Shelf Love

Harlequin Kiss & Collecting Category Romance on Categorically Romance Podcast

Short Description

I was a guest on The Categorically Romance Podcast to discuss my category romance collecting addiction, reading some books from Kiss a short-lived Harlequin line from the early 20 teens, and how not being allowed to read romance as a teen actually made me more obsessed with reading romance. Hope you enjoy this episode and I definitely recommend that you check out the Categorically Romance Podcast if you're not already listening.


contemporary romance, romance novel discussion, category romance

Show Notes

I was a guest on The Categorically Romance Podcast to discuss my category romance collecting addiction, reading some books from Kiss a short-lived Harlequin line from the early 20 teens, and how not being allowed to read romance as a teen actually made me more obsessed with reading romance. Hope you enjoy this episode and I definitely recommend that you check out the Categorically Romance Podcast if you're not already listening.

We read The One that Got Away by Kelly Hunter (Kiss #1) and If You Can't Stand the Heat by Joss Wood.

Learn more about The Categorically Romance Podcast:


Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to Shelf Love today. I'm sharing an episode from The Categorically Romance Podcast.

I loved speaking with Bree and I really appreciate the invitation to talk about my category romance collecting addiction, reading some books from Kiss a short-lived Harlequin line from the early 20 teens, and how not being allowed to read romance as a teen actually made me more obsessed with reading romance. Hope you enjoy this episode and I definitely recommend that you check out the Categorically Romance Podcast if you're not already listening.

Bree: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Categorically Romance Podcast. My name is Bree, and I am here with Andrea, the host of Shelf Love. Andrea, thank you for being here. I wanted to be like, introduce yourself, but like, I'm totally fangirling out. I think me being on your podcast back in like 2019 was my first ever time being on a podcast.

So like sitting down with you today is so surreal. So tell my listeners about you. Tell us all about you.

Andrea Martucci: Well, hello. Thank you for having me, Bree. It's wonderful to speak with you one on one again. Thank you for being the first official guest on my podcast Shelf Love.

You were literally my first guest. So I had, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just playing it by ear.

It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure to speak to you again.

So hello. My name is Andrea Martucci. I'm the host of Shelf Love, which is a podcast at this point about romance novels and how they reflect, explore, challenge, and shape desire.

It's always been a podcast about romance novels. I've tried different things over the course of time where I used to do more like deep dives into books. And then I started. getting a little bit more into scholarship, talking to scholars, doing broader investigations of the genre, and still talking about books, of course, because that's what we're here for, romance novels.

Bree: That was like my big question. It's so amazing how the podcast has evolved. Like, how did that happen? This just seems like something you've always been interested in, but like the podcast did start as one thing and it just grew and evolved into something different.

So how did that shift happen?

Andrea Martucci: That's a great question. How did it happen? Okay, so I think that when you start a podcast or you start anything . First of all, I'm a big proponent of just if you want to do something, just start doing it. And then you'll figure out what you actually want. You're not going to figure it out unless you just start doing it, right? You're not going to think your way through it.

So I was like well, I want to play around with podcasting, let me try this thing out. And I had this idea, it was going to be this tightly segmented, 30 minute ish podcasts, you know? And then I started doing it and I was like, ha ha ha.

Like that like, no, that was a silly idea that Andrea, who now knows that she has [00:03:00] ADHD, thought that she was going to just stick to a script and not talk for more than five minutes about a thing, right?

And I don't know. I just started doing it and I was really enjoying having the conversations with people about books. And then after doing that for 30, 50, 60 times, I think that it's just like, the conversations I wanted to have as the consistent part of that process was like, that started to evolve.

Where okay, great. Like I've had a conversation about a book like this. Now I want to talk about five books together or you know what I mean? Start to broaden that out a bit and started getting really curious about what romance scholarship had to say about these things.

And just started my own foray into reading romance scholarship and then I learned that the best way to understand romance scholarship was just to invite a romance scholar onto the podcast so that they could answer all the questions I had about things.

So I don't know, I think it's just really my own journey in the field. When I first started the podcast, I think the thing I really wanted was just to talk about books with people because I didn't have people IRL who I could talk about romance with. So that was like the first thing I needed and then what I needed and what I wanted to explore just continued to evolve and grow.

Bree: Yeah. Yeah. I have to ask because you are like, your podcast is one of the few podcasts where I will re listen to episodes multiple times or rewind multiple times. And I'm like, how is she coming up with some of these topics? Like, where is your brain that some of these topics even come to you?

Is it through your research? Yeah. Oh gosh, a light bulb goes off and you're like, huh, let me jot that down and invite this person on to come talk about it.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. So first I have to ask. Give me an example of one that you've relistened to. And then I'll think about that particular one.

Bree: Oh gosh. Okay. One of my favorites, and I'm blanking on what the exact title was. I think it was maybe like two years ago, but it was it was like you did an episode on like witchcraft and the professor, oh my gosh, I'm blanking on her name, but like we're on Twitter. She's

Andrea Martucci: Margarita Guillory

Bree: yes! I was like, Andrea, how did you come up with this?

Andrea Martucci: Okay, alright, and that one's maybe a weirder foray, I think? So I had been talking to Dr. Maria DeBlassie , who has been on the podcast a few times, about witchcraft in romance novels. And in particular we were focusing on romances by Black writers featuring Black characters, and I think, like I try to pair my own opinions and impressions about books with some research and so I started just, trying to get beyond the first page of Google results on Black Witchcraft or whatever the Google search was.

And found Dr. Margarita Guillory, who basically studied this I want to say Black [00:06:00] Esoteric African Diaspora something. I can't remember now. But I was like, you know what, I think that just talking to the source of the scholarship here would just be a really interesting way to talk about this that goes beyond just me being like this is my opinion. This is what I think.

And so reached out to her. She was gracious enough to come join the podcast and talk to Maria and I, and then I just think it really made the conversation that Maria and I had about the books, richer and expanding out a bit more. So yeah, that was that process.

