Shelf Love

051. The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham with Hannah Hearts Romance

Short Description

Hannah Hearts Romance joins me to discuss The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham, a historical romance that asks the question: can women be rakes? And what would a rakess look like? Content warnings for this book are lengthy, and so I called in a mental health professional to help me unpack the brilliance of Seraphina Arden.

I think this book is brilliant and important - but it might not be for everyone:

Content Warnings Provided by B. And Her Books, used with permission: Past miscarriage described on page, past death from pregnancy and a bad delivery, grief, alcoholism, addiction, gas lighting (not by hero or heroine), animal cruelty (birds killed and maimed and left for heroine to find to scare her), forced kidnapping and imprisonment of a secondary female character in an asylum, described torture in said asylum


romance novel discussion, historical romance

Show Notes

Hannah Hearts Romance joins me to discuss The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham, a historical romance that asks the question: can women be rakes? And what would a rakess look like? Content warnings for this book are lengthy, and so I called in a mental health professional to help me unpack the brilliance of Seraphina Arden.

I think this book is brilliant and important - but it might not be for everyone:

Content Warnings Provided by B. And Her Books, used with permission:

Past miscarriage described on page, past death from pregnancy and a bad delivery, grief, alcoholism, addiction, gas lighting (not by hero or heroine), animal cruelty (birds killed and maimed and left for heroine to find to scare her), forced kidnapping and imprisonment of a secondary female character in an asylum, described torture in said asylum


Show Notes:

Shelf Love:

Guest: Hannah Hearts Romance

We Read:

The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham



051 The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham with Hannah Hearts Romance

  Andrea Martucci: Hello. And thanks for listening to episode 51 of Shelf Love.

Every week we use romance novels as the text to explore identity, relationships, and romance as a genre. I'm Andrea Martucci host of the Shelf Love podcast. And today I'm joined by Hannah Hearts Romance who lives up to her name. In this episode, we discuss The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham, a historical romance that asks the question, can women be rakes? And what would a rakess look like?

I think this book is brilliant and important, but it might not be for everyone. As a result of the extensive list of content warnings, I thought it would be best to read this book with a mental health professional, which is why I asked Hannah to join me since she is a counselor.

So here are the content warnings for this book and we do discuss most of them at some point in this episode.  This list was created by B. and Her Books and I am using it with her permission. Past miscarriage described on page. Past death from pregnancy and bad delivery. Grief, alcoholism, addiction, gaslighting -not by the hero or heroine-, animal cruelty - birds killed and maimed and left for heroine to find to scare her - forced kidnapping and imprisonment of a secondary female character in an asylum, described torture in said asylum.

Those are the content warnings.

As I've mentioned, many a time, I think mental health is really important and therapy was a crucial part of my own journey to improving mental health. That said many people don't have access to affordable mental health services. Hannah shared some low-cost options and alternatives to traditional therapy that I will put in the show notes and I hope you find it helpful.

Without further ado, here is my discussion with Hannah about The Rakess .

Hannah: I am Hannah from Hannah Hearts romance. I am a lover of romance. I'm a reader, I do review somewhat on my Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads. but primarily, I just liked to read romance and, it's taken until the last couple of years, but I have stopped apologizing for it. And when people ask me what I'm reading, I'm just like, Oh, it's a romance novel.

Do you want me to tell you about it? And sometimes they do and sometimes they don't do.

And, in my, the other parts of my life, I am a licensed counselor.  I have a master's degree in counseling and I'm licensed in my state, and have worked in various fields. So currently I actually do what sounds like a really boring job where I work at a mental health hospital and my job is to argue with insurance companies that our patients need the treatment that we're providing for them.

So, spend a lot more time on the phone than working with, clients or patients these days. But I got my professional start working with veterans, their family and, what at the time was called at-risk youth, doing equine assisted counseling. So counseling, out in the pasture with horses.

I have also worked for a nonprofit that works with cancer patients and their families. I have done the actual therapy and run the intake department of this mental health hospital. But I kind of consider, trauma and grief and, kind of the things that go with that as a particular interest area of mine, particularly the way interpersonal or relational trauma affects people.

Andrea Martucci: Hmm. And so what's your Myers Briggs type?

Hannah: I am an INFP

Andrea Martucci: INFP. And so everybody should know that you accurately guessed my Myers-Briggs based on just listening to the podcast.

Hannah: It's the easiest one to guess is that last letter, because it's, do you like to make lists? And, how do you feel when you check things off of your list? And if your answer is, I love to make lists and nothing feels better than when I get to cross something off my list, you're a J and you had just put out the list of The Superlatives Episode and were really excited about your list. And I was like, I bet I know Andrea is.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, I also talk almost incessantly about spreadsheets. So

Hannah: You do, yeah. Yeah, I, I use a spreadsheet at work and it's the only one I've been able to maintain for more than a week.  So yeah. (laughs) 

Andrea Martucci: So, if you are a listener of the podcast, you might recall Hannah's name from two previous episodes where she has contributed as a listener to two segments.

So one was the modern romance canon nomination for Unclaimed that was in a recent episode. And then you also submitted a Purim, how do I say it? Purim,

Hannah: Purim,

Andrea Martucci: a Purim holiday romance Write This Book. Obviously you contributing those are part of how I got to know you better. But I heard a story that you actually got to know somebody else a little bit better as a result of doing those segments.

Hannah: Yeah. So the write this book bit came, In the episode that you talked to Kennedy Ryan, and she heard my Write This Book and reached out to me and asked if I would like to be a sensitivity reader on her new book. Which was so - I had a lot of emotions about it. Definitely like are you, are you sure? Am I the one you really want? Cause also, I mean, I'm Jewish, but I'm not like the most Jewish. But we talked and I said I would be willing if she felt like I was the right person, right perspective she was looking for. And so I got to read the book and talk with her a bit. And, talked with her on the phone, which was really fantastic. She's a lovely, lovely person and clearly very passionate about the way that she's representing things in her books and, yeah, definitely had a, a fan girl moment of like, I'm talking to Kennedy, Ryan right now. And I mean, I kept it to just the, I'm telling her.

Okay. I'm having a fan girl moment right now, but did not actually scream into the phone. So,

Andrea Martucci: And so this was for Queen Move

Hannah: So the main character Ezra is biracial. His mother is White and Jewish, and his dad is an atheist and Black. And so there's a lot of his journey in this book that has to do with, how those different identities relate, especially existing in the 1980s South.

