Shelf Love

Findom, Care, and the Submissive Billionaire: Preferential Treatment by Heather Guerre

Short Description

A billionaire romance novel that name drops Citizen’s United only comes along every so often. Carter Sherman, Senior reporter for VICE News, joins me to discuss Preferential Treatment by Heather Guerre. We talk about power exchange, heterosexual marriage as a transaction, and subverting the single script of the hegemonic BDSM billionaire romance to focus on the fantasy as care & safety as opposed to letting go of control.

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contemporary romance, romance novel discussion

Show Notes

A billionaire romance novel that name drops Citizen’s United only comes along every so often. Carter Sherman, Senior reporter for VICE News, joins me to discuss Preferential Treatment by Heather Guerre. We talk about power exchange, heterosexual marriage as a transaction, and subverting the single script of the hegemonic BDSM billionaire romance to focus on the fantasy as care & safety as opposed to letting go of control.

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Discussed: Preferential Treatment by Heather Guerre

Other media mentioned:

Guest: Carter Sherman (she/her/hers)

Senior reporter for VICE News

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Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] Hello friends. It's me, Andrea. I'm proud to announce that Romancelandia Holiday Fairies is back for its third year 2022. Romancelandia Holiday Fairies is a mutual aid effort for the Romancelandia community to support anyone who could use some help purchasing gifts for themselves or loved ones this holiday season.

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Hello and welcome to Shelf Love, a podcast about romance novels and how they reflect, explore, challenge, and shape, desire.

I'm your host, Andrea Marucci, and on this episode, I am joined by Carter Sherman, avid romance reader and senior reporter for Vice News. And today we are going to discuss Preferential Treatment by Heather Guerre. Thanks so much for being here, Carter.

Carter Sherman: Thank you so much for having me.

Andrea Martucci: So you are a journalist. What is your beat at Vice News?

Carter Sherman: I cover gender and sexuality, which is a super broad topic but generally it tends to break down into covering reproductive rights and health as well as sexual violence and, at times, women in politics. I would also say that I cover a lot of sex and just how people are living their sex lives these days and how they're thinking about their sex lives.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. And I think as we will talk about today, sex is inextricably linked with the power dynamics that we experience under patriarchy. So highly tied to feminism.

Carter Sherman: Absolutely.

Andrea Martucci: You are an avid romance reader. How did you start reading romance? How long ago and why do you read romance? What do you love about it?

Carter Sherman: I feel like that is a question I ask myself all the time, every time I read a romance book. I think I got started in the very stereotypical way, which is that I read my grandmother's Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele books when I was probably way too young. And at the time I was a really big reader. I was probably 12 and I thought I was too good for romance novels, but I read them anyway and it kind of progressed and starts and stops.

In college, I read 50 Shades of Grey because it was just so popular. It felt inescapable. By the end I was basically hate reading it because the dynamic in the book had gotten, in my opinion, very abusive.

But I think I fully embraced my identity as a romance reader probably around 2018. I was working for Vice. I had just moved to New York City and I was working this job for [00:03:00] them where I was working three to 11:00 PM and I didn't really have any friends at the time and I wasn't really able to build out a social life when you're working those hours.

And I stumbled across A Court of Thorns and Roses, which in my opinion is a romance. I will go to my grave arguing with everybody who tries to tell me that it is a fantasy. It is just a romance. If you take the romance out of it, the plot does not hang together.

And because I had all this time and was alone so frequently, I just started consuming all these romance books because they're so easy to read in bulk.

And I guess that was when I decided, you know what? There's no shame in being a romance reader. I'm gonna be very open about this. And at this point, it constitutes a huge section of what I read in general.

Andrea Martucci: We actually started talking because you had reached out to me about an article that you are writing about to be published about Dark Romance. And at the tail end of the conversation, we had been talking for a really long time. We started getting to the book recommendation portion of things.

And you were like, Hey, have you read Heather Guerre's Preferential Treatment? And I just about jumped out of my skin because that book, not only had I read it very recently, but it was high on my list of books that I wanted to talk about on the podcast.

And as I explained to you, sometimes when a book comes across my plate that I'm like, I really wanna talk about this. It's hard to find the right person to talk about it. Cause I don't wanna ask somebody and have them read it. I wanna kind of know that it already resonates with them and that they're gonna be excited to talk about it. So it's hard to feel that out. So I was like do you wanna talk about this

And and you got the okay to talk about it. So here we are today.

How did you discover Heather Guerre and this book?

Carter Sherman: I am so thrilled that you read this book also because I don't think I know anyone else who's read it. I don't know if this book is popular or not. I found it because I first read another book of hers called Mutually Beneficial, which for some reason is no longer available on Kindle. And Mutually Beneficial is about a woman who enters into this kind of sexual relationship with her landlord, where she gives him sex and he doesn't take the rent.

And when I first saw that description, I was intrigued because I had a colleague turned friend who reports a lot on housing and was specifically at that time interested in sexual harassment in housing, and the very real problem where landlords will coerce sex from their tenants.

And I was curious about how this author was going to take that coercive dynamic and presumably make it sexy, make it romantic. I wasn't really sure if it would work but I read Dark Romance and so maybe my tolerance for coercive dynamics is just a little bit higher than the average person. And I thought, alright, I'll try it and if it sucks I'll just DNF.

And then I thought the book was really good.

So I think I added all of her upcoming books to my T B R [00:06:00] and then read everything else that she had available. And when Preferential Treatment came out, which is technically the sequel to Mutually Beneficial, I was on vacation in Budapest and I remember I just downloaded the book immediately and was walking through this art museum, reading it in between looking at art and pretending to be engrossed by the art when really I was very engrossed in this book.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Okay. So you said you weren't sure how popular this book is, so I pulled up Goodreads just to get a sense of how many ratings and reviews there are. So there's 1,882 ratings and 281 reviews, which people are reading it, but I don't know if this indicates that it's like a huge runaway especially not on par with ACOTAR. Right.

Carter Sherman: Oh, absolutely not.

Andrea Martucci: But it, it's so interesting too because like I also don't know anybody else in the romance reading community that I hang out with the most who's read it and I mentioned it on the Shelf Love Discord, and I mentioned it to Fangirl Jeanne because she mentioned that she was looking for femdom books.

And I know that she had started reading it. I felt like when I put it out there, nobody really had heard of it, although I, look, I know people are reading it.

But I started with Mutually Beneficial as well, and when I first opened it, I was like, all right, this is either gonna be interesting or it's gonna be immediately DNF. And I started it and I was like, okay, well it's more interesting than I thought it was gonna be.

