that, you know, something very bad is happening. And of course, I mean, look, it’s not a secret: it’s a, it’s an f/f, so she and the wife in the attic fall in love, so. I just spoiled it for you.
Sarah: Aw! Well, you kind of knew that was coming.
Rose: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: So you started writing this story just as a novel, and then it was turned into an Audible Original. What was that process like?
Rose: So it’s not, like, some of the Audible Originals kind of go more toward the radio play side, where there’s actually, like, multiple actors. This is still more –
Rose: – I mean, more towards the traditional audiobook side, but I did modify, I tried to modify it for audio in that, you know, if there was a line where it was like, blah-blah-blah, he said sarcastically, like, I took out “he said sarcastically” so that the poor narrator wouldn’t have to deliver it sarcastically and then let you know that they had said sarcastically?
Rose: And, you know, stuff like that, where if it made more sense for it to be in the delivery than to say something, I would put that in, you know, like, a note to the narrator, rather than in the text itself.
Sarah: One of the things that, one of the things that I love about romance is how much of the story happens in the dialogue, happens in the interaction between characters, so in effect it, it’s, it’s, it’s, it lends itself to audio, the genre itself.
Rose: I agree.
Sarah: What were some of your favorite things about writing this book?
Rose: You know, it was honestly not the easiest writing process, but that wasn’t because of the book; that was because of, you know, I started writing it probably in like 2017?
Rose: And then in the middle, like, I got divorced and I moved across the country. So it ended up taking a lot longer to write it than I was hoping for, but I really never stopped being excited about the concept, and I really love the narrator, Miss Oliver. The, the, I put a lot of myself in her. I mean, you know, I, I feel like that is every character, because where else, what else are you going to put in them, other than yourself?
Rose: But –
Rose: – I really am fond of her, and it was also, like, really fun getting to do something kind of new with genre, getting to go a little darker and maybe more, like, twisted than I had. I, I actually feel like the last time that we talked, or at least the, the last podcast that I did with you, I talked about how, like, watching professional wrestling had reminded me how much I love, like, twisted, co-dependent relationships?
Sarah: Yes, that is, that is in fact what we talked about. It’s one of my favorite episodes.
Rose: Yeah – oh, thank you! I had such a good time recording it. And so that was really fun for me, to be able to go, like, a little darker and not have to kind of tie everything up as neatly at the end? With a romance, like, I, at least – you know, there, people do it all different ways, and I think they’re all valid, but personally, I try to kind of, I want the reader to end my books with a sense that the people have, like, a healthy relationship. And so –
Rose: – there’s, like, a limit to how dark I necessarily want to go with, like, what a mess or how potentially toxic or whatnot a character might be, just because I need to be able to resolve at least enough of it by the end that the reader feels confident that, like, you know, they’re going to be a good husband or wife or boyfriend or girl-, you know, or significant other. So, like, with a Gothic, there’s, like, a little bit more of a chance to go a little darker, because it doesn’t have to tie up as neatly at the end.
Sarah: Right. But this is a romance with its Gothic leanings, right?
Rose: Well, they, I mean, I guess the reader will have to decide how Happily they think it is an Ever After, but it is certainly an Ever After, and I, I love them and I think they’ll be, I think they’ll do well together, but – [laughs] – the reader will have to be the judge of that.
Sarah: [Laughs] Now, you mentioned earlier, when you were introducing yourself, that you write historical romances and that this is a Gothic, and you really enjoyed the opportunity to get a little darker, into more precarious and uncertain situations. You talked a little bit about how moving from one to the other seemed like a fit for you. What do you see are the differences and similarities between historical romance and Gothic? I mean, there, there are unique parts of, of a Gothic, but what are the distinctions between them?
Rose: Well, I, I think a Gothic can be a romance but isn’t always? Like, if you read –
Rose: – the older Gothics, some have a happy ending and some don’t? Another thing that I think, like, of, is very common, and this used to be more common in older romances as well, but it’s much more, like, Gothics tend to be single point of view? Like I said, that used to be very common for romance, like, in general as well, but now the double point of view is much, much more common. Whereas for the Gothic, I think the single point of view is not only a genre marker but also really integral to the format, because it’s really important that the character doesn’t know who to trust?
Rose: And that the char-, that, that the reader doesn’t know what the character may be wrong about, may be right about. If you can see the other characters’ thoughts, that is too much information, and it defeats, you know, like, it, it undercuts that.
Sarah: Right, yeah. The, the precariousness of the single point of view is, the, the tension of that is diminished if you know what the other character is thinking, even though –
Sarah: – the main character may not. Yeah, I totally see what you’re saying there.
