049. Blind Date With A Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden with Katrina Jackson


Short Description

Katrina Jackson never actually left: we talk about Scandal, why impermanence and entropy are the root cause for readers' desire for a happily ever after - or at least according to my theory, and how Katrina's research on Black romance as liberation is coming along. We also discuss Blind Date with a Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden, a true romcom novella that turns the one-day courtship trope on its head. 03:05 - What Kat’s been up to. Scandal. Contagion. Growing jalapenos. 14:21 - Kat’s Research: Black Romance as Liberation 41:53 - HEA, HFN, Andrea’s grand theory of romance 50:53 - The fantasy of resolution 59:16 - Blind Date With A Book Boyfriend


Show Notes

Katrina Jackson never actually left: we talk about Scandal, why impermanence and entropy are the root cause for readers' desire for a happily ever after - or at least according to my theory, and how Katrina's research on Black romance as liberation is coming along. We also discuss Blind Date with a Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden, a true romcom novella that turns the one-day courtship trope on its head.

  • 03:05 - What Kat’s been up to. Scandal. Contagion. Growing jalapenos.
  • 14:21 - Kat’s Research: Black Romance as Liberation
  • 41:53 - HEA, HFN, Andrea’s grand theory of romance
  • 50:53 - The fantasy of resolution
  • 59:16 - Blind Date With A Book Boyfriend

Shelf Love:

Guest: Katrina Jackson

Twitter | Instagram | Kat’s Email newsletter | Beautiful & Dirty

We Read:

Blind Date With A Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden

Notes:

03:05 - What Kat’s been up to. Scandal. Contagion. Growing jalapenos.

14:21 - Kat’s Research: Black Romance as Liberation

41:53 - HEA, HFN, Andrea’s grand theory of romance

50:53 - The fantasy of resolution

59:16 - Blind Date With A Book Boyfriend


Full Transcript

Andrea Martucci: Hello, and thanks for listening to episode 49 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 today I am joined by Katrina Jackson, erotica and erotic romance writer, professional historian, and frequent guest of the podcast.

In this episode, we talk about Scandal, why impermanence and entropy are the root cause for reader's desire for a happily ever after- or at least according to my theory- and how Katrina's research on Black romance as liberation is coming along. We also discuss Blind Date with A Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden, a true romcom novella that turns the one day courtship trope on its head.

This is a fairly long episode, but I think it makes sense as one, instead of breaking it up. However, if you can't listen to this all at once, there are definitely natural breaking points with musical interludes. The timestamps for those are in the show notes that you can view in your podcast app.

I'm chagrined to say that this isn't even the entire conversation with Kat from this recording session. So probably within the next month or so, watch out for a shorter episode where we ruminate aloud about the modern romance canon and nostalgia.

If you are not already signed up for the Shelf Love newsletter, I'd love it if you took a moment to do that, either on my website, shelflovepodcast.com, or there's a direct link in the show notes. I'm trying to spend less time on social media and shift my podcast promotion focus to collecting and sharing information in a curated way in the newsletter, so if you enjoy the podcast, that is a really great place to stay up to date.

Today is June 30th, 2020, and I'm not sure exactly when this was going to happen, but probably late summer, I will be taking a wee break from releasing new episodes so that I can gear up for a second season. I'm definitely going to be reevaluating the structure of the podcast, thinking about new guest ideas and topic ideas, all sorts of things. And I'd love your feedback. If you listen to the podcast, you hopefully know that I am really focused on iterating and growing as a person, as a reader and in this case as a podcaster. So I do truly, truly appreciate honest feedback, even if it is along the lines of episodes, you generally aren't that interested in.

Of course, I also really want to hear about the episodes that resonated with you so that I can figure out what the secret sauce is and add more of that to season two. So if you have thoughts or ideas, feel free to email them to me at Andrea@shelflovepodcast.com or you can keep your eye out for a survey where I will ask some guided questions.

You know I love a good survey. I'll be sending that out via my email newsletter. So if that's something you'd be interested in responding to please do sign up for my newsletter. So you don't miss out. And now without further ado onto the episode.

Marker [00:03:05]

  Katrina, you joined me in multiple episodes before. And, and we talk a lot. But just to remind people if they want to catch up with you, they can definitely listen to episode 17 where we covered An Unconditional Freedom. And you guided us with your historical expertise through Alyssa Cole's fine work.

We've also talked before about polyamory and financial conversations and you know, happily ever after versus HFN and I think we're going to pick up on various threads from our previous conversations in this conversation. But what have you been up to lately? It is currently May 30th, 2020.

Katrina Jackson: I've mostly been sleeping.

That's a great thing to do. I've been learning how to garden, but very lazily. Like I do everything else. I have kale growing now and jalapenos in my kitchen. Sounds great. I've been randomly buying my house, which was not a thing I was supposed to be doing now. And then for the past couple of days I've been stress sleeping because of all of the protests happening and I'm very sort of sad and terrified for protesters.

Andrea Martucci: Yup. (sadly) Same. (pretending to be upbeat) So what's a book that you read lately that you loved?

(laughs)

Katrina Jackson: I haven't read a lot in this time period, like a lot of people, but I recently finished American Queen by Sierra Simone, which is the first book in her New Camelot series, which is intensely ridiculous.

And Scandal-esque, and for at least 50% of it, I was just like, what the hell is happening here and why am I still reading this book? And then the last like 40%, I was like, Oh, okay. Like that's why I'm still reading this book. Her sex scenes are amazing. And then I read Barbarian's Prize on the recommendation of Dani Lacey, who does Ice Planet Pod, which is nutty.

Andrea Martucci: Did you know that I was on Ice Planet Pod?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. I did. Yeah. And I, I love, so I was telling her, so I was on a recent episode, which is why I read that we've talked about a different book, but she or I will be on an episode.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, I was like, how did I miss this?

Katrina Jackson: So we just recorded it and we were talking about a different book, and I was talking about how I started reading the series because she was doing the podcast and she had interesting things to say about it. And then I read a few books and then I just skipped ahead and read all the books with black characters, but I missed one and she told me. And so I went back and read Barbarian's Prize, which is now my favorite Ice Planet Barbarians book.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. Well,

I'm not an expert on Ice Planet Barbarians. I literally just read the one.

Katrina Jackson: She's the only expert. Dani's the only -

she's,

Andrea Martucci: she's, she's the world expert on Ruby Dixon's Ice Planet Barbarians. And related series.

Katrina Jackson: She's the only expert, literally, it was a fun conversation.

So I read those two books.

Andrea Martucci: And speaking of, where is it American Queen? I'm really curious about that series.

Katrina Jackson: Keep that laugh in.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, this, the Scandal-esque aspects of it are really interesting. Like, I, I, you know, I put a tweet out the other day where I was basically like,

so first of all, I'm a huge marketing nerd. And used to teach marketing. And so I have like all these little, like, you're not measuring if you're not marketing, like things like that that I just drop on the regular.

But, one of them is Michael Porter, who is a guru in the marketing world, says, the essence of strategy is deciding what not to do. And, I mean, and it's basically like you can't do everything. Choose, choose what you really want to focus on and do well. And then you have to intentionally let go of some other things.

And one of the things I personally in my life have let go of is this idea that I can consume all media.

Like I have a big enough problem in just within like romance books, wanting to consume everything. So I've intentionally just sort of like, I just don't have time for TV.

Like it's, it's not like I don't like TV.

I'm sure there are million fantastic shows out there. I just don't have the time to like invest in that, plus do other things I want to do.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: So I never watched Scandal but you know, I'm not like living in a cave somewhere.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah

Andrea Martucci: I know enough about it, but,

Katrina Jackson: yeah,

Andrea Martucci: I think Kennedy Ryan's The King Maker also has the Scandal-esque vibe.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, that makes sense.

Andrea Martucci: And I'm curious what it is about that sort of storyline. It's like power people in power, like,

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. So do you know that I'm doing a Scandal rewatch right now?

Andrea Martucci: No!

Katrina Jackson: Okay. So this is all accidental. So I was a huge Scandal fan season one, like huge Scandal fan. And I, I was a huge Shonda Rhimes fan at the time too. And then I at some point just stop watching because this show, so when it started, it was like a short series, like very much based on the British model. So like less than like 10 or 12 episodes. And a really tight sort of storytelling model. Great music.

I loved it. And then every season after that, it got more episodes. So by the time it ended, it had like 23 episodes, like a traditional American show. And I, for the longest time, complained to my friends who truly did not care. And yet I still complained to them that this sort of ruin a scandal is too many episodes per season, whatever.

And also other things. And a lot of them watched it. And I finally was like, when it's over, I'm going to rewatch it. So I'm now rewatching it and trying to finish the show since it has recently ended. And what I'm realizing as it becomes more and more ridiculous, that that's probably the point of why people love it so much is the ridiculousness.

