Shelf Love

When Your Lover Rips Your Father’s Heart Out

Short Description

Dame Jodie Slaughter, Feather Fetish Understander, and I recently discussed how The Savage and The Swan speaks the unspoken, what a winged wolf looks like, and whether this book is a metaphor for toxic masculinity and healing generational trauma. This summary below was written by AI using my episode transcript:

The Savage and the Swan by Ella Fields is a groundbreaking work of Enemies to Lover literature that combines elements of dark fairytale retellings, a possessive anti-hero, and spicy fae romance. The story follows Opal, a princess in a kingdom at war with its neighboring kingdom, Vordane, ruled by the shape-shifting wolf-with-wings Dade. Opal is forced to marry a human prince to strengthen the alliance between the two kingdoms, but is kidnapped by Dade and must find a way to reconcile her feelings for him despite his shocking act of violence.


scifi and fantasy romance, fairy tales, romance novel discussion

Show Notes

Dame Jodie Slaughter, Feather Fetish Understander, and I recently discussed how The Savage and The Swan speaks the unspoken, what a winged wolf looks like, and whether this book is a metaphor for toxic masculinity and healing generational trauma. This summary below was written by AI using my episode transcript:

The Savage and the Swan by Ella Fields is a groundbreaking work of Enemies to Lover literature that combines elements of dark fairytale retellings, a possessive anti-hero, and spicy fae romance. The story follows Opal, a princess in a kingdom at war with its neighboring kingdom, Vordane, ruled by the shape-shifting wolf-with-wings Dade. Opal is forced to marry a human prince to strengthen the alliance between the two kingdoms, but is kidnapped by Dade and must find a way to reconcile her feelings for him despite his shocking act of violence.

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Discussed: The Savage and The Swan by Ella Fields

Guest: Dame Jodie Slaughter, Shelf Love’s International Smut Historian

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Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] What shall I ask you?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: You can ask me what I would shift as what would my shifter form be? I could just say something super ridiculous like a wolf with wings.

Andrea Martucci: That's ridiculous.

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 Martucci, and on this episode, I'm joined by Dame Jodie Slaughter, Shelf Love's Feather Fetish Understander, to discuss The Savage and the Swan by Ella Fields, A groundbreaking work of Enemies to Lover literature entered into the canon of romance fiction in the year of our Lord 2021.

Jodie, what is a feather fetish?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: a feather fetish is pretty simply put the act of getting off on feathers, the feel of them, the texture, the way it might feel brushing against your face, how they look. Feathers can be quite sexy. If you are a feather fetishist, you likely enjoy the feel of them. Maybe you wanna sink into a pile of feathers.

Andrea Martucci: Hmm. Like a feather bed.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. Like a feather bed.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I'm just really honored to have you here today because I think that the text that we'll be discussing today is really maybe the only piece of literature in romance fiction that explores the feather fetish in such depth. So truly an honor to have such an exalted expert with me here today.

So this book, the Savage and the Swan, by Ella Fields, is according to the official description on Amazon- this book is available on Kindle Unlimited- "is inspired by Hades and Persephone, Rumplestilzkin and the Swan Princess. And so the Savage and the Swan is perfect for fans of Dark Fairytale Retellings, a possessive anti-hero, and spicy fae romance."

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yes. That's a lot of things, Andrea. That's a lot of, that's a lot of retellings.

Andrea Martucci: Honestly, I think you can really tell that this work has been inspired by some of the great pieces of fantasy literature and really combined them into just like a mess of bloody feathers.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. But I think that's exactly what it is. I think you recommended this book to me, right around the time it came out when we were together over ice cream cones on the side of the road.

And then you recently recommended it to me again for this podcast recording.

And I was still a little confused as to what this book was about when I went into it.

Andrea Martucci: Are you still confused?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, I'd say a fair amount. We went into this with the idea that we wanted something that was distinctly romance, which it is, but we wanted something that was a little batshit in some ways.

Andrea Martucci: Which it is.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: It definitely is that, Yeah. I think one word I'd use to [00:03:00] describe this is ambitious.

Andrea Martucci: It is ambitious. Honestly, I wish there was a fast way to explain what this book is about. in terms of world building, I think it's important to understand that this book is going for high fantasy, but doesn't actually expend that much effort building a lot of this world.

Just to be clear, at one point they're talking about the fabrics and there's cotton, silk and rayon. Now, I don't know if you know anything , I don't know if you know anything about rayon. It is a petroleum product. so this is apparently a world in which there are petroleum products, in which there are cotton fields

Dame Jodie Slaughter: worn by fae people.

Andrea Martucci: by fairies who can shapeshift and have other magical powers.

So just suspend your disbelief. The point is not the fantasy. I think it very much is in line with a Court of Thorns and Roses. In that regard, like it is just like whatever. You're not here for the world building. it is making reference to a lot of fairytales and expecting you to draw on your understanding of fairytale worlds that already exist in your head.

okay, so you have our heroine who has a name

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Opal.

Andrea Martucci: Opal, who is a princess in a kingdom that has a neighboring kingdom that they've been at war with for almost her entire life. The king of Vordane his name is Dade. He is a wolf with wings, who is a shape shifter.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: but he's also fae as well.

Andrea Martucci: Yes, they're fae kingdoms. However, in this world there are also humans. Opal's kingdom has like a tentative alliance with it. However, humans are not to be trusted essentially. And so things are not going well in this war with Vordane. They're getting the shit kicked out of them.

She finds out that she is going to have to marry the human prince in order to strengthen this alliance, and she has been raised to believe that essentially her only goal and role in life is to exist to give birth to an heir because her older brother died before he was able to have an heir. So she exists to further the bloodline.

That's all that is expected of her. However, there is this weird thing going on with her where she can shapeshift into a black swan and there's a prophecy about that, which we will get into later.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: This isn't common. Apparently, like she's supposed to keep it a secret, which because of the prophecy, I did find myself surprised that swan shifters were this uncommon thing. I guess I went into it expecting that there would've been swan shifters all over the place.

Andrea Martucci: Or other shifters. It seems like people understand that some people with really pure fairy blood , we'll talk about that later. that the more [00:06:00] upper crusty you are, the more likely you are to be a wolf shifter. But that appears to be like the only kind of shifter that exists. again, the world building is light.

So Opal runs off because she's upset that she's gonna have to marry this human prince. And she meets this mysterious guard from Vordane and he teaches her how to fight a little bit, and there's a little bit of like tussling and a little bit of like dry humping and kissing and a little bit of blood play and

And, after this blood play, he goes off and she gets this bad feeling and she shifts into a swan and gets to the battlefield where her father is returning, from a trip. And her father is battling with the king of Vordane, who turns out is the guy she knew of as Fang.

And she gets there just in time to see the guy she just kissed, reach into her father's chest cavity with his wolf hand, shift back into a human and pull out her father's heart in his hand and eat it. But look, we find out later, he didn't actually swallow it. He did spit it out.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. He's like, I spit it out later. What do you want? I didn't eat it, in my defense.

