Shelf Love

054. A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole with Tasha L. Harrison

Short Description

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole is our romance worth reading, and Tasha L. Harrison joins me once again to drop wisdom faster than a sword-making Scottish Duke can make our heroine forget that she definitely should not be making out with her boss. Our conversation is far-ranging - friends who aren't friends, parents who suck, figuring out how your brain works, and the horse your man smells like. Enjoy!


contemporary romance, romance novel discussion

Show Notes

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole is our romance worth reading, and Tasha L. Harrison joins me once again to drop wisdom faster than a sword-making Scottish Duke can make our heroine forget that she definitely should not be making out with her boss. Our conversation is far-ranging - friends who aren't friends, parents who suck, figuring out how your brain works, and the horse your man smells like. Enjoy!

Show Notes:

Shelf Love:

Guest: Tasha L. Harrison

Twitter | Tasha's website | Buy Liquor & Laundry

*We Read: A Duke by Default* by Alyssa Cole


Don't miss episode 053, in which Tasha joined me to discuss why Amazon's algorithm is racist, the pervasive white gaze of publishing, and what you can do to be an anti-racist romance reader.


Tasha L Harrison Duke by Default

Andrea Martucci:   Hello, and welcome to episode 54 of Shelf love, the podcast that has fun taking romance novels seriously. Guests lend their expertise to help me explore identity, relationships, and romance as a genre. I'm Andrea Martucci, host of the Shelf Love podcast. And today I am once again, joined by Tasha L. Harrison romance, author, editor, and lady about Twitter.

You can hear part one of our conversation in episode 53, and I definitely recommend taking a listen if you haven't already, because they go together like an oyster fork and oysters. That reference will be funny later. Please hold your laughter. In episode 53, we got into why Amazon's algorithm is racist, white gaze of publishing, and you can do to be an anti-racist romance reader.

In this episode, 54, we talk about a romance worth reading: A Duke by Default, by Alyssa Cole. Our conversation is far-ranging: friends who aren't friends, parents who suck, figuring out how your brain works, and the horse your man smells like. Enjoy.  So Tasha the romance worth reading that you wanted to talk about was A Duke by Default, part of the Reluctant Royal series by Alyssa Cole.

Why do you think this is a romance worth reading?

Tasha L. Harrison: Mostly I think it's a romance worth reading because I enjoy modern, royalty tales. I don't really care for historical romance. Not supposed to say that, I know, but like, I don't really like those, you know, the many million Dukes friggin stories.

And I was really interested when she was telling me about A Princess in Theory, I was really interested in that twist that she put on it. So, you know, I read that story. And then this character Portia Hobbs was presented as like this trash human being  in the previous one, like someone who was just like messy and a drunkard, like you're giving this person a book? Okay.

But yeah,  it's really just a Cinderella story at its core, you know, like a bratty spoiled American girl and like a surly swashbuckling. I mean, like literally, like he makes swords. You know, like a surly guy. Like a grumpy one, sunshine one, like it had all of the things that I really loved about romance.

And then of course I just love Alyssa Cole period. Point blank. Huge fan.

Andrea Martucci: So what is this book about? What happens?

Tasha L. Harrison: This book really is about it's, it's a personal journey.

Like it's an internal journey, mostly for Portia to figure out why she is the way she is, how her brain works and to stop holding onto the negative input that she's had from people because of the mistakes she's made based on the way that  her brain works. And there's like a lot of vulnerability in there.

Some of that stuff is really uncomfortable to read, you know, it, and mostly because I connected with it and I was just like, Oh,  especially when she was talking to her parents, they would say one thing and then she would dissect it in another way. I'm like, Holy shit, I do that all the time.

Like you think you're reading between the lines, but you're really just, this is the story you're telling yourself, like Brene Brown says. The story I'm telling myself is that I'm a shit person. You know what I mean?  When you  had that kind of negative input, your whole life, it's really hard to get away from.

And I think that's pretty much what this whole book was about. Just her realizing that yes, my brain works differently and  this is why things have mapped out the way they have in my life.

Andrea Martucci: Right. When we start A Duke by Default, Portia has project new Portia

Tasha L. Harrison: right.

Andrea Martucci: In which she has resolved she's going to do things differently because she has made a mess of her life and she's starting over. She is going to leave her home in New York City and become the apprentice of a sword maker in Scotland. And

Tasha L. Harrison: like how fucking random and you know what that's like, like once you start reading the book and you realize that she's ADD that first thing is like, so hugely impulsive.

This is ADD. Even like, Oh, I'm going to fix my life. I need a huge change. I'm moving to Scotland. Or you could just stay home, (laughs) you know, you can change at home, it's fine. You know? Oh God, there were so many pinpoints.

Andrea Martucci: So, Tavish

Tasha L. Harrison: Tavish. Tavish Mackenzie,

Andrea Martucci: Tavish McKinsey is a sexy Scot. He's a silver fox. He's I mean, he's only like late thirties, but he has a little bit of silver in his hair.

Tasha L. Harrison: I don't know. I kept imagining him as like an Eric Bana with like the silver  in his sideburns.

Andrea Martucci: I feel like the cover and the way he's described very much reinforced that.

So, so he's yeah, he's surly. He's the grumpy one. She comes in and she's like, I'm gonna fix everything. Like  they don't have social media. I'm going to do this. Like, she is just overhauling everything and making it better. And they of course fall in love because it is a romance novel.

Tasha L. Harrison: It tis.