Like in the beginning the thing I loved, is the sort of realism of it. And then there's a point at which Liv is kidnapped and they're bidding for her. And I'm like, well, all right. You know, we've jumped the shark. But I remember that a lot of my friends had a lot of stuff to say about that episode.

So I think some of it is the people in power, and then some of it is the sort of political, like telanovela kind of stuff too.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

This is one of those things where when it's explored in the romance genre, we like it. But then when you think about, you know, people in those positions of power in the real world, I'm like, ug

Katrina Jackson: It's actually a really rough show to rewatch in this current moment for so many reasons. One, there's this whole sort of Republican thing happening. Like Fitz is a Republican

Andrea Martucci: UG (sound of disgust)

Katrina Jackson: as are other characters, and it's not that they're Republicans that is the problem. It is hearing the way that, the writers chose to write them as good Republicans that is actually really difficult to deal with in this moment. And also, oddly enough, how many things seem a little prescient. They're not. But I mean, the episode, the last episode I watched before I took a bit of a break because it's ridiculous was about an American woman marrying a European prints and well, then she's murdered.

but yeah, so that didn't happen to Megan. That is not going to happen. Megan. We are not speaking that into 2020's existence.

Andrea Martucci: No!

Katrina Jackson: But, the conversation about how she felt because the press was really mean to her, how she felt sort of like she was living in a fishbowl and that people were sort of judging her.

And, and in these very ways, it felt very, reminiscent of Megan Markle. And that was very difficult to, to watch, not because I'm like- well, I am actually a Megan Markle fan. I was before she married Harry, but it was really difficult to watch that episode, where she ends up dying and realizing that there's just sort of, no -  the writers very clearly understood, you know, the stakes of, what like for instance, in this case, intense media presence can cause, right. So the queen was evil on that one. So I mean, that also felt very accurate, so,

Andrea Martucci: Well. And that's making me think so. I just, so speaking of never watching TV, I did watch Contagion the other night.

Did you ever see that?

Katrina Jackson: Never seen that.

Andrea Martucci: It's, Oh God, 2011 it's, it's, it's actually has like a star-studded cast, like Kate Winslet and like Matt Damon and, Laurence Fishburne? No. Oh, you don't watch movies? Just TV.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah I watch TV, no movies.

Andrea Martucci: Sorry. When I say watch TV, I'm doing air quotes. I mean, watch something on my television.

Anyways, Contagion. It's about like a contagious event. This, this virus that, is really wreaking havoc on the world. And, and look, there's a reason it's like, you know, kind of at the top right now is cause people are like, Oh, what's this movie?

Katrina Jackson: Right.

Andrea Martucci: It is so prescient.

Like all the plot points, you're like, Oh. And then somebody is like peddling a drug that actually isn't helpful, but people start hoarding. And people in government unwilling to make hard choices because it's going to mess up the economy. Like, like boom, boom.

Katrina Jackson: That's hard. I don't know how you, how did you get through that?

Andrea Martucci: I think the way I get through most things in life by dissociating my emotions from what's happening?

Katrina Jackson: This is sadly relatable.

Oh my God. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: I have emotions, but.

Katrina Jackson: You just don't process them.

Andrea Martucci: I'm like, let me examine this logically and then it will make sense to me.

Katrina Jackson: I think it's kind of strange to think about Well, the historian in me is like, well, nothing is new. Right?

Andrea Martucci: Right.

Katrina Jackson: So the sort of, I mean, the Scandal episode, they're clearly pulling from Princess Diana, right?

The fact that my like connection is her son and his wife is sort of incidental. Right? And then Contagion, like we've had, you know, like pandemics before. So it's not, like nothing is new, but it is kind of interesting to think about like just a year ago or a few years ago, how for probably most of us Americans, none of this felt - it was sort of safely fictional.

Andrea Martucci: Right, exactly. Like, like, Oh ha ha. Those things might have happened in the past, but

Katrina Jackson: It can't happen again.

Andrea Martucci: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

Katrina Jackson: I will say, when I read American Queen, I mostly ignored all the politics. I was like, I don't, I don't really care about that.

And I think Sierra Simone right. really great sort of interpersonal dynamics. And that's definitely why I like reading her. So I, cause a lot of it is about war, the politics and stuff is about war and like, colonialism and I was like, Ooh, don't want to do that. So, I, I mostly ignored that.

It's too much right now.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

  Marker [00:14:21] So, speaking of the pandemic, there was supposed to be a really exciting conference in April, the Researching the Romance Conference, at BGSU, which stands for -

Katrina Jackson: Bowling Green State University.

Andrea Martucci: Thank you.

Katrina Jackson: The one in Ohio, not Kentucky.

Andrea Martucci: Right? Yeah. The one in Ohio, not Kentucky,

Katrina Jackson: That will matter to like four people.

Andrea Martucci: Well, I don't want to disappoint those four people, so thank you. So you know, I like showed you the handwritten list I took from, like, I went through the agenda of this conference and basically I'm interested in everything, where basically I literally just hand wrote the agenda and then like put stars next to everything.

But you were going to present and, you know, hopefully Steve Ammidown, who was a guest on the podcast and is the pop culture archivist at BGSU's Browne Pop Culture Library. And, was the organizer of this event, hopefully Steve will be able to organize something at some point too, to kind of like do this.

But can you tell us a little bit about what you were going to present and how it relates to your work? And like, maybe in the context of your larger project around, I always like mess up the wording of this, so I'll just let you say it.

Katrina Jackson: I will also mess up the wording of, it's all right. So I was, in my actual life and my legal name, going to write about, or going to give a paper on thinking about Beverly Jenkins's work and the sort of larger context of Black feminist texts. So one of the things, like I said, last time I was here, I have always been interested in like love and community and my advisers hated it. And so, I avoided it for a long time, but I kept running into Black feminist rating about love in very interesting ways.

And, bell hooks sort of talks about really early in her career, she has like four books on love, but really actually like decades earlier in her career, what she argues is that, scholars and activists need to center love, as a way of reimagining the present and the future. And so I took that and I am taking that as kind of a starting point to think about how we can reimagine love, but thinking about the past.

Right? And so I wanted to look at Beverly Jenkins's books, sort of a selection of her work to think about what historians can learn about centering love in the dissemination of historical narratives. And for me. that's sort of what I'm always trying to do.

So I'm always trying to get my students away from thinking only about like politics and like the, you know, sort of great man history, but also to sort of start getting them to humanize people in the past. Like, and not just like Black people, but like people in general. Right? So if we can humanize like presidents and we can be comfortable saying this president sucked, right?

Cause lots of them suck right? Or if we can, humanize, sort of communities or like working class people, we can stop focusing, for instance, on like large businesses, we can start thinking about the people who are in the mines or the people who are doing the blue collar work. Like those are also people who contribute to history and some of that empathetic work is about centering love, but because you can also then look at the things that matter to people, not that matter to like historical processes.

So the things that matter to people, the things they usually, for instance, that are mentioned in their obituaries, are their familial connections? Not for instance, how long they worked at IBM.

Right. So, so thinking about love as just as significant a motivator in historical processes as like politics or economics, and I want it to look at Beverly Jenkins's books to do that. Although by the time the conference was rolling around, I had also sort of thrown Alyssa Cole into that.

Andrea Martucci: Why not?

Katrina Jackson: Why not? Because when I done this, no one cares about this, but me. But what I'd done is between the two of them, I'd covered most of the significant milestones of African American history from the American Revolution through the Civil Rights movement, which is a survey I'm supposed to be teaching in the fall.

So there was literally the room in all of the sort of major moments to drop in a historical romance novel, which is like so geeky and cool.

Andrea Martucci: Wow, so the class you're teaching, are you going to have your students read the romance novels?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, we're reading just one, cause I'm trying to be conscious about like money and stuff.

We're reading Alyssa Cole's Be Not Afraid,

Andrea Martucci: Be Not Afraid - what time period does that take place in?

Katrina Jackson: That's the American Revolution. It's her novella from the American Revolution. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: So, you were talking about bell hooks, and I have a book order for All About Love, New Visions by bell hooks in the mail.

Katrina Jackson: Yay.

Andrea Martucci: It's coming. Basically, whenever you mentioned books on Twitter, I just very quietly go over to like Abe Books and like...

Katrina Jackson: Don't do that. I recommend books a lot on Twitter.

Andrea Martucci: Well, sometimes I just put them on my Goodreads list.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, that's smart. Yeah. So actually that book, I just finished rereading it hilariously, which is probably why I was talking about it again. But, yeah, part of what I love about that book, and I'm trying to reconcile this now, so since I couldn't present the paper at the Rom Con, the goal was always to turn that paper into an article. So I'm now at the point where I'm like, well, I guess you're just skipping, you know, point A and let's just move to point B. And so I'm trying to like reconcile that into an article, and I would have had to sort of struggle through this process anyway.