And then as I got through it, I was like, oh, she is doing things on another level especially what I was expecting coming into a book with a really exploitative premise, right? You're really expecting this to be problematic and she is engaging with the problematics.

Yeah, I also, I was like, okay, I'm gonna read everything now.

I think that across her work she shows that she's really engaging in interesting things, so I've come to expect that from her.

We should probably say what this book is actually about. Carter, do you want to take the synopsis?

Carter Sherman: I will take a stab at it.

So the book starts off and the heroine is Kate, a woman in Chicago who comes from, it sounds like pretty incredible poverty and she has clawed her way up into the middle class by working at this company, run by a billionaire, of course, named Mikhail, and they run into each other at work.

He is immediately very taken by her. He initiates a relationship with her where he pays her $5,000 a week in exchange for her domming him. And something I really appreciated about the book is there's no aggrieved breakdown of why they have the sexualities they have. Like this is just what each of them likes.

Kate likes dominating men, Mikhail likes being dominated by women. That's just how it is. And they're not really too twisted up about that.

As the relationship goes on, they become more and more interested in each other, become more and more vulnerable with each other. Kate even opened us up to the fact that she doesn't think billionaires should [00:09:00] exist. Mikhail is very turned on by that and although I don't think it's named on the page, a Fin-Dom relationship where she does try to bleed him dry to a certain extent, although he never lets it get to the point where it truly threatens his position as a CEO or his real net worth.

Eventually, I'm trying to remember everything that happens, but to get to the point, he thinks he's incapable of love because he's never had a real loving relationship. He's never really had a family. She asks for more. He thinks he's incapable of it. He realizes that he is not. He grovels, they end up in a situation where, she redistributes his wealth while still dating him and getting him to buy her a lot of materialistic things because she, like everybody else, loves having nice things.

Is that it? Am I missing anything Major?

Andrea Martucci: I don't think so. As you outlined that obviously this book is playing with those ideas, not just about the BDSM aspects of power exchange, added into explicitly capitalistic power, power because of money, power in the marketplace.

It's not just engaging with that on the personal level, like in the dynamics of relationships between men and women in the sexual sphere, but also the political sphere. So what does it mean to be a billionaire? What does it mean to live in a system where people are able to be billionaires and where individuals are able to exploit the system for their own gain and choose how they want to give back, right?

Let's start actually with that aspect, because, on the surface you have a heroine who is enjoying buying nice things and is enjoying being spoiled. Oh, this is just, you know, consumerism and it's all just about what he can buy for her.

But I don't think the book ever frames it as, I want this stuff as like a status symbol or whatever. It's always as a way of showing care or as a way of her meeting her needs and finding pleasure in his care for her and in things that are like functional and well made and all of that.

But also at a certain point that isn't enough for her, and then she gets to the point where she's like, great now that my needs are met, now that I am safe, what about these other people, particularly issues that resonate with her personally.

Carter Sherman: Yeah. She talks a lot about coming from a background where it sounds like she grew up in a trailer park and in particular, she was just not well cared for by her parents to the point that her hair was matted. She had lice several times, and she retains this real vulnerability around how her hair looks. She's constantly feeling it for tangles.

And to your point about all of the stuff that she accumulates through her relationship with him, you're right, it's never framed as a status symbol. It's framed as a kind of safety. Every item that she acquires makes her feel more secure and makes her feel [00:12:00] like I can take care of my basic needs.

And I think it also gets to the point of, it's almost like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, where once she feels safe enough in her material environment, that she has all of the things that she needs in her everyday life to stay warm, to be able to pay her rent, to be able to have the food she likes, that's when she gets to the point to where she says to herself, actually, I also have further emotional needs and I need more from this relationship, number one.

But number two, I would like you to give to causes that in particular benefit children like me who didn't have enough, children like me who don't have enough.

I think that also kind of resonates with Mikhail because he also comes from an orphanage in Russia and he did not have enough as a child.

Andrea Martucci: There's an explicit conversation in here and it's related to should billionaires exist? Where he's like, well, yeah, I started out poor, but basically describes bootstrapping his way to the top. And then she's like, yeah, but you actually had help. There was a system in place that you had privilege and you were able to access the education that enabled you to do this. And you know, a functioning government in which you could build wealth and stuff even if it's an unfair system, it's a system you were able to exploit.

And she names literal, actual solutions where she's like, what about taxing? What about legislation to fix the system and charities that alleviate systemic suffering? What about profit sharing for your employees? Which is like, oh, socialism, which I'm all on board with.

But he's like, I was poor. Can't I enjoy this now? And she's like, then you should know what it feels like. And he's like, why is it my responsibility? And she says, because you can fix it because you are able to fix it.

The point she makes, again, it's just like I highlighted half the book, she goes, I don't want one person to have to do it. I want a better system. But for a better system to happen, the people with the most power have to make it happen. So he's in the position coming into the book where he's like, I made it so I'm going to enjoy the power that I have. And she really calls him on, why would you want other people to be in that position, especially people who didn't have the same privileges or access to the ability to make their way out of it?

I mean, you could even just say somebody who isn't born a genius, right? Okay, great, he's a genius. He came out okay. What about people who aren't geniuses or didn't get a scholarship to go to school in the United States? He almost sees his poverty as a reason why he doesn't have to feel bad about it.

Carter Sherman: Yeah I mean the book also explicitly mentions the desire to take down Citizens United, which I don't think I've ever seen the word Citizens United in a romance before. And she also, I think in that same conversation, makes the point that it's not only that, you might be very smart, it's that you had a particular kind of intelligence that our government values and that our government has set aside a visa for.

And look, I work for Vice, I have lived in Brooklyn. I meet a lot of leftists. And that was a point that I had never even thought of before, and it's not [00:15:00] often in my mind that I think I get politically educated from a romance. And so I really appreciated and enjoyed that conversation and the way that they were having these very clear conversations about solutions.

And I think on conversations that probably happen a lot among people with means and people who don't have them, and he's making some valid points, I don't think that he comes across as unsympathetic in that conversation. I think he comes across as someone who just hasn't thought too deeply, maybe because again, he's just always functioned at the very bare minimum of emotions and he's never really been asked to account for himself before.

And he loves that she does it for him.

Andrea Martucci: And I think that this is actually entangled with what he's looking for in the Fin-Dom relationship. And it's because nobody knew or cared for him until they learned that he could make them money. Because this is how he got access to resources like you were talking about, where he has a particular kind of intelligence that can be leveraged in capitalism to make more money for other people, and yes, for him.

And he sees his true value as a person, as being able to make money. And so how does he express care? Let me use my money to show care for you. And it's very hard for him to, you were speaking earlier about Maslow's hierarchy of needs to kind of understand his emotional needs as a human being, not just as a, a good capitalist, which like, I'm just like, I love that the book is doing this.

