Shelf Love

046. A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper with Bree (from Kit Rocha)

Short Description

Bree, half of the romance writing duo Kit Rocha, is my guest! She shares her thoughts on why romance novels are all about power and if now is a good time to read dystopian fiction. We discuss A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper, a romance with intriguing world building, a discussion of gender roles told through genetically modified dispositions, and a wary heroine who learns how to use her broken pieces to stab her enemies.


romance novel discussion

Show Notes

Bree, half of the romance writing duo Kit Rocha, is my guest! She shares her thoughts on why romance novels are all about power and if now is a good time to read dystopian fiction. We discuss A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper, a romance with intriguing world building, a discussion of gender roles told through genetically modified dispositions, and a wary heroine who learns how to use her broken pieces to stab her enemies.

Show Notes:

Shelf Love:

Guest: Bree from Kit Rocha

We Read:

*A Conspiracy of Whispers* by Ada Harper

Modern Romance Canon Nomination

*A Duke by Default* by Alyssa Cole


Intersectionality Matters with Kimberle Crenshaw, Under the Blacklight series

Bree recommended Ann Aguirre's Jax series, which begins with Grimspace, as a good sci-fi romance cross-over.

We recorded this before the NYT published a sizzling article on the Omegaverse, but here you go friends.

Ada Harper also writes Sci-fi (not romance) as AJ Hackwith - Check out The Library of the Unwritten.

Also, I mentioned episode 045 when I was talking about people in power punching down. Episode 045 with Katrina Jackson, Rebekah Weatherspoon, and Felicia Grossman just came out, so if you haven't listened yet it's a good companion episode.


Andrea Martucci:   Hello. And thanks for listening to episode 46 of Shelf Love. Every week, we use romance novels as the text to explore identity, relationships, and the society that we live in. I'm Andrea Martucci host of the Shelf Love podcast, and I am joined by Bree, half of the romance writing duo Kit Rocha.

Bree shares her thoughts on why romance novels are all about power, and if now is a good time to read dystopian fiction. We discuss A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper, a romance with intriguing world building, a discussion of gender roles told through genetically modified dispositions, and a wary heroine who learns how to use her broken pieces to stab her enemies.

We had so many fascinating things to discuss in this episode, but something we didn't mention that I want to mention is that A Conspiracy of Whispers is filled with absolutely beautiful writing. I don't spend too much time on this podcast talking about prose, but listen to this: "Chase me, chase me. Olivia pulled, pulled, pulled. She would be black holes and flowers and sirens and flight for him, to buy him more time." Isn't that pure poetry.

So it is now June 9th, 2020 as this episode is releasing. So I will just say Wowza. It is wild to be transported back to the early days of the pandemic when we recorded this. And, uh, it's just wild, I tell you.

So I was very naive and speaking from a place of privilege to not understand back at the end of March, the domino effects of the pandemic. And I was especially ignorant about how marginalized people and vulnerable populations are more at risk during this pandemic because many of them are working the front lines in essential work .

An excellent podcast series to check out that is ongoing and exploring "the intersectional failures that COVID laid bare," is Intersectionality Matters by Kimberle Crenshaw in the series called Under the Black Light. I often find myself relistening to episodes because I am learning more than I can possibly absorb in the first listen.

This podcast is so masterful. And in addition to being hosted by Kimberle Crenshaw, who is an expert herself, she's pulling together other experts who are sharing the unvarnished truth. I hope you check that podcast out Intersectionality Matters, and I really appreciate you spending some of your precious time today with me and Bree.

Enough with  the intro, on to the show.

Bree: Hello, my name is Bree.

I'm one half of the writing duo known as Kit Rocha. I am a giant nerd, who loves nerdy books, nerdy romance books especially. Anything science fiction, fantasy, dystopian post-apocalyptic fairytales. You know, I just love all of that stuff. And especially if people are smooching.

Andrea Martucci: Mm. Lots of smooching

Bree: All the smooching.

Andrea Martucci: So, as a romance author, you are probably well familiar with the myths and misconceptions about the genre and about the people who write the genre and the people who read it. And one thing that people think about romance novels is that they're vapid and lack substance or depth.

So how would you respond to somebody who you encountered out in the wild who thought that? And, and you can be as like rude and confrontational as you want because this is a podcast and you don't actually have to say it to their face.

Bree: Well, I mean, here's the thing. I think culturally we have a very skewed definition of what substance is.

We value honestly, kind of bizarre things. Misery, cynicism. I mean, it's been about what a decade of these TVs where we've all got the Don Draper Mad Men, Walter White, you know, these antihero grim people who do terrible, cynical things, and that's supposed to be deep and dark and meaningful and artistic.

And honestly, I think it's just sort of immature crap. I think that nothing is braver than joy. Nothing is more risky and more substantive than showing someone what you think happiness looks like, because we all sort of have a common understanding of what misery looks like. It's not hard to write a movie that's supposed to make people feel miserable, but joy is so subjective and happiness is so subjective that that is a really risky undertaking.

You're showing someone here, this is what I think love looks like, and someone else might be like, yikes. That is a terrifying thing. And so I think that romance authors are out there saying, Hey, this is what happiness is. This is my definition of happiness. So judge me or not, and people judge us a lot and we keep going.

So, you know, I mean, there's nothing vapid about that to me.

Andrea Martucci: I agree. Despite the fact that we know people are gonna make fun of us, and that people generally look down the fact that it's still so good that we don't stay away has to say something. Right?

Bree: Yeah. I mean, the, the culture, I don't always even blame people who make a big deal about how they would never read a romance, because that's like sort of the self defense mechanism for navigating through culture. You know, you have to be pretty willing to tolerate ridicule, to stand your ground and say, Hey, I like happy endings. I like things where people get together and make a better world together. I like that. I mean, it's such a silly thing to be so mocked and derided, but you know, here we are. People think that it is a totally embarrassing thing to admit. And you know, none of us care, or if we care, you know, we're tired of hearing people give a shit about it, but, you know, mostly it's a fuck you!   

Andrea Martucci: Have you ever turned somebody over to the, not the dark side, the bright side.

Bree: Definitely. I love doing that. I love luring people to the happily ever after side. and that happens to me a lot because I write science fiction romance, you know, fantasy romance and so you get that chance where you have those crossover readers who don't know that they love romance because they have that misconception about what it is they have this cultural seventies Fabio bodice rippers, it's all the same thing. You know, that stupid stupid myth. And they think that, you know, not that there was anything wrong with that either. I mean, those books gave so many people so much joy, and we're still ahead of their time.

Andrea Martucci: Right?

Bree: I mean, science fiction kind of wishes it had hit the, you know, Fabio level of gender revolution and consent in some ways.

