011. A Midnight Feast by Emma Barry/Genevieve Turner with Kate Clayborn
This week, romance novelist Kate Clayborn (Love Lettering) and I talk a lot about work! We read A Midnight Feast, a marriage in trouble novella by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner.
A Midnight Feast begins on Thanksgiving day 1965 - a day of second chances! We discuss how it’s a subversive act to respectfully represent domestic labor on the page, why work is so often shorthand for identity and why that’s problematic, as well as why women’s work in particular is undervalued.
Bonus clip at the end of the episode featuring another special person!
Guest: Kate Clayborn:
- Holiday novella (out now): Missing Christmas (3.5 in Chance of a Lifetime)
- Love Lettering: Out Dec. 31, 2019
- Chance of a Lifetime Series
- HEA Apologist
- The Ariel Storm
- Mary Lynne Nielsen
- The Romance Mom
A Midnight Feast by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner
- Jen Prokop's thread: https://twitter.com/JenReadsRomance/status/1175892103727128580
- Kate’s subthread: https://twitter.com/kateclayborn/status/1177193605951344643
- Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner
- Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
- Making it Last by Ruthie Knox
- The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
- The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
- Tillie Olsen: I Stand Here Ironing https://www.shortstoryproject.com/story/i-stand-here-ironing/
- Heroines in white dresses
Life in the Iron Mills, and Other Stories By Rebecca Harding Davis
- Harper’s Bazaar article https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a12063822/emotional-labor-gender-equality/
Hello, I am thankful that you are here for episode 11 of Shelf Love, the podcast that uses romance novels as the text to discuss our selves, our relationships, and the society that we live in. Each week, my guest and I discuss a different romance novel, have some fun, and share crowdsourced contributions from other romance readers.
I’m your host Andrea Martucci and I’ve been reading romance novels since the first time butterfly hair clips were popular.
On this special Thanksgiving episode, I’m joined by author Kate Clayborn. Kate writes contemporary romance that makes you laugh, cry, and happy sigh. She wrote the Chance of a Lifetime series, which includes a holiday Novella called Missing Christmas which is out now, and her next book, Love Lettering, will be out Dec. 31, 2019.
This week, Kate and I talk a lot about work! We delve into her own writing, which explores the theme of work in various ways, and discuss A Midnight Feast, a marriage in trouble novella by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner. A Midnight Feast lays out a feast for our discussion about Thanksgiving (because it begins on Thanksgiving day 1963) as well as how it’s a subversive act to respectfully represent domestic labor on the page, why work is so often shorthand for identity and why that’s problematic, as well as why women’s work in particular is undervalued.
If you want to hear about upcoming guests and books, stick around after my conversation with Kate. There also may be a fun extra at the end...
A Midnight Feast Kate Clayborn
Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] so your first series of books was the chance of a lifetime series and were those the first books you published.
Kate Clayborn: Yes, those were the first books I published. Yes.
Andrea Martucci: Okay, awesome. And so, and is that series concluded now and now you're moving onto some stand-alones?
Kate Clayborn: It is. so it was originally a three book series, and then just. I guess the very beginning of November, I had a novella come out called Missing Christmas, and that novella had a couple of characters from that series.
and so now it is kind of officially complete. and my next book that's coming out, On new year's Eve is a standalone.
Andrea Martucci: Yes. And that's my birthday, so. Oh, exciting. Yeah. So I'm, I'm very excited about that day for several reasons. not least of which is love lettering coming out into the world.
Kini Allen was raving about the soft touch cover.
Kate Clayborn: Oh yes. The cover for this book is beautiful. When I first saw it, I just, I couldn't believe it. It's so lovely.
Andrea Martucci: And so love lettering, which at the time this episode comes out, which will probably be shortly before Thanksgiving, is still about a month away.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: And so of course, we're not asking you to ruin anything cause we all want to be able to pick the book up and be surprised. But
Kate Clayborn: yes,
Andrea Martucci: there's characters where careers kind of a core part of their identity and, and the heroine as I understand it, kind of loses her mojo.
Kate Clayborn: Yes. So they met when the heroin, Meg was, designing the programs for his planned wedding. Which never actually happened he seeks her out, because he thinks he has seen something in that wedding program, that told him, basically not to go through with his wedding. and so, yeah, in the book work is really an important part of her identity. her work as an artist and her work as a small business person.
and so. I think that at the start of the book, she's really creatively blocked. which is something for many reasons, it's difficult to write about, if you're a creative person. but it was also really interesting to write about it as well, to think about what are the sources of creative black?
How do we move past it? and thinking about creativity as work too, was an interesting part of writing this book. Because I think sometimes creative people are, sort of inculcated with the idea that creativity is somehow separate from labor, that it should be this thing that comes really naturally or spontaneously, and that it is different in some way than punching a clock.
Andrea Martucci: yeah. And that is kind of tainted by commerce also.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that, you know, that's not accurate. So, it was interesting to explore in the book. and I feel like as I was writing, I, I worked out a lot of thoughts about that, which was. Which is a great part of being a writer.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. It's like therapy, but I mean, you should also be in therapy, but then like more therapy.
Kate Clayborn: Yes.
Andrea Martucci: Practice.
Kate Clayborn: Yes, yes.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I mean that, that is the thing about writing, and this is the thing that all these people who are like, Oh, I could be a writer, or like, well, I'll be a writer one day.
I'll write my book one day maybe don't understand, is like you can sit down and write. You know, in an afternoon and you know, that's great. And you're like, Oh, that was really good. Like I would be a really good writer of books one day. But the hard part of writing and being a writer particularly of longer form novels and repeatedly doing that is that you have to get down and do that every day.
Like you can't wait for inspiration to strike you. You can't wait for all of the stars to align. And. Create the perfect conditions to feel creative it's a huge marathon and I assume you have to like pace yourself and care for yourself.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. I think it's like any skill, to that sort of, as you practice it, you learn new things about it, and there's so many stages to the creative process, right?
There's that sort of inspiration stage, and then there's. Planning stages and execution stages and, revision stages. I think there is labor to it and it's often really difficult labor. it's exhausting in a lot of ways. So, yeah, it was really interesting to take a step back and think about it.
in that way as I was creating this character.
Andrea Martucci: And so the heroin is a calligrapher, would that be the term?
Kate Clayborn: She's a hand letterer. So calligraphers and hand letters are slightly different. hand letters usually, or often sort of draw out letters or illustrate letters. whereas calligraphy is really.
Andrea Martucci: like one fluid motion
Kate Clayborn: focused on one, one stroke. Yeah. so Meg does more [00:05:00] illustrative lettering. and, but she does have a, a good friend in the book who is a calligrapher.
Andrea Martucci: And I think that we've all seen those videos on like Instagram or YouTube or something where somebody is hand lettering and it is so meditative to why, Oh my gosh, it is worth watching when you're having a bad day.
Like, you know, puppies, kit, hand lettering.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. and one, one thing that when I was, I would watch a lot of videos when I was kind of, Drafting the book, especially because Meg in the book does videos like that. and I, one of my favorite things to watch was, when people would post sort of two videos and the second video would be one that, they had not sped up like it, it showed the actual length of time it had taken them to draw the word.
and I thought that was so fascinating, right, because like the videos that are accelerated in speed. It makes it look so easy. Right. and then they would show the slowdown video. It would just be really fascinating.
Andrea Martucci: yeah, so you got to do a lot of fun research on this book.