And so there's a lot of interplay there. I think for me it helped because part of his journey also is as an adult, he doesn't really practice being Jewish anymore. Jewishness is the kind of thing that, it's always a part of your identity because it's not just a religion, it's a culture.

So even if you don't practice Judaism, you're still Jewish. And so it was interesting to see, kind of how someone who is a little bit outside of that envisioned what his, his journey would be like. Personally, I felt like she did a really good job, kind of representing the bit where, you know, in his youth, it was very important to his mother and his grandmother for that to be part of his life and it was therefore important to him for his mom and for his grandmother, to engage with that side of his identity and then as he grew up finding the bits of it that are important and the bits of the rest of his heritage and identity that form who he is. And of course it's Kennedy Ryan, so I'm really interested when it comes out to see how everyone else reacts to it.

I know she had a lot of help from other people giving her feedback on the Jewishness and the other things that come with that as well as various other parts of it. But I think it's a fantastic book. I think Kimba is, I mean, the book is literally called Queen Move and she is a queen. And, yeah, it is fantastic. It was a great experience. She's lovely. She's a fantastic writer. And it blew my mind that doing a little something like asking someone to write a Purim holiday novella would lead to me getting to do something like that.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.  There is an open call for people to submit these to Shelf Love and, the two segments are the two that you have submitted. So Write this Book where you basically say, here's a book that I want someone to write. Like, please do so cause I want to read it. And then the other one is submitting to the romance canon nominating a book, for, you know, this project that I'm doing, to  curate a list of books that are exemplars of the genre.

And, one thing I was thinking about is  that I'm like, it's out there. I'd love to hear from you. Please submit. And I think a lot of people  see that and they consider themselves like, well, people don't want to hear from me,   I  am not, whatever enough to, send this in and have people hear my opinion on this.

And I just want to say: you are. There is literally no bar that you have to cross to be the type of person that I want to hear from. Like, you don't have to have any sort of like special expertise. Please, I literally just want to hear from you and hear what you think. And who knows what it will lead to.

Hannah: It's true. I had those feelings too, or you had to put the call out and I was like, I really want to do this. But I mean, I'm just an nobody reader who talks to a few people on social media sometimes. But also I really like romance novels and I want to talk about them all the time. So if that means that I just talked to myself about that and then record it and send it to you, great.

And yeah, I mean. Now we're having an actual live  back and forth conversation, which is honestly, all I want out of life is to just talk to somebody else about romance.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, you and me, you and me both.

Marker [00:10:44]

  Let me back up and give a little bit of the story, cause we're going to talk about The Rakess by Scarlet Peckham and to kind of walk through, I was seeing some reviews come through for this book.

It's fairly recent, like it's a couple of weeks old at this point. It's end of May right now. And, I listened to the interview on Tea & Strumpets that Zoe and Kelsey had with Scarlett Peckham, and I was really interested in what I heard was being talked about in this book, which was the female rake trope. So like discussing the rake trope in romance, but then what happens when you, make the rake a woman.  And I think hearing the interview, I was like, I think this book explores some really interesting things, I think particularly around trauma.

And I sort of knew that you were a therapist and I confirmed with you, I was like, are you a therapist? And I know you had some thoughts on this book. And I thought, what better guide to talk about a book where a character has a lot going on that I think we would really benefit on sort of exploring through the lens of thinking about what's going on with her mental health that is impacting the decisions that she's making and, guiding her actions in this story.

So anyways, that's why we're talking about the Rakess and specifically like the pairing of Hannah Hearts Romance plus The Rakess. Because I'm super interested. I know you have some thoughts on if, Seraphina walked into your office for a therapy session, how you would approach her.

And I think that's going to be super cool.

So, let me describe what this book is about. And, you told me before we started that, you like when I do my Mr. MoviePhone voice, so I'm going to attempt to do my best version of that as I read the back cover of this book.

  Meet the Society of Sirens.

Three radical, libertine ladies determined to weaponize their scandalous reputations to fight for justice and the love they deserve."   That's it, right?

Hannah: Yes,

Andrea Martucci: " She's a Rakess on a quest for women's rights. Seraphina Arden's  passions include equality, amorous affairs, and wild wine-soaked nights. To raise funds for her cause, she's set to publish explosive memoirs, exposing the powerful man who ruined her. Her ideals are her purpose. Her friends are her family, and her paramours are forbidden to linger in the morning.

He's not looking for a summer lover. Adam Anderson is a wholesome, handsome, widowed, Scottish architect with two young children, a business to protect, and an aversion to scandal.

He could never ever afford to fall for Seraphina but her indecent proposal: one month, no strings, no future, proves too tempting for a man who strains to keep his passions buried with the losses of his past, but one night changes everything. What began as a fling soon forces them to confront painful secrets and yearnings they thought they'd never have again.

But when Seraphina discovers Adam's future depends on the man she's about to destroy, she must decide what to protect: her desire for justice or her heart." (laughs)

You know, it's funny reading the back cover is, I'm like, all of this is technically true, but the way it is presented on the back cover, it makes it seem like much more cut and dry.

Like she presents like a contract to him that's like, let's have sex for one month. It's no strings do, do, do. And I'm like, I mean, that's not really how it happened. But anyways, I digress. I like spreadsheets.

Hannah: I mean, I agree though. What's funny, hearing you read that back is like you say them and I'm like, Oh yeah, that, I mean, yeah, that happened and yeah, that's a thing.

But that's not what I remember from my experience of reading this book.

Andrea Martucci: Right, right. I mean, it's a lot less cut and dry. Like it happens very organically, I think is what we're talking about.

It doesn't seem like it's just been like a setup that they're falling into.  So I have a bad habit of immediately diving into the deep stuff. And there was a lot of deep stuff in this. So, you know, not to give short shrift to the deep stuff, but let's just take a moment to talk about the fun, escapist parts of this book.

Do you have any thoughts on the parts?

Hannah: Which parts?

Andrea Martucci: Wait, you didn't think, (laughs) first of all, let's talk about the cover.

Hannah: Oh, the cover.

Andrea Martucci: The cover is delightful. I think.

Hannah: I remember when she revealed that cover on social media and just, my jaw dropped and I'm pretty sure everyone else's did too because it is magnificent and I mean, it's this woman and she's got her hair all blowing in what I assume is a really fierce wind and this amazing dress, and this man who is kneeling before her, and I mean, it's so, it's powerful kind of knowing the story. You look at it and, and you're like, yes. It's also super sexy to see a man on his knees. Let's be real. And I know that, she has said that she wanted the cover to feel kind of like those old school like Johanna Lindsey, kind of covers, which are, gorgeous. And I mean, I think they nailed it personally.

