In the May 2014 Ads and Features episode of our Romantic Times Rewind series, the cover feature was all about Valerie Bowman, her latest book – and inside was a mention of her appearance on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta in 2014!
So Amanda and I connected with Valerie to hear all the details! We talk about weddings and dresses and reality tv, including a side trip discussion to the real housewives, Scandoval, and $17,000 sunglasses. Then we invent our own reality shows. This is a goofy, silly, very fun episode.
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
Most importantly: Valerie’s wedding picture with her husband Marcus! Thank you so much for sending it to us!
Congrats on 10 years to you both!
We also talked about the fact that the Neil Lane engagement rings are paid for by the Bachelor/ette show budget.
And, if you wish to watch the whole episode, here’s Valerie on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 586 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and with me today are Amanda and Valerie Bowman. Now, last week in the ads and features episode for the May 2014 issue of Romantic Times for our Romantic Times Rewind series, the cover feature was all about Valerie Bowman, her latest book, and there was a mention in the article about her appearance on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta in 2014. Now, you might remember this clip:
Announcer: Romance novelist Valerie lives through her characters.
Valerie: Lily, I think I wrote her a little bit with myself in mind?
Announcer: And thought by dressing like one she had penned a quick ending to her bridal story.
Valerie: Oh, it’s just so romantic! It’s perfect!
Melanie: Oh, not at all!
Lori: Valerie’s the baby of the family? So naturally she’s going to listen to her big sister?
Announcer: Sister’s dress is a dropped-waist gown with a sparkling beaded bodice and a full, ruffled skirt.
Robin: No way!
Valerie: I think this would get edited out of my book.
Valerie: It’s bling; it’s frou. No.
Melanie: I love it! This dress is definitely taking her out of her comfort zone?
Valerie: I really love the first one.
Monte: So maybe go back in your first love?
Melanie: That’s not going to be the case.
Lori: Nobody can mess with your head like a sister.
Melanie: You can live in a fictional world the rest of the time?
Lori: And unless Valerie comes up with a character that stands up for herself, she’s headed for an unhappy ending.
Sarah: So I reached out to Valerie because – would you believe we had a few questions about this whole episode and the clip itself? Oh, so many questions, and Valerie was so cool! She came on to talk to us all about the details. We’re going to talk about weddings; we’re going to talk about dresses; we’re going to talk about reality TV. We’re going to take a side discussion into the Real Housewives, #Scandoval, and seventeen-thousand-dollar sunglasses. This is a very goofy, silly, fun episode, and I am so glad that Amanda suggested I reach out to Valerie. Plus, do not miss the show notes, because Valerie sent us a picture of her wedding, and it’s just wonderful.
I knew doing the Romantic Times Rewind would be fun; I didn’t realize it would be this much fun. [Laughs] So thank you for going on this very strange journey with us!
I also want to say a special hello and thank-you to our Patreon community, who are playing a major part in making this whole series possible.
I have a compliment! I love this so much.
To Sue R: You are the human embodiment of the feeling of walking into a gelato parlor, seeing perfectly rippled brand new trays of all your favorite flavors, and knowing that you can get some of each. You are the joy of gelato in human form, is what I’m saying. Thank you for being part of the Patreon.
And a special hello to Amanda S for joining our community so recently.
If you like the show and you value what we’re doing, and if you really enjoy the Romantic Times Rewind episodes, which are so much fun, have a look at our Patreon. It is super easy to join. Monthly pledges start at one dollar, and every pledge is deeply appreciated and makes sure that every episode has a transcript hand-compiled by garlicknitter – hi, garlicknitter! [Hi! – gk] Thank you so much to the Patreon community for their support, and thank you for thinking about it. If you’re not part of the Patreon, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
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All right, it’s time to talk about Yes and Dress and reality TV. On with the conversation with me, Amanda, and Valerie Bowman.
Valerie Bowman: I am Valerie Bowman. I am a historical romance novelist. I think I have about, I think I have maybe thirty, thirty-plus books out there at this point. Yeah, I’ve been, I’ve been writing since 2011? And I used to be published by New York, by St. Martin’s Press, but now I’m fully indie and loving it. That is my…
Sarah: Welcome to the show! I feel, I feel like this is going to be a gathering of what I like to think of as Ye Olde Romance Old Folks Home, where we just sit on the porch and rock back and forth and talk about how it used to be back in the day.
Valerie: Yes! Yes, yes, I love it.
Sarah: We recently did the May 2014 RT Rewind, and we looked in the magazine: you were the cover story!
Sarah: Do you, I’m assuming you remember this issue, because it’s, it –
Valerie: I do remember it, yeah…
Sarah: It’s so cool to be the cover story, right?
Valerie: Yeah, it was cool. Yeah, I, I absolute- – why did y’all pick the May 2014 to start with? I’m just curious. Was it just one you had?
Sarah: Yeah! It’s wild, but yeah!
Valerie: I love it. You know, my history with RT is that when I was a little girl my mom, every Friday night, we’d go to Waldenbooks and that in the bookstore at the mall –
Valerie: – and she – yes! – and she would get all these romance novels and the RT – I still remember it. It was paper, it was black-and-white, it was sitting – I think it might have been free. I don’t know as a child, ‘cause I wasn’t paying for it anyway. But she would get a copy, and they were all over her bedroom! Like, she just, my mom’s bedroom was just romance novels, so –
Valerie: – I remember it when it was, like, black-and-white and just ugh!
Sarah: Oh my –
Valerie: It was kind of bad font and just, oh yeah, it was…
Sarah: I’ve only seen pictures of those; I’ve never seen the original –
Sarah: – RT, the Romantic Times newsletter –
Sarah: – when it was, like, actually paper and you folded it up –
Valerie: Yeah, it was like a newsletter.
Sarah: – and put it in an envelope –
Valerie: Yes, with that paper…
Sarah: – and sent it to – I’ve never seen one myself.
Valerie: They were lovely.
