080. I Now Pronounce You Colonialism, Capitalism, & White Supremacy
Have you ever wondered when Shelf Love would finally cover the unholy marriage of Colonialism, Imperialism, Capitalism, and White Supremacy? Dr. Margo Hendricks drops in to explain why you can't talk about just one because they're inextricably linked. Yes, this is still a romance novel podcast!
Have you ever wondered when Shelf Love would finally cover the unholy marriage of Colonialism, Imperialism, Capitalism, and White Supremacy? Dr. Margo Hendricks drops in to explain why you can't talk about just one because they're inextricably linked. Yes, this is still a romance novel podcast!
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Guest: Dr. Margo Hendricks
Article we talk about:
To Be Alone With You by Jodie Slaughter: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08Y92DR54/
A very short starter reading list sent by Dr. Hendricks:
- Richard Hakluyt, Voyages and Discoveries: Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, & Discoveries of the English
- Imtiaz Habib, Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1677
- Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Black London Before Emancipation
- Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic
- Annette Gordon-Reed, Racism in America
- The Vision of China in the English Literature of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century. Edited by Adrian Hsia, Chinese U P, 1998
- Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in North America, eds., Jennifer Brier, Jim Downs, Jennifer L. Morgan
- Stephanie Camp, "Early European Views of African Bodies: Beauty," Sexuality and Slavery, ed. Daina Ramey Berry and Leslie M. Harris
- Jerng, Mark C. Racial Worldmaking: The Power of Popular Fiction (2018)
- Baez, Jillian, "Navigating and Negotiating Latina Beauty" (In Search of Belonging: Latinas, Media, and Citizenship) (2018)
- Akhimie, Patricia, Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Difference: Race and conduct in the Early Modern World
- Readers: Critical Race Theory, Critical White Studies, Critical Indigenous Studies
- Elizabeth Kingston, "Romanticizing White Supremacy" (2018)
- Chess, Simone, Male-to-Female Crossdressing in Early Modern English Literature: Gender, Performance, and Queer Relations
- Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives. Ed. Karli June Cerankowski and Megan Milks. New York: Routledge, 2014.
080 Margo Hendricks
[00:00:00] Margo Hendricks: People need to understand they're still a living under colonialism imperialism.
We've just substituted one empire for another went from, Britain to the United States in terms of thinking about who drives capitalism.
Most people , they know the terms, they don't think about it because it's their lived experience. And we don't think often enough about our lived experience, so I'll do my best.
Andrea Martucci: Hello. And welcome to episode 80 of Shelf Love, a podcast that unpacks romance novels with nuance. In conversations with scholars, readers, and other experts. Shelf Love contextualizes the popular romance genre within the broader critical discussion of identity, culture, and love. I'm your host, Andrea Martucci. And my guest today is Dr. Margo Hendricks, who is a romance author, early modern English literature scholar, sometimes a Shakespearian. I don't know what all those things are, but she's going to tell us.
This is one of those conversations that I could listen to endlessly. And this is just part one, because of course we talked for like four hours, but the recent discourse about Meghan and Harry after their interview with Oprah, has people talking about the British monarchy and race.
This conversation has been knocking around in my head for a few months at this point, and I am just going to release it because it is super relevant, even though I was still tinkering around with it and haven't edited part two yet, but whatever.
During my hiatus I have been trying to come to terms with how much of a perfectionist I can be with episode production and how that can hold me back. So, you know, baby steps.
As I said, my guest is Dr. Margo Hendricks, who is professor Emerita, English literature, and focuses on race, romance, and early modern literature. She writes paranormal, historical and contemporary romance novels under the pen name, Elysabeth Grace.
It was an absolute pleasure to have Dr. Hendricks on the podcast. She is so knowledgeable and is an esteemed scholar and having her speak with me about colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy is, I mean, just like such a treat. If it wasn't about stuff that was kind of upsetting.
But prior to our recording, she shared an afterword from a journal written by Jennifer L. Morgan. And that afterword was entitled Archives and History of Racial Capitalism. [00:02:30] It comes up a few times throughout our conversation, although we never really explain it.
We never really like say what we're talking about directly, but we talk about it. So here's how the abstract summarizes this: "this afterward revisits the archive as a problem space for scholars grappling with slavery and its afterlife." So. That gives you a little bit of context for what we're talking about in this conversation because we kind of jumped right in.
So here's how I framed the purpose of our conversation based on correspondence prior to recording. So framed it up like this is for romance authors and readers who want to rethink or upset, narrow models of histories. And we wanted to educate. I say we -she, I wanted her to do this -educate listeners on how the historical archive is biased and the context of the relationships between colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and white supremacy.
How is this related to romance again? A better question might be how is it not related to romance because romance writ large has a narrative structure that has the power to define the virtuous us and the vicious them. And if you have questions about what the heck I'm talking about, you should go listen to episodes 73 and 74, which are about The Secular Scripture by Northrop Frye. He writes about the structure of romance and, what that structure accomplishes. And I think building on Frye's ideas and many other things that the popular romance genre has the power, not only to describe what we inherently find desirable, but to reinforce or create desirability around tropes that are really harmful in real life.