Andrea Martucci: And she happens to discover that he is in fact a Duke and  he has had his birthright withheld from him through various secrets. Various people, secrets and -

Tasha L. Harrison: Random secrets.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And, and so, so then she basically becomes like his Squire and is trying to help him, navigate this new world. And Tavish is trying to figure out how to navigate the new world and maintain what's important to him. Like he is very involved in the community and, his mother was an immigrant to Scotland  from Chile.  So his, his brother, Jamie is also a person of color. And so he is like very aware because of his own family's experiences about the anti-immigration feelings in Scotland.

And, the way his brother has been treated differently, because of his skin color. And, and so he's like very dedicated to  trying to make the world a better place in these ways.  And so his struggle is kind of like , how do I use my new power as like a Duke to-

Tasha L. Harrison: How do I use my white privilege for good.

Andrea Martucci: Exactly.

Tasha L. Harrison: I mean, when it really boils down to it, like the story has lots of like, it's like little thin cake layers, but like that one layer seems so easy to me. You know, like he knew who he was. He knew exactly who he was and  it was a good opposition to Portia who knew absolutely nothing about who she was or thought she knew nothing, you know?

So they were always clashing up against this and he could see her for who she was, that she was this, you know, powerhouse of a person who could figure out anything, especially things that he didn't want to figure out, you know, but she saw him like all his whole life,  he pretty much was this person, you know?

So she comes in and she's like, I'm going to wreck everything. And that to me is like, Kind of how I feel about everything. Every time I approach something, I'm like gingerly: don't wreck this.

Andrea Martucci: And so, right. So, so over the course of the story Portia, basically through watching these videos, self-diagnoses ADD, and then, and then does eventually start working with a therapist, but  you know, one of the things you wanted to talk about:  you have ADD?

Tasha L. Harrison: I do have ADD, and I was a late diagnosis. I was like 38 -  I'm 42 now - before I had been diagnosed, but it presents differently in women mostly. I was never a bad student.

Because I had figured out my own routines and ways to do things, to make sure that I was, you know, excelling  academically, but I've always had like that churning mind on unable to slow down, overthinking things. And, when you have ADD,  it can trigger anxiety because you're always worried about doing things wrong.

And there's no real evidence that like, is this a chemical thing or is this just the way that your brain is wired? But over time it just becomes how you react to things. And then as I got older, it just felt like it became even harder, you know? Like there's just so many moving parts.

My ADD always gets really triggered when it's things that I can't control, you know, like I'm always trying to control all the little things around the one thing I can't control and one thing falls. And then I'm like, okay, I can't sleep for a week because I need to figure this out. And you know, I was going through that for probably like four or five years and a close friend of mine was like, you know -she was having some of the same problems and she was like, you know, I'm just going to go, I'm going to go get, talk to a psychiatrist and see what they say, which I've always had a therapist not, a psychologist. So she went to a psychiatrist and they were like, Oh yeah, you're ADD.

And then she was like, yeah, this is the checklist she gave me. And she sent it to me and I was like, so I'm ADD. Like everything. This is like all the checklists I was, and it was a realization. It's me and my friend, Katie, we talked about, it was like, there's this period of mourning because you kind of think like, who would I have been if I had been diagnosed earlier, you know, like, and I kept thinking that when I was reading Duke by Default, because Portia would start so many things and she would never finish them cause she would lose interest or, you know, she would feel like she wasn't good at it. So she would just drop it. I was like, you know, well, if I had been diagnosed earlier, like what kind of writer could I have been? Like, who would I have been by now? If I could have been able to focus easier than I was always able to. Like Pomodoro method was invented for me cause Tasha can't stay and focus more than like 25 minutes to start off a task. Like once I get into it, I can focus. But like, if I'm just sitting down to do something, I will dilly dally for hours and then get mad at myself cause I've wasted time.  But yeah, like it just, like, I get upset sometimes about it.

It's like, why didn't my mom try to get me diagnosed. And cause I grew up in the shut up and study. You know, shut up and study, figure it out. I can't, my brain is not working around this. I don't know how to do this, figure it out, figure it out. So I figured it out. And the funny thing about that was too is like when I told my mom that I've been diagnosed and I was explaining to her the checklist of things, she was like, Oh, that's what ADD is she was like, well, hell I'm A DD .

See? It's like, I feel like there's a lot of stigma around it, because I feel like maybe it's environmental, like we're getting too much input and that's why our brains are jacked up now. And some of us can slow down and process and some of us can't, and I'm one of those that can't like I'm always taking in input always.

And even, I feel like sometimes I'm taking it in when I'm sleeping and I probably shouldn't sleep with my TV on, but. You know, but like, I feel like I'm always getting input and yeah, the, the trials that she went through, like, just discovering that she was ADD and like feeling relief and then also kind of upset and, you know, still feeling like, yeah, now I have this, but what do I do now?

It was all very relatable.

Andrea Martucci: You know, as you were talking, and then you were like, and then the book, and I was like, Oh right, we're talking about the book. But as you were saying all that, I was like, I seriously, I'm sitting here thinking I'm like, do I have ADD? Like...

Tasha L. Harrison: You know, what? We kind of had that same kind of conversation with Alyssa.

Like she was talking about writing the book and then she was talking about how Bree has sent her, all those videos.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: And, at this point she was still trying to suss out if she was ADD or not. And, me and my friend were talking to her. I was like, yeah, you're basically ADD.  Like, we did this, we've been here.