But I think a lot of times it's like the glacier analogy where what makes it onto the podcast is like the tip of the iceberg. And usually there's 90 percent more reading and like just going down rabbit holes of thinking about things and then trying to come out okay well, what's like a topic though?

Bree: Yeah, it's so crazy how it was Shelf Love that really, and I think when the podcast, so it started in 2019, I had only been reading romance for two years. So really, it was Shelf Love that like made me think like, how is it that this genre means so much to so many people and has been around for so long, but people really aren't studying it?

And I just think there's so many aspects to it. So really, it was Shelf Love that I have to like, thank for me I'm thinking, I think seeing things and being like, huh, it's going to be interesting to see what people think about this 15 years from now. And if people are studying this part of romance.

How does it feel for you now? Like the current romance that we're, the romance feels right now. What do you think? Or what do you hope? Or what do you see that you're like, I'm interested in seeing where this goes? Looking at it academically, like. It has to mean something bigger. Does that make sense?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Okay, so interestingly enough, I was just having a conversation this morning with Leigh Kramer and Hannah Hearts Romance about The Flame and the Flower, which may, ring a bell is often spoken of as the beginning of the modern romance novel as we know it today.

It was published in 1972. And from the perspective of today, it feels incredibly dated, right? Where it's just oh my god what were people into with this? But, something I think is really interesting is I'm like, I feel like people in 1972 also recognize a lot of the issues with this.

And so 50 years later, we're like, Questioning what did people think about at the time?

Fifty Shades of Grey is another example of this big cultural phenomenon that gets studied retrospectively, right? But is also talked about in the moment.

I've read scholarship on both of those texts. There's a lot of scholarship on them. The thing I think that's happening today that I think there will be a lot of scholarship around is it's not one book, necessarily, but I think that dark [00:09:00] romance is really interesting.

Bree: Yes. It's so interesting you say that because I had a conversation with a friend recently who her foray into romance as a teen was like Historicals. And she's like, Bree. I feel like those were dark romances.

Andrea Martucci: Yes.

Bree: A lot of the ones that I read as a teenager, she's as a dark romance lover now she's like, they feel the exact, she's like, they feel very, very similar.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. I personally feel that, yes, dark romance is, in my opinion, basically just continuing on the trend of a lot of, things that have been happening in romance for 50 plus years but I would be fascinated to read scholarship that traces that lineage, because right now I have feelings, I have a sense, I can anecdotally pull that thread a bit.

But I would greedily read a deep dive on dark romance.

I think I've yet to read a good in general explanation of how trends have changed with e publishing. Not to say that there's nothing, but like they've, in my opinion tended to be like niche and not really just explaining how it has impacted readers so much or what gets published.

But I mean I was around in romance writer spaces when self publishing started to be a thing or started to be a viable option for authors and there was a lot of interesting conversations going on at that time.

Getting the insights from the people who were there and what they thought was happening, and then having a little bit of time go by to see how things have evolved. I think that'll be really fascinating because I think in a way it has really enabled dark romance as a genre to exist. Because I don't think you see dark romance as it exists on Kindle Unlimited coming out from traditional publishers. I don't know. There's so many things where I'm like, please, somebody do the deep dives. Go, go interview all of these people, write a book.

Bree: And with the digital thing too, it's just we're seeing so many Independent authors who these trad publishers are like, Oh, let's let's snatch this up and put a new cover on it. And now let's put it out in Barnes and Noble. And it's I think that's a really interesting moment that we're in right now.

It's like, how does that happen? And If an author's like, no thanks, I wonder how often if that happens it's really interesting.

I received an email recently from a publicist, like The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, I think that's what it's called, Mariana Zapata. They're traditionally publishing that now.

And I'm like, that book came out so long ago. But it's one of her big novels. And it's like why choose that one? And why now? Is it are people talking about on TikTok? I haven't personally seen it. I don't know. But I hope somebody's paying attention. And eventually, yeah, the whole how the digital moment, because I feel like so many romance readers read mostly on Kindle anyway.

So it'll be interesting to see.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, and that too, that's another [00:12:00] fascinating topic, basically how publishers are using self pub as a way to vet and discover quote unquote authors that then they can put the full brunt of their publishing machine behind.

I don't quite blame them.

It's, it is a smart strategy because traditional publishers don't have the same data that Amazon has about what's working. I mean Amazon's platform they know so much about our reading habits and, how far into a book we read with Kindle Unlimited. That's literally the model.

And the best that trad publishers can do is be like, okay what's selling really well on Amazon? That's a good indicator of what people want. But it's just a very different field and the power dynamics are very different, right?

I think of Lucy Score a lot with this because she was so massively successful doing self pub and now she's also, some of her books or a lot of her books are getting traditional publishing deals, but I think she still retains a lot of rights to for example, the digital versions or I think that she comes into that in a much stronger position than an author who is unknown and doesn't have a pre existing audience who has to just say yes to whatever a publisher wants to take in terms of rights.

So I watch what she's doing all the time and I'm just like fascinated at how her career has evolved and how she's been able to leverage traditional publishing while at the same time maintaining freedom and I mean she just has a ton of power in that at that negotiating table.

Bree: I have two questions that I'm like okay I don't know what you want to ask first so I'm gonna ask this one and hopefully it'll just lead into the next one. So tell me like your romance origin story and then I'm gonna get into another one of my like favorite kind of series that you've done but I feel like they may tie in together so take us back young Andrea, when did you pick up your first romance and really fall into the genre?

Andrea Martucci: Okay, so I think probably the first romance I read, I was at my aunt's house and there was a romance novel on the back of the toilet, and I, I think it was like a Zebra romance. It definitely had that holographic little sticker. Yeah, I think it was pirates or something. It was some sort of, 1990s era full bodice ripper adventures, they're on a ship, they're all over.

Bree: Painted cover.

Andrea Martucci: Oh my god. It was glorious, right? And I could not tell you what that book was. I think that I just tried to read it as much as I could while I was there. I probably read the first when I was 12 ish. And then I was a library kid. My parents read, but there were no romance novels in our house, and I knew both explicitly and implicitly that it would not be cool for me to be reading romance novels in my household.

