Chelsea: Hello, and welcome to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperbacks, a cheerful and irreverent book club podcast all about genre fiction, fandom, and the things that make us happy.
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: Alright, on today’s episode of Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperbacks we are gonna wrap up some of the media we’ve currently been consuming. Then we are going to talk about our pick for this fortnight, Tessa Dare’s When a Scot Ties the Knot, the third book in her Castles Ever After series. And then we will wish you all a fond farewell by talking a little bit about what’s coming up ahead in the future. As always, I’m Chelsea.
Claire: I’m Claire.
Kay: And I’m Kay.
Chelsea: And, uh, I am currently reading something that I’m really excited about. I ordered it forever ago and it finally came in the mail. It is the Love Is Love graphic novel. I don’t know if any of you guys saw that pop up. It came out right after the, uh, Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. It is IDW and DC publishing together. Put together this compendium of queer stories, queer love stories that all have happy endings, by queer creators. It’s just the most lovely, beautiful thing. And it’s just full of all different forms of queer identity and sexual identity and expressions of love and it’s beautiful and it’s all done in like rainbow colors and palettes. And it’s got some of your DC people you’ll recognize. Yeah. I’m just. It’s really, really, like, a very positive piece of media in a realm that doesn’t always get a lot of positive representation and a good chunk of the profits went to benefit Pulse Orlando. Which, I’m always here for philanthropic media. But. Yeah. Uh. You know. It’s good. Good. Positivity is good. Always looking for more positivity. So.
Claire: That sounds really lovely.
Claire: I, uh, just actually got a Gail Simone comic for my birthday from, uh, my friend Nick who does the Moderate Fantasy Violence podcast and he knows a lot more about comics than I do so this, uh. I’m really looking forward to it. But what I’m reading at the moment is equally exciting. And it is Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day which is the new novella by Seanan McGuire.
Claire: I stopped reading Seanan to talk to you guys.
Claire: I hope you appreciate how much that means.
Kay: That’s how we know that we’re loved.
Chelsea: That’s true love right there.
Claire: Yeah, uh, I spent a lot of time over the Christmas holidays kind of, uh, I spent a bunch of time over Christmas, like, flagging all the things that I want to read and potentially review and, like, asking for things on Netgalley and some of them are now coming in. Which is really, really super exciting. So.
Claire: I have to, like, chop chop and read pretty fast.
Claire: Yeah. And since you said media and not just books, I am also now watching Yuri on Ice.
Chelsea and Kay: [in unison] Yesssss.
Chelsea: It’s so good!
Kay: I just rewatched the whole thing while my friend Cory was visiting, and it was his first experience. And as soon as we were done I was like, ‘What did you think?’ And he said, ‘I wish there was a second season.’ Which is the exact correct reaction to watching Yuri on Ice. [laughs]
Chelsea: Such a good reaction. Yeah, I write over at the Snark Squad website doing pop culture recaps and I am solely responsible for recapping all of Yuri on Ice. So those are gonna start going up in the next couple of weeks.
Chelsea: So I am very excited ‘cause it means doing a third rewatch. So.
Chelsea: I think I might finally be able to get done some of the land based choreography for the Eros dance, and I —
Chelsea: This just brings me no end of, like, joy.
Claire: Yeah, I’ve been kind of pacing myself on that because I know it’s short and I don’t want to be done too soon, but I’m so happy that I’m, like, starting to understand all the jokes —
Claire: — everybody’s making. Like. I’ve not had a lot, I’ve not had this much, that many people talking about a thing that sounds awesome in my feeds since, like, Hamilton.
Claire: So. I’m like, if it ends up being as good.
Chelsea: And it’s so unapologetically gay. And I just love it so much because you hear about it going in and you’re thinking it might be one of those, like, winks and nudges and people are just reading into the media, things.
Chelsea: But it’s so gay!
Kay: Real gay.
Chelsea: [laughs] So good.
Kay: I don’t know if either of you listen to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast?
Kay: But the most recent episode when they were talking about their things that make them happy at the end of the episode, one of them was talking about how his daughter love Yuri on Ice and that it was a gay ice skater anime cartoon. And I was like, I don’t know if that’s exactly how I would describe it, but yes. And great. This is getting, like, really mainstream when they’re talking about it on an NPR podcast.
Claire: Oh, I would’ve loved that as a teenager because I was all over the anime and I would read a lot of CLAMP, and. But the ones that I was watching, I can’t recall all the names now, but the ones I was watching I remember getting quite annoyed at, like, the fact that it was a dude and a million girls and how he was, like, kind of maybe in love with all of them. And I’m just like no.
Claire: And not in a good kind of poly way, right? Like, just.
Kay: [laughs] Not in a good way.
Chelsea: No, but like in a manwhore-y, like, centralizing cishet relationship-y kind of way.
Claire: Yeah, well, you know. Yuri on Ice doesn’t, so far, have, like, a lot of, like, enormous anime boobs.
Claire: Which, like, no.
Kay: Which is a great thing, ya know?
Chelsea: No. There’s a lot of very —
Claire: [singsongs] That’s not how gravity works.
Chelsea: [singsongs] That’s not how gravity works.
Chelsea: Uh, little bit of body shaming.
Chelsea: Not so thrilled with it.
Kay: I was super bummed.
Chelsea: There’s quite a bit of body shaming and, it– on the one hand, I get it because it’s, like, the thing in professional sports.
Chelsea: Especially things like figure skating. At the same time, like, eh there were certain times in certain episodes where I’d be like awwww. That’s mean.
Kay: It was so unnecessary, though.
Chelsea: But. So.
Kay: They could’ve at least not used the fat-shaming language even if they were like, ‘he needs to lose some weight.’
Chelsea: Yeah. Or, like, you don’t have to make it like ‘you have to do x, y, z to earn your favorite, like ramen bowl.’ And, like, mmmmm.
Claire: Oh, yeah. I mean, if you start denying me food I’m gonna get over my, like, lifelong crush on you very quickly.
Chelsea: Well, yeah, man.
Claire: Just saying.
Chelsea: When I want pizza you can go fuck yourself. I’m an adult. You can’t. [laughs] That’s not. That’s not how that’s gonna, like, happen.