Sarah: So was it like a massively big moment for you to be the cover story on this magazine, then?
Valerie: It was, actually, yes. You know, I was, I’ve been watching Beckham on Netflix, like plenty of people have been watching, and he was talking about how his dad, like, kind of made him into being a soccer player ‘cause he wanted it so bad, and I’m like, I think that was my mom and me being a romance novelist, ‘cause she –
Valerie: – was just the biggest fan ever. I mean, she never really told me to do it, but I feel like I maybe, you know, to get down to some deep psychology…
Amanda: So you’re the, you’re the David Beckham of romance –
Amanda: – is what I’m hearing.
Valerie: …that well! That’s going probably a step too far, but I just, I love that idea that your, your parent can, like, just influence you in that, I think that’s my mom for sure. Yeah.
Sarah: Well, I mean, you can now put that on the cover of your books. Like, Amanda and I are totally cool with you saying, “The David Beckham of romance – Smart Bitches.” Like, you can put that on the cover; it’s fine with us.
Valerie: That’s funny, though, so I love it. [Laughs]
Sarah: So you were on the cover for your book, and you mention in the profile – which, by the way, was a really good profile? Like, one thing I’ve noticed rereading old issues is when they do a profile of somebody, they’ve, they had some really interesting questions and, and, like, the profiles were actually solidly interesting.
Sarah: You appeared –
Valerie: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: – on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. Now, this is like a little paragraph –
Valerie: Oh yeah.
Sarah: – in the article, and I don’t know if you saw the episode, but we listened to the, we listened to the audio, we – like, I watched that whole episode, and I don’t like reality TV – it makes my skin hurt ‘cause it’s just so awkward? – but, like –
Sarah: – okay. How did this appearance happen? How did you end up on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta?
Valerie: Okay, so actually, it was some romance novelist friends who, who suggested it. So I was out, I got married in 2013. It was literally our wedding anniversary last night! So –
Sarah: Oh, hey! Congratulations!
Sarah: That’s ten years!
Valerie: Ten years. Yeah, ten years, and you’re like, Whoopee!
Valerie: [Laughs] So we were, I was looking for a dress, and I just was posting things out on my, I think, Facebook, and just, like, What do you think of these dresses? ‘Cause that’s kind of fun. And what my friend Anna Bennett, who writes for St. Martin’s, she said, You know what? You should apply to be on Say Yes to the Dress, ‘cause you’re a romance novelist and that’s a good hook, and I was like, Really? Then I thought about it, but I just googled; I literally that morning googled it. There’s an application, or at least at the time there was? Filled it out, and they called me within a week and said, Can you be up here, I think it was a week later, and bringing some people, and that’s how it happened! It was really that fast. The whole thing was, like, from start to finish was like three weeks; it was crazy.
Sarah: You know the producers that received your application were like, Yes! Thank you, God!
Sarah: So it’s a romance author, and we watched a portion of this episode. Now, Amanda was much more familiar with Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta than I was. This was something you had watched; I’d never seen this before.
Amanda: Yeah, it’s definitely like a weekend – sometimes, like, I think TLC will have a marathon on? And you just lay up on the couch on a Sunday afternoon –
Amanda: – and watch like eight of ‘em back to back. That’s usually –
Amanda: – [laughs] – usually…
Valerie: That’s like, that’s like popcorn watching, yeah.
Sarah: It is popcorn watching! Or Pringles watching –
Sarah: – I’ve heard it called.
Valerie: Yeah. Yeah.
Sarah: And it is kind of nice to watch people try on beautiful dresses! Like, beautiful dresses are fun!
Valerie: Yeah, it’s…is fun.
Amanda: And give, like, your own opinion to yourself of like, Hmm, I wouldn’t wear that, or, like –
Amanda: – ah, I don’t like that fit around the bust, as if, like, there’s anyone here listening to me or that – [laughs] – like, cares about my opinion on Say Yes to the Dress.
Valerie: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it’s fun; it’s a fun, it’s a fun show to watch.
Sarah: I remember when my sister-in-law got married in 2019, and she wanted to do like a, a family, like, we were all visiting for Passover or something, and she’s like, Well, I want to go dress-shopping with everyone, and I was like, Oh, okay! Like, I didn’t have any idea why she wanted me to come dress-shopping, and the dress store that we went to in Virginia, it was set up with, like, Yes or No placards and lots of, like, decorations, and we were supposed to be involved. Like, it was like an in-person Say Yes to the Dress thing?
Sarah: And I had no idea that that had infiltrated bridal boutiques, but it was like a version of we all sit on this couch, and she comes out in a dress, and the thing I remember most clearly, and this happened to you too, is they use these giant frigging clips to hold the dress to your body?
Valerie: Yeah! [Laughs]
Sarah: You look, like from the back, you look like a construction project? Like there’s these giant clamps holding the dress on, and I’m like, Is that comfortable? Oh my gosh!
So we watched a portion of the show on the, on the podcast. I’ve linked to the episode, ‘cause I found it online, and we were, we were a little shocked about some of the editing decisions made for this sequence, especially with your sister. What was the family, what was your family’s reaction, and were you guys coached to create conflict? Like, I, like, my stomach hurt a little bit with some of the conflict in this –
Amanda: There were, there were a lot of puns. Like a lot of puns. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, so many puns! Please tell me you were like, Oh wow. Yikes.
Valerie: [Laughs] I didn’t even hear the puns until I watched that, but – well, some of them. I didn’t, I didn’t know the, the extent of the punnage until I watched it myself. But they did not coach us to have conflict, but what they did is they edited it to have conflict.
Valerie: As a storyteller I can’t blame them, so I get why they did it, but yeah, my sister was not happy, because they, they made it seem like she thought really ugly dresses were pretty, and she’d never – basically, they’d ask her about a pretty dress; they’d say, How did you like it? And she’d say, Oh, I liked it! And then they put that clip with the ugliest dress ever. So – [laughs] –
Sarah: Oh my gosh! So they made it look like your sister had bad taste in wedding dresses? [Gasps]
Valerie: Yeah, it was not cool. No…
Sarah: She must have been very upset when it aired.