So I was excellent at sneaking them into my house. Like, I would go [00:15:00] to the library and get library books. When I got a little bit older would go to the bookstore and would get a romance novel and I literally had a secret pocket in my purse where , it was like the seam, the lining of the purse, where I could go to the bookstore, get a book, put it in there, and then come home. I had authoritarian parents also, so they would search my bag and stuff, which is depressing.

But I loved them, and there was nothing you could do to keep me away from them. I ended up volunteering at the Friends of the Library book sale, where I would spend hours in this kind of stinky room, with just books everywhere, books on the floor, and I would sit in the romance section and ostensibly be putting price stickers on the books, but really just be sitting there, poring through the romance novels that were there.

So I, you know, and so it started early, that would have been the, late 90s, early 2000s. And think about what books would be at a library book sale at that time. I really got that education in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s romances and then just kept reading from there.

So yeah, that was the start.

Bree: I swear like romance readers will find a way. Like oh my purse has this hidden pocket. Here it goes

Andrea Martucci: You know, it's so funny though, because I think that if it hadn't been so forbidden I don't know if I would have been as determined. So there is a certain element of because I knew it was forbidden, it became even more desirable.

And I was just a little rebel and I still am. I was just like, you can't stop me. I'll move hell or high water through hell. Whatever that saying is I'll make it happen.

Bree: I will find a way, right? So you did some episodes where you I was like bless her because I don't know if I could do this.

You read through like some old teen categories. What were they called? I'm thinking Sunfire. Is that what they were called?

Andrea Martucci: Oh, Sunfire.

Bree: What were they called?

Andrea Martucci: Yes.

Bree: Yes. Okay. Did you read those as, how was it like reading those as an adult?

Andrea Martucci: Oh my God. Okay. So yeah, so the Sunfire historical romances, I want to say they started being published in 1984 or thereabouts, so I was born in 1986 those were a little bit before my time.

The teen romances that I did remember reading were the Avon True Romances, or is that what they were called? They were historicals published in the early two thousands. And they were written by adult historical romance writers. So like Beverly Jenkins, Lorraine Heath, Meg Cabot, who of course also wrote teen stuff and a few other authors.

And I do remember reading those. And I also loved this disaster historical romance series. I can't remember the publisher, but there was like one about the Hindenburg and the San Francisco earthquake and I, those ones, I was just, oh my God, those are, I have those on my shelf. They're amazing.

So I wanted to look at YA romance, cause [00:18:00] I was curious how many romance readers got, became adult romance readers via. Teen romance and like I think like the YA market is just so different today. It's much more mature. I think like in the 80s 90s early 2000s, publishers of adult romance were like, let's see if we can seed to the ground for adult romance or like I don't know try romance explicitly in these lines for younger readers, and interesting to me because I don't really feel like you get lines like this today.

There's a lot of YA with romance, but it's not like this.

Bree: You can barely get a paperback for in y. A. these days.

Andrea Martucci: I know.

Bree: It's all straight to hardcover.

Andrea Martucci: I know. Reading them, they were, like, hit or miss like, everything, some of them are hardly readable. Some of them were fun. And then, of course, with my adult eyes, I had thoughts, I was like, I was enjoying them.

I think I always, even as a teen, would get frustrated that the kisses didn't happen as frequently as I wanted, or they'd never progress beyond the kisses.

My personal time in teen romance, it was like, I would read them because I would go to the children's library and they would be there and it'd be the closest to what I wanted. But I basically skipped over teen romance and went straight to adult because fade to black is not for me.

No bedroom scenes, not for me.

Bree: Yeah, I was wondering like when you introduced the series that you were doing. I was like, did she have these? Did somebody pass them down to her? Cause I was born in 86 too. So I don't really remember it being called YA. Like, I feel like we had Goosebumps, Boxcar Children and Babysitters Club, which was already a little bit older than us.

Not too much older. And then I think, I'm like, what did I read from like seventh grade on? Because I don't really remember there being books. I remember everybody being huge American Girl fans, reading those. Sweet Valley, but that again that was like those were books passed down to them. So when you did that I was like, oh man, I started looking into it.

I'm like, wow, there were all these books, like teen romance books, but they were within 10 years earlier than us, like we had just missed the boat. And then I just feel like it was quiet there for a while.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, and I'm by far not an expert, but I do have books on my shelf from around when I was a like teen preteen and I feel like what was really big at the time was you know, I have things like Ella Enchanted and Just Ella lots of like fairy tale type books that were slightly more mature than middle grade, I guess. There was Amelia Atwater Rhodes was writing these like vampire books and you know what's wild is she was like 16 when she was writing those.

So she was basically

Bree: Oh wow.

Andrea Martucci: The age of her readers. [00:21:00] It was truly wild. But so I remember a few things that I read at the time that were slightly more mature from what Goosebumps type era or like Babysitters Club. Yeah. But yeah, I feel like I skipped really quickly into adult.

I'm a collector of romance, so I have some books from when I actually was a teen, but then one of my listeners, Jess, who I have had the privilege of becoming friends with, because she actually lives nearby to me too.

She read Sunfire Romances when she was younger and they were even a little bit like before her time but she could find them in used bookstores. And she was like, oh, have you ever read a Sunfire? I was like, no I've never even heard of them. And so I went on to eBay and I bought a lot of, this was like for Christmas I gave myself a gift of Chris for Christmas of just like buying this $100 lot of I don't know 10 or 13 of these books just like on a whim. I was like oh yeah like you know I instead I won't just buy one let me buy a lot of them. Yeah and i got them and I didn't crack one open but for some reason had the compulsion to collect all of them.

And so I literally then sat down and made like a spreadsheet. I was like now I got to get all of them and came up with a whole plan to get the complete set. And only once I had all of them, did I read even one of them. Book collecting,

Bree: yep, that's how our brains work.

Andrea Martucci: Oh my God, it's a sickness, like truly. I want to say there's 36 of them or something like that.