Andrea Martucci: that's like you get caught cheating on your girlfriend and you're like, she spit it out. It doesn't count.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: That's exactly what it is. Also, a couple things to note. Opal can't control her swan shift. It happens randomly,

Andrea Martucci: When she is overwhelmed by emotion, it's harder to control

Dame Jodie Slaughter: okay. Yes, but there's also a foreshadowing that involves the weaving of gold into

Andrea Martucci: Yeah,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: garments that, also, once again, the world building is not, you know, the best.

that's not really that explored

Andrea Martucci: It's never explained. Don't look for an explanation. It doesn't matter. So anyways, one might be asking at this point, this is a romance novel between Opal and Dade who literally just ripped out and chewed on her father's heart.

How? Where do we go from here? After a brief foray where she goes to the human kingdom and is held captive there and then is almost raped by the prince, she basically is kidnapped by Dade, goes back to his kingdom and they begin a tentative relationship where at first she thinks she's gonna manipulate him because he did kill her father. She can't forgive him for that, but, things happen and, eventually I will say the third act really falls apart and doesn't make any sense whatsoever. But long story short, they get married and there's a giant battle. The human prince, at some point, he was captured and Dade was literally just like full on torturing him.

And because she has a soft and tender heart, she lets him go, which allows the human prince to come back and like almost killed Dade. And so she has to save him and,[00:09:00] sacrifice herself, but kind of like a phoenix she's able to rise from the ashes and, allowed to have her happily ever after because she finally forgives Dade when she thinks he's dead.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yes. Even though admittedly it doesn't feel like she was ever that mad at Dade.

Andrea Martucci: She wasn't. No, they were joking about it. two days later,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, She's like, Hey, remember when you, and mind you, this wasn't like a mafia romance in which the mafia princess's father is like abusive. And the hero murders him, like her dad was at times, maybe emotionally distant, but generally a good father, whom she loved very much. and she seems to get over his death pretty easily when Dade is in the picture.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. What I'm looking for is, this is a quote and this is honestly the turning point at which I'm like, oh, ho ho. This is the kind of mess I want to talk about. "His brow crinkled in a way I found far too endearing for a male who'd ripped my father's heart from his chest before tearing into it with his teeth."

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Babe what?

Andrea Martucci: Okay, so this is the thing is in a dark Mafia romance, usually this is all taken very seriously. Everything is life or death. We are actually like really mad that the bad guy's doing bad things. In this, this is not that this book is not super self-aware, but it is aware that it's gonna have fun with this and that this is over the top.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, I think that's exactly it. that's why I think it gets away with the lack of world building. I've never read a Court of Thorns and Roses, and I'm actually not a huge fantasy or high fantasy fan. It's not my preferred genre whether there's romance or not.

But as I was reading this, I was like, I feel like this is a book that was made for people who are a fan of that, who maybe wanted it. who? There were people who came out of a court of thorns and rose and someone was like, yeah, that was fine. I wish it was really more intensely romantic, sexier, and less of all the other shit.

Andrea Martucci: Which to be fair, like I found a Court of Thorns and Roses to be it wasn't devoid of romance for me. And it's like there's enough of the sexiness where I'm like, okay, all right. But there is a lot of other stuff.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: Where I'm like, I don't know. I could do without this.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. The romance is not, and the sex is not the main [00:12:00] point of a Court of Thorns and Roses, but it is the vehicle driving this book.

Andrea Martucci: I think in a Court of Thorns and Roses, it's the reward you get for getting through all the other shit. and in this book, the sexiness and the romance is the driving force. And then it's like, oh, I guess we have to introduce a conflict. What if he killed her father? And

then now also, not only introduce a

Dame Jodie Slaughter: conflict, but also attempt to do three different retellings

in one 300. I don't know how many pages This is. Like three. Like three something.

Andrea Martucci: according to Amazon 350 pages, print length, whatever that means. There's a lot of it's touching on these fantasy things. I don't think it ultimately really cares about any of them.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: no, the portion of the book where Opal has to spend time captive in the human's castle. I'm like, what was the point? But also in the small amount of knowledge of fantasy books I have. That's not like an, super uncommon thing to happen. it's using the like character journey that you would see in a fantasy novel. But it's all like useless because she would be spending time with the humans in order to like fully build this world out so that we can understand what the human's place in this world is. Like all of that stuff. But we don't get any of that cuz that's not the point of the book.

And so I was left feeling like we could have cut this. There was no reason to have this here. Not really. And also it's just keeping us in multiple chapters from having our love interests interacting and together now, and obviously not for that long, but.

Andrea Martucci: But I think that it's also forcing for there to be conflict because if they were actually just together and there wasn't this evil human prince about, who then is going to like almost rape her, then you don't have the motivation for other plot things. And for him to get angry and for him to force the issue and be like, no, I'm actually kidnapping you.

and I think that it's like we could spend all day pulling apart the inconsistencies of this text. Because I think that like part of the shallowness of the fantasy is also like the shallowness of characterization where it's like there are many characters in this book who flip flop, where like one moment you're like, okay, is this person just like pathetic and whatever, and then they're like full on villains.

Okay, no, maybe it's not black and white like that, but it is black and white like that. These characters solely [00:15:00] exist to just push plot points forward and they're not even consistent within that. So like it doesn't even matter.

The reason I wanted to talk about this book, in addition to it just being bat shit, is that I think it's a useful example to look at like what we find entertaining.

And what we find enjoyable about texts, and then also like the boundaries of that because, this was my first Ella Fields book that I read, and then after it I read one of her contemporaries where the "hero" is literally a serial killer and is literally torturing people in a scene that is very similar to what Dade does in this book, where in this fantasy fairytale world. And he's literally like cutting the prince's nipple off and then like bringing a healer in to make him better so he can torture him again. And he's literally just in his zone, having a great time torturing. And Opal comes in and she's kind of like, um, Dade.

He's like literally like grooving to

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yes, it's funny.

Andrea Martucci: And in the contemporary, that is literally the character of this serial killer. And I was like, huh. So Dade's a serial killer, which he is

Dame Jodie Slaughter: and that's the thing. You recommended that book to me as well, and I, yes,

Andrea Martucci: I don't know why I would do that, cause I don't actually recommend that book, but, okay.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Well,

Andrea Martucci: I told you about that book. There's a difference. Jodie.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: yeah. Oh

Andrea Martucci: I told you about it. I didn't recommend

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Okay. maybe my memory's funny, but yeah, you told me about this book. I did not finish that book, but it wasn't necessarily a hard DNF, it was like, oh, I'll come back to this. And I just never did. But I think that worked better in that book.

I think that's my critique of this, is that it, I love bat shit's stuff. Stuff that's like weird and all that shit. But I think that when you put it in this setting, to me it's just fundamentally less interesting. I would've rather just read the serial killer romance.