Andrea Martucci: It definitely captures the mood and I think the intention of the story. And you know, again, I, I think, a nice companion piece to our discussion is going to be the Tea & Strumpets interview with Scarlett Peckham because she talks about a lot of this.

And, honestly,  it was very interesting having heard her talk about her intention before reading the book itself. Because I, I do know that a lot, there is a lot of very intentional  playing with this sort of like the gender swap element of, you know, the rake being a woman  and I think that that is conveyed on the cover because you're used to seeing the Fabio character on a Johanna Lindsey cover being the one who is active and powerful. And the  female main character in a lot of her novels on the cover are very like passive you know, there is a literal like bodice ripping going on in a lot of them and you know, they're just at the whims of the passion of, of this man.

And there's a very clear reversal of that on this cover.

There's one really subtle part of this book, which is that Adam is an architect.

And I thought there was a really interesting, dropping in of talking about like empathy in design. Where you know, Seraphina and her partners are envisioning this center for women where they're like, we don't want it to be like a prison where they're, they're being punished for whatever happened before they got here.

We want it to be pleasant. We want it to be homey. We want it to be comfortable. And, at the very end of the novel  she's talking about like these plans that he's drawn up, and just like talking about like how you can  infuse empathy into design. And I think that, you know, Adam as a character is such an empathetic person.

And so of course, it makes sense for him to be an incredibly empathetic designer.

Hannah: I agree. I loved, I kind of, I love that piece, the same and thinking about too at the end where, she comes back to Cornwall and he's fixed her house, all up because, you know, and it's not completely architectural necessarily, but just the fact that he automatically thinks of like these are spaces that we inhabit and they need to work for us. They need to feel like home, or they need to feel like a place where people can learn or whatever it is. And they need to feel comfortable. And so even the little things of fixing the creaky floorboard and making sure the shutters don't blow in the wind and all that kind of stuff. It's just like such a sweet little, little thing for him to do.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And then this is, I mean, I'll be honest, this isn't really like a super light thing, but I do want to touch on, Mary Wollstonecraft is  a literal influence for Seraphina Arden, in this story.

I'm not, you know, I'm imagining that Scarlett Peckham very clearly says that. And, Mary Wollstonecraft was very involved in, you know, abolition activity. And one thing that I think this book does extremely well is acknowledge intersectionalism in the feminism of Seraphina Arden. And I think this is a larger discussion in historical romance about how you can have these frothy, fun romps through history that  erase a lot of the messiness of the time and doesn't acknowledge those things. And one big one is that a lot of rich people in, you know, Regency England, and this isn't a Regency, but you know, a lot of rich people, you know, in the early 18 hundreds in England are profiting from the slave trade.

And where does sugar come from? You know, sugar plantations that are, exploiting the labor of, of slave labor. And one thing that is, Seraphina does not eat sugar. They don't purchase sugar. She doesn't purchase tobacco.

A few times she smoked some tobacco that somebody left around, but like she doesn't purchase it herself. Like, she's very intentional about kind of like how her purchasing decisions are enabling things that she doesn't agree with and is actively fighting against. And I just appreciated it. She was not necessarily focused on abolition as an activity, but I thought it was a fantastic way to kind of show the values of somebody at this time and, acknowledge what is happening in the world and the power and economics of this time and how individuals could make choices within that system.

Hannah: Yeah, I honestly, I read that those bits and I had never, like, I'd never thought about that before when reading historicals, like, yeah, a lot of them kind of are escapism and everyone's a duke and you know, the working class girl marries above herself and everyone lives happily ever after, and that, that's great and fine, and sometimes we all need to read that. But I think it did provide some weight because for the most part, what Seraphina is working towards is a pretty White Western feminist agenda.

But just kind of connecting those little things in there, I definitely appreciated cause it got me thinking about it more because as a White Western woman, it's very easy for me to just get stuck in the, you know, kind of the hallmarks of first and second wave feminism and the challenge is to focus on the pieces where I can be more intentional and intersectional.

And so kind of even those little things in something that in a lot of ways is pulling from all of those really classic, White, cishet historical romance pieces, is going to sprinkle in something like, here's how I'm protesting slavery in the way that I can, while still focusing on these other things that are the kind of the primary focus of the character.

Marker [00:22:55]

  Andrea Martucci: So now, let's imagine that Seraphina Arden has walked into your office. Not maybe willingly if it was the beginning of the novel,

Hannah: I don't think it would do willingly. No.

Andrea Martucci: Her friends have brought her there after a night of really hard drinking and carousing and she has walked into your office, how would you approach her as a client?

Hannah: Oh, man. I mean, it's much easier to work with someone who is willingly seeking the help for sure. I would also wish that there was a way back in that day that we could detox her as opposed to just quitting drinking cold turkey. Cause, PSA that is very dangerous.

As counselors and my particular field of training, we are asked to work from a theoretical framework, which is about how we conceptualize the people that we work with and their problems and how we help them with their problems. So like, one that a lot of people are really familiar with is cognitive behavioral, which is actually based in a theory of cognitive behavioral theory, which is basically just that, negative thoughts lead to maladaptive behaviors and changing the thought changes the behavior. and there's all lots of different kinds of theories, that are just different interpretations of that, and none of them are wrong and none of them are right.

It's just more about how it makes sense to us as we are working with people. That's the preface to my preface, which is, I work from a person-centered theory, which It was originated by a man named Carl Rogers.

And sort of the central tenets of this theory are, first of all, that every human has inherent worth. That the relationship is the healing mechanism in the process of therapy, and that that relationship has to be founded on empathy, unconditional positive regard or acceptance, and the congruence of the counselor and the client. Which, there's a lot of research into different techniques and stuff, but the research does show that of all the different types of therapy, one can endeavor in, the thing that seems to have the most impact on a client is the relationship with the therapist.

So that is kind of how I approach working with a client. So what I when thinking about this, I mean, to get really theoretical, basically Sarah walks into my office and I am looking at someone who is incredibly incongruent.

And when I say incongruent, I mean that there is a massive disconnect with who she thinks she is supposed to be and who she actually is. And that disconnect is what is creating all of these problems, for lack of a better word. So, she gets depressed. She's got a lot of grief that she's working through.

She uses alcohol and sex to numb that out. But as I was thinking through this, what I was thinking is with person-centered theory, what creates the incongruence is conditions of worth. That in order for me as a person to have worth, I must meet these certain expectations or conditions.