Kay: [sighs] Now I want a pork cutlet bowl.
Chelsea: So good. That show made me really hungry.
Kay: So good!
Chelsea: Just across the board.
Kay: That show makes me really, really hungry. Okay, we have to stop talking —
Chelsea: Okay, we. yeah.
Kay: We have to stop talking about Yuri on Ice.
Chelsea: What are you reading, Kay? What books are you reading?
Kay: [sighs] So, I’m on a bad run. I’m not gonna talk about ‘em, but I just read three romance novellas in a row —
Kay: — that I gave two stars to.
Kay: They were all just real mediocre. I was not particularly impressed.
Chelsea: That’s unfortunate.
Kay: But I’m still reading Men Fail at Everything: A Space Opera.
Kay: It’s going — and I’m doing those on audio. That’s, for those just tuning in, that’s the James SA Corey Expanse series. I’m still on the third one. That I still don’t know how to say. Is it Abaddon’s Gate? Abaddon’s Gate? Who the fuck knows how you say this?
Kay: I dunno. Anyways.
Claire: Probably the people that work at Abaddon Publishing, but.
Claire: I don’t know if, I was wondering if that was a thing.
Claire: Like. A thing, you know. A thing in scifi that I don’t know about? Because it seems a lot of different things are named that, but.
Kay: I’m still reading the Expanse. It’s going kind of slow. This one I’m not loving quite as much. And I’m just about to start, um, the Mira Grant collection Rise, which is all stuff from the Feed universe. So it’s mostly, as far as I can tell it’s mostly short stuff that she already had out and it’s just compiled, and then a few new things.
Kay: So. Looking forward to that.
Claire: I was thinking about picking that up ‘cause I’ve read a lot of those online and I generally quite like them, but yeah. I, uh.
Chelsea: I have feelings about the Feed series.
Kay: So, I think that the original trilogy, like, the first book is about as close to a perfect, like, near future scifi mystery as you can get. And then I thought the second and third books were just kind of dropping off in quality.
Kay: And, like, that’s.
Chelsea: The first book is the only zombie book I’ve ever read and liked. It’s like one of the few zombie novels I feel like really does it. That series.
Kay: Not a World War Z fan?
Chelsea: That series just makes me uncomfortable.
Kay: No spoilers, but me too.
Claire: No, no, no spoilers, but I love zombies and I loved Feed. I literally. I was listening to it on audiobook and, uh, as I was doing some, like, data transfer at work. I had to go and hide in a bathroom to cry when the big thing happened.
Claire: That will not be discussed.
Claire: And then I read the, it’s one of those —
Chelsea: Are we talking about the first book? Or just —
Chelsea: I, yeah. Yeah, okay.
Chelsea: I know what we’re talking about.
Chelsea: It, see. But it’s the later books. Some of the dynamics that change in the later books that give me, like, squicky afterthought feelings about that series as a whole. And —
Chelsea: I love Seanan McGuire. And her work under Mira Grant, like I said, I thought that first book was so good, and like. [sighs] There were just some decisions made in some of the other books where I was just like hmmmmm. I don’t know about that.
Claire: Yeah. Well, I. It’s one of those where I started it with the audiobook. I loved it. And then I switched to the physical books.
Kay: The audio for those is good.
Claire: And they didn’t. I didn’t manage to read them quite as, quite as quickly. And I, like, dropped the second one in the middle of it ‘cause I’m actually quite bad at reading physical books. I’m trying to get better at it, but I just have a tendency of putting them down, like, randomly. And this one I was enjoying, but, I put it down. And I think, partly, it’s because of the thing that is squicking you out. I think I know what it is.
Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah.
Claire: [laughs] Which, like, is fine, ‘cause it’s, like, a book. It’s not real life. But still kind of squick. Um. So. Eh. But, like, I, all of the other things around it. Like, all of the other things around that series that, like, talk about the plague, that, um.
Claire: [laughs] Yeah.
Chelsea: Yeah, like the universe. And I think that that collection, Kay, might be really interesting because I love the universe that she created.
Chelsea: And the way she structured, like, how she has her zombies and the way that whole, like–
Chelsea: — medical crossover thing worked. It’s just the relationships in the later Feed series that made me kind of meh.
Kay: Did either of you read Feedback, which is the one that came out fairly recently that’s like parallel to Feed? ‘Cause I did read that.
Chelsea: No, but I put it on my TBR because it was just about the first book, like it’s with the first book.
Chelsea: Not so…?
Kay: It starts so slow. Like, I don’t have any of the squick problems that I do with the first trilogy, but, like, I feel like most people who are reading that are probably going to be people who read Feed. And maybe that is a silly assumption. But it literally takes like third of the way into a 500 page book, or something, before she really gets into the plot. It’s mostly worldbuilding stuff. And I could be exaggerating that number in my head ‘cause it just felt really slow. But.
Chelsea: But no, I don’t think it’s an unfair assumption —
Chelsea: — to think that most people who are reading, like, a reversal or a parallel telling of a thing have read the first thing.
Kay: And it wasn’t terrible! Like, it’s still a Seanan book.
Chelsea: Well, yeah.
Kay: Mira Grant. Whatever.
Kay: It’s still Seanan writing. It’s not bad. It just was not as good as I was hoping.
Claire: Well, I think the thing is she is a gifted writer.
Claire: So it’s going to, you know, but it, whether it does it for you. ‘Cause I read the first book in her Seanan McGuire series, the Toby Daye series —
Claire: — and I thought it was very well done.
Chelsea: The best thing. So good.
Claire: Hmmm, I’m not.
Kay: I love those. I LOVE those.
Claire: [sighs] Yeah, but I, I hate faeries. Like, I just.
Chelsea: Yeah. I mean, if you can’t do faeries.
Claire: I just hate the fae court.
Chelsea: Those books just aren’t gonna do it for ya.
Claire: I almost dropped that book at like, after the first, um, after she gets turned into a fish for twenty years. Or however long it is.
Chelsea: That’s like the first ten pages!
Kay: I was gonna say! Isn’t that the first chapter? [laughs]
Claire: I had the audiobook and I almost returned it after that because it made me so fucking sad.
Claire: Like, I was like, ‘this book is making me miserable.’