But part of what I'm reconciling is that I want to talk about love, which is not actually talking about romance novels. So, and I don't know that I sort of know what to make of that difference. But a lot of the research - actually, bell hooks has a chapter on romance novels. It's not particularly favorable, but, it's actually, it's not favorable in ways that I think are actually that I actually processed.

So when you read it, we can talk about it. But I process as a sort of challenge to how romance novels tend to present love, at that time. The book is also maybe like a decade or so old. But it's interesting to think about how you can have a, a conversation about love that isn't really about, that doesn't make an easy conversation about romance novels because romance is concerned with the HEA, which obviously implicates love, but it doesn't necessarily have to, right? I think there are lots of people who are writing or who have written HEAs where love isn't the thing that matters the most in telling the story, is a relationship dynamic or conflict or something like that. But not all romance novels have a lot of profound things to say about love itself.

Right.

Andrea Martucci: And that's well, okay, so this is, this is so relevant to - okay. I think, first of all, I wonder if it's because romance novels, in addition to being a genre that kind of has created its own conventions that are - they, they sort of represent what people want in reality, but in a sort of artistic form, let's say.

So they're not trying to represent love exactly as it exists. They're also primarily focused on courtship.

Katrina Jackson: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: Which is different from - like happily ever after, at the end of a romance novel, you get to the point at which they're like, and now we're going to settle into loving each other for the rest of our lives, which is what love is.

But that's not on the page so much in romance novels.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, I mean, in, I mean, this might be controversial, and so if anyone's going to come from me, like come from me with like, you know

Andrea Martucci: gently

Katrina Jackson: in the spirit of discussion, cause I'm trying to work through this myself because I think there are absolutely some romance novels that I've read where you are watching characters sort of build a loving relationship.

But I wouldn't, I've read so many more where love really isn't. It's an, it's an expectation that it's there, but we don't necessarily see evidence of it. And part of what bell hooks is saying that I'm taking as instructive for this paper is that, because the whole book is about the messages that people get about love in media and lots of different kinds of media, which is why she talks about romance novels. And she says, the message that you get in media is that love is either easy or it is always a battle. And she says if it's easy, then we ignore that you have to put in work to sort of, combine your life or build a life with another person.

But if it is always a battle, then we can ignore or we can miss the ways that that might not be love. It might be abuse. Right? So, there has to be a kind of balance here. And I think, and I would say too, not to like cape for her anything, but I think that a lot of the time, what scholars are doing when they're making these sort of disparaging conversations about romance novels is they're talking about romance novels in a particular moment, right?

And I think it would be hard to argue that romance novels in the eighties or nineties or before are not sort of exactly what she's saying. Right? So when I was at the BGSU Pop Culture Library, looking through issues of Romantic Times, literally like the first issue of the magazine or the newsletter, talks about rape in historical fiction, and they don't, they don't have euphemisms for it now, which is what people have now. They sort of say, Oh, you know, this is, you know, dub con or something like that. Like literally the reviewer for historical novels says he raped her three times. The hero rapes the heroine three times, right?

So there's no illusion there of what's happening. And so bell hooks, I think is very much talking about romance in a particular time period, and I don't necessarily think that she's wrong, in, in the terms of we don't see love as she also defines it when she does provide a definition of love, that I think is- we don't see that in those texts.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I'm guilty of forgetting this myself sometimes that. Like I, I try to be really gentle with older romance novels because I understand that they got us to where the genre is now. And, you know, I know you listened to my conversation with, Dr. Maria DeBlassie about, kind of the, the baby steps in terms of let's say even white women in the 1970s like proclaiming like, I want to have some sexual desire and have a story told from my point of view and like how that kind of had to be within the boundaries of the patriarchy. So, so I try to be gentle while also kind of acknowledging like, yeah, they're not great.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. You, you get to be gentle. And I also think, and we're going to talk about nostalgia, I think a lot of romance readers want to be gentle because these books mean or have meant something to them. And I respect that. I am not a lifelong romance reader. So on the one hand, I don't care about being gentle, but also, I think in the context of me sort of learning about romance in the archive is that I can't be, and I teach my students this, I can't be gentler than the historical sort of people were.

Right. So if romance reviewers and romance readers are calling it rape in 1983, it is rape. That is what it is. So we don't get to say 30 years later, well, it wasn't that it was rape. It's like, well, no. Like they knew what it was. We can argue about what it was trying to do, which is why I really liked that conversation you had with Dr. DeBlassie, right?

Like what are the confines in which it was created? What are the sort of fantasies that this is meant to - or what are the frustrations that the fantasies are meant to sort of process, right? I think that's actually a super valuable conversation. That doesn't mean it's not rape and it doesn't mean they don't understand it is rape.

Andrea Martucci: Exactly.

Katrina Jackson: And so that sort of rings true for other things, right? Like when Felicia Grossman was talking on Twitter about Georgette Heyer, right? She, you know, she's pointing out that not only is there antisemitism in her books and that she's writing out various people in history, right? The sort of romance reader conversation usually is that she did know, and Felicia Grossman says, no, actually she did know, and we know that she knew because we have her papers. And for me, that's the - the two things can be true, right? That we've created conventions that, Oh, I should write this down, or I'll just re listen to this episode. But that's sort of the point is that, maybe each romance novel isn't having the conversation about love because we're so sort of hell-bent on having a conversation about who gets and who does not get to be included, right? Because part of what bell hooks is saying is that like, love does not know like, you know, race or, you know, all of that stuff. We all don't learn how to love into, you know, sort of the same, right. In terms of our, our cultures, but also our family dynamics, whatever. But that at sort of its face or at its base level, you can create a definition of love that is more or less universal, right? But the minute you start sort of saying, well, love looks like a man and a woman, a cis man and a cis woman together, well then you start sort of taking away some of the necessary universality of love, right? If you start sort of saying, these people aren't here in this historical time period, or as Ms. Bev has famously said that, you know, you have white readers who didn't realize that Black people loved in the same way as, I mean, never heard her say that.

Andrea Martucci: I've not heard her say that exactly. No.

Katrina Jackson: She literally said,

Andrea Martucci: I don't know why I said that so cagily, by the way, sorry. No, I haven't heard her say that.

Please go on.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. So I, I'm not actually think she, I heard her say it at the first BGSU rom con, which was like 2018. And she said that a reader sent her a letter, you know, sort of saying how much she loved Ms. Bev's books. And in the letter, and I think this was actually printed in one of the articles about it too, but in the letter, the reader says, I didn't realize that Black people loved the same way as White people did. Well. And so for me, and that's sort of what I'm struggling with in the article, and trying to create a kind of, a structure to talk about the importance of the historical romance novels that I'm, I want to analyze, is that, well, the minute you start saying that loves, love, looks a particular way or has particular people in a particular configuration, well then you do start making it seem as if love is, there is no universal here. Right? Or there can be no universal here. Or that to show, to broaden who gets to write romance or who gets to be, you know, characters in romance, they have to fit into a particular kind of storytelling archetype.

And I really struggle with that. And I am struggling with that both as a romance reader and writer, and then also as a researcher. I do think there is something specific about African American Black romance that we lose when we start trying to say that, Oh, all love is love, which I know romance writers and readers love to say when talking about diversity that, you know, love looks the same. And I don't actually think that it does. I think that there are sort of base components, which is what bell hooks is talking about. that you have to have to have a loving relationship or to sort of, you know, she calls it a love ethic, but I don't think that we all express that the same, cause that is also in some ways, cultural and contextual.

Andrea Martucci: Right. Yeah. As you were saying that, that's definitely what I was thinking, that there are, different cultural expectations. Like, everybody, every group, you know, in that all love is love, have their own cultural expectations that they're bringing to the table. And I mean, I think that's definitely something I've noticed in, you know, Black indie romance is that I think there are different, like types -  I'm putting this in air quotes, like "types" of relationships or like expectations in relationships that are not like this, like that, that are not necessarily speaking to like the love being different, but the expression being different or like kind of the range?

Katrina Jackson: Exactly. And that and that, that's maybe more accurately what I'm trying to sort of think about in the many larger projects I keep saying I'm doing. The, you know, I. I don't love, I hate the phrase, love is love. I hate it when marriage equality was using it. I think it is not particularly useful. But, or it's at least reductive, but I, yeah, because I think what we lose in is the expression, right?

