328. Listener Email and Voicemail with Sarah and Amanda

This week, we hear from you! We have listener email responding to some recent episodes, and some listener voicemail as well. We talk about what we’re reading, we offer recommendations for your favorite Hufflepuff/Slytherin pairings, we talk about what to make for lunch when you work from home, we answer email about non-canonical pairings and match some romance recs with fanfic favorites, and we cover other random topics, like debating if Hermione and Ron are a good pairing.

Wanna email us? Got thoughts on this one? Oh, we wanna hear them.

Email:  SBJPodcast@gmail.com!

Or, call +1 201 371 3272 and leave a message! Tell us what you’re thinking! Ask questions – heck, leave a terrible joke. I LOVE THOSE.

Listener email and voice mail episodes are some of my favorites, and it’s really a lot of fun to hear from you all, so thank you.

Read the transcript

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What did you think of today’s episode? Got ideas? Suggestions? You can talk to us on the blog entries for the podcast or talk to us on Facebook if that’s where you hang out online. You can email us at sbjpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-3272. Please don’t forget to give us a name and where you’re calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.

Thanks for listening!

This Episode’s Music

Adeste Fiddles Album CoverOur music is provided by Sassy Outwater. Thanks, Sassy!

This is my favorite holiday album from Deviations Project, Adeste Fiddles.

This track is We Three Kings. You can find this album at Amazon.


Podcast Sponsor

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Transcript

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[music]

Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to episode number 328 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and with me today is Amanda, and we are both from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and today we are going to hear from you! Today we have listener email responding to recent episodes and some listener voicemail as well. We are going to talk about what we’re reading; we offer recommendations for your favorite Hufflepuff and Slytherin pairings; we talk about what to make for lunch when you work from home – I have a lot of opinions on this topic – we answer email about noncanonical pairings and match some romance recs with fanfic favorites; and we cover other random topics, like debating if Hermione and Ron are a good pair.

Do you have a thought on that one? Maybe you want to email us? You should totally do that! We want to hear all your thoughts. You can email us at sbjpodcast@gmail.com, or you can leave a message at 1-201-371-3272! Leave a message; tell us what you’re thinking; ask questions; leave a terrible joke – you know I love those. Listener email and voicemail episodes are some of my favorites, and it’s really a lot of fun to hear from all of you, so thank you.

This episode is brought to you by The Girl with the Sweetest Secret by Betina Krahn. New York Times bestselling author Betina Krahn is back with the second installment of her Sin & Sensibility series, a warmhearted and witty, Victorian-set romance filled with sparkling surprises. When an American heiress who has sworn off love and an English scoundrel with a past unite to take down a common enemy, revenge isn’t the only thing that sparks between them. Don’t miss this enthralling new novel that Goodreads selected as one of the best romances of the month. The Girl with the Sweetest Secret by Betina Krahn is on sale now wherever books are sold and at kensingtonbooks.com.

This week’s podcast transcript is sponsored by The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor. If your catnip is a redeemed hero like Lisa Kleypas’s Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, you’ll love Janna’s latest historical romance in the Cavensham Heiresses series. When Lady Daphne Hallworth is accidentally left home alone at the holidays, she uses the time to work on her dream – opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: she’s in a battle to win the property for the home against her brother’s best-friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all: someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man that her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome duke will maybe solve both of their problems. Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. When a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: he will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along. Redheadedgirl says The Good, the Bad, and the Duke is “super cute and adorable. MacGregor writes like a warm, cozy blanket.” The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor is on sale now wherever books are sold, and you can find out more at jannamacgregor.com.

Now, if you have supported the show with a monthly pledge of any amount, thank you! You are helping me make sure that every episode is accessible to everyone and that every episode is transcribed, which is important to many readers and listeners. If you would like to join the Patreon community, now is a great time. Have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Monthly pledges start at one dollar a month, and that makes you part of the group who helps me develop questions for upcoming interviews and suggests guests for the show. Right now we have a monster thread going, with the Patreon community folks making suggestions for guests for 2019, and it’s pretty terrific. I would be very happy if you joined us at patreon.com/SmartBitches.

I also have a compliment this week, so to Letisha S.: There are a lot of animals in hibernation right now, or you would think so, but really they are throwing a six-month underground rave in your honor to celebrate you every day. Also, if you can hear Zeb –

Zeb: Woof!

Sarah: – in the background, also agreeing, this is very true. Thank you, Zeb!

Zeb: Bark!

Sarah: I will have information at the end of this show about the books that we talk about, the links we talk about, the music you’re listening to, what’s coming up on Smart Bitches this coming week, and of course I will have a terrible joke. It’s really bad, and I’ve been saying it all week, and my family’s tired of it, which means you’re going to love it, right? Of course.

So without any further delay, let’s do this thing. On with the podcast!

[music]

Sarah: So let me give you an I-work-from-home tip.

Amanda: [Laughs] Okay.

Sarah: On Sunday, make yourself a big-ass casserole of something that you really like, and then you can eat it all week and not have to think, oh, it’s lunchtime; what should I have for lunch? You just go down, grab a plate, heat it up, and then get back to work, and then, like, you’ll be like, all right, I’m done! It’s, like, two o’clock. Fuck this, I’m having a nap.

Amanda: I just had toast. That’s what I had. [Laughs]

Sarah: Nice. So, yeah, I don’t think my dental work today is going to affect my talking, but I might have you read some of the letters because I can’t feel half my face?

Amanda: Sure! [Laughs]

Sarah: I’m, I’m, you should see me, I’m working really hard over here to move my face to make the words, ‘cause I can’t feel, like, the lower half of my cheek.