Andrea Martucci: So I read that both you and Donna, the other half of Kit Rocha met your husbands at a board game night at a comic book shop? Is that, am I?

Bree: At tabletop role playing game? Yes.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. All right. So, So I'm going to, I'm going to make some assumptions about your husbands and your husband in particular, and assume that he's very similar to my husband. I mean, we play board games, like he reads comics books.

He's kind of like a geek in some ways and I'm trying to get him to read romance. Does your husband read either your books or other romance? Have you been able to convert him? Do you have any tips.

Bree: He reads some, I never want him to read my books. I was like, no, go away.

You can't read these. Which, sometimes it was like reverse psychology. But we have a few authors we fight over. I had a big Twitter thing the other day because there was the new Ann Bishop book coming out and she sort of borderline romance. And we were going to fight over who got to read the copy first.

And we started reading the ebook at the same time. And so we were messing with each other's last read page count. Oh. So I think that that's the thing. You gotta find those crossover authors, like I got a lot of people into romance by giving them Ann Aguirre's books, her scifi, Jax books, the one that starts with Grimspace, because she's so good at that. She writes this like, awesome scifi that's also romantic and it's sort of like a little gateway.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, that's good to know. I'm always interested in the gateways. I'll preread and then hand it to my husband and, or maybe I'll tell him like, Oh, you can't read this.

No, this is only for me. (laughs)

So, which romance novel would you nominate to be part of the modern romance canon

Bree: Well, this one's probably not going to be much of a surprise to anybody who knows me. But a Duke by Default, by Alyssa Cole, that is one of the books that's probably the most important to me that has come out in the last decade.

Andrea Martucci: I know you were mentioning when we were talking before the call started that you've given this book to a lot of people and have heard a similar refrain from them: I didn't realize I had ADHD before I read this book and then it's like I kind of realized it had got diagnosed.

Bree: Yeah. So, okay. I'm going to give you a little oral history about this book that Alyssa has talked about this in interviews too, at least once or twice, but I was actually maybe a small or not so small part of the evolution of this book, because in the book there's the,  Hot Mess Helper channel, the YouTube channel that she discovers, and it starts to like help her deal with her ADHD.

And that is sort of based on this channel that I kept sending Alyssa links to over and over and over again because I was getting helped by them. And she slowly started to realize that maybe she had ADHD while she was writing this book. So this book is this sort of journey of me accidentally bombing her with YouTube channels that got her to her own diagnosis.

And then I go out and give this book to other people who go to their doctors and get a diagnosis. So I feel like this book is a beautiful vehicle for people who have felt like just this big mess their whole lives. Like everything they do as a failure. And then they see a different version of themselves where they're not a failure, they just have this sort of unique, quirky brain. And it means so much to me because that realization, when you realize that you're not actually a terrible mess, you just have a brain that works differently, is so important to people who have ADHD.

Andrea Martucci: Hm. I actually feel like that theme connects to A Conspiracy of Whispers.

Like the idea that if you kind of reframe what's going on, it A) makes a lot more sense and B) you have more power and, by understanding what's going on, you can take control and manage things differently.

Bree: I absolutely agree. I mean, I think that's one of the reasons I liked the book. I really like books, especially with, these like wary heroines who have like been told that some part of themselves is bad or they have some reason to think that it's their weakness and it turns out to be one of their strengths.

Andrea Martucci: Right.

Bree: And I think that, you know, I love, I love seeing that unfold because so many of us have spent our whole lives with different parts of ourselves being derided or told that it's, you know, the shameful bad part of ourselves.

And being able to turn that into power and agency and strength. I love books that can do that for me.

Andrea Martucci: 

Well said.   

Marker [00:11:41]

We would be remiss if we didn't mention, it is Saturday, March 28th, and, I've been in self quarantine, for about the past two weeks. I don't know about you, how long you've been locked down, but we're in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

How long has it been for you guys since you've been, kind of isolating.

Bree: It's been about two weeks since. I mean, things really change. I'm at home a lot anyway. I work from home and stuff, but my husband's school got shut down two weeks ago, and that's when we really stopped going out except for emergencies.

So it's been about two weeks. You know, we do our role playing games over the internet now, and you know, we're trying to adapt to our schedule. It's started to get a little weird. I mean, they just shut down his school for the rest of the year officially, and I think that was sort of, that he's not going back to school until fall at the earliest.

That's hugely wild.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I think it's a very weird time generally, because I feel like whenever these big things happen, you're kind of reading about them in history books. You look back and you're like, how did they not know it was happening? Like the signs were all around.

And I feel like you start to lose that sense of like, this is normal, but now this is a little bit different. Like, Oh, Nope, just life is normal, except now this is a little bit different and it happens by such slow degrees that it's like all of a sudden you realize this is very different from life a month ago and maybe things are, and I don't want to sound like alarmist, but are are things ever going to be the way they were before after this?

Bree: I mean, I think they can't be, I think that this is, this is, this is a huge thing. And like, I don't want to say that in a terrible way. I mean, bad things are gonna happen, but I also think this is a sort of crisis point for us as a country where we have to decide if we want to take care of people or not.

And I don't know how we're going to decide, but maybe things will be better afterwards in some ways. I don't think it's all terrible, but I think it's.... it's going to be different. I can't imagine we can go back to a month ago ever again. I mean, it is funny how quickly it becomes normal, I think. Not that anything feels normal right now, but  we internalize this stuff so fast sometimes and I think,

Andrea Martucci: yeah.

Bree: that, especially when it's, it's by increments. Like you said, you know, you, you just adjust a little at a time.

Andrea Martucci: Right. and I agree with with what you said. I mean, so I think you and I are both in a situation where, you know, our families and we are not sick, which is, you know, great. But we are so divorced from then the other reality of what's going on right now where, you know, like we are, we are doing our part by saying in, and, you know, hopefully preventing ourselves from getting sick or getting other people sick. But then there's this whole other very dystopian world that is happening right now with, you know, people who are sick and, sick at home and can't go to the hospital, or, you know, healthcare workers in hospitals, people who are very sick and dying in hospitals or at home, you know, and it's weird to be sitting at home in the midst of all this and know that there's basically this war zone happening, at every local hospital, or maybe homes in our neighborhood, but also be separated from that in a way. You kind of like hear stories, but you're not able to actually see it up close  - do you know what I mean?

Bree: It's weird that we're in a war. But the way that we're being asked to fight the war is to stay home and watch Netflix.

Andrea Martucci: Right.

Bree: I mean, that doesn't feel like the warrior, you know, move. But for a lot of us, that's the literal best thing we can do to help right now to help these doctors, is to just stop the spread of this.

And that's, that's not what happens when you write a book about war. The, the book about war is not, now everybody go home and watch six seasons of Grey's Anatomy. You know, that's not the exciting, war story that we, we tell in fiction.