I'm sure you get to do a lot of fun research on every book, but
Kate Clayborn: yes, I did.
Andrea Martucci: That's definitely not something I've ever seen in a romance novel before. Having a character who, who is an artist of this kind and,
Kate Clayborn: yeah, I hope people will like it and connect with it.
Andrea Martucci: it seems like they are, I mean, everyone is raving about the book already and so what can you say about what you're working on now.
Kate Clayborn: Well, I'm working on something new now, and it is also a standalone. and that I would tell you is about the only thing I can say about it. because as I've said before, when I'm really early in a drafting process, so many things can change for me, that I'm always really cautious about saying anything about the plot or the characters quite yet.
So I'm in the early stages of drafting something new.
Andrea Martucci: Cool. And you're probably just entering the whirlwind of, Like the heavy promo for the book since it's a month and a half out, right?
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. It's just a couple of months away and so now is when, you know, lots of things start happening.
Andrea Martucci: Cool. Any, any exciting events coming up with promoting the book?
Kate Clayborn: I'm hoping, that I will be doing some appearances around Valentine's day. and I'm particularly excited because I think one of those appearances will be in New York city, which is where love lettering is set. And New York city is really important to love lettering.
It's, it's a character in and of itself in the book. So I'm really excited to go back there and talk about the book, in the place that inspired it.
Andrea Martucci: And so you have a day job that is also high powered.
Kate Clayborn: I do, yes.
Andrea Martucci: And I'm curious, since you are now successful in two different careers, and honestly, I don't know, maybe you were successful in another career before, but, something I've noticed with romance novelist, I mean, there's a lot of.
Novelist who are, I mean, they've, they've already been like successful lawyers or doctors or political strategists, or like this or that or the other thing. and on the one hand, I'm like, obviously these are people who are really good at stuff, and then they, you know, transfer their attention to something else.
You know, there's plenty of people who have done things in their lives that, you know, outside world would not recognize as being like high powered in some way, and, and who are amazing talented writers.
I think the idea of like what we as a society laud as worthwhile careers it's interesting cause I know that I fall prey to it myself. Like the first question I want to ask people is like, what do you do? Like I'm looking for some clue to your identity and kind of what you decide to focus on and how ambitious you are and how competent you are.
And I think a lot about what messages I received about. W what the expectations were for myself. And particularly being a female and growing up with a lot of messages around what women can and can't do, what girls can and can't do. And I don't think I'm unique in my generation in having received the message that.
girls can grow up to be women who can do whatever they want. Like you can be a successful whatever you set your mind to. And, I spoke in a recent episode that hasn't aired yet with Alyssa Cole, about how. this, this is a big question, Kate.
Kate Clayborn: I'm ready.
Andrea Martucci: Okay. we were talking about diversity and how, I was listening to this podcast on, HBRS women at work.
these two researchers were researching like, why, the corporate world is. Not as friendly as everyone thinks to, women of color in the workplace. And one of the comments they made was that, [00:10:00] women of color are socialized to understand that they're going to face discrimination in the workplace and in life, and they're more prepared to understand that when things don't work out for them that.
a contributing factor can be discrimination and white women don't get that socialization. They're told you can do anything, you can do anything. And then, my personal experience with that is then being frustrated and internalizing that when something doesn't work out, it is entirely my fault as opposed to fully understanding there that there is still very much discrimination against women or biases.
And, things about women that, you know, you can do things that a man could do and would be successful and you're going to be penalized for it. And I just, I think it's, we're at this very interesting point where, you know, millennial women, I think certainly grew up with this like gung ho girl power, you can take over the world and I think it's like created this.
Cult of that is the only way you can succeed in life is if you do these things. But then also you're probably not always going to be able to be as successful, purely based on merit as you'd think, because we're not going to talk about it, but there's still a lot of discrimination against you as a woman.
That wasn't a question, it was just a bunch of statements.
Kate Clayborn: Yes. I think that women's still do face a lot of, discrimination in the workplace. I mean, I think that the pay gap, is the most oft cited example of that, but I think there are thousands and thousands of other tiny ways it happens as well.
and I think women have. Always worked. which I guess is something that we'll sort of talk about today. I think a women have always worked, and women being able to gain recognition for their work has been, a constant, constant battle, in our culture.
Andrea Martucci: Right. Right. And I think that.
What we're seeing now is women increasingly have the expectation to be recognized for their work, particularly, paid labor and also increasingly unpaid labor and starting to have a name for what we have felt about Oh, like, I don't know, I feel like I work really hard.
I feel like I'm really good at this and I feel like this is valuable. Why does nobody else seem to think so? I was just curious, do you feel like the narrative you grew up with was, similar to the one I expressed about? you can do anything like. here also are these like, things that are valid, like here's like career paths that are valid as being successful,
Kate Clayborn: yeah, that's a really good question. I don't think that I was raised to think there are certain career paths that are valid. but work. Was really important in my upbringing. so I was socialized, I think to understand that work is an important part of identity and that working hard is an extremely important part of identity.
So, I think that of value in my family was that working hard is a way of showing. That you are making valuable contributions, to the world and to the household. And so, yeah, I think work is a really important part of my identity, but I don't know that I was socialized by my family to think that there were only certain career paths that would do that for me.
Now, certainly I think that in a larger cultural sense, right? There's a feeling like. Being a doctor or being a lawyer, or, those kinds of professions are you think to yourself, like, Oh, those are grown up professions. and you know, I think that happens in a lot of ways, like what we see in movies or on TV.
but I think thankfully, I don't think I got a lot of that from my parents. I think they were really, Expansive in their thinking about careers. but being taught that work is a really important part of my identity that was important in my young life. And then I think important very much throughout my education.
Andrea Martucci: Hmm. Yeah. I think a lot about the term value, and I use it a lot where I'm like, well, I just want to be valuable and value. Is, it's a conversation. It's not just what you are doing, but it's, does somebody else see it as worthy?
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: And, and I think the kind of work that is expected of women, is I think that.
There is the other side of it is the part that is oftentimes not aligned where it is objective really valuable. It [00:15:00] needs to be done. Like I, and I'm thinking about kind of like domestic labor and emotional labor, you know the world in many ways I think the world would fall apart. if somebody wasn't doing that stuff,
Kate Clayborn: yeah.
Andrea Martucci: or w it would be felt if it wasn't being done, but it's so invisible in many ways that the people on the receiving end don't often recognize the value of what's being done.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. And I think value is an interesting term there, right. Because, it, it truly is a word that, it's meaning.
Sort of depends on, who is hearing it, right? So you can hear value here, commerce in that word, or you can hear value and here's something else, right? I think when I think about the value of my work, I'm often thinking about it in terms of like, Mmm, what am I bringing to other people with the work I do?
So when I think about the books I write, when I started writing romance. I often thought about it in terms of I want to bring people the kind of comfort that these books brought to me at a difficult time in my life. So that's the value I started out thinking about, when I started writing romance.
But I mean, of course there's. Other ways to talk about value. We talk about our work, right? How much do I get paid for this or whatever. And so I think that's really interesting dichotomy in some ways, like the different ways to think about that word,
Andrea Martucci: right? Yeah. I spent so much time in therapy talking about the word value.
I'm like, I
just want to be valuable.
are you ready to talk about a midnight feast?
I'm ready. I love this book.
Okay, well, this'll, thank you for recommending this one. when did you first read a midnight feast?
Kate Clayborn: So I think I read it probably right about when it came out because, this is a series.