But when you wrap them in a package of happily ever after they can sweeten things up to make them digestible that are honestly really still very poisonous. And so I think that we have to ask ourselves, what is going on when we see certain tropes repeated over and over again. And when we see certain stories centered and we see certain stories framed in such a way that plays up the benefits of these systems and downplays the negatives and erases many other aspects.
So I hope you enjoy this conversation with Margo Hendricks.
Margo Hendricks: I just finished a book that took me all of last year. It's on race and romance and it's on white [00:05:00] passing.
And it starts from Heliodoris's Aethiopica, which no one reads except academics. And very few of them. And it's hard to read. If you're not trained, it makes purple prose look like it's exquisitely precise, direct, et cetera. It's just you're going, what the fuck am I reading? But it's fantastic. It's really funny. Some people would call it a fantasy novel because you have a lot of you have pirates and you have magic and you have this .
The simple summary of the book is the king and queen of Ethiopia. And it's written in like fourth or fifth century AD . The king and queen of Ethiopia have been trying to have a child and she finally gets pregnant while they're having sex, she's looking at a picture of Andromeda and her child is born white. She gives wealth and markers to indicate that it is her child to her eunuch and has the eunuch, take the child away and hopes that it's not exposure, but hopes the child is found.
The child is found by a Greek man who has the children raised up. She believes she's Greek. And her name is Chariclea. She falls in love with Theagenes, who is not the right type of Greek.
And her adopted father, she doesn't know that, tells her that he wants her to marry someone else and then she and Theagenes run away. They go through all kinds of obstacles and they ended up in Ethiopia. And she has to prove that she's the daughter of the king, because he's seeing this white woman, this white Greek.
And he's like, no way. It turns out she has a birthmark that he has. There's a mark that he carries that she carries to prove her identity. Plus the letters from the mother, plus the letter tells her story, and everybody lives happily ever after.
That story then gets constantly adapted and borrowed from, well into the 17th century. It's translated from the Greek into Latin and then into vernacular languages and then into English and so on. And she discovers, at some point, she's an Ethiopian and then she goes in and she has to prove herself, prove her Blackness. That narrative gets told in different ways. By the 17th century, the narrative is told where the white Ethiopian dies.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
Margo Hendricks: So part of what [00:07:30] intrigues me about that is what do you do with these people who are Black, but not black?
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. So the social construct of race in that sense?
Margo Hendricks: Yeah. It's the evolution of what race means, it's what I write about academically.
For people to even honestly think about race as solely a biological characteristic, without thinking about race as being more than that, is nuts because prior to the advent of the transatlantic traffic in African peoples to enslave them, it was your lineage. It was your class. So I'm a Black princess. I could marry a white Prince and it's never a question of color it's because our class, our racial lineage is equal. If I married a Duke as a Black princess, I'm marrying down and he's married up, but it was always political.
So people need to understand that race itself could undergo certain forms of mutation that allowed a governing society to control it's population.
So in the 16th century, with capitalism, pushing beyond its borders, to create markets for goods, both the ones they produce at home and then the ones that they need and beginning of the process of settler colonialism, taking over lands and finding that the labor force, the indigenous labor force, won't work and transporting other peoples dispossessing them from their land, relocating them and so on. Including, also doing the indentured servitude thing, but that didn't work as well. And finding ways to mark difference. The easiest way to do that when you're dealing with non-Europeans is what is the visible difference?
Okay. So my academic book that I just finished talks about that reliance on visibility to mark difference. But what happens when, through miscegenation, through you lose that visibility? So what happens when my third grade grandfather is white English. And through the process of this [00:10:00] constant kind of miscegenation, I really dislike that word, but through sexual activity, the kinds of reproduction of lightness until the person visibly walking up to you, you see them, you don't see them as Black, you automatically respond based on what you see. So part of it for me is always thinking about how literature captures that and pushes up against that. And white supremacy needs to hold on to a kernel of, we can tell the difference between a Black person than a white person. We can tell the difference between a Brown person and a white person. And they really face problems when it came to China and in Japan, when whiteness, in terms of skin color it was like, okay, wait, our skin color is white.
And how do we deal with that? They needed to find other ways. And of course they always turned to physical appearance: the shape of the eyes, the shape of the nose, et cetera.
So this preoccupation of always rendering whiteness visible is a major factor in white supremacy in terms of staying in power.
Because if whiteness isn't the immediate thing that you see to say, we are aligned, then what do you do? So with Blackness, we have to make sure that it stays visible, even as we're raping, having sexual relationships, either involuntarily or voluntarily with non-white people. How do we make sure that whatever that code is remained visible?
And that is a power move. It is about the control of the, okay, this is capitalism, about the means of production. It is about control the political institutions. It is about controlling the way in which profits are generated, it is about absolute control.
And so if everybody's white, it makes a problem, If everybody's Black, it makes a problem. So how do we manage this?
Andrea Martucci: And how do we create a hierarchy?