Like, we just did this last year. We've been where you are. And it's so much easier once you figure it out, because then  you know where to look for  ways to  work with it versus always feeling like you're trying to work according to how everyone else does things, you know, like everybody gets up, works a nine to five, you work eight hours and then you get up and like, no, my body doesn't work that way. My brain doesn't work that way. I work in two hour spurts, then I got to do something else. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Well,  that's something that Portia talks about, thinks about in the book about how she's like, well, right, like now that I have a name for it, I understand it's not a failing in me, per se.  It's my brain works differently and I just need to work with my brain. And now that I have language around it, now that I kind of have tips that are for my brain and not everybody else's brain, I can be more productive about it.

Because like, as you were saying that I was like, well, I wonder,  you're talking about how women, like their ADD symptoms may present themselves differently than like, let's say a man and  I was thinking about like Asperger's, and that's something that  Helen Hoang talks about in The Kiss Quotient, about how, you know, Asperger's and autism often looks different in women compared to men,  because of socialization, you know, it, it looks a little bit different  cause the point of all of it is like, How are you going to react to it?

And like, so I think women in particular, react to social stimuli a certain way, whether you have ADD or not. So maybe women, because they're given less grace have, it's like, Nope, you just gotta solve it. Like you're not going to be excused to, you know,

Tasha L. Harrison: It's always your fault. Like it, no matter what the circumstances are like, it's always your fault and we're conditioned to believe it's our fault. Even when other people are failing around us, we're conditioned to believe I should have been able to fix this. I should have known what to do to fix this, you know, that sort of thing. So I think that that's where I was like the fact that she was a people pleaser.

I went through- and it's really hard for people who are in my life now because I'm like, no period.

Andrea Martucci: They're like excuse me? What is this?

Tasha L. Harrison: Excuse me? You never say no. So, and it's been, it's been years that I've been doing this and it's still really hard for me to put up those boundaries. But I used to be like, whenever someone asks me to do something, I'd find a way to do it. I'd find a way to do it. Even if I knew I didn't have any space to do it, I would find a way to do it. I was always overextending myself for family, for friends, for my kids, for my fucking dog, like literally it was like, no, I committed to taking this dog for a two hour walk every day, I'm doing this.

You know what I mean? Like there was always someone else to please. And then I would get to the point where like, okay, well, what makes you happy? What are you supposed to be doing for yourself? I'm like, I don't know. I guess, pleasing these people. And then the whole fucking cycle starts all over again. You know what I mean?

And I spent like five or six years just doing that and then got so burnt out to the point where I was literally hiding in my closet. Like, I'd be in my closet just to go in my closet and cry.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: I could hear people looking for me, just like, I'm just going to go into the closet and cry and then come out and be like, I'm fine.

What do you need? You know what I mean? Did that for years. And then getting diagnosed, it was like, huh, I don't have to do this. Like.

Andrea Martucci: What a relief. Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: People will figure things out on their own, you know,  and that was  the main thing is like, if I don't do it, like when my mom calls and asks me for something, or if my sister needs me to rescue her from something, or if my husband needs to me to stop what I'm doing and go do these tasks, who's going to do it if I don't? You know, like who's going to do it? Like obviously they needed help. They can't do it on their own. They asked me, so who's going to do it if I don't? And then there was guilt. That was the other thing. When you do start saying no and putting up boundaries, it's not like, Oh, you said, no, you walk away.

Like, Oh, I feel great. No. You feel horrible, you feel guilty,

Andrea Martucci: right.

Tasha L. Harrison: Because you're like, okay, maybe I should have tried to make space? Maybe I should have done that extra thing more. And getting out of that headspace has been really difficult too

Andrea Martucci: This is really resonating with me because -  I was looking for the quote because, Portia obviously , she's kind of exploring this throughout the novel, you know, there's this one quote, "she was selfish and didn't think of others. She was always trying to figure out how to please people"

Tasha L. Harrison: Oh, when Johan told her that she was a people pleaser.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And "she was always running low level scans, making sure there was nothing for her to do. It was exhausting now that she had put her finger on it. Now that Johan had rather." And

Tasha L. Harrison: That, that, yeah, goosebumps, right? Like when I read that the first time I was like, matter of fact, me and my friend .I have a close friend, the one that I was telling you about that got diagnosed.

We have like a lot of the same upbringing, like there's alcoholism in our family. And she was like, you know, we were always really in tune with each other when we go out, you know what I mean? Cause like we could be networking somewhere and our thing is like, let's not just stick together. Let's just walk around and talk to people and mingle or whatever.

But I can look across the room and see her face and know that she's done. You know what I mean? And she could do the same thing for me. And she was like, she was like, I was talking to about therapist and she said that that is like a symptom of coming up in an alcoholic home, because you're always doing these low level scans to see, has this person been drinking?

Was there a fight that occurred before I got here? Is there a fight brewing now? Is this the temperature where I can ask for things, which it never is, you never could ask for things, you know, like you come in the room and you're just kind of like your antennae are up, like emotionally. And I think.

Like when people talk about like, whether or not you're an empath or whatever, I dunno how much of that is nature versus nurture. But I feel like I still do that. Like, Always just kind of like, Hmm, what's going on in this room. And that, that was very familiar to me. This is why that, to me is more of a reason why I'm an introvert than, you know, I need to be at home.

It's more like I go out and I'm constantly doing those little level scans. So by the time I leave, I'm exhausted like I ran a marathon,

Andrea Martucci: Right. No, no, I feel that completely. And I think like, I'm so sorry, every extrovert who's listening to this right now, but I feel like when extroverts are feeding off of the environment, I mean, it's because they're taking more than they're giving?