Valerie: Yeah, she was not happy. She’s actually never seen it, but she’s had enough people –
Amanda and Valerie: – tell her about it?
Valerie: – that it was bad that she – so I respect her decision to not watch it. I really wish I would have – my mother-in-law was on it with me, and she would have – she’s since passed away – but she would have been so good to fight with because she would have been into it and just not cared. She – but my sister cared, and it was kind of a, it was a bad scene, so – [laughs] – I wish we would have kind of changed the dynamic, but when you go you don’t really know who they’re going to have you fight with, other than if you’ve seen the, if you’ve seen it before, you know it’s always family members that they have you fight with, but my mother-in-law was family, so.
Sarah: Oh my gosh, and they, and they –
Valerie: Yeah, it, it, it was no good.
Sarah: – they really played into the, Well, you know, you, you always, your sister knows how to push your buttons! And I was like, Oh my gosh! Poor – like –
Valerie: [Laughs] No, they do. They have to make a story, otherwise it’s boring, but yes –
Valerie: – it’s definitely, it’s definitely, was contrived with…
Sarah: Little contrived? So your sister is not actually –
Valerie: A little bit.
Sarah: – a reality-show villain is what you’re saying here.
Valerie: She is not, and she has very, very good taste, so –
Sarah: You know what?
Valerie: That’s what made her the most mad is that she didn’t want America thinking she had bad taste. Which I get; I totally get it.
Sarah: I, I mean, I can believe it, and I cannot believe it that they would edit together her positive comments, and the one that she, like, the one that she was praising was the one where it was just like a tight bodice and then just ruffles for days. It was –
Valerie: Please, yeah. No, it was awful. Yeah. And in fact, my, the worst part was my friend who had come, one of my friends, she thought, she hadn’t really seen the show, so she didn’t really know what to do, but she thought part of it was to pick the worst dresses? So that, that was actually one of her crazy dresses she picked just to be funny, and then they turned that into my sister like it; it was bad…
Sarah: Oh my gosh! I feel like we need to have your sister on the show just so she can, like, defend herself! What a bad edit she got! Oh my gosh!
Valerie: It was bad. It was – you know, and I’ve heard since then – I’ve never been on one of these like remodel shows, but, you know, I’m sure you’ve read, they say that, like, behind the scenes they only really fix up like one wall and the rest of the house looks like crap after they leave. I mean, reality shows. Those shows are just, they are what they are, but yeah.
Amanda: Though I, I would watch a show where it’s like kind of a mix between Say Yes to the Dress and then like Supermarket Sweep where you’ve got like five minutes –
Amanda: – to find the ugliest dress in this giant dress warehouse and, like, the winner takes home a prize.
Sarah: I would be –
Valerie: …up to? [Laughs]
Sarah: I would be so good at that though, because I – so when I got married I had my sister as my maid of honor, my sisters-in-law as bridesmaids, and two of my friends from college as bridesmaids, and I can barely dress myself, so I cannot dress other people.
Valerie: [Laughs] That’s how I am…
Sarah: And I told them, Just get a dress and make it blue. Buy something you like. All blues go together; it’s going to be fine. We’ll tie you together with the flowers, and I’m really not that worried about it, ‘cause again, I can barely dress myself. And if you told me to go into a bridal shop and find the ugliest dress? I would be able to do that in like three seconds, because I have no concept of what looks good on the hanger versus what looks good on me? I would pick –
Sarah: – the worst dresses for myself just as a default. I would win this show so easily.
Valerie: Yeah, yeah. I’m with you: I have no taste in clothing, nor do I care that much about clothing, so I’m always just wearing like whatever.
Sarah: So did you come up with the ideas of having, like, you – like, in the show you’re, you’re sort of channeling your characters like, This is what one of my characters would wear, and everyone was like, No! You have to come back down to reality! And I was like, Well, first of all, that’s kind of harsh! ‘Cause clearly –
Valerie: No, it’s –
Sarah: – this was something they were building, right?
Valerie: Yeah, they did – I guess that was their kind of little thing they wanted, ‘cause if I remember correctly – I haven’t seen that show in a minute – but there was like a Barbie, Barbie woman on the other half of the show where she wanted to Barbie, so they kind of had their premise in place of they wanted me to kind of seem like I wished I was a character from my book, which no, I don’t, but I get it. That was a little…
Sarah: What, you, you like having penicillin? You like having modern medicine, penicillin, and hot water whenever you want? Oh my goodness!
Valerie: [Laughs] Exactly! So I was kind of scared. I, I heard them always saying that, and I, I was kind of scared they were going to make me seem like a, just a wackadoo who, you know, wished I was a Regency character in my own books. That’s not how I feel, but – [laughs] – yeah, I mean, that was, that was their kind of little premise that they…
Sarah: That was their hook? I am telling you –
Sarah: – you filled out that application and a producer was just like, Thank you! It is like Christmas today! Yes! It was –
Sarah: You, you were perfect for that show, but my goodness, the edit. Whoo! So do you remember the dresses that you tried on, other than the big, like, the big, ruffly, big, big, big one? There were two that were really beautiful, and, and Amanda was telling me when we were rewatching it –
Sarah: – that generally there’s one you like and then there’s one the, the guests like, and then there’s a, like, a third one that everyone likes, and that’s generally setup. Do you remember that, or is it all filmed out of order and you don’t know which dress is going to be the one at the end?
Valerie: It’s filmed out of order with the ugly dresses and the conflict dresses. Like, I didn’t know what they were going to do with all of that, but the one that I eventually loved and everyone loved and that I actually purchased, that one I did really love, and that, that was real. I picked it, I loved it, and I was planning to wear it, but then we actually, what happened, I didn’t give it away to a reader because what happened was, when I bought that dress, we really hadn’t planned our wedding yet? I knew I needed a dress, but our wedding ended up being extremely tiny and informal, so that dress would have looked insane?