So this particular book is part of a larger series by Genevieve Turner and Emma Berry, which focuses on this group of, astronauts, a NASA, like a organization that is called, ASD, and it takes place in the 1960s. And so it's, it, I mean, it's historical romance kind of set in the backdrop of the, space race in a lot of ways.
I can't remember, how exactly I learned about the series, but I remember when I read one of the books in the series, I was like, this is incredible. and so, I sort of picked up right there and so when this one came out, I think I read it right away and it has one of my. All time favorite romance tropes, which is marriage in trouble.
So it was my, a catnip in a lot of ways. and I really love this book. and it's a Thanksgiving book, so it's appropriate for the season. and so, yeah, I was thrilled to reread it, around this time of year.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And so I want to come back to marriage and trouble, but first to give A bit more detail about a midnight feast and Emma Berry and Genevieve Turner. So Emma Berry, outside of this series also writes contemporary romance that is kind of politically focused. And then Genevieve Turner is author of historical romance. historical Western romance.
Kate Clayborn: Genevieve and Emma are both really beautiful writers, so reading their stuff that they've done as individuals, they're both really tremendous writers. But this series, like other sort of coauthored or coauthors that work together.
It's so seamless. Like there's, the voice is really seamless and it's, it's just really wonderful to read this series.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah, I'd be super curious to find out about their writing process cause I agree. I did not notice any. lines of demarcation anything like that. So I'm super curious how they make that happen.
and so the basic plot line of this book is that, Margie and Mitch had been married for about 20 years. He is a famous astronaut, and family of the astronauts are kind of famous and she's kind of like this perfect mother and wife who presents to the world as, you know, having it altogether and being in charge of the other astronauts wives because she's a natural leader.
And, they got married, around 1945 so kind of around world war two and they went through all that and he went to Korea. And because of all of these, because of his career choices and her supporting him, I mean, he spent a lot of time away from home over the years, and their marriage has really suffered for that.
when they first got married, things were really hot. But I think the general idea from Margie's standpoint is that she never really quite got to know Mitch. Like he was gone so much and then they had six kids and things were so busy, they were so focused on Mitch, his career and her supporting that, that, they didn't have a strong enough foundation to survive the challenges.
And, you [00:20:00] know, tragedies that happen along the way. both of them are real bad at emotions, like
they are emotionally constipated to an extreme degree.
Kate Clayborn: My favorite,
Andrea Martucci: Yes. there's some flashbacks, but the story really begins on Thanksgiving.
Margie is preparing for an Epic feast with,
Kate Clayborn: Oh, I love this.
Andrea Martucci: Yes. With all of the astronauts in the neighborhood, and one by one, all of their guests cancel. And. their kids are at the grandparents. These two people are finally going to have to confront what's going on.
So, yeah, Thanksgiving.
Kate Clayborn: that first scene when it shows, her getting ready for Thanksgiving is really fascinating because I think it in some ways sort of the tone for the whole book and something I'm really interested in about the book, but she is so detail oriented about having her house prepared and this meal prepared.
but at the same time that she's doing all that preparation and she's having a lot of. Intense really deep thoughts about her marriage. Like I think that the first line of the book is something like, she couldn't remember exactly when she had fallen out of love with her husband, and you're like, Whoa.
but she's thinking all these things at the same time that she's doing all this really. Intense work to prepare for this meal. and then you get this, meal where they're going to be alone together and finally have to confront things. and then a series of flashbacks that kind of tells us how they got to this place.
Andrea Martucci: And so why do you like the marriage in trouble trope so much?
Kate Clayborn: for a couple of reasons. I mean, one I think that, I do tend to like romances with a lot of angst. And so marriage trouble has a lot of anx built in. but I also like the emotional stakes of marriage in trouble.
so, you know, characters that have a lot of history together. The emotional stakes often feel very high to me. and also something that we talk a lot about in romance is like how frustrating people find, a plot of a big misunderstanding. Do you know what I mean? Like where somebody has misheard something or seen something that they didn't really understand and then the whole relationship blows up.
and you'll hear a lot of readers say that they hate a big misunderstanding in a romance. And something I really like in marriage, in trouble romances is that they are often about little misunderstandings, between people that, are so real in relationships. so when we have relationships with our families or with our friends or with our spouses, those relationships are often really rife with tiny misunderstandings.
Of of our intentions or of our feelings about something. And I think when romance writers do this kind of work well, it is so emotionally arresting to read about how that happens between people and then how they are able to sort of correct those misunderstandings and find their way back to each other.
I love marriage and trouble romances. I think that they are so often really beautifully done.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I'm, I'm starting to fall in love with them myself. it's addressing this core human weakness we all have, which I think is that we're, even if we're good at communicating, we're all terrible at communicating.
Like you can never get inside another person's head and everything that somebody else does is colored by your own issues.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: I feel like my husband and I are pretty good communicators mostly because I'm.
Very like pushy. I'm like, tell me what you're feeling. Let me tell you that I'm feeling. But I remember we had this one conversation once where my husband said something to me right before bed and I completely misinterpreted it and got super upset and like. Cry. And he was like, what's wrong?
I got so angry and I like, went to sleep angry and woke up the next morning. And I really had upset him. And we finally talked about, and he's like, what happened? And I'm like, well, you should this. And it really upset me. And he's like, that's not even what I said.
and he said what he had said. And I was like, I feel really dumb because it's.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: I legitimately misheard what you said, and rather than just being like, did you really just say that? Or, or anything else I could have done in that situation, like completely closed myself off to hearing anything else?
Or, even like stopping and thinking like, would my husband really say that to me?
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. I think what's lovely too is that, the promise of romances that happily ever after. Right? And so I think sometimes, people can feel that a marriage in trouble story sort of undermines the promise of a happily ever after.
But I actually think marriage and trouble stories can be really hopeful, because, longterm relationships are long, right? Whether you decide to get [00:25:00] married or not. And, Relationships are challenging in all kinds of ways, because life is challenging, right?
And so I think there's something hopeful about the renewal of a happily ever after. and, and of course this book does that really, really beautifully.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. so to talk about the characters, I think that you enter the book. Thinking that Mitch is at fault, like you're in Margie's head and she implies that Mitch has been unfaithful and that he comes around and he's the fun dad and he never helps with anything.
he's dismissive of the things she asks him to do. I was team anti Mitch. And then the story progressed. and I, I want to unpack this a little bit, but I really started to get angry at Margie because on the one hand, I really understood her resentment and where she was basically single parenting most of the time when Mitch was away. And, on the one hand there was an understanding that this was what their life was going to be, this wasn't a surprise necessarily, but I understand the emotional toll that that took on her and why she resented him.
And. All of that, but it reached a point where all I could think about was like, okay, this woman is hurting so much that she cannot recognize that her husband also is hurting. And it felt cruel at times, how emotionally, distant and. On giving. She was with him and, and I guess the reason I want to unpack that is why, even as a woman who considers herself fairly well versed in the negative stereotypes about women or the stereotypes about women that are like, Oh, they must be continually emotionally giving and supportive to their spouses and blah, blah, blah, like, why am I getting angry about like this woman's emotional pain.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah, I mean, I see what you're saying. so I have to say, I am never mad at Margie in this book. I am like a hundred percent team, Margie book. but I do think that the book works to acknowledge and, and Margie works to acknowledge the ways that she, I mean, one thing that she says to Mitch later is that basically she wrapped up her heart very tightly because.