Margo Hendricks: Absolutely. Race is all about hierarchy. It's always been about hierarchies, but it's always been about power.
Stuart Hall. He did an interview. He received a medal from a German Institute. There's a lot of debate: which came first race [00:12:30] or racism? And he said, that's the wrong way. Racism comes first. And then what racism does, to adapt, modify, recalibrate race to fit an ideology, which racism is. To fit the institutionalization of racism.
I work early modern. I'm not a historian trained, even though I read a lot of history and mine is literature. I just couldn't sit with the facts. Let's just give them the facts.
And this comes back to the archives and racial capitalism.
It's a difficult essay to move through, even though it's an afterward, because she's talking a lot about theorist, philosophers, and other people who are writing and she's taking some of their ideas and putting it, in my opinion, in a way that you can get to the point of her argument.
And as someone who has spent and had intended on spending a lot of this year in archives , it's not always what that's there. It's sometimes what you don't see that's there. I spent so much time in the British library and the public records office looking for evidence of a Black presence.
I have a colleague, he's joined his ancestors, but he wrote a book, the one that's Black Lives in the English Archives. He did archival work back in the nineties to demonstrate the presence, a Black presence in England. It's now becoming fashionable to do that. And so when you see me go after certain individuals who forget that there's a genealogy of this kind of research, I'm upfront. I'm going to call you out on it because I'm not going to let you erase him or me or other colleagues who have been working early to produce this evidence.
But I went to Barbados looking for evidence of an author Aphra Behn , who everyone considers white and there are biographies of her and having spent time in Barbados, I can't find any evidence of her (laughs) .
But, being in the archives in Barbados was very different because there you see both a white presence and a Black presence. You see a little bit of the indigenous presence very early on, and then it's a place, just because of enslavement, but you [00:15:00] begin to see that they're very different narratives at work.
So what I like about Morgan's analysis is that we spent so much time and frustration and disappointment going through the archives, looking for something, when what we really should be asking is what's missing? And that to me is what historical romance has to do if it's going to deal with the way in which it still falls back on institutionalized racism with respect to how romance gets represented.
Andrea Martucci: As I was trying to wrap my mind around colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism and white supremacy, and as you put it, how they're all hand-fast, which is like my entry point into thinking about this, I was like, Oh, they are like, wow.
It just really got me going. And part of what I had less of an understanding of, and what I had to get a little bit more historical context for than I had access to previously was. And this is a question I've asked Katrina Jackson before , when we were talking about An Unconditional Freedom, where I was like, but what did people believe at the time? What was going on in their heads that made them think that this was okay?
And this is how I would explain it. And I would appreciate, after I say how I think of it, if you please correct me or add to it or whatever. Okay. So colonialism is that at a certain point, transportation technology, trade routes, the ability to physically move to other places, created the ability for European nations to not just want to trade with other places, but then to realize, Hey, we can take their resources. We can use these people as cheap labor. We can turn these people into a commodity that then we can trade. And so the actual motivation of moving in and taking over these places is very much capitalism and rooted in an economic incentive .
However, what's going on is that these people are like Christian and they have this supposed moral code about how you should treat other people. And so what they have to do is conceptually create this situation where they're not bad people, they're not going against their beliefs or their moral code in enslaving other people, because if they change the definition of what a person is [00:17:30] and they frame , they create a narrative around these people as uncivilized and not meeting the same level of personhood that they have created a definition for, that they are justified in doing this. How close am I?
Margo Hendricks: You're very close. You're on the mark. You get an A.
Andrea Martucci: Yay!
Margo Hendricks: Yes, but one of things that I, and I'm retired. And it's been a while since I've been in classroom, like over a decade. but I think about this stuff all the time, that ideology of superiority inferiority precedes the moment of colonialism. It is not that they decide we're going to go out and do this.
And therefore then create this ideology it's that the ideology has existed because the traffic in commodities, the traffic in peoples, the traffic in ideas, the traffic in political relations, has been around for a long time. And specifically when we think about modernity, most people start with the 18th and the 19th century because they're looking at modern capitalism.
They're looking at industrial capitalism. When you look at what we call pre-modern, which is still modern, but different kind of modernity those very same practices, the same issues with the advancement of technologies, navigation , trans cultural relationships. Negotiations of power, political alliances based on warfare, all of that stuff was going on in the ninth century.
If you look at what was taking place between Europe with quotes, because there was no solidified Europe, right?
Andrea Martucci: The land mass, we now consider to be Europe.
Margo Hendricks: Yeah. But if you look at the relationships between Christian nations. And Islamic nations, you realize that a lot of the crap just keeps getting passed down.
One of the things that I taught, and like I said, I do 16th and 17th century English literature, primarily, even though I read like crazy, one of the things I always told my students, when you're talking about Christianity, which Christianity are you talking about? You talking about Catholicism because that's Christianity really.
Protestantism is [00:20:00] just, a rebellious form of Christianity because the first Christian, it's Catholic, in terms of just thinking about it as an religious institution, the Vatican. And so all of this stuff that's going on when you're talking about these values, you set them aside, but you don't see them as part of a sociopolitical economic framework, which is what you always have to do.