And I also love that by the end of the book, it's not like he suddenly feels differently. Like he understands that a way to show care for her is to allow her to use his wealth in a particular way. And as you said, he's not unsympathetic to this. It's not like he's anti any of these. It just really doesn't resonate as deeply for him.

But he's just like, well, I don't care if it makes her happy, here you go. And so I also like how the book doesn't rehabilitate him into being a completely different person.

Carter Sherman: Yeah. I guess I wanted to ask you if you felt like that was enough. The fact that he gets to the point where he's just saying that I'll do what makes you happy, and if what makes you happy is redistributing my wealth, that's fine with me. Do you wish he had more of a political awareness at the end of this?

Andrea Martucci: I think that it rings as believable to me that somebody who was able to accumulate wealth in this system, has to find this a little bit foreign in order to have done that in the first place. And so no, actually I'm fine with him not necessarily having agency in that and more just giving her the agency, like she becomes his conscience, which like I feel weird saying yes, I endorse this as a great non-harmful thing, but I think in the context of this story, I like it.

So there is [00:18:00] another book that I read and I've read it several years ago at this point, that kind of engages in the idea of the ethical billionaire.

Katrina Jackson's Every New Year has a billionaire who, by the end basically redistributes the wealth that he accumulated from the labor of his workers and shares equally in some sort of like profit sharing thing.

And I think in that book, if I remember correctly, the heroine does push him towards that, but also it's kind of more like it didn't occur to him, but he's like a good person anyways. And so I think that, like in contrast, when I think about that book, that's a book where he is an ethical billionaire and he just needed like a specific suggestion to make the right decision.

Where I think this book, it's like no, Mikhail isn't necessarily a good guy. I mean, he's an incredibly emotionally damaged man who was doing the best he could with what he had to work with. And has made some progress on that. But also is did not have a complete personality swap.

Carter Sherman: Yeah, that is fair. The book that I was thinking about that this felt reminiscent of, but is a very different book, is the Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian. Have you ever read any Cat Sebastian or this particular book?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, I think Cat Sebastian says, oh, I write Marxist romance. So this is not surprising, but yes.

Carter Sherman: Yes. Yeah. And she writes historical romances a lot of the time, so it's interesting to retroactively apply the Marxist lens to a time where Marxism didn't quite exist, but in The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes- also, spoiler alert, there is a whole plot line that goes on regarding one of the character's inheritance of, I believe it's a dukedom do because it's always a dukedom, and that character rejects it because he doesn't believe that the aristocracy is ethical. He just thinks that it's wrong and he doesn't wanna engage with it whatsoever.

And so it's not exactly the same, but it is a similar sort of rejection of the structures of power in saying it's actually not great and not workable to be a good person sometimes when you have all of this power, particularly if we think about, I think this comparison gets made a lot, but people talk about how like billionaires are the new Dukes because there are just billionaires everywhere in contemporary romance, similar to how there are Dukes everywhere at historical romance.

Although I would make the point, and this is perhaps a side note, that I think billionaires in real life have far more power than Dukes necessarily did. I think that probably a more accurate comparison for billionaires would be the feudalism system where we have all these sort of billionaire kings who can do whatever they want such as buy Twitter, and it seems demolish its ability to work for most of the rest of the populace.

Andrea Martucci: And uh, banning journalists perhaps of particular concern for you as a journalist.

Carter Sherman: Yes, I yeah, it's gonna be an interesting time in the next few months. I'm not particularly active on [00:21:00] Twitter. I probably should be more so.

I think that in Preferential treatment, Mikhail has the same power, probably as a king, He can do whatever he wants and billionaire's money so oftentimes in books is used as a kind of magic power where you can solve basically everything.

And I don't know that this book necessarily reckons with the extent of his power, but it does try to get at the moral and ethical value of it.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, I think that this book stays very much in the intimate sphere of the two of them. And something that I was thinking about was how I feel like a lot of 50 Shades of Grey and certain billionaire BDSM romances, they really love to bring in how the heroine in particular feels out of place, like a fish out of water in his social world.

But that starts to become him treating her to makeovers and nice clothes so that she becomes a possession that reflects well upon him and that he's proud to call his, like that he has acquired. And then that sort of transmutes itself into her self-confidence, right? Oh, I'm not a fish out of water because I've had a makeover and I feel pretty.

And it's not about her feeling good and finding pleasure in that. It's about, oh, now I fit into his social world. Now I make him look good. He can feel good about how I reflect on him. Yeah, I don't like it. But this book doesn't really ever take her into his social world, and he doesn't seem that concerned about his social world, which I think does distance the story a bit from, the power that he has as an incredibly wealthy man where it's mentioned at some point he goes to DC to give congressional testimony.

Carter Sherman: Very major in the context of American politics to do that.

Andrea Martucci: right? But it's never like, oh, and then she comes with him and then they go to this fancy party on Capitol Hill or whatever. Like it's, and it's not what the book cares about, which I think then, yeah it does create a weird void where the book isn't engaging with that. But I feel like it serves the story. But yeah, it's a unexplored area, which every book can't do everything. This book does a lot.

Carter Sherman: Yes, that's true. We cannot ask this book to solve the problem of the ethical billionaire for us in real life.

Andrea Martucci: And I think that's what I like about it, is that it doesn't turn him into an ethical billionaire. It doesn't end the book with, and we've solved the problem of why there are billionaires. It's just like, well, what can he do? What can she do through him?

You were talking about feudalism earlier, which is the perfect time, I think, to bring in this book, Hardcore Romance, 50 Shades of Grey: Bestsellers and Society by Eva Illouz. And Eva Illouz is a sociologist who has a particular focus on

capitalism and romantic love. And so it is perhaps not a surprise that in addition to studying how we shape [00:24:00] our ideas of romantic love in capitalism, she also has written explicitly about the most famous billionaire romance about power that we all know about 50 Shades of Grey.

So this starts getting into kind of like the sexual pleasure dynamics that are explored in these, either quote unquote BDSM relationships or real BDSM relationships. And what she's describing is that this pre-modern system, that she is calling literally, a feudal social system where men dominated women.

"That is men received women's, sexual and domestic services in exchange for which men granted women their presumed protection. And so traditionally, men provided economically for his dependents, women and children, and defended them with his body. This unequal social system was based on a bond of reciprocal dependence. Inequality translated into protectiveness, thus contained undeniable forms of pleasure."

In these books, the readers are referring to "not having to speak," which she says "is another way of saying not having to negotiate, where negotiations results from the fact that women are responsible for preserving a state of pragmatic and emotional equality with their partners," where there's no longer this feudal unspoken, okay, it's a transaction here, right?