Andrea Martucci: Oh God. Okay. So that's interesting because I felt like even though in the serial killer romance where it's making a big deal, much like, the Madly Darkly series that I talked about with, Fangirl Jeanne and I hated that book, which had a lot to do with the writing and stuff.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Even when books make pains to be like, no, but it's like bad people. Like it's a very, it's like a Dexter situation where the people they're killing deserve it. And the book makes pains to make it clear they deserve it. In this book, Dade is killing a lot of people who legitimately don't deserve it. We spend more time showing him killing people who do deserve it.

And it's like soldiers and stuff. and over the course of the book, you find out he hasn't been like killing innocents to the extent that she believed, but he is still out here, like slaughtering soldiers, not people he actually has any beef with who are evil.

and I wanna come back to what his deal is in terms of vengeance but [00:18:00] also were initially led to believe that he just kills her father in cold blood. He's just an a monster. He's a beast. He's a savage, if you will. And then you come to find out like, actually her father killed his father after her family killed Dade's mom.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Go ahead and explain it. Like we let Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Like it's one of these things where over the course of this story, something that you believe is really black and white. He's just a bad guy.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: It's revealed that whatever you think is the truth is not correct,

Andrea Martucci: it's convenient. It's a way to rehabilitate him and his actions. But the thing is he's still out here just like killing people who are just pawns in this war.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: it, and it doesn't ever really, it never succeeds because, okay, yeah, we're shown Dade, he's a murderer. He bit her dad's heart out, whatever.

Andrea Martucci: he ripped and then he bit.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: yes, he ripped and then he bit, excuse me. Yeah, he did not use his mouth to break the chest cavity, but even Opal doesn't ever really believe he's this like monster.

Like she will tell herself that, but ,

Andrea Martucci: how could a monster kiss the way he does? How could a monster make her feel the way she feels, and just be so attentive to her and make her feel good and be a monster? Jodie, how?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I think that's my like ultimate rub is that I would rather have had the Dade who did just kill her father in cold blood.

Andrea Martucci: I feel like in a fantasy world I was much more willing to suspend my disbelief with okay, whatever. This is just the way this world works, even given the thinness of the world building.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: But that's the point of a book. Like, that's the point of having a main character of a love, interest of a romance who is a serial killer. That's what you're supposed to be like, yes, this is a bad person, this is a monster.

Andrea Martucci: Edward Collins refused to give into the monstrousness of his nature

Dame Jodie Slaughter: exactly, which is why, at the end of the day, we all fell for Eric Northman,

Andrea Martucci: Oh yeah.

We're switching vampire universes. But I totally get you.

Nobody gives a shit about Bill.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: and then you went to the Sookie Stackhouse series. Cause I need something with a bite, a real bite.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. So if we understand Dade, to basically just be this like archetypical bad man who is going to be rehabilitated by the love of a woman.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Boo.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, exactly. But I feel like, but I feel like this book is saying the quiet part out loud, and that's why I think it's interesting to talk about, because as I was going through reading this, I was like, okay, it's a metaphor for patriarchy and toxic masculinity and breaking and [00:21:00] healing generational cycles of violence.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Is it

Andrea Martucci: I think it is, let me make my case,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: okay?

Andrea Martucci: Because Dade grows up essentially emotionally and physically abused by his uncle, who indoctrinates him into this belief that the kingdom on the other side of the river that murdered his family is evil and that the only way to avenge their death is to just go on a rampage killing them.

And he is basically raised to be an emotionless killing machine, i e toxic masculinity

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Okay.

Andrea Martucci: in addition his own trauma, but also he doesn't grow up in a family with like emotional wellbeing, so he's an emotionally stunted person.

But I think this is like a metaphor for, and again, I don't think the author thinks this, I think you can read this in the way you can read a lot of romance novels as like the Rochester type, the Byron bad guy hero is essentially a guy who doesn't have emotional range. And then by falling in love with one woman increases his emotional range.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: sure. Yeah. I've written that, so yeah, 100%.

Andrea Martucci: She also is healing from a situation where her parents did not consider her emotional needs. It was all about hiding who she was and using her for their family's own purposes. What she wanted didn't matter. Finding somebody to love didn't matter. It was just like you just have to have a baby and marry somebody and isn't basically just like you just be in your place and be an asset to this family by being a wife and a mother.

I don't know. sounds like toxic femininity and the patriarchy.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yes. Okay. Yeah, that's very patriarchal.

Andrea Martucci: And also a family system that doesn't recognize her as an individual only sees her as an extension of the kingdom, aka the family's needs. And both of them over the course of the story need to break out of that and heal themselves with each other, with lots of banging, lots of blood play. Also, they're fated mates, so I didn't even mention that. Like whatever.

So Opal's learning about the abuse that he went through as a child. And she goes, "stars, Dade. What did they do to you to make you believe that any of this is okay?" And this is in his perspective. "I tilted my head trying and failing to understand, I don't know what you mean. I'm a king. I was raised as such. That is the damned problem. Opal licked her lips and I long to just pull her clothes and sniff her hair, run my fingers through it. Slow her heartbeat under my touch. She continues, you have been raised to be the problem and so thoroughly that you do not even see what you are."

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Okay. Ella Fields, that's.

Andrea Martucci: My note is patriarchy.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: That and that's the note, just patriarchy. The character development and the romance were difficult for me because I was really [00:24:00] distracted by how much I didn't like the world.

Andrea Martucci: Okay, that you weren't able to see the beautiful metaphor that was embedded

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. I was the patriarchy, the critique of patriarchy that exists betwixt these pages.

Andrea Martucci: I feel like that is actually like the whole point of the fantastical distraction that is a good romance novel, I think usually hides the baldness of what's going on.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Sure.

Andrea Martucci: So I was actually curious, like this book is messy as fuck.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Did you enjoy it? Hold on, let's qualify what I mean by that.

Did you read it quickly?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: No. I took me maybe four days, which a book of this length, I could probably read it in six hours.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. So it was like a little hard to get through for you. Did you enjoy any parts of it?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: . I would say that it's an unequivocal, no, I did not enjoy this book. I enjoy an enemies to lovers, so that's a trope that I enjoy and the way the plot is set up, it's a good enemies to lovers. Dade is, He was in some ways less interesting and more interesting to me than Opal.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Because Opal's, despite the fact that she's like chafes at this idea that she only has one goal, she truly just believes that she has to live for others and be self-sacrificing and it's all about how do I heal this rift between our kingdoms and heal my people.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: And I found that I, we won't get into the critique of why I was like, why would she think that if she's incredibly resentful of the fact that she's being used as a pawn in all this?