Andrea Martucci: I'm somebody who, you know, deals with anxiety, just like generalized anxiety.

And I know that when things are happening and I'm aware of things are happening, there's this sense that I want to try to control them. And, and I think a lot of people, you know, you know, the kind of people who are like, let's say, at home being told not to go out and maybe have a lot of time to sit and think about all the things that they can't control, are struggling with how to interact with romance fiction right now, where romance is this world of happily ever after.

But romance often, particularly in sub genres like dystopian or sci fi or paranormal, they deal with, darker things that are happening that the characters are dealing with that I think some readers are like, that's too close to home right now, I don't want to go there.

But I'm curious since you write dystopian romance, I personally feel they are interesting to read in a sort of anxiety-prone time like now because these people go through these terrible things and kind of push, they get pushed out of their comfort zone and they come out the other side and things are better. So it's kind of like a model for seeing things be bad and then get better. But I'm curious: you write dystopian, all your fans are fans of dystopian romance. How do you feel dystopian literature and dystopian romance specifically helps people deal with the anxiety of bad things?

Bree: You know, it is, it is really interesting. And, I actually have been thinking about this a lot because, we finished the Beyond series, which is our first big dystopian series about this ragtag group of outsiders who were not all white, and you know, many queer and basically all the things that the current administration wants to punish.

And they go through nine books and they have their triumphant revolution and they overthrow the terrible theocracy. And we finished that book on election day in 2016, the ninth book in that series. And then we went out to vote for, you know, Hillary Clinton, and then we woke up the next day facing the prospect of having to edit this book and sell it to people who were reeling in this horror of this, like impending potentially theocratic-bent dystopia.  Um, and I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if promoting these books was going to be horrible. I don't want to take advantage of trauma, right? Like that's not how I want to do my marketing. And I was traumatized too.

I mean, a lot of people were in pain, and so I wasn't really sure. I wasn't sure people would want to read it. I wasn't sure even our existing readers would want to read it. But what people kept telling me was that it was cathartic because it was still about hope. It was about these people who, doesn't matter how bad you know things were, they loved each other and they cared about each other. They made these families, they fought for them. and they won and they didn't always win cleanly. You know, sometimes bad stuff happened, but they won and it was hope. And so that's what I think about a lot.

I mean, I don't think all dystopian fiction has that. Some of it is pretty grim and dark, but I think romance, you know, anytime you have romance, it's going to have that thread of hope through it because someone's going to end up happy. Usually more than one, someone, especially if you're talking about a series, right? Because we have the, the HEA promise.

So we brought, what, 24-something couples through this series with their happy endings and their hope intact. And so, so many people told me that it was extremely helpful to read. That has sort of shaped my opinions on that a lot. That it's not, it's not for everybody. Sometimes you just want to not be reminded and like, I don't know how I would feel if I had written a pandemic series.

I mean, luckily that's not my flavor of dystopia. I have an author friend who, just finished and published two books about a pandemic that starts in China and she pulled it off the market. She felt too bad. She said, any promotion she did felt like opportunistic.

Andrea Martucci: Right, Like Imagine this happened, and it's like, Oh, guess what? It did happen.

Bree: Yeah. You know what, she didn't pull it until Trump went all in on the racism and she said, I can't do this. I can't. It feels like, you know, catering to xenophobia and helping, and so she pulled them down. And I think that's sort of the thing. You've got to walk this line where you're paying attention to whether your artists helping or hurting

And so for me, dystopia is a sort of a general thing. And I mean, as people like to point out, in fiction, dystopia is often when the terrible stuff that's always happening happens to privileged white people. Right.

Andrea Martucci: I know. How dare it.


Bree: So, so there's that sort of thing too, I think. And that's not necessarily, sense of, we sort of always wrote books about outsiders, not necessarily the privileged white people finally having a few bad things happening to them. Who your protagonists are in this time where people are being hated for who they are, is also, I think, a sort of deciding factor, if that makes sense.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. This is not just dystopians, but like, you know, a lot of zombie movies were about, like the seventies, the ones in the seventies were about like, consumerism and, serial killer movies from, the seventies, eighties were a lot about like, suburban sprawl and certain social issues that were going on and so then I think dystopians kind of tend to have that similar, like the dystopian of a particular era tend to be a reflection of the anxieties of the day. And, I think you're right. When you create this dystopian world, like even if it is meant to be the future of like our very literal current world, what are you going to decide to focus on?

Bree: What are your fears about the future?

Andrea Martucci: Right.

Bree: You know, and, and my fears about the future, I, I have to say it's, it's a little awkward. Our series that's coming out from tour, they just moved it from May to July because, are bookstores open in May, who knows? but you know, it's, it's focused on the same sort of apocalypse, but a different place in the country where the big corporations stepped in and said, Oh, let us help you. And then took over, and I can't help but sit here looking at the news where, you know, Amazon's like deciding whether or not you're going to get breathing masks or Facebook and thinking eeeee  This is my fear.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, I like, like a political, press junket where behind the president, it's like all these CEOs, right? Like, who's in control here? Who's controlling this?

Bree: Well, it's at the backstory of our apocalypse is basically that the federal government was faltering, that they had, you know, allowed too many things to be privatized and they barely had any power and they sort of collapsed in the next crisis.

And I don't want to watch our government collapse in a crisis. That was the terrible thing I feared. And I feared that, you know, a couple of years ago, and now it feels a little too real.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. And, you alluded to this when we first started talking about this, but,  what do we think, what do we hope happens as a result of this?

And I think, again, this is something that is kind of spoken about in the book that we're going to talk about, but this idea about a groundswell of people getting pushed out of their comfort zone enough to actually demand the changes instead of kind of being like, well, it's not that bad. It's not that bad. You know, it's the frog in a pot and the water was like getting hotter, getting hotter, and then all of a sudden the temperature just like spiked up and it's boiling all of a sudden. We're the frog. Is there time enough for us to correct the course as a result of this crisis, or is this going to be the thing that boils the frog?

Bree: I mean, I'm a romance author. I'm hopeful. I'm very cynical, but I'm very hopeful. I see how broken this stuff is. And I know that there are so many selfish, greedy people out there, but I also see us, like I see communities. And in the book that we have coming out, the one thing that they target, over and over again, are community organizers, people who bring communities together, because that's when we're strongest.

There are a lot of us and we are right now on the internet figuring out ways to put up classes for each other's kids, to entertain them, to put out concerts, to put out recipes, to teach each other how to do the things that we don't know how to do. But we need to know when we're stuck at home. I mean, I am watching the internet turn into a massive organization tool for helping people, that you know and that you don't know, survive this.