Tasha L. Harrison: Yes. I think they think they're giving a lot. But they're not.

Andrea Martucci: I remember I had this friend who like, I, she, we're not really friends anymore, for reasons that will become clear, but we went to high school together and we went to college in the same city and she'd like, invite me over and I'd go over to her dorm.

And I think it's just the two of us are going to hang out, but there was always like a whole group of people. And I'd be like, what? The, like, I just want to talk to you. I don't want to like mingle with like 10 of your other friends who don't give a crap about me. And I don't give a crap out them, but it was always like, well, I'm creating a party.  think that what she needed was she like, could never be alone with her own thoughts. And she just always needed to be surrounded with people, but like didn't ever actually want to have a real conversation. She just wanted to be like the center of attention.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yep.

Andrea Martucci: And I got real tired of that real fast. Cause I was like, I

Tasha L. Harrison: I've known people like that. And I think that those kind of extroverts, which those are different. They're vampires,

Andrea Martucci: Energy vampires have, do you watch, What We Do In The Shadows?

Tasha L. Harrison: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: That is too spot on.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yes. And those, those types of people are different than people who are just people who come in the room and like suck all the air out, you know, like some extroverts just cover the room and like, everyone is looking at them in the room, but energy vampires are different. Like they, they need the stimulus around them and they only pull in. They never give back, you know what I mean? And I've had friends like that. And now I look back at those, like, that was a very one-sided friendship.

And my mother used to tell me these things. She'd be like that girl is not your friend. I'm like, what do you mean? It's just like, you're always going to her house. You're always doing things with her. You're always initiating things. And then when she comes over, she's just kind of bulldozing over everything you want to do.

And you're like, yeah. Okay. Yeah. Okay. You become this timid dumb thing. And then she leaves and you're upset. And I'm like, Well, she's my friend, but what,

Andrea Martucci: But what is a friend? Like? Right.

That made me think, one of the things I talked about in therapy was - I had this, I had this

Tasha L. Harrison: My therapist says...

Andrea Martucci: in one conversation we got into, I was saying something like: I feel like I'm supposed to understand that people will love me regardless of what I do for them, but I just can't actually imagine it, I'm like crying. I'm like, I feel like this is just something I just can't understand. You know,

Tasha L. Harrison: That feels familiar too, Because like our love language, I guess, is like acts of service. Is that right? So like, when someone does something for you that feels like love, right? So you're thinking, this is how I express my love to everyone.

Like acts of service. Like I'm doing all these things for you. So you must know that I love you, but you're not getting the same type of love back, you know, and I think a lot of times, we choose friends in weird ways. I'm 42 years old. I feel like I finally have a group of friends that these friends are actually like my real friends, not like friends that there's some transactional thing going on or friends where, you know, I only do this one particular thing with them and nothing else.

So I think that it just takes time. And I think a lot of times too it's romanticized. Like, you know, if you've been friends with someone, since you were five, you have to remain friends with them forever. Like you always have to work it out. Like that's not a friend anymore. That's family. That's bullshit.

And I had to have like a big friend breakup before I realized that it was bullshit. Like I stepped back. This was one of the people that my mom was like, that girl was never your friend. And I was like, what?

Andrea Martucci: Why didn't you tell me this earlier?

Tasha L. Harrison: No, no, she told me.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, okay.

Tasha L. Harrison: She, she couldn't stand this girl.

And she was like, I don't know why you keep having that girl around. She's not your friend. But yeah, like it's, it's, it's definitely a process like. And then too, like if you, for me with ADD, like, I always felt like I was the flaky friend. Like I wasn't a great friend. Sometimes it's just like, yeah, I'll definitely go and do this with you.

And they're like, Nope, I can't, you know what I mean? And then, or just showing up and being moody or, cause I didn't want to be there. And that would challenge my friendships. Like, well you act like you don't want to be here. I'm like, I am here and I don't want to be here. Don't you see it on my tee shirt?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. You said you wanted me to be here. You didn't say you wanted me to enjoy being here.

Tasha L. Harrison: That part, I'm here.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I feel like this is - to bring it back to the book - this is like Portia's thing, right?  She's hypervigilant about other people's needs, you know, like you were talking about, she thinks everything is her fault.

If something failed it's because she wasn't working hard enough. She wasn't aware of the need that needed to be attended to. And she doesn't think that she sort of has that  inherent value, and that she needs to constantly be proving over and over again and again, like that, she has a right to  be there.

With Tavish, he was like, wow, she's so competent that he kind of can't understand why,

Tasha L. Harrison: why she doesn't get that she's yeah. Like he's got, that's definitely like a miscommunication there. Like they are just not speaking the same language at all. Like he's like, she's so competent.

She's doing everything. How could she think that she's not good at life? You know what I mean? Portia's end of the spectrum, I could totally, I totally understand it. Like it was recognizable. It was easy. I was like, of course, of course. Cause she's not like you don't just make one mistake.

Like you're holding on, dragging all of those bags with you every fucking time you go to do something. And even if you come into it optimistically, you're already waiting for it to fail. And I think that's how she, she approached like even at the very first chapter. She's convincing herself. No, no, no. This is not going to fail, but she's already set her mind to this failing.

So it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's like, Oh, I'm not going to be good at this. This is probably going to be just like all the other shit that I did. I'm going to fuck this up too. And the closer we got to the climax of the story, the more, and the more she kept saying, I'm going to fuck this up, I'm going to fuck this up. I'm going to fucking, Oh, I fucked it up. You know, like,

Andrea Martucci: Right. And he's like, "no, I'm just protecting her," you know? And, and she's like, "I've fucked it up!" And he's like, "okay, I've saved her now. Now that she's gone it's for the best." And like, he just doesn't get it.