And so, poor Sarah grows up with these certain things of that she's not really that worthy as a person because she's not super pretty and she's not super rich, and who's going to want someone like her and she didn't have the best relationship with her stepmother and all of these things that were creating this, concept of herself that was not that great.

And then some guy comes along and counteracts all of that by telling her that he loves her and that she's desirable and she feels desirable and feels desire and all of these things that she didn't think were possible, but they were all connected to this man who ends up treating her like, shit. Pardon my French.

And so her response to that is to go completely the other way. Well, okay. So all of that was a lie. I can't meet those conditions. I can't meet those expectations, and so what I'm going to do is make sure that I now meet these other expectations of me, which is that I am a Rakess, that I am - what was the term that she used?  Wicked. I am a wicked woman. They all think I'm a slut, so I'm going to have all the sex that I want. They think that I'm radical, so yeah, I'm going to show them how radical I am. They think I'm a problem, we'll, I'm gonna create a problem. And while none of that is necessarily not true, it's also not all of who she is, and it does become very performative after a certain point that it's not fulfilling her. It's not satisfying her.

But she's used these new conditions of worth because they're not dependent on the acceptance and love of others. They are literally dependent on the derision of others, and so that's safe in the sense that they already despise me, so I'm going to meet those expectations now

Andrea Martucci: And exploit them.

Then because of that notoriety, she can exploit that to get attention to the causes that she thinks are important, but she's almost like a sacrificial lamb in that.

Hannah: Yep. There was actually, there's a quote, really brought that home for me. Towards the end of the book, she's back in London. All of this really intense stuff has happened and she's thinking "she would inure herself. She would not feel that fear again. She was too tired, tired of wanting things she shouldn't have and of not wanting things she should. Tired of wondering which was which and what it said about her soul. Tired. So bloody tired of being a champion and a firebrand and a metaphor and a picture in the paper. She wanted to be Seraphina, a woman in a tired body who had nothing more to say. She wanted to stay in her house under the blankets and mourn." And that to me , this is the piece that she is really wrestling with, that she has carved so much of her identity and her purpose and her value out of being this figurehead.

But then who is Sera? Who is Seraphina? And how does Seraphina get to be happy and get to feel like she is a whole person who has value simply because she's a person.  So, yeah.

Andrea Martucci: I love it.

I think there's like two main threads I, I personally want to talk about.

One is the performative aspect of sex for her and how that intermingles with her sense of value and how she feels about men and, or relationships with other people, generally. How that interacts with how women are socialized, particularly at this time, but generally throughout history.

And then the second thing is specifically around, there's this one quote where in her head she says that she's feeling, "hold me, I'm so sad. But what she says is go away."  Basically a conversation around why people react in such a way that is directly opposed to how they feel, you know.

But so maybe, to start with the sex, you know, the rake trope, or the rake archetype in romance the usual setup in, I think this is particularly a lot of historical romance, but not limited to historical romance, where the male main character is just disillusioned,  women are disposable. He has sex with them. They mean nothing to him. It's entirely about his needs  and his inability to relate, I think, in particular to women. And they're just disposable play things.

And I think in romance it's supposed to be shorthand for virility, and let's say toxic masculinity, like , how men are socialized to not value emotion and, to see women as only useful in that they can either be a wife or a mother or I'm sorry, a Madonna or a whore. They are either somebody they totally respect who can be their, the mother of their children. Or they are a sexual object.  I feel like, the rake archetype is complicated because, I mean, cause part of it is like, and then this one woman. unlocks the keys to his heart and she's the only one who can fix him.

Hannah: Yup.

Andrea Martucci: And she's going to put up with a lot of shit first.

Hannah: Yep. And I mean, I'm not going to lie. I like a good rake, but I like it in a particular way. So I actually read a much beloved historical romance recently for the first time, that I was kind of like, eh, and it was like a rake and virgin trope.

And, I spent most of the time going like, why? I mean, I guess I objectively understand the appeal of this particular character, but  he can just be kind of an awful person. And I didn't really see how the romance developed in such a way that he was redeemed.

But as you were talking about how the classic rake trope works, I keep thinking about, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase and how

Andrea Martucci: I thought that was the book you were talking about,

Hannah: No, it was not. I love Lord of Scoundrels.

Andrea Martucci: Okay.

Hannah: so, but like that versus, Lord of Scoundrels, which I think of how the way that Sera kind of relates to sex in this, like what you were saying about, the classic rake kind of treats women as disposable and, the revolving door and all that kind of stuff.

In Lord of Scoundr els, Dane is very much like that before he meets Jessica. Even a little bit after he meets her, but he's doing it in a way, and because of this belief that he has about himself, where he's like, I'm just a despicable human and so I'm going to prove it to everyone by acting in the most despicable manner I can think of.

And that is similar to how Sera is doing it in the sense of, well, everyone thinks that this is despicable, but you know what? Also, I kind of like it, so I'm going to keep having sex, and they can be shocked if they want to. But of course, the difference being, and I think this was part of the piece that was a bit controversial for people with The Rakess is   especially with what I think Scarlett Peckham was trying to do with this book, you can't divorce the gender norms from this trope.

If you're going to flip it, she is still a woman and Dane is still a man. So things that are acceptable for a male rake is not the same as a female rake. So she can tick the boxes as far as the things she's doing.  I'm going to be a rake by smoking and fucking and writing controversial books and all around being someone who people talk about all the time and know to be scandalous, but because she is a woman, those things, inherently carry more danger for her, no matter how often she does them or how much she might say she doesn't care about what people think. The fact of the matter is, is that a woman doing those things carries with it expectations and judgements   because she presents as a woman, there are those certain expectations that are very different than if she presented as a man.

Andrea Martucci: Right, right. And I don't think, she doesn't not enjoy sex. Like, I think she's, she is a very sexual woman who enjoys sex and she obviously, is very in tune with her own needs. And she seeks out partners who are, invested in her pleasure. But I think you have to, as a reader, to what you were speaking to, separate her actual  ability in the bedroom to enjoy the sex from pretending like the censure of society doesn't impact her psychologically.

Like she can sort of enjoy the physical aspects of it, but then also later still be like, yeah and it kind of sucks  how people are putting posters on my gate that are representing me like this witchy,  evil lady, you know, who's like corrupting society because  I dare to think that  women should be treated equally.

And I just, it's so intentional to me. Again, to your point, like the point of this book is that women at this time, are expected to act a certain way and  men are not condemned in the same way women are for the same actions.