Andrea Martucci: because she's somebody who deserves to be a queen and have power because she cares about other people because she's a woman, because she's a woman. And what women are nurturing and care about other people. That's why,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I just, I, I guess the sex is, oh, it's okay. it's, yeah, it's, it wasn't bad

Andrea Martucci: look, you are, in addition to being a feather fetish connoisseur, you did also discover female erotica in 2019, and you are an internationally renowned erotica expert. So look, I'm gonna trust your take on this.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I will say. Ella Fields writes better erotica than Anai Nin and I'll stand by that.

Andrea Martucci: I'm gonna put that on a meme.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: You can't, I stand by that. You can quote me on it. Put on shirts. I definitely enjoyed her sex much more than I enjoyed an Anais [00:27:00] Nin's sex. what else did I like? I thought it was just too long.

Andrea Martucci:

it was too long.

Did you think it was fun at all? were you like, haha. This is like messy in an enjoyable way.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: yeah, I thought there were parts of it that I thought were messy. I got a lot of laughs I think maybe some of which were, maybe some supposed to be laughs, but a lot of which were not. Like Dade shifting he's a wolf shifter. Hot. Nice. Cool. The wolf has wings and he can fly and that's real funny.

Andrea Martucci: yeah. Oh my God. (cackling) I'm just picturing, a wolf with his little legs dangling,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Exactly. The swan shifter is it's also funny cuz it's so batshit because it's like (Andrea honks - like a swan? Do swans sound like geese?) Exactly I, there's a part where she's oh, my web feet. I'm like, oh my god. She's not only a swan, she's a black

Andrea Martucci: she's a black swan.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I don't know what that means.

Andrea Martucci: Something that like really annoys me about her character is that she has the ability to control the natural world. So like she can touch a rose and encourage it to bloom and at one point she is able to like summon thorns to shoot thorns out at somebody. And she has this power.

And I think at one point is like, why do I never think to use this when I'm in trouble? And you think that she's learned that lesson at some point where she's gonna start being a little bit more resourceful and use what she has. She is never resourceful. She's like in a battle at the end and she's just ah.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: she is a swan who can fly and the humans hold her captive.

Andrea Martucci: . Yeah. She could have flown out the window.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: she could have flown out of a window.

Andrea Martucci: She can unlock doors. and I think the point when she's being held captive by the humans is she knows she can leave. She's only staying because she believes she has some duty. Now, I don't wanna get too far off track, but I did read the second book in this series

the Wolf in the wolf in the Wildflower. Does it also what?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Does it also follow Dade and Opal?

Andrea Martucci: No, it follows Scythe. Sith?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Hi. I think,

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. whatever thing you use to cut down wheat, . I don't know, I don't wanna say that word out loud. It's a terrible word. And that book is a not enjoyable mess. It is just a mess mess. I read it just to have a point of comparison for . I was like, huh. I wonder if this was just unique to this book or what.

Honestly, that book magnifies a lot of the problems of this book. And there's this one part where they have the ability to warp, which is like you can

Dame Jodie Slaughter: they teleport.

Andrea Martucci: They teleport. They can teleport. Yeah. And they are in this situation like being tortured and being held captive and they keep like [00:30:00] warping away and like having a little sexy tryst and then they go right back to being tortured and they're like, we have to go back.

And I'm like, why? Why? There's a weird insistence on just continuing to put the characters in these situations that they know they might not make it out of, but not for any good reason.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, I think that's the issue. I think a huge issue. it wasn't just like the fantasy of it all. The characterization of Opal was really difficult because so obviously she's like, I have this duty and I actually don't at all dislike characters with like martyr complexes.

Andrea Martucci: I do.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: if they can like overcome it and we can like, dig into it,

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: but in the end I just found her really bland and insufferable, bland and insufferable and Dade wasn't, he wasn't that much better to me. In their first interactions I was like, oh, I'm gonna love this. Cuz he starts calling her sunshine and shit.

Andrea Martucci: and Princess.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

And I love a princess,

Andrea Martucci: Well, excuse me, princess.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, exactly.

But I can't subsist off of endearments alone.

Andrea Martucci: you know, Again, I just wanna come back to the reason I think this book is interesting is because it's so bald

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Sure.

Andrea Martucci: in its purpose and in the message where, I read it again several days ago and I read it like fairly quickly and it was a reread, so I knew it happened and everything. But I found it entertaining enough. And, transporting until it broke me out with certain things like rayon, like honestly, honestly, that one just like I was

Dame Jodie Slaughter: The wildest one for

Andrea Martucci: the wildest one for me. But what is interesting to me is that I feel like in less obvious ways, many other books are doing these exact same things, and it's interesting to me just how clear it is in this book, what the message is, which is essentially about characters who have trauma deserve to be forgiven.

Even if as a result of their trauma, they do really terrible, bad things. And this book also just really reinforces gender essentialist ideas of men and women

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: and their role in society. And like on the one hand is like superficially challenging it, like Opal's role in life isn't just to have a baby and get married, but the book has her getting married to unite the kingdoms and end the war. And through love, she solves everything and makes it better.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. Yeah. And I don't know, maybe that's part of my rub with it too. it must be like, just uninteresting

I [00:33:00] think actually what it is, now that I'm thinking about it, is that all of my issues go back to plot and the way things play out for these two, I was like, we could have had something actually really interesting here to me, and if that's what we're trying to convey is that women don't have to get married and have babies. Maybe give us an ending where we're not just playing into what her fears were at the beginning, but that it's okay because, she loves this man. She didn't love the prince, so she didn't want it, but Dade, yeah, it would've been more interesting to me if both of them had left.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. so what's interesting is that in the next book, the heroine is the queen of this other kingdom, and in a marriage that she thought was a love marriage, and then he cheats on her because she can't have a baby. And so he impregnates another woman, so then she runs away and is hurt and meets Scythe, Scythe, whatever, and they're fated mates.

but she has her duty to her kingdom, And so it's not that easy. She can't just leave. And so she has to go back and basically has a depressive episode for a year and a half, and there's misunderstandings and Baba. Baba. Oh, but guess what? Scythe is actually the true king of that other kingdom and he's an alpha and they both have equally pure bloodlines.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, that's a, that's another thing for me, not even just pure blood lines, which is. Enough, the royalty of it all is, I find it so uninteresting. I enjoy, I have a duty to this kingdom. I have a duty to my family. I enjoy like the deconstruction of those feelings and characters, but these things are never actually deconstructed, especially because these characters aren't actually realizing this is harmful to me.

Neither of them are like this duty that I feel is misplaced. I should have a duty to myself. I should have a duty to my partner. Let's run away and live in a hole in a tree in the woods together.

Andrea Martucci: So literally the next book pretends like it's doing that but the thing is that I think that in the next book she's like, I have a duty to my kingdom, but the kingdom is literally dying this like other place Wistensia or whatever. But she holds on forever even though she's doing literally nothing to help the people in her world the same way that Opal does literally nothing to make the people. She's like, well, I have to heal this rift and stop the war,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: How?,

Andrea Martucci: but does absolutely nothing substantive to improve it. Just lives in luxury and does [00:36:00] whatever.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: exactly.