Kay: It’s very sad!
Claire: Do I want to keep going?
Kay: Her stuff is always sad.
Chelsea: I mean, and I read the second one and some of the plot things are a little, like, sideeye-y, but, like, in a fun way. And she manages to make her faeries political enough that, like, I’m into it.
Kay: I think they’ve progressively gotten better, too. I think every book in that series has gotten better.
Chelsea: I was gonna say, I’ve only read the first two and I think they just published, like, the thirteenth one?
Chelsea: So, like, there’s plenty there for me to get through.
Kay: My favorite one was, like, the eleventh or twelfth one.
Kay: Which, like, I never, I NEVER fucking stay with a series that long, okay? Like I’m usually, ‘there’s no way the quality drop off was not huge.’
Kay: That’s me. I am the cranky person saying there’s no way this series needs to be this long. And I think they’re still getting better! And I’m that cranky old man!
Kay: Who’s like ‘you need to quit your series after seven.’ [laughs]
Chelsea: As long as you get a solid cast of characters you can just keep having adventures.
Chelsea: In whatever way you want for as long as people buy your books and you have, like, stories to tell. Like, that’s the great thing about…like it’s been, like, forever since I’ve been into an episodic series like that.
Chelsea: So. That’s part of what’s exciting about it. So. Yeah.
Claire: I mean, the last time I read anything this long was the Dragonriders of Pern. So. You know. Like.
Claire: This was a one time phenomenon for me.
Claire: Like, reading this many books in a series.
Claire: Um. So. Eh.
Claire: It might be good to go back and check it out again because I’ve definitely heard Seanan speak at events and say if you’re going to, like, there are things you need to know from the plot of the first book, but if you can, if you’re not a completist, if you can just be told some stuff.
Claire: And you can move on?
Claire: You can definitely start with like the second novel, or something like that. So.
Chelsea: The second one’s fun. The second one’s got a fun plot. I like. Yeah. The second one’s good.
Chelsea: Alright, well I think that about wraps up what we are currently reading. Which will then take us into our discussion of When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare.
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: Uh, this is the first book that we have talked about so far that not all of us had read. This one came via Kay, our kinda in-house romance reader.
Chelsea: So she pointed us to this. The kind of basic plot of the book, um, is that Madeline Gracechurch is a kind of woman of society, but she doesn’t want to do the whole social season. She’s very shy, she feels very anxious. So to get out of that she invents a betrothed. She kinda goes on a vacation and then when she comes back tells her whole family that she had this whirlwind romance with this Scottish military captain, uh, named Logan. Logan MacKenzie. And of course, then, now they are engaged and in love and she can skip out on trying to find an actual husband because she writes these fake penpal letters to her imaginary husband. And her life goes on like this and she kind of invents their whole relationship and eventually, you know, kills him in battle because she doesn’t want to have to keep writing letters to him and goes about her life. And one day as she is living with her, kind of, spinster aunt in this castle that her godfather has left her, guess who shows up on her front door? Logan motherfucking MacKenzie.
Chelsea: And he’s here to collect on, essentially, the life that she created for him in her fake letters. Turns out when you post letters to the Scottish army under a fairly popular name like Logan MacKenzie they might just find their way to a soldier named Logan MacKenzie. Um, and so the, his Scottish regiment is home from war. He and his men need a place to stay. Here is this English landowner, this English noblewoman who is basically promised to him. And when he comes to collect, hijinks ensue.
Kay: Hijinks totally ensue. [laughs]
Chelsea: And sparks fly. And things happen with lobsters. And tiny spectacles.
[Kay keeps laughing]
Chelsea: And there’s a lot of good talk about mental health stuff and man, yeah. I just really liked this book. We definitely have some things to talk about. Alright. So. Somebody else talk now.
Chelsea: ‘Cause I just talked for a really long time. So. Somebody else talk now. [laughs]
Kay: [laughs] I could see Claire making faces through that whole thing.
Claire: So, well, first of all, as the resident, like, person who lives in the UK I’ll point out that Logan MacKenzie was in the British Army.
Kay: British Army, yeah.
Claire: Not the Scottish Army.
Chelsea: That’s fair.
Claire: That is, like, part of, like —
Chelsea: The tension?
Claire: The crux of the problem.
Claire: And the tension, which is about the kind of, uh —
Chelsea: I will don my, like, ignorant American world history hat.
Chelsea: And say that I dropped the ball on that one a little bit. But. Good call, Claire. That is definitely an important thing to have correct. [laughs]
Claire: Yeah, so it’s one of those things where, that time in history where, uh, Scottish people are kind of being pushed further and further out of their land by, by British landowners like you said, by English landowners. Um. There’s so many things I liked about this book and so many things that annoyed me about this book.
Claire: And, ya know, it’s kind of one of those where it’s like I like it enough that I just want to fix it.
Kay: [laughs] So.
Chelsea: So, what didn’t you like? Like, not that I always want to —
Chelsea: — start off with, like, the bad foot, but. What didn’t you like?
Kay: No, but that’s good.
Claire: Well, mostly the problem for me is that when I was reading the beginning of it I had a very strong idea of where it might go.
Claire: And I read it on my commute in the morning and I read, like, you know, twenty percent of it. They were just getting married when I got to work. And, you know, I had a certain idea of how things would go in my head and then it happened completely differently.
Claire: So that was interesting to me. Like, I really, really, really like the arranged marriage, marriage of convenience, fake marriage, fake relationship, all these tropes in fanfiction.
Chelsea: For the record, I do not. Claire and Kay do, but I, that is not one of those tropes that sticks out to me.
Claire: Well, and I think maybe the fact, maybe the thing is that I’ve read a lot more of things that are like this than you have.
Chelsea: Very true.
Claire: And so I’m, like, a bit pickier. I don’t know.
Chelsea: That’s probably very true. It’s very true.
Claire: But the thing is I’ve read a lot of it in a modern setting.
Claire: Which is a bit different.
Claire: And, also, again, one of the reasons I like reading fanfic and generally, you know, slash fic or femslash, is that you don’t end up having some of the conflict based on gender and on gender, like, expectations and differences or whatever. Which is always a bit fraught. I just assumed that they would get married and consummate their marriage and have, like, and snog, and have a bunch of sex and suddenly, and slowly catch feelings as you go along the book and, you know, slowly fall in love with each other.