So it sort of matters, for instance, the ways in which, and, and you can see similar expressions over time, right? So I, it really sort of matters to me in, for instance, Be Not Afraid, which I'm using this - so this is a preview on the article. But part of the reason I decided to include Alyssa Cole is cause there's this sort of really kind of lovely, careful section where Kate, the, female main character, is  vaguely reflecting on what is very obviously, rape and sexual abuse in her past. And she says, you know, everything, - and I tweeted  about this-  everything Kate knew of love, she wanted to essentially never hear the word again, but she wondered what it would be like to be loved by a man like Elijah Hutton.

Sutton, his last name is Sutton. And, for me, that is sort of the crux of the argument, not just for the article, but of the larger project on Black romance that it, it does mean something for, in this case, a formerly-enslaved woman trying to find her way to freedom to understand that it could be different to be loved by a formerly-enslaved man, trying to find his way to freedom. And then the fact that That Could Be Enough is their granddaughter, well, clearly, right? Like, and she then is trying to figure out a way to love this woman who she has fallen in love with. And that is its own kind of freedom, right?

So that you can sort of see something, at least in my opinion, happening in Black romance that is looking at not just the expression of love, which I think is specific, but also in sort of what it means in the larger context of - which is what the, the conference paper was supposed to be about - what freedom looks like for Black people throughout history, right?

Like what it means for enslaved people to access freedom , but access also a sort of loving community as well, or what it means for, again, one of Alyssa Cole's other novellas, which I'm also blanking on the name. And I think I told you I'm sharpest in the morning. These are lies. But what it means, it's the ones that during the civil rights movement, which is actually quite beautiful, and it's an interracial, have you read that one?

Andrea Martucci: I started reading it and it's not like I stopped because I wasn't enjoying it. It just, you know.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, yeah. No, it happens

Andrea Martucci: distraction.

Katrina Jackson: So the point is just in that situation, it's, it's a romance between an African American woman and a Jewish American man. And so what it means in that context to sort of love, to find love with this other person who is marginalized and maybe has, you know, more privilege in some contexts and, you know, not enough in others. Right but to sort of make fighting for your mutual sort of liberation, a center of your loving relationship that not every romance has that to say about, sort of building relationship. And so I think there's a specificity here in the way the way that I think some romance authors, and certainly a lot of Black romance authors, are thinking about what love means in a larger societal context.

Andrea Martucci: It's not Let Us Dream. Is it?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, it is. It is.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. Alright,

Katrina Jackson: The other one set in New York with an South Asian man is also fabulous. I love her novellas.

Andrea Martucci: So I wonder like what you're speaking to is there's like sort of the promise of the romance genre, and media generally to show people different ways that maybe they have not experienced in their life experience. It is possible. What's problematic is that the media is largely controlled by gatekeepers who privilege a particular point of view and particular stories that are deemed to be exemplars of courtship or relationships or, or, you know, I mean, part of that of course is like things that are interesting.

Like, you know, where, who do they think the audience is and what they're going to be interested in.

Katrina Jackson: Which yeah, which by and large it's not, it's not even just about race, right? It's about class. Like how many, you know, Jane Austen adaptations do we need, right? Because it's this idea that love is more interesting when we're talking about rich people who have access to like you know, stomp through muddy fields or,

Andrea Martucci: exactly, right. Like, yeah.

Like, look how poor she is. She doesn't have to do anything all day and she only has three servants!

Katrina Jackson: But as soon as her father died, yeah, no, it's - right? So there was that thing on Twitter about how rich people were in Austen novels and my friends and I were like, did people not know? Was that not clear?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Like all they do all day is sleep and read and get dressed.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. Which is, you know, I think also too, part of what you were, part of what, at least I see in certainly the larger kind of body of work of, of Beverly Jenkins, which is huge,  is this sort of commitment to showing people across actually a pretty large spectrum of class and racial presentation, and it also across the country in different time periods, which makes all of that sort of significant.

So it always matters to me, for instance, how many formerly enslaved people Beverly Jenkins presents, right? Or in Alyssa's case in Be Not Afraid, like literally enslaved in the moment, but, you know, trying to access freedom through the war. It matters to me how often Beverly Jenkins seems to like presenting a rich person with, a poor person, but, which I know romance loves period, but I always feel like she has like a sort of, a bit of a, a sort of twist on that.

Right? So, She very often has rich women, which I think people forget, right? She has a lot of outlaws who, who are, maybe they've been brought low when the story starts, I just finished Wild, Sweet Love. And so there's a, a female outlaw who spends a bit of time in jail and then meet the rich man, a banker. Yeah, so there's this sort of commitment, I think in her work to sort of presenting, Black people across like various class presentations, which we don't always get in historical romance, certainly.

Andrea Martucci: I just talked about some of Rose Lerner's work, and she has some Jewish characters in historical settings and, and is doing some stuff there, but she has also done some interesting work with class and, you know, people in the working class, particularly.

But, but yes, I would be interested in hearing recommendations about anybody else other than Beverly Jenkins who has, who has displayed such a commitment to, kind of showing the range of classes and time periods and.

Katrina Jackson: I'm sure there are more. Like, I definitely don't want to sort of ever say it's just this one person,

Andrea Martucci: Only Beverly Jenkins did this.

Katrina Jackson: Only Beverly Jenkins does all the things you want her to do. Read her now.

Andrea Martucci: Well, it's her and Alyssa Cole. Only those two.

Katrina Jackson: But only those two. I do think what ends up happening is that we don't sell these stories like that. Right? So you can have the sort of rich boy, poor girl in the marketing for like a white romance but for a Black romance like those other things don't exist. Right. Or for like a queer romance. It's as if those things don't exist when, sometimes when they are being sort of published or when they are being recommended so you lose all of the great context cause I read, yeah, a bit of Rose Lerner, a bit of Courtney Milan and they do some similar things where they are presenting people across class in very interesting, and, and sometimes we feel like off the beaten path kind of, kind of story setups, but when you see them recommended, it's just, Oh, this is a queer romance, or, Oh, this is a historical romance    with like people of color or whatever it is, right? Or with Jewish characters.

And so it's as if nothing else matters. And that's kind of what I'm trying to get at with one of these 8,000 projects. I said I'm doing where I'm trying to get at that there's so much layering here happening because there's a commitment here to presenting history - I'm only studying Black historical romance. There's a commitment here to presenting a vastness of history as opposed to a myopic view of history.

Andrea Martucci: And I'm going to quote Funmi, Funmi B, who in my episode, I remember this very clearly was talking about Black people being allowed the dynamacy of white characters in romance, how, how that's often limited, I think particularly in traditional publishing.

Katrina Jackson: Until recently I'd say that. Yeah, absolutely.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I guess I'll say like, I don't recommend books. I only talk about books that I think people should read.

But I don't, but I don't like review books, but, but I really try to be cognizant of not pigeonholing books by like their marginalizations when describing them. I think one thing I'm particularly aware of is when I talk about women loving women or male / male romance, like not defining them like that is like the first thing I mentioned.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Like, you know, and I'm probably guilty of doing this, you know?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. We all are. Absolutely. And that's, that's the thing, right? It's like sometimes that is what people want, right? Like, and I do actually place parameters. So one of the things I have to stop doing for this exact reason is I've stopped asking for recommendations on Twitter because I felt like I had to then come back and say, don't recommend all white you know, het romance to me, I don't want it. Please don't do it. But that was because if I had a request for like, billionaire romance, I would get only white romance. Right? But if I said, Oh, I want like a black romance, I would get all over the shop. I would get a contemporary, I'd get a paranormal.

I get, you know, it was like everything, because what mattered - but if I said I want Hey, paranormal and wouldn't get any diverse books. And so you're right, like there's this way that we sort of go marginalization forward in conversations about book recommendations, certainly. But even in conversations about what the books are doing that I find really frustrating.

In the paper, I'm going marginalization forward because I'm trying to make a very specific argument, but otherwise, yeah, I agree. I try not to do that in recommendations. I also don't recommend books and I mostly will tell people when I'm not recommending a book that I've just read.

Marker [00:41:53]

  Andrea Martucci: So I wanted to talk about this next topic because I know we've talked a lot about - kind of like publicly and privately about skepticism of HEA - or maybe generally like- I think you and I both agree that what romance tends to call "happily for now," I think we both believe generally should just be called "happily ever after."

Because the point is we just need to believe that they're good for now.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. Well, because yeah, the skepticism is that - and I think I said it when we recorded the first time that I read all HEAs as as "happy for now," only because unless you're telling me that they're together until they die, I don't have to believe that.