Andrea Martucci: And so then in this next book, the whole conflict is, I can't leave, I'm a queen. And like it, they could have just solved it by him being like, great, I'm the rightful king. Let's save this place. Instead he's like, I don't wanna be a king of this place. This place is dying. And eventually they are able to escape and live in the woods where it's okay that Scythe is like just a commander in Dade's legion cuz he's actually a rightful king and he's an alpha himself.

So he's still a top dog. He's just choosing to do this, whatever. And then by the way, that kingdom does die and the bad husband does die, even though there's like this whole pretend redemption arc.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: The baby too.

Andrea Martucci: and they had a baby. And guess who ends up raising that baby?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Are you absolutely serious right now?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, because they died, because they were trying to hold onto this kingdom.

So then the hero and heroine raised this baby, and also they pretend like marriage isn't she's like, I don't wanna get married. I don't wanna get married. So her husband eventually dies and then 10 years later, the way the epilogue rounds out is they end up raising her first husband's bastard child that was the cause of all this pain and suffering, which like, obviously that's not the kid's fault, but they solve her barrenness, which was the whole initial conflict by giving her a baby. And then she's like, we're not gonna get married. And he asks her to marry him for years. And then the last page, she's like, yeah, let's get married.

So it undercuts literally everything that it pretends that it's doing.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: That's awful.

Andrea Martucci: But I don't think it's actually that different from all the undercutting that happens.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, it's not an uncommon thing at all in like regular contemporary romances especially a woman who was like, I don't wanna get married the entire book to ultimately get married at the end. Or surprise baby epilogue.

Andrea Martucci: Let's just go back to Pride and Prejudice, which many a romance novel essentially follows this. I don't care about wealth and power and whatever. And then just conveniently, the person that you fall in love with has wealth and power, either overtly from the start, or you're like, I'm gonna throw away my life of privilege.

I'm gonna be with you a poor man. Oh my God, you're a secret Duke, and you're, or you're a secret billionaire.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. That is always it always gives me, oh, she's Virtuous, because she threw away, all of her privilege and wealth and she wanted to have someone for love, and this means she deserves to have

Andrea Martucci: wealth and privilege. You're only allowed to have it if you don't want it, if you're a woman.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. Oh yeah, that's, that goes with everything.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. And I think that also it's this idea that the only men who are valuable are the ones with wealth and power. And even if you don't know that you like have this like sense

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: can sniff it out, that like a good man, a man with good blood, [00:39:00] who will be a good provider, who will blah, blah, blah, meet society's expectations for a man.

Not only will he be virile and sexy and skilled in bed and give and highly attentive to you and all of that. They also secretly have the bloodlines of a king and the skills to be the best at whatever they do.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: two things. Opal and Dade are both virgins.

This is a dope. Look what I was like. Oh, interesting. Fun. Only their sex is perfect. and there's some point where he's basically like, I don't have sex. Like I just watch other people sex.

Andrea Martucci: He like watched people have an orgy.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: And so that's how he knows how to have.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. Okay.

Okay. But then two, I keep saying that's my problem with this and I, I'm ultimately realizing that everything is my problem with this. I don't lean towards wealthy, like the wealthy, the royal, the powerful. It's not what I find attractive in either character, but definitely not in a hero.

and it's not that I don't enjoy like an alphahole, it's just maybe I want 'em to be like blue collar

which doesn't make me better. I'm not saying that's better.

Andrea Martucci: Am I better than everyone?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I'm just saying that the like lovable alphahole, HVAC repair guy is way hotter to me than the prince. I don't want the prince.

Andrea Martucci: but I feel like that's because in real life, when people have unearned privilege, they're usually pretty insufferable.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: So insufferable.

Andrea Martucci: I think that we have a real experience with people like, for example, and look, I know that a lot of this is exactly what the media is shaping us to believe about these people.

But Prince William growing up knowing that you're gonna be king. Oh my and that everybody has to defer to you even when you're like three years old. imagine what kind of person that raises. A Monster. A Monster,

I read the Palace Papers by Tina Brown, which is about the royal family. And it sounds like the same thing with, prince Charles, where you're just like, just imagine your mom is the queen of this country and you grow up knowing you're gonna be king. Nobody will be honest with you. Nobody's having a real relationship with you.

You grow up thinking you're the center of the universe. yeah.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: and actually the most obscene ways, cuz you're a hashtag ruler, I know they don't. But Ruler king, queen Prince in the title after your name, you have obscene amounts of wealth. Yeah. like Spare. I'm like, yeah, I get it. Your brother was probably mean to you and he like kicked sand in your face and it wasn't great. And I understand like the personal trauma of being like,

Andrea Martucci: the spare?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: We don't care about you as much. [00:42:00] Yeah. Being the spare, but I'm like, you know, babe, at the end of the day, I don't care that much. I don't care at all.

Andrea Martucci: I think that in particular, what is a little bit off putting about it all, and by the way, I'm like Team Harry and Megan, like if I had to choose a team,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I was obsessed with Princess Di when I was a kid, so I'm always team Princess Di and her favorite kid.

Andrea Martucci: The reason I am pro them is because they got out of a toxic system. The reason I side-eye them is that they refuse to actually point out what's problematic about that system.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. None of them are like, this is like imperialist colonialist garbage. And we've been part of an institution that's wreaked havoc across the world for centuries and it's just but they were really mean to me. And they asked if my kid was gonna be brown, which is fucked up.

But I'm also like, girl, what did you think it was gonna be?

Andrea Martucci: To a certain extent, I also understand as an American being like not fully getting it,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: but if the person you fall in love with and listen, I'm not cynical about this. I believe they truly love each other. I don't think that she chased after him cuz he was a prince. I believe they love each other.

I she was like a famous actress. She was not living in obscurity,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: no, and no. I definitely don't believe she chased after him. We don't care that much about that.

Like Americans, like in general. We do not give a shit about that, about the royal family in any real way that it would be like, I need to get this prince. And that's, I don't think that was it at all. I do think they love each other.

Andrea Martucci: But like also Megan is smart enough to understand what British, imperialism is

Dame Jodie Slaughter: You'd think.

Andrea Martucci: and to maybe question even if you love somebody, what does it mean joining this institution and propping it up as a working royal? And I think there was this like, oh, I will be the poster child for them being more accepting and diverse or whatever.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: She was willing to be a part of that, like if they had accepted her under those terms, willing to be like paraded around

Andrea Martucci: Exactly. It's a bit like, okay, so you're gonna prop up this terrible institution and allow yourself to be used in that way.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: And look at us and be like, I loved him. And it's like, babe,

Andrea Martucci: then say, okay, look Harry, I love you, but like, why don't we leave now?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: exactly.