She was exhausted and overworked, but she also lived with this incredible fear all the time about the risks he had to take in his job. Right. Mitch is a sympathetic character as well, right? Like he's very lonely. he acknowledges that he is not, Like the star at his job.
and what toll that took on him. And he's sympathetic also in that he talks about his experiences in their house that like sometimes he feels like the icing. Like he's not very important. And so he's sympathetic. and I think this is like the achievement of the book. you feel for him as well.
Right. but I think up until the very end of the book, I still really felt like. Margie was protecting herself on so many different levels. and I felt so sympathetic toward her.
Andrea Martucci: So there's a couple of tragic. events that happen, you know, when you're doing these space programs, if you're intimately familiar with the people in there, when a rocket explodes with people and it, you know, the people in that rocket, they just exploded.
So that's a huge fear that. Margie has that Mitch is not going to return from some of these missions. he goes to war. He's, you know, doing this incredibly dangerous job. And I highlighted this passage where Mitch has just gone up into space and is coming home and she goes, of course, Mitch would return from space after the kids were in bed almost a week away, farther than any man had ever been.
And the kids wouldn't know he was safe until morning. And. The note I wrote was, all right, Margie, Jesus, are you unable to pinpoint the real issue here? Like she's so scared for his safety and scare that he won't return home and she kind of can't acknowledge that to herself. And so she projects her fear and anger and frustration.
Until like anything else, like how dare he return from space and come home after the kids are in bed? Like couldn't he have been considered enough to come home earlier when the kids were still awake or,
Kate Clayborn: yeah. And I think she also projects, I think it's in the same scene where he, when he gets home, he's kind of like bitching a little bit about how it went, right?
Like it didn't go well, right. Or something like that. And she annoyed about that too. And I thought this is so, painfully real in some ways, right? That like there are all kinds of times when you're in a relationship with someone where for whatever reason you are just not on the same page about something, [00:30:00] right?
Like, one of you is tired or one of you is, grouchy or something like that, right? And they just cannot find a way. And this is like, obviously after. Many years of this estrangement kind of getting worse and worse, and they just cannot find a way to find that common ground and it's painful.
It's like painful and clearly they are not being their best for themselves or for each other. yeah, it's like. It's awful. And it's honest. It is what I think is really interesting about it.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I was fascinated by the story and obviously I was feeling, I was feeling a lot of things about their, what was happening in their minds and what they were saying to each other.
And I liked that it was complicated. As you said, it wasn't a simple misunderstanding like she thought he cheated and so she's angry at him. it's the accumulation of, again, as you said, all these little misunderstandings or misinterpretations, and you, I think can understand both characters
there are times where both of them are saying or doing things where you're like, Oh, co, come on. But yeah, but you're still rooting for them. Yeah.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah, these are two really good people who genuinely love each other, right? and they just have drifted in such profound ways away from each other.
Andrea Martucci: And so Margie, being the mother of six children and being what I believe in those days would be called a homemaker. does a lot of domestic labor. and that is described in detail in this book, not only the preparations for the Thanksgiving meal and kind of like the China putting the China away,
doing this thing at exactly the right time. and then, Oh, I've got to take my curlers out of my hair at this time. And all the logistics of it, and then the more mundane details about caring for six children. And there's always a button that has to be sewed on and, and all of that.
There's, there's a lot of focus on domestic labor here and that is definitely Margie's job. And she takes it very seriously. she also. as her role as wife of a famous astronaut also takes on additional labor. that is considered like, well, that's just your job.
You know, you've got to do that stuff. You have to, manage a Christmas decoration thing for the whole neighborhood. That's just your job and your responsibility, and we expect you to do that so. All of the domestic labor that is done in this book. I wanted to hear what your thoughts were and we've talked about how this isn't something that is really portrayed that much in romance novels,
Kate Clayborn: right. I think in novels in general, it is not often portrayed. And I think some great, really famous feminist texts have talked about this a little bit. There's this like, really amazing quote from, I think Tillie Olsen quotes it in an essay of hers, but the original quote is Rebecca Harding Davis quotes and she, she talks about heroines and white dresses that never need washing the idea of like, In the books that we read, there's all kinds of labor happening that is rendered entirely invisible, right? women writers, even when they're writing, they're not necessarily talking about all the ways that their lives are, constantly interrupted by the demands of domestic labor.
Right. Particularly for mothers, mothers are constantly interrupted in a way that is, you know, they are keeping other human beings alive. And so they're constantly interrupted in that sense. And so this kind of work is often really invisible on the page. and it, you know, in romance novels too, I think, I think it's often very invisible on the page.
And so I think that one of the most. Brilliant and subversive things about this book is how much domestic work it puts on the page. I mentioned at the beginning of the book, she's preparing for this, the Thanksgiving dinner. And so
mentioned like, she's sort of half dress.
She has the curlers in her hair, but she's also getting the China out and things like that. But there are other scenes too where. She's dealing with the laundry, she's dealing with the fitted sheet or whatever. And the details are extremely precise in a way that I think is so intentional.
and I guess what fascinates me about this book, well, I really love about this book, is that it
domestic labor in a way that I think is really respectful. So. It talks about how domestic labor is really exhausting, right? That it can be exhausting and really tedious, so there are times when you really feel the strain of all the chores Margie has to do.
there's a line where she says she [00:35:00] feels like a jar that had been emptied and washed out, it talks about the exhaustion that accompanies this kind of work, but it's also. Really empowering for Margie. And through the work she has done in her house and in her community, she has really laid claim to her life and her creativity.
So the book does not undermine domestic labor in any way. Right. it never suggests that. Domestic labor is worthless or that it is, somehow like
Andrea Martucci: beneath her intellect or something.
Kate Clayborn: Not honorable. Yeah, right. Like it honors Margie as like, a career woman at this job and, I think a turning point in the book is that Mitch honors that too, right?
He says to her , don't tell me you don't have a career. he honors that work as well. the book doesn't undermine the fact that, you know, Margie finds a lot of joy and comfort in the work that she does. and I think that that is really brilliant in this book. I really appreciate it.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah, as soon as I finished reading it, I was immediately like, well, I don't have time to do this, but I would love to crack open the feminine mystique again. Yeah. Because this is a contemporary text too, like when this book is meant to take place,
Kate Clayborn: Margie, in the beginning of the book, when she meets Midge, she sort of talks about the fact that she loves the military as a concept. in the book, I think she herself, in some ways, like thinks of herself as.
She's like a general, right?
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
Kate Clayborn: She has her own role in this community. and so I think from very early on in the book, you understand that , she does see this as a future for herself, like a career for herself, for lack of a better term. But I think the feminine mystique is really fascinating texts to bring up with us.
in that. one of the things that Betty for Dan talks about is women were driven inside their homes and then isolated from one another within their marriages, so they were in these marriages meant to be keeping house, and then they were sort of slowly being driven insane by the fact that they were so isolated from other women who were in similar situations.
And I think that, This book almost seems to be engaging with that very idea because Margie. Is sort of saved in a way by other wives that she goes to and talks with about the problems she has with niche, at like really crucial points in the book. And I thought that was really a fascinating thing in the book.
Andrea Martucci: right. Yeah.
Kate Clayborn: There's also a moment where this is like toward the end of the book where, Mitch and Margie are sort of like working on the marriage, slowly and it's cautious, right? And she's talking to her friends, and when she goes back to Mitch, she almost feels like she should apologize or sort of let him know that she didn't tell them anything that would make Mitch look bad.