And it's not a requirement for me. I believe that they're happy now and if the epilogue is five years later, they're happy five years later, and that is literally all I need because, happily ever after would suggest to me that I, I'm, you know, I'm going to get that story, but it also flattens again, what bell hooks is saying that, that love is a struggle, right? So there are going to, in 20 years, they're going to be different people. Those kids they keep having in the epilogue will grow up and leave their homes and they will have to renegotiate their relationship then, which by the way, please write that story. Like you can check in on any, any couple or any relationship 10, 20 years later, and I'm going to eat that up. But if you're not going to give me that check in 20 years later, I just assume they're happy for right now, and that's literally all I need to be happy as well.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. All right. So actually, so now I'm remembering, I think this is actually where you differ a bit from how a lot of people tend to conceptualize romance, because I'm probably closer to your thinking about it, where.

I don't know. I don't think too hard about it.

Katrina Jackson: I don't think too hard about it. What's is like HFN works,

Andrea Martucci: right? And me too. Like I'm like, okay, cool, awesome.

Like, but I think some people have a very rigid definition in their head. And I think I know why. I think I figured it out.

Katrina Jackson: Okay.

Andrea Martucci: And I want to acknowledge that I figured this out with the help of lots of other people, and maybe, and you know what, maybe somebody else figured this out before, but if they have, I don't know about it and I'd love for you to point me in the direction of a resource.

So I created a poll on Twitter in early April 2020 asking "if you had to generalize, romance novels are essentially about:"

And then I had three options. "Love, identity, power, and something else. Meaning like, you know, fill in the blank.

46.5% of 583 votes by the way,

Katrina Jackson: that's a pretty good sample.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, like if, if any data scientists want to come to me for this data, please, you know, get in contact, andrea@shelfofpodcast.com

Yeah. So like almost half said, it's about love. About a third said identity. 11% said power, and then I got a range of results in the "something else" that I will now talk about.

So I will, I will put my Venn diagram that I have drawn in the, in the show notes, but I have created a model for what I think romance genre is about.

And this is a working model. And so basically it's three circles called power, relationships, and identity that create a Venn diagram. And then there's a circle around it called "hope resolution, emotional satisfaction, AKA happily ever after."

And, so what happened was, after I put that out there, a lot of people said hope. Like, they were like, no, they're about hope. And I was like,

Katrina Jackson: That makes a lot of sense. To me it makes a lot of sense.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, and I guess I was like, okay, I think you're right. I think that like when you get way, way down into the root of it, it's about hope.

But then what comprises that hope? And I think that's where relationships and power overlap to have equality. So, you know, a relationship is like two or more people relating to each other. And then if their power is equal, then they have, they have sort of like found equality or like some balance there.

Right. Power and identity overlap to create agency. So, you know, we all kind of like have our own sense of self and if we feel like we have power to express ourselves, we have agency.

Katrina Jackson: Or even just, well, so the historian would have used agency to mean that you have literally like agency over your own life, right?

So that you, have the power to like, make a choice about a job or that you have the power to push back against, you know, some kind of, aggressive system or person in your life. So, yeah, I mean, that could go lots of different ways. Or that even that you can express your identity like in certain ways, right?

Like it's just a broader term. Yeah. Which actually does make sense in context.

Andrea Martucci: Right. And then relationships overlap with identity. And somebody gave me a better word for this, which is, I wrote "seen", but somebody provided the word validation. I was like, yes, that's what it is.

Katrina Jackson: mmhhm

Andrea Martucci: So basically the fact that in this relationship with another person, your identity is validated.

Katrina Jackson: Sure.

Andrea Martucci: And then in the center we have trust. So trust is the combination of basically within relationships, power, and identity, and when you find equality, you have agency and you are validated, you, in a relationship, have trust. And when all of those things are present, people feel hopeful and have a sense of resolution.

And, and I think that getting back to this idea of like, why do people not like HFN or like the concept that this doesn't just continue on forever and ever and ever is, it messes up that sense of like the future being better and like permanently better.

Katrina Jackson: Oh, Oh, okay. So look, that actually makes a whole bunch of sense in terms of a few things. One, it makes sense to me why a lot of romance readers are very, like hardcore about an HEA over like any other kind of resolution.

It also makes sense why I don't really care. (we both laugh) So, and I can't remember if I talked to you about this or not, but I actually spend an inordinate amount of time talking to my students about how history is not progressive, meaning that it doesn't always get better.

And, so the narrative doesn't always get better. So there is, I, you know, I mostly teach modern US history courses. So I start from reconstruction and I go through the present and simply because of time constraints, I and a lot of other historians ends up sort of stopping around the 1970s. So we stop after the resolution of the civil rights movement and maybe into second wave feminism.

And so the unintended narrative that that creates is that history has gotten better. Like we've gone from the end of slavery and rights given and then taken away to those rights being reaffirmed. And so students get an, an unintended, positive, progressive narrative, which is why I stopped doing that.

And I started going to the 1980s. So that I could give them a quick rundown of Reagan and the conservative backlash, because history is always, you know, a little bit better. A little, a lot worse. Right? Or something like that. Right. So an HEA for me that assumes resolution is the thing here that I wasn't thinking of when I - what mattered to me. The idea that all the bad things are in their past and they don't have to sort of deal with anything or all the conflict later is external, not internal, right? Cause they have done all of this work to create trust and equality and validation in their relationship. But relationships don't work like that.

Like people grow and they should grow and change. So there, you know, the history of this relationship that we're, you know, reading in a romance should, at least for me, it should follow the same model of like, you know, the historical narrative, which is I think get a little bit better. And sometimes there's a wrench in the system or something like that, and you have to sort of struggle through that again, right.

To sort of end back up in if, if it's an HEA, they'll have to sort of struggle through that to sort of end back up in - not even the same relationship per se. It could be, you know, a relationship that looks slightly different.   

Marker [00:50:53]

At the end of Let Us Dream, look, this is about another book, but here I am talking about Alyssa Cole again, but at the end of Let Us Dream, that couple is dealing with infertility issues. And, part of what I love about that epilogue is it, one is not the, "and now she's like happy and pregnant," and she specifically turns that on its head, which I love. But, what it also shows is a hint here- I would actually buy that novella as an HEA because it shows a hint here - and they have all these other relationship problems, and so the epilogue actually shows you how they are going to deal with these problems in their relationship.

So then I can buy that the next time there's a problem, right they can deal -

Andrea Martucci: They have the tools.

Katrina Jackson: Right. I don't think every romance relationship has, they show you the tools that they need for an HEA.

Andrea Martucci: You use the phrase, the history of this relationship, and I think it's really interesting to think of reading a romance novel as the history of a relationship like or at least a slice of the history, let's say, because I'm there, they're going to like go on and keep writing history.

And I think it's really interesting, your perspective as a historian who studies literally seeing the same, or variations of the same bad shit happening over and over and over again, and how, you know, we're, it's not like we're on an up into the right climb.

Katrina Jackson: Right.

Andrea Martucci: In terms of like, things were getting better.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: But I think that this is the. I want to use the word drug that romance is?

Katrina Jackson: No. Use it, go with it.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. So I have talked a lot before about having gone to a lot of therapy and, I'm not, I'm not currently in therapy because I developed my tool set to the point where my therapist and I agreed that like, I was good for at least this point in my life.

But, one of the things I was thinking about. So, okay, so this is, this is a bit of a story. I was listening to the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, and Dan Harris was on, and he's a bit of a meditation proponent, and he was talking about how meditation, I'm going to mess up exactly what he said, but meditation, something like how it's constantly focusing on the present and trying to get past the feeling of hopelessness that entropy and impermanence causes us.

And when I think about what anxiety is to me, it is entirely about the fact that I buy a pair of socks and I think that pair of socks is going to last. I'm like, huh, I've got a pair of socks. And then like, God dammit, I lose a sock or the sock gets dirty.

And then I have to buy more socks. Like I thought I solved this problem.

Katrina Jackson: Right.

Andrea Martucci: And not like nothing's permanent. Things are constantly breaking down. Like relationships need constant work to tend, gardens need constant tending to grow your kale.

Katrina Jackson: But yeah,

Andrea Martucci: yeah. All the seasons, like you grow things and then they die and like I know like that is life.

That is anxiety producing because you never reach resolution. And I think that the reason, the core reason I think I solved it.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. (laughing) 

Andrea Martucci: The reason people like romance is because it creates a fantasy of resolution where things are not constantly degrading and falling apart. And  it's this safe place where we don't have to worry that 20 years from now, when their kids leave the house, we want to at least believe that they have the tools to deal with that.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. Which maybe I watch too much true crime or like whatever, but like, someone's having a midlife crisis and having an affair or whatever the hell. Right. But no, I, I actually think you're totally right and you're helping me as a reader, certainly understand my own reading preferences. Cause as you were talking, I was thinking of Kit Rocha's Beyond series. I love that series so much, like so, so much, and it reminded me of my favorite relationships in that series are almost all either second chance romances or they are, various configurations cause Kit Rocha loves the polyamory, which is why I love Kit Rocha. various configurations of relationship that have not worked as couples before, but work as either a triad or a, whatever you call four people together. My brain is here and not there - is it a dyad?