Andrea Martucci: Right. And like, why don't we call out how toxic this is? So yes. And I'm not like, just because he was privileged, like it didn't hurt, I feel so much empathy, honestly, for all those people, especially the ones who are like clearly the most emotionally stunted.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: I wish they all would get the help that they need, but.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I wish they would get the help they need after the people storm Buckingham palace and and oust [00:45:00] them. and then,

Andrea Martucci: totally agree. I think that the institution shouldn't exist.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. They should not exist. They should be able to be the same as all the rest of our fucked up families who recreate awful dynamics like this without the money and the power.

Andrea Martucci: should be privileged civilians in therapy.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. Oh yeah. Like, Succession. It's just Succession.

Andrea Martucci: Let's be real, if they were any kind of civilian, they'd be privileged civilians.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Privileged civilians. I think that should be a Twitter name. I don't wanna change it from Dame Jodie Slaughter. But privileged civilian is good.

Andrea Martucci: okay, cool. Good. I'm noting that. I think that's, I think that is good. but yeah, no, I think that there is like this unwillingness in romance in general. and when I say romance in general, obviously there are books, individual titles that are doing this, but if overwhelmingly the zeitgeist is in favor of romanticizing wealth and power, particularly in heterosexual relationships, but also there are ways where you can switch the characters and continue to reinforce the ideology of something, just look at Megan

Dame Jodie Slaughter: yeah, exactly. Hashtag diverse imperialism.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, exactly. does it make it better if the person doing it looks more like people who traditionally don't have power ? so yeah. Why is power and wealth so appealing when real life examples of people in power, the royal family, which obviously a lot of people idolize, even though, again, like from my American standpoint, I'm just like, what?

They look miserable.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: This is how I feel about all famous people. I'm like, that seems like a miserable existence

Andrea Martucci: Mm-hmm.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: to me. You get the money and I understand that, but after a certain amount of money, you're not even actively happy about it anymore. it's all greed and then, I think you get that rich people brain rot. You're not supposed to have that much excess

Andrea Martucci: because people start to buy into the idea that they have so much because they're actually better. And look, if you don't understand how much eggs cost, and then people are like mad because food prices have gone up and their wages haven't gone up. If you literally don't know what like people are making and how much eggs cost, yeah.

It's like easy to be like, Ugh, why don't they work harder?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. What was it it was supposed to be like a funny segment. Bill Gates was on the Ellen Show and it was like, guess the prices of these food, of this, like this fucking Lucille Bluth ass. How could one Banana possibly cost Michael? $10?

Andrea Martucci: right.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: And it was like, this is supposed to be funny? This is funny to us?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. So we understand that people who are so privileged, they're insulated from the real world and they start to lose empathy for people in [00:48:00] other situations.

They start to buy into this idea that they have more because they deserve it and they're better in some way. Romances reinforce this constantly. it's the whole bloodline thing. It's the fact that the guy you really love also is the best. Also makes the most money, also has the most power is the sexiest, is the best at sex is the most romantic.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: yeah. And I think we get away with it with these sort of like bullshit excuses about, poor people fantasies about comfort, women's fantasies about safety and comfort. without actually digging into in, okay, so what, ultimately you've created this, this fantasy of this poor, very vulnerable woman who's like harmed by society because she is a poor, vulnerable woman and instead of attempting to create a story where

Andrea Martucci: where she is not poor and vulnerable because she is a woman or because of her upbringing or whatever.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: She just joins the caste of people who harms poor, vulnerable women, and we're supposed to be like, this is a comforting thing for women to read.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, that is a lot of the justifications about why it's okay to like harmful stuff in romance that you will hear readers say is this is like super stereotypical and I'm aware of this. I spent all day changing dirty diapers or like working at a job that doesn't pay me enough or whatever. Putting up with bullshit.

I just want to immerse myself in a fantasy world where somebody else is going to take care of all of this for me. Where I am going to be treasured and where, going back to the Eva Illouz book that I won't stop talking about. I don't have to constantly negotiate like what I have to be responsible for here and what my role is.

Like you're just gonna take care of everything for me and you're gonna tell me how it is and it's gonna be good for me. That sounds like bliss.

I get that. But it further reinforces this, like I think it's called like the just world paradox where essentially even poor people believe that there must be something wrong with them because they're not rich, right?

the rich people must actually be better than me, and I hope that I can become rich by proving that I'm good enough. It's not grappling with the systemic issues. It's assuming that everything is personal responsibility, which is so neoliberal.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: So it's so neoliberal and you see it everywhere. You don't make a billion dollars without exploiting workers.

It's impossible. It doesn't matter if you're Beyonce. It doesn't matter if you're Elon Musk. That's just the truth. billionaires shouldn't exist and neither should princes or kings, whether they're fae or not. [00:51:00] And that's my issue with this book.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: They should have renounced the throne. Maybe I would've liked it. And I also, I know that their throne doesn't mean anything. We never really see peasants,

Andrea Martucci: Fae peasants. Pheasants..

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Fae peasants. We never see pheasants.

Andrea Martucci: Maybe they're shape shifters. We

Dame Jodie Slaughter: that's what, Opal and Dade's kids shifted to.

Andrea Martucci: Oh my God. Winged corgis.

What do you get if you cross a wolf and a swan?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Oh, wolf with wings.

Andrea Martucci: No, wait. No. He's already a wolf with wings. So messed up. Okay. I'm not trying to convince you to like this book at all.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Why you see us? why you're interested though. Admittedly, I was very distracted and it was hard for me to move outside of what I was really turned off by to see the value in it. I, part of me would say maybe I should reread it.

And I, I'll never do that.

I'll never do.

Andrea Martucci: you don't have to. You don't have to. I just wanted to have this conversation because let me just pontificate on like the nature of podcasting for a moment.

I think I've talked about this before. So when I started this podcast, the whole idea was, let's talk about romances worth reading, where they didn't have to be perfect, but the idea was we're mostly have good things to say about this. It's doing something interesting.

And I think over time what started to niggle in the back of my brain about this is the problem with it, in addition to kind of encouraging people, particularly authors to just recommend books by their friends, oh, I'm not even gonna say that, (Andrea & Jodie devolve into unladylike paroxysms of laughter. There are whoops. Andrea honks for good measure.)

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Leave it in!

Andrea Martucci: I'm leaving all of that. okay. it also ended up encouraging letting the exemplars or the outliers speak for the overall experience.

And what are most people reading right now? KU smut where this kind of falls in, a Court of Thorns and Roses, which arguably romance, who knows. Are they fantasy? Are they romance? I like whatever it's Colleen Hoover, who most of her work I would not call romance, but most people think is romance and would call romance.

And so is it romance if most people think it is, I mean honestly, if the general definition in most people's mind is something I'm inclined to be like, I guess it's romance then. Like, it doesn't matter what the official definition is in that case.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: That's fair enough.

Andrea Martucci: What are people actually reading? And I was like, it's not these outliers. And I think these outliers are interesting and we're having great conversations, but it very much is leading to this like, let's pat ourselves on the back and say that [00:54:00] romance doesn't have these problems because the books that we're talking about here don't have these problems.