A big part of her writing, that is  infused into the story, is that she is not saying sex is bad. She's just saying that if you're going to condemn women for doing this stuff, you should also condemn men. And she's legitimately not saying everyone should be condemned. She's literally just saying,  if you're going to condemn women, why do you not also condemn men?

So pointing out the hypocrisy of it, which, so, so I feel like it's like so multilayered.

Hannah: It is. And I think I'm waiting for the day when someone does just do a real simple shift in that and does write a woman character who, yeah, just gets to have lots of sex and enjoy it and then meet some sweet guy or whoever that teaches her how to love and they go off into the sunset together in the sort of classic way.

I do think that that it would be a very different book than this one. This one is very aware of the gendered expectations that all of these characters are encountering because even with Adam who blames himself - I got frustrated with him at times. He carries so much guilt about his wife's death.  He has decided that , if not for him, she would be alive. If he had been able to contain his lust and his male virility and all this stuff that this wouldn't be an issue, but never really acknowledges the fact that at least from the way he's remembering it, she was really into it also, it's not like he couldn't control himself and she wasn't that into it. It's like they loved each other and they loved having sex, and they knew the dangers and they did their best.  And sadly ended in tragedy. But, even just that little piece where he is taking on that,   it's very gendered, but it's also challenging those gender expectations in the sense of everything that happened to Sarah with this, where she, spoiler alert, became pregnant and this guy cast her off and her reputation was ruined and she became a fallen woman.

Whereas Adam,

Andrea Martucci: I'm trying to find this quote because there's, there's one point in particular where, she's talking about the limitations placed on women at this time with Adam and she says to him, speaking of his deceased wife, "'perhaps she might have liked to be something in addition to a wife and mother,' Seraphina pressed."

And then he thinks "he wasn't sure. He'd never asked her." And I thought that there was like a really interesting conversation going on in Adam's own head where he and his wife did have a really great relationship and his wife was like an admirer of Seraphina's, like his wife sounds pretty bad ass. His remembrances of their relationship is that they would have these wild and fun conversations.

His wife's name was Catriona. Let's say Cat. She sounds awesome. I mean, she sounds like ahead of her time, in terms of, what, she had access to, like, she was not an intellectual, but she liked Sarafina's writing.

She probably did have these thoughts, but  Adam is a man of his time and has certain understandings of womanhood and he is open-minded. Like he's, he's a pretty good guy and he's a pretty sensitive guy, but he comes into his relationship with his wife with a certain understanding of how a man should act and what honor looks like and what expectations he should have of his wife.  He is not one of those guys who is, trying to imprison his wife for having ideas that are different from his, like there's, there's obviously the spectrum, but he didn't like spring out of the womb  having the same ideas about gender that he could evolve towards eventually, upon being, kind of exposed to it with Seraphina. And I think that he is very openminded in that when she says things like this, he's not like, no, she wanted to be a wife and a mother only, and she was perfectly happy.

You know, he kind of acknowledges like, Oh shit, I never did ask her, did I. And I think he has to come to the understanding that he didn't kill his wife by impregnating her. He has guilt about it. He feels terrible that she doesn't get to see their children grow up, but at the same time, I think he does gain a better understanding about women's agency.

And I think in particular, just like opening his mind up to different roles women can have and different ways to understand happily ever after for two people who love each other. Because I think even in the book, he's like, if I get you pregnant, we're going to get married.

Cause like obviously that's what you do, right? That is based on his socialization of like what a good man does. And that's actually like not the most toxic of masculine ideals, right?  But also Seraphina challenges him to think yeah, but like, why do we have to get married? You know, can we be together and not be married?

I don't know. And he's like, ah, huh. Can we?

Hannah: Is that a thing?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Hannah: Yeah, definitely.  I think that this book is Sera's book and I mean, she is the center of it, but it's not this book without Adam, who is a fascinating character because he is so caught up in all these expectations, both societal, familial -  cause he has a lot wrapped up with his obligation to his wife's family, especially with his job and being able to provide for his family, which primarily is his children and his sister. But he also has this foundation that is pretty freaking progressive because I mean, as we've discussed, Cat seems to have been pretty, into Seraphina's work and some of those kinds of things that she was open about.

His sister as well, who is an admirer, and he brings a book over to Sera and asks her to sign it, autograph it for his sister, who it's also revealed over the course of the book, his sister, was in a romantic relationship with another woman and he,

Andrea Martucci: He's not scandalized.

Hannah: That's fine. Yeah.

It's not treated as anything weird. It's just like, Hey, I'm really sorry that that person that you loved ended up making a different choice then you wanted her to. Cause unfortunately, you know, things, I wonder if she's going to get a book.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, that'd be interesting.

Hannah: Beside the point.

Andrea Martucci: Like romance

Hannah: readers we're like, can

Andrea Martucci: she have a book?

Hannah: Right? I mean, clearly the other sirens, the other sirens are getting books and I'm really excited about those because they are all so different. And I mean, we could go on for another six hours talking about all the, it's funny that this book, on the one hand, when I think about it, I don't think about the plot.

I think about the emotional journey. I think about the relationship between the characters. I remember the angst and the feelings, but then I start to think about the plot elements and I'm like, Oh yeah. And then that happened and that happened. Like one of Sera's best friend got locked in an asylum by her terrible husband, and there was like art exhibitions and naked portraits and all these other things thrown in there. And, we could talk for awhile about the getting locked in at asylum bit too, because, gosh, thank goodness mental health treatment has come such a long way.

  Marker [00:45:34]

Andrea Martucci: You were talking about incongruity before.  Why is it hard for Seraphina in this text specifically to - like why, when she needs people to most, does she push them away?

Can you  explain that from a trauma perspective?

Hannah: There's two ways to talk about that. As a counselor conceptualizing her, I think, again, of those conditions of worth, that she has decided that she is someone who doesn't fall in love and who isn't loved by others. She says, "no one adores me for long."

And so that's become such an inherent part of her because of this trauma that she has experienced both with what's his face, who -

Andrea Martucci: Old What's His Face.

Hannah: - Got her pregnant. And then - I can't remember his name, it's something very, you know, letters strung together.

Andrea Martucci: Cornwallian? Wait, where are they?

Hannah: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: Cornwall, right?