Like you give me your protection and money and power, and I will give you, access to my body and family and domestic care, et cetera, but it's a transaction and you have to give me something for it.

She's talking about that "the backlash against feminism is a longing for patriarchy, not because women long for domination per se, but because they long for the emotional bonds and glue that accompanied, hid, justified and made domination invisible as if one could separate male protectiveness from the ,feudal system of domination in which men granted such protectiveness. In other words, modern femininity has to face the still widely prevalent power of males, minus the feudal code of protectiveness that regulated the inferior status of women."

And she thinks this is a result of the feminist revolution, "which has remained selective and unfinished, where the economic sphere and the family are still largely patriarchal."

So yeah, we had these different systems where power was different, right? Gender roles were really heavily inscribed now gender roles have supposedly loosened, but not really. Women are still expected to do a lot more domestic labor. They're not paid as well in the capitalist market, but oh, feminism, it's solved everything we're equal now.

And when women are like, ah, excuse me, no, it isn't but like now I don't even get protection. like, What's going on here?

I feel like that's exactly what this book is getting at is like in these BDSM billionaire romance is like 50 Shades of Grey, is he actually showing care? Is he actually taking away her need to give her emotional labor in exchange for physical things? I don't think so. I think that a lot of times it's just about continuing to gratify male power and privilege. Like he's just acquiring her and any of the things he gives her, or the [00:27:00] pleasure that he gives her, it's for him.

And I think this book, not only because it's a femdom situation, but this book reframes the exchange. It's not an exchange of giving up control. It's an exchange of allowing somebody to show care.

Carter Sherman: That's a really interesting point. I think that this book has a sense of play about it when it comes to the BDSM scenes that you don't often find in particularly billionaire BDSM romances. Cause I think in large parts, so many of them are so rote. And I, the book also explicitly mentions that Mikhail feels like this is play for him, and he feels that this is them having fun in a way that he's never experienced before.

And there's none of that sort of thing that I think happens in a lot of BDSM romances where it's like, oh, you have earnestly broken the rules of our relationship and now I have to punish you, which I think would be bad, generally speaking in a BDSM relationship, which, I guess I should say that I am not going to try to speak for the entire BDSM community, but I think generally speaking, there's the BDSM dynamic oftentimes, and then there's okay, we also do still need to talk through our issues.

And in this book they are constantly talking through their issues in a real way. And then they also have fun when they have sex with this dynamic, it feels very separate for them while also being a core part of their relationship, if that makes sense.

And I also think they're so, I mean Kate in particular, much more so than Mikhail, is so clear-eyed about the power dynamic between them.

There's multiple points where she tries to push the envelope in terms of, okay, how much power do I really have over you? And he never cedes his actual money. And she recognizes, as long as you have the money, I do not really have the power in this relationship.

And that is not something that I think in a lot of billionaire romances that is ever grappled with. And yes, the woman is often treated as this latest possession that the billionaire has acquired, and he loves this possession.

But to the point of the quote you read about changing gender roles, if we imagine that marriage in the past came with some degree of security because you had these rules that governed how men and women were going to interact in marriage, you had that level of security and you oftentimes don't see that level of security in BDSM and billionaire romances now, because at any time, this man who has all the money could discard you.

He won't because you're going to have a happily ever after, but

Andrea Martucci: But only within the bounds of a romance novel where we feel the security of that because we know the conventions of the genre, but that is addressing the kind of emotional need of the reader to feel. Okay, well Actually, I'm not sure that I'm [00:30:00] secure here. I'd love to know that it's gonna work out in the end and that my partner isn't gonna change, that the security we have together isn't going to end.

Carter Sherman: And you get the added security of his money. I think that the billionaire money makes people feel much more secure in this very financially unstable world, which is also just such a huge part of the fantasy of the billionaire romance. God forbid anybody date a millionaire, that's just not enough money to feel secure these days.

Andrea Martucci: I know. And I also wanna be clear that just because in the past there was an expectation of these gender roles and the expectations on men, obviously that doesn't mean that every woman who participated in that system was actually protected or cared for or whatever.

Like we have to acknowledge that because women in that situation were not the ones wielding the power that they had very little recourse and systemically they were at a huge disadvantage to do anything about it if their partner or whoever wasn't holding up their end of the bargain.

But now I think truly we do live in a world where, because of that kind of like incomplete feminism, that we're in this weird middle place where it's almost not allowed to really acknowledge that we're not equal because oh, look how far we've come. And it's like, well, yeah, I mean, like some things got better.

Carter Sherman: I haven't read the book that you were just quoting, but I do think that the way we conceive of "marriage in the past" is more complex than we necessarily think about it today. I think a lot of our American ideas about how marriage function is in the past really stemmed from the 1950s, and we think that the 1950s model of marriage was how marriage always was.

And that's not necessarily true. I really recommend this book called Marriage: A History by Stephanie Coontz, which goes very deeply into the different ways that people conceptualized being married and the role that love or fidelity had.

And the second point I wanna make to this sort of incomplete feminist revolution is that I think you really see this is such a small thing, but I think about it a lot.

You really see it in the context of who pays for dates. And it's funny to me that we are now in a system where we're equal because if a man and a woman goes on a date, they might split the bill. But in reality, that woman is probably making less money than the man because women tend to make about 70 cents on the dollar.

And that is a gross aggregate. It changes very much for women of color who make even less. But so that date would have a higher impact on the woman than it would have on the man. But theoretically when you look at the receipt, it looks like it's equality.

Andrea Martucci: So that makes me think about equality versus equity, right? Where equality is like 50 /50. Equity is well, but if this is a much greater percentage of somebody's income or any resource it's not equitable.

So like equitability is maybe the goal, right? [00:33:00] Which requires acknowledging that not everybody is starting with the same privilege or resources or ability.

Carter Sherman: Yeah. Not everybody begins at the same starting line.

Andrea Martucci: Yes, exactly. Which I think this book is explicitly engaging in that idea.

But let's actually talk about one area where there has been a backslide in terms of rights for people in our country, specifically relating to bodily autonomy, which is abortion.

Something that has felt pretty much done in dusted Roe v. Wade is very much under attack.

And based on state's decisions, people do not have access to abortion. How does this story talk about abortion and specifically how that impacts individual's ability to find security?

Carter Sherman: Find security cuz this book is all about how we find security.

There's kind of two main points that I think abortion pops up in the book. The first is in Kate's own personal story where she offhandedly mentions as this list of ways that her life could have gone differently. She mentions that she had an abortion at 17 and she just moves on.

It's not really discussed any further, but there is another point where she decides to get Mikhail to give money to a women's shelter that has lost its funding because one of its major funders found out that they were helping provide abortion services.