Andrea Martucci: she's like, Oh God, I didn't want to air our dirty laundry. Yeah.
Kate Clayborn: And Mitch says, Mitch says to her like. They're your friends, you should tell them whatever you want to tell them. And I was like, I mean, thank God. Right?
when I read that part of the book, I was sort of like this almost feels like it is about the feminine mystique in a way.
Andrea Martucci: And this is our stereotypical view of what housewifery was in the 1960s and obviously it's representative of
one slice of, the population. but again, this is our general cultural understanding of what the family structure was like in the 1960s. you have these oppressed Housewives at home who, I think particularly in this case, like this is a community of wives where their husbands are gone a lot of the time and they live in this literal community together where they all understand what the others are going through.
And on the one hand, I think Margie is always willing to be there emotionally for her friends, but she hasn't leveraged so much the. Ability to lean on them. Yeah. She's like, I have to be strong. I'm the leader. I can't show any weakness. And I think, yeah, she learns over the course of this book that, you know, as much as she wants to be needed, she can also need,
Kate Clayborn: yeah. She's gotta be emotionally vulnerable, which obviously she has to do within the marriage as well.
Andrea Martucci: Right. And then thinking about being a wife playing a role in your husband's career and being a career in and of itself. I think there were several points made in this book about how, the NASA, like organization is basically taking advantage of the labor of the wives where they're expected to do a lot of things in their role that is unpaid.
I think frequently you see this trope of a guy in a romance novel needing to get married to show that he's [00:40:00] stable to be taken seriously for some sort of job.
And I think what's going on there, that dynamic is that organizations do understand that husbands who have these supportive wives who will do all of this unpaid labor to enable. The husband to be more successful and to contribute to the success of the organization, that there's value there. And that's why they're like pushing these guys to get married and leaning on, in this specific example, like leaning on the wives to do all these social things that then are good PR for the organization and really creating a sense of morale and emotional support.
obviously they, they want. the guys working for them to be freed up mentally and emotionally to come do the stuff at work. And they know that they can't do that unless they have wife at home. taking care of these things for them.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I think that it was really interesting that a turning point towards the end of this book, after speaking about all of the unpaid labor that Margie does, and, and on the one hand she.
rebels in it. Like I think she finds a lot of meaning in the things she does. And that's great. I mean, when you get into the feminine mystique, the real crux of the problem is that these women were not feeling fulfilled by what they were doing.
their experience was that , these things were not fulfilling or mentally or intellectually stimulating and giving them that sense of, reward that they were looking for. But Margie really does revel in that. But I think it's really interesting that when her and Mitch are working things through, one of the things that happens is she gets recognized for her own labor and is paid for that labor.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah,
Andrea Martucci: it's very much still pigeonholed into her role as a wife and a mother and , the wife of a famous astronaut. But her entertaining tips, and, all sorts of things that are relevant to her life and the audience for ladies home journal, but she's, she's actually paid and she's really amazed by this and for doing something like her writing is good. Like somebody is recognizing me for something that I did and I'm getting paid for it. this is crazy.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. I liked that. the fact that she's going to get paid for sharing her, knowledge about domestic work, right? Like doing work like this. I liked it at the end of the book, wasn't like, and Margie's gonna go back to college and become a lawyer.
Right? So going back to what we talked about, the book never undermines the kind of work that she does, and i think that's a real achievement.
Andrea Martucci: and the editor really recognizes that the value that she brings is that she has like this system and how organized she is and how methodical and how much, how much thinking into creating these systems.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. This is work.
This is, yeah, this is real work. and I love that the book honors that. Yeah, it's, it's terrific.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And so part of the reason that I first reached out to you is you had this really Epic Twitter thread about work, and this was around the end of September, 2019.
And, I hold on, I screenshotted it. I'll, I'll read some relevant bits. I'll give a dramatic reading. So you are reacting to, Jen Prokop's Twitter thread where she said, here's an unpopular romance opinion. I don't really care a main character does it work in a contemporary, nor do I care what anyone's scientific research and historical, no romance is going to ever make fossils interesting to me.
Kate Clayborn: she's a good buddy, Jen. So I was calling her out, but in good spirit, we can debate these things a lot.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I think ultimately, the point is. Which you talk about is nobody wants to bog a book down with details that are not necessary, but where you jump off is that you.
Love writing about work in the sense that I think work can be absolutely reveled. Tory for character. How her character relates to and performance. Their work feels to me almost essential. And it really doesn't matter what kind of job they have. that says a lot about me as a person, of course, my relationship to work and how I defined myself in relationship to it.
And you talk about how you explore that a lot in your own writing. but I also think any conversation about working romance should be attentive to the ways in which work is well working. Here's what I think, getting in the weeds about what heroin specifically. Does in their work, whether that work is inside or outside of it was and still is a deeply subversive act.
Women's work is and always has been systematically unappreciated or unrecognized and undervalued. And I do think describing that work in the context of romance does important world-building. Okay. Work as well as character work and not only for the heroin. part of what is subversive about it is just asserting that it's there and an important part of a woman's life and the rhythm of her days.
But I think for many readers, it also functions as a worthy shorthand for understanding how the HEA will work. Will this heroine be appreciated, recognized, valued by her partners? Will this hero would have an identity separate from her partners? Work isn't the only way to show this, of course, but I do think it's important one.
And I also think that sometimes the details themselves function in a pretty feminist way. And I'm interested in that. And then you say, you should write a paper about it. I love that because I think what really spoke to me about that was, the [00:45:00] work being a core part of your identity, which, I certainly feel work is a core part of my identity.
and just to pause there for a moment, I think that I struggled a lot personally when became a mother and, I had really been defining my value. as a person, a lot by my work. And around the time that, I got pregnant, I had this like really terrible job that I ended up quitting.
And, what I was doing for work was I was a part time adjunct instructor. And so I was like working part time and I, I think I was a bit depressed. . and was still teaching part time when I had my daughter. And , on the one hand, I was like, okay, this is ideal, right?
Like, I'm still working, I'm still doing something out there and I'm, I'm being a mother. But what I found really hard was doing both of those things at once.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: And also feeling like the work I was doing as an adjunct, I felt like I had less to share with my students when I also didn't have, my.
Own work outside of adjuncting. like I felt like I was a more engaging professor when I would go to work and do stuff and then come back and share that stuff with my students. And the farther I got away from that, the more I felt like I was really struggling. and I hung out with a group of, stay at home moms and.
I was like, I don't belong in either group. I'm not working full time, and I'm not fully engaged in my career. And I'm also not able to fully, absorb myself with finding meaning in, my home and my child it was a struggle for me, to deal with the emotional demands of being a mother and still under, stand myself as a professional person and, yeah.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. so many women go through something very similar to what you're describing.
And I, I also think that what's. Interesting here is that when women, when their lives change inside the home, right? So when they are, either staying home with children or they have children in daycare, because they're working during the day or something like that, but when they become mothers, or even when they, even women who are not mothers, right?
they still are doing most of the domestic work in their homes. And so. the demands on them, like the mental load that they are carrying is incredibly heavy. so what you're describing about that mental load, I think is, really common for women to experience, at various stages in their lives.