Valerie: At our little tiny wedding, but –
Sarah: So you didn’t even wear it?
Valerie: – I ended up giving it away. I didn’t wear it, but I gave it away to a young woman who really appreciated it, and she did wear it. I would have worn it, but my wedding just turned, we, we just took a different direction with the wedding. It wasn’t like I didn’t plan to wear it, but then it just would have been silly – [laughs] – at the wedding that we ended up having. ‘Cause it was like a –
Sarah: But you had to buy it? You had to buy the dress –
Sarah: – even though you’re on the show? You – okay, I, I am – Amanda, are you shocked? I am shocked.
Amanda: Yeah! I thought, like, because you’d come on the show and bring your family, they’d comp you the dress!
Sarah: Right? Like, you go on The Bachelor, you get that engagement ring for free!
Valerie: Do you? Do they give – you can…
Amanda: On The Bachelor?
Valerie: …You can?
Sarah: I thought, I always thought that when they –
Amanda: I was like, Can I write in on that show? ‘Cause I…
Sarah: See, I, I always thought on The Bachelor when they were like, the, And the ring is provided by Neil Lane or whatever? I don’t think these –
Sarah: These are guys that, these are, these people are –
Valerie: They didn’t?
Sarah: – a bunch of Instagram influencers; they don’t have Neil Lane diamond money. I figured the diamond was part of the, you know, that and all the free travel from ABC and the booze and –
Valerie: I would like to know, I would like to know if I get to keep it, especially if it falls apart, ‘cause they so often do. I want to know that now. But no. I mean, and also The Bachelor has a way bigger budget than Say Yes to the Dress…
Sarah: I mean, that is true.
Valerie: …so. So –
Sarah: You had to buy the dress? I am shocked!
Valerie: I did get a discount. And I think it was a generous thing. I want to say it was fifty percent, but that might have been ‘cause that dress came from, like, the, the fifty-percent-off room.
Valerie: But it was beautiful! I think it was kind of like the –
Sarah: It was gorgeous.
Valerie: According to them, it was like last year’s or old, and what do I care about that? I just thought it was beautiful, so that’s why it was already on sale, and then they did give me a discount for being on the show. But no, nothing was paid for. Like, they gave us a hotel room discount – not even a free hotel room to stay in Atlanta. No, nothing. Like, no meals or any- – it was just, If you want to stay in Atlanta, here’s a discount and, yeah.
Amanda: That’s wild.
Sarah: I am shocked.
Valerie: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: I’m shocked and appalled.
Valerie: I think there’s, honestly, I think there’s so many people who just want to be on television –
Valerie: – for fame’s sake, I guess? Not that you’re famous after you’re on that show. I’ve had a few people recognize me, but just a handful. But, I mean, I did it, obviously, ‘cause I have romance novels that I would like people to know about, but if I was just a person getting married, you wouldn’t catch me dead on that show! [Laughs] Because I don’t want to just be famous for the sake of fame! I don’t know; some people do that.
Sarah: Some people do. I mean, and it makes perfect sense for a novelist, because that is absolutely your audience. The same people, like Amanda –
Sarah: – like Amanda said, the same people who are chilling on the couch, like, in their, in, alone in their room voting on your wedding dress, those are absolutely likely to be romance readers. It makes sense from a free marketing perspective –
Sarah: – but I am shocked that, like, they didn’t even cover the cost of the dress. That’s, that’s just wow.
Valerie: Yeah! ‘Cause I, there are so many people out there who just want to be on TV.
Sarah: It’s true! That’s why there’s so many reality shows.
Valerie: Yep! Yep, yep.
Sarah: So you didn’t end up wearing the dress, and you ended up giving it away on – ‘cause I saw that part in the article!
Sarah: You were like, sign up for my newsletter; email me; I’m giving the dress away. First of all, that’s so generous?
Sarah: That is a really beautiful –
Valerie: Oh well –
Sarah: – generous giveaway? Do you know what, who, who won it? What, did they send you a picture? Did you get to see the, see the dress in their wedding?
Valerie: Yeah, I have her email address. I can’t remember the girl’s name, but she was a young bride. She was in Indiana. Her mother thanked me profusely for it. I didn’t get to see the wedding or any of it, but I, I think it went to a good home, and I was glad somebody got to wear it! And yeah.
Sarah: That’s so lovely!
Valerie: Yeah. Yeah.
Amanda: I, I have not been married, so I don’t have a wedding dress story, but my mom was remarried in the early ‘90s, and her wedding dress came with a big hat –
Amanda: – and had little pearl buttons –
Valerie: Oh yes.
Amanda: – all the way down the back of it?
Amanda: And I remember I was, like, in some community play in high school –
Amanda: – and I was, like, playing a runaway bride, and I’m like, Oh, I can just borrow my mom’s wedding dress, ‘cause she still had it, and I fit into it and everything, but having to do like a quick change and someone behind the scenes trying to get all the little –
Amanda and Valerie: – pearl buttons –
Amanda: – in a row?
Amanda: That, I, that was, like, intense. I was sweating.
Amanda: I’m like, Please –
Amanda: – please just make sure nothing’s going to fall out. You don’t have to do every button.
Valerie: [Laughs] Nothing’s going to fall out.
Amanda: But I did –
Amanda: That’s the only time I’ve worn a wedding dress, and it was my mom’s, and I think she still has it, but weirdly, I feel like that style of dress was very popular in the early ‘90s?
Sarah: Oh yes. Oh yes.
Amanda: ‘Cause my former roommate, her mom, who looks similar to my mom, had like the exact same wedding dress with the big hat –
Amanda: – cocked to the side.
Sarah: Yep. A tilted hat.
Amanda: Long sleeved.
Sarah: Like, big.
Amanda: Yep, tilted hat. Long-sleeved dress with pearl buttons down the back!
Valerie: Yep. That was a whole look.