Claire: Like, by getting to know each other.
Claire: Which, it would’ve been, for me, a lot better, but because you have this plot where she realizes that, like, her final bargaining chip is that they’re not married until they’ve consummated their marriage.
Claire: She holds off. And, like, you end up, for half the book it’s like ‘come on, have sex with me, already’ and she’s like ‘fine, but no.’
Chelsea: [laughs] Yeah.
Claire: And he keeps pushing and it’s like, there, there’s, she tries to walk this very fine line, Tessa Dare, the author, tries to walk this really fine line when it’s very explicit that he, like, always waits for her to, like, verbally say yes or no before he does anything.
Claire: And it’s not like, he’s like, ‘I’ve been at war for a really long time. I have lost a lot of my humanity, but not that.’ And.
Claire: So. You know. She really does try. But. Like. He is pushy about it. ‘Cause he wants to secure the land.
Chelsea: Well, yeah. Like, at the end of the day he’s there for a reason and the reason he’s there kind of exists independent of whether or not she consents to it. ‘Cause, like, he blackmails her when he arrives, essentially. Saying, ‘I have all these letters you wrote me. I’m going to take them to your father. I’m going to take them to the, you know, gossip rags. I’m gonna ruin you, basically, in any way I can, unless you marry me and do all the things you promised in your letters.’ And, like, it’s ya know. It’s, eh. It’s one of those things where it is kind of easy to kind of, just, accept and get on with for the sake of the story. But there’s some weird, underlying kind of consent things going on there of, like.
Chelsea: Is it really, can she really consent to do it if he’s holding her hostage for it? And like, or at least that’s what stuck out to me about it.
Claire: But it’s not. Yeah.
Chelsea: And so that’s why they kinda tried to do the halfway, like, we’re married but it’s not consummated, so, like, we kinda both have a vested stake here. And, like.
Kay: And they do make it clear beforehand he’s like, ‘I’m not expecting anything from you after we consummate.’ Like, before they get, before they have the handfasting. He’s like, ‘I’m not expecting anything other than for us to consummate and then you can continue to do your work that you wanna do and blah blah blah.’
Chelsea: But, like, legally —
Chelsea: We have to have sex one time. That’s how marriage works.
Kay: And at that point, she is fine with that.
Chelsea: Then, yeah. Of course because this is not a hundred and fifty page novella, it’s a three hundred and fifty page book, so other shit happens.
Chelsea: And they have to, you know, there’s a lot of back and forth and — I also thought they would’ve consummated way earlier in the book. It just didn’t.
Chelsea: The reasons they didn’t, they chose not to, always seemed relatively plausible within, like, the context of what was happening.
Claire: Yeah, I suppose what, I suppose the thing that made it difficult for me to find the whole thing, you know, like, sexy or whatever [laughs], was like, although. No. ‘Cause it, that, that —
Claire: — the sex scenes are very sexy.
Kay: I was like, ummm…
Chelsea: It’s still pretty sexy, ya know, I’m just saying.
Claire: Mmhmm. No, no, smooshing, the smoochy bits are pretty sexy, but —
Claire: — the, the idea is that, you know, they don’t. They agree that they’re gonna get married and then the reason that she can’t go through with it, or the reason that she doesn’t want to go through with it for a while, is, like, actually it’s not as simple as we’ll get married and I’ll now own this property and you can’t boot the Scots out of the land, anymore.
Claire: It’s that, there is more to it than that. Like, if they get married, even if he said you can pursue your work it, it’s still, like, he can change his mind about that. He owns everything, you know? Like, the fact that there is sexism and the patriarchy —
Claire: — means that she has to be super careful about it.
Claire: And that, kind of —
Chelsea: And she has good reason not to trust him.
Chelsea: I mean, he’s there blackmailing her.
Claire: Right. Right, right.
Chelsea: And then asking her to trust him to keep his word. That’s, like.
Kay: He also has good reason not to trust her, because she’s been lying to her nearest and dearest for six plus years by the time they meet. Yeah.
Chelsea: Like Claire was saying, she’s an English land owner on Scottish land which already includes a whole history’s worth of tension and backstory and conflict there, so. But that’s part of what I love about this book.
Kay: Which is specifically addressed, yeah.
Chelsea: Yeah. There are so many of those layers. There’s the intimate layer of the two of them, kind of, the politics of their relationship, kind of both trying to get what they want. In the backdrop of the gender dynamics. One of my favorite scenes in this book is when they go to a ball to try to get her a job with the assumption that if she can secure herself this job then she can give Logan the castle. Give Logan the property.
Chelsea: She won’t need it anymore. She’ll have a way of earning her own income. And she gets there and, of course, all the work that she’s already done is ignored. People are literally taking credit for her work. She is not acknowledged in any fashion. And, like, Logan is not fucking having it, man. And, like, he doesn’t —
Chelsea: He’s not gonna let that fly. And so there’s a bigger discussion of gender politics and then the actual politics of Scotland v England. And the war that’s happening. And so there’s all these, like, nesting dolls of things going on. And I feel like that’s really what made the book fly for me even as some of those not sexy times that I wanted to be happening weren’t there. [laughs] There wasn’t enough of them. The ones that were there were really good, but there just weren’t enough of them.
Kay: I think that there’s maybe eight sex scenes in here? That’s quite a few for a non-erotica romance.
Chelsea: Now I’m trying…are we all trying to count ‘em in our heads? I’m counting in my head and seeing if I get to eight.
Kay: [laughs] I’m counting and hmm…
Chelsea: ‘Cause I’m like…there’s the one…
Kay: I totally should have bookmarked them. [laughs]
Chelsea: There’s the first one where they…’cause I guess it all depends, and this is such an inane conversation to have.
Chelsea: But I guess it depends on how you define sex scene. ‘Cause, like, you know. If, there are only boobs involved.
Kay: I mean, they don’t consummate till, like, the two hundred and something-th, the two hundred and seventieth page or something.
Chelsea: Well, no. There’s the one where he goes under her skirts. There’s the one in the kitchen. There’s the one where she goes down on him. There’s the one where they consummate. That’s only four. In my opinion, if only boobs come out, it doesn’t count.