The collector compulsion hit me first and then I was like, oh, I just invested way too much money in these. I should read one and make some content for my podcast. Yeah. I'm weird.

Bree: Have you been like randomly collecting anything else? Because I feel gosh, like I've been, there was this old category series called Kismet.

And my only issue is at this point I can never find the first 1 through 50. So now I'm, like, trying to piece together and get those older the original the first 1 through 50 or whatever, but it's like duplicates. I don't need three copies of book number 65.

Andrea Martucci: Oh my god.

Okay, so are you trying to collect all of them? Like the full set.

Bree: I want all, because I think there was maybe like a hundred and I don't know, 60 or something like nothing crazy. And people actually, when I do find the lots on eBay, they're not too expensive, but it's like those earlier ones, people are like holding on to.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. There were definitely with Sunfire a few that I had to pay a premium for, as one-offs. And it, it definitely took some like searching and talking myself into like, it's okay to spend $30 for this book .

The fun thing about romance collecting is that it's a relatively cheap hobby for these older books because a lot of times you can get them for like less than a dollar a book , especially if you get lots.

Hey, if you want to collect new books, you're talking about $20 plus per book. Even [00:24:00] paperbacks now are, what, like $8 minimum, right?

Bree: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: So I think, used book collecting, especially ones that are in the market not valued super highly, it's a cheap hobby.

But yeah, so I definitely had to just bite the bullet and shell out a little bit more for some of them, but I really started collecting adult romance more seriously when Steve Ammidown flagged on Twitter that somebody was selling these just like huge lots of older romances and the reason I'm saying that kind of like angrily is because I'm just like shaking my fist like why did you do this to me?

Bree: I know. Anytime he pops up with a new reel I'm like oh god Steve.

Andrea Martucci: I literally got in the course of like three auctions in one

one hour period, like 270 romances or something like that And I got them all and I was like, okay, what do I got?

And then it was like, oh, maybe I should finish this collection or, and it was not good because some of those I was like truly like I have no interest in reading or studying these at all. So I'm trying to get choosier about what I collect intentionally and then let go of some of the things where it's like I have a quarter of a collection and I'm like okay I just need to sell this because this is taking up space that I could use to finish my Harlequin Blaze collection or

Bree: Oh gosh are you trying to get, are you trying to collect all those

Andrea Martucci: I told my husband I wouldn't because I want to say there's almost a thousand.

Bree: Yeah

Andrea Martucci: and yeah okay hold on I'm gonna turn around and i'm looking at how many I have I definitely have more than 300 right now

Bree: oh my gosh

Andrea Martucci: and I've already started to hit where I'll try to get a lot and then like half of them are duplicates so I'm just like oh it's so annoying.

Bree: Yeah

Andrea Martucci: So I might need to just force myself to not try to collect them all because I don't need it.

I've got more than enough that if I want to dip in and study them and think about them, I have more than enough. I do not need every single one. I'm convincing myself right now.

Bree: So how did you get into category? And is Blaze your fave or do you have a fave?

Andrea Martucci: I don't know if I have a fave. Look, you already know about me, I like the spicy romance.

Bree: You do.

Andrea Martucci: Is it any surprise that I am drawn to Blaze? One summer, the summer after my freshman year of college I still had ties to the library book sale.

I went in and I think I just got this huge stack of, I think it was Harlequin Blazes. It was either Blaze or Desire, but I do remember them being really sexy, so I think they must have been Blaze.

I had a whole bunch, and like the one routine I had that summer I was like working at H& M and none of my friends were around. So I would go to the gym and go on the elliptical. And go to work and that was all I did. And every time I would go to the gym, I would take a book and I would just read the whole book. Like that's what I did all summer.

It was like the one routine I had, [00:27:00] it was so comforting. I never had to worry about running out of things to read at the gym because I don't love the gym. I talk myself into the gym or like personally like I take a walk every morning and I love walking but basically the way I get myself to put on my shoes and get out the door is I'm like I can listen to a podcast. So right.

Yeah, I need something to just get me to do the thing and then I'm fine doing the thing. The category romances that summer were my thing, and then it's like I went back to school in the fall, and I don't think I read another one for a long time.

Isn't it weird? You and I are probably just so invested in reading romance now, it's hard to remember a time when it was just this small part of your life that you didn't think too much about.

Bree: Yeah,

Andrea Martucci: That was probably like my first hardcore introduction to category. And then really, I think I've only come back to it fairly recently dipping into some of these older lines. One line I find really fascinating is the Second Chance at Love series, which, have you heard of that one?

Bree: I've heard of it, but I haven't read anything yet from it.

Andrea Martucci: Okay, I have a very small collection of that, like only 30 of them. I could not tell you exactly what year, but like mid 80s, let's say. And at the time a lot of category, it was still very much the ingenue, virgin heroine, and still very young heroines, especially, and this line is interesting because a lot of the heroines are older, and by older, sometimes 28, but sometimes in their 30s and even older.

And the use of second chance is interesting because it's sometimes a second chance romance. This couple got divorced and now they're trying again or they broke up in the past and are getting back together. And sometimes it's a second chance as in this person had one relationship before this and now , they are getting a second chance at love with a different person, which is just such a dated understanding of what that means.

Ah, she's used goods, but we'll give her another shot. So I find it interesting in the context of the time, like the experiment that they were trying. And so they're like a little bit older, a little bit more established, a little bit more independent heroines, but again, like with everything, they're hit or miss. One I'm like, oh, this could be written today, and then I'll read another one, you're like, ugh. Yeah. Like I can't get past like the first couple pages . Yeah.

Bree: I think that's why I was excited. So we read Kiss together. Mm-Hmm. .. And I was like, I can't wait to get your thoughts on Kiss. 'Cause I feel like with this new line that's coming out you hear like little bits and pieces about it, like we haven't heard much about it, but I'm like, it feels like the combination of a little bit of Blaze, a little bit of Kiss, some Temptation, some Dare, and it's like, what is it actually going to be?