Sarah: Oh yeah. And the thing about wedding dresses is that they are so impractical? You can’t even go to the bathroom unassisted. I have been known – you, you know how you go through a phase where, like, you’ve got like five weddings in one year, ‘cause everyone you know is getting married? I would go up to brides I didn’t know and I’d be like, Listen, do you have someone designated to help you pee, ‘cause if you do not, you come and find me. You don’t even need to know my name. I’ve done this before.
Sarah: I can’t pee in my own wedding dress, so I know you can’t – I’m looking at this dress, and it’s like miles long. I’m like, Listen, you just come find me. I will help you use the bathroom. We will never speak of this again.
Valerie: I’ll never talk again!
Sarah: I’m like, You don’t even have to remember my name; I don’t even need a thank-you note. Just, I, it’s so impractical!
Valerie: Yeah, yeah, just – yeah.
Sarah: The thing about the dress you ultimately chose, and I’m kind of bummed you didn’t get to wear it – like, that’s – [laughs] – you went through all of that!
Valerie: I know.
Sarah: Your, your poor sister got this terrible reality TV edit, and you didn’t get to wear it! The dress you picked –
Valerie: I know.
Sarah: – was so simple and elegant; it’s so pretty.
Valerie: I loved it. Yeah, it was beautiful.
Sarah: It was beautiful!
Valerie: We actually, my, my husband and I actually were like, Well, we should have a bigger wedding just so we can wear the dress. I mean, we had that talk, and then we were like, Okay, that’s a little crazy.
Valerie: Let’s have the wedding we want. [Laughs]
Sarah: So what did you wear to your wedding?
Valerie: I actually wore a very simple – I bought it off the internet; I didn’t even try it on until I got it – just a really simple lace dress with, that was like a, like knee-length thing, I think, and kind of three-quarter sleeves. It was very simple? Compared with the other one.
Sarah: Would you feel comfortable sending me a picture so I can put it in the show notes?
Valerie: Oh sure! Yeah!
Sarah: Yeah! That would be lovely. I’ll include that in the show notes so people can see the, the, the dress, the actual dress.
Sarah: And how is your sister? Is, is, is she okay?
Valerie: She’s okay. Yeah, she’s okay. She, we, we honestly, all joking aside, we don’t, we, we don’t talk about that. We – [laughs] – we can’t. She, she’s not, she’s still, to this day, not happy about it, and I have apologized profusely, and I…
Sarah: It was absolutely not your choice, though! That was all the producers. Having, having learned a lot about reality TV, the producers make some weird decisions behind the scenes.
Valerie: They sure do. Yeah, I just wish it had been my mother-in-law. She would have enjoyed it. My sister…
Sarah: Aw. I’m so sorry for that! That part stinks!
Valerie: Yeah, but you know when we went on reality TV, we should have been expecting that. I always think that. It’s like, what do we expect, you know?
Amanda: Yeah, reality TV’s one of those things where, like, once you’re on it, I feel like the finished product is out of your hands, unfortunately.
Valerie: Absolutely. Yeah, and I actually do like watching reality TV? Like, I was all up in the #Scandoval summer.
Amanda: Oh my God, we’ve got to talk about that!
Valerie: Oh my gosh, I was so deep into that? But I know, from having just been on one episode of one reality show –
Valerie: – it’s all edited, but oh my gosh, #Scandoval, I could not get enough of that.
Amanda: I mean, Ariana deserved better, for sure.
Amanda: And that little mustache. [Laughs]
Valerie: First of all, the mustache, we should have known he was headed downhill when he even started with the mustache. The mustache was proof that he could not be trusted.
Sarah: It’s so specifically curved? Like, it’s so well groomed? Like, you know how, you know how you see a romance cover model and they’ve got like nineteen abs and the biggest pecs you ever saw, and the first thing I think is, Okay, well, that is at least six hours in the gym every day, nonstop, so clearly you do not have the time –
Valerie: Right. [Laughs]
Sarah: – to be running a company and harassing your secretary and doing whatever else it is you do in this novel, shifting into a wolf and becoming an alien. Like, you don’t have time for that! You’ve got to work on those abs! That’s a lot of upkeep right there.
Sarah: So you look at that mustache. You know that it’s like two hours in the bathroom every morning just –
Valerie: Just, yeah.
Sarah: – perfectly – like, that’s his, that’s a lot of investment into a mustache. That, that’s a questionable, that’s a questionable decision right there.
Valerie: And he’s kind of like that. I mean, I’ve been watching that show, Vanderpump Rules, since day one. I mean, I’ve just been on board –
Valerie: – with it, so he’s like that? But, oh, Ariana’s so much better than he is. Just, it’s…
Amanda: I’m a, I’m a Real Housewives girl –
Amanda: – for sure. And then, like –
Sarah: Which, which Real Housewives, though? There’s many flavors.
Amanda: So, okay. I’ve seen probably almost every Real Housewives, like, spinoff.
Amanda: I will go on the record and say some of the best television I’ve ever watched was season two of The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Sarah: I have heard that, that –
Valerie: Okay, yes, I saw that.
Sarah: – that the New Jers-, the Jersey Wives is the superior vintage. Early Jersey Wives is the superior vintage of Real Housewives.
Valerie: Early Jerseys is best.
Amanda: It’s nuts. I even, I have purchased that, just that one season on Amazon Prime. That is – [laughs] – the only season I physically own –
Valerie: [Laughs] I have a lot of them.
Amanda: – is season two of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. [Laughs]
Amanda: Yeah. It was intense, for sure. That’s probably the one I stuck with the longest, and then, like, RIP to The Real Housewives of Miami. I watched that one a lot?
Valerie: I’ve watched almost all of them. I used to be a fan of New York, but I cannot listen to Ramona even talk, so I had to…
Amanda: Ramona Singer is in a class of her own –
Valerie: Oh my God!
Amanda: – isn’t she? [Laughs]
Valerie: I can’t even listen to her voice at this point in my life. Just, I can’t. But I love the Beverly Hills and the, the OG OC. Those are my two that I love.