Tasha L. Harrison: He doesn't get it.

Andrea Martucci: Did you think that like I hated Portia's parents and I kind of wanted there to be more of like a reckoning with them. Do you think that her conflict with her parents was more in her head than real?

Tasha L. Harrison: No. I think that there was definitely some coded language going on between her parents and her. And, I think the underlying thing is that - and I think Alyssa explores this a little bit in Reggie's book, in her novella, but, that, when there's a disabled child in the house, there's a lot of attention put on them.

And  it's hard to frame this because I have a disabled child and I'm just kind of like, you know, it's hard not to center everything around this one person, because if this person isn't functioning, isn't able to function without help. Like, we all have to help. We're all taking care of this person.

So if all the attention is focused on them. And then they start to excel at things. You know what I mean? It's like, Oh, like her, her sister was physically disabled, but she was a brainiac she was, you know, creative and all of these things. And then it became a situation where they were talking to her like, Oh, why can't you do this like, Reggie, you don't have nearly as many shortcomings as she does. You should be doing twice as good, sort of thing. But not even considering that maybe she does have a disability as well. and yeah, do I think her parents were doing  it intentionally or maliciously? No, but I do think that there needed to be a conversation had. It probably wouldn't have went well, mine didn't go well with my parents, but yeah.

You know, and I think too, like a transition from adulthood  from being your parents' child into adulthood, that conversation needs to happen. Like you can't keep talking to me like this, like I'm not my failures. And these are the things that you're doing and saying to me, that's making me perpetuate this behavior.

Like. Well, not making me or make me feel like I have no choice, but to live up to this very low standard, like the bar is on the floor. And you're not asking me to raise it at all, but yeah, I, I did, disliked her parents because they seem to really detached. Like they weren't checked in with her at all.

Andrea Martucci: They didn't seem to acknowledge that she had emotional needs  or  that she would notice when they acted like she had no value other than as kind of -

Tasha L. Harrison: her pretty face.

Andrea Martucci: A pretty girl. Yeah. Yeah, I, I think the thing that they, so they like offer her a job, but then give the job to somebody else.

Tasha L. Harrison: Some random, like, this is a thing it's like,  the way that, that went down really irritated me. Cause it was obvious that they didn't really want her to take the job. It was like, maybe we should offer it to Portia because,

Andrea Martucci: because she's, so she so shiftless, she needs some guidance.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah, maybe we need to give her some structure, some guidance.

Maybe having her in the office will, you know, put her on the straight and narrow. We should offer it to her. But they never wanted her to take it in the first place. So it was like this pretense that was going on and she was, she knew it was there. Like, they didn't really want her to take the job,

Andrea Martucci: it's like, they didn't want her to, but then they also guilted her for not being more excited about it. It was so frustrating.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. The parents were frustrating, but  that interaction doesn't feel uncommon. Like it feels, like parents just expect you to be like little versions of themselves.

Like not have your own - especially when you're wealthy, from what I hear, I don't know what this is, but when you're wealthy, they just kind of expect you like, there's a family business. You're going to work in the family business. And I'm like, Oh, I didn't have any other aspirations of my own, but that's fine.

I'm going to work in the family business. And it's kind of like that whole, no one's discussing these things. There are just things that are supposed to happen. And Portia, labeled as the fuck up is just bouncing around, doing whatever she wants to do, which is typical or someone her age.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Well, and I think that this is like my expectation as the reader where I'm like, I want to see this tied up with a neat bow or like I wanted her to confront or like stand up to her parents in some way.

But I, I think that this is one of the places where this book is not falling into the fantasy of resolution with this issue, it's presenting it like, well, you know what, Portia figured out a lot of stuff. And she's probably going to be dealing with her family and

Tasha L. Harrison: forever.

Andrea Martucci: Forever. I mean, I mean, hope hopefully for a long time, you know,

Tasha L. Harrison: I mean, like this is the thing.

You, you can grow up and have all the realizations you want, but your parents are already old when you're an adult, like they're set in their ways and you can say, these are my boundaries. These are this. So even one confrontation in the book wouldn't have been enough because then it would have been too neat.

You know what I mean? It'd be like, Oh, she talked to her parents about her problems and now, yay. Everyone's happy, but that's not true.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: Even though I know it's romance, it's supposed to be fantasy, but.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, right. And I think that it's just like, you know, Chekhov's gun, you know,

Tasha L. Harrison: You put the gun on the wall, you got to  fire it by.... Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Right. I mean, and I think that just like, as readers, there is this expectation, like, well you created a conflict. Now you need to resolve this conflict before the end of the story. But, and so like, this is

Tasha L. Harrison: I'm going to argue that that conflict wasn't really with her parents, it was more with herself.

Andrea Martucci: Ohhh!

Tasha L. Harrison: She didn't really need it. I mean, that, that conflict that we were reading as external conflict is really internal conflict because every conversation that was going on with them, she was the one -  the story she was telling herself was different than what she was receiving, what they were giving.

Yes, there was coded language in there, but

Andrea Martucci: It's how she's hearing it.

Tasha L. Harrison: It's how she's hearing it. And that's what's creating the conflict and that's inner conflict and that outer conflict.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, I'm not going to argue with you because that's exactly what it is. Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: So it was solved. It was, it was solved. It just, she didn't solve the extraneous conflict with her family, but I mean, those scenes, those phone calls were about her inner conflict.