Hannah: Cornwall. Yeah. Yeah. So there's her, Teenage paramour, I suppose who she gets pregnant and he dumps her unceremoniously and  so that turns into a, "okay, well, I thought he loved me. Now he clearly doesn't," which leads into also the abandonment of her family. And she, in her memoirs, writes about how she expected her father to be there for her and to help her cause she had what she thought was a good relationship with her father.  Just basically her first experiences of love, of having someone else love and value her, or at least feeling like she was loved and valued by another person end with straight up abandonment. So that becomes an essential part of how she relates to people that she has internalized this piece of, I am not lovable, I am not worthy of love.  And spends a lot of time, honestly trying to prove that.

So she has these two people in her life that make the conscious choice to abandon her or sever their relationship with her, and then she ends up   losing this baby.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Hannah: So she ends up spending the time that she is pregnant, not wanting to be pregnant because of everything it has lost her. And then has these two hours where actually I do want this and there's no way that I can have it because this baby is not going to survive.

And so she has back to back to back these really traumatic losses of key relationships and that all adds up and cumulates into: "well, it's not even worth it for me to put the effort in because  whether they choose to or not, everyone is going to leave because I am not worthy of sticking it out with.

And she does have some people challenge that. You know, the society of sirens is her  found family, who are very determined to stick with her through thick and thin, but because those two relationships were with men, a lot of her damage and - because she is attracted to and would be interested theoretically in a relationship with men - that is where a lot of her relational hangup comes because having a relationship with a man, an emotional relationship with a man is not safe. So everything that she does is then both trying to prove that it's not safe because this is the  piece of her experience and her identity that she has internalized, whether it's correct or not, that she's not lovable and therefore no one can love her. And so she is going to do everything that she can to prove that  because  she is striving for congruence and she thinks that's how she's going to get it.

None of this is a conscious process of course, but if people are naturally striving for congruence between their ideal self and their actual self, that's what she thinks it's going to happen because her ideal self is so different from her actual self.

Andrea Martucci: Right. And ideal in the sense that this is how she considers herself not how she wants to consider herself, right?

Hannah: Yes. And how she has learned and told herself that she has any worth. So the basic idea of conditions of worth so, like kind of basic example is I have worth if I make a lot of money. And so if you're struggling financially or hate your job, but it's making you a lot of money, that then creates incongruence because it's not fulfilling you in other ways.

Versus just the basic concept of, because I exist and because I am a person I have worth.

Andrea Martucci:   I do want to come back to inherent self-worth. But  there's an element of Sera where she is both rejecting and seeking the approval of the men she's having these relationships with where,  on two recent episodes, so talking to Dr. Maria DeBlassie, we talked a little bit about like, Sex in the City and  second wave feminism   how the ladies and Sex in the City think about  their sexual relationships with men in a very particular way. And then also recently with Adriana Herrera, you know, we were talking about Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein and I mentioned a book called Unhooked by Laura Session Stepp about how women are socialized to want to be desired.

I think in particular by men, because we live in a patriarchal society that, you know, assumes that women must want and need the approval of men. There's an element of her relationships where she wants to be desired. She wants to be sexually desired. She's trying to fill that well, I think of self worth and approval.

But  she's both trying, but it's also extremely empty for her.

Hannah: The way I was thinking about that, there was a quote you were reading earlier about, she wanted to say, hold me, but what she says is, get away. What is happening, what a lot of us end up doing when we are striving for congruence, striving to be the person that we want to be is we want to rely on other people to do it. And so that happens a lot in counseling where a client maybe thinks that they can only do this, they can only change because of the therapist.

Like it's the therapist doing the work here and the therapist is going to fix them.

Andrea Martucci: I'm just going to walk into the office and by being here, the therapist is going to wave a wand and I'm going to be fixed.

Hannah: Which is not how it works. And so if someone is walking into my office, my job is to offer them a safe space for them to be completely authentic, no matter how ugly or beautiful or chaotic or calm it happens to be in that moment, I am empathic with them. I am to a certain degree experiencing what's going on for them with them, and I am relating to them in my own authentic place.

Like I am not hiding my reactions. What is going on in this moment with you is an important piece of this process. And I think with counseling it's great because we are the, I guess, third party that this gets to happen with.

I have no personal investment in this other person's life. I don't expect anything back from them except maybe the session fee.

Andrea Martucci: Cause you've got bills too.

Hannah: I do. I do. Your counselors have bills. That's why we have cancellation fees. But   my stake in this is professional, not personal and obviously I'm going to be somewhat personally invested because I care about people and I like what I do.

But ultimately a counselor is offering something that say a friend or partner can't offer because a friend or a partner is expecting something back from this relationship that a counselor is not. And so what Sera is doing, I think is what a lot of us do in that we want to depend on these relationships with other people and we want them to do the work to fix us rather than starting with, what do I have to do to meet this person in the middle? What do I have to do to be okay with myself individually?  Which I will also acknowledge is a very Eurocentric type of point of view. Individualism versus

Andrea Martucci: Community, family -

Hannah: yes.

Andrea Martucci: Here's a question I have. This idea of  individuals having inherent value no matter how messy they are is one that I personally struggle with.

I dealt with that in therapy and I will not say that I have, you know, conquered this particular hangup of mine where I personally very much associate a lot of self worth with  what I produce or create, if this podcast was not extremely clear.

But, when it comes to romance novels and  how we think about relationships in romance novels, I think I start from a theory of like, let's say we have two people who are unique as every person is, and they have their strengths and they have their weaknesses. But a successful relationship between two people is about shared values and sort of appreciation of the great parts about the other person and the ability to live with, or shrug off, the not so great parts. Like every human being is sort of comprised with like, things we're great at and things we're not great at. And so  I think about relationships as they're presented in romance novels as being more of like that puzzle piece.

Like finding another person who can  work with the way you are. But  that is not congruous with this idea that people just like inherently have value. Because I think I'm like, well, in this book, Adam can see all the things about Seraphina that are amazing and fantastic and can be empathetic about the parts that  are messy and unlikable,  and he draws his own boundaries around that. Like, I can either work with this or I can't. I still think these parts of you are fantastic. But maybe your relationship isn't going to work out for these reasons.  I don't really know what my question is other than like, I'm having a hard time:  somebody can have inherent worth, but also like isn't that worth wrapped up in like some parts of them being great, even if that's subjective.

Hannah: So here's where I think like I am a counselor and I don't think I can divorce that from my experience of reading romance because it's very much shaped how I perceive the people I interact with and how I perceive human nature but I mean, as you were talking, the thing I keep coming back to is relationships are healing. We are literally made to be in relationship with other people. Our brains are made to interact with other people, and that is part of what really works about therapy is you are in a relationship with this other person. You have the live feedback, et cetera.