Andrea Martucci: And I think particularly when you have an infant, and I was nursing, like, you. Are just so touched out, your emotional bandwidth is a limited resource.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: Children are so needy, you know, and it can feel very much like you just have nothing else to give to either yourself or to a partner or to a career.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah,
Andrea Martucci: and I don't mean to imply like, well, women have babies and they can't work anymore, but it's a challenge. you want to be there, you want to be a present mother, you want to be a present partner. and this is, this is maybe a controversial opinion.
I mean, I think it's really, it's a bit problematic to find all of your fulfillment from being a mother or a parent because your kids are gonna grow up. You know? I think that, it's important to find value in being. Apparent, but when you center your whole identity around that, it's like, okay, then did you just get fired when your kid grows up?
I mean, like you want your kid to grow up and go out on their own and be successful. And so I think it's important to have other things outside of that, but it's very hard to juggle all of those things.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. I think that about. Motherhood. so I don't have any children and so I think my opinions on this are utterly worthless.
I think that that's really interesting what you're thinking about. in this particular book, what it suggests is that, Margie has, Found work that she finds fulfilling, but at the same time, that work, she isn't, being recognized in a way that sort of like makes her feel, fulfilled, like within her marriage or things like that.
Right. So, there's some missing. Piece there. And I think that when we talk about work, and when Jen, who I was responding to in that thread, when Jen and I have talked about work, one of the things she said is like, you don't, like, some people hate their jobs and that's okay. They just like, go to work and get a paycheck and go home.
And like, your job doesn't have to be your identity. that connects with what you said, right? Like, what is it that defines our identity outside of our sort of home lives or whatever. And it can be tons of things, right? It could be work, it can be some kind of hobby, that you do that is separate from your [00:50:00] children or your marriage or whatever. but I do think that's a really good point, right? Like, work does not. Have to be a fundamental part of who you are.
a certain sense, when we think like that, we are in a dangerous way.
We're really undermining certain kinds of work. To go back to the sort of first thing that we talked about, like, are there only some jobs that we consider valuable or something like that? going to work to get a paycheck
there's nothing wrong with that. Or it doesn't mean that you're a less developed character.
Andrea Martucci: Right, right, I think that's actually the core of the thing that I personally struggle with in my own life is , I do feel like what I, and when I say like what I grew up with, I don't mean exclusively from my parents, like the community I grew up in, media messages, all of those things I think combined to make me think that.
Work, should be your identity and that it should be the most important thing. It could be like the most, to the external world, the most, high powered thing. You know what, whatever that is. And, and, right. I think that that was kind of the core of a lot of my struggle, where then when I am unhappy with work through the course of my career it feels like a complete failure in identity, not just like, well, this job isn't.
Good for me. This isn't a good fit for me and I should find something else to do. It feels like, I suck, like I'm no good at life.
Kate Clayborn: And certainly that cultural idea, that benefits someone and that someone is not you. Right. That benefits,
Andrea Martucci: the corporation
Kate Clayborn: capitalist structures that,
Andrea Martucci: yes.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. That benefits patriarchal structures, things like that. Right. It doesn't. Benefit the individual, but yeah, it is what we grow up with in a lot of ways. I mean all that being said, when you represent work on the page, even if it's someone doing a job that they are just getting, like they're just collecting a paycheck and they don't care about it.
Right. Representing it on the page still will tell you something about the character or the culture. and so, you know, I still think it's interesting.
Andrea Martucci: yeah, I agree. I think, I think it's super interesting. And I. Well, I want to think more later. although I think I've been reacting to it in my real life where they're are all of these virtue signals about like being a good worker that, yeah.
That you're like, wait a second. Who's benefiting from this? Not me. Like spending less time with my family to work extra hours when, you know, the core problem is that they haven't hired enough people. Not that I'm a bad employee. If I don't put in extra hours or you know, things like that where you're like, hold on a second, this has nothing to do with me.
I'm like, Oh, yes, I've been falling prey to the patriarchy.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah, yeah. Well, it's everywhere.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. And, and so, to bring this issue into, 20, 19, as you said, there's been lots of studies and thought pieces about.
How women, in America today are still spending more time doing domestic labor than men, and, but also women are employed in much greater numbers and for a greater percentage of their time than in previous points in history. so it's like. It's like, not only have a lot of women taken on roles outside of the home, where they're paid less than their male counterparts.
and those issues are even worse for people of color. so, if you think it's bad for white women, you know, look at a Latin X woman those things noted, I was thinking about the emotional labor piece, and I think you.
Have some good points about separating domestic labor from emotional labor. But what I was, I was thinking about this, thought piece that was in Harper's bizarre, in 2017 and it was called women aren't nags. We're just fed up and it's about emotional labor and emotional labor as is the unpaid job.
Men still don't understand. And the author of this piece talks at several points about how she asks her husband to do things, and she's like, I just don't even want to have to ask you to do this. Like, how come I'm the one who has to remember that this is a thing that has to be done and how come I have to ask you to do this?
And so she ends up doing a lot of domestic labor as a result of that. And, and I was just thinking about how I think part of the reason why women still do the majority of domestic labor is because women are still very much expected to do all of the emotional labor, all of the keeping track of, whose kids party needs.
And RSVP , when to take out the decorations for the season, when the bathrooms need to be cleaned, stuff like that. And just a tiredness about , Ugh, I don't want to have to ask somebody to do this. How come I'm the only one who notices this needs to be done. So it's easier for me to just do it.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah, I agree. [00:55:00] And I think that , as you're saying, domestic labor is often. Tied to the emotional needs of the family or the community, right? So like, keeping track of , birthdays or keeping track of, certain holiday traditions or whatever. . those result in domestic tasks, but the, the driving force behind them is a sort of emotional labor, ?
Like, you feel compelled to. serve the family and serve the community in these ways that demonstrate love or demonstrate care or demonstrate recognition or whatever. Right? So they, I think are really closely tied.
Andrea Martucci: and part of, Mitch is transformation in this novel is I think that he does start to pay more attention to the emotional labor.
You know, as he's home more, he starts to understand , the things that Margie has been doing to keep everything together, not just, you know, doing the laundry, but, instilling consistency in their children's lives. And he starts to realize that when he comes in and the kids are like, can we have ice cream?
And she's like, no, you can't have ice cream because it's all weekend. He's like, Oh, it's not helpful for me to. Contradict her here and say like, Oh, we can get ice cream and instead to support her, and he starts to notice and do things on his own without her needing to ask.
Kate Clayborn: Yes. the way that this book does the moments of transformation in the relationship they're so wonderful , and clever because they are so subtle like that. Like there's, there's even a moment where like Mitch is putting away the linens or something like that, he's like folded and put away the linens and I'm like.
Wow. Mitch, what a turnaround. Right. subtle, moment, but it's like so important to the dynamics of the relationship, right? That we need to see, be healed so that we can have that happily ever after feeling.
Andrea Martucci: And I think the more he takes on some emotional labor, the more her bandwidth opens up to have some emotional bandwidth left for him.
Kate Clayborn: Yes.
Andrea Martucci: and, and that is very much, I think both of them had no bandwidth. They start to open up and start to share the load.
Kate Clayborn: Right?
Andrea Martucci: And I think that is the huge transformation. And then the more they do that, the more they're able to communicate and, empathize with each other.
Oh, so great book. write book. How would you rate this book on heat on a one to five scale?
Kate Clayborn: I think for me, this is like, a two-and-a-half, maybe, or three. I dunno. I think it's hot when Mitch and Margie are together, but I think the authors in this book do a really good job of.