And so that's why I believe in us. I mean, I don't think it will be easy, but I do have my romance author hope, that we are going to plow a way through this. And it feels good when I come on to Twitter and see people offering to babysit someone else's kids for an hour so they can go get some work done by Skype or, you know, just all this amazing generosity of spirit and trying to find ways to help each other through this really trying time. So I think that we are good people, not all of us, but enough of us.

Andrea Martucci: Enough of us. Right. Right. And, and even if we individually don't have power, together, we have more power than those that are not the good people.

Bree: And if they don't realize that eventually we're just going to have to go to the guillotines. I mean,

Andrea Martucci: Did you, have you seen that, thing, you know, like how the, the big number that people are talking about is like $1,200, because that is supposedly what each person, what each individual will get in this stimulus package.

And that's overly simplifying this. But somebody had like a Google search, like how much does a guillotine costs? And it said like $1,200.

Bree: I did not see that. But that's pretty perfect.

Andrea Martucci: And they have it kind of like next to it. Like, how much will I get in the stimulus package?

And then, you know, so yeah, it's, it's like, coincidence? I think not.

Bree: I'm a person who believes that the revolution may come. I mean, don't make the bisexual love army angry.

Andrea Martucci: What'd you say? The bisexual love army?

Bree: Yes. That's what we call our, the, the main characters in the Beyond series. The bisexual love army.

So we have t-shirts,

Andrea Martucci: Ooh,

Bree: Yes. For all your bisexual love army t-shirt needs.

Marker [00:27:18]

Andrea Martucci: So are you ready to talk about A Conspiracy of Whispers.

Bree: Yes. Let's, let's do it.

Andrea Martucci: I'm excited. Yeah. So, this book has come up on the podcast before, I can't remember the context, but it kept getting recommended for various things. And so I was so happy when you said that you wanted to read it.   

Why do you think A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper is a romance novel worth reading?

Bree: I loved it because it was one of those books that I felt like took tropes, and in this case it was sort of like genetic engineering - and I mean, okay, I am a fanfic girl, but Omegaverse is after my time, but I'm aware of the paranormal romance stuff and the fanfic thing, so it had a little of that going on - but it takes tropes and it embraces the parts of them that are cracky and fun, but pulls apart the parts of them that are damaging and kind of toxic.

And a book that does that is like my absolute favorite thing. I kind of call it the Tessa Dare move because I think Tessa Dare is like the Regency queen of taking tropes that are fun and then pulling the icky parts out, but still embracing and loving them. Which is a really very advanced sort of trope subversion.

And I idolize people who can do this. And I read that first Ada Harper book, and I was like, yes, this is all the fun, really crazy parts of all these tropes, but you sidestep the stuff that's like heteronormative and icky and you know, hurtful about it. Whoo, that made me happy.

Andrea Martucci: What, what did you mention?

What'd you say? The Omegaverse?

Bree: Yes. You know, I don't know a lot of this stuff. I mean, It is a whole fanfic thing. You guys will have to go research yourself. I am not going there, but at this has a little bit of that stuff going on. The-

Andrea Martucci: Wait a second. Is this the the knotting thing?

Bree: I don't know how much of it this is like, okay. In the paranormal romance. World, which is, the part of this whole trope thing I'm more familiar with, it's the sort of alpha and Omega thing where you have the people who have, you know, the dominance and these sort of submissive things that go together and like, that's what this sort of was in a way.

You had your castes, who liked the people who were the, you know, strong warrior types and the people who were supposed to be reproducing and having, you know, babies and being generally more peaceful and protected, you know, which is a very dangerous trope to play with as you can imagine for many reasons.

It can get real gross real fast. 

Andrea Martucci: Well, okay. So to pause for a second cause immediately, I want to talk about the Caricae, I guess you could pronounce it. Okay. So basically A Conspiracy of Whispers, like the quick Cliff's Notes of this book is, it is futuristic, perhaps on earth, perhaps not on earth - there is a mention of two moons at the end, maybe they're not on earth. But it's definitely a world after a crisis of some kind. It's like a capital C, The Crisis. The powers that be have had to do some genetic tinkering of the population to enable the population to continue to reproduce because whatever was going on before led to problems with reproduction.

And so that's supposed to explain these three castes of dispositions, I believe they call them. So there's the Caricae, who are, I believe  people  who menstruate.

Bree: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: Like that is what defines them. And then there's these two other castes - you can either be a Genta, which is sort of like this like middle ground that isn't special or defined in any way, or the Altusi.

Bree: Yeah, Altusi, I think.

Andrea Martucci: Altusi, Yeah. Who are the, like the warrior, they're bigger. They're stronger. And in the Genta and the Altusi can be any gender. And, our heroine Olivia grew up in the, what's it called? The sin -

Bree: The Syndicate.

Andrea Martucci: The Syndicate, yes. Yeah. So, and there's, so, there's like two neighboring countries, I guess, the Syndicate and the Empire. The Syndicate is more of like the tech savvy ones and the Empire, it's not, not tech savvy, but they're known as like, they're a little bit more formal and like out in nature and like less like city ish. And in, in the Syndicate, her understanding of the Caricae is like, they're basically just put away and used like a breeding program. She wakes up one day and is menstruating and her mother helps her hide this. And so she goes about life like a Genta, which allows her greater freedom to pursue her interests, however, she has to hide a lot of things about herself because there's things with, like a scent.

Bree: Like pheromones.

Andrea Martucci: Pheromones. Yeah. So there's, so there's like actual genetic modifications to the people of this world. But, one thing that is explored is so, Olivia's understanding of the Caricae is that they can only be women. And then she encounters a, a trans teen boy who is a Caricae. And that is not something that would be allowed or enabled in the Syndicate, but in the Empire, there's a greater acceptance, I guess and support for trans people.

Is that, is that a good, a good explanation?

Bree: well, I really like how she set up. The Syndicate and the Empire, like on the surface is, you know, the evil efficient one and then the empire is more accepting. But even though the empire is more accepting in a lot of ways, and they truly are, they still have their sort of benevolent protectionism of this, this class of, you know, reproductive-capable people who still don't get to really be all the things they want to be.

They're treated much better. But you know, a gilded cage where you can't be a politician, a road warrior or an assassin, which is what this heroine is. She's like a spy assassin, total badass, and that is not a career choice for her anywhere even in the accepting Empire.

Andrea Martucci: Right. And so there's a lot that goes on in this novel.