Rose: And then also, I think, I think I’ve talked to you about, I think I’ve heard you talk about this before, but, like, the idea that in a, a lot of historical romances about taking sort of a societal power imbalance and balancing it within the couple?
Rose: So in a Gothic, that doesn’t necessarily happen. I mean, it could, but I think that the Gothic – so a very frequent structure for a Gothic is, like, a, a person comes to a house for the first, you know, a new house, they’re a stranger in this house, and the house at first seems maybe fine? But something is wrong. Like, something is wrong at the heart of this house –
Rose: – and at the end of the book, generally, whatever is wrong in the house has been resolved in some way, whether that’s by being fixed, be, the, the house being destroyed – right, there’s a lot of ways that that – but, like, that is resolved in the house, but the larger – like, usually the thing that’s wrong in the house is a larger societal, you know, ties into a larger societal issue of some kind. Like, you know, the, the unfair marriage laws or –
Rose: – you know, some kind of greater injustice that is being an individual scale. You know, child abuse. Like, some kind of, that is enabled by the society. You know, like, some kind of thing that is, like, a structural problem in the society that is being done on, like, a smaller scale in this house. And so the thing in the house is resolved, but the larger thing is not resolved, and so there’s a sense of lingering unease?
Sarah: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Rose: And so I think that, like, that, for me, like – and, and you will – the, another thing, this, I, I thought, I’ve thought about this before but not quite in this way: do you know Angela Toscano, LazarasPaste?
Sarah: Yes! Yeah!
Rose: She just started a –
Rose: She just started a Patreon, and I got the January newsletter, and she was actually talking about Gothics, and she talked about how they tend to have a lot less denouement than a romance? Where the char-, the, the, if the characters in the Gothic do get together, it will typically happen on the last page, and the book will end.
Sarah: Oh, that’s so true!
Sarah: Yeah, that’s absolutely – yeah! That, that, that is the trend, absolutely! That is how most of them end. It’s like, oh, and we kiss, and we’re done!
Rose: Right. And so it leaves you –
Sarah: No more book for you!
Rose: Right. Like, with a romance, it’s like you want to end on that, like, high of, like, everything being perfect, you know? And, like, there’s the epilogue and, like, the every, like, you know, I mean, not ev-, but, like, in theory, like, all the major threads are resolved in some kind of positive or at least satisfying way. Like, you end and you’re just like, ahhh! Everything is perfect! Whereas with a Gothic, you want to end it and you’re like, oh! It’s over, and there’s this, should be this sort of like, almost, like, jolt of, like, wait, but the other shoe never quite, never dropped. Like, is it, is it going to? Is it – but it’s over; I guess – and, like, you kind of want to end with more of that note of uneasiness. Not necessar-, you know, you want things to be resolved and there to be some kind of resolution, but the feeling that is left is different.
Sarah: Right! Because if part of the, if one of the hallmarks of a Gothic is that you have a usually young, naïve person moving to a new house or place and something isn’t right, whatever it is that’s societal that’s causing that unease is not going to go away, and solving the unease isn’t really possible. You can’t make that unease go away.
Rose: Right. And I think there are other – like, you see, like, I would, like – for example Get Out, the horror movie?
Rose: Like, I would, I really experienced that, like, I would almost call that a Gothic, and I feel like that’s a really great example, where it’s like – I mean, I don’t know if I, is it okay to spoil the movie? [Laughs]
Sarah: Yes. My, my general rule for spoilers is that if it’s been on an airplane it’s fair game.
Rose: Okay. So, you know, at the end, like, her survives and, like, I think – gosh, I saw it when it came out, but I, I think he, like, defeats that particular family, but, like –
Rose: – he gets out, but, you know, institutional racism, it’s, you know, hasn’t been fixed. Or, like –
Sarah: Yes, it’s like the, the ending of When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole.
Rose: Yes! Or lack The Stepford Wives. I don’t actually remember how Stepford Wives ends, but, like, even if she is – I think maybe she doesn’t escape at the end, but, like, even if she did, it’s like, so maybe she might have escaped this, like, creepy suburban place where they’re turning the women into robots, but, like, you know, the institution of marriage has not magically then, you know –
Sarah: Right. So, like, at the end of a Gothic, the house itself might be destroyed, but what created the house is still there.
Sarah: Or the house itself is still there ‘cause you can’t get rid of it.
Sarah: And that, that ties interestingly into a lot of haunted house stories –
Sarah: – because it, it creates the setting and the confinement of terror and horror –
Sarah: – uncertainty.