Amanda: You sound completely normal, so I wouldn’t worry.

Sarah: Okay, that’s really a big relief –

[Laughter]

Sarah: – ‘cause I feel super strange! All right. So we have reader and listener responses and voicemail to our sets of episodes, one, one where you talked about how you love problematic series and – are you still reading it?

Amanda: I’ve taken a, a break. I finished the last book that I was on and I took it back to the library, but I did not check out the next one because December and January and February is full of all sorts of good books that I’ve been excited about, so I put a hold on all the library stuff for now so I could get to stuff that I’ve been waiting for.

Sarah: There are a lot of really good books coming out in December and January, aren’t there?

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: It’s weird; my list as of right now has a couple for December, a bunch for January, exactly nothing for February, and then, like, six books in April, and I’m like, what is up with April? Damn!

Amanda: I have several in January –

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: – at least one in February. I have one, I have one in April, and The Bride Test, which is the new, which is, like, the one after The Kiss Quotient?

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: I feel like the release date keeps getting pushed back later and later, so I think now –

Sarah: Hmm.

Amanda: – it doesn’t come out until May, and that’s, I think –

Sarah: Oof.

Amanda: – what I’m looking forward to the most, but the beginning of the year is pretty hefty, and I’ve, I don’t know, I have been reluctant to start them super early, so I’ve been trying to hold onto – [laughs] – as much as I can, like not starting it, until mid-December, but I’m going to not do that. I’m going to start it probably, start my reading today.

Sarah: Plus you have travel, and you need to read during travel, right?

Amanda: Yeah, and especially, like, being around my family, I need a nice little book break every once in a while.

Sarah: [Laughs] We are going to Japan for my older son’s, you know, bar mitzvah gift, and traditionally on Christmas, Jews go to the movie, right? Because it’s the thing that’s open, and we all go for –

Amanda: And order Chinese food.

Sarah: Yeah, Chinese food and a movie, ‘cause this is what, this is what Christ did on his birthday. I read it in a book; it’s true.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: So my, my younger son was like, well, what movie are we going to? And I’m like, we’re going to be on an airplane on Christmas, so we’re talking about pretty much any movie that you want that’s in that little screen on your TV, so we’re going to go to, like, three hundred movies. He’s like, oh, awesome! I’m like, plus whatever we put on your tablet. It’s going to be a great Christmas; you’re going to watch fifty-five movies. This flight is so long, and it’s a direct flight from New York to Tokyo –

Amanda: Oh wow!

Sarah: – I’m probably going to read at least two books.

Amanda: How long of a flight is that?

Sarah: I think on the way there is sixteen hours; on the way back is fourteen.

Amanda: Wow.

Sarah: Or it could be less; it may be fourteen and twelve? But we leave, on the last day in Tokyo, we leave at, say, 11:00 a.m., and we arrive in New York at 9:00 a.m. on the same day, so we’re going back in time.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: And, and no matter how many times I explain this, like, me and both of my kids are like, whoa, we’re going back in time! [Laughs]

Amanda: It’s so bizarre, like, traveling through, like, different time zones and –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – and you’ll, like, get home maybe, like, three hours after you left, but it’s like an hour –

Sarah: after being on a plane, like, all day – [laughs]

Amanda: Like, okay! Well – [laughs]

Sarah: All right, so we have an email and an email and then voicemail, and I think I have loaded the voicemail so that they will play so that we can both hear them?

Amanda: Oh!

Sarah: I am very excited about this. So do you want to read the first one from Kirstin?

Amanda: Yes!

Sarah: I want to say it’s Kirstin; I could be wrong.

Amanda: It’s K-I-R, so I think your guess is right.

Sarah: I think Kirstin, right? If, if we’re wrong, we’re sorry.

Amanda: [Laughs] All right! So this is from Kirstin; it says:

Hello ladies,

So you just did ANOTHER podcast talking about how problematic the League series (Sherrilyn Kenyon) is. I really like this series and apparently blind to how problematic it is. My catnip is broken, broken men –

Sarah: Ooh, boy.

– (Nalini Singh’s arrows also really turn me on) –

Amanda: Maybe heroes, not arrows? I’m not sure.

– and I think she –

Sarah: No, that’s the Arrows, the, the characters in the Psy-Changeling world who I think suffer the most psychological abuse are the Arrows.

Amanda: Oh!

Sarah: That’s, that’s, you, you need to read this series, girlfriend. This is all your catnip!

Amanda: I’ve never, like, I haven’t gotten that far in the series; I think it’s, that’s why.

– and I think she does a really good job with them. also, I think it’s kind of fun how ridiculously awful the bad people are made out to be, and she does –

[Laughter]

– she does a good job flipping it around to show their redeeming qualities and how what we thought was true maybe wasn’t. Ditto with Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series.

Maybe it’s because I’m (almost) 40 and cut my teeth on old school bodice ripper romances, but I tend to give these kinds of thing a pass. Or maybe it is because I discovered them after 2012 when I had a Great Romance Reawakening and realized that the world of romance had changed A LOT while I had been busy with school and training for 15 years (and therefore only checking in on old favorites whenever I could come up for air and read something for fun).  I haven’t read anything from Kenyon in over a year (my TBR pile is daunting), so maybe my thoughts will have changed, but I just was very surprised by how adamant you all were that the books are problematic.

I know that you have had previous discussions that book series weren’t necessarily written to be binged, but with really big series I completely lose track of the big story arc and try to just enjoy the other stories in the world. I just cannot sacrifice the brain space needed to keep track of everyone in the Immortals After Dark and League (Psy-Changeling, Laurenston/Aiken) series and why this person is angry at that person or those people need to die.