Andrea Martucci: Foursome?

Katrina Jackson: So what is four?

Andrea Martucci: Quad?

Katrina Jackson: Oh duh, duh. So whether it is they triad or a quad. So all of my favorite relationships in that series are like people who have tried this before, figuring it out, but then you can cut this spoiler out if you decide to in post -  there is this long-standing relationship that exists in the first book and it's only ever in the background- is quite lovely.

The male main character dies in the very last book. And it is heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking. And I remember when I got there, I literally cried and mind you, this care, these characters, and they have a child, are only ever in the background. I can barely remember their names at this point. And when he died, I literally cried. And the reason I love it, that's an HEA for me. That's an HEA, they spend something like 12 books together in the background. Every, almost every person in the series looks at them as the kind of love they are trying to achieve. They are like loving and protective and they talk a lot about how they have grown together and how different before, like this is all coming from other people's perception of them.

And when he dies, one, it feels like hilariously the only significant death. Like are other people could have died and they would have hurt, but somehow that is the death that hits the hardest.

Andrea Martucci: I enjoy your use of hilariously in that context.

Katrina Jackson: No, I have a terrible sense of humor, but, Yeah, but it is. I really, I realized after I dried my eyes or whatever and had a glass of wine that it's kind of the only death that can hit. In that particular way because they are not the main characters. They are not the people who you have actively invested in over the series. You have, like everyone else passively invested in them, and so they feel permanent.

And when you realize that they aren't permanent, you have to sort of, at least, I had to sort of get to this point where I was like, Oh, but wasn't that such a lovely relationship to watch over the course of the series. And then to know, again, the historian in me that they have a child, and so this new world that this man has died to help create, his daughter gets to inhabit it.

Like, like that's how my brain works for history. And so I definitely take that baggage into a romance. Like that's what I'm interested in.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, and I think like, let's just be honest, most people don't spend as much time sitting down and thinking like, why do I deeply love the romance genre,

Katrina Jackson: No.

Andrea Martucci: Like me, for sure. And probably you also, I do think that this is really the sort of like, when readers react to character deaths or things happening to characters that are beloved. Or relationships that are beloved. You want to know why? Because you have messed with the illusion of resolution, which is why readers are here.

Katrina Jackson: I agree. And I, I, I can respect that. Yeah. I can absolutely respect that is not what I care about, but I absolutely, personally, I mean, I do believe that you need to have an HFN or an HEA for romance. I do believe that, and I think I've said this before, I'm absolutely fascinated by romance authors who are willing to write a character death, one of the main couples in the, in the book, or one of the main relationships in the book.

I'm never going to do that cause I don't like conflict and I don't, I don't really like sad things, but I'm, I'm absolutely fascinated by that. And it can be beautiful in its own right.

Marker [00:59:16]

  Andrea Martucci: Okay. So let's talk about Blind Date with A Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden, who, we don't always say full disclosure on this podcast, just assume that most people are recommending books by people they know and like anyways, but you are full disclosure friends with Lucy Eden.

Can you please tell me and listeners about what we should know about Lucy Eden and what we should know about this book?

Katrina Jackson: So Blind Date with a Book Boyfriend is a novella about a young woman in Southern California for a job interview who ends up at a romance bookstore, which is very obviously modeled after The Ripped Bodice, who meets a man there and they sort of spend this kind of lovely day together, and then discover that they have a connection that might make the budding romance, a bit complicated.

And, so the thing to know about Lucy Eden, there are many things. Here's the one that is hilarious about this. She decided to write this book after she scheduled a book signing at The Ripped Bodice, and she thought it would be a great kind of freebie for her fans to encourage them to either come to the signing and meet her or buy her books from The Ripped Bodice.

And so she wrote this book in I think 22 days or this not novella in 22 days.

Andrea Martucci: Wow.

Katrina Jackson: And, she talked to another friend of ours, Zaida Polanco, who lives in the area essentially interviewed her, or interrogated her, depending on your, depending on, (laughing) I don't know how that conversation went about what the area's like and things that they could do.

And she wrote this just as a freebie for, so anyone who, you know, preordered her books would get this. And then there was such demand and there was such good response to it that she decided to sell it. She is, an author, a self-published author who has like 8,000 things on the go, literally at every moment.

If you sign up for her newsletter, you will realize quickly that it's basically a magazine that is masquerading as a newsletter. She's putting literally everyone to shame. Not me cause my newsletter is, you know, barely there. it is beautiful and like really in depth and there's always like really good book recommendations.

I don't know when this is coming out, but her May newsletter literally just dropped yesterday, and she, actually for two, newsletters in a row. She had interviews with romance novel cover models.

Andrea Martucci: Oh cool.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. So one of them, don't remember their names, but it was the model for one of her books called Cherishing the Goddess.

And then today, or May's, cover model is on the cover of Sierra Simone's Harvest of Sighs. Last month she also had a short story by Lydia San Andreas. It is a romance magazine essentially that she, that is, has the nerve to masquerade as a puny newsletter.

Andrea Martucci: Just like a thing she does on the side in addition, you know, creating books to sell and probably other things in her life too.

Katrina Jackson: Right? I'm a self published author, but I really, really adore the business acumen of a lot of self published authors and indie authors. And she's probably one of the ones who has a really great mind for how to market her books, but also how to sort of build a fan base. I think literally this sort of novella that was supposed to be a freebie, which I think is a really sort of lovely, satisfying romance, was just a thought she had. And in less than a month she wrote it and published it.

Andrea Martucci: And so I think you, you basically answered this question in what you have already said, but why do you think this is a romance novel worth reading?

Katrina Jackson: So, what I haven't said is that I adore those Before movies, like Before, what is it? Before Sunrise and Before Midnight, or I don't know, whatever. With Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, I love those movies. And if you haven't seen the should, so I love, the kinds of stories that are like, you know, people spending this lovely unexpected day together.

Jodie Slaughter has a book like that called Just One Night or, yeah, just when, Just One More.

Andrea Martucci: Is that the Valentine's Day one?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. It's Just One More. And it's the same kind of thing where this chance encounter and you spend, you know, a few hours and in Jodie's book a few hours more with people who you, that this person you didn't expect.

Those always feel very real to me and in ways that maybe other romances don't. They also worked really well at the novella level than they do at the novel level. And I love romance novellas. So there's that.

I also love, what I love about Blind Date With a Book Boyfriend is that it kind of operates as a meta romance.

So there is something so satisfying. For a romance reader to read about romance readers and kind of see that conversation that the characters are having with one another about books they like or about how this is kind of like a romance, this thing they're doing where they're like, you know, doing karaoke in a strange bar, or whatever it is.

Or in this case, they're at like this cafeteria sort of themed restaurant. And there are some really cool authors who've done that. Another that springs to mind is also Jack Harbon's Meet Cute Club, which is again, the same thing, like romance readers kind of having their own romance and seeing how that is different or similar, right, to romance as they love .

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. There was a quote from it, and, Oh gosh, I always forget. It's Mike, slash Micah. And what's the female main character's name?

Katrina Jackson: Jordyn. Yeah. I forget names. So,

Andrea Martucci: yeah, I know. Welcome to my life. I'm like the people.

So this is a line that I think is very like, self-aware. It's, it's funny, but it's meta. "If we were in a movie, it would be one of those shots where they put the camera on one of those circular train track thingies. A song like Kiss Me by Sixpence, None The Richer would play, and digital fireflies would be added in postproduction. If the crowd's reaction was any indication Pony by Ginuwine would have been a more accurate song choice. A chorus of howls and whistles surrounded us with cries of 'get a room you two!" And someone definitely said "they are gunna fuck" making us laugh so hard that we broke our kiss."

Katrina Jackson: So the other thing about this book is that it's a true romcom. It is great.

Andrea Martucci: It's really funny. Yeah. And the, the meta romance stuff, there's The Ripped Bodice. So The Ripped Bodice does this thing where it's like a blind date with a book boyfriend where they have a book that is wrapped and there's like a coy description of what the book is about and you buy it and then you don't discover what book you've purchased until you, you know, buy it and open it up.

Katrina Jackson: So then obviously here, it's that she has met this man who she doesn't discover it, owns the company she's interviewing at

Andrea Martucci: spoiler

Katrina Jackson: Until she has ripped off the bandaid and had sex. So, yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Well, and right, so it's, so it's meta on that level. And then, but then also like as a romance reader, they're reading the book descriptions, and I'm like, I know what book it is!

Katrina Jackson: I know what that is, yeah!

Andrea Martucci: Which is so fun.