Had you, had you heard of Kiss prior to this? Had you read anything? Okay,

Andrea Martucci: I'm trying to think why I even I came [00:30:00] across Kiss. I might have seen you post about it and then I got curious and I bought a few books because

Bree: that's what we do

Andrea Martucci: that's what we do. I see somebody talk about something I'm like, I've never heard of that before Let me just immediately go to Abe books or eBay and buy a few just so that I have them on my shelf the next time I get curious about this.

So I think that intentionally I got number one Because I wanted to see I was like if I eventually create a collection of this, I'm gonna want the first couple books.

Bree: The first one.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, so I, I got the early ones, and I actually, for today's conversation, I did read literally number one.

So I had never read them, and I don't remember them from the time they were coming out, but I had a few on my shelf. And what I think is interesting about this line is it does seem to be like this weird middle ground where they seem to be trying to go for the kind of chick lit rom com thing.

Bree: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, it's lighthearted and the covers are definitely shooting for that. And I think there's like a mix of spice level, right? Like this one was fadish to black, but there was like a little bit of explicit sex and then a little bit more euphemistic, but it's hard to pin down what this line is. And It didn't last very long.

Bree: No. Yeah, like a year. I think yeah. 2013 to 2014. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: But yeah, I was a full adult in 2013 and I never saw these. What about you? How did you come upon it?

Bree: I don't remember how I came, I, again, I was not reading romance when these were coming out, so I was like 2017 when I picked up my first one.

I think I discovered Kiss .. There's a blog out there. I'll have to find it and link it in the show notes, but they did a whole thing on old category lines that are gone and I think it was there that I discovered it and so of course I went to Fiction Database and just from like chatting with the authors and stuff like I've heard authors that are like, Oh yeah, I wrote for Kiss back in the day.

I know overseas it was called RIVA in some places and for a while it was Presents Extra like overseas they would like I think in the UK especially they just did it as an extra presents because they wouldn't sell as Kiss if they didn't market it as that. So even I guess over here some of the earlier ones I mean I have a physical copy of the Kelly Hunter that you read.

I haven't read it yet, but I was told if you can't find a bunch of Kiss on eBay, you might have to search for Presents Extra, because that's how some of them were sold.

But yeah I I always wonder, like, how they sold over here. But my theory is, these books were obviously written for early to mid 20, I think, year old women, and I really think that there's still like an age demographic with category that is older than that and probably didn't want to read that.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, I get that. Definitely when I read the descriptions, because I haven't read deeply in this, but when I read the descriptions, they definitely feel like that era's rom com movies. Like How to Lose a Guy in 10 days [00:33:00] and that feel, and the reason I wanted to talk about Kiss.

'Cause you suggested do you wanna talk about this or this? I thought it would be interesting to read because I was like, I would've been around the age of these characters when they were coming out.

Bree: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: In fact, I was like married in 2013, but like, but I got married a little bit young. I thought it would be interesting. Another interesting thing I find about these is they're all written in like British English like the quotations are like a single curly thing instead of a double on the quotes and stuff.

It definitely feels very like British influenced. The one I read actually took place in Australia.

Bree: Yeah. Okay.

Andrea Martucci: I don't want to say that like Americans can't handle that, but it does make it also feel like a little bit even more removed from my experience I don't know.

Bree: Okay, so tell because yeah, because mine I read a Joss Wood and she's a South African author and it's set in South Africa, so that makes a lot of sense I need to actually look and see if there how many American authors there were because the other two that I read a couple months ago were by Ali Blake, who's also an Australian author, so I'm like, how many, were there any American writers that actually wrote for the line?

It would be interesting to see, but that could definitely be a reason why, maybe?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, I don't know. I do know that the acquiring editor was based in England. I found an old article that told me that, but I don't know. I think if I had to guess why this line didn't quite take off, I think there was a mismatch, if the n equals one of my experience with this is accurate.

I think there was a mismatch between how it was marketed and what was actually found inside. Because the descriptions and the covers definitely give me that light hearted, bright, colorful, sexy, whatever. And a little bit of adventure, but very much like young people being young, having sexy dating adventures.

And then the one I read was, honestly, it was a really good book. I immediately went and bought more Kelly Hunter books afterwards, actually,

Bree: Because that's what we do.

Andrea Martucci: Exactly. I like looked on my shelf. I was like, do I have any other Kelly Hunter, Harlequin Kisses or by any other lines? And I couldn't find any. So I bought some ebooks.

I really liked the book, but it didn't match at all the vibe I was getting from the cover. Or, I think the way the line is described, it's a little bit closer to the alpha male thing that i think they were like trying to get on that bandwagon but like it's not that. It's not fun flirty. Like the one i read was angsty and they were I think a little bit more mature than I was expecting. Like I didn't think that was a bad thing i actually really enjoyed it maybe because of that but i was expecting younger characters

Bree: Okay, yeah.

Yeah, these feel like, they feel like, in Presents it's all like the [00:36:00] alpha, the home of the alpha hero. Kiss feels like your Presents hero before like his daddy issues really kick in. Like, They're striving to be like these alpha males, but we're not quite there yet.

Okay, so tell me about the book, 'cause I haven't read that one yet.

Andrea Martucci: Okay, so The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter. So this is number one published in February 2013. And interestingly, the back cover is wrong like . It's presented as "the man who's always left her wanting more. Good job, tick. Newly purchased apartment, tick. Evie's life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting. Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant, and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He's also the man who tipped Evie over the edge a few years back. She gave him everything, but he didn't know when to stop taking. Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie's ever done, until now, because Logan's back. The chemistry is as blistering as ever, and this time, he's not going anywhere."

And that presents what happens in this book almost like a mirror image at every point. First of all, she good job, Tick. She owns a company with Logan's brother. Not that she knows that he's Logan's brother.

Newly purchased apartment? Tick. She has owned her apartment for six years at this point. What? And then, the way Logan is presented as he's this edgy bad boy, In the book, he's literally like a multi millionaire, who is this in demand consultant, owns this company that like multinational company that I don't know, does like real estate investing or something. It doesn't even matter. Like I was like, I was expecting a guy on a motorcycle with a leather jacket.