Sarah: [Laughs]

I’ll let a series go if the stories themselves aren’t as compelling, if the overall series arc becomes too confusing (or I’ve completely lost track of it), or I feel like stuff isn’t getting resolved.

A little about me: I am a forensic pathologist at a big city Medical Examiner’s office.

Amanda: Which also sounds really cool, by the way!

Sarah: Dude, seriously, right?

I tend to read a lot of paranormal romance, sci-fi, historical stuff because I don’t want to read about real world problems. I need escapism in my off time, and while I like mysteries and don’t mind gore, I’ve found I’ve lost my interest in gratuitous violence and death (which is why, Sarah, I find your love of Shelly Laurenston so interesting, considering you don’t like peril in other situations. The violence/killings in her books are performed by the ‘good guys’ and seem out of proportion to the stimulus, whereas in Singh’s Guild Hunter series, awful, awful stuff happens, but it’s done by the bad guys). I would probably read medicals if they were a thing in the US, but I am very picky about realism with hospital/medical things (which is probably another reason I do better in the PNR/Sci-fi/historical realm, because it doesn’t have to be as accurate).

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Thank you for your awesome podcast. I really enjoy hearing intellectual conversations and having my own intellectual thought processes about a topic I love (and one that is so easily dismissed by others).

Kirstin

Sarah: I like this email so much! There’s so much to talk about. Also, I would absolutely love to know more about what a forensic pathologist at an ME’s office does? Like –

Amanda: Hell yeah.

Sarah: – that sounds seriously cool! All right, so you want, you have some things you want to say here.

Amanda: Yes! So you know, you mentioned that we had talked about the League series being problematic, or I did, because these are not books for Sarah –

[Laughter]

Amanda: – suffice to say. And I just want to reiterate that we’re not the end-all and be-all definitive opinion of a book. We have liked tons of things that people have hated and vice versa, and a lot of Kenyon and Cole’s books, their series have started in, like, the mid to late ‘90s, early 2000s, and I feel like that’s really the era of the, like, overbearing alpha heroes of paranormal romance.

Sarah: They were really a thing, weren’t they?

Amanda: Yes.

Sarah: I remember so many of them, and I would look at them now and be like, oh no. Nooo.

Amanda: A lot of –

Sarah: But at the time it was like, ooh! What, what, what is this?

Amanda: So I love the Immortals After Dark series, and –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – when you recommend it, the series quickly becomes a series that you have to read in order. It doesn’t operate as a standalone when you get to the later books, so reading them in, in order is important, and it’s tough because the first few books aren’t that great, if we are being honest and comparing them –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: – to kind of what we expect romances to be in 2018, 2019. So I frequently have to say that, you know, like, just push through ‘em, give it a second try, they get better, but I fully recognize that the first books are not for everyone. And I don’t want readers to think that we are, you know, yucking their yum if they enjoy something that’s “problematic.” We’ve talked in, like, our OTP podcast that I really enjoy pairings that are kind of fucked up. Like –

[Laughter]

Amanda: – the heroes are not good people, and that’s okay! I think it’s, as long as you recognize it, then, you know, I think you’re, you’re fine, and what I find, on my own personal level, about the League books is that there’s so much violence against women, and it was a pattern that I wasn’t really enjoying, so that’s my own issues with the series, but if someone enjoys the series and likes reading them, continue reading them! I, it doesn’t make you a bad person; it doesn’t make you a bad reader; it doesn’t make you a bad feminist. If you’re enjoying them, continue to enjoy them. I don’t want anyone to think that because I mentioned these issues that, like, no one else can enjoy these books.

Sarah: Right. Because it, I also think it’s a common reaction that if X has been declared as problematic, then X must no longer be consumed, and that’s not necessarily always possible. You know what I mean?

Amanda: Yeah, no, completely. Like, we all have, what is it, like, our problematic faves that, you know, they’re people or celebrities or authors that we just love, but we also have to come to terms with that, you know, they may have said or done harmful things, and it’s how do you reconcile that as a reader? Where is your line?

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: But in this case, like, all of this fiction. It’s not like the author is perpetrating these horrible things against women. It’s all fictional, and it’s, I think it’s definitely a personal choice? And if Kirstin wants to, you know, stay in the League and keep reading them, go for it! I mean, I’m, I’m continuing with the series, even though I have my own issues with it. But, yeah, so I would say, like, don’t worry about it. I think it’s also important to be a little critical of the things that you’re reading and consuming. I know there are some readers out there who are like, I just read for fun, and I don’t want to have to, like, think about these things, but I think it’s important to think about these things for the progress and growth that we want to see in a genre that we love.

I have a few recs that we can get to before or after your thoughts, whichever you would prefer.

Sarah: No, go for it! Hit me up.

Amanda: Yeah! So I have some recommendations for Kirstin, for some books that she might like. There’s the Darkest London series by Kristen Callihan. It’s a combination of historical and paranormal romance. The series is over, I believe, with seven books, so you don’t have to worry about, you know, reaching book seventeen and there’s no end in sight. So it is a finished series, and they’re a pretty quick read. I really enjoyed the first one. The UK covers are gorgeous, and I bought the UK versions from Book Depository for that reason. They’re not too graphic, either, I would say.

There’s also Lauren Dane’s Diablo Lake series, which Sarah has enjoyed, and –

Sarah: I really like that series.

Amanda: And there are, what, two books currently out?

Sarah: Mm-hmm, there’s two.