Chelsea: Like, it doesn’t count if only boobs are involved. So, maybe…
Kay: Did you count the mutual masturbation one?
Chelsea: Oh, no, I don’t think I go that one. That’s five. That’s a good one.
Kay: It’s a really good one.
Chelsea: You don’t get a lot of mutual masturbation in romance novels. That’s a good one. Yeah. That’s a good one. Maybe there are eight.
Kay: I’m pretty sure there’s a couple more.
Claire: I dunno.
Kay: I could be wrong.
Claire: Even for a romance novel the boob scenes in this one are pretty explicit. Like…
Chelsea: I do like the one where —
Kay: They’re pretty sexy.
Chelsea: — she wears it backwards under her bra? Basically? [laughs]
Kay: [laughs] Yeah, like, she has a nightgown and then a nightgown buttoned the other way underneath.
Claire: Yes. [laughs]
Kay: So it’s, like, a double layer. [laughs]
Claire: And he’s like, ‘don’t you trust me?’ and she’s like ‘oh, I don’t trust myself.’
Kay: I don’t trust me!
Chelsea: Don’t trust myself.
Chelsea: Which is, like, such a corny romance novel line, but also works so well. Speaking of which.
Kay: It definitely works for them. [laughs]
Chelsea: [laughs] Yeah. It works there. I really like the dialogue repetition that they do. When they go, ‘remember when?’
Claire: I love that. So cute.
Chelsea: And then fill in the future memory?
Kay: I loved that.
Chelsea: It doesn’t happen a ton, but every time it happens it works really well. It’s just such a little thing that’s so sweet —
Chelsea: — that by the time that they get to the end of the novel and, like, they’re having a baby? Just, like, my head exploded. My heart melted. My brain just, like, exploded. It was so good.
Kay: Which, I’m not usually a ‘we need to have an epilogue where everyone’s married and has a baby’ person, but, like, it really works for them. [laughs]
Kay: Claire, no. [laughs]
Claire: Well, I mean, like, there’s definitely a line, there’s definitely a line earlier in the book where both of them say they don’t want children. And then they don’t talk about it again until she’s pregnant. Which, like, if they were lying to each other and then they tell each other oh, well, no, I lied, I definitely want a family. Then that would be fine. But we’re just left to expect that they lied because that’s what, like, aligns with traditional family dynamics? Which is just. Eh.
Kay: I assume that there was a conversation that happened offscreen. Because it’s in her head at that point, when they have that conversation, right? It’s in her viewpoint? And she was definitely lying because she loves babies. And, like, we talk about throughout the book his mommy issues and abandonment issues.
Chelsea: They never have the conversation.
Kay: So, like, I assumed that was a thing.
Claire: I think it makes sense in retrospect, because of all these things.
Claire: But I would’ve liked to see it on the page because I like, I like holding other people’s babies. I do not want one of my own. I mean.
Kay: Fair. And same.
Chelsea: That’s fair.
Claire: I don’t think it’s conclusive. I mean, you love Adorable Nephew.
Kay: Adorable Nephew is one of my favorite humans, but I don’t want one of my own.
Chelsea: But I think, kinda, I agree, Claire, I think it’s always important for those conversations to happen on the page. Just because.
Chelsea: It’s always important to get, like, to show those dialogues being had. I think in this case, I agree with Kay. Like, contextually we’re shown them with babies enough throughout the book that I think it’s kind of, like, implied or illustrated that while they may not want babies like when they say that, they’re both okay with babies.
Chelsea: And both are family type people. And, like, like I said. It would’ve been way better if they’d just —
Chelsea: — had a short conversation of like, ‘hey, remember how we changed our minds about having babies? Well, now we’re having one. Isn’t that great?’ But.
Claire: Yeah. But also the fact that it happens in the epilogue and that it’s clearly sometime later does really help.
Claire: Because then it’s not. You know.
Claire: Kind of sprung on you.
Chelsea: Not immediate. Yeah.
Claire: You know.
Kay: Speaking of epilogues, I forgot to send it to you guys, but! So Tessa Dare does her, you know, newsletter or whatever and her holiday newsletter this year was an additional epilogue.
Kay: So I will link that to you and we will have that in the show notes as well, if anyone is reading along with us.
Chelsea: Yay! That’ll be so exciting! ‘Cause yeah.
Claire: I really love holiday stories.
Chelsea: I like holiday stories. I really like Logan. I really like Logan a lot. And I didn’t think I would when he first got there ‘cause he was being all creepy with consent stuff, but.
Kay: I dunno, I mean —
Chelsea: He wears tiny glasses.
Chelsea: And he likes to read.
Chelsea: And he has, like, found family feelings with his military buddies.
Chelsea: And I’m just like. Which, like. That was just a huge thing for me. That military camaraderie kind of homosocial bonding thing is a dynamic I am usually here for, like, really hard. So I really liked it in this book.
Claire: Yeah, I mean, a lot of the things that I have that are issues for me are more like me thinking, ‘well, this was great, but I feel like storywise it would’ve worked better in this way.’ Or, then, narrative things? Like some things we discover about both of them at the end of the book feel like the rug being pulled out from under your feet. It’s not my favorite type of, you know, um, it’s not my favorite type of storytelling. Like, when you discover that the brooch is engraved with his mother’s initials and not a girlfriend’s, like, yeah, that was pretty obvious.
Kay: I was gonna say, I called that really early.
Chelsea: I didn’t!
Kay: So it didn’t bother me at all.
Chelsea: I had no idea! I just assumed it was some ex-girlfriend who ruined his heart.
Chelsea: Because that’s how evil wenches work in romance. So I just, like, figured it was some offscreen thing that [laughs] we were never gonna get to see.
Kay: His mom broke his heart.
Chelsea: So it turned out so much better when it turned out it was mommy issues! Like, so much, like, not easier to deal with, but just, such a different —
Chelsea: — just, all my anger went away and all my sympathy turned to eleven.
Chelsea: I was just like, poor Logan! Awww.
Claire: What I really did love, actually, was all the moments in Maddie’s own point of view where she was like, ‘no, I’m feeling sympathetic! I’m going to fall in love with him! He’s hot and I’m sympathetic! It has to stop!’