Rose: There was a really great – I think it was under the Barbara Michaels pen name? She wrote really great Goth- – she’s most famous, I think, for the Amanda Peters mysteries and the –
Rose: But I want to say Barbara Michaels was the Gothic pen name, but it, I think the house is called, the book was called Houses of Stone? But it’s one of those ones that’s like, I can’t remember if it’s actually a dual timeline where you see stuff in the past and in the present or if it’s like, she’s just researching the past, but –
Rose: – she’s moved into this house and she thinks that it’s haunted, but at the end, she finds the body of the girl from the past. Like, she finds, like, her skeleton in, like, a tunnel or something. And it’s like, it resolves the mystery, but it doesn’t really resolve anything, right. It’s like the story is over, but, like, this girl was murdered.
Sarah: Right. The question of whether or not the house was haunted has been resolved, but the underlying problem that created the alleged haunting is still there and is not solvable, ‘cause she’s dead. You, you can’t undo that.
Sarah: Oh, that’s interesting.
Sarah: I will be right back with Rose and more Gothic discussion, but I wanted to remind you that you can have more extra podcast goodness with me and Amanda Tuesday nights at 7:30 Eastern on Stereo. We have a live podcast after party, so if you’ve ever wanted to talk with us live or you try to talk to us while we’re podcasting, this is a great opportunity. Tuesday nights, 7:30 on Stereo. All you need to do is download the free Stereo app at stereo.com/smartbitches. You can connect with us, record messages, and we’ll talk with you! We love making book recs; we like talking about food. You, you’ve listened to us; you know how this is. Just go to stereo.com/smartbitches to get started and join us Tuesday nights at 7:30 Eastern. Now, back with the show.
Sarah: So was it difficult to shift from historical romance to writing Gothics? What was, what were some of the things that you really enjoyed about it?
Rose: I mean, I think that, like, Gothics tend to be popular, and Gothic-type stories, at, at times when people are feeling a lot of dread?
Rose: And there’s something like, I remember when I saw Get Out, like, there is something about that sense of impending doom, and just the air is just thick with tension and dread, that I find both incredibly unpleasant and incredibly cathartic? Because I think I, I am a somewhat anxious person and I frequently feel a sense of dread in my life – [laughs] – and so, like, there’s something very cathartic in having that experience, and in the story it is typically justified, right? It’s not just like –
Rose: – I feel dread for no reason and I’m catastrophizing, but, but, so I think that, that there’s something, you know – catharsis is, like, the experience, fictionally, of very painful emotions that then helps to sort of process your own dread that is unconnected with the story, but, like, the experience of this, like, intense – but, and you can be sort of more open to that experience, because it is fictional and it’s not, like, you don’t have to access your own painful memories or, like, fears of the future, whatever it is, but you can, like, kind of open yourself to that emotion and, like, feel it, and there’s something that is, like, I don’t know if healing is the right word, but, like, you can sometimes feel better afterwards. And so I think that because there was so much dread everywhere in this country after the 2016 election that –
Sarah: And things since, since then have gone so well.
Rose: Oh, so well! Yeah, no, we were all right. We were all right to feel so much dread. But – [laughs] – like, I think that it was a way for me in some ways to process the, the dread that I was feeling and the anger –
Sarah: For sure!
Rose: – that I was feeling and the, the gaslighting that we were all experiencing as it happened.
Sarah: Yes, it’s, it’s no accident that the term gaslighting comes from Gothics, right?
Rose: I, yeah, I would say so, right? Like, I would call that movie a Gothic.
Sarah: Oh, for sure.
Sarah: And you know, if you think about it, it’s almost as if, so when we’re recording this, the inauguration is on, is on Wednesday; it’s in two days.
Rose: Oh God.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly. So we know that the immediate problem is going to resolve, because Trump will be out of office –
Sarah: – but that doesn’t mean any of the other problems going on have resolved, so this is a very Gothic transition.
Sarah: Like, we have, we have this small amount of improvement. Like, this, this particular problem has come to an end, but the problems that created that problem, the, the, the structure of the house is still rather flawed.
Rose: Yeah. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that if you look at Gothics when they’re popular, it’s times of, like, both intense political and social change –
Rose: – with a backlash, and then also times of, like, great social, like, trauma. So, like, this, the times that Gothics have been really, really popular is the 1790s –
Sarah: And what was going on then?
Rose: The French Revolution.
Sarah: Oh, no big deal!
Rose: Yeah! [Laughs] Yeah.
Sarah: Piece of cake.
Rose: Definitely some feminism.
Sarah: Little bit, yeah.
Rose: Like, about to have a huge conserv-, I mean, their, the conservative backlash was already starting in the 1790s, but got worse and worse and worse through the Victorian era, really. And then the, the 1970s.
Sarah: Another time where not a whole lot was going on –
Sarah: – you know, except for my birth and everything; that’s all.