Amanda: And then a release that’ll be out January 1st that I’m very excited for is Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet, and it’s out in January. It’s billed as romance meets Star Wars. I just started it yesterday. This was one of the books that I was trying to, like, savor and save for my travels, but that – [laughs] – will not be happening.

Sarah: Yeah, that’s not going to work. Not going to work.

Amanda: Yeah. So I think those are the three suggestions I have. I’m sure there are many more, but hopefully that’ll get you started.

Sarah: I think it’s interesting to, to listen to Kirstin’s email, because I’m a little bit older than, than she is – she’s almost forty, and I’m forty-three – and I also read a lot of bodice rippers and have watched the model of hero sort of change over literal decades within romance, and seeing how masculinity is portrayed in romance is always really interesting to me. As far as my love of Shelly Laurenston because I don’t like peril in other situations, you are so right that that’s weird.

Amanda: She called you out on that. [Laughs]

Sarah: It’s really weird! It’s very weird that I can handle Laurenston violence. I don’t exactly know why, because I can’t read violence and peril and agony. I can’t read Nalini Singh because the bad guys do terrible things to people who are often collateral damage. And in fact, the not-for-Sarahs term has now come to use in my house. Like, Adam was reading a series, I think it was the Leigh Bardugo Six of Crows?

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: He’s like, yeah, I don’t think this is for Sarahs, and I started laughing. [Laughs] Like, everyone knows what this means now! So I understand that my enjoyment of Shelly Laurenston is very strange. I think that the reason I can tolerate it is two things: one, her books are so campy, I already more than elevate them into fantasy. Like, they are incredibly real-sounding characters, and they’re in real places, but they are so campy that the intimate peril doesn’t affect me like it would in other tellings. Plus, as Kirstin pointed out, the good guys are committing the violence, and usually they have really good reasons, and I’m already on board. Like, yep, Earl had to die. I’m with you; let’s go. Get the black eyed peas; I will drive the truck. The, the fact that the good guys are doing the killing and it’s a different perspective, plus it’s often – especially with the Crows series – it’s often rage-based or justice-based? It doesn’t bother me as much. I fully acknowledge that this is wildly inconsistent, but yeah, it’s weird. I can handle Laurenston violence; I can’t handle violence much elsewhere. It’s weird. But you know, I con-, I contradict myself.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: You ready for our next email?

Amanda: Yes.

Sarah: Okay, this is from Katy. I’m going to try to read this one with my partially numb face.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: I have to say, when I, when I drink, I drool; that’s always fun. Have to, like, put the straw in the back corner of my mouth where I can feel things. Okay –

Hey ladies!

This email is in regards to the most recent podcast & specifically for Amanda (who I think might be my long-lost shipping twin?!):

Sarah: Seriously, I think you need to form a group.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Omg, I feel so validated! I have shipped Dramione since time immemorial (or at least since Book 1) and have a habit of always shipping noncanonical pairings, usually involving antihero/heroines or enemies. As y’all say: that’s my catnip!

I am relatively late to the romance genre game, coming to it by way of fanfiction and epic sci-fi/fantasy. I am desperate for recommendations that fit my OTP theme: slow-burn relationships involving a ton of tension, a fair amount of antagonism, possible hatred and really excellent, plot-driven stories. I don’t mind the setting/era, though I do have a penchant for fantasy. And despite the rough going, I have to have a happy ending – but one that fits the characterization and isn’t a suddenly sappy, perfectly tied up bow.

I would so appreciate any recs y’all might have! Amanda, every single thing you described about your OTPs I was nodding along – it seriously could have been me talking.

Thanks for all y’all do on the website & podcast, I’m a big fan!

Sarah: Okay, Amanda.

Amanda: [Laughs] Well, I’m glad that there’s another Dramione listener. I feel like since we’ve done that episode, they are just coming out of the woodwork, and I am all for that. It’s nice to like a thing that you think nobody else likes, and then you suddenly get, like, oh my God, that’s me! Me too! We did a Rec League purely for my own uses, because that’s one of the perks of the job is you can kind of make posts that really inhibit the trope that you like, and we did one with Slytherins falling in love with Hufflepuffs, and that is kind of my jam. It’s something that I love, so I highly recommend you check that out. I think there are two pages of recommendations from our readers, plus the actual post where we have our own recs.

When I think about these pairings and how it relates to what I read, it’s hard for me to find a lot of contemporaries that fit this. I don’t know why; maybe I’m just not looking in the right places. But there are a couple historicals that I think fit really well, and that’s Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas, which I squeed about on the website, and then there’s also, I would say Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt, which Elyse reviewed and she really loved, and that review is what prompted me to start reading the Maiden Lane series, and I’ve been listening to them on audio, and they’re great. I think they’re wonderful.

I think, what else? We also have, I would say not exactly antihero and, like, a sweet heroine; I find this one to be reversed, but fantasy-wise, the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles, A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet, I would say has a Slytherin heroine, which I loved, and I think the hero Griffin is – no pun intended – I think he falls more into the Gryffindor category? [Laughs]

One of the other cool things about the Rec League was that people in the comments started putting their favorite romance characters into Hogwarts houses, so I thought that was just really fun in general. But I think what I like about these pairings is – I, I don’t know! [Laughs] I don’t know!

Sarah: Okay. [Laughs]

Amanda: I like that the hero is, like, making an exception for the heroine in some way. Like, he’s grumpy and, you know, he’s kind of an asshole, but there’s just something about his love interest that he, he can’t be an asshole to them for whatever reason.

Sarah: Is this a variation on the morality chain?

Amanda: Yes! This is very morality chain, and while I was talking –

Sarah: Like, you are the only one keeping me from killing everybody on the planet.