Kay: [laughs] He needs to do something terrible!
Chelsea: Like, I like that she says that out loud to him. You need to be an asshole.
Chelsea: ‘Cause you’re hot and I don’t wanna like you, so you need to be more awful.
Kay: There’s a point where she’s saying, ‘I need to turn around and see you with a baby.’ Right?
Claire: Like, you know, there’s a moment where he confesses to her, like, that he was really in love with her through her letters and she killed him off and he was upset. And there’s a moment where we discover the cause of, um, her fear of crowds. And it’s like. Like I was saying, a lot of my issues were more like how the story was told than the story itself.
Chelsea and Kay: Mmhmm.
Claire: Like, the moment at the end, with, um, with him telling her that he was kind of a bit in love with her because of her letters and then he was upset and she, like, killed him off and broke up with him by way of killing him off. And then the moment where you discover why Maddie’s afraid of crowds. Those both felt like things that should have been referenced earlier in their own points of view. And I was, like, yeah, but, uh, I, uh, why? The book’s almost finished!
Claire: How could I? Ah! You know, it’s a really difficult to be in the story for me if I can, if I have something like that, you know, that, like.
Chelsea: I find it, I don’t think that they needed to include the reason that they did for Maddie being socially anxious.
Chelsea: I think it’s fine. I think the reason fits. I just don’t think that she necessarily needed a reason. I don’t think that it necessarily needed to be like a PTSD type reaction. It could’ve just been social anxiety and, like, anxiety disorder and that kind of stuff.
Chelsea: So that one, I think, bothered me a little more. The Logan thing, for some reason, it just didn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because it’s…
Chelsea: I knew it was something. I knew that there was something with the letters that we weren’t talking about yet and so I just, kind of, saw it coming.
Claire: Yeah, I think sometimes it works and sometime it doesn’t. Because in the first Castle Ever After book that Kay also —
Chelsea: Romancing the Duke? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Claire: — also recommended, and we also loved it. And I can’t remember what it’s called.
Chelsea: Romancing the Duke is the first one.
Claire: Thank you.
Chelsea: You’re welcome.
Claire: In that one, there is also kind of a revelation at the end and that works a lot better because it’s something that when you reread the book if you reread her point of view, where she’s keeping this secret it would all make sense.
Claire: And he figures it out because he knows her so well and I was like, ‘Yes! I was hoping that it would be that!’
Chelsea: Mmhmm. Yeah. I agree. I think that part of that book works better, although on the whole I enjoyed this one more than I enjoyed Romancing the Duke.
Claire: Yeah, see —
Kay: There are things I like about Romancing the Duke, but.
Claire: In this one, I really love the beginning and there were bits where I had to stop reading to flail about it.
Claire: Like the poem at the dinner table.
Chelsea: Aw, it’s so good.
Kay: So great!
Chelsea: So, so good.
Claire: But, like, I think overall I like them both the same.
Chelsea: Well, did we, does anyone else have anything they’d like to talk about? Favorite parts we didn’t mention? Anything like that? Favorite lines?
Claire: Oh! Yes. I don’t have a favorite line.
Claire: But I have a favorite part.
Claire: And that is when they go and visit the, uh, tenants.
Claire: So she is trying to find these letters that he’s hiding and he catches her and she’s like, ‘I was thinking we should go visit the tenants tomorrow!’ Kind of, like, make up something on the fly, you know?
Claire: And then they go and they have this great interaction where he’s like, ‘Oh, you might want to stay away ‘cause you’re an English lady.’
Claire: ‘And, you know, they’re probably terrified to see you now, because, you know, I mean, I shouldn’t have worn this military coat.’
Claire: ‘They’re going to think that you’re going to evict them.’ Terrible. And she’s like, ‘Uhuh. Uhuh. Uhuh.’ And then she walks in there and everybody knows her because she does go there all the time. And she’s like, ‘Oh, by the way, here’s the ladies who are not married yet that would probably like to go and have a dance with your soldiers’ and all that kind of thing. And she knows all the children by name and she’s like, ‘Here’s this kid that I paid to have vaccinated, because vaccines are important’ and all that kind of stuff.
Kay: So great.
Chelsea: Which, like, yes for science. I like that, too, ‘cause he’s literally like mansplaining to her. ‘Just so you know, they might not like you because you’re British. Just so ya know.’
Claire: The English suck.
Chelsea: So. You know. And she’s like, ‘Oh, uhuh? Is that right?’
Claire: Just so you know how to be a landlady, or whatever, even though he’s never been there before, so, like. I don’t know how he thinks she’s, she’s been living there for maybe five years or something. I don’t know how he thinks that she’s not done this before. But, uh, yeah, it was really funny. Um.
Kay: Has she been living there that long?
Claire: I don’t know.
Kay: I’m trying to remember the timeline. I think it’s, like, maybe a year?
Chelsea: I think it’s like two years? But still. I mean, it clearly indicates what he thinks of her.
Kay: Yeah, yeah.
Chelsea: To assume that she’s been there for years and has never —
Kay: Silly English woman.
Chelsea: — gone to talk to the women who live on her land.
Chelsea: And who are, like, in her charge. [laughs] I just like when she comes out of the bathroom and he’s basically naked in bed with a tiny pair of spectacles on reading a book. That’s my favorite part. He just is wearing, he’s just this big, burly, like, Scottish man.
Kay: Okay, there’s a couple where, like, she comes out and he’s reading. So, like, the beginning of chapter 16 she comes out from behind her dressing screen and she says, ‘Oh, really, Logan, that just isn’t fair.’
[Chelsea starts laughing]
Kay: ‘He looked up from his reclined pose on her bedroom chaise lounge, his face partially hidden behind a book bound in dark green leather. “What? You’re reading Pride and Prejudice?” He shrugged. “I found it on your bookshelf.” Seeing him read any book was bad enough, but her favorite book? That was sheer torture. “Just promise me something, please,” she said. “What’s that?”’
[Chelsea laughs harder]
Kay: ‘“Promise me that I’m not going to come out from behind this screen one night and find you holding a baby.” That seemed the only possibility more devastating to her self control. He chuckled. ‘It doesn’a seem likely.”’ And I’m just like, she’s one of us!