And yeah, it's very easy for a Christian merchant to set aside those Christian values when it comes to profit. Because what you then do is you look back, I'm going to benefit my nation. And as a Christian merchant, living in England, being born in England, being English, I should benefit my nation.
So on some level to talk about the way in which those values have to be rejected, they don't have to be rejected. You just don't have to include the non-Christian.
Andrea Martucci: You just shift the definitions to include who you want to include and exclude who it is not convenient to include.
Margo Hendricks: But the issue is that Christianity has always seen non-Christians as for lack of a better term, "other," so you don't have to play with them the same way that you play with each other, even though you kill each other in the name of Christianity. There's a framework for playing with each other, especially in the early modern, if you think of the classic France and England Catholic versus Protestant, Spain versus England, Catholic versus Protestant, is also part of this sort of, imperialist drive that they were embarking on.
England this little bizarre Island that starts up as Protestant. So the Catholics, as enemy, now they framed a lot of their narratives about Africans and about Asians and about indigenous peoples within that lens, through which they saw Catholicism. And so what they were doing was going out and competing in the 16th century with Spain to become Imperial, to become an empire.
And they succeeded, because quite frankly, their Navy was better. That's the reason for their success. Their merchant ships, their Naval ships were far superior and it was easy to destroy the Spanish.
And colonialism is interesting because sometimes it isn't always about dominating, well it is about domination, but it isn't about enforcing people into modes of labor.
[00:22:30] Sometimes it's about creating a relationship with ongoing power that creates a better merchantile relationship. And then you bring in your soldiers to protect your interest,
Andrea Martucci: Like in the case of,
Margo Hendricks: India
Andrea Martucci: yes, the East India Company. Is that what it's called?
Margo Hendricks: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And there was also, there's an African trading and they did that in Africa.
So if you think about it, the one place where Europeans and specifically England, Spain and France primarily, engaged in a different form of colonialism, which is settler colonialism, which was to mass transport peoples. Claiming the land and saying, you settld here, you could own the land, and you can do this, et cetera.
That's different from sending in a small group individuals connected to a mercantile company or a mercantile trade and establishing an outpost, and then bringing in the military to support that outpost and building alliances with local rulers.
Andrea Martucci: A ruling class of sort of complicit, indigenous people,
Margo Hendricks: Yeah. You have to create that. And in those cases, if you think about it, what often happened was you sanctioned marriages between indigenous women and European males and producing a class of children who identify with the European males and you have a class of power that comes with it, or you ally yourself with someone politically, you don't engage in genocide, which is what happened in this country.
Outright attempts at genocide, that's different. That's part of settler colonialism, you remove indigenous people from the land. So I think when you talk about colonialism, you have to think about it in different ways because the colonialism that was in India and Africa is different from what was in the United States.
And it was all going on about the same time.
Andrea Martucci: I think in my mind, the distinction was colonialism was settler colonialism, and imperialism was more of the like Britain in India, is that accurate? Is imperialism more of the, like we've taken over your government, but we haven't really moved a huge mass of people in to take over?
Margo Hendricks: Settler colonialism involves genocide and colonialism you don't have to kill them. You can just subdue them, subjugate them. Although it includes some forms of genocide. The problem is when you try to create, to fine a distinction, in my [00:25:00] opinion, I'm not a political theorist, but in the way in which I see it operating again from the moment that I work in, those two things are working at the same time, but initially it's really leaning more towards settler colonialism where you create little England.
Now to do that, you have to plant English people. and so I sometimes think we, forget that the colonizing process is not independent of creating settlements and the way in which those settlements are created may be the difference. I think when I'm, when I think of empire, when I think of the British empire, which is really an 18th, 19th century phenomenon, Victoria is quintessentially the moment, even though it begins earlier.
When you really see it laid out, it is where you literally don't need to have people settle. You just use an army. Think of the Roman empire. What Rome did, which was brilliant. And the way in which Britain started to talk about itself and Pirelli and in the 16th century, when it started doing this was in Roman terms where Rome sent out the military and the military effectively controlled the power structures within a land.
Okay. And you made sure that all the goods and services with that, but she really didn't need to have the settlement. You did not need to transplant Romans to do it. The Roman soldiers would settle. They'd have families. They do whatever, but it was a military occupation. I associate empire with militarism in ways that are different from colonialism, because colonialism is really for me.
Okay, then people will argue with me all over the map as I see it taking place in the early modern period really is about establishing that mercantile relationship either with existing nations or creating those opportunities in what you perceive to be unoccupied, unused land And sometimes that can be the same thing, sometimes - rarely, and sometimes it can be very different.
Andrea Martucci: How are you defining what development is? So like what does economic development look like when you come to America? Oh, the [00:27:30] indigenous people aren't using the land. Don't know how to do it. They don't know how to do it. They need us.
Margo Hendricks: Exactly. But also, again, you couch the land grab in those terms, we need to question who the fuck gave you the right to decide how this land was being used when you're English, you're born in a little friggin Island and you've fought the French to keep them from telling you how to use your land. You thought the Spanish to keep them from telling you how to use your land. What gave you the right.