And it really struck me as a person who covers abortion, that abortion is even mentioned in the pages of a romance novel.

I think many romances people deal with unexpected pregnancies and they just have the baby, and that is a totally valid decision. I think in real life when someone gets pregnant unexpectedly, people do think about whether or not they wanna continue the pregnancy, and they do think about whether or not they're gonna have an abortion.

And we don't often see characters in romance or in fictional media writ large that have had abortions and just moved on with their lives. It's oftentimes a very dramatic sequence of events.

There's actually just a study that came out that talked about the portrayal of abortion in the media, and one of the things that I found really interesting is that more than half of abortions in the United States prior to the fall of Roe V. Wade were conducted via medication. They were induced using pills. But that is not really a method you ever see on screen. Most of the times people have some kind of very dramatic sort of abortion, like a surgical abortion.

And so we really have a lot of misinformation out there about how abortion even works, much less how it impacts the lives of the people who get them. And I think a lot of people do have abortions and then just move on as Kate did.

Andrea Martucci: We were speaking of Sarah Marshall before we started recording. And she did a whole episode of You're Wrong About that shared listeners' stories of their own abortions and how they felt about it. And I think that it's a really interesting episode and really affecting episode because you definitely hear the range of stories and how people feel about it, and [00:36:00] it's intertangled with their life situation at the time.

So it's so contextual, but really the big takeaway is that the situation may not have been good, but the abortion was good, it was good for them. It had a positive impact on their lives. And I mean, obviously my opinions on this are pretty clear. Like it's a personal decision, you know, people should be allowed to make this decision themselves is the whole point.

And if somebody does believe it is going to help them in their lives, I believe they should have access to that.

Carter Sherman: I feel obligated to jump in and say that I am a nonpartisan reporter. But we do know that through studies of people who have had abortions and following them through the years, that the vast majority of people five years out from having an abortion do not have negative emotions towards it.

Andrea Martucci: Mm-hmm. Okay. Now this is a total tangent. So a nonpartisan reporter. You just stated data from a report. That is a fact, that is not your opinion. What is the line before sort of nonpartisan as in this is specifically related to a political position and I don't know, I don't wanna say morality, but I don't know, like your moral position as like a person?

Carter Sherman: I mean, I think that is a conversation that journalists have within themselves and in our journalistic community all the time. And I think that there's a broad swath of journalists who say objectivity is a myth. We all come at journalism from various perspectives and experiences and levels of privilege, and we should acknowledge that.

If we acknowledge that to ourselves and we acknowledge that to the readers, then we can provide a more transparent and potentially more honest level of reporting.

I don't know that I think I've gotten to a place where I know exactly how to articulate my stance on nonpartisanship and objectivity.

I think for me, what's important is that I've covered abortion for seven plus years, since even before I came to Vice. I used to live and work in Texas and cover abortion there, which was a really interesting experience. And I have talked to just so many people across the spectrum of abortion beliefs and across the spectrum of experiences with abortion.

And for me, what's important is getting those stories out there and helping people understand what abortion is because there's so much misunderstanding about abortion. I think a lot about how people lack what I call abortion literacy. Which is the understanding of abortion science, abortion law, abortion religion, which is not something I engage too much with but is really important for a lot of people, as well as abortion in the courts.

Abortion is such a tangled field for a lot of people, and it's really hard for people to have a lot of information about it, although a lot of people have really strong opinions about it. And so for me, what's important is just providing as much information as possible so that people can have more informed opinions because they're gonna have them because it's a very heated topic.

Andrea Martucci: As you were talking about that, I couldn't help but think that this is really a very similar idea to like why [00:39:00] it's important to see things like this talked about in romance novels or even for this book to be presenting a different way of thinking about billionaires in romance and BDSM and power exchange and all of the things that this book is talking about.

It is presenting another way of thinking about something where the dominant message about these things is it's really a single narrative, right? Like the trend of BDSM billionaire romances followed a very similar script. The way unexpected pregnancy comes up in romance novels often follows a really similar script that just reinforces that that is the way you should think and feel about the situation, right?

That if you know you have a partner or somebody who is willing to support you, then of course you should not terminate the pregnancy. And it's like maybe those things are unrelated. I mean, maybe let's just present that too as another different normal way of thinking about it.

Carter Sherman: It's interesting though because I think that there is one dominant narrative about abortion, but also about billionaires, about BDSM, about how you want to be in a sexual relationship with a man and his money in romance.

But I do think readers, as I'm sure you agree with, have much more nuanced and complicated emotions towards all of those topics than necessarily the books convey.

To go back to your very first question about why I read romance, I am constantly interested in the way that there are these very specific, often singular narratives about all of these topics that get presented, but people who read these narratives have many more complex feelings. And I'm always wondering what's being satisfied here when we read these really simple is maybe a strong word, but dominant ideas that maybe don't agree with our personal thoughts and feelings about wealth and capitalism and pregnancy.

And I appreciated, yes, reading a book where it challenges that dominant narrative.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. On that note, I wanted to come back to something that came up earlier about a situation that happens in a lot of the hegemonic dominant narrative in billionaire BDS romance. Where

Carter Sherman: that is a great turn of phrase

Andrea Martucci: I'll trademark it.

Carter Sherman: People need to be talking about that a lot more.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. We should be. Why aren't people talking about this?

Carter Sherman: It's only us. No one else has ever had these thoughts.

Andrea Martucci: Exactly, exactly.

Carter Sherman: Us and Heather Guerre.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. just Heather Square, like out here doing the good work which I do actually believe she's out here doing good work.

So this idea that you will gain security by, when I say you, I I'm projecting this onto the reader, right? Like the reader as you transmuted through the primary character who in an MF romance is usually considered to be the female main character. Where if I can lock this guy down, I'm set for life because he's a billionaire and I can have whatever I want.

And that also gets into okay, things are better for you. You [00:42:00] are more secure. Like what about everybody else? Because you just have aligned yourself with the thing that creates inequality. Okay, like you're doing fine, but anyways, should anything happen to that guy or the stock market crashes or like whatever, it all goes away because it's dependent. She is dependent on him.

And I think that this book is so aware of that dependency that is created where he even thinks about at a certain point I do kind of want her to be dependent on me because I don't want her to end the relationship too soon. Of course, I'm gonna make it good in the end when this ends, as all good things end as he thinks.

But he is aware of that aspect of the relationship, but then also as he grows to care for her more, he's really aware that if he is creating this transactional relationship where he is paying her, that he wants to make sure that he doesn't put her in a completely vulnerable, dependent situation where, when their relationship ends as he believes it must, she has a resume with a blank space in it, or she doesn't have the means.