Amanda: I think the only one I haven’t really watched was Salt Lake City franchise.
Valerie: I was watching that, yep.
Sarah: Speaking of drama –
Valerie: I’ve watched all of them!
Sarah: – my gosh!
Sarah: I did watch the first I want to say four or five episodes of The Real Housewives of Dubai? Dubai is almost like this weird sort of cousin to a show that was called Ladies of London, which was basically Real Housewives of London.
Valerie: Oh yes!
Amanda: Yes! There was this –
Valerie: I watched that.
Amanda: – that woman on Ladies of London – it’s not Catherine – but she –
Sarah: Caroline Stanbury!
Valerie: Caroline, oh –
Amanda: Caroline, such a witch –
Sarah: Oh –
Amanda: – in Ladies of London –
Amanda: – and then she, like –
Sarah: She’s good TV.
Amanda: – she peaced out of London and moved to Dubai!
Sarah: And became the main housewife.
Sarah: She’s the foundation housewife of The Real Housewives of Dubai.
Sarah: The thing that’s wild is because Dubai has very strict liquor laws, like you’re not allowed to drink? You have to get on a boat and go out to sea to drink?
Sarah: So Caroline’s bachelorette party is on a boat, and they just go out to sea and get shitfaced – [laughs] – and then come back.
Valerie: All the Real Housewives I was on board with. Like, I’m just, I’m here for all of it. Just – I have a friend who won’t watch it because she’s like, I would be jealous of all their stuff, but I’m like…
Valerie: …fascinated by all their stuff! Like –
Sarah: Oh, it’s fascinating.
Valerie: – one time I remember one of the women was like, These sunglasses are worth seventeen thousand dollars, and I was, What?! Like, I just…
Amanda: She was – and it became like a running joke of, like, ‘cause she would always tell you how much, like, her sunglasses or her purse cost, like, without, without it being prompted.
Valerie: No, she would just tell you.
Amanda: Just like an icebreaker.
Valerie: Seventeen thousand, and I was like, What are you talking about?!
Valerie: Just no. And, yeah, I’m judging that. So I, I, I’m really trying to be less judgy in my life –
Valerie: – but I was like, What the – ?! What are you talking about? I have like ten-dollar Target sunglasses that I’ve had for twenty-five years, and they’re, like, half broken?
Amanda: [Laughs] Imagine having like sunglasses as a budget line item. You know, just, like, my sunglasses budget for this year.
Valerie: That’s just, I’d be so stressed out having fourteen- or seventeen-thousand-dollar sunglasses.
Amanda: It’s like, Yeah, don’t touch them.
Valerie: Like, here’s some sunglasses; what are they doing?
Sarah: That’s a used car!
Valerie: I know!
Valerie: It’s so funny to me!
Sarah: Like, at that point, I expect them to come with perks. Like, if I buy these –
Valerie: [Laughs] Yeah, like –
Sarah: – it, it’s like when you, when you buy a Peloton and then you buy the subscription service, you get all of this programming, right?
Valerie: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: So for my seventeen-thousand sunglasses, I want to know that it comes with an automatic all-expenses-paid vacation where I wear the sunglasses. For seventeen thousand dollars –
Sarah: – it should, it, they should transform into a plane and fly me to the beach; that’s what should happen.
Valerie: I, I agree with that. And that’s just one example! They, they have all sorts of stuff they are spending money on that I’m just like, What in the world? Like the purses alone, I could just talk all day about all the purses.
Sarah: Oh, purses are wild, right?
Valerie: Oh my gosh. Some of them, I mean, I have looked them up. They’re like eighty-thousand-dollar purses, and I’m like, What?!
Amanda: Yeah, like a, like a Birkin bag –
Sarah: Oh –
Amanda: – for example? Like, I, I have like a, what’s it, like a Long-, Longchamp? Longchamp?
Sarah: I love Longchamp.
Sarah: I love them so much.
Amanda: Yeah! Which is a nice nylon tote, but it’s still like a hundred bucks, and this one has lasted me like a decade, and I should probably give it –
Sarah: Oh, they last forever, and they have inside pockets. There’s nothing better than Longchamp.
Amanda: But, like, a Birkin bag? If I treated my Birkin bag the way that I treat my current bag, which is like half-eaten granola bars and, like, wadded-up receipts –
Valerie: [Laughs] Whoo, yeah. There was one episode of The Real Housewives of – I want to say it was Beverly Hills – where the woman’s purse was so expensive she had a little raincoat for it? She had like a little purse raincoat –
Valerie: – and she came to dinner with one of the other Housewives, and she – and the other Housewife wasn’t like, What the hell is that? She was like, Oh, I see you have the raincoat.
Valerie: So it’s sort of normal for them.
Amanda: Isn’t it a superstition to put your purse on the floor?
Sarah: Mm-hmm! Yeah.
Sarah: I actually, one of the big pieces of swag that I got at an RT was a hook for your purse, where you open it up and then hang it off the edge of the table and there’s a hook underneath to hold your purse? Totally works; you can hang your bag anywhere.
Valerie: That’s actually good swag, I will say…
Sarah: Oh, that’s the thing I miss most about Romantic Times, the convention?
Sarah: Was the swag!
Sarah: The swag was serious business!
Valerie: Yeah, that’s some good stuff right there.
Sarah: Have you thought about wedding dresses as swag?
Valerie: I feel like it might be not cost-efficient, but I…
Sarah: I mean –
Sarah: – there’s, there’s ways.
Valerie: The little ones?
Sarah: Yeah! Little tiny wedding dresses.
Valerie: Little tiny ones?
Sarah: Say Yes to the dress.
Valerie: Like LEGO people. [Laughs] That’d be cute.
Sarah: Your sister would come in your house and be like, I have to leave now.
Valerie: Oh God.
Sarah: There’s too many wedding dresses in this house, and I have to go. I’m so sorry for her. Would you please tell her that we are so sorry she got a bad edit? ‘Cause she got a bad edit.