Not about her relationship with her parents.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, yeah,

now, I'm like, I'm just going to edit that whole part out so that

no, no, I'm just kidding. But

Tasha L. Harrison: this is what I do. I do this, I do it. This is what I do.

Marker [00:31:17]

  Andrea Martucci: Did you know, shelf love has an email newsletter? Get episode extras, like book recommendations from guests, additional editorializing on topics discussed on the podcast, automatic entry into giveaways, heads up on opportunities to participate in the podcast. Plus I share links that further the discourse. The episode extra you'll get from today's conversation is a book recommendation from Tasha. What will it be? You can sign up on or via the link in the show notes.

Marker [00:31:46]

I feel like, Alyssa has been fairly explicit about like, I want write  a royalty series that subverts a lot of what we understand to be royalty tropes. And so I think this book,  there's sort of like this, this fantasy of royalty, of being saved, right?

Like the Cinderella story, like Cinderella was rescued, right? Out of poverty by the, the white prince, the poor white girl rescued by the rich white guy with power.

And I feel like Alyssa, as I know she is an intentional writer, made intentional choices about - in many ways, Portia saves him, like, I mean, and she is like a rich Black woman.

Like she has a lot of financial privilege. Although she does have to reference Debrett's quite a bit, she herself is much more comfortable in this world that he's moving into.

Tasha L. Harrison: And I do think that. The way that she's handling it is very compelling as well. It's like these aren't what we typically consider Dukes to be, you know, like this guy is not a Duke, he's just a regular guy.

Even though, like he makes swords, I don't know how regular that is.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, and he's like super hot and like,

Tasha L. Harrison: I mean, I feel like the guys on forest fire are not this hot. But you know, like the whole idea that she comes in and he automatically pins her is like, Oh, this rich spoiled American, you know, and then when the tables turned, she's the one who had it has to kind of rescue him. Cause he's thinking to himself like, Oh God, I'm going to have to take care of this little brat. She's going to be, you know,  falling into things or breaking things or doing whatever spoiled rich people do abroad.

Andrea Martucci: She's going to worry about breaking a nail when  they're going to make swords.

Tasha L. Harrison: I can't get my clothes dirty or that sort of thing, he just thought she was going to be very precious. And she wasn't, which I enjoyed, like, even though she was wearing precious clothing, she was like, no, I'm going to do this, this sword fighting workout in my silk shirt, you know?

And then in the end where  the tables turned and he ended up being vulnerable. You know, because he was going into a world where he was unfamiliar, uncomfortable and he didn't want to do it. Like he had no interest in doing it. That was the major part. It was like, he, there was so much resistance there and he's like, I'm only going to learn as much as I need to so I can get this done, sort of thing.

But, when, you know, like the bigger things came around, like he was looking to her, like Johan said, he's like, you can't keep leaning on this walking stick. Like every walking stick has like, you know, a maximum amount of pressure it can take. And you're big man. And you're leaning on her. Johan was like the wise old friend in this.

Andrea Martucci: He was the fairy godmother.

Tasha L. Harrison: excuse me, sir. Why you so smart. And then go the needs to be super messy in his own book. But, yeah, like just the way he came in and was like, you know, there's some codependency happening here and like to have it pointed out that way by like an outside observer and then to see how Tavish respond to it, instead of him being like, Oh, I'm going to start taking care of myself more. He just gets grumpy again.

That's not really helpful. He gets grumpy because obviously she's getting the same conversation from Johan and she's like, well, I'm going to let you, I'm gonna let you swing it's time for you to go and do it yourself. And he's like, well I don't want to do it myself.

Andrea Martucci: Right, I do think that his story is - it's the story of privilege, right?

Like, Ooh, like, I have to go learn how to dance and like learn which fork to use. And it's like, Oh my God- and then you inherit all of this money. You have all this power, like please spare us.

Tasha L. Harrison: Cry me a river like go over there and figure out which one of those forks is the oyster fork.

Andrea Martucci: Well,

Tasha L. Harrison: I wish I didn't even know there was a fork for oysters.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, right. And honestly, at the end of the day, I mean like, yes, maybe he did have to learn that stuff. Maybe also like he could be like, well, I can kind of take the power and the privilege without learning that part. You know, there's obviously Johan is like a really interesting case study for ways that you can kind of use things to your own ends and  I'm so glad that by the end of this book, Tavish had realized how he could use this power and privilege in a way that benefited the people and the causes that he cared about and remain true to himself in this new role. But I feel like there is just this like universal lesson of like every time you  find yourself being like, Oh, all these things, I can't change that I'm whining about.

It's like, but what can you do? Rethink this you know, maybe like pause, look at it from another angle.

Tasha L. Harrison: Exactly. Then I think what really gets lost too, especially when you're talking about historical romance was like, these dukes don't really have jobs. It's just a billionaire story, but historical and this the way she did it is not. Yes, it's a billionaire story, but it's not. You know what I mean?

He's getting rescued out of his poverty, which was barely poverty. He just could have sold it. He could have sold his shit and moved into a smaller place. And. Probably done some other things. Like he was stubborn.

Andrea Martucci: He could have been a little bit less of a victim.

Tasha L. Harrison: A little bit less, so,

Andrea Martucci: Just a smidge. Oh no, I inherited this big building!

Tasha L. Harrison: This big rambley building. I don't know what to do. Oh. I rented it out to the mites and then they all went off and then I got married and now I have this debt, like you could sell it, like even in the story, people were calling him to sell it and like, bro, sell it. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, he's like well, I don't know. I don't want to

Tasha L. Harrison: What are you holding onto it for?