That's where the racism comes in. You have to walk in with an ideology that says you can displace these people's sovereignty from this land based upon how you perceive them, not how they perceive themselves.
And that to me is what makes those three things handfast because honestly, without capitalist mode of production in its stages and it's been around a long time. They're just different forms. So mercantile capitalism, without that, you wouldn't have colonizing ideology. Without the colonizing ideology, you wouldn't have a move towards imperialism and they need each other.
So when I say hand, fast hand, hand fast thinking of the way in which marriages were done in the early modern periods, you posted the banns. Okay. You had them join hands, the marriage was it. Doing it in the church was just, that was a legal thing that was institutionalizing that. But once you put that notice up, that said that they were going to that's the equivalent of that union already. So on some level, what I'm saying, when I say "hand fast" is that these three, I don't know what to call them institutions. Institutional structure, capitalism, imperialism, and white supremacy, basically posted their banns, that they're going to be a union in order to benefit a nation.
Honestly, if Ghana had cause sustained its empire beyond the 16th, 17th century. Who's to say that Ghana wouldn't have been the global force?
Built the army, built the Navies et cetera, to go out and do this. People can always make arguments, whatever they want, but I'm just saying it just happened to be this particular nation. Why wasn't it France? Why was it England?
Andrea Martucci: Why aren't we speaking French [00:30:00] right now?
Margo Hendricks: Speaking Spanish.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yep.
Margo Hendricks: People need to understand when you say Europeans, you got to talk, at least for me in the early modern period, you have to recognize the nation States operative. And so England becomes an empire in ways that are remarkably similar to Rome because that's the model they used when they had to. Rome also did send people to Britain to settle.
William, The Conqueror, when he comes over, what does he do? He slaughters most of the English and then marries their daughters and wives and widows and so on and off to his French people and trying to eradicate, which is why I always find the medievalist who argue for Anglo-Saxon isms so funny because it doesn't exist even to argue for the English. Come on. They kept the name, but most of them, eradicated the powerful ones.
But for the most part, Rome just went out and used the military force. England learned from it. Spain said, we're going to go over and we're going to repopulate. That's colonialism.
That's settler colonialism. We're going to repopulate this land because it's not being used in the way that we decide.
So why capitalism? Because we need to produce goods and services for the benefit of our nation and make people wealthy and so on and whiteness, because, we're white. So we look at ourselves and we're masters.
Therefore, we look at you no way. Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: We are created in God's image. And so everybody else can't be, we define what that looks like. As you were saying that, I was just thinking, I was like this certainly explains why, if you think about the education system of what the classics are, it's the Roman and all of that.
And it's not like studying the Chinese dynasties, for example, that were also very powerful back in history. So as you think about okay no, this is the model. This is what we're building on. And then all of a sudden that starts to expand in the ideology as like, history, that is history. That other stuff didn't exist because it's not important.
Margo Hendricks: Again, that's a mark of imperialism because in the 19th century is when classics actually become used to talk about Greek and Latin literature. Renaissance writers didn't use it. Part of the issue was translations.
Like China was pretty closed to Europeans and any European who stepped foot. And China were basically kept localized. And they could interact with Chinese [00:32:30] people. And there were Chinese people who could interact with them.
I'm working with a graduate student who's actually looking at this in the 16th and 17th century. And it's fascinating because you get a different picture of what was going on. One of the things I put on there, and I think it's important for people to know that, information has been available for centuries.
Richard Hakluyt published in 1600, this collected volumes of the travels of the English throughout the world.
It's deceptive because some of its translations of Spanish travelers, Portuguese travelers, who went to Asia, who went to the Americas, who went to Africa , who learn languages, translated that information into Spanish or Portuguese. And so it's also the question of Arabic.
Arabic was known and people studied Arabic along with Greek in order to get into other cultures' documents and whatnot. So the issue is white supremacy says in order to elevate ourselves, to keep us as the locus of power as the center of the universe, we have to marginalize, erase, denigrate, bury all these other cultures. If we let them into our terrain, we have to subjugate them and allow them to speak the way we want them to speak. We position how they appear to us.
So when I was a graduate student, 20,000 years ago , I had all white teachers. Every one of my graduate school professors were white. I was actually going to be a medievalist because I was fascinated by the crusades and I wanted to learn Arabic in order to read original texts. To see what was going on, but also just these amazing narratives that told a different history than the one that I had been fed in school.
The person who drove me out of medieval studies did me a favor. Not because I went in a different direction, I just moved to century or two. Okay. I had always loved the Renaissance, so I ended up in that era, but why the Renaissance? What does that mean?
[00:35:00] So I focused on English. I learned Latin. I can still read some Latin.
A lot of Arabic things were translated into Greek or into Latin and then translated into English. So they had access to that information. But it took the 19th century to say classics, (claps) Greek, Latin. And then if you're really good German.
And then maybe, and then French and then Spanish, because everybody hated the Spanish by the 19th centur y . (laughs) And the English adopted that model. And that became institutionalized in that. So there's no such thing as classics prior to the 18th, 19th century. Forget it.