And then the whole thing about he kept taking and didn't know when to stop taking. He's the one who is ruthlessly holding himself in and doesn't want to take too much, so leaves her. And the dynamics are just presented, again, just totally opposite from the story.

So I thought what was really interesting about this is it starts with her business partner being like, we should get married in a fake relationship so that I can get access to my trust fund to benefit our company.

And she's like, okay, sure. Goes back to his mom's house and they're like, going to have an engagement party. And they're still going to pretend like they're in love. That goes downhill real fast because his half brother shows up, Logan, and immediately Logan is like. you have to get away from here. I'm gonna pay you off to get away from here.

And she's like, no, I have a backbone now. And literally in the space of this afternoon engagement is off immediately. They're, like, talking about their failed relationship which basically was just a week long sex orgy [00:39:00] with some like light BDSM 10 years prior that Logan and the heroine Evie had, with his mother and her business partner, ex fiance, his half brother, and like Logan storms off and the mother's like, you should go follow him, and then they end up having sex immediately and have sex in the shower. And then have to go to this like fake engagement part. Like it's so not what I was expecting.

Bree: What's going on, right?

Andrea Martucci: And there was this very interesting idea running throughout where his father was abusive and abused his mother and abused him, and he's interested in having like rough, dominant sex with the heroine.

But his big fear is that he will actually hurt her and not know when to stop and, that he won't be able to contain it or something. Which is interesting. And basically the entire time Evie's like, I'm not worried at all. And they just have this very delicate giving each other space as they live in completely different continents for half of it.

And then make it work. But I don't know how to explain it. I really enjoyed it, but it was not at all what I was expecting.

Bree: Yeah.

I read, like I said, I read I read a Joss Wood. So it's called If You Can't Stand the Heat. And it's literally the cover is a girl on the counter with the guy standing up next to her.

And I actually now that I think about it, I'm like, I don't really remember any steamy scenes, but maybe I forgot. But this is the 30th book in the series. And it is set in South Africa, pretty near Cape Town. The heroine is Ellie. And then we have Jack, who is the hero.

And how their paths cross, which really interesting, because Ellie's dad is a war reporter. And so she has daddy issues because he was always like, I'm going to take the assignment over being a dad, basically. But I guess he has this history of if any of his colleagues need a place to stay volunteering his daughter's house as an Airbnb, And I'm just like, my dad would never volunteer my place that I live in for like random men he works with, but whatevs.

So Jack has recently been on assignment in Somalia and has been beaten up pretty bad. And so her dad's like, you can stay with my daughter at her place. So he shows up she's whatever, like I can see you're pretty banged up. You can stay here kind of thing. It's interesting because I feel like I read a lot of category where there's already some built in chemistry.

Like I've read a lot of second chance or childhood friends to lovers or whatever. It's like it's been a while since I feel like I've read one where they don't know each other. So I feel like in a lot of ways, you try to do a lot of front loading, but it still makes it just a little slow almost in the beginning. So it took me a while to get into it.

But once we get into the story, Jack he had a heart [00:42:00] transplant at 17, and obviously the donor died, and so he lives with that survivor's guilt, and I really appreciated like, how Joss Wood delved into that, he just is, I don't want to be tied to one place, I want to live my life, I want to do all the things that I want to do, because he will never get the chance to do that, because he died and I'm here.

And then, of course with Ellie, it's like she just bitches and bitches about her dad.

And then it's like, he shows up and all is forgiven. And I'm like, you complain the whole time about him, but whatever. And with her character arc, it was showing that she has maybe unknowingly allowed a lot of the people in her life to walk all over her.

Like at the very beginning, her best friend has had a baby and is done her maternity leave but asks can I be off for another month. Ellie owns a bakery. And she's like my mom is literally on a year long vacation. I'm running this by myself. I need your help but also like you just had a kid. So okay got it and it's like no girl she has to learn like you either show up back to work or you don't. I know we're best friends but i will have to fire you. I have a business to run.

So i mean it was interesting to see that but she's also just like really passive at the same time, but the romance was fine. It wasn't a new favorite Kiss. That was like, oh man, I don't know.

I don't want to be a Debbie downer, but I do just, I think I enjoy reading these because sometimes you read these and you see things in these as a category line that I'm like, I don't think I would have seen this anywhere else, which is interesting because the line has been over with now for so long, but I do think some of these books just touched on things that, I, you don't see in category anymore, or sometimes even in romance.

Yeah, I thought it was, it was fun. It was fun. I love the South African setting. And Joss Wood having living there. You feel like you're there. You feel totally immersed. And it's a nice escape from North America, I feel like. So yeah, it was good.

It was good. Yeah. So do you think you'll read more?

Andrea Martucci: Okay, that's a very good question. I really dithered over which book to read for a long time. Bye. Where, I literally have 30 of them, and I went through every single one, read the back covers, flipped through them, and there were a few I that looked promising, and then I flipped through them, and I was like, ugh no, I don't want to do that.

Um, But there was like one where I was flipping through, and she was, ashamed to introduce him to her family, and it was a misunderstanding, but it was definitely one of those he wasn't good enough for that family type of thing, like he was like of a lower class and that was definitely part of why she didn't want to introduce him.

And I was like, ew, no.

Bree: Yeah yeah,

Andrea Martucci: Gross. Like about I was like, I can't get behind a heroine who's like that, stop. And so there were a few things like that where I was just like oh no. And then this one, I think eventually I was just like, you know what, no, I'm just going to read number one.

And I started at the beginning. And I think I was a little bit worried that I wasn't going to get [00:45:00] into it, but I got pulled in, I mean, I read the whole thing just like in three hours on my couch, like in one sitting which, it's not often that I do that with a book these days.

I started thinking, I was like, I wonder how much of this has to do with I think I overthink the investment I'm going to make by starting a book and I try to use all these other things to decide if I want to read it or not.