And it's like, who gave you this? It's like some, some  inheritance for some person you didn't even know, like why do you care?

Andrea Martucci: I feel like he didn't have enough questions about how this came to be also like

Tasha L. Harrison: That whole part about his mom. And like, I enjoyed the part where, when she picked up the phone, like he was just going to ask her some questions.

He picked up the phone and all he could say was the man's name, but I was upset that his mom wasn't like more, I don't know, not even ashamed, but just kind of repentant

Andrea Martucci: Like, Oh, sorry. I didn't tell you this very important.

Tasha L. Harrison: She was just like, I was in love. It didn't work out. Dah, dah, you were born. Father wanted you, but now he's dead. I'm like, bro, you just told him his whole life story and you're like, Oh, but don't go be a Duke.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: His mom was annoying to me. Like, okay. Yes. You had your thot days. That  happened.You was a thot. You got pregnant by a Duke. I feel like you should have told him this. I feel like there was no reason to hide this from him. I don't understand.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, there were -

Tasha L. Harrison: That's some  romance handwaving.  You just gotta be like, he didn't know, but like even her not telling him, I feel like she should have been more repentant.

Like she was just like, eh, this is what happened.

Andrea Martucci: She should have had a little more guilt. Like some people should have a lot less guilt. Some people should have more.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yes. Mom should have had more like, I'm so sorry for keeping this from you . You don't have to repent about what happened. Just be like, I'm so sorry. I kept this from you and also now your father's dead. So you can't even get any,

Andrea Martucci: you have no relationship with him. Sorry.

Tasha L. Harrison: No hope of one.

Andrea Martucci: Yep. It's over. I really like though that by the end, at least  he has learned how to make his situation work for him. And I feel like so often we look at the shit sandwich that has been handed us and we pretend like we have to eat it.

And that our only choice is eat the shit sandwich or don't eat the shit sandwich.

Tasha L. Harrison: You can add something to the shit sandwich to make it taste

Andrea Martucci: Exactly. Or make a new sandwich, like, or deconstruct take, take out the shit,

Tasha L. Harrison: take out the shit. You can put something else in there. Some other meat products.

Andrea Martucci: Exactly. Even if there's a faint taste of shit. It's better than eating a shit sandwich.

Tasha L. Harrison: Right. And I don't even think that he really had a shit sandwich. Let's be honest. Like maybe he just had a shmear of shit on top of the, like one slice of bread.

Andrea Martucci: He just had like a slightly stale piece of bread in his sandwich.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. Then maybe the meat was a little funky, but you know, it was like one day before it was going bad, but he, there wasn't really a lot of work, mental gymnastics to do it, for him to get there. And I think what made his character solid was that he always was going to do it.

Like there was no real wavering in that direction. Like he would rather have quit the dukedom then, be compromised in that way. But I think a lot of times in these stories, like we just accept that, you know, like, Oh God, the hero might have to do something, he'll be an awful person for that.

I think Portia fulfilled that role, like her getting drunk, quote unquote at the ball and just being the awful person, like doing the unforgivable thing. And he didn't really do anything wrong? He was actually kind of perfect, which was,

Andrea Martucci: Ug. (sound of disgust) I mean, I don't think it was like, it wasn't his, I mean, there was a little bit of a journey, but it also kind of like wasn't his journey and he's really just there.

He only needs to be compelling enough for us to want Portia to get together with him.

Tasha L. Harrison: Basically.

Andrea Martucci: It's most romance novels. You're just like, I mean, sometimes you just choose who to focus

Tasha L. Harrison: Which is why I always found it really, really find it interesting that most readers are like, so falling all of themselves for the heroes and I'm like, he's really just a prop for the heroine.

Like what are y'all missing?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Well, and right. Like, so like as a cis-het woman, like I'm primarily here for  the ladies.

Yeah. You know,

Tasha L. Harrison: I unabashedly am a lover of heroines. The heroes can be whatever. I mean, I just, they just have to not be horrible people, that's it. Like bare minimum and just don't don't murder kittens or like,

Andrea Martucci: right.

Tasha L. Harrison: You know, That's it, the bar is on the floor, whereas Katrina says the bar is in hell. So all you have to do is step over that. Yeah. Like expectations are low. So I always find it really interesting when people are like, Oh, I love this hero. He's boyfriend material. I'm like, Oh, okay.

Andrea Martucci: Okay.

Tasha L. Harrison: Okay.

Marker [00:42:31]

Andrea Martucci: like, I'm just going to say the book is really funny. There's a lot of really cool things with like, talking about social media and like it's very, now. It feels very current

Tasha L. Harrison: And I liked that about it too, because people, even though that we had like Super Lift instead of

Andrea Martucci: And there's like a Instagram knock-off - Instaface

Tasha L. Harrison: and I'm like, I wonder, like, did the publisher say you had to do that because I feel like at this point, like we're, these things are such integral parts of our lives.

Like it would be, it's kind of like, we know what this is. Can we just say what this is? It's kind of like how Ziploc is what we call storage bags.  Windex is what we call window cleaner.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Kleenex. Yeah. Yeah. Come on

Tasha L. Harrison: Kleenex is a tissue like this. These things have become, these brands are now the thing.