Amanda: But this reminded me of a Tumblr post that I saw that someone that I went to school with posted on their Facebook, and I liked it, because this kind of like speaks to what I like about, like, the Slytherin/Hufflepuff, like, pairings? And it’s like, Ravenclaw: I’m cold; Gryffindor: Here, take my jacket. And it’s like, Hufflepuff: Hey, I’m cold too! And then it’s Slytherin: What?! [Takes off jacket.] I fucking told you to bring more fucking layers, but of course you didn’t listen. [Piles scarves on Hufflepuff.] I fucking have to make sure you don’t –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: – fucking freeze to death, but you’re allergic to sweaters, so what the fuck did I expect? And – [takes somebody else’s hat] – how fucking long have you been cold? You should have said something sooner. Like, it’s just like, this Slytherin is just so angry that, like, the Hufflepuff puts their, like, health in danger without even realizing it, but they’re, like, angrily swaddling them up in scarves and somebody else’s hats and mittens, all while grumbling while doing it.

[Laughter]

Amanda: So adorable.

But yeah, so I would say check out that Rec League. I mentioned three books, and if you know of any that fit, if you have since discovered any, I would love to hear more, because I’m always looking for more of these kinds of pairings, especially contemporary-wise. It’s hard for me to find contemporaries that fit this pairing. A lot of the enemies-to-lovers in a contemporary don’t get to the level of antagonism that I truly prefer.

[Laughter]

Amanda: I feel like a lot more, like, evil stuff happens in, like, historicals and paranormals, but contemporaries are a little bit more muted, so – I don’t know.

[Laughter]

Amanda: Sarah’s speechless.

Sarah: I just, I can’t add anything, and it, and it makes me sad, because I don’t have anything to suggest that you haven’t already identified, because this is not my catnip? Yeah, it’s funny, I was talking with Adam about this last night, about how many people ship Snape and different people and Draco and even Draco’s dad? Like, what’s that about?

Amanda: We, I like to call him Luscious Lucius.

[Laughter]

Sarah: I’m sure that Jason Isaacs – it is Jason Isaacs, right?

Amanda: Yes, I believe so.

Sarah: I’m sure that portrayal has nothing to do with the lusciousness, right?

Amanda: [Laughs] No, not at all.

Sarah: No, of course not. [Laughs] I have this head canon – I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this – I have this head canon of Hermione ranting at Ron when she finds out what Harry has named his kid.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: Named him after that motherfucker who tortured me and made fun of my teeth in front of his students; was, was a horrible human being; made fun of children; was torturous; had terrible problems with, you know, being a decent person to the children who were in his care; and then that other motherfucker, names him after this guy who had a murder/suicide plot with his name on it! Yes, definitely name your kids after these guys. And then Ron’s in the background like, yes, you’re right, absolutely, uh-huh, mm-hmm, yeah, ‘cause he’s heard it, like, a thousand times. [Laughs]

Amanda: I just, in terms of, like, the central romances to the book, I just don’t think Ron is good enough for Hermione and can handle Hermione. You know –

Sarah: You think?

Amanda: – I don’t think they’re equals.

Sarah: I do, and this is why: I think that – and this is from someone who didn’t complete the series, so I am woefully unqualified to answer the question.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: I’m going to do it anyway, ‘cause it’s, you know, why not? I think that one of the things about Ron is that he underrates himself? He’s extremely talented; he’s extremely naturally gifted as a wizard, and he’s got a lot of natural talent and a lot of natural power, and I think that Hermione and a powerful person are a good match. I also think that Ron is one of the few people who can tell Her-, tell Hermione, who is so brilliant, please get over yourself and have a seat and eat your toast and be quiet.

Amanda: But, but Draco can do both of those things too, Sarah.

Sarah: Yeah, but he’s evil?

Amanda: Yeah, I mean –

Sarah: And he killed people? Right? Did –

Amanda: It’s semantics, right? It’s just – [laughs]

Sarah: Oh right, yeah, of course.

[Laughter]

Amanda: I think –

Sarah: Do we need to, do we need to do another podcast where we try to identify a villain that I like?

Amanda: [Laughs] I don’t think we’ll get it. I don’t. I –

Sarah: No, I don’t think there is one. I think this is not my catnip; it’s a problem –

Amanda: I think that –

Sarah: – ‘cause there’s so much of it.

Amanda: Draco, though, being, I consider myself a smart person, and I –

Sarah: I, I think that’s been proven, yeah, anyway.

Amanda: – and I think if I’m anything like Hermione, I like to be challenged. I like to have a challenge in my life, I like to figure things out, and I think –

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: – Draco is the kind of person that will be able to, like, challenge Hermione, and then she can challenge him back, so I, I think they would kind of like feed off of that, whereas, I don’t know, I, I don’t sense that, like, Ron would necessarily, he might be able to, like, stick up for himself or, you know, rein her in, but I don’t think he could give her, like, the challenge that she likes.

Sarah: I think that, I think that he, I think that he can, because I think that the challenge is, wait a minute, why are you not flipping out about this? He’s going to be so laidback and so chill about everything that that will be a challenge to her. Their neuroses –

Amanda: That would make me so mad. That would make me so mad!

[Laughter]

Sarah: And I don’t think he’d be like, God, what’s wrong with you? You’re freaking out over nothing, but I think that his way of handling things would be such a challenge for her to understand that they would, their, their opposition in that regard would work to help them. They have different but complementary anxieties and issues.

Amanda: Listeners, weigh in below. Who’s right? Let’s settle this.

[Laughter]

Sarah: I think, I think, you know, that the morality part aside, I think that Hermione and Draco are too similar.