Valerie: I will tell her.
Sarah: I remember when we watched it, Amanda, I remember both of us going, Did they edit her that way? ‘Cause that’s just like, what?!
Amanda: Yeah, I feel like most people wouldn’t bring someone to this experience if they had any sort of like rocky relationship? They would bring people that, like, they love and know and trust –
Amanda: – and wouldn’t be jerks about the experience.
Sarah: Yeah. Well, I can say when I did the –
Valerie: Yeah. Yeah, they –
Sarah: – sort of Say Yes to the Dress with my sister-in-law, there was a dress she really liked, and I was like, This is very impractical; you can’t move around. ‘Cause it was very form-fitting, and although – and I’m like, Do you want to dance? Like, do you want to move around? Do you want to be able to walk?
Valerie: Want to go to the bathroom?
Sarah: I will say, though, at the reception, to sort of break the ice, we – with the bride’s permission – my husband was a groomsman, and before we were introduced we switched clothes, so he wore my bridesmaid’s dress and I wore his tux?
Valerie: Oh, how funny.
Sarah: My mother-in-law still does not speak of this. She does not like that this happened. She does not speak of it.
Valerie: Oh no!
Sarah: But first of all, my dress looked really good on him. I was mad; I had to give back the tux, ‘cause I had so many pock- – do you have any idea how many pockets men have? Do you have any idea? I had pockets inside, outside, on the sides, in the back. I had, the jacket had like ten, and it was a rental! It was a rented tux, and it had more, more pockets than I’ve ever had in my life.
Amanda: Did you check the pockets before you gave it back?…
Sarah: Yes, we did, ‘cause the rental also cost more than the dress, which I own. [Laughs]
Valerie: See, but that’d be such – okay, if we had What’s in Your Purse in the show, what’s in your pockets as a man would be so boring.
Sarah: Oh God!
Valerie: It would just be like –
Amanda: Wallet, keys.
Valerie: – wallet! It would be like…
Sarah: Random business card from a gas station that closed in 1982. Yeah.
Valerie: [Laughs] Yeah.
Amanda: But I feel like, my brother now, even though he’s like military, so it might just be wallet still at this point, he has that, like, crossbody, like, chest bag –
Amanda: – you know what I mean? It’s literally a fanny pack, but it just goes over the chest now.
Sarah: When did those come back in style? I keep seeing people with fanny packs –
Amanda: I don’t know!
Sarah: – across their body like a bandolier –
Valerie: Yeah, it’s back –
Sarah: – and I’m like, Wait a minute!
Valerie: – it’s back, it’s back.
Amanda: Look, I bought a fanny pack when I went to Disney, loved it, but I’m a double G? No fanny pack in the world –
Amanda: – like –
Sarah: – is crossing the gauntlet there, no. Mm-mm.
Amanda: No! And it’s just going to do that thing where, like, purse straps that go right between the boobs and just make them look –
Amanda: – even bigger? So it’s like, you know what? Around the hips, it’s fine, and it was great and comfortable, and I loved it.
Valerie: Yeah, they’re back. The fanny pack’s back.
Sarah: It’s been ten years since you were on the show, and you have written more than thirty romance novels. What are you working on now? What is your newest release?
Valerie: My newest release actually comes out in a week or two, the twenty-fourth. It’s called The Wallflower Win. It is the last book in my latest series, which is, I call it the Whitmorelands. I actually did the whole series as a nod to Judith McNaught, who was my favorite of all time…
Sarah: Oh, I love that! She’s wonderful! Her books were so my gateway.
Valerie: Yes, yes! Love her, love her, love her. And she, so, so all the books, it’s four books, and all the books are kind of, anyone who’s read all of her Regencies would, will see little kind of Easter eggs for all of her stuff in there. Like names and presents and just little things I took from all of her books ‘cause I love her so much.
Amanda: I adore Judith McNaught, but there’s one book of hers that I cannot read because the hero has the same first and last name as the person I dated throughout high school.
Valerie: Which is it?
Amanda: Ian Thornton is the character name?
Valerie: Oh yeah!
Amanda: Yep! That’s who –
Valerie: Oh wow!
Amanda: – that is, that was my high school boyfriend. Lovely guy. Not a, a horrific memory at all, but that’s just too much for me, too much of a similarity, first and last name. [Laughs]
Sarah: I mean –
Amanda: So, like –
Valerie: Yeah, that’s a lot to take in; I get it…
Sarah: And also, like –
Valerie: I just –
Sarah: – my name is Sarah; there are a lot of people named Sarah, and I admit, I will struggle with a romance heroine named Sarah. At one point I got a, a digital galley of a book, and it was a PDF, and it was a pretty high-demand author, and so they had put a watermark across the text: Sarah’s Copy? And I was like, Well, I can’t read this; there’s, there’s copy – so I did a, I, I –
Sarah: – I exported the PDF, and I removed the name Sarah, but it turns out there was a major character named Sarah, so after I was done the book made no sense.
Sarah: Like, I was like, Who the hell’s talking? Ohhh, shit.
Amanda: You removed all Sarahs.
Sarah: I removed all Sarahs except me. It was a very powerful moment in my life.
Valerie: I love that.
Amanda: A real story…
Valerie: I’ve never found a Valerie as the heroine. The Valeries always tend to be like the bitchy, bad villain for some reason, I’ve found. I’m like, What the what?! [Laughs] Even Judith McNaught –
Amanda: The mistress character.
Valerie: Judith McNaught has an evil Valerie!
Sarah: She does!
Valerie: She does!
Sarah: She does have an evil Valerie –
Valerie: She does!
Sarah: – yes, she does. Well, listen, I don’t want to tell you your business, but you are a romance author, and there’s no one stopping you from naming a character after yourself, especially after all of that nonsense about how, you know, on Say Yes to the Dress you wanted to be your characters and, you know, She needs to come back to Earth!
Valerie: [Laughs] Not me!