And I do Shakespeare, but people started talking about Shakespeare being the classic. I'm laughing my butt off, the guy - come on. The guy would have written the Bridgerton series.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah, yeah.
Margo Hendricks: He would have done it and he wouldn't have had a problem with it because it was all about the money.
And, what does that mean? Was that what they were reading in school? No, they weren't reading that in Shakespeare's day. They weren't reading that in the 18th century in schools. Okay.
So part of it is, and I'm grateful for this, there are people doing the work to basically expose that ideology that the way in which whiteness has framed the narratives to show that hold on folks, this is the counter narrative. The possibility of thinking differently about the representation of history, the representation of what we read in literature , the tension between history and literature is really interesting. But how we represent it as fiction writers, how we represent it as literary writers and romance is a literary form. I'm going to say that. I dislike it when people say it's not literature. Just don't do it around me.
Andrea Martucci: The two threads that I think I'd like to pick up on: one, is our idea of history, which is I think, where you were going.
So what is our idea of history from what has been presented in literature? Which very much is coming from a narrative of the hegemonic ideology. So the people in power are shaping their narrative. And so history is going to be represented in a particular way in these works.
I don't know if somebody else has used this term, I'm borrowing from a couple of different places. Jayashree Kamble writes about the media romance, which is the idea of how romance is portrayed in the media. But [00:37:30] actually it doesn't represent romance, but it's people's idea of romance. I think that there's media history and there's like romance history.
And there's this idea that, nobody has done this work. And you were talking about this erasure earlier. People have done the work of getting into the archives and looking for people who were
Margo Hendricks: marginalized
Andrea Martucci: marginalized and in the process of being marginalized, either their place in history was made to be very small in size, but then also the narrative around those people was shaped in such a way that human characteristics were removed from the representation of them. And, they were framed, their place in history was framed in a particular way.
So people have done this work, it exists. And yet our perception of history and what the archives say is completely different.
Particularly when you look at what time periods, what people are overrepresented in the romance genre.
So like thread one is there is history, but a Google search maybe is not going to get you everything you need there.
Also, by the way, this is more of a side note. What I find fascinating about the conversations about historical accuracy is how much they focus on the setting. Oh, their dresses weren't like that, or their houses weren't like that. And how little has to do with culture and social structures and context it's, it is absurd to me. (Margo is laughing and saying, EXACTLY!)
Cause I'm like, look, I don't give a fuck if the Bridgerton corsets are wrong. And I totally respect that people who are like
Margo Hendricks: obsessed?
Andrea Martucci: people who are like into, garments, or I dunno what you call that field, costuming or whatever. That's fine. You can pick that apart. Go for it. I appreciate it. And I might watch it, but who cares?
What I am more concerned about is then that ideology piece. I don't really want to talk about Bridgerton except to say that I think what immediately, what my alarm bells immediately went off with this idea that you could accurately portray a historical period that is so steeped in colonialism and imperialism and , this system. But then just say, Ope, and then there's no racism and whatever ridiculous reason you come up with for why that happened. That's what's unbelievable is that you could separate like, because instantly I'm thinking [00:40:00] like, okay, so is Simon, the Black Duke. Does he own interests in the Transatlantic Slave Trade?
Margo Hendricks: Of course he does!
Andrea Martucci: Like how, how do you reconcile that?
Margo Hendricks: Okay. (sputters because it's trully unbelievable) So first of all, I have to, (audibly shudders) don't get me started, look around us now, how many Black Trumpers are there? How many Brown Trumpers are there? How many Asian Trumpers are there? Ergo - all right. And that's just the baseline. How many Black capitalists are there?
How many Brown capitalists are there? How many Asian capitalists are perfectly willing to exploit for capital? So until people can wrap their minds around the fact that on some fundamental level capitalism has presented itself and been embraced as a universal equalizer.
You can have these little tensions. It is what makes that Black capitalist as dangerous as the white capitalist. And the white capitalist, honestly, because they have the same interest, is willing to sit at the table with the Black capitalist.
And the Asian capitalist and the Latinx capitalist. Okay. They don't have a problem with that. And the indigenous capitalist. It is there. So it comes back to this issue of what handfast means to me, it's that on some level there's a mutual interest that joins them. And people who have that interest will find that commonality and ignore the uncommon.
And let's remind ourselves, Simon is not Black in the book.
Andrea Martucci: Yes. Then the book cover with him, with the Black actor on the cover is a lot.
Margo Hendricks: It's marketing. It is a whole lot. I saw that and I thought, and this is capitalism at work.
Andrea Martucci: We've packaged this to put the veneer
Margo Hendricks: ooh diversity.
Andrea Martucci: I just did magic waving hands.
Margo Hendricks: Okay. And then you get inside and unless Quinn rewrote the characters so that he becomes Black hello, historical accuracy people, cover and context? Let's talk, but so I think [00:42:30] for me, you're absolutely right. I think there are multiple layers of historicity at work.