I think in romance and in this book as well, what we see is I can't think of a single romance that I have read where at the beginning of the book, both or all of the main characters are like, yes, I am perfect and I don't need to do any work on myself or whatever.

Usually  they have baggage, they have insecurities like any of us, which makes it very relatable. And then  the process of finding that self worth is not necessarily separate from the romantic relationship. It is the simple act of, or the experience of someone else's love and acceptance of you causes change.

So like with my theory of counseling, the basic premise is, by me being here and accepting you in this moment and providing that empathy and being congruent back to you, you are going to naturally become more congruent. By accepting all of these parts of you, the things that maybe aren't serving you so well will begin to change. You can't change something that you are completely closed off from.

And so what I think I kind of saw that playing out in this book with the relationship between Sera and Adam is she has all of these things feeling like she isn't worthy of love, particularly from someone like Adam, who's, she keeps talking about how nice he is and just

Andrea Martucci: Too nice.

Hannah: Yes, he's just, he's a good guy and she's a wicked woman. And the thing about their relationship is that it's at the end, where she's finally coming to this place of, I recognize that I messed up a lot. I'm starting to realize and maybe even accept that I don't want to be Seraphina Arden, the brand, all the time, and I see the damage this is causing for myself and the people around me that her relationship with Adam even starts to change because he has also latched on to these things about her that she has found lacking.

He's struggling with, I can't be in a relationship with someone who has a reputation that would make it dangerous for my children to be associated with her. That would be dangerous for my ability to keep a roof over our heads because of my association with her. And so it takes both of them recognizing and accepting that these are all parts of who she is, but not the entirety of who she is, for them to really meet each other and find a way to be happy together.

So they both have these shifts and changes through the process of them knowing each other and learning to accept themselves and each other that make that happy ever after something that it wouldn't have been if they had still been so intransigent in this is who I am and this is my brand and I can't change.

Cause that's not why any of us are in a relationship. And it's not why we read romance either. We like to see how the main characters affect and change each other and then evolve together.

Andrea Martucci: And that's completely true because they, they do both change.  To speak about Adam's journey, which is much less the focus of the story, but you know, his guilt and belief that he killed his wife and he is the reason she's dead, and he can never love another woman because of his beastly sexual desires. Because if he, has intercourse with a woman who can become pregnant, he's gonna make her pregnant and kill her.

She brings like science to the table with him. She brings sexual agency to the table in a way that really gets him to start to reconsider his concept around how he had viewed his wife's death. And I mean like that's just a small part of how she kind of helped him self heal  his  emotional stuff.

So I think what you're saying is that it's not that just  similar to the, what you were saying about you don't just walk into therapy and get fixed, it's not like everyone just has inherent value and you can do whatever terrible thing you want and people have to love you.

It's like everybody has inherent value, and if you can  see that and address the things you're doing to damage yourself and damage other people subconsciously, if you can kind of get at those things  you are going to change in those relationships in such a way where you can have a healthier relationship.

  Hannah: I guess when I say accepting your own inherent worth, it's accepting that  while they are important, your actions and behaviors are not the whole of who you are. And so just because you have done things that you are ashamed of,  or have done things that are not the best, for whatever reason, doesn't mean that you are a worthless human

Andrea Martucci: and that you're stuck on that path, right. Like that you are, you're immutable. Am I using that correctly? Like  okay. You've been carved out of stone and that's, that's it. It's more like you're clay, right? Like you're, you're like, yes. Right now you are taking this form, but if you start making different choices, you can be molded to be a different form entirely.

Hannah: And I think that speaks to the transformative nature of a good, healthy relationship.    

Marker [01:04:44]

I just felt so much for Sera all through this book. Like I felt it in my breastbone when I was reading this book. And what's really interesting about that too, I guess to go down a slightly different rabbit trail, thinking about trauma, something that is really common with trauma survivors is dissociative symptoms where they are disconnected from their own physical bodies. And that manifests in more mild ways of, just kind of numbing out to emotions, and can go to more severe things where people have blackout episodes or feel literally like they're outside of their body, or things like that.

But I would say most commonly what I see is people who literally don't know how to inhabit their own physical body because it's not a safe place to be. And Sera does that a bit, like with the alcohol, it's a way of numbing. Like if she can't numb herself through other coping mechanisms she's going to go to alcohol, which  numbs her out again.

Because I guess thinking again  about, if she were the client sitting in my office, where would I think to be taking this with her is, okay, well, you say that you're angry.  Literally, what does that feel like?

Which is my least favorite question in the stereotypes of what therapy is.

Andrea Martucci: And does that make you feel Hannah?

Hannah: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. It makes me feel and then you get angry and et cetera, et cetera, but truly like, okay, if, I see that you are angry right now, where is your anger in your body? What does that feel like in this place, on your body?

And that's a lot of hard work. it's a lot of grounding and mindfulness work that can be very challenging. But what we see with Sera with that process as well is she has this big binge, which is her big, like, this is how I'm going to push Adam out of my life. This is how I'm going to prove that I am not worthy of love.

I am going to be the most terrible person he's ever met in his life, and then realizes what a mistake that was. And it's the first time she reaches out and asks for help, which is such a hard thing to do, especially when someone is struggling with the kinds of overwhelming things she is. And so her friends sweep in and she's able to, you know, she detoxes and all that stuff.


Andrea Martucci: I mean, I think crucially it's not him who helps her.

She reaches out to her friends. She recognizes that she needs help and she asks her friends, he does not save her. She saves herself because she wants him.

Hannah: Yes.  It's truly her saying, I'm ready. I need this. I don't know if I can, but I'm going to at least try. Which is another theme that comes up a bit, but she also, with the connection to feelings and stuff, she does start to feel things a little more intensely, and that's hard, but we see her progress through that in that doesn't then automatically mean either that it's going to work out with Adam, there's a lot more that happens between them before they reach the HEA

Andrea Martucci: Look, I'm not a book reviewer. I'm just somebody who likes to talk about books way too deeply and really like pull out everything that I think they mean or like trying to understand.

This book I think is. Like, I don't even know how to describe it. It's, it's painful. I mean, like,  I was about to say it's enjoyable. It's weirdly -

I don't know if it's enjoyable.

Hannah: I am not sure I would say it's enjoyable. Like, if someone asked me for, you know, I just want to read something that's going to make me feel happy.

This is not the book that I would recommend.

Andrea Martucci: No.