Because he's aware that creates that power imbalance where she's motivated to stay with him because she is vulnerable without him, which at a certain point he is actively resisting.

Carter Sherman: I think this goes back to this idea of money as care, which is so prevalent in this book and I think is true in real life, that having money equals security, equals people feeling cared for. And he does talk about, oh, if I give her too much money too soon, she won't need to stay with me and she's gonna leave me.

And so I've gotta slowly reel her in and keep her on the hook. The nice thing about Mikhail throughout the book is that he is aware of that. He's not necessarily aware of how much his money influences the dynamic, but he is aware of wanting her to not be at ends whenever their situation ship ends.

And I think that kind of conveys at his core that he is going to be good to her because he's trying to be good to her. Even if he might not be in Kate's view, actually a good person because he's not very thoughtful about his wealth. She always feels at his core that he's trying to take care of her as best he can.

And when they get to the point where she asks for more and he says, I'm not capable of it, she takes it really well where she's just like, yeah, I mean, you're trying your best and you can't get there. And so we're gonna have to end this because I have to take care of myself at this point.

And so I just really appreciated throughout the book the ways that they were really respectful of one another at all times. There was never a point where they were lashing out at each other and being upset in a way that was meant to be hurtful.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, which is a really good point because I think there's a lot of romance novels across sub-genres of romance that have characters [00:45:00] hurting each other and lashing out. But we're supposed to take it as the reader as a sign of their deep caring. But it's like you sit and you think about it for a second and you're like wait a second.

Like if you cared about this person, truly, or do you only care about what they can be for you, how they can gratify you?

When we start thinking about transaction where he is coming from a place of he can only view relationships as transactions because of his known emotional trauma and where he thinks his only value as a person is what he can pay for, like how he can make money.

And he does not believe that he has innate value. Okay. So of course he is going to pay for intimacy, which, yes, it's like sexual intimacy, but also really he wants that emotional intimacy too, even though he doesn't know what to do with it. So this book is explicitly dealing with sex work, although as you noted in your notes to me, it is never really called sex work.

I mean, it's acknowledged that it's a transaction. She says at some point "they're not gifts, they're payment. He's not paying me to have feelings." and this is interesting cuz this is a theme of the series, right? Like Mutually Beneficial, starts with that idea of sex as a transaction.

These characters are engaging in sex work. How do you deal with that, with consent and with, the separation of physical and emotional intimacy and how that evolves and, yeah. What are your thoughts on the sex work aspects of this?

Carter Sherman: Yeah, I mean, I think at various points in the book, Kate refers to herself as the help and also as a service provider. So she is thinking about this very clearly as a job, and it is interesting that they never, in these books, call it sex work because I think all of these characters seem politically aware enough to A, call it sex work, and B, not necessarily feel bad about it being sex work.

And indeed, in neither of these books do these women particularly feel all that bad about it? I think in Mutually Beneficial, Anna, the main character of that book, does feel some strife about it, but ultimately doesn't let it impact her self worth. She doesn't think less of herself at the end of the day for this.

And Kate seems to just not. Think about it really at all as a reflection on her morality or her ethics. It's just yeah, this is another way to make money. And it seems like he's trying to do the best he can by me in terms of hiring me for this. So I'm comfortable with the terms of this engagement.

I think that is also something that I don't know that I've ever seen in other romance novels. I think having sex worker main characters period is unusual, although not unheard of. I think I've read one romance novel ever where the main female character was a sex worker and then stayed a sex worker through the book and didn't give up her job at the very end, which was also quite unusual.

Andrea Martucci: Katrina Jackson, who also wrote Every New Year, she also [00:48:00] has a series where she has sex worker characters and has spoken about also, like outside of those texts yeah, like the end of a book with a sex worker if the person loves this person, the happily ever after doesn't have to be them leaving sex work.

Carter Sherman: Yeah, I mean, I think that oftentimes for all the talk about romances being like a topography of women's desire and therefore maybe being inherently feminist, I think they oftentimes espouse in very retrograde ideas about morality and sexuality.

You see this in all of the virgins that are living in Romancelandia. And this book just took a very modern approach to sex work. I think a lot of people, increasingly, all the time, don't feel like they should be treated as less than or treat themselves as less than for being sex workers. And that is what this book does and I appreciate it also, similar to the way that the abortion is talked about, that it wasn't really dwelled on.

Andrea Martucci: Right. It's not the central conflict. Like, "Oh, I feel so dirty for doing this," right? That's not it at all.

Carter Sherman: She doesn't think about that whatsoever. It's not even a thought process in her head.

Although, okay. On the topic of, working for this man who you're having sex with throughout the book, she is having the sexual relationship with him that he is paying her for, but she is still an employee at his company.

And then at the very end of the book, she starts working for his company again. She briefly quits when they have their separation, she comes back and she works specifically on this newly constructed foundation that he has set up specifically because he can now be vulnerable enough to tell her about the causes that he wants to support. And this is also, maybe a way that she is redistributing his wealth.

I'm wondering if you had any thoughts about the fact that at the end of the day, he still remains her employer, which feels like still a little questionable in light of the relationship between work and sex and sleeping with your boss because it feels like another form of dependence that she has on him.

If they break up, she still loses her job.

Andrea Martucci: I can't remember exactly how it was handled, but when at some point he's okay, we're gonna get married and there's not gonna be a prenup. Which essentially means that even though she's his employee, if she's married to him and there's no prenup that, essentially if she leaves, she gets half of everything he has.

Carter Sherman: I think depends on what state they're in.

Andrea Martucci: Chicago, Illinois. So I don't know the laws in Illinois.

Carter Sherman: I'm from Washington State, so I think about the Bezos divorce a lot because Washington State is a state where it's community property.

Andrea Martucci: Which, Which, means what?

Carter Sherman: it means 50 50. It means everything that Jeff Bezos made during their marriage, he had to split it with mackenzie, which she ultimately did.

Andrea Martucci: unless a prenup overrode that.

Carter Sherman: Yes, but they didn't have one.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. Because it was love.

Carter Sherman: Well, up until it wasn't. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: But I think that, okay, so I don't know, I can't remember the specifics of how this book mitigated it. I am okay with the messiness of [00:51:00] it because I think that this book is engaging with the messiness of it, which makes me feel like I can trust the author as a reader that, this is just the messiness of life and that the text is engaging with it, the characters are engaging with it. And so I don't know it, like it, I am gonna give more grace to that. Whereas if I felt like it was completely unaddressed in the text, I think I would be like, oh, this is problematic.