Amanda: What?!

Sarah: They would, like, they would end up destroying each other.

Amanda: Oh, but how hot would that be? Right?

[Laughter]

Sarah: Yeah. Exhausting, maybe. I don’t know about hot!

Amanda: The world would end, but it would be worth it.

Sarah: [Laughs] Okay!

[Laughter]

Sarah: All right. Let’s see if I can get this voicemail, if I’ve loaded this correctly; let’s see if this works:

Hey Sarah, my name is Nala Henkel-Aislinn.

I’m a new romance author. I have two books that I self-published and one I just sent to the editor yesterday, and I was listening to your podcast number 322, “Breaking Up with Damaging Conventions.” I really love your podcast. I usually listen to it when I’m driving somewhere, but today I’ve actually pulled over when I heard your phone number and I thought oh, I’ve got to phone, ‘cause normally I would think of something, I forget about it by the time I arrive. So two things: I love that you talked about a beta male character in romance novels. I thought I was writing my males too weak, that they should be more alpha, but I just write the characters as they come out on the page, so that was great to hear. And the other thing I love that you said the podcast was, patriarchy: you’re soaking in it! And that works on so many levels. Like, misogyny: you’re soaking in it! or racism: you’re soaking in it. So I really enjoyed the podcast, but those two things really stuck out to me. So thank you so much, and I didn’t realize I could be a, a Patreon subscriber at so little a month, so I’m going to explore that. But anyways, keep up the good work, and thank you so much. I really enjoyed today’s podcast. Bye-bye.

Sarah: All right, did you get that?

Amanda: Yes.

Sarah: Yes! Oh, it worked! That’s awesome.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: I’m so excited! Okay, so first, I would like to say, as a romance reader, please don’t be afraid to write beta male romance characters, ‘cause they’re my favorite. I often think that the characterization of alpha males in a lot of romances comes across to me as a deep insecurity, and even more so can indicate what I think are signs of harmful masculine expectations and stereotypes. Not all alpha characters are like this, but when I do encounter them or read them, I often think, wow, you’re really insecure that you need to prove yourself this hard. Could you just calm down? Like characters that are, like, managing a heroine’s life from the background: nooo! Orchestrating things for her, getting in the way so she has to be with him – that’s creepy, not hot. You know, dude who freaks out because he has a feeling and isn’t sure what to do with it? I am not interested in that guy either. But I’ve also said I like quietly confident, emotionally fluent characters, especially men, because I find that emotional fluency and emotional health are not valued enough.

But of course how we view and accept masculine or feminine or genderqueer stereotypes is influenced by patriarchy, misogyny, kyriarchy, all of that, so while, for example, a waxed, muscular man chest on the cover has never done it for me and is more of a turn-off, I know that I am not the typical buyer in that regard, especially in terms of book sales and cover art, and I recognize hypertrophied masculinity is a very quick marketing signal that says alpha male, possibly military, definitely abs, right here, pick ‘em up, go, head for the checkout, life is great. The fact that it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for other people, but please don’t stop writing beta males, especially males that are emotionally fluent and, and, and are not afraid of having feelings? I love characters like that, and I think it’s, I think it’s really interesting to have this voicemail in addition to Kirstin’s email, because she was talking about older paranormal and we were talking about older paranormal characters. I reread this year Dark Prince, and I talked about it a couple podcast episodes ago. On one hand, it worked on me, and I couldn’t put it down. On the other hand, I was like, this motherfucker. Like, he, he basically turns her into a Carpathian and doesn’t tell her about it! Like – [laughs] – he, he changes her entire species and it’s like, doesn’t tell her about the side effects! Like, what the hell?! So I had a lot of problems with his, with his behavior, but at the same time I was like, yeah, this sort of, you and I are the only ones who can communicate, and we are, you are the only one who understands me? That totally works on me. The inability to gain consent before you change someone’s species? That’s a bit of problem for me! Do you have anything you want to add?

Amanda: Even though I’m not the target reader for a beta male, I know so many readers who love that character, Sarah included, and when I do Rec League requests on our Instagram, one of the more popular requests I get is, you know, books with beta heroes in them, so I would say don’t let the prevalence of alpha males scare you away from writing what you feel your story needs. It’s kind of like the squeaky wheel gets the grease? Like, alpha males or alpha heroes are in your face, they’re on nearly every cover, like, that sort of thing, but I would say there’s just as large of an audience for beta characters as there is for more “alpha” characters, so –

Sarah: Yes. I agree.

Amanda: – don’t worry.

Sarah: And I think that the, I think that the definition and understanding of what an alpha male is changes so quickly.

Amanda: I mean, language is fluid; definitions are fluid in general.

Sarah: What?! No!

Amanda: [Laughs] You don’t say!

Sarah: You don’t say! All right, you ready for voicemail number two?

Amanda: Yes!

Sarah: All right.

Hi, Sarah. But I am currently lying in bed very, very sick, so, you know, I wanted to call you and talk about shipping. So my first ship was when I was about nine and I started reading the Animorphs books. Now, Animorphs is a book where characters get, like, alien powers, and they can take on, and, like, they can morph into animals. It’s a great show. It was a good book series. Anyway, so in one of the first scenes, we see one of the guys defending another one of the, of the guys and they have never met before. He’s just being a good guy. And I remember reading that and being like, can they fall in love?

[Laughter]

Because, I mean, at the time, I don’t think I knew about, like, queerness, but I did know that love should be about caring for each other and tenderness, and so I was just like, yeah, they should be together. And they don’t get together, and that’s still a heartbreak that I have carried through the last twenty-something years. [Laughs] Anyway, thank you for the great podcast and the great website and have a good day!