Chelsea: ‘Cause you know he’s just like, he’s sprawled out, just holding this little book. Yeah. And he’s got, like, bear hands.
Kay: Well, he’s six feet tall. Like, they describe him as being really tall. So he’s probably, like, hanging off the end.
Chelsea: I just keep picturing this big muscled man with this little pair of glasses, like.
Chelsea: Good stuff.
Kay: We didn’t talk about Grant.
Claire: Oh, we did not talk about Grant.
Kay: Grant was…made me so sad.
Kay: But also so happy, ‘cause he was so nice to her. Until he wasn’t. [laughs]
Claire: I dunno, I quite like how it resolved, where, it wasn’t completely fixed. Like. Where, at the end he was starting to get more of the, his memory back.
Claire: I…I like the fact, the way it was portrayed, like, as a thing that happened to him that was going on and not like, oh, here’s Grant, he’s addled, or something terrible, you know? It’s not like a change that has happened to him that has made him a different, that has made him something else. It’s something that’s going on with him. And they are both, and they discuss how to handle it. She’s like, at some point he’s going to remember, at some point you’re gonna all get old and then you’re gonna have to explain to him why you’re, like, not seeing his babies, his little ones.
Claire: There’s, I mean, I can understand why Logan and the other military men —
Claire: — don’t want to tell this guy who’s got short term memory issues that, like, his family’s dead over and over again every day, but, you know, when he starts to remember that makes sense to tell him.
Chelsea: There’s not always that conversation about the future of how to live with and how to be the family member of somebody who’s struggling with something like the kind of amnesia and PTSD that Grant is suffering from.
Chelsea: Because it’s really hard. Not. Obviously, for him, but even more so for those around him. Like, not just the practicalities of, like you said, as he gets older, as his body starts to change, as those around him start to change, but just, like, the emotional toll of having to a) lie to him every time he asks and b) Logan bears a lot of that responsibility as the commander in charge of his platoon, or his garrison when that injury actually happened. And so there’s just a lot of layers of grief and guilt that come along with being the support system of somebody who’s going through mental illness that I think this book taps into in a way that is really nice because it’s a found family. There’s no genetic obligation. It’s all these military —
Chelsea: — and kind of other social bonds and so. I really think, I like Grant. And he’s so nice!
Kay: ‘You lucky bastard!’ [laughs] Every time he sees her, he thinks she’s pretty.
Chelsea: ‘You lucky bastard.’
Kay: Every time!
Claire: He’s like ‘damn, Logan!’
Kay: But I just like, in general, the way the book addresses disability and there’s, like, various moments throughout where I was just like A+. Like, you’ve got the guy who lost part of his arm, had part of his arm amputated. And she puts the baby in his arms and he’s like, ‘I can’t, like, look at my arm.’ And she says, ‘Mothers hold babies with one arm all the time.’ And she trusts him to take care of the baby and hold him for her and I’m just like [sniffles]
Claire: And I kept forgetting that was a thing? You know? ‘Cause, it’s like, they never make a big deal about it, that’s just a thing. You know? And he’s clearly, like, the second, he’s clearly the right hand man. He’s clearly like a second in command.
Chelsea: Callum? Uhuh.
Claire: Yeah. So, he’s clearly the most trusted of the advisors, you know, of the guys, so.
Chelsea: I’m trying to think, ‘cause. So, we talked a little bit about, um, Maddie, ‘cause Maddie also is, in the book they give her a specific incident when she’s younger. She suffers from being in the middle of a riot in a crowded kind of town square and that gives her, yeah. She’s almost trampled. And, for good reason, that gives her some very —
Kay: She’s almost trampled, yeah.
Chelsea: — anxious and, yeah, post traumatic symptoms towards being in crowds and being in kind of crowded places.
Claire: Yeah, and then she never tells anybody about it, either, because it, it happened to be whilst her mother was ill and when she comes home her mother’s died that night. And so she, like, never talks to anyone about it.
Claire: Which, like, is the kind of thing that could probably have really helped.
Chelsea: And so, like I mentioned earlier, I, while I understand and I think that it’s a fair enough situation to have happened to her in the context of the story, I don’t think it necessarily needed to have been there. I think that the way that her social anxiety presents itself could’ve just been left as part of her character and part of her personality and way of dealing with the world. Um. But that’s just from me, that’s just coming from a reader who, as someone with social anxiety for no reason, just like that’s a preference I have in the way I read mental illness. That’s gonna vary with every person.
Claire: I don’t really know a lot about social anxiety, myself, and how it manifests, but I have other phobias that, like, and you know I wouldn’t equate a phobia with a mental illness, ‘cause that’s completely different.
Claire: But, still. Those things have no rhyme or reason. They’re not rational. And we know that as we are experiencing them. So I was kind of, like, you know. It, it’s not necessarily a problem because this one book did it. It’s more that it feels like it’s something that happens in a lot of romance that I’ve read. Which is like, oh, here’s a character, that, like, male character has these good things and these bad things about him and also some trauma. Female character with good things and bad things and also some trauma. And they are hot and they, like, get together. [laughs] And, you know, it’s like, oh, you know, there’s like a girl in one of the Bridgerton books who has a fear of storms. And, again, it’s like, because there was a storm the night her mother died, or something. You know? So that particular thing I was like, I’ve read that before.
Kay: So, these are fair criticisms. I do want to point out that she talks about the fact that she was already very shy and quiet before this incident. So she did have the social anxiety, it just got way worse.
Chelsea: Like I said, within the context of her story, it’s very realistic that she would react the way she reacts given that she was probably already, like Kay said, it’s established that she was already pretty clearly on the path to being just kind of an anxious person and then this particular event just really catapulted that into the level of being, like, a neuroses. Like, to the point where she literally, like, has — and that was another thing I liked. Is that this book does panic attacks really well.
Chelsea: Or described, des — I’ll say it this way. In a way that I found incredibly relatable.
Kay: So well.
Chelsea: And felt true to my experience. I know panic attacks are different for everybody, but they describe her freezing and her inability to move even as her rational mind is trying to tell her to calm down. And, yeah.