Yeah, no, I don't, I don't know. I said people ask me questions about that all the time. I'm like, look, as far as I'm concerned, ain't nobody getting sued for this. So keep it in there.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, look, I'm not a lawyer. I will not pretend to be a lawyer and understand what the issue is. So

Tasha L. Harrison: Facebook is not suing you for using Facebook in a book,

Andrea Martucci: right. You're promoting them.

Tasha L. Harrison: Facebook is not going to see you for using Facebook in a book. But yeah, I thought like, yeah, there were, there were lots of laugh out loud moments. And, there were like a couple of times, like I remember when I was reading it the first time, the section where he puts his hand on her neck and I was like, Oh my God.

Is Alyssa about to put a choke and stroke in this book? It was like in a book? And I got in her DMS after that, she was like, I did. It was like, there's choking in this book, what?

Andrea Martucci: I remember that well, here's my favorite funny line. Or at least one I can find quickly. "He smelled, it was a good smell, but still, if she was a man sweat sommellier she would say it had hints of steel, citrus, and essence of Tavish."

I think there's a Twitter account now somebody, it's like the way men

Tasha L. Harrison: ...smell like romance, men smells or something like that. That was toying with the idea, like she was being cheeky about the idea, but also like a brilliant description.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Right. And it's, and it's accurate, like why he should of course smell like steel.

It's much better than the heroes who smell like horses and tobacco

Tasha L. Harrison: Un-smolked tobacco smells good. Smoked tobacco smells like smoke.

Andrea Martucci: And then, and then layer in horse.

Tasha L. Harrison: No. Well, since it's someone on Twitter was saying that the way that we associate the horse smell is with like horse stable smell

Andrea Martucci: Which is horse poop.

Tasha L. Harrison: And just might be true. Yeah. We're, we're, we're smelling horse shit, not like actual horses. And she was like, horses just smell like horses, like kind of clean and animaly, but not funky. And I'm like, I'm sorry, my nose can't separate those smells anymore. And like, I used to ride when I was little. So I like that smell -  I know what a horse smells like, but also I just, in my nose memory, my olfactory memory - is horse shit.

I don't

Andrea Martucci: know what a horse smells like, but I know what a dog smells like. And like, I don't enjoy dog smell. You know what I mean?

Tasha L. Harrison: Like I have a dog and I don't enjoy his, especially after he's been out and active all day. Which is what they're associating this horse smell with. Right? Like the horse has been running and the man has been on the horse and he smells

Andrea Martucci: They're all lathered up like, woo. (both make a sound of disgust)

Tasha L. Harrison: That smells like funk. Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: It smells like, go take a shower. Please.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Everybody. Get the horse in there.

Tasha L. Harrison: Just spray it all.

Andrea Martucci: Did you have any other things you wanted to say about this book? I think we've said everything, but

Tasha L. Harrison: I think we said everything. Yeah. Okay. I love this book.

Andrea Martucci: this is, I mean, this was my first time reading it.

I, I now measure things because I have this physical book I measure books in how many Dukes by Defaults they are. So like, I was reading, I looked up like how many Kindle pages this book is? It's like 600-something. And I was like, okay, like I can  eye this book. And then I was reading other books that was like 300 Kindle pages.

And I was like, Oh, it's like half A Duke by Default.

It is literally the standard by which I measure all other books.

Tasha L. Harrison: That's fair.

Marker [00:47:06]

Andrea Martucci: So Tasha, thank you for joining me today. How can listeners find you and what is coming next from Tasha L. Harrison?

Tasha L. Harrison: Well, you can find me and everything you want to know about me at

I am frequently on Twitter as I stated in this recording, I have a Twitter addiction problem.  That's fine. That's fine.  And right now I'm working on a novella called Liquor & Laundry and hopefully will publish it before the end of July. That's the goal.

I put it out in the universe, so now I've set it out loud. So I have to do it now.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Perfect timing.

Tasha L. Harrison: Absolutely.


Marker [00:47:45]

Andrea Martucci: Thanks for listening to episode 54 and thanks to Tasha for joining me. Also FYI Tasha's latest Liquor & Laundry is available now. She hit her goal. Yay. Here's what's in store in this spicy erotic novella: high school crush. Black romance. Jerked chicken wings. Steamy laundromat make out sessions, and a dirty talking hero. Go grab it on Amazon.

I'm thrilled to formally announce my collaboration with Copper Dog Books, for Bookstore Romance Day, which will be on August 15th, 2020.

The event will be completely virtual because of that pesky pandemic we're still in the midst of. Some people are acting like it's over, but it's not. But for my listeners, that probably works out well since you don't all live in the Boston area. For all the details, follow the link in the show notes, but the quick and dirty is that you can enter a giveaway right now to potentially win free romance novels.

I know we have at least six books to give away and Julie and Meg at Copper Dog are getting even more lined up, including books you can't even buy yet. I've also curated a list of romance for the special Bookstore Romance Day 2020 collection, and every book in there will be 20% off when ordered online between August 15th and August 23rd, 2020.

My list is over 50% independently published romance plus some traditionally published options. I've got books by Katrina Jackson, Jack Harbon, Alexis Daria, Olivia Waite, Alyssa Cole, naturally, and more. You can view the full list on Copper Dog Books' website.

Don't forget I will be doing an ask me anything type episode with special guest Jhen from the Monogamish podcast. If you have a question for me, send it over to [email protected] before August 15th, 2020.

All the details for this episode can be found on, including a transcript. Look for episode 54.

Nicole Falls is my next guest, and we talk about reviews, imposter syndrome, and I Think I Might Love You by Christina C. Jones. Thanks for joining me today. If you have any thoughts on the show, I'd 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.