And I want to get into the, to Olivia and Galen in a second, but just a pause on the Caricae for a second, and I don't want to pick this world apart, but I did have some questions about -  the Caricae were like the people who are capable of carrying a child to term. I guess because they were menstruating, but like I think where the interrogation of gender dynamics and, just like gender identity in this book as it relates to fertility, I was like, so can anybody else be the fertilizer? You know what I mean? Like I was,

Bree: I think that it was only, it feels like, and this is the thing I didn't entirely get, and you know, I was having fun, so I rolled with it. But I, I think that it was just the Altusi men. I don't think, I'm like, that's the thing where I don't, if I were being a genetic engineer who had the power to, you know, make these people one gender, I guess Altusi women, I don't understand what was going on with that. They were still there, but so I don't, I don't entirely understand.

Andrea Martucci: This is one of those dystopian worlds where it is not all spelled out. Like,

Bree: no,

Andrea Martucci: there are, there are definitely still questions and I don't know if that's because then like more will be revealed as this - there is a second book in this series that has been written and I don't know if there are more to come, but,

Bree: I think that more were planned and it was definitely like a slow reveal. I'm, I'm not sure what the deal is with them. But I mean, then the second book also like spells out more stuff and, but you know, some of it's still, I wasn't entirely clear on it, but I'm the sort of person where I, I can shrug that off if I'm having enough fun as long as it's like a little confusing, but it's not like, you know, super, super upsetting.

Andrea Martucci: Right. Right. But I think there was obviously a lot of discussion about gender in this book, you know, so there are these dispositions that sort of determine your role in life. And they're not entirely based on gender, but they sort of are based on gender.

So I guess like the, the Caricae are basically like, if you had to draw an analogy, I think they would be to like the way women are treated in our world, where, you know, there's this question at the end when, when Olivia is agitating for more rights and, like a greater depth of sort of life choices for the Caricae, where there's these questions of like, what about when it's that time of the month? Like, are they not going to be able to handle stuff? So I saw a lot of like, you know corollaries being drawn to like the way the Caricae were treated.

So I was just trying to have that make sense in my brain cause it's not a genderless world.

Bree: it was almost like reproduction was the, the, the,

Andrea Martucci: the marginalized

Bree: The ability to carry a child was the, the definition there of yeah, that, that marginalization that, you know, if you're not menstruating and like, you know, get knocked up I guess, you can go do whatever you want to do, which is a, you know, I feel like that's like what I said with the contrast between the Syndicate and the Empire was that it's like, it moved from an outright hostile sort of,

Andrea Martucci: Misogyny

Bree: Misogyny, yeah, to a benevolent, Oh, we just want what's best for you and to protect you. You know? But still, that's not  - it's the question of when, when are you actually free and you're not actually free if you can only accept a limited number of roles in life, no matter how - how am I try not to keep saying gilded cage, but I mean, that's like basically, here are your seven gilded cages.

I mean, they're all nicer than the ugly concrete one, but it's still a limited choice in life. And that was something she was trying to agitate for at the end too. You know,

Andrea Martucci: just more choices,

Bree: more choices, more choices are always good. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: And, and she does say, so there's mention of sort of like, what's the root of the word Caricae?

And it's treasured. So basically there is this like, Oh, no, no, we're protecting you for your own good. You know, we treasure you. Like you are so rare and wonderful, and we can't survive as a species without you. But how do you show your regard for the people you treasure? I definitely was thinking a lot when, when reading, you know, those parts of the novel about this idea of like, Oh, we treasure women in society in the world we live in but, in a way where it's like, well, when when you do what we want you to do, and like when we do what you expect, we expect you to do, you know? And you let us make all the decisions?

Bree: Yeah. it doesn't matter how much of a honor you say it is. If you're still limiting, you know, somebody's life choices.

You can say that means I treasure you, but that doesn't mean you do. I mean, made you treasure them as a specific thing, not as a person.

Andrea Martucci: Right. And so to get into Olivia and Galen, our couple in this story, Olivia is the sort of like scratchy heroine - she has not been able to have close relationships with people her entire life.

The two closest relationships she has at the start of the novel are with Yoshi, the bartender at the bar she frequents and she's a Whisper, which is a sort of like an assassin slash spy or more of like an assassin, I guess, like a covert-ish group. And she had to kill Yoshi's abusive ex boyfriend, which obviously Yoshi isn't too torn up about it except for the fact that he watched her kill him in front of him.

But, Anyways, they form like an actual, like, friendship, relationship. And she has a cat and that's it. And she basically has to stay away from everybody else as a way to protect, you know, her secret and, and keep herself safe, to kind of like make the limited number of choices that she thinks she has.

But it's a very defensive life. She thinks she only has so many choices, and so she is always wary of having those few choices taken away. And so she lives in the Syndicate.

And then Galen is an Altusi Prince basically, he's the brother of the Empress.

Yes. In the Empire.

And, and he's like, he's like a military leader. The way I phrased this was scratchy heroines and the people who love them. So

Bree: yes. So that is my favorite book. That's my favorite type of book.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Why do you, why do you love that so much?

Bree: Because I am, I am totally a scratchy, you know, I, I had some, some rough upbringing moments and I, you know, I sort of came out of childhood a little bit scratchy and wary.

And so, I like being told over and over again, it's okay. You're still going to get your happy ending. I mean, I don't think I've ever been like shy about admitting that that's, I love the scratchy, wary, you know, standoffish heroines. And that's something that I see it a lot more now.

It used to be harder to find, but I think that we're getting more and more comfortable with like angry heroines in romance, which makes me extremely happy.

Andrea Martucci: There's so much to be angry about.

Bree: Yes. Right now I think that like, there's just a lot of angry romance writers right now too, so that's probably helping.

Andrea Martucci: yeah.

one thing I thought was really interesting was how that was played with, with consent in this novel where their archetypes are set up in a way where you would, I think, expect the Altusi military leader to be very forceful and demanding and like directive, which you, you could imagine is going to create confrontation with this, sort of like defensive, scratchy heroine.

But I, I feel like what is incredibly important in this novel is it's not a story of like enemies to lovers where Oh, they could never be compatible. From the start, Galen is incredibly aware that he has to let her choose him and make the choices, make her own choices. He's not going to force her into anything, nor would he want to.

Bree: And it's important I think because of the way that the genetic engineering works, there are actually ways that he could force her. Like that's part of the worldbuilding. The Altusi have like sort of, I don't know if it's psychic or like pheromone, like they, she calls it Pushing. They can Push and sort of like try to influence them and make an even like, you know, grab them by the Scruff of the neck and it sort of like floods their bodies with like, total.

Andrea Martucci: Like paralysis, almost

Bree: Yeah, like, like overwhelms them sort of, melts the bones and makes them sort of like drugged out. That is a scary power and that's a reason that she has to fear him. Like legitimate reason. He could very easily, effortlessly override her consent.

And she is hyper aware of that. And thankfully, he is also hyper aware of that. because I think that it would have been a very different story with someone who was even careless with that potential power, much less like abusing it. You know, he had to be extremely deliberative in always backing up to give her space and choice.