Katrina Jackson: It has a bibliography which I've just told you I love.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. Katrina Jackson. Dr Katrina Jackson is, I'm going to call you Dr Katrina Jackson. Like, I know that's like not your doctor name. But like, can I do that?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. Tasha Harrison does it too.

It's such a smart book that is so funny. And so, and I think, you know, I think why I like it while I also, I like books like this too, but certainly why I like this book is, like we all, whether we are like lifelong romance readers or not, probably had that moment where we thought, this is this like really monumental time in my life.

Like I'm going to college for the first time, or I'm in a new, Oh my God. But the first time I went to London, I just thought I was going to meet like the love of my life around every corner, like mess. But we have these like moments where our lives could potentially change and we imagine, if we're single or we're looking to date that this is when we'll meet the love of our lives and we'll have like this romcom moment. And this like just sort of feeds into that and it feels like a sort of a kind of warm hug. And I love romcom movies. And this strikes this really great balance between, the things I love in romcoms and the things I love and romantic books.

So.

Andrea Martucci: And so to talk for a moment about, so it's novella, it's, I looked it up. It's half the length of a Duke by Default

As a - this is, this is my new measurement. Like how many Dukes by Default is it?  It's not like super short, but it's an, it's definitely a novella. And you know what you were talking about how it's like this monumental day.

And I was thinking about how, telling a story, telling a romance, a story of a courtship, as we were talking about earlier, how that story changes, if you believe that they have to have a happily ever after at the end. How do you do that quickly?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah,

Andrea Martucci: and satisfyingly, you know?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, and I know that a lot of romance authors think the best way to write a romance novella is to have the characters already know each other.

Because you can get past some of that, getting to know you,

Andrea Martucci: Like are you a serial killer? Type question.

Katrina Jackson: Right. And I do tend to believe in that, I believe in that as a writer. Right. Although I've written romance novellas that are not like that. But what I love here is that what Lucy is doing is leaning into that you can actually get to know someone not well, but you can get to know them actually pretty well if you are sort of kind of bearing yourself open, right. Which is actually why that sort of running gag of "could you be a serial killer" is hilarious because I don't know anyone in this day and age who wouldn't ask a stranger, who just started talking to them in a strange place, and wouldn't seem to leave, like if they weren't a serial killer, but also it, it can kind of make the danger of interacting with a new person, bare.

And then you can see how they react. Right? So in this case, Mike is like, no, I'm not. But I totally understand why you think that. And then he sort of, he's really sort of conscious about, once they leave the bookstore, that's not The Ripped Bodice but is The Ripped Bodice.

But he's really conscious of her safety and space. And so, yeah, there is this way that if you lean into, these are two strangers, but these are two strangers who, in his case, he really wants to get to know Jordyn and in Jordyn's case, she is almost testing out the possibilities for this new phase in her life. Like what could it be like to live in this new place? Like maybe she can get to know the area, but also she can take her mind off of her nerves.

So there is this way she, Lucy, is leaning into  the, the uncomfortableness of, of meeting a stranger and then playing it for laughs that are, I think in all of her books, it's a little bit layered too, which is really nice.

Andrea Martucci: And let's be honest, just because you've known someone for years doesn't mean you don't know that they're a serial killer.

Katrina Jackson: Right? I would absolutely, if any of my exes came into my life, I would assume there is a manhunt happening for them in another part of the country.

Andrea Martucci: That happens a lot, mostly in romance novels, but.

Katrina Jackson: Right.

Andrea Martucci: So this book also subverts the billionaire trope. I don't, I don't know if he's like a billionaire, but he's like, at least a multimillionaire. And what I will say about how this is a subversion of it, like where there's, there is an aspect of it that's like fun and fantasy with, kind of like what you can add to the story if you have somebody who basically has like unlimited wealth and, you know, options in some ways.

I think this book does a really good job of acknowledging privilege. So, at one point she like jokingly calls him like a tech prodigy or something, and he says, "I'm not a tech prodigy genius. I'm a guy with a knack for computers and an expensive education. Who had a good idea and parents that could give him 250 grand to start a company."

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I look, I don't, I don't read a lot of billionaire romances, but I do love billionaire romances. And I love ones that are like this. Like, I think. Lucy Eden does this in this book, and actually in others where she's really transparent about privilege, but in this really cavalier way, right? Where it doesn't have to be - like, I think sometimes people write billionaires and they're like tortured.

They're like, you know, pretending to be poor. Or they're like, you know, sort of operating in the shadows, like, and they're not really confronting their privilege. And she's sort of like, no. Like, here we are. Like, you know, this is a thing that doesn't have to be a, it doesn't make Mike mysterious. It is just a part of who he is and he understands, right, that he has privileges that other people don't.

I think Alyssa Cole does this certainly in, A Princess in Theory where you sort of see Thabiso. So he is actually living like he's poor. But, when he is exposed, there is that really sort of great confrontation between him and Leti where she's just sort of like. Yo, what the hell are you doing?

And he, you know, has to sort of account for that he's deceiving her, right. In a way that I think is really transparent. Other people do that as well. But I think it's really great to have people writing about people with privilege who are willing to call it out as such. Right?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. You know, this just called to mind this random contemporary romance. Sorry, it's not random. It was called Man at Work and in the show notes, I will have a link to this book. It's a contemporary, but it's like older. And there was like this whole plot where like the really privileged like white guy hero is like slumming it as a, construction work, slumming it, that's in air quotes as a construction worker. And she comes from a, a poor, a poorer or like less affluent family and like has become a lawyer and really worked hard to like get to that point, but, but like her family thinks that she's like too fancy for them or whatever.

But there's like this whole thing where he like places himself in this position of being a victim, Like you don't get what it's like to like live in a crappy apartment. And like she finds out that he's like this rich guy, like pretending and the confrontation in that is so delicious where it's like, yeah.

I'm just thinking, I want to reread that book because I'm actually really curious rereading it now if, if I would have the same feeling about it, but I, I feel like it's like that rare romance novel in like a contemporary setting where white people are kind of like confronting their privilege and having a discussion about it.

Katrina Jackson: That's interesting. Yeah. So there's, so the final book in Kit Rochas Beyond series, as you were talking, it reminded me that there are so many ways that you can kind of confront privilege. Right? And, I love that book for so many reasons, I think he's the only, Black male main character, like hero in that series.

And he is, positioned as the richest and the most powerful man in essentially the world they've created. So we've created this world where like everyone is kind of hard scrapple and then, you know, - hard scrapple is not a thing. cause hardball is something different.

Andrea Martucci: Scrabble?

Katrina Jackson: Hardscrabble.

Andrea Martucci: Hard Snapple?

Katrina Jackson: Hard. They, they sort of like hardscrabble like, kind of outlaws. Right. And then, - His name is Rider - he kind of strolls in. The picture in my head is, everyone else in the series is dressing like, biker gang. He shows up in a suit and he is like very above it all.

And part of what I love about that book is, there's this moment in the book where he sort of points out that he is the most. A rich and powerful. And yet, because he's Black, even in this postapocalyptic world, people treat him in a certain way, right? In a way that they don't have to confront, even though they are confronting other things.

And so again, there are some times in these billionaire romances, this sort of like lovely interplay of people who understand various kinds of privileges, and are willing to call it out, which is what Mike does in this, in this novella. And then people - that sort of lovely moment where they get called out.

And you get that confrontation, that is so, you're right. It's delicious. It's like amazing.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. This book does stuff like that so economically like,

Katrina Jackson: yeah,

Andrea Martucci: like there's like a, you know, a black moment where, you know, something has not been communicated and you think that this is going to like drive them apart, but it was done well where, he tried to communicate it, she shut him down. So it's forgivable I think, and then they actually talk about it, like then.

Katrina Jackson: I was going to say, I love a bit of a miscommunication, or a sort of, you know, people putting off difficult conversations cause I'm definitely that person, and it can be great for attention, but what I love in this book, cause it's all about like. Economical is really the word, right?

This book is not that long. It is a novella. And so there isn't a lot of time for that miscommunication to go on and it goes on I think the perfect amount of time for the length of the book and when it comes up, sometimes you read romances that are unsatisfying because people don't have real conversations, right?

They sort of tiptoe around the issue or, in my opinion, their conversations are a little too real and it feels uncomfortable. And this is a lovely balance of they're having a real conversation that people in their position, billionaire or not, would have to have about how you negotiate a new relationship, with conflicts or whatever.

And they're very mature, both of them about it all. I like romances that feel real, even if there's a bit of fantasy and this is kind of that.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, there was this one moment, like, I'm just, I'm just amazed at these parts, these little parts.