Cause I actually feel like, how is it different than any other work? As you were talking, I started to think part of the problem with how sex work is conceived of socially is wrapped up in the idea that sex work is somehow different from other labor.

That selling "your body" is somehow different from using your body to do other labor. Move boxes in a warehouse. Like why? I mean, obviously it's wrapped up in sort of like prudery and a lot of ideas around how women in particular should guard their sexuality and only exchange it for a ring, they should only exchange it in heterosexual marriage for the ultimate prize.

Not for, one paycheck, but for the ultimate paycheck of heterosexual marriage. And I feel like that this book is really thinking about that where especially if you're somebody who grows up not taking basic security for granted, why would you view it as anything it's just like, sure, it's like another type of work.

And I've read things that kind of talk about this, so this isn't like an original idea, but the evolution of how we conceive marriage very much is wrapped up in changing the conversation from a very transactional conversation where yes, you're gonna marry me, we're gonna align these families, and we're gonna share resources. That's literally what it's about. It's not about emotions. Who cares?

You don't have to like each other, but you do have to make some babies so that we can, tie this up together.

I think that as marriage has become like, oh no, it's not a transaction, it's about love. You marry somebody because you love them and nothing else matters.

I think that it has really tried to hide under the surface the transactional elements of it. And that is another thing that is like really common in romance novels, right? This idea that characters cast aside practicality for love but it's okay because it's all gonna work out in the end because he's a secret billionaire or he's a secret duke, or whatever, right?

Carter Sherman: Yes to all of. And I could not tell at the end of the book if they were married cuz she mentioned she wants a really long engagement and he does say the thing about no prenup and maybe they're married or maybe they're not. But you make a good point about having the security of marriage in some ways there.

And I do think that this book acknowledges that marriage is a financial contract because it's brought up in the context for the first time between them as a financial contract. I think he specifically says something like, women rely on men all the time. And she's like, are you talking about marriage?

And yes, that is what he's talking about essentially. And they never [00:54:00] backtrack on that statement. They are in agreement that this is also another way that men and women can financially tie themselves to one another. And I appreciated that.

Maybe this is also just where I'm at in my life, but I'm in my late twenties and I'm going to weddings all the time. And so I spend a lot of time thinking about the wedding industrial complex and how we're pouring so much money into these weddings, into something that's theoretically all about love and not about money.

And so it was just so refreshing to read a book where money is at the forefront of this couple's relationship because in real life, you're never gonna be able to escape how money impacts your relationship, even if you're married to a billionaire, which most of us are not.

Andrea Martucci: It's true. Most of us are not.

Carter Sherman: Regrettably so well, you

Andrea Martucci: honestly, it seems like a lot of people are trying to get out of being married to billionaires.

Carter Sherman: Yeah. This some very notable recent billionaire divorces where people were trying to get out of there.

Andrea Martucci: so maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be in real life.

Carter Sherman: I mean, maybe this also gets back to the point that we were talking about how it's such an intimate book. It's really just about the relationship between the two of them. You never really get into any of the other complications that would be involved in marrying a billionaire.

Like how does she feel about his private jet? I'm sure the private jet is really bad for the environment, but we never hear about that.

Andrea Martucci: It probably is. But I this is not an absurdly long book. It's brisk, like within the first chapter, he has propositioned her with the proposition I think it starts off chapter two she's spending money and she's thinking about the sense of security.

And it moves, which I appreciate. Cause I don't honestly, this is what I'm here for. Let's do this. I mean, it passes the Bechdel test. She has friends and conversations with other people. She has like family drama too. Her twin sister who is initially presented as a real hot mess, gets her act together and actually is the one who would advises Mikhail and actually tells him what love is.

Carter Sherman: Her sex worker sister.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. Yeah. Cuz she's an erotic dancer, which yeah, again just yep. It's just, that's not the problem, right? That's not why her sister is having problems. It actually becomes part of the solution for her.

So this reminded me of the other thing that I really love about Heather Guerre's work, and you brought this up in your notes too.

She deals a lot with families of origin that are troubled and not nurturing and people who are adults trying to deal with that. And she has other books that deal with this that I'm just in awe of how she is shifting the narrative.

Because I think a lot of times books, if they engage with families that are, abusive or have traumatized the character or what have you, that there's like a forgiveness arc or like people get better or whatever, they just keep putting up with it. And I love that her characters are able to recognize the issues and they sometimes just cut people off or really are dealing with that themselves.

What does it mean for them? I love that. And then the other thing that she works with [00:57:00] in her books is male vulnerability where men are surviving abuse or have their own trauma history that they're dealing with.

So what stood out to you about that in this book?

Carter Sherman: I feel like in some ways Mikhail was a deeper character than Kate in particular because of the way that Guerre talks about his vulnerability. And I think Kate's arc of vulnerability is very straightforward and true to some relationships. No relationship is, I guess, totally linear.

But, she starts dating this guy. She develops feelings. She chooses to be vulnerable with him. He is unable to reciprocate, and then they get to a point where, yes, we can be together because our vulnerabilities match.

Whereas Mikhail starts off the book feeling very confident. I think he explicitly says every day, I believed more and more that money could buy happiness.

But his vulnerability is always so present for him. He is constantly not only in need of her, more and more, cuz he feels so much for her. But he is constantly feeling like any minute she could not wanna do this anymore, she could cut me loose. How can I make myself appealing to her when I come from nothing, when I have nothing other than my money And he just is riddled with insecurities in a way that feels like a real person is riddled with insecurities. He doesn't necessarily survive abuse clearly. It's more like he has survived neglect because he came from nothing and he lived in an orphanage and he never really developed any kind of family ties.

Andrea Martucci: Passive abuse.

Carter Sherman: Passive abuse.

And it's not that he overcomes those vulnerabilities or loses that insecurity, it's just that he learns to trust someone and learns to trust her, that his vulnerabilities are not going to drive her away. And he comes to recognize that he can be vulnerable, which is spelled out in the creation of the foundation, where he said, I wanted to make this foundation, but I never felt like I could be straightforward about my interest because that would require me to open up to somebody and now I can do it for her.

And you talked about this in a previous episode of your podcast, are men people in romances, and I think in this book in particular, Mikhail is very much a person.

Andrea Martucci: And you'd think that a book where literally he is living to serve her sexually, with his money, et cetera, you would think, oh wow. He is a character who is just there to serve her needs as a character. And that's not it. He's has incredible depth as a character.

And, you were talking about the vulnerability, you talked about earlier, like she has not received care in her household growing up, basic hygiene care or help learning those skills. And so as a child had matted hair and had to learn how to bathe herself properly and didn't have basic needs met, like clean underwear.