Kay: It’s almost a dissociative episode, at one point, that felt really real to me.
Chelsea: I like that there are so many different forms of, not only, mental health concerns, but also physical disability throughout the book.
Claire: Yeah, and I also really like the way that Logan addressed it, where he was like, ‘Well, I don’t understand necessarily, but I also don’t understand necessarily what’s going on with some of my men. But, like, I know that it’s completely, you know, 100% real for them. And so I have to help. I have to do what I can.’
Claire: And how they’re trying to provide support and that, that’s really lovely. I mean, he does tell her that it’s a real thing and she says, ‘Oh, it’s silly. It’s silly to be scared. I bet you were never scared when you went into battle.’ And he’s like, ‘Haha, we were terrified all the time.’
Kay: Every time. Every time.
Kay: And I like that he doesn’t try to ‘fix’ anyone.
Claire: Yeah. Because of course a lot of people have told her before that there’s nothing to be scared of and all that kind of thing.
Chelsea: Which, like, when you are an anxious person? Does not help. Is like, not a thing that you want to hear. It is just like…because that’s the thing. Your brain knows that.
Kay: It’s the worst.
Chelsea: The rational part of your brain knows that.
Kay: Yeah, no.
Chelsea: The rational part of your brain is not the part that’s in charge right now, so it doesn’t matter.
Kay: We already know.
Chelsea: It’s all the other parts of your brain that are fucking up. So, it’s like, tell that to the —
Kay: Tell that to my rapidly fucking beating heart.
Chelsea: — so they. It’s so nice, like you were saying, Claire, to see him not saying any of that. He just, he forces her to breathe and to focus and to, he takes her away from it all and he just. Even if it’s not, like, put in those terms, he clearly has experience dealing with people in the midst of serious mental health struggles. And the way that he helps them cope and the way that he, himself, copes, is a really good example of how to do that when you have people in your life going through that kinda stuff. A+.
Claire: I’m, I mean, I did not know all that much about, ya know, any of this kind of like anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, even if you are exposed to something like that in, like, the silly medium of, like, a romance story, um, you know. And I’m saying silly because I read some silly things, not because the genre as a whole is silly, you know. Um, being exposed to things in fiction is really important to make you relate to it if you don’t know them personally. And I think, that, ya know, I’m glad that there are things like that in romance novels and that it’s not, just, you know. The idea that you can have of a genre when you don’t really know it, um, which can be very limited. And, and not this in-depth.
Chelsea: I bet a lot of people who don’t read romance would not expect that most of this conversation would’ve been about political structures between England and Scotland, and dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and mental health. Romance is awesome. And, here’s the thing. We got to talk about all of that.
Chelsea: And there was also really hot sex happening. So, like, all the things.
Kay: Really, really good sex.
Chelsea: I think that is a solid note to end on.
Kay: I think we’re good.
Chelsea: I think we’ll move on towards wrapping it up by talking a little bit about what is to come.
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: Alright, so then moving on to next up on the list. We are officially starting our rotation of titles. Which means we will each pick one and the other, you know, we’ll all read it together. First up is Kay. Kay picked the first one. And our next read is going to be Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee. This is an #ownvoices bisexual Asian American young adult novel, um, about Jessica Tran, who is the daughter of superheroes and goes to a high school full of superheroes and is basically dealing with the life of being surrounded by people who are super. [laughs] And what happens when that’s your life and you also happen to be a teenager. So, yeah. Kay told us about it and it just checked so many boxes for diversity and for the things we’re interested in. Superheroes and all those things. So that is the next book that we will be talking about in a fortnight. In two weeks when you come back to join us.
Chelsea: It’s so exciting! I’m so excited to get into our first rotation pick. Thing. And in terms of what we all have going independently, I have just put up a review of the Oh Joy Sex Toy webcomic and the graphic novels that came out as a part of that. That video just went up on my channel and by the time this goes up we should have a review of Stories of Your Life and Others which is the short story collection that the Arrival short story came from. Which I believe is by…Ted Liu? Ted Chiang. Ted Chiang.
Kay: It’s a really good collection.
Chelsea: I have the Ken Liu book, Paper Menageries, I bought them both at the same time. So I think in my brain I’ve combined them into one giant story collection. Um, but yeah. That’s really all I’ve got going at the moment. What about you ladies?
Claire: Well I have just put up, before we started recording, my most anticipated releases of the beginning of 2017 video, and that has seventeen books and I was just thinking oh my goodness. If I’m trying to read those seventeen novels plus do, like, rereads and reading for the podcast and whatever. I don’t know how I’m going to fit everything in, but, uh, there’s a lot of exciting books in there and I, I cannot wait.
Chelsea: You probably won’t fit it all in. This is the curse of all of our lives.
Claire: Sh! Don’t say that. I don’t wanna know!
Chelsea: [laughs] I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m that person.
Kay: You can try. You can try! [laughs]
Chelsea: I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I can’t help it!
Kay: Such a Debbie Downer, Chelsea.
Chelsea: Alright, what d’you got going on?
Kay: I have been swamped with house guests for, like, weeks. I, there’s been many people at my house. I have not been getting very much non-necessary work done, but I don’t think I mentioned in our last episode I did post my fifty favorite fanfics from 2016 on the blog. Um, so there’s lots of fic recs for you guys to read and we’ll be sure to link that. And I’m still doing Fic Rec a Day for Star Trek on Twitter.
Chelsea: Well, I think then, um, that about wraps it up? I’m pretty sure we’ve covered everything. Join us in a fortnight, we will be talking about our next book by CB Lee. Until then, everybody have happy reading, and say goodbye, ladies!
Kay and Claire: Bye!
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: You’ve been listening to Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperbacks, a podcast made by three online besties and all-around lady nerds. Channel art provided by Claire Rousseau. Music credits to ‘Malt Shop Bop’ by Kevin MacLeod. You can get in touch with the sisterhood at email@example.com, @PaperbacksPod on Twitter, or at our website paperbacksisters.wordpress.com. You can reach Kay @kaytaylorrea on Twitter, Claire @ClaireRousseau, and Chelsea @anoutlawlife. Additional credits and show notes will be available at our website. Thank you so much for listening. [Double speed] No paperbacks were harmed in the making of this program.