They sort of are managed to keep your worry for Mitch and Margie really activated, during the sex scenes. So like a couple of the sex scenes are at points where Mitch and Margie are not really emotionally connected. Right. So, and in those sex scenes, I think you're like worried for them,
like, even though it's hot, you're kind of like, Ooh, they aren't really connecting emotionally for the right reasons here. So I think two and a half to three for me. What about for you?
Andrea Martucci: I agree with that
Kate Clayborn: yes. It's very clear that they are like extremely sexually compatible.
Like they're hot together.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
Kate Clayborn: So I think it's really interesting how this book somehow manages to like. Make you feel the way that they are really sexually compatible, but they are still extremely emotionally distant from each other.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I agree with your assessment. okay.
what about humor?
Kate Clayborn: it's like a zero or one. I don't think that the book is,
Andrea Martucci: it's, it's not funny.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. It's not striving for humor in any way.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I've never had a zero before, but I think that this is accurately zero. But, but then let's get into an angst.
Kate Clayborn: and that's not a failing.
Like I want to be clear. I don't think that's a failing. I just think it's the books trying to do.
Andrea Martucci: No, exactly. Exactly. none of these scores are meant to be like, like good reads scores. It's just like what to expect. Really.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. but you, you said the next one was angst?
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
Kate Clayborn: And I think that's a five for me. It's a
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. It's pretty angsty, I think it's interesting, the interplay between humor and angst, how those two numbers tend to, not always, but be at opposite ends of the spectrum or in the middle together.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah, yeah, yeah. This one.
Andrea Martucci: so that was a midnight feast.
And thank you so much for. Bringing it to my attention so that I could read it and enjoy it.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. I'm so glad you liked that.
Andrea Martucci: And so speaking of Thanksgiving, i had put out , what are your favorite holidays that you wish there were more romances about?
And HEA apologist said that. They want more romances about Thanksgiving. they said, give me the second chance. The friends givings was with lots of options, et cetera. And, I, I liked that they spoke to the second chance. I think it's interesting, this idea that like Thanksgiving is [01:00:00] about second chances.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. something about like the gratitude sort of messaging of it.
I think that's really interesting.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I'd love to read a friend's givings. Thanks. Giving romance. So somebody should make that happen. and then the aerial storm said there's not enough holidays that hinge on food and napping.
And you know what? This book has both food and napping.
Kate Clayborn: It, it does, it does.
Andrea Martucci: So Ariel and ATA apologist, these are books for you. Read them. Anybody else who thought those things look sound interesting? Check out a midnight feast.
All right, so let's. Head into trope town. We've got some book recommendations. We've got a few. And so when I put this out there on social, I first put it out there as what are some romance novels that explore domestic labor? And then, and I got one recommendation. So Mary Lynn Nielsen on Twitter suggested listen to the moon by Rose Lerner.
And she said it's a fascinating view of Regency servant life. The hero is a Butler and the heroine is a maid. And I think that's really interesting. A, because there's not a lot of historicals that focus on like non rich people or non like privileged people.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: but I could not think of, I later opened this up to emotional labor and I feel like people were still like, I don't know about that.
Like they didn't really have a lot of recommendations. And why do you think. I have some ideas, there are probably some examples out there that people didn't think of, but it's not something that's very well represented in the romance novel world.
Kate Clayborn: I think the emotional labor, I think in romance novels often, women are doing the emotional labor. And so I think it's so, It's like in the ether, right? So, you know, I've often talked about this, in the pieces I've written for frolic, but like, in sort of male, female roommates especially,
you often have a hero who's like, really recalcitrant and doesn't speak very often, right? And so the woman is responsible for sort of like. Drawing him out and helping him get in touch with his emotions or whatever. So I think it's like very common that women are doing a lot of emotional labor, on the page and romance the domestic labor.
I, I truly think that there's, you know, the sense that domestic labor. He's invisible because it's boring or it's drudgery. And I guess what I would say about that is like, read a midnight feast and you will have that impression challenged. , but I do think it was, I mean, I even struggled to come up with a couple that I thought related to this.
I did come up with a couple but I thought it was difficult to think of them.
Andrea Martucci: All right. So what, what are your examples, of romance novels that explore domestic labor.
Kate Clayborn: So one that I had was another novella, and it was a book called making it last, by Ruthie Knox. And it is also like a marriage in trouble book.
And it is a contemporary. So in some ways it explores really similar themes, but it's, a husband and a wife who really have to have some serious conversations about the way she feels within the marriage. Like. Taking care of the children, taking care of the house, and some of the pressure she feels under related to that.
And then some of the pressure he feels under, sort of financially in a, you know, he's, he does sort of like a blue collar job and the economy is, struggling. And so it really deals with. Household things and how hard that can be on a marriage. so that's one. but I did think that there were a couple other examples of this.
one about that I was thinking of that I read this summer that I really loved. and I know a lot of other people loved as well, was, the bride test, by Helen Long. And I really loved that book. And I think the way it. Treats the idea of home, and how sort of pie and as we relate to each other and how to be in his home, are interesting.
and then there's a great example of a book where a man does a lot of domestic labor, and that is, Rafe by Rebecca Witherspoon.
Andrea Martucci: Ooh. Yeah.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. And then, Finally, I'll say there's a book that's just coming out in November. the Lisa K. Adams bromance book club. and that, that also is a marriage in trouble story and the heroin in that book.
he travels quite a bit for his career, as a pro athlete and she's been left home with the responsibility for small children, and he's been gone for a lot of their marriage. And so I think that book explores this dynamic as well.
Andrea Martucci: You know, I kind of had a feeling that that book was going to explore that.
And I, I'm actually going to be reading that for the podcast and my guest is, I'm Steve Amidon.
Kate Clayborn: Oh, yeah.
Andrea Martucci: My first male guest.
Kate Clayborn: Cool.
Andrea Martucci: and, so I had a feeling that that was going to be a theme and I just haven't read it [01:05:00] yet. I will be reading it soon and I think it's interesting that.
Two of these four examples. Our marriage in trouble.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: and also a midnight veces a marriage in trouble story. It's interesting that it comes up in romance when it's the conflict.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: it's the conflict or it's somebody's job. So in listen to the moon, the characters, it is their job to be domestic laborers.
And Rafe also, he's a nanny. Yeah. so like, that's his job. it is literally paid labor in those cases.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: So I think that's really interesting. And I was thinking a lot about like, the billionaire trope and how if we start with the premise that, the majority of readers of romance novels are, women and women tend to bear the brunt of domestic labor, and it's undervalued.
I was thinking about how if you think of romance as a genre that is in many ways about escapism or emotional catharsis, and it's many other things, but purely from an escapism standpoint. the appeal of the billionaire is finally, I don't have to do this shit anymore.
And part of the tropes in those stories is that the hero a lot of times shows up and it's just like, don't you worry about doing your laundry anymore? Or paying bills or doing this, that, or the other thing, like, I'm going to take care of all this. And they can put their feet up and, and of course they have to like fight against it because we're socialized well, I don't need anyone to take care of me, but
Kate Clayborn: I mean, of course then the domestic labor is going to be,
Andrea Martucci: well, somebody else has to do it
Kate Clayborn: outsourced to somebody else.
Yeah. I mean, so, you know, there's all kinds of like interesting class dynamics in books like that, but yeah.
Andrea Martucci: right. It's not the hero taking it on for her.
Kate Clayborn: No. Right. No, I you just kind of pay other women.