I just spit all over my microphone. Where at one point she like falls like they're, they're, ostensibly taking an Uber. And she falls asleep and he goes and get some food and like brings it back in the car. And I was like, he like left her in like an Uber asleep? And I was a bit like, I was like, Oh, that seems like a little bit of like a, Ooh, I don't know about that.

And then later it's revealed that it was his driver and not an Uber driver. So somebody that he trusts and has an existing relationship with. And he's like, you don't think I'd ever leave you asleep in an Uber? And I'm like, thank you for resolving that for me.

Katrina Jackson: Right! And it's that. I feel like if you are going to write- I mean there is again, all romance books are fantasies in some way, shape, or another, right?

So billionaires are just a kind of extension of that. But if you're going to have, this fantastical character who has all the money in the world and can do whatever, right? Like, why wouldn't you, one call that out, but also do so in a way where you can also then, as she does in that scene, cause I was thinking of that scene when he started talking, where he can further demonstrate his care for her.

Right? Like, of course, he wouldn't leave her in an Uber, you know, tipsy and asleep. And he has the financial ability not to have to do that.

Andrea Martucci: Right. But then also it explains why he wasn't like, and this is my driver.

Katrina Jackson: Right,

Andrea Martucci: because that hadn't been revealed yet. And so like, it's, there's like a little bit of like, suspense.

There's a teeny weeny little bit of suspense where you're like, Oh, I dunno about that Mike.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. And Mike is a cinnamon roll too. So it only sort of solidifies once you realize what he's done and why, it sort of solidifies the thing you love - the thing I love about cinnamon rolls, is that, they are like uber careful right there.

They're the ones who are thought through all the things, even if it's like in this case, you don't know their thought process, they're like, Oh, he's so thoughtful. Like, he's so wonderful to her. Yeah, I love it. I loved it.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And they, and they have an explicit conversation. This is another sort of like one of those meta romance things.

She's like, what kind of romance hero are you as getting to know him. And, and I mean, if we, if we haven't said this already, the reason he is in a romance novel bookstore is because he reads romance. And it was, it was something he did with his sister who - we've had so many spoilers in this -  his sister who had passed away.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: But it was something that like, so not only did was there like a story behind it, but like he was still doing it so then it's like something they share. It's just like, so lovely. They're lovely people. this is one of those books where like, I was like, I would like to be friends with these people.

I don't always feel like that.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. No, I don't always feel like that. And I think. part of why I really like, not just because my friend, we're friends because I really like her books. But part of why I really like Lucy Eden's books is, partially because I like romcom movies and I, it's harder to find actual romcom books,  in my opinion.

And she's one of the very few authors who I think really managed to write, you know, the comedy part of the romcom really well. I think, having read some of her other books, part of the reason she's able to do that is because she writes really realistic characters.

So they're characters who behave like me, who are absolutely like, sir, why are you talking to me in this bookstore when I'm just trying to buy a book? Please go away, slash are you a serial killer? Like these are things I would absolutely do. But even at the end, near the climax, you know, she's there for a job interview and it's in Southern California, you know it's tech. So there are food trucks outside and she gets beignets and then when they meet up again, she's covered in powdered sugar.

And I'm like, wow, okay, just call me out in book form. Like I'm the kind of person who's going to have something on my mouth or something on my clothes. Right? Cause it's like I'm a train wreck, right? So there is this sort of moment where you get to, and he, and, and when he calls it out, it is so romantic. He's like, Oh, so it's beignet day,

Andrea Martucci: Right? There's no judgment. He's like, Oh. Darn it. I missed the beignets.

Katrina Jackson: So, there is just this like really sort of the realism of it. Cause I'm the, I'm a sarcastic person, but I tend to think that there are funny things in even the darkest sort of moments. and that is part of my sort of coping strategy and has been since I was a kid.

And so there is something really sort of lovely about reading a romcom. Or finding authors who are able to write about things, that aren't always the brightest. I certainly don't want to read trauma, but they aren't the brightest, but they are able, the character seem to approach, like, I think Mike and Jordyn absolutely approach life, more sort of like with open arms and more willing to see the humor in life.

I find that part of it really great. Right.

Andrea Martucci: And it makes sense for these two characters to be like this in this story. Because, you know, given the set up, if they were not those types of people, the book would have ended with her being like, please get away from me sir, and the manager of the bookstore, escorting him out for making a customer uncomfortable.

Katrina Jackson: Right. Or even you're right. Or if it didn't end there, if they were different kinds of characters, it would have ended when they are trying to negotiate if she can even like for instance, accept a job at his company, right.

Cause they're absolutely characters and there's no judgment here who would choose their dream job in this case, over a relationship. And that would be perfectly fine. That wouldn't have worked for this story. So, yeah, she, she writes characters, who. I mean, obviously they fit in the story, but when you're writing, I think a novella, especially without a lot of conflict, you want to write characters who, are in my opinion, look, I'm not giving anyone a writing lesson, but the sort of benefit of writing characters with very specific sort of personality traits that make it possible, like, can not be overstated.

And sometimes, like for people who like to write a lot of angst, you need that very specific kind of character, personality trait. And thankfully that's not what this is. Yeah. Right.

Andrea Martucci: Was there anything else you wanted to say about this lovely little bite-sized novella?

Katrina Jackson: So part of the reason I recommended this when you, or when you said you want to talk about this, I was like, yeah, let's do it, is because this is a really hard reading time for me, as it is for lots of people. And. It is harder for me to read full novels and it's harder for me right now to read, things with a lot of angst and a lot of politics or you know, all of that.

And so what I love about this book in particular is partially because it's a matter of romance. It feels like a bit of a, a hug. So it is sort of like, you know, these characters are sinking into romance for a lot of the reasons we are, right, that we're looking for a bit of an escape and just how they ended up at the store and they meet.

And so it is so nice, and I really appreciate what Lucy is able to do here with, sort of writing a world that feels very similar to the one we're in, in some ways, and very not similar to the one we're in in really sort of ways that I, I appreciate and then it actually made me laugh, which is for me, especially when I'm really depressed, it is nice to laugh. Don't tell her that I gave her any of these compliments.

Andrea Martucci: Lucy, don't listen to this.

Katrina Jackson: Don't listen to this, because I do not believe in giving compliments. I am sarcastic. Don't worry. But yeah, I just, I just loved this book.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I mean, same. I just read it. You know, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. And it was delightful. And I think definitely, obviously this was written before the pandemic, but it is like really timely in the sense that it is a really great thing to read right now.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Very lovely. So speaking of novellas, actually is, I was going to say is Office Hours a novella?

Katrina Jackson: It's not. This is not a conversation anyone else has to care about but me, but everyone thinks my books, all of my books are novellas and they're not.

Andrea Martucci: They're just like three quarters of a Duke by Default.

Katrina Jackson: This book is 70,000 words, so everyone,

Andrea Martucci: Office Hours is?

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, it is. Office Hours is a novel.

Andrea Martucci: Okay, well, so Office Hours is a novel that you recently released and I very much enjoyed. I think despite the fact that there is some academic angst in it, the romance is pretty angst free. So that's, that's something I think people should go read if they're looking for something. Something fun to read right now. What else have you been up to on the writing front?

Katrina Jackson: I just published another, an actual novella called Beautiful & Dirty, which is the sort of entry point in a mafia series that I'm trying to write because it's a pandemic and I'm just writing whatever I want right now.

Andrea Martucci: Why not?

Katrina Jackson: Why not? I'm also working on a whole bunch of different projects, but the one that feels very timely right now and is. My happy place at the moment is a historical romance novel that we talked about the first time I was here. I finally picked it back up again actually because of Lucy Eden. I told her my idea and she said, so you just need to finish that.

So I'm actively working on a historical romance novel. and, I'm also trying to get back into the academic work that I'm doing about Black romance. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Awesome. Well, people can go find you on Twitter, mostly, @katrinajax

Katrina Jackson: yep.

Andrea Martucci: Okay, cool. Just, I mean, like search for Katrina Jackson,

Katrina Jackson: There's like 8,000 Katrina Jacksons.

Andrea Martucci: Just, just look at what I've retweeted recently. You'll find her. Thanks so much for being here today. Always. You can come every week or every month.

Thanks for listening to episode 49 of Shelf Love. Thank you to Katrina, who now says that she is spending less time on Twitter, so you'll just have to go buy one of her books to see what is going on in her brilliant mind. Her latest, Beautiful & Dirty is available now.

All of the details for this episode can be found on shelflovepodcast.com, including a transcript for this episode. Look for episode 49. Transcripts are new and I hope to have them available for all episodes going forward. And I will be working my way backward into the back episodes as well.

Thanks for joining me today. If you have any thoughts on the show, I would love for you to reach out to me. You can always send an email to andrea@shelflovepodcast.com.

Black lives matter. Stay safe, stay mad, and keep reading romance.