Which is why I loved him because he did.  I like the guys who are like killers on the outside and cinnamon rolls on the inside. You think that they're supposed to be these bad-ass warriors, but they're just squishy.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I had a conversation the other night as part of the Decameron Quarantine Romance book club series with Rebekah Weatherspoon, Katrina Jackson, and Felicia Grossman. And one of the things that came up in that conversation was talking about how,  basically like, people in power shouldn't punch down. And like, there's things that people, if a person in power does something, it's very different from somebody who's not empowered doing something. So basically just being aware of your power or your privilege and, you know, like this is why - there's a ton of stories in real life of like, teachers who have relationships with students and where both people involved are like totally convinced that there's consent. But the big question that's always talked about is like, look, as the teacher, you have to understand that you have power over the student.

And if you don't understand that that changes, that makes consent murkier, you are abusing your power.

Bree: Oh, that's like one of my very few hard passes. Teacher /  Student, I won't read teacher student because I don't think-

Andrea Martucci: It's not  sexy to me.

Bree: Yeah. To me it's just upsetting.

Andrea Martucci: Right. like this is something that like in the real world, not just on a micro level with individuals, but people in power, like governmentally or whatever. It's like if they are not aware of their power and like they have to know that they have this position of power and that it's so easy to abuse that power just because... it's power. Like they can, they can do what they want and a lot of times they can get away with things that other people can't. And that, that somebody in power is able to influence other people, whether they're holding a gun on you and saying, you have to do this or not. The power isn't just that like sort of like physical overwhelm. I think where I'm getting with this is just characters who are aware of their power in a romance are so sexy, when they wield that correctly, right?

Bree: yes, very much.

Andrea Martucci: But I just feel like so much of romance is about exploring that and so many of the problems that I have with some romance novels are because there is a character who is doing something that's like, well, it'd be kind of sexy if they weren't like a cop or a teacher or, a boss or a, do you know what I mean?

Like. Or, or a man with a woman or like these things where it's just like there are these dynamics at play that make the consent murky.

Bree: Power mitigation is like one of my biggest things when it comes to like happily ever afters because I don't think that I can believe in happy endings where I don't believe they've like ended up in a place of equitable.

Power and like, I think there are lots of different types of power and just, you know, Galen had so much power that was inherent and couldn't be taken away or mitigated. But I got to a place where I believed he would not, it would hurt him more to abuse it. You know, like that feels like mitigation, but like I feel, yeah, I think that most romances have some sort of, and you know, for me cause like, I don't even think of necessarily gender because there's so many different types of power, you know? I mean race and sexuality and money and class. And so I think a lot about every book I read, I think I like science fiction and fantasy a lot sometimes because like, like these tropes, the genetic engineering, it makes the power explicit in a way where you have to engage it.  And so I like, I like books where it's not explicit to that engage with it, but it feels like people aren't always doing that. I think that you have to be a person as an author, who has a reason to have thought about their own power or their lack of power before you start putting that into your books, which is maybe my way of saying that I love books by authors who are been marginalized in some way, maybe because they're thinking about it more. If you have had to deal with being on the wrong end of power, I think that's something you're more aware of and that you write it better. That's a very bold statement I'm probably going to regret. But I mean, I, I do think it's true.

I think people who have been forced to,

Andrea Martucci: I think it's true.

Bree: To, to think about power because I think people who have never been on the wrong end of power or a very rarely been on the wrong end of power, don't explore it as deeply or as effectively.

Andrea Martucci: And I don't think they understand their power. I mean, like, I think that's, you said it much more eloquently.

I was trying to get there earlier. Some people are just unaware of their power,

Bree: yeah.

Andrea Martucci: This is maybe a natural thing where people are generally less aware of their power, but that doesn't absolve you of personal responsibility for interrogating your power and trying to understand it better.

I think this is actually where, you know, the conversation I referenced with, Katrina, Rebekah, and Felicia, like where we were getting at with like,

Bree: Who are brilliant, brilliant people .

Andrea Martucci: Right? Is, is basically this idea that like, so if you're a person who maybe like has a lot of power and privilege in your life,  you are just as much making a choice in not talking about those things and not interrogating them in your work as a writer, if you're a writer or like, I don't know, in your life at large. That's a choice too, to like, not include things, not talk about things, not give the full spectrum of like the world and, different people's experience in it.

If you only ever choose to, express from a position of power? That's a choice.

Bree: It's a, it's a choice. I mean, it's, it's kind of a violent choice. I would even say it's, it's, it's a damaging choice, you know, having the luxury to ignore the way power impacts other people. I mean, if you can ignore it and you do, it's such a harmful choice to make.

Yeah, I mean, I don't think much of authors who want to pretend that you can write a romance without having it be political.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Bree: You know, there's, I, I don't think there's any such thing. I think that people coming together and trusting each other, like on that sort of intimate level, and just who we think gets to have that sort of happiness, who we think belongs in these stories and whose joy is a priority. I mean, all of it is so political.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. It really is. There are some very obvious choices made in this book to explore, I think that it's clear that people have varying skin colors, but there is like, no segregation or prejudice or whatever because of skin color,

Which I think is interesting because I think like a question I sometimes have with dystopian worlds or like sci fi is how you address race. Is it a nonissue now, because like in the future it doesn't matter, I don't know, just like how, how is it addressed?

And I think that, you can only do so much in one book. So I, I think that like, this leans hard into exploring gender, but then also, you know, like these dispositions and the castes that, they have and Oh, well, guess what? People are always going to find a way to be prejudiced about something, of course.

So in this world though, there is a character who is asexual, Alais, And, her perspective is like fleshed out pretty well for a side character. At first she's willing to engage in like a loveless, union, because she doesn't expect better. She even has her own arc, where by the end, she's like, no, I'm not going to marry you because I may not be interested in sex, but like, I believe I can find somebody who wants to be with me and we're going to have like a deep emotional connection.

That was fantastic representation. There was also, the Trans teen boy. Oh my gosh. What was his name? 

Bree: Keiran?

Andrea Martucci: Keiran. Yes. So Keiran is a Caricae and I think that's super interesting. Like the way that's explored where the Caricaes are the one disposition that is like very gendered to then be like, how does the society, deal with somebody who very obviously doesn't fit into the prescribed role  that they've been given. Right.

Bree: And there was definitely indication, I thought, that there was, you know, sort of a divide in the empire between the sort of more traditional people who would not accept Keiran or Alais and like, because the Empress like, I don't remember all the exact political stuff, but the hero's sister became the Empress like fairly recently.

And she and her brother are sort of beseiged, a lot of this book takes place with like civil war, basically.

Andrea Martucci: Right.