One the actual history, which again, we can never really know because there are people who are shapers of history and we don't have their accounts.
It's the fact that, you have Black people, you have Brown people. You have Asian people walking around 19th century London, very prosperous people. They don't show up in the histories. Or if they do, there are millions of documents that you have to wade through to find them because they will represent themselves not, I'm not a Black Londoner, I'm a Londoner. I'm not a Black Birminghamer, because they're from Birmingham.
Andrea Martucci: Like Asians in Asia are not like I'm an Asian, they're like I'm Chinese or -
Margo Hendricks: Yeah, I'm Japanese or I'm Punjabi. I'm, regional, all that stuff. It's the same with Britain. We say English, we don't distinguish between the English and the Scots and the English and the Irish and the English and the Welsh. But we should just like, we don't distinguish between those from Newcastle and the those from Birmingham and so on. The North and the South, East and the West. They do.
So there's this collapsing that goes on. That's one level of historical narratives that whiteness produces. And that we can't get into the minds of the people who lived the experience. So if you start from that presumption, the question is, how do we do that?
First of all, if you're going to do, in my opinion a show, a media show, narrative like Netflix did with this. If you're gonna do one honestly, don't set it in the aristocracy. You're likely to find mixed race marriage among middle-class folks than you are within the aristocracy.
Why is it the celebration of the aristocracy? We know that history and the point is why do we keep replicating it? Readers say, I will read this because it's an escape, it's entertainment, I don't have to think about it. I'm not part of that. It's nothing that speaks to me. That's one.
Andrea Martucci: Can I pause there for a second?
Margo Hendricks: Sure.
Andrea Martucci: That's what they say because they have been acculturated to fetishize power.
Margo Hendricks: Yes, exactly.
Andrea Martucci: And wealth,
Margo Hendricks: But [00:45:00] less what else? Because
Andrea Martucci: No, born - you're, you're right. It's like that, I was born special.
Margo Hendricks: Yes.
Andrea Martucci: And above all others. Yes.
Margo Hendricks: Yes. Yes. It is that hierarchy.
The wealth is actually - that's why I said, represent middle-class.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
Margo Hendricks: It is one of the reasons why. Okay. So I'm... I'm mad . And I will say this. If you're going to do a series, a romance series that works, and I have some problems with the representation of my boy Cam Rohan, who I adore him, and Derek Craven. I mean, love Love. But Lisa Kleypas should have been the person chosen, not Julia Quinn. Because I think what she does brilliantly is to show the dynamics of wealth and power that's shifting in the 19th century with the rise of the bourgeoisie or with the settlement of the bourgeoisie, they start to rise earlier.
So I think that would have been interesting. So you're right. There is this readerly perception about what you want to see.
There's also the idea of how beauty is fetishized Let's talk about the way in which we represent beauty . The pale skin. Maybe not necessarily blonde, but once you get white skin, the dark hair, et cetera.
The peculiar way in which the body has to be re configured to fit an idealized version of beauty. But beauty is represented in romance from the standpoint of the male gaze, when in fact it's the female gaze that constructs ideals of beauty in creating the male gaze. If that makes sense.
That's what we're doing in terms of thinking about standards of beauty. Men will marry for money. (Andrea laughs) Okay? Could be the most unattractive person walking, I'm talking historically, as long as you got money, they're going to say, okay, fine. I'll do it. And so where did this ideal come from? The way which beauty becomes gendered -
Andrea Martucci: Okay. So I was watching this like thing about birds and about how they attract their mates. and in the case of birds, it's the male. However, I was thinking about what you were just saying about how the female constructs, what should be attractive to the male gaze and thinking about the ways that female standards of beauty, it's like the one upmanship, right? Okay, first we had [00:47:30] pink lips. Nope. Now we got to go red. Now we gotta go purple. Now we gotta go black. Or the hair it's big now it's bigger. The boobs, like they like boobs, let's make them bigger, bigger, bigger.
It's the idea of women competing for mates then creates competition between women to one up each other in this department, which then as you put it, influences what the male gaze then finds attractive.
Margo Hendricks: Exactly. And the idea of beauty shifts constantly . I'm sorry. Some of these little skinny ass white women would not get husbands in the 16th century, they don't look like they eat.
Andrea Martucci: Cause they don't look like they could bear healthy children.
Margo Hendricks: Yeah, they can't bear healthy children. The first child they're gonna die and the man's gonna have to go find another wife .
You know, so, wealth first, money, what can you bring me? And then what is your body type? And in order to know that body type, we need clothing that'll reveal to us what that body looks like. So I do find it very interesting this obsession about clothing and constrictive clothing to mask the body type so that you can't see what kind of body you're getting in order to reproduce. I find it completely fascinating, but that was a tangent.
Andrea Martucci: The whiteness, the fetishization of whiteness.Marker [00:48:44]
Margo Hendricks: My favorite book is Indigo. I love Indigo. I just wrote a chapter on Forbidden, but I still come back to Indigo because I just love Galen Vachon. That man is so hot. Him and Derek Craven are my two boys. But the level of work that needs to be done can be done.