Rose: Right. Yeah.
Sarah: So it’s a time of massive, un-ignorable, un-, unavoidable change that is being violently opposed, and you can’t sort of sweep it under the rug and pretend it’s not happening.
Rose: Right, and I think you, the others, like, a, it’s not a coincidence either that there is a small Gothic peak in the 1930s with the –
Sarah: Oh, interesting!
Rose: – Daphne, like, Daphne du Maurier’s big Gothics like Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, those came out in the ‘30s.
Sarah: Which was its own sort of upheaval and transition of pain.
Sarah: Wow. So, so you are hella on trend is what you’re saying here.
Rose: Fingers crossed!
Sarah: Well, I mean, there are other Jane Eyre retellings and spins coming out right now that are doing really well, so hopefully that, that, that train will grab you as well!
Rose: I have captured the zeitgeist. If you want to be relevant, you should listen to my book. [Laughs]
Sarah: Damn right!
Sarah: You also mentioned when we were emailing that in addition to Gothics being popular at times of upheaval and rebellion and backlash and, and great social and, and political shifts, revenge fantasies are really popular right now, which I completely agree. You said you noticed an uptick in women get their revenge on awful men –
Sarah: – genre fiction. I have called this entire subgenre Earl Had To Die.
Rose: [Laughs] I feel, I feel that. That’s great.
Sarah: And that includes so many books that I’m like, oh! Okay, so there’s a book by an author named Layne – I cannot remember the first name; maybe Lauren Layne [Layne Fargo] – They Never Learn, which is about a female college professor who is slowly, carefully plotting and eradicating terrible men on her campus.
Rose: Oooh! Say the name again?
Sarah: And – They Never Learn.
Rose: All right!
Sarah: And I will give you a small spoiler, if you would like a small spoiler: there is also a lesbian romance in this book.
Rose: [Whispers] Yeess! Lovely!
Sarah: And then Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane, who is also HelenKay Dimon – Earl Had To Die. There are, and even some of Nalini Singh’s thrillers are Earl Had To Die books. So it sounds like you –
Rose: Yeah, and didn’t – oh my gosh, I’m such a terrible person – Victoria Helen Stone, is that her other –
Sarah: Oh yes! Obviously, Jane Doe! Absolutely.
Sarah: Jane Doe is, is the, is the ultimate Earl Had To Die –
Sarah: – and here’s a whole book about how.
Sarah: Only he doesn’t die! He just gets humiliated, which –
Rose: Oh, I know. I was kind of, it was like, oh, I wanted her to kill him though.
Sarah: I love that his complete, his, his, his comeuppance is to live in his humiliation? And she’s –
Rose: Yeah, I know. I mean, it was, it wasn’t like, you know, it was fine. I just, like, I, I would have, I, I just really hated him. [Laughs]
Sarah: It would have been okay if he ended up dead too –
Rose: I really, really hated him.
Sarah: – yeah, that would’ve been fine. But the whole subgenre of Earl Had To Die seems to be very popular, and I’m really curious about what your thoughts are on revenge fantasies and revenge scenarios in fiction and what they mean.
Rose: So, you know, I kind of have, like, I, I don’t have very well synthesized thoughts about this, I feel like, but it is something that I pay attention to? I feel like there’s – I like revenge fantasies when they are coming from the, the, when they – trying to think how to explain this. There’s, like, a genre of revenge fantasy that is actually the dominant group imagining that the group that they are oppressing hates them and wants revenge, right. So, like, Kill Bill –
Rose: – for example, is, like, a man’s fantasy of a woman taking revenge on her rapist, and I feel like there are a lot of those out there, and those make me a little uncomfortable, because the truth is that the majority, you know, like, the, the majority of women I know don’t actually want to, like, murder all men, right, because – they’re, they’re upset about being, you know, about misogyny, but, like, they aren’t actually planning to murder men. That kind of revenge fantasy can make me uncomfortable or feel exploitative in this way, but there is something really cathartic about just, like, like that scene at the beginning – have you seen the X-Men movie, the, the first one with the younger Magneto and Professor X?
Sarah: No, I have not.
Rose: There’s this scene in that movie – there’s like a couple scenes. So at the beginning it’s, like, young Magneto when he’s, like, in like, I guess it’s the ‘60s, and he’s, like, tracking down Nazis and killing them. And, like –
Rose: – he goes into this bar in Argentina and just, like, kills some Nazis, and then he, like, goes to this Swiss bank? Oh, the scene in the Swiss bank! He goes into this Swiss bank and he tells them that he wants, he’s, he’s trying to get the guy to tell him, I think, the bank account number of the guy that he’s tracking, and the guy says, and he says, tell me the guy’s bank number, and the guy says, this isn’t, I mean, it was like, that kind of bank, and then he, like, starts – and I don’t – you probably know, but just in case anybody doesn’t know this, like, one of the things that Nazis did was take gold teeth out of Jewish people and keep the gold, obviously.
Rose: It was pretty common back in the day for people to have gold fillings in their teeth, because it’s a very malleable metal, and it’s also, you know, if you don’t have a lot of money and you don’t have a bank account, it’s a way to have portable assets, but primarily it’s just like, if you can afford it, it’s, it was, it’s, you know, it’s hypoallergenic; it’s good for, it’s good for fillings. So yeah, they would take gold fillings. So he, he holds out his hand, and he starts, you know, he does his Magneto thing, and the bank manager has gold fillings in his teeth, and they start to come out, and it’s like, oh, it’s so good! Like, it’s just like, yes! Make them pay! And I would watch a whole show that was just, like, hot, young Magneto, like, getting revenge on Nazis. Like, forever I would watch that just constantly.
When it’s coming from a place of, like, obviously, I don’t genuinely want to, like, murder everybody, but they’re really trying to put their boot on my neck, and so it’s just nice to think about getting a little revenge, a little payback. Like, I, I enjoy that. I quite enjoy that.
Sarah: And there’s also, like you said earlier, the catharsis of experiencing the resolution that is so rarely actually achieved.
Sarah: Like, this rebalancing is not common; it doesn’t usually happen. And so to watch it happen and watch someone plot it and own it and get away with it is very satisfying.
And then there’s stories like yours, where something horrible is going on, and the protagonists have to outwit it. Without spoiling too much.
Sarah: They have to, they have to outthink and out-nefarious whatever is going wrong, and, like you said, they, they resolve that particular issue, even though the larger issue still exists, but it is very satisfying to see somebody come out ahead when usually that does not happen, and you certainly don’t get to witness it.
Rose: Yeah. Yeah.
Sarah: Oh yeah. Yeah, I can see why that’s very satisfying. With the Gothic story that you’ve written, are you writing more?
Rose: There’s definitely going to be at least a sequel about the her- –
Rose: – the narrator’s best friend. It’s going to be a lady’s companion situation, so she also gets hired to come and be the lady’s companion in this sort of, not to near the other house, obviously, because it’s isolated, but sort of in the same area, general area of the country, and the, the woman that she’s been hired to live with has recently, like, her husband has kicked her out for cheating on him and banished her to this remote country estate, and so – but, and some-, and then the, the woman’s mother comes to visit and, like, the woman’s mother seems fine, but, like, the woman obviously doesn’t want her there, and there’s, like, I don’t, I – well, I, I don’t exactly know everything that’s going to happen, and I also don’t want to spoil too much, but I’m excited. I’m just starting to work on that now.
Sarah: And it’s, it, it fits with the general theme of a lot of your books, where women are going to work together to rebalance some of the great imbalance that they have to navigate.
Rose: Yes. Yeah, and I’ve been wanting to write, I’ve been wanting to write f/f romance for a long time, so I’m excited to –
Rose: – finally do that as well.
Sarah: And there’s lots of it now. I mean, I wouldn’t say lots, but there’s, there is, there are more –
Rose: There’s more than there used to be.
Sarah: There’s more than there used to be, and it’s quite lovely.
Rose: Yeah, I actually just – I think I can say – I’m reading the draft of the third Olivia Waite book?
Sarah: Yeah, you mentioned this in your Patreon newsletter.
Rose: It’s so good!
Sarah: Is it good?
Rose: It’s so good! [Laughs] It’s so good.
Sarah: I don’t know; I think that in addition to increased numbers of lesbian romances and lesbian historicals and, and Gothics, that the increasing number of nerdy lady love romances? I’m, I’m okay with that! Nerdy ladies for everybody!
Sarah: And it’s so often – I mean, I love competence porn in romance. I love characters displaying their competence, and when you have a character that is passionate about something and, and engages with what they love in a way that’s integral to their character, it’s really fun reading, too.
Rose: Yeah, and this one is a heist.
Sarah: Oh yes! I love a good heist.
Sarah: Heist is up there with Earl Had To Die. Whatever –
Sarah: – we’re just taking it back. Don’t mind us.
Rose: Yeah! Well, like, some, you can combine them. Like, that was one of the great things about Leverage, right? Was, like –
Rose: – every episode, there was a heist, and then also, somebody got their comeuppance.
Sarah: [Sighs] So satisfying! Similar to the Ocean’s movies too, especially Ocean’s 8. Ocean’s ladies? Ocean’s 8.
Rose: I think that’s the only one I’ve seen of the Ocean’s movies. But yes. I, I had mixed feelings – I mean, I, like, there are a lot of things I loved about it. I felt like they, the heist part, like, the ending didn’t quite – I don’t know. I didn’t leave it as –
Sarah: And it was too –
Rose: – as happy and excited –
Sarah: – too easy.
Rose: – as I wanted, but.
Sarah: The first three-quarters of it, though, were a damn delight.
Rose: Yes! They just, you’re right. It was like they didn’t do the part where you think everything has gone wrong and then it was all part of the heist, you know, or whatever the equivalent –
Rose: Like, that, you need that moment because then you get the rush of relief.
Rose: And also the two ladies should have ended up together. Like, I really thought they were –
Rose: – going to do a bit where, like, she got on the back of her bike, and I was like, why did we not, I don’t understand why we didn’t do that.
Sarah: I so agree with you! Completely the case. I also love how Anne Hathaway shows up as this very specific type of femininity and then subverts it and just chews on the scenery. And she’s in a movie with, like, Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson, and there she is just nom-nom-nom-nom.
Rose: I love Anne Hathaway so much.
Rose: Easily the best part of the Les Mis movie. Easily.
Sarah: So I always ask this question: what are you reading that you want – in addition to early drafts of Olivia Waite books the rest of us cannot read yet, thanks a lot –
Sarah: – what are you reading that you want to tell people about?
Rose: I actually made a list this time so I wouldn’t be completely caught flat-footed, which is what always happens to me when I get this question; my brain just goes completely blank.
Sarah: Whenever someone asks me, I frantically open my reading spreadsheet, ‘cause I’m like, well, it’s a book and it has some words; please stand by.
Rose: [Laughs] Yeah, I need to do that. This is why I struggle, like, even though the majority of my sales are eBooks, I struggle with eBooks because I don’t remember I’m reading the book if I don’t see it physically sitting there? So emb-, so –
Sarah: I get it! I get it!
Rose: [Laughs] But I just read How to Catch a Queen, the latest Alyssa Cole, the new, the new series, Runaway Royals? Loved it! Loved it! Oh my God, okay, so first of all it’s marriage of convenience, which is, as everybody probably knows, my favorite trope.
Rose: So it’s like, he had to get, you know, he’s the new king of this country, this little African kingdom, and he has to get married for, like, you know, his father is on his deathbed, so he’s not the new king quite yet at that point, but, you know, he will be. But his father’s on his deathbed; he has to get married because it’s, like, his father’s dying or whatever, so they find him somebody on royalmatch.com – [laughs] – which is this, like, dating site for people that want to marry royals. So –
Sarah: Of course.
Sarah: As you do.
Rose: So they find him this, this woman, who of course is, is fantastic, and it, it’s sort of also a take on the, like, the, that, like, medieval Scottish, like, The Laird Takes a Wife books, right, where, like, there’d be this, like, guy and he, like, lives in the wilds of, of the Highlands in his kilt, and then he, this, like, woman shows up and they get married for whatever reason, and then she, like, turns everything topsy-turvy by, like, wanting to, like, you know, new-fangled hand washing and, like, herbs and – you, you know what I’m, you know what I’m talking about?
Sarah: Yes, exactly! Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Rose: Yeah, so it’s like kind of that trope she’s doing a take on as well.
Rose: Yeah. It’s so good. And so he, but he’s kind of, now it’s a marr-, it’s kind of also the Scottish, like, handfasting thing? So there’s, it’s a marriage trial. So in, in four months, they’re going to be married for four months, and then the marriage isn’t final until the end, and then he can decide whether to keep her or get rid of her.
Rose: And now it’s, like, almost to the end of the time, and he, they’ve barely spoken, and she’s, like, starting to panic, but then he starts, he figures out that she’s, like, smart and has ideas about how he should be running the country, so he starts, like, secretly visiting her at night to, like, for her to give him, like, PowerPoints on politics?
Rose: And it’s so good, and he’s, like, so great. He’s, like, super – like, they’re both so amazing. Like, he’s like, he seems really scary, but it’s because he’s anxious!
Rose: There’s this bit where he, like, he wears, he wears contacts, but on days that he’s going to give his, like, king speech, he, like, wears his glasses, and then he takes them off before the speech so he can’t see the audience? That book was fantastic.
I just read – so anyone that follows me on Twitter knows my obsession with the Raffles stories – [laughs] – which are – I really don’t, like, I feel like I’m going to say this and everyone’s going to think I’m joking, and I’m not, but it’s like a, it’s a Holmes/Watson AU, alternate universe, about gay jewel thieves that was written by Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law. And that is literally what it is; like, I’m not kidding.
Sarah: It is a Watson/Holmes homage about –
Rose: Alternate universe – yeah, yeah.
Sarah: – gay jewel thieves written by Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law. Was he just trying to fuck with him?
Rose: Well, so I suspect, actually, that he was in Holmes fandom before he met Conan Doyle, and then –
Sarah: That’s hilarious!
Rose: – happened to fall in love with his sister? I’m just guessing, because I don’t get the impression that they – like, at first I was a little worried that, like, maybe, like, that he was, like, in love with Conan Doyle or they were, you know, there was some kind of thing that was, like, upsetting, you know, that was upsetting, or that was, like, pro-, you know, the, the sister was, like, somehow caught up in some bullshit, but it really seems like they didn’t have a strong personal relationship, and it was just that E. W. Hornung, like, loved Sherlock Holmes stories and shipped Holmes/Watson? [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s amazing.
Rose: They are so good, and I really cannot emphasize enough, like, how gay they are? Like, there’s a –
Rose: – the very first story, and it’s like, like, E. W. Hornung dares all. Like, he gives no – can I swear? I can swear, right?
Sarah: Oh, for God’s sake, yes.
Rose: He gives no fucks, like, at all.
Rose: Like, in the first story, it’s describing – and it’s like, the thing is, when I say it, you’re going to be like, oh my God! Like, that’s obscene! But, like, it’s sort of, he manages to work it into a description of lock picking in this way where I didn’t actually notice the first like three times that I read the story, and then I was like, oh! But so it’s describing –
Rose: – it’s describing Raffles drilling this lock. First of all, it emphasizes that they have to, like, lubricate the drill quite a lot – [laughs] – and then –
Sarah: Okay, that’s hilarious.
Rose: – it, it also emphasizes that the drill bit is one inch in diameter, and they’re – but then –
Sarah: Uh-huh, yeah, mm-hmm.
Rose: – Raffles, into this, they make the hole in the door. Into this orifice, Raffles inserted a forefinger.
Sarah: No, what, now? Sorry?
Rose: Yeah, uses the word orifice. Into this orifice, Raffles inserts a forefinger and then works –
Rose: – all his, four of his fingers in up to the thumb, and then –
Sarah: Excuse me, what now?
Rose: – softly curses. [Laughs] I’m not –
Rose: – kidding. There’s, like, another story where they, like, go on a date to the British Museum, and Raffles steals a gold cup –
Rose: – and then he takes it home, and then he won’t sell it because he thinks it’s so beautiful, and Bunny is just like, you said we were just going on a date to the British Museum, and then you did a crime, and now you won’t – like, he’s just, like, so fed up, and Raffles just, like, loves this cup, and he’s like, Bunny, like, when I die, like, cremate me and then, like, bury us together in the, the deep-delved earth in this cup. Bury our ashes in this cup, and I was like, okay. So you have an end-of-life plan with Bunny that involves you being buried together. Like, this is already awesome, but then I realize this is actually a reference to Achilles and Patroclus’s burial arrangement. They were buried togeth- –
Sarah: No way!
Rose: Yes, they were buried together in a golden vase. Their ashes.
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Rose: This is only the tip, like – the tip, if you will – of the ice- –
Sarah: Sorry, what was that? It’s the what, now?
Rose: This is only the tip of the iceberg of the sheer romance that is the Raffles stories. It does – [sighs] – it sort of has a sad ending, but you can fanwank it. But it is sort of sad. But –
Sarah: You can fanwank it?
Rose: Yeah, that’s a word – [laughs] – that’s a word that means, like, it happens, but you can kind of explain it away as a fan. So, like, you’re like –
Sarah: Oh, right.
Rose: – oh, like –
Rose: – you know, supposedly – I mean, whatever. I guess I’ll just spoil it; they’re very old stories. But, like, Raffles dies in the war at the end. But –
Rose: – it’s a first per- – like the Sherlock Holmes stories, they, the, the conceit is that Bunny is publishing their memoirs in the paper, so obviously, if Raffles faked his own death, Bunny would not say that in the story about how Raffles faked his own death that he published in the paper? So –
Sarah: Obviously not, no!
Rose: And there was a story, like two stories before that, where Raffles faked his own death, and then he and Bunny ran away to escape this woman that wanted to elope with him? And then he and Bunny ran away to live in a little cottage in the suburbs together? So, like, you know, take it with a grain of salt that anything happened to Raffles, but that is ostensibly the end. And I, I also think, like, there’s a lot of, like, sort of Oscar Wilde allusions; like if you look at, like, Bunny is in jail for a period, and it’s the same prisons. It’s like the dates match with Oscar Wilde’s prison sentence? So –
Rose: Yeah, so I think if Oscar Wilde hadn’t died, maybe the books would have had a different resolution. But anyway, so those are fantastic. Everyone that, like, is paying, has been paying any attention to my social media presence has heard about it ad nauseam, but I just read another series of stories by the same author, E. W. Hornung, called Witching Hill, and these have a happy ending, which made me very happy, but they’re about, it’s again a, a nerd, beautiful nerd/jock romance, but so – [laughs]. There’s this, like, jock-y kid who’s, like, just out of college and has a job as the, like, the super, kind of, for this, like, suburban real estate development?
Rose: He’s in charge of, like, renting out the houses and, like, giving people their keys, and if the plumbing is broken he arranges for a plumber to come and whatever. And then this kid about his age moves in down the street, and they, like, fall in love at first sight, basically, and it turns out that the, the hou-, the, the housing development is on the site of this estate of this, like, decadent, 17th-century nobleman?
Rose: And that his ghost is, like, exerting an evil influence over the new tenants and causing these, like, respectable, middle-class people to do crimes? And together –
Rose: – our heroes investigate? [Laughs]
Sarah: Absolutely! That makes, yeah, mm-hmm! I’m here. Let’s do it!
Rose: And it’s very adorable.
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Rose: So yeah. And I peeked, ‘cause I was very worried. I was very worried that the, the frail, like, gayer one would not survive, but in fact they run away together at the end.
Rose: Yeah. And they’ve clearly been together the whole time, because it’s told in the past; it’s, it’s also told in the first person but in, like, the past tense, so it’s always like, it was many years ago, and perhaps now I would – whatever, blah-blah-blah, but so there’s this one reference, like – and it’s so great because the narrator is, like, so in love with this kid Uvo, but, like, Uvo is not – like, Raffles is, like, ridiculous. Like, he’s, like, so handsome and so competent and so good at cricket and, like, so artist-, like, he’s good at everything, right? Whereas, like, Uvo is kind of a little twerp, but, like, the narrator loves him so much!
And then I’m all – sorry, I, I feel like I’ve talked so much on this question, but I am also very excited; coming up, I just ordered the new Kate Clayborn, Love at First.
Sarah: Oh, good call!
Rose: Yeah, yeah. I just ordered Suleikha Snyder’s Big Bad Wolf. I’m really excited for that, so books are coming in the mail.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. I will have links to The Wife in the Attic in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast, and I will have links to everything she mentioned that she does and where to find her online too.
As I mentioned in the midroll – that has a name, apparently – Amanda and I are hosting a live podcast after party Tuesday evenings, 7:30 Eastern, on Stereo. Just go to stereo.com/smartbitches to get started. We get to bring you extra live content, you get to interact with us, and you can record messages for us to play during the conversation. So if you’re feeling a little lonely or the Quarantimes are starting to get to you like they are to me, please come hang out with us. We promise we’ll probably be talking about books, food, drinking, baking, and we love hearing from you, so you can be part of the fun. Here’s a little clip from our first episode, talking about Amanda’s new CSA delivery.
Amanda: So I’m, I –
Sarah: Do you need a recipe for the carrots?
Amanda: No, I have one with –
Sarah: Okay, good.
Amanda: – parmesan and panko. So –
Sarah: [Gasps] You said parm.
Amanda: I did say parm. It always circles back to cheese at some point, right?
Sarah: Mm, cheese. It’s a lot like our podcasts, only live and interactive, and we would love for you to hang out with us. Go to stereo.com/smartbitches and join us Tuesdays at 7:30 Eastern p.m. That’s Tuesday, 7:30 in the evening Eastern time, stereo.com/smartbitches.
And now it’s time for the terrible joke, and I’m so excited about this one! This comes from Eva Moore by way of their daughter Kira, who is age twelve. Kira told this joke with so much enthusiasm that immediately it was sent to me, which is glorious, so that I could share it with you. Are you ready? You ready? Are you sure you’re ready? Okay.
Did you know that ten plus ten and eleven plus eleven are the same thing?
Ten plus ten is twenty, and eleven plus eleven is twenty too.
[Laughs] Kira, thank you so much! I love this so much! This is so great. Thank you so much for sending me that, and if you want to send me a bad joke: [email protected]. I love hearing from you, and I love your bad jokes. Thank you, Eva and Kira. You are fabulous!
On behalf of everyone here, including all of the mammals who are currently shut out of my office and mad about it, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts, and don’t forget, I have a quick little sample of The Wife in the Attic in about three whole seconds.
[Excerpt of The Wife in the Attic by Rose Lerner]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.