Andrea Martucci: All right, so let's play hot. Damn. No, ma'am.
Kate Clayborn: Okay.
Andrea Martucci: This game was created by as my Bret of feminist romance on Instagram. and this is a game that she created in episode four of shelf love.
the episode that I had with her, we talked about raisin and the beast by Sarah McLean. And, the gist of the game is that we pull out some books, specific tropes situations or character elements, and then we give our personal feelings on if we think it's hot or not and why. And it's kind of like hot or not.
in our real lives. So like outside of a book.
Kate Clayborn: Okay. Got it.
Andrea Martucci: Okay. astronauts hot damn or, no, ma'am.
Kate Clayborn: okay. No, it's supposed to be about, and I realize, but like, I don't know any astronauts in my real life and don't know if I would have an occasion.
Andrea Martucci: Well, do you find that personally, is that something that appeals to you? Like the idea of somebody going to space or you like, I want to be your friend,
Kate Clayborn: know, yeah, kind of. I mean, you have to really know a lot to be an astronaut.
And I, I like people who have kind of an interesting, Story or they're sort of experts about something. So, yeah.
Andrea Martucci: Okay. Yeah, I'm a, no, ma'am. On the astronauts because,
Kate Clayborn: Oh, okay.
Andrea Martucci: Cause I feel like they're thrill seekers.
Kate Clayborn: Oh, that's interesting.
Andrea Martucci: And also, thinking about an astronaut as like a romantic partner.
I mean, this is all with the caveat of if I wasn't like married already and stuff, but,
Kate Clayborn: That's weird. I think of them as like science-y engineer people.
Andrea Martucci: Oh, I mean, maybe I'm conflating 1960s astronauts with,
Kate Clayborn: I mean, I could be wrong.
Andrea Martucci: Current astronauts.
Well, if you think about like Matt Damon in the Martian, he was a botanist or something, right?
Kate Clayborn: Yes. Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: And they're like, well, we're going to send you up into space. the technology is going to take care of all the flying and all of that. But, but I mean, , there's just still so many things that could go wrong.
Like I'm the kind of person who doesn't even want to take a different walk on the weekend. Like
Kate Clayborn: I get it. Too much stress for you.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I'm like, I'll just do the same walk. I just want to walk. I don't need to explore anything new. I don't need to break new ground. We're fine.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. Got it.
Andrea Martucci: Okay. What about the concept of entertaining? are you into entertaining as like an art form? Is that a hot damn for you or no ma'am.
Kate Clayborn: No? No ma'am?.
Andrea Martucci: what are you doing for Thanksgiving this year?
Kate Clayborn: No, ma'am. I mean, I like being with friends and having people over, but I, I'm an extremely organized person, so I put a lot of stress into putting those things together.
So it's an, it's a no, in terms of hotness.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. we actually do Thanksgiving every year, and have for like 10 years. But, I like to do it, but I don't really get into it. Like it's, it's definitely not a hot damn. Yeah. But. It's, it's closer to a no man for me. Like it's stressful to me.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: All right, so now bathrobes and let me explain this for our listeners is, at some point, Margie talks about how her, and this is such a [01:10:00] 1960s thing. Like I pictured my grandmother. Wearing one of these
kind of quilted, flowery. House coat bathrobes that's like kind of fancy. And Margie makes a point to be like, I just want my old Terry cloth. I just want to walk around in my bathrobe and it's comfortable and you know, I don't have to like put a fancy dress on and have my hair done in top.
Okay. So that's, that's the background. our bathrooms a hot damn or a no, ma'am for you.
Kate Clayborn: I feel like, Maybe closer to a hot damn. And I'll tell you why. I, I don't even own a bathrobe, but I think what's interesting about this is like, recently Olivia Day did this Twitter thread about how like, she loves it in a book where a hero sees a heroin when the heroin is
like not wearing nice clothes. She has like a stain tee shirt on or her hair isn't done and she looks a mess. And the hero's like, wow, she is, she is so hot. I'm so attracted to her right now. And I think the concept is sort of the same, right? Like that, your partner finding you hot at like your most comfortable time.
That's a hot, damn.
Andrea Martucci: I agree.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah. I don't, I, you know, I don't own one, so, but you know, like in a hotel room, I guess I would put on a bathroom. I don't know.
Andrea Martucci: There is something really luxurious about like one of those waffle things, those waffled bathrobes
Kate Clayborn: yeah. Those are luxurious.
Yeah. I like it. I can get behind it.
Andrea Martucci: Okay. So now people who are really into holiday decorations,
Kate Clayborn: it's a no man for me.
Andrea Martucci: are you like actively anti people who are in the tech
Kate Clayborn: or, no, my holiday decorations are very minimal.
so I mean, I don't like a lot of extra things. so for whatever reason, this does not read as hot to me. Yeah. I feel like people are gonna listen to this and be like, wow, okay. It's like really damaged, but I'm not, I just, you know, like
I'm just minimal.
Andrea Martucci: It's definitely a no man for me.
And I think it's like I'm a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to holidays in general. I'm really reluctant to get into any sort of holiday spirit. my friend Becky who was on the Halloween boo episode is like, she's like, I fucking love Halloween.
I fucking love Christmas.
she's vehemently for decorating for the holidays and just getting all into it. and it always just seemed like a lot of effort to me. I'm like, well, you're just going to just like take it all down.
Kate Clayborn: Yeah, I agree. it is also not the part I enjoy about the holidays.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. What part do you enjoy about holidays?
Kate Clayborn: I think of it as like a, a slower pace, right? Where you get to like have a couple of days off and spend time with family and.
you get to catch up with family that you haven't seen in a while. And I mean, those are the things that I appreciate about those times.
Andrea Martucci: Thanks for listening to Episode 11 of Shelf Love: A Romance Novel Book Club.
I want to say a special thank you to all of the listeners who contribute to episodes by sending book recommendations, inspiring episode topics with their ideas, and reminding me of things that happened 20 years ago when I started reading romance. Speaking of, thank you to The Romance Mom who gave me butterfly clips. I still have one that somehow made it through 8 million moves and is still with me today for me to pass on to the next generation.
Thank you so much to Kate Clayborn for joining me on this episode. You can learn more about Kate by visiting her website KateClayborn.com or on Twitter @kateclayborn.
You can find me on social media @ShelfLovePodcast on Instagram, and @ShelfLovePod on Twitter. You can always reach me directly at Andrea@shelflovepodcast.com and if you’d like to get occasional updates, you can sign up for my email list on my website, shelflovepodcast.com
Here’s what is coming up on future episodes.
- On the next episode, author Lucy Score and I delve into a discussion of true crime and survivors when we read Nora Roberts’ The Obsession.
- Then, Steve Ammidown, archivist from the Bowling Green State University Browne Pop Culture Library joins me to discuss the Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams, a contemporary second chance romance that breaks Romancelandia’s fourth wall.
- And after that, Funmi from When Funmi Met Romance and I get into therapy, healing, and growth when we discuss Equivalent Exchange, a super hot contemporary by Christina C. Jones with a workplace romance at a Brewery.
If this podcast is something YOU value, sharing it with someone else, either in person or on social media, is a great way to show your thanks. Every time you introduce a new listener to the podcast, a fairy gets its wings!
Thank you so much for listening….you made it to the end! Since you stuck around, you get an extra special surprise. It’s an outtake from my interview with Alyssa Cole where she recommends her favorite flashlights!
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