Sarah: [Laughs] Okay, so anyone who wants to call the podcast while you’re lying in bed sick, please do, ‘cause that was awesome! I love hearing about people’s ships. Like, this has been the most interesting conversation about what people’s first and earliest ships were? It’s adorable, and, like, why didn’t you get together? You should be together! Oh dear.

Amanda: Hopefully there’s, like, a fanfic out there, ‘cause –

Sarah: Oh, there has to be a fanfic out there.

Amanda: – someone, you know, is like, I feel the same way! I got to write about it!

Sarah: Oh heck, yeah! There has to be! Whatever – isn’t that, like, one of the other rules of the internet? Whatever you’re into, someone else is into it too?

Amanda: Yeah. I think so!

Sarah: Pretty much. I hope you’re feeling better, by the way. Okay, so do you want to talk about what you’re reading right now, before we, before we go?

Amanda: Oh boy. So I am starting Nightchaser – I think I’ve already mentioned that –

Sarah: Whoo!

Amanda: – finally, and I’m also going to do a cocktail for it at the end of the month; very excited. What else? I, like, totally blanked. There was something else, and I’m like, bleah. It just, like, left my brain.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: Then after that, I think I have Polaris Rising. I’m on, like, a sci-fi romance kick, and there are some good options coming out at the start of 2019, so I’m so pumped to read those back to back. And then aside from that, I have something to plug in that I just recorded an episode on the Not Now, I’m Reading podcast?

Sarah: Yay!

Amanda: So I did a podcast with them last night. It went really well. I, they had a bunch of questions from their Patreon supporters, and we talk about shipping there some more, and they also have really great fanfic recommendations if you’re into fanfic. I think that’ll be out at the end of December, but yeah, I’m just kind of cultivating my, my travel pile for the holidays.

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: What are you reading, Sarah?

Sarah: Let’s see, I just finished, this weekend, Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm.

Amanda: How was it?

Sarah: There were some very cute things about it, but plot-wise, it was like being set, stuck on a road with one roundabout after another after another.

Amanda: Oh.

Sarah: The characters would get stuck in a specific conflict and stay there longer than my patience could handle it, and there wasn’t enough cooking porn and food porn. There was a lot of mention of food, but there wasn’t any showing of them learning the food porn, and that’s, that’s kind of what I wanted, ‘cause they’re in Paris in a school to learn cooking, and there is a competitive element to it. Plus, there’s a, one character who has been on television and whose parents are famous. One, his dad’s, like, a famous television chef? So I wanted more from that character, and he’s just sort of the same throughout? The, all the change takes place in, like, the last quarter, which I found very exhausting, but I thought it was very fun and very cute, and I loved how there were some typical, like, tensions between some characters, but most of the people in the book were interested in being friends with one another? There wasn’t that sort of reality show character of, I’m not here to make friends. Like, everyone there was genuinely wanting to be friends with each other, ‘cause they were all stuck together, and that part I really enjoyed.

I also am listening to Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans mystery series. So I’ve realized I really like listening while I’m cross stitching or when I’m cooking, listening to mysteries read to me by someone whose accent is not American English. I can –

Amanda: [Laughs] It’s very soothing!

Sarah: It is very soothing, but it, it, I think what it does is it soothes a very specific part of my brain that is hard to keep entertained – I call it the Jack Russell Terrier part of my brain – and because the pronunciation is slightly different than what I’m accustomed to hearing, my brain will grab onto the voice and listen a little bit more than it would if it was an English, American English narrator.

Amanda: Nifty little trick!

Sarah: Yeah, I think my brain is, either my brain is really easily distracted or my brain’s a snob.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: You know, could be either one. The, the thing about the Rhys Bowen books is that they are set in Wales, and they are set in a town called Llanfair, and I have, like, been watching a bunch of YouTube videos to try to learn how to pronounce the Welsh double-L, ‘cause my maiden name is actually a Welsh name, and I never knew how to pronounce it correctly, but I’ve got a lot of double-Ls in my life. So the narrator has a lot of Welsh words that show up, and the characters – Welsh, so Welsh English is pronounced slightly differently than, say, like, London English or Manchester English. You know how there’s regional, there’s regional accents in the States; there’s regional accents in England and all over the place. So the Welsh accent is really interesting, especially when the narrator does characters that are only speaking English for the sake of the story and at all other times speak Welsh? It’s really interesting. Plus there’s all the place names, and you know that one town that’s the longest town in the world?

Amanda: Yes. There’s, there’s video –

Sarah: That, I –

Amanda: – of Luke Evans on some late night show –

Sarah: Yep!

Amanda: – pronouncing it.

Sarah: Yep. And Naomi Watts lived there. She did a late night show interview in which she talked about how to pronounce that name. That name plays a role in one of the books – I think it’s book two –

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: – so they say it a lot, and I just kept hitting backwards so I could listen to it over and over. [Laughs] So yeah, I’ve been listening to the Evan Evans series because Welsh, and then I’m listening to the Peter Grant series because lots of different dialectical English accents – I might be using dialectical wrong, but – I find that my brain is very interested in English that is not American-accented. I can even do Canadian, Australian, Kiwi. It, it, it’s not like – South African – it’s really not like I only listen to British people? It’s just as long as it’s not American, my brain pays more attention because it’s different. At least, I think, that’s my theory anyway.

So I’ve been listening to a lot of mysteries, and then I’ve been reading YA, and then next up is The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson –

Amanda: Ooh!

Sarah: – which comes out tomorrow!

Amanda: Let me know how that one is. I –

Sarah: I will let you know how that one is.