Bree: You know, people are trying to take them down. and they are definitely, in my opinion, the accepting more progressive vision of this, they want us to be a world, a better world for everybody, or a more, more accepting I guess.

So. I think that was some of the conflict there. But you know, they, it was almost this, I want to be more accepting, but maybe we haven't thought it all through because he clearly hadn't thought it all through. Galen thought that he was going to offer her this wonderful accepting place, but you know, he hadn't considered maybe she wants to come with that.

Andrea Martucci: Like, this is a woman who is used to fending for herself and she loves adventure. She loves jumping off buildings and, and all of that. You know, if, if she marries him or like they, I forget, what do they call it?

Like they mate or, they have like an affinity bond?

Bree: Yes. That was something else I wanted. I think if the affinity bond thing, they, they call it an affinity bond. And what I really loved about it is that, to me it felt like. making the idea of found families tangible, because these bonds could be romantic or sexual, but they could also be platonic.

They could be, you know, just deep friendship, love. It was the sort of idea that they make these bond families that are the people that you love and not all the people you love are people you love romantically or sexually. And I always appreciate that because I write romance and I like to have like romances.

But I love friendship, like friendship arcs I love those. As much as I love romance arcs, you know, these people found, you know, developing these deep. Emotional relationships because it's, it's still love. I love, I love, love

Andrea Martucci: It is love. And you know, it's weird cause like they have the, the word love exists in this universe, but it's, but it's not like all they talk about, there's all these different expressions of emotional attachment.

Bree: yes,

Andrea Martucci: Like mating is much more of a, like we are creating this family unit, and we're going to have kids either given to us in the Syndicate where like people mate, and then like, they'd basically like take a baby from a Caricae, and you know, bestow it upon that family.

Whereas in the Empire, it's a little more familial. It's not fully explained, I guess the Caricae can actually be part of that family. But also if you have like a Genta and an Altusii like where do they get, I don't know. It's not really, I don't really know the answers to it from this book, but I have questions.

But, but it's more of like a family unit, but, but then there's, yes, there's these affinity bonds that could be anything but are distinct from love.

I think, like, although I would call it love, I mean, so, so, Galen has an affinity bond with his friend Bowen, who's, who's another sort of like military guy.

Is he, is he Altusi as well or a Genta?

Bree: He's Altusi. I remember, cause I had just re-read that part where he's introduced and of course, our heroine is extremely wary of him because, you know, any Altusi is basically a threat to her.

It's almost described as this sort of soulmate situation.

Like you have spent enough time with this person and you sort of, you resonate together. I think they call it syncing up, maybe even almost like they're just sort of - 

Andrea Martucci: yeah. There is an element of , almost like homing,  where they can almost like find each other.

There's a sort of mystical ability where they, yeah, they can feel each other's presence in the world somewhere.

Bree: I mean, I love it. I love, I love more that it's not just restricted to, to romance. I mean, it also gets at that, that little part of me that loves the sprawling little families where you have your best friends and your lover and they're all sort of just a pile of the people that you love and that you can be a family and it doesn't have to be something as you know, heteronormative is, you know, two people who get together and then that's a family like with a kid or something.

Andrea Martucci: Right? Right. The nuclear family unit of like, you stand alone against the world.

Of other family units, I guess.

Bree: But I really dislike the nuclear family model. It's not, not my, not for me.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And that, and I think that that's like shown really beautifully in the last scene of this novel where, you know, the first scene of this novel. Olivia has three bar stools that are her bar stools in her friend Yoshi bar, because there's the bar stool she sits in, and then she has this buffer zone of one on either side because she holds herself apart from others out of fear.

There's a lot of like practical reasons and then emotional reasons. And by the end of the novel, she's like in this lounge in the palace, surrounded by, the man she loves, his family, her friend and his like, you know, family unit.

And then all these other people who she has grown relationships with and the people they have relationships with, and it's like this beautiful cozy moment that is such a stark contrast to where she started at the beginning of the novel.

Bree: With her barstools and her cat named plan B because plan B is to eat the cat.

Like, yes, it's so, she goes from so lonely to so surrounded by family and you know, that's, I will forgive so much for a book that takes me on that emotional journey where the hero who is squishy and warm and respectful of boundaries: That's my everything.

Andrea Martucci: The way too that, where she, she sees her being a Caricae as a weakness like, I'm going to be pigeonholed because of this. I can't do the things I want, so I have to suppress all the things that make me a Caricae. Obviously at a certain point, the jig is up. Everybody knows.

And she starts turning that from a weakness into a power and starts being like, wait a second. I am physically different. I can use that. I think differently. I know how they think and they won't expect this from me because of the way they think and how they perceive me. And she turned it into a weapon and I love it.

Bree: Yes. Yes. My favorite. It's, you know, I, I love when the broken parts of you become the things that you stab the enemy with.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Oh, I like that. Put that on a t-shirt.

Bree: So maybe I should. Yes, because that is like, that is the, the heart of that sort of trope for me. You know, I had all these broken edges, but it turns out they don't have to cut everyone. Just the people who were trying to hurt me.

Andrea Martucci: Right. Well, and so much of: okay, so like grand sweeping comment about romance novels: Every love story is unique. Every character should be unique. And I think really what romance novels explore, one of the myths about romances is that they're all the same. Like, okay. Just because people fall in love in this story and it's emotionally satisfying, every person represented in a romance novel is hopefully unique, and you explore what makes them unique and why these people are uniquely suited for each other and complement each other and bring out the best in each other and appreciate the things about each other, right? Like that's what romance is and that's why they're all different and beautiful in their own way because they can kind of like explore the vast realm of humanity

Bree: They're puzzles, I mean, nobody ever says that just because they've done one puzzle doesn't mean they don't do any more puzzles ever again. I mean, the fun part is seeing how the pieces fit together. And so like you could do a million puzzles and they're always going to be different. And that's how I feel like romance, romance is I can't wait to see how these pieces that don't seem like they should work are going to form this beautiful picture.

Andrea Martucci: That's another t-shirt right there.

Bree: Yay. I'm on fire.

Andrea Martucci: You are, you are. I just, I was pausing cause I was writing it down. I was like,

Marker [01:01:32]

so was there anything else you wanted to talk about with this book?

Bree: You know, one part that I really liked, there's a part where, he's a Prince, right? So he, he figures out what she is long before she realizes he does. And the fact that she doesn't know is like proof of how carefully he's holding himself. Right? And this whole time he's just thinking he can take her back and give her the safe life. And there's a point where she goes back to the Syndicate, like, you know, escapes him and she's going to go back and she's going to take the life that she has control over and it starts to crumble around her. And she reaches a point where like, her only choice is to go with him into this, you know, protected cage, gilded cage.