Hannah: I'm not even sure in what context I would recommend it. Cause like I do, but I also, so it, it comes with a lot of content warnings. It's the kind of book that you have to have the mental time and space to dedicate to it. And it also as, you know, you can see with the way people have reacted to it and reviewed it, it's pretty polarizing for different reasons.

It's not going to work for everyone. And so if one of the content warnings is something that is really a trigger for you, I'm not sure this is the book for you to read because everything in it is so central to the story and the characters and their journey and their healing and their progress towards finding each other

This is a book that I wish everyone could read, but I don't think everyone necessarily needs to. It's going to speak to the people that it speaks to, like me who was up under the covers in a house when I was traveling with other people sleeping in the room with me until 3:00 AM when I had to wake up at six.

And for other people, it's just not going to be the book and it's going to upset some people. It's just not going to be the right fit for others. And then for the people who it does hit the right spot for them, it's going to stay with you. It is not something that you are going to easily forget ever.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, and I think, I think you're right on everything you just said. It's one of those books where I think it's- it's very rich. It's very layered , it's very thoughtful. There isn't anything in this book that I'm like, and that was just thrown in for fun.

Like the language is very intentional. The story is very intentional. The themes are very intentional and I think  if anything at all, I would say this book is for people who really want to unpack the unlikable heroine. And I think that the reason that we're having a hard time fully exploring every element of this is because yes, there's like a very, very well done healing story and she's a very complicated woman in terms of like what makes up her trauma. And  there's cultural and sociological trauma. There is familial trauma. There is  romantic relationship trauma. This woman has had so many things happen in her life that are shaping who she is and how she's reacting to the world and other people.

Hannah: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: But I think that that's what makes this such a beautiful story, and I'm going to say it, I think it's a beautiful story, and I, and I also understand it's not for everybody, but this is a fully fleshed out woman, she is so fully fleshed out that it's like we could have therapy sessions with her and try to, and try to unpack not just what has happened to her, but  the layers of , you know, misogyny and patriarchy and, all of that that is like layered on top of that. And, and then there's like a meta discussion about the romance genre. You know, and sort of like how this book functions in the romance genre. And I think that's why, how could we possibly have a 20 minute conversation about this book?

Hannah: You can't, we'd need weeks. I mean, this is, I mean, going back to the counseling analogy,  this is not someone who can walk into therapy and reasonably expect that six sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy or whatever kind of therapy is going to do a whole lot. Like  if you are willing to commit to this, we're going to be here a while.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Hannah: Because  it's also about as things change and as you unpack one layer that all of these new things pop up.

And some of them are related and some of them are not. And because you can't even like pick one vein out to talk about or work through without it somehow connecting to all of the others. And so yeah, it's really hard to condense and focus on. But, good gosh, we've been trying.

Andrea Martucci: We've been trying, here's where I think we can, like, let's tie a bow on it:

The very end in the epilogue of the story. This is a line. "I did not lose myself by loving Adam nor our children, I became fuller, richer. I discovered I could be a rakess, an intellectual, a mother, a renegade, a helpmeet, and a siren all at once".

And I mean, just like, whoo. Yes, she contains multitudes, you know, and she is refusing to be pigeonholed by the world, by people, individuals. She is by the end, somebody who can  accept and rejoice in all of the aspects of herself and she doesn't reject them.  She does not attach judgment to any of those things.  I mean, I think that's the point of the story and it's just such a perfect way to end it.

And, Oh, Oh, I love it.

Hannah: Yeah, I loved it a lot. And it also, I read it at a time when I was really looking for what I'm calling angry women in romance, and she just, she was what I wanted on every level. And again in a vacation house with several other people trying not to sob too loudly at 3:00 AM over this book.

The quote that you picked out, that's what she's striving for. It's what we're all striving for is to be this whole person that gets to be loved because you are that whole person, not even because of, but gets to be loved as this whole person and you don't have to cut any bits of yourself out in order to be loved like that.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And the, the angry heroine. I mean, that speaks to me. I'm fucking angry. Like, you know, and, and it

Hannah: The world sucks

Andrea Martucci: The world sucks -  I mean, like, you know, in the grand scheme of things, like, the world doesn't suck as much as it did, like in the middle ages maybe. But, you know,

Hannah: first world problems

Andrea Martucci: Yes, yes, I know, but, but they're, they're such, like painful psychologically problems like this story is like the embodiment to me of, Mona Eltahawy,  this is the feminist who starts everything with like, fuck the patriarchy with like the middle finger.

My  familiarity with her is on Twitter where I see these videos where she's just like, fuck the patriarchy, fuck the patriarchy. And I'm like, yes, that's how I feel. You know, just like this anger, at all of these things.

And  I recognize that  while there are nods to a larger story of things to be angry about that in many ways, how many things can you truly  fit your anger for into one story. I recognize that this is very much like  a privileged white cishet woman's anger.

You know.  There are lots of other things to be angry about  and, with an intersectional lens, like, this lady doesn't have it the worst, you know. But also that doesn't mean, I guess that we can't be angry about it if that's what speaks to you and it speaks to me.

Hannah: Yeah. And I think why I'm looking for that versus, I think one that we see a lot in romance, especially with, say, the rake trope, where it tends to be this really cynical rake, and then the fresh, sweet, innocent, you know, virginal heroine.

Andrea Martucci: Pure.

Hannah: Yeah.   That doesn't speak to me so much because in day and age  I am not that woman.

So what appeals to me about,  an angry heroine as opposed to that sort of classic, pure sunshiny

Andrea Martucci: ingenue

Hannah: yes - character is that when it's well the angry heroine gets to be pissed off about all of the work she's had to put in and everything that's gone wrong, that wasn't really her fault. And she gets to feel all of these feelings and be messy and imperfect and gets to be loved for that, which is for me in my experience, more relatable at this point, than the character who gets to be loved because, she just sees the bright side of everything and is positive all the time and doesn't have that weight on her shoulders. I mean, gosh, I would love for all of us to be able to live that existence and be loved because of it. But that's not what is relatable to me at this point.

I want to see those women who fuck up and try to fix it and maybe fuck it up more, or yell at somebody or whatever, are living their lives to the best of their ability and meet someone or someone get to have that happily ever after without having to apologize or change or even be happier about the stuff that she was angry about before. That she is that person and that is worthy of being loved as well.

So you just learned a lot about my own personal baggage as well. Counselors are people too.

Andrea Martucci: What?! No.

Marker [01:19:32]

thanks for listening to episode 51 of Shelf Love and thanks to Hannah for joining me. All the details for this episode can be found on, including a transcript for this episode. Look for episode 51.

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