And then you look at what the vast majority of what's being read and you're like, oh, have we progressed since?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. This book is really popular and people seem to overwhelmingly love it.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I really struggle with this idea of literally in my last episode, I was like, look, I did a lot of rereading and here are the books that I read. I just needed to enjoy something and not think too hard about it.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah,

Andrea Martucci: I think there's a real tendency to be like, I deserve this.

I just wanna read something entertaining and turn my brain off. I get it.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: absolutely.

Andrea Martucci: And again, said this a million times because I just need this and I do enjoy it and I know there's problems with it, but like, I don't wanna talk about the problems. But also I don't then turn around and say, this is feminist literature

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: and because I'm a woman enjoying this and because it centers women or whatever that, that, that makes it like unproblematic or revolutionary or progressive or whatever. I just really just I feel like I'm just really obnoxiously beating the drum on this where I'm like, I am not entirely clear how romance has actually progressed since the 1970s when you squint your eyes and just look at the blurry outline of what's out there and what the majority of people are reading.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think that's, that's fair. I think that we should be able to have those books that like, just feed your id. Like my alphahole books. But a lot of times for stuff like that, I'm just gonna go read fan fiction but I also, I don't understand the desire to be like, Okay. I like this thing and it's problematic. So this is why I need to do all of these like hoops and thought experiments about why somehow it's feminist that I like it. It's anything other than just, this is my garbage and I'm gonna Oscar the Grouch in it. And also look at it and be like, this is my garbage for a reason.

it's bad in these ways, harmful in these ways doesn't mean don't like it, it doesn't mean stop reading it necessarily. obviously depending, like some of the stuff, some people like babe

Andrea Martucci: but I think we have to acknowledge that it feels good. Because it's problematic. Because it's familiar.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yes. Oh yeah. was it our first? Podcast recording where we talked about alphaholes?

Andrea Martucci: Cause we talked about problematic favorite tropes and yours was alphaholes.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. And I fully acknowledge that whatever that is built out of a desire for sort of the same things you were [00:57:00] saying earlier when it came to I don't have to think and you take care of it. And also, I am in this space where I have this proximity to this person who is going to allow me specifically to not be hurt or in pain or struggling.

just because I don't like that in the form of a billionaire, doesn't mean it's any better. It's still like this deeply, problematic. form of escapism that ultimately relies on the infantilization of women, toxic masculinity, all of that stuff.

Andrea Martucci: and I think it's like a hopelessness that we can actually do anything about the systems

Dame Jodie Slaughter: yeah, exactly.

Andrea Martucci: and if I can't fix the system, I might as well get mine. And honestly, there's this, guy who like will do woodworking stuff while like going on these, controlled rants about the world and capitalism and how terrible it is.

I think it's like Lehigh Valley Workshop or something like that on Instagram and probably on TikTok. And one of the things he was talking about recently, I really enjoyed this first of all because I got into woodworking. So I'm like watching him and I'm like, oh, that's cool. And then also I like listening to what he's saying, where essentially it's just no wonder we're a little bit apathetic.

there is nothing we can do Yeah, we could all collectively get together and maybe we could do something, but also the systems are literally created to make it very difficult for us to do anything and for the people in power to maintain power. And why wouldn't we just buy avocado toast and try to enjoy our lives as much as possible?

Because does it actually make us feel better to spend time worrying about it and feeling angst over something we don't have control over? That is literally what anxiety is. Is like being worried about something that you don't have control over

Dame Jodie Slaughter: yeah. But you have to though.

Andrea Martucci: Well, with romance novels, I do believe that literally the reason it is engaging and interesting to us is because it is

engaging with the problems we feel. It's engaging with the problems that are familiar to us. And it's not re-imagining, it's not world building, a world in which those things are not a problem, which would be unfamiliar to us

Dame Jodie Slaughter: it's just creating a, world where we can, on an individual basis, kinda win at it in a certain way.

Andrea Martucci: Exactly. Because I think that a world that doesn't have the problems we have, what's the fantasy in that? wait, they don't have these problems. So what's the conflict? What am I supposed to find interesting about this?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: And I think this is also why people who don't feel as keenly the problems that romance novels are exploring, don't find romance novels interesting.

Now, traditionally that may be men, right? It's this idea that men don't understand these problems, so why would they find a book that focuses [01:00:00] on like exploring the power imbalance between men and women in a way that mitigates that for women. if they're like, this isn't a problem for me. Why the fuck should I care about this?

Again, I'm speaking like super stereotypically and generically and I know that toxic masculinity and patriarchy is a problem for men as well, but they experience that problem differently,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Very differently. Absolutely.

Andrea Martucci: And most romance novels. Do not explore it from the perspective that is centering a man's experience of that.

And it doesn't have to, but I'm just saying yeah. Is it any surprise that men are not like, this is so interesting to me.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: yeah. No, it isn't at all.

Andrea Martucci: Okay, so like, where am I going with this? Where on the one hand, I'm like, yeah, why not just enjoy your life and allow yourself to be distracted in a fantasy where you turn out okay, in this shitty world that we can't change. Honestly, I get that, but I don't feel like we do ourselves any favors by gaslighting ourselves that that's not what we're doing.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. Both of those things exist and we do it, it's shitty and we're gonna do it and we're probably gonna keep doing it.

Andrea Martucci: This will come as a surprise to nobody. I find it hard to allow myself to read books where I'm just like, no, I'm just gonna fucking enjoy this and it's problematic as fuck, and I don't care.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. I've got my specific threshold and my specific things that I will like, I can't do it with billionaire books. I can't. The one the book that, which is wild to me because the book that got me into romance as like a genre generally was So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon, which is a series, but it's like a tech billionaire and his sugar baby.

Andrea Martucci: Mm-hmm.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: And I was like, but.

Andrea Martucci: And then you wrote a sugar baby romance.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Did I?

Andrea Martucci: To Be Alone With You?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Guess I

Andrea Martucci: Oh my God.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. Oh my god, I didn't, oh, I have not been classifying that as a sugar baby romance because I didn't think, but it totally is a sugar baby romance. Holy shit. To Be Alone With You. Wow.

Andrea Martucci: could have sworn at some point you acknowledged it was a sugar daddy situation. You just forgot. It's okay.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: damn. I should have had her call him daddy, that I really missed the mark on that.

Andrea Martucci: Wait, but you're reissuing it, right? You can fix that.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, that's true. am reissuing it. Make note.

I'm typing. but yeah, like I've got a very specific lane and avenue, and it tends to just be like dark romances. But I try a lot of the ones that get recommended on TikTok, and I find them to be more insufferable than anything.

I like my older meaning early to mid two thousands type dark romances, and like alphaholes. And that's mostly my lane.

Andrea Martucci: I think we get imprinted on a bit with our preferences for romance.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Absolutely.