Have I heard of the author? And I hadn't heard of a lot of these authors because, I'm not the deepest into category romance. And I know names here or there, but I don't know all of them. Or like I read the back of the book, or I flipped through to a random page, and I was using that as like a am I gonna like this? And really overthinking it, and I just had to immerse myself in the experience, and as soon as I was immersed and transported, I was into it, and which is just to say that I think that I think I have to let go of the idea that I can understand if I'm going to like a book before I start reading it.

Bree: Yeah. I feel you. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Just like start one and then if I don't like it, I don't like it, but it's so hard to tell from all the other things beforehand.

Bree: I want to ask you one more thing before we get off here. What's the response been? Like, do you hear from your listeners?

Are there topics that you've covered that people were like, Oh, wow. Hearing that conversation I never would have thought of that as being a topic to cover.

Another one of my faves, you did an episode, I think your guest was from like Australia and you talked about soap operas and I'm like, I love this because, I remember growing up as a kid and spending time with my Nan and like her watching Young and the Restless and I was like, Oh my gosh, this is so brilliant, Andrea.

Do people reach out to you? Do you feel like there are specific episodes that are just like people's faves? What's the response been?

Andrea Martucci: Okay, so the episode that you're talking about was this very short lived series called Tell Me About.

Bree: Tell Me About, yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. It was with, that was with Dr. Jodi McAlister, who is a romance scholar. She's actually the Vice President of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance. She also is a fiction writer. She writes rom coms. She's also really into reality shows. So they take place on kind of these like reality show sets. And yeah, she's also a romance scholar and really into soap operas.

The reason that was a short lived series was what I was playing around with was how romantic love shows up in different media and very quickly it occurred to me. And I think lemme just say those were maybe not the most popular episodes.

Bree: Okay.

Andrea Martucci: What I quickly realized was that different genres, different mediums are just like so different and it's kind of like unfair to look at them through the eyes of the requirements of a romance novel.

Bree: Okay.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Like for example, like soap operas don't end. So you can't end.

Yeah, you can't have a happily ever after. They never end. So they need to like have the drama. They get together and they break up. All this [00:48:00] stuff. And I was like, I'm actually not interested in studying romantic love more broadly. I really am actually just fascinated by romance novels.

So it clarified things like that for me.

But the listener feedback I got from that was like, this is deviating from the thing I know how to do. And the thing that like I'm really here for and I think a lot of other people are here for.

I think probably like what I get the most feedback on where people are just like, Oh my god thank you for putting into words, what I felt or thought about but wasn't able to articulate or you know you articulated it really clearly that was really helpful to know that other people are thinking about this and here you have a conversation about it, is I think it tends to be those like bigger picture genre discussions like pulling together things across books, maybe across sub genres or picking up on the bigger picture trends and making sense out of them.

I think romance readers even if they truly are just reading to enjoy it, they have thoughts about how it's impacting them and how the texts are not directly speaking to each other, but like building something in the reader's mind, so the texts are speaking together in the reader's mind.

I think that romance readers love to think about that and are maybe also always trying to optimize like what do I enjoy? What do I not enjoy, in the things that I'm reading which requires a certain amount of parsing? Oh, I just read a book. What did I actually enjoy about this? And Oh, I just read two books in a row that did this and I didn't like it.

Let me try to put my finger on what that was. Or, Oh my God, this reminds me of a book I read 30 years ago. Or, whatever the case is.

So that feels like the thing that people are the most vocal about you know, like, Oh my gosh, thank you.

And I think those also tend to be the ones where I don't want to say this is like my brand, but look, I love romance novels. I have been reading them for a really long time. I'm really endlessly fascinated by them, but I don't think they're perfect. And

Bree: yeah,

Andrea Martucci: and I think that there's a way to enjoy the genre as a whole and enjoy individual books and, be critical of the genre and be critical of books and be critical of authors sometimes.

And that doesn't diminish my love for the genre and I'm not trying to diminish anyone else's love for the genre. I just don't think it's personally very honest to love something uncritically because how can you love something if you refuse to accept what it is fully?

Bree: Okay, promise this is the last thing.

Another fave was the fairytale retelling episode that you did because I was like, oh man, fairytale retellings are so huge in like Harlequin Presents. I just loved that whole conversation. The whole point of fairy tales and oral storytelling was to keep the stories going.

And I'm like, I see them so much now that I'm a romance reader. Like you see [00:51:00] authors and their depictions and whatever of these tales, like, All the time. .

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And so that was two other Australian guests, . Rene Dahlia, who's a romance writer, and Philippa Borland from Pod Culture Oz were my guests, and we talked about Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, and the Disneyfication, but then also, how different romance novels have explored the ideas and, also around that time, did you also listen to the one with Dr. Nicola Welsh Burke around it was like Teen Werewolves and Red Riding Hood.

Bree: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: And she's also Australian.

Bree: Red Riding Hood is my favorite fairy tale retelling. Yeah. It's my fave.

Andrea Martucci: It's they're great. And so I think there's there's so much to say. For some reason the Australians have so much to say, too, about how fairy tales have influenced our ideas of romance.

Romance writers love to play with fairytale tropes. I was talking earlier about all the teen romances I read that were basically like Cinderella retellings.

Bree: Does it feel like the fairy tale part of it, in a way it's become a trope because it's like you know what to expect. If I say, oh, it's a Beauty and the Beast retelling. you just already know the potential beats it's gonna hit. Does it feel like that? Yeah. That's what it's becoming for you?

Andrea Martucci: You know what's interesting is I feel and this is a criticism of it, is that so many people like borrow certain high level beats, but they forgot the purpose of those beats. Like they borrow the most obvious parts of it but that doesn't align with the part that makes the story interesting like to me or to most people, right? I mean in Disney versions of fairy tales also do that.

They oftentimes completely miss the point of the original tale for lots of reasons, and obviously there's a spectrum like I do think that it has become shorthand and it's like a really good series unifier, oh, hey, I'm gonna pitch a fairytale retelling series or like linked books, right?