Just stop going to Google all the time and actually do the library. It's there. The example is there, why won't white historical romance authors do this with England? Okay.
Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina wrote a book on Black People in London Before Emancipation. That's the title. That book's been out for decades.
Does anyone use it? No. The only reason why people now turn to it is because Vanessa Riley used it, but that book's been out there. The work has been done. It's frustrating. Why is it the only Black writers, Brown writers, Asian writers go to these archives and these historical studies and white writers refuse to. They refuse to, it's not that they didn't know, it's a refusal.
Eloise James is a Shakespearen. Don't have much touch with her. I'm going to be honest, but I know her. The work [00:50:00] that I've done, Imtiaz Habib has done in terms of Black lines, et cetera, in the 17th century. All that work. Gerzina's work, it's been there. Why? It's a choice.
It's a choice they make. It's racism and I'm going to call it that because you have a choice, you can find the work easily. There are so many academic people on Twitter right now, talking about this, and you can still write historical romance set in the 18th century or the 19th century or the 17th century or the 16th century and not represent any people of color.
Any people of African ancestry? Impossible. I got called out on mine When I wrote Fates Match, I had a reviewer, first of all, was angry because my hero is a "slaver". Not really. He captures a Spanish ship with enslaved people on it. You don't know what happens after that, but yeah. And then someone actually said they had a hard time with the idea of this miscegenated relationship in the 16th century between, and I'm like, did you even read the book?
Okay. If you actually read, there's a line in there that says his mother's Algerian, and, I'm like don't get hung up on colorism because there are white Africans. There are Black Africans. There are Brown Africans. But this idea that somehow there's a perception that Black people didn't exist in this period as free people. As people working as people living, loving, et cetera, and that the only role for people of African ancestry for Black peoples is enslavement is wrong.
Andrea Martucci: I made notes on that in here in the archives piece that you shared with me, which there's a lot of notes on here. So first of all, I wrote Beverly Jenkins next to the part about "the claim making of history has always been intention with the disciplinary requirements of historical research. It comes as no surprise that the originary works in the field of African-American history are painstakingly, indeed, sometimes painfully, well-documented. And I think of how Beverly Jenkins, in order to quote unquote, justify for readers, let's say primarily white readers, that what she is writing about is historically accurate.
Margo Hendricks: Not even say primarily. She's justifying it for white readers. Black readers don't need that justification. Okay.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
Margo Hendricks: You can say non-Black readers cause Black readers, we know this. It's there and that's [00:52:30] the heartbreaking stuff. We know this, we've done our homework. We've done it.
And then to say prove it.
Andrea Martucci: So the other part and I think I have a couple of things to pull together. So Alyssa Cole her American historical romance series, An Unconditional Freedom is book two, I believe, is one that I'm the most familiar with because I talked about it with Katrina Jackson, and I got a lot of the historical context there and something that was in this archive piece was the conversation about how in the archive you see this clear picture of how controlling who is considered to be, like what their racial heritage is. I was thinking about how Alyssa Cole in An Unconditional Freedom had the character Janetta, who was the daughter of a white slave owner and she became his wife, but she was enslaved. The child of these two people. And how her concept of herself was, cause as a modern reader, you're like, how did she not understand herself to be a biracial woman or a Black woman?
And it's because there's like this trickiness with how the ideology had to position her to disempower her so that there couldn't be like an enlargening of the number of people who were granted privilege. And thinking about this in terms of whose stories are being told and you made the point earlier about like, why do we need to keep telling the stories of the aristocracy. There are plenty of Black merchants in London who are quite successful and, you could write lush stories about if that's what you really wanted. Why are we not getting those stories?
And I think of An Unconditional Freedom, which takes place during the Civil War and what you were talking about earlier with this concept that the only stories worth being told are the ones of those in the most powerful position and the concept that there's no interesting stories or no agency of, or there's no ability to find love , for Black people in this time in America, because they are enslaved or at risk of enslavement or what have you, because of the conditions of the time.
"Oh, those stories can't be romantic. Those stories can't be interesting." And to tie it to one other thing, it's like how you frame the problem in the romance genre. Is the problem that there's not enough Black billionaires or is the problem that there's too many billionaires? What [00:55:00] problem are we trying to solve?
Margo Hendricks: Okay. Those are two different problems. Okay. Margo off the top of the hip flippant answer. There are not enough Black billionaires until we have enough then I'm want to see more. Okay. Because that's when you can then begin to say. I've had it with billionaires.
I love that all of a sudden that we're seeing Black billionaires and multimillionaires, et cetera, who are not white and people are saying, Oh, I've had it with this. Excuse me.
Andrea Martucci: It is convenient timing.
Margo Hendricks: But it's convenient, but there's another question underlying all of this, and it has to do with, again, going back to the educational system, what gets taught.
And I'm going to say K to 12, because honestly, what we saw a week ago is an example of that. So many people don't know crap all about the civil war. So many people know crap all about the antebellum and postbellum U S history that you had Black people who weren't enslaved. You had like people who were merchants and lawyers and teachers and so on. The population was