Amanda: My concern is that it sounds really fun and bubbly, but because it’s set in a pageant, I’m not here for the, like, women hating other women nonsense. So –

Sarah: Yeah! Like, I get it!

Amanda: – that is my concern, is that it’ll just, like, devolve into, you know. So you’ll have to let me know how it is.

Sarah: I will let you know how it is.

[music]

Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this episode. Thank you to everyone who wrote and called. Thank you to Amanda for hanging out with me.

If you have opinions, especially about Ron and Hermione, we would like to hear them. You can email us at sbjpodcast@gmail.com. You can leave a comment at the entry as well, at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast. Or you can leave a voicemail at 1-201-371-3272. You can tell us what you’re thinking; you can tell us a terrible joke. Whatever it is, I love hearing from you. It’s really great to hear your thoughts on the episodes, so thank you so much for calling and writing!

This episode was brought to you by The Girl with the Sweetest Secret by Betina Krahn. New York Times bestselling author Betina Krahn is back with the second installment of her Sin & Sensibility series, a warmhearted and witty, Victorian-set romance filled with sparkling surprises. When an American heiress who has sworn off love and an English scoundrel with a past unite to take down a common enemy, revenge isn’t the only thing that sparks between them. Don’t miss this enthralling new novel that Goodreads selected as one of the best romances of the month. The Girl with the Sweetest Secret by Betina Krahn is on sale now wherever books are sold and at kensingtonbooks.com.

This week’s podcast transcript is brought to you by The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor. If your catnip is a redeemed hero like Lisa Kleypas’s Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, you will love Janna’s latest historical romance in the Cavensham Heiresses series. When Lady Daphne Hallworth is accidentally left home alone at the holidays, she uses the time to work on her dream – opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: she’s in a battle to win the property against her brother’s best-friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all: someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome duke will solve both their problems. Paul, long considered a good-for-nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. When a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: he will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along. Redheadedgirl says The Good, the Bad, and the Duke is “super cute and adorable. MacGregor writes like a warm, cozy blanket.” The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor is on sale now wherever books are sold, and you can find out more at jannamacgregor.com.

If you have supported the show’s Patreon, thank you. You can join the Patreon community with a monthly pledge of one dollar a month, and every pledge helps keep the show going, helps commission transcripts for this and every other episode, and helps me make sure that every episode is accessible to everyone. Plus, if you join the Patreon community at patreon.com/SmartBitches, you will join the community that helps me suggest guests and helps me develop questions for upcoming interviews, and sometimes you get really weird outtakes that I can’t share at the end of the podcast ‘cause they’re, well, terrible. Right now, we have a monster thread going on with suggestions for guests for 2019, and it is a really good list, so if you would like to join in, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches!

Our music is provided every week by Sassy Outwater. Thank you, Sassy! This is Adeste Fiddles. It is my favorite holiday album. It is from Deviations Project. You can find it on Amazon. This track is “We Three Kings.” Three kings? We three kings? Both, I think, are valid titles? Either way, I love this album. It’s my favorite. I like featuring it every year; I hope you enjoy it as well.

Coming up this week on Smart Bitches, we have stuff. We have a new edition of Kickass Women in History and a new episode of Redheadedgirl’s Historical Kitchen. We have a recap of the latest Outlander, and get ready on Monday: we’ve got Cover Snark to make your week start off on the perfect note, because you want more weird abs and nipples in your week, right? Of course. I know you love Cover Snark; we have a new edition; it’s going to be great. We also have reviews of new books, a new Gift Guide, and of course Books on Sale and Help a Bitch Out. I hope that you will stop by and join us.

We will have links in the show notes to this episode for all of the things that we talked about, including some video of Luke Evans and Taron Egerton trying to out-Welsh-pronounce each other, which is pretty great? And I actually found a website that will teach you how to sound that, say that really long town name, and I still haven’t done it yet, so maybe if I do that I’ll do that in a future podcast, and somebody from Wales’ll be like, no! Don’t ever do that again!

As always, I have a terrible joke, and this one is no exception. This is from Kim. Are you ready for this terrible joke?

What cheese is most effective to summon a bear?

What cheese is most effective to summon a bear?

Camembert.

[Laughs] I’m going to tell this to actual French people, and they’re never going to speak to me again. It’s going to be great! Camembert! Do your holidays involve a lot of cheese? I don’t know what it is, but somehow we end up with more cheese in the house at the holidays, no matter what is going on, whenever Hanukkah is, it’s early, it’s late, it’s never on time, we’ve got a lot of cheese, so now I want to eat, go eat some cheese, which doesn’t always equate to good things for me. But either way.

Thank you to Amanda and to everyone who wrote in and left us messages, and thank you for listening. It is always a pleasure to know that I am hanging out in your eardrums.

On behalf of Amanda and everyone here, I wish you the very best of reading. Have a great week, and we will see you back here next week!

[graceful music]

This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.

Transcript Sponsor

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke

Today’s podcast is sponsored by The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor. If your catnip is a redeemed hero like Lisa Kleypas’ Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, you’ll love Janna’s latest historical romance in the Cavensham Heiresses series.

When Lady Daphne Hallworth is accidentally left home alone at the holidays, she uses the time to work on her dream―opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: She’s in a battle to win the property for the home against her brother’s best friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all—someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome Duke will solve both their problems?

Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. When a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: He will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along?

Red-Headed Girl says The Good, the Bad, and the Duke is “super cute and adorable. MacGregor writes like a warm cozy blanket.”

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor is on sale now wherever books are sold. Find out more at jannamacgregor.com.

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