And like this one's Red Riding Hood and this one's Beauty and the Beast and I understand how it's marketable, but I would love to see authors do more interesting things rather than just like gesture at the fairy tale.

Like what is beastliness? There are so many Beauty and the Beast retellings where they're just like and the beast is scarred, or disfigured, or is mean.

And there's a lot of ableism in those tropes that is harmful. There's definitely lookism. There's all sorts of weird things going on there, and I'm like, there are so many more interesting things you can do with the idea of beastliness.

Bree: Yeah. Yeah,

Andrea Martucci: or beauty, right? Because I think the literalness of the beauty in those stories also literal, she's beautiful! Cool! Can we [00:54:00] do more?

Bree: Do more.

Andrea Martucci: These stories have been around for a really long time. Let's continue to think about what makes them relevant or how this applies to our lives today, and the purpose of those fairy tales initially were to make you think about something, and maybe not always make you think about something, that interesting. Usually it was like, really makes you think you should pray more ,

Bree: yeah. I read an article that like Beauty and the Beast, I think in France somewhere, I could be totally wrong, but like their adaptation of it was to prepare girls for arranged marriage.

And I'm like, oh, I would never pick up on that with a lot of the Beauty and the Beast retellings I read today.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, around that time I definitely read a lot about, like where did these come from and what was the initial lesson you were supposed to learn.

Because fairy tales often had this really clear didacticism to them. There was this great podcast that I listened to. It's defunct now, but I think it was called Roots of Lore, and the podcaster would dive into a different fairy tale story in each one, and she interviewed folklorists, and really got into what was the lesson supposed to be, and what are the different versions of it. And what do people think it meant at the time?

And that's fascinating. I would love to see people do more with looking at the original fairy tale and then thinking about like, how does that translate today? Not, let me watch, Disney's Beauty and the Beast and then just lightly riff on it and basically, just make it slightly more romance y or, slightly less problematic in the ways that stand out.

It's funny because I said that and then there are two Beauty and the Beast retellings that I love that are very directly influenced by Disney's Beauty and the Beast, not the original tales. It's not to say I don't enjoy those, but I also crave different things.

Bree: Yeah, because I mean, Disney's version is someone's interpretation, it's okay guys let's dig a little bit deeper here and go a little bit further back. They are really fun. It is what it is.

Andrea Martucci: And they're weird. They're super weird.

Like, And it doesn't matter if your readers understand all of the references you don't have to reference those things necessarily, but I think the weirdness definitely could inspire authors to do some interesting things.

Bree: Yeah, let's get weird.

Andrea Martucci: Let's get weirder.

Something I will say is I do think that we as readers reading in 2023, especially, people who haven't read deeper back in older romances. Romance has been deeply weird. I don't want to say romance isn't deeply weird now. I think a lot of traditionally published stuff is getting way less weird than it used to be.

Bree: Oh, yeah, it feels really not weird at all.

Andrea Martucci: No, exactly. [00:57:00] Exactly. It's like a little sanitized.

Like romance traditionally has been very weird and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but like the one thing I ask is can we just get a little bit weirder and more experimental and less like this is what works and this is what doesn't.

Let's be real. We do not know what works and what doesn't work. Even if somebody did something like it before if it didn't work before it doesn't mean that the weird part is the thing that didn't work. I just want people to be weirder. I want the books like the way this book surprised me where I was just like, I'm sorry why is the mother and like the you work with your partner and expat like, why are they sitting at the table talking about this?

But that made it so fun,

Bree: yeah.

Tell everybody where they could and should be keeping up with you online.

Andrea Martucci: If you are a podcast listener, and you might be, based on the fact that you are listening to this podcast, you should check out Shelf Love.

That's two words, Shelf space Love, on your favorite preferred podcast app. You can find lots of information on I have transcripts for all of my episodes also. So if you prefer to read podcasts instead of listen, you should go there. And lately I've also been doing writing on Substack at,

Bree: I love your Substack.


Andrea Martucci: Thank you. It's I've started this series of if you're a romance reader and you're curious about romance scholarship, like where to start and I'll get progressively deeper into things, but just starting that series.

That's another part of the evolution of the podcast is you know I love having conversations with people but at a certain point I started to have ideas that I wanted to develop on my own.

And so I was like, okay I don't want to go so serious and just do jump straight to journal articles. Like I, there's like a journal article I'll probably try to finish writing at some point. I just wanted a place to expound on an idea a little bit more than what I could do in the podcast.

Because I feel weird just talking to myselfon the podcast. And I do it sometimes, but I like to bounce ideas off people, if I'm gonna talk

Bree: I was like, I was thinking, I'm like I've loved you. You've done a couple like solo shows. And I'm like, they were so fun, but I can totally imagine myself trying to sit here and talk to myself and it being so awkward.

Thank god, for the power of editing.

Andrea Martucci: yes! Either I script it out entirely if I do it myself where I'm basically reading something i've written, or the other thing I'll do is I will talk and I'll say something and then I'll just sit there for two minutes of dead air while I think of, or or I say a bunch of things and then I'm like, that's garbage.

And, yeah, thank God for editing indeed. I don't do well without another person completely unscripted. Yeah, having a sub stack where I can place those things, I think, because it's been really helpful.

Bree: I will have links to all of it.

Listeners, y'all have to check out, if you [01:00:00] are not listening to Shelf Love, you absolutely should. And you have to subscribe to Andrea's sub stack. It's so good. And she has links to like all the books that she references. And articles. You won't be left hanging. It's so good.

Andrea Martucci: I love links. Yeah.

You always gotta cite your sources, you know that.

Hey, thanks for spending time with me today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, or review on your favorite podcast app, or tell a friend. Check out shelflovepodcast. com for transcripts and other resources. If you want regular written updates from Shelf Love, you can increasingly find me over at Substack.

Read occasional updates and short essays about romance at shelflovepodcast. substack. com. Thank you to Shelf Love's 20 a month Patreon supporters, Gail, Copper Dog Books, and Frederick Smith. Have a great day! Bye!