And I liked that the book did not treat it like she was stupid for not just wanting to do that just because it was like the safe thing. Because, you know, sometimes I feel like heroines in books, they get judged a lot if they want to do things that are considered risky. I mean, we love to call them too stupid to live or whatever.

And clearly the safe thing was for her to go off with the Prince, and, you know, let him protect her. But the book respected that, how much of a violation of her sense of agency and self it was to have to do that. That was something that I really appreciated because going off and being saved is that's not necessarily everybody's fantasy because there's a lot of loss of control in that.

And like she needed her control cause she had so little.

Andrea Martucci: Right. Right? My mind immediately went to like the billionaire fantasy there. I was like, yeah, there's a lot of people who want somebody to just come save them. But, but even those books really it's not like the billionaire shows up and he's like, I want to have a relationship with you.

Like, let me take care of everything for you. And they're like, doot do do, okay. Like, there has to be that, you were talking about this earlier, the power mitigation.

Bree: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: This is only right for me to have. If a, I have it under terms that I'm comfortable with, like you love me, I still have agency in this relationship, et cetera.

Like it's not just like because you have the money, you have the power.

Bree: See, and here we're going to go again to where the people, I don't read many billionaire romances, but when I do, I read them by, you know, people who are aware of power, who write about power in a very real way. Because I can not read a billionaire romance that doesn't really engage with that power because it also like, you know, explain to me why this person who has this power to do so much good is just keeping all this money, isn't a terrible person. I need that little mitigation too.

Andrea Martucci: I think a lot of them are terrible people. This is a theme. It's like, I think some people actually like terrible people. And I like, I like terrible people. Like when they're kind of like fun, but like, but they, yeah, they have to...they have to be like secretly altruistic, even if they present to the world -

Bree: They have to be terrible on purpose. I feel like a lot of billionaire heroes are accidentally lazily terrible. Like the author doesn't know how terrible they are. I need to know that the author knows that they're being terrible.

That's sort of, it has to be deliberate. I dunno. I think that's why I generally speaking as a reader, I usually am drawn to like the outsider characters who are like trying to take down the man, which is why it's very rare for me to love a Prince hero. But I do, I did in this book.

Andrea Martucci: He was the best Prince.

Bree: He was! He was so careful and deliberate with his power always. I gotta respect how much he backed up his sister. Like you don't often see a hero who was supposed to be the, you know, the powerful Royal guy who is playing second fiddle to his sister.

But he was, and he had her back totally right. And so I probably liked him more because of that too.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Well, this was a fantastic book and I'm so glad you chose it because, A, I got to read it and B, we got to talk about it.

Bree: Yay! I have been throwing it at people's faces for like two years at this point.

And the author also, like, I just want to say, if you guys like the found family thing, under her other pen name, her science fiction fantasy pen name, which is AJ Hackwith, she wrote this amazing book called The Library of the Unwritten, and it's not a romance, but it is full of like, just found family hi-jinks and it is wonderful. And it's about a librarian in hell who has to look over all of the books that authors never finished because the characters get restless and want to go and escape to try to get their stories finished.

Andrea Martucci: Oh my gosh. What a brilliant premise.

Bree: Oh, it was so good. It was so good.

And the second one's coming out soon, so. So I love this author. I am so ride or die for her.

Andrea Martucci: I was going to say, I mean, so the only books under Ada Harper are A Conspiracy of Whispers and then the second one, which is the romance between, his sister, the Empress and the spymaster Lyre, who is an amazing character in this book.

Bree: and she is like one of those bad-ass, can't tell if she's evil or not. Characters who I love so much. Yeah,

Andrea Martucci: she's fantastic and well, but I was, I was like, why hasn't she written anything else? But, that explains it. She has different pen names.

Bree: Yes. She sold this trilogy about this library to Ace actually  and so it came out, the first one came out, well, time has no meaning anymore, but I'm thinking it was last year. I don't know. I mean, I think that February was last year at this point.

Andrea Martucci: It feels like it.

Bree: and so I think that the other one is coming out sometime this year. And so yes, definitely find those.

She does the found family, the rag-tag group of people who are sort of loners that come together so well. It's like really a skill for her.

Andrea Martucci: So, speaking of librarians, so first of all, where can listeners find you, but also what's coming next from you and, Kate Rocha?

Bree: Well, you can find me, I'm on Twitter as @mostlyBree and also, I mean, we have an official Kitt Rosha Twitter account, but usually Donna and I are. running around as @totallyDonna and @mostlyBree on Twitter. That's where we do most of our hi-jinks. I changed mine to @mostlyBree first and then she changed hers to @totallyDonna.

Andrea Martucci: So I like that. I did not put that together before.

Bree: and you can find us at And that's mostly the big places were big Twitter people. We love to hang there. And we have our first book, our first traditionally published book coming out in currently in July. That could change again, who knows.

And it is about Mercenary Librarians. So, yeah, I love, I love how much everybody has like fallen in love with that concept, which I sort of like put together when we had to do the announcement, because I was trying to figure out how to sum up the concept of women who are trying to build a post-apocalyptic a library and are kind of Indiana Jones at go around digging up lost archives, but also do odd jobs to make money so that they can afford to keep their little library open.

And I was like, fine, mercenary librarians,

Andrea Martucci: I love it cause cause you, you know, you normally think of librarians as being so unassuming and nonviolent and you know, non-criminal let's say.

Bree: these are our murderer ladies. Definite murder ladies. They are librarians and they will help you freeze dry your food and tell you how to build a house and find some music for you or videos for your kids.

Or they will go out and kill some bad guys. One or the other

Andrea Martucci: depends on their mood.

Bree: Depends on the day. We're really excited about this series. I love found families, so it is actually more found family stuff. But it is fun and hopeful. Somebody just actually read it and posted a YouTube review the other day where they talked about how they were sort of concerned about reading the dystopian during this current pandemic, as we discussed, and she came down on the side that it was, it was good and hopeful. So I hope that if people decide to read it, there are no pandemics. There's just evil corporations.

Andrea Martucci: I think that, and I'll get behind that

Bree: and we fight the evil corporations. So seems like a good thing to do right now.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Well, thank you so much. That was fantastic discussion

Bree: Super fun,

Andrea Martucci: you have so many t-shirt-able sayings.

Bree: I don't know. I guess I must've been just real feeling real pithy today.

Andrea Martucci: Thank you for listening to episode 46 of Shelf Love. All the details for this episode and where to find my guest Bree can be found on, including a transcript for this episode. Search for episode 46.

Transcripts are new and I hope to have them available for all episodes going forward.

Thank you so much for joining me today. If you have any thoughts on the show, I would love for you to reach out to me. You can send an email to [email protected].

One final thought to remember today: black lives matter.

Stay safe, stay mad, and keep reading romance.