Andrea Martucci: cuz I definitely find that there's a certain type of romance [01:03:00] coming out now where I'm just like, uh, this isn't for me. it's not for me and it's not for me.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: that's exactly it. That's exactly it.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I'm just like, okay, all right. If other people are enjoying it, great. I guess I'm the problem.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, I'm always like, oh, this is, this has gotta just be a me thing. I don't know if that's always true, but that's what I tell myself.

Andrea Martucci: This is why I'm like, I'm not a reviewer. Like I don't care to talk about this objectively.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. I do not talk about books. I try to like, especially boost authors, especially Black queer authors whose work I actually do like, cuz that's just a necessary part of giving a shit about the people who are existing in this space with me.

Andrea Martucci: Jodie don't you know that no matter what you do, you'll never actually fix publishing? It's hopeless. Just give up now.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: it single-handedly. My book is changing publishing.

Andrea Martucci: It's true.

It is. It is. I know exactly what you mean. I feel similarly and, will press myself to prioritize things like that. And when I do, it's not like five out of five. It's this is what I enjoyed about this book and what you might enjoy about this book.

You know what I mean? It's like this is, just my opinion, but maybe that helps you understand if this book is something you wanna read.

And I think the thing is with romance, I think there's like a threshold of quality that has to be there. There is a point at which a book is unreadable. And I'll be honest, this book is right on that line.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: It's. Yeah. I didn't know if we were gonna go there with that. it's written real bizarrely

Really confusing to read. I had to reread things multiple

Andrea Martucci: times


Dame Jodie Slaughter: I was like, this isn't AI, is it?

Andrea Martucci: I agree completely. Where there are points where I'm just like, what's happening? What is physically happening? Who's talking what, not like big plot wise things where I'm just like, what the, what? But like literally in scene where I'm just like, who's in the room? ,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah. yes.

Andrea Martucci: where are they physically in space and time?

And that's a craft problem. I will read books where I'm like, yeah, this is it's either like very literal or like any sort of like figurative language is just a little honestly cliched or in just like trying a little bit too hard.

It doesn't feel natural, whatever. And there are books like that that I still really enjoy and I don't care. Honestly, I think that romances that are trying to be like too literary bother me. Cuz there's a reason I don't like literary capital L books.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: I think it's like a fetishization of the words themselves instead of the story that you're trying to tell, like the words are in service to the story. And if you forget that, I hate you.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I hate you. I do like hashtag literary fiction, but I agree 100%. Not you, but I agree 100%. I'm not [01:06:00] like the best, most, like, you know,

Andrea Martucci: You don't have to feel defensive about making a statement like this about like your own writing. You don't.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: your English teacher I don't know what we were writing. It must have been some type of short story. And the girl who sat next to me, my English teacher passed it back and was like, redacted has beautiful prose. Everybody should be looking at her prose. I think about that all the time.

That really bolsters me because, shout out to that girl. I know where she is now in life and it's a good place.

But she's not a writer.

Andrea Martucci: But is she a published author? Mm-hmm. ?Yeah. Nope.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: I don't know, maybe she's got dreams. I don't think so.

Andrea Martucci: How's that? Beautiful prose working in PowerPoint.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: She did not write seminal classic Bet On It, that's for sure.

Andrea Martucci: That's for sure. How many books has she written? yeah. No. We said we were gonna talk about this book for an hour and I think we did talk about this book for an hour, and now we've been talking about other things for like more time, which is fine. Which is fine. It's fine. This is par for the course with us.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: To be fair, there was only so much to dig into with this book,

I do think you succeeded in it, you specifically. What depth there could be in this book. You explored it and that was about it. There was

Andrea Martucci: and I don't even think that it is the depth of the book, honestly. I think that what it is doing is it just reveals the project of most romances, and I think that this is what I found interesting about this book is it wasn't that it was well written. It wasn't that I found it like overwhelmingly romantic or sexy, is it just was saying the quiet part out loud,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: which because of what I find interesting.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: It was interesting.

Andrea Martucci: It was interesting, exactly. Where I was just like, and the metaphor, of like patriarchy and healing toxic families or whatever. I don't think that's the intention of the text.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Because also that message gets a bit confused in the text itself. Where there's very much this just forgive family that literally plucked out your feathers and like almost killed you.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Can't speak because I have written that like at least once in a really intense way. and I don't regret it, but I also think that the critique of that is super valid because it's not that I necessarily am like it's the right choice to forgive family, who have like actively caused you harm. It's just that it is a choice

Andrea Martucci: I think that if the family never actually apologizes. I'm like,

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Sure.

Andrea Martucci: goodbye.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: there's got, yeah. That's fair enough

Andrea Martucci: People make mistakes, but if they never atone for their mistakes, and are gonna just continue doing the same thing. What are we doing here?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: So anyways, yeah, the Savage and the Swan

Dame Jodie Slaughter: The [01:09:00] Savage and the Swan, which one of us is the Savage and which one of us is the swan? There are racial implications here, so I guess we have to

Andrea Martucci: I didn't wanna go there and I don't love the use of the word savage

Dame Jodie Slaughter: ever, it can't ever be pure,

Andrea Martucci: at least it's about a white guy.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Yeah, that's true . That's true. Is he?

Just not described as having They are. They definitely

Andrea Martucci: he has like golden slash white blonde hair and at first I thought that we were supposed to picture him as The Witcher.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Oh, I'm thinking like Legolas.

Andrea Martucci: So anyways, Jodie, we should wrap this up. so we can gossip about other things. Thanks for being here today. Thanks for reading this book. I hate to ask people to read books that are like torture.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: No, it wasn't torture and I am proud because I finished a book and reading has been like precarious for me. My life is like a mess, and so I haven't been reading as much. And so it did ultimately make me feel accomplished that I finished a book, so it was worth it.

Andrea Martucci: Good. Okay. where can people find Dame Jodie Slaughter, Feather Fetish Connoisseur?

Dame Jodie Slaughter: In hell. You can find me on Twitter @JodieSlaughter. You can find me on Instagram @Jodie_Slaughter. You can find me at JodieSlaughter.Com where you can subscribe to my newsletter because I'm gonna be sending them out. And you can find my books basically anywhere you can find books. Look at your local Indie First

Andrea Martucci: If they don't have the book request it.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: Barnes and Noble, like second Amazon last. Maybe your library, up there too. But yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Cool. I think we cracked this nut wide open. Honk.

Dame Jodie Slaughter: is that the swan noise?

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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See your name listed as a Patreon supporter on the Shelf Love website if you join at any level. That's

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Because you are here listening to a Shelf Love episode, if you are an avid Shelf Love listener, and do you want to take part in the conversation on the Shelf Love Discord, but $1 a month is out of range for you, please reach out to me, Andrea, at Shelf Love Podcast dot com. I do not want it to be a barrier to entry for people who are truly fans.

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That's all for today. Thanks so much. Bye.