And so she has this insecurity about like mattes in her hair. And when she's insecure, she runs her fingers through her hair to be like, oh, it's not matted. And she shares this with him and he [01:00:00] shares that because of the food insecurity that he experienced as a child, sometimes he still hides food.

And what's so beautiful about the moment is when they share these things with each other, not only do they fully accept, okay, I see you and I understand how that hurt you and that's not a reflection of you. You have value that shouldn't have happened to you, but it becomes part of how they express intimacy with each other.

When they're laying together, he runs his hand through her hair to express that you don't have to worry, and I just love that as a way to really reinforce that you can't fix somebody else's trauma. All you can do is reward their vulnerability and show that you can be trusted by acknowledging and showing that you understand that they have additional needs in that area and that you can help them by giving them that.

Carter Sherman: Yeah, I think that he seems like a character who has never been rewarded for being open, and she does that for him. She just acknowledges it and accepts it and moves on and doesn't think any less of him for it.

And I also appreciated how, even though he's sexually submissive, a, she never tries to attack him for that. Not that she would ever think to, but b, that's never seen as a point of vulnerability. That is not seen as something that he has to be insecure about. That is just the way he is sexually.

It's so interesting how this book sometimes is so matter of fact about things and then sometimes goes so deep into elements that oftentimes are treated as so normal as to just be the water we swim in in many other romance novels.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I could literally talk about this book for years.

Carter Sherman: We're just doing an advertisement for this book at this point.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. It's not that other, Books don't hit on some of these themes or all of these themes. I think just what's so fascinating about her body of work is, she is consistently talking about these themes to varying degrees across the books she's written.

She's written like alien romance and like a succubus and

Carter Sherman: I think he's an incubus actually. Yeah, it's, yeah. Cuz it's Cuz he's the man, right? The, it's the man who's like the sex demon. The succubus is a female demon and the incubus is the male demon. Why I have this knowledge in my brain when I couldn't name all of the presidents. I don't know. But

Andrea Martucci: Which information is more important and relevant?

Carter Sherman: I mean, apparently this, because it's coming up right now.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah and I mean, I think that's almost the charm of what I really love about her work is like every time I come into a book and I'm like, okay, an alien romance or a werewolf or a vampire, or oh, landlord it seems off the top it's just like, all right, we'll see what's going on here.

And then every single time I'm like, wow, you really surprised. Like you, you dealt with the problematics and you went there.

Carter Sherman: She's really good at taking just very straightforward commonplace genre constructs and saying, okay, [01:03:00] this is the setup. You've seen a thousand other books that have this exact same setup, but how can I take that and deepen it and go into different topics than what these types of constructs usually deal with.

Andrea Martucci: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Oh God. So she just came out with a new book, What Could Have Been, and it's a contemporary and I would say it is the one where coming in it's obviously dealing with tropes, but a little bit less wild than some of the other tropes that she's dealt with.

But I know you haven't read it yet. I will just say there were things in this book where I was like, wow, this is like a little too close to my personal stuff. And not in a bad way, but I was just like, maybe this is part of why her books really resonate with me is it's a lot of like my stuff.

Carter Sherman: Yeah,

Andrea Martucci: it's hard cause I'm like, did we even do this justice? I mean, it's, you could write a book, I think about this book. You could write a book longer than this book about this book with citations. But we'll just have to accept limitations.

Carter Sherman: have for sure sung this book's praises. If part of the point of this is to get more people to engage with this topic and this book, I feel like there's nothing more we can do on that front to convince people to read it.

Andrea Martucci: Yes, I agree. And I don't generally feel like I have episodes where I'm like, this is just a endorsement for this book. But I actually feel like I'm comfortable saying that for this book where you and I talked before, like there is no such thing as a perfect book.

There's no such thing as a book that can do everything or do everything exactly as we might want it to be done. But I think, again, it comes back to trust. I trust that this author has thought about this stuff and is putting it on the page, she's showing her work.

And I think that's what matters is I understand where these characters are coming from and so I have much more trust as a reader in engaging in their messiness. They don't have to be perfect. I love these characters and I never thought I would say I love a billionaire character.

Carter Sherman: I think that you're so right about just building up the trust in the goodwill, even though I have some questions about this ending where she works for him and whether or not that is a good dynamic, whether or not that's a perpetuation of inequality in their relationship. I also have the goodwill built up towards this book that I trust that the author has thought about this and the characters, to the extent that they exist, have thought about this. They're having off page discussions about the complexity of their working relationship. I fully believe that insofar as characters are doing anything off the page.

Andrea Martucci: Are you telling me these aren't real people?

Carter Sherman: I regret to inform you that Mikhail, I forget his last name, does not really exist.

Andrea Martucci: Oh boy.

Carter Sherman: Yeah, I know this is not a biography.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, I'm gonna have to do some thinking after this. It turns out, in fact, romance novels are not biographies or [01:06:00] real life.

Carter Sherman: I know. It really reshaped my entire understanding of the genre when I figured that out.

Andrea Martucci: I have some things to think about.

Carter on that note thanks so much for being here today. Thanks so much for being game to talk about this book and bringing it up so that I could jump on you and bring you in to talk about it.

Where can folks find you online and what should they go look for on Vice when it comes to your writing?

Carter Sherman: Obviously they should read everything and anything I ever write but they can find me on Twitter for as long as it continues to exist at Carter underscore Sherman. And if you just Google Vice News plus my name, you can find everything I've ever written. I also do host and produce videos for Vice News and Vice News tonight, which is our television show.

So if you type in my name plus Vice News plus YouTube, you can also probably find some stuff that I've done there.

Andrea Martucci: You have a very good journalist name. It's like very easy to remember and it's original.

Carter Sherman: Thank you. Someone told me once that it would be a good name for an airport paperback writer, and I've never forgotten that. It's the highest compliment I think I've ever gotten.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, look your next thing, right? Or I mean, or now. Just start now.

Carter Sherman: Yeah, I don't know if it's a good romance novel name, but it would be like a great, like the latest Carter Sherman airplane thriller.

Andrea Martucci: Oh yeah. I like that. Okay. And I'm also really excited to read the article that you have written, in edits, about Dark Romance. Should be out before the end of 2022. So I'm looking forward to reading it. Really excited.

Carter Sherman: Thank you so much for having me. I had such a great time chatting about this book with you and really appreciate all of your insights on Dark Romance.

Andrea Martucci: Thank you so much for spending time with me today. If you enjoyed today's episode, please subscribe, rate, or review on your favorite podcast app or tell a friend. Check out ShelfLovePodcast.Com for transcripts and other resources. Or you can find me @shelflovepod on Twitter or @shelflovepodcast on Instagram. Or you can always email me at Andrea at Shelf Love Podcast dot com.

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