Sarah: Yeah, like, they, they really made you sound at times as if you were very much living in a fantasy world, so why not make a heroine Valerie? I say go for it.
Valerie: You know, I, I didn’t name her Valerie, but I, I’ve written one contemporary no-, novel, and I, the heroine is not named Valerie, but she is verily heavily based on me, and everyone hated her, so I was like – [laughs] – Obviously I’m a horrible person. But just, she was OCD and kind of picky and everything’s in her planner and she loves to-do lists. Like, I really based her on me, and everyone’s like, Your heroine in that book is awful, but otherwise it was good. [Laughs] So I’m not doing that again!…
Sarah: Oh no! Is that Hiring Mr. Darcy?
Valerie: Yes, yes.
Sarah: Ohhh no!
Valerie: [Laughs] Even my agent was like, No, no, not her. I was like…
Valerie: …keep it to myself that that was kind of me. [Laughs] But I actually am about to write the sequel to Hiring Mr. Darcy, so I’m going to make a way nicer heroine…
Sarah: And you can just make the heroine of the first book, if she’s in the second book? You can do whatever you want.
Valerie: That’s right. That’s right.
Sarah: Change her name to Valerie; become a reality TV star; it’ll be great!
Valerie: I love it.
Sarah: So what books are you reading that you want to tell people about?
Valerie: Oh, okay, I have been on the biggest kick all summer and, and into the fall here on, like, hockey romance and somehow – okay, if you would’ve told me I would’ve liked football YA, I would’ve told you that you’re crazy, but I’ve been reading all these –
Valerie: – so-called – ‘cause I didn’t, I didn’t like football; I couldn’t care less? It’s just, it’s shocking to me that I’ve gotten into these books, but I’ve been reading Jennifer Bonds. I read some T. L. Swan. I just, it’s these, I just read the whole series, one after another, of, like, hockey and football, and I’ve been loving it. So yeah, Jennifer Bonds’ got a whole series; the one that’s sticking out in my mind is called Catching Quinn, but they’re all kind of that same name, and oh, I love them. They’re really good. Really well done.
Sarah: One thing I love about books like that is that, I call them armpit cover books? Because the cover models are always like this?
Sarah: Like, you can’t have a football hero on the cover unless he’s, like, flexing his armpits at you? Like, it’s very important.
Valerie: Yes, yes.
Sarah: The, the pit pose is, is, is a big genre signal there.
Valerie: That’s a perfect way to put it.
Amanda: The pit pose!
Valerie: …Pit book.
Sarah: Well, thank you so much for doing this. Where can people find you – if you’re giving away a wedding dress or not – where can people find you?
Valerie: I am not currently giving away a wedding dress, but everyone can find me at valeriebowmanbooks.com, www.valeriebowmanbooks.com, and I’m of course on Facebook. I’m kind of X or Twitter or whatever it used to be called. I am on Threads now and Instagram, and it’s all @valeriegbowman are my handles there, so.
Yeah, this was fun! I loved doing the cover of RT, and it’s so fun to talk about the olden days of –
Valerie: – all those…
Sarah: Thank you!
Valerie: I can’t believe it’s been that long!
Sarah: I know; it’s almost ten years. One of the things Amanda remarked on when we did the first one was how this really was like a celebrity magazine just for us.
Valerie: Yes! Loved it.
Sarah: Like, all the names on the cover, instead of being Celebrities, They’re Just Like Us, it was like, Valerie Bowman and Sherrilyn Kenyon! Like, wow! This magazine with celebrities just for us, so you got to be a cover model!
Valerie: I missed it so much. Yeah, there was, I’m, I was so glad they didn’t want me on – like, they just put my book, and I was – they did ask. Like, you could tell them what you’d prefer, but I was like –
Sarah: Oh, that’s interesting!
Valerie: – absolutely not. I do not want my mug on the cover.
Valerie: I know a lot of people have done that, but I’m just not the type you want. I was like, Nope. Please…
Sarah: We actually talked about, because I noticed some of them have the author photo and then some of them have the book cover, and I’m guessing as a marketing tool, having the book cover image reinforced is much more effective than having your picture, because people are going to see your book somewhere else, be like, Oh, that was on the cover!
Valerie: Yeah, I think if you’re Nora Roberts you can hop right on the cover of anything and people’d be like, Oh, Nora, but I was like –
Valerie: – it’s, it’s a win-win for me, ‘cause I’d rather you see my book cover and I don’t have to be on the cover, my actual face, but yeah…
Sarah: Well, thank you so much for doing this, and thank you for the side trip down Real Housewives Memory Lane; that was very fun.
Amanda: Love it, love a Real Housewives talk.
Valerie: Call me when you start your What’s in Your Purse? ‘Cause I’ve got some stuff…
Sarah: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I’ll, you’ll – and I, I also want your sister to come on so we can give her the nicest edit ever. Make her seem like the most supportive –
Valerie: Ah, she would love that!
Sarah: – loving, glorious – she’ll be the best side character, sequel-bait character on the show, hands down.
Valerie: [Laughs] Oh, I love it! Yeah, she’s a big romance novel fan.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you so much to Valerie Bowman for answering my email and for coming on the show to talk about her appearance on a reality television program almost ten years ago. I have a picture of her wedding and the dress that she wore in the show notes and at smartbitchestrashybook.com/podcast under episode number 586. Do not miss it; it’s beautiful! It’s a beautiful picture.
And I will have links to all of the books that we talked about and all of the places you can find Valerie and of course a link to watch the full episode if you are interested in seeing a nearly-ten-year-old episode of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. [Laughs]
Wow! Podcasting is really wild sometimes.
I always end with a bad joke, and this week I would never leave you hanging. It’s almost Halloween, so this is the perfect joke:
How does Dracula order his coffee?
Give up? How does Dracula order his coffee?
[Laughs] A secondary joke:
How do you know if a vampire is sick?
Well, they’re coffin.
I hope you have a wonderful Halloween and get all the best candy.
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading and the very best of candy. 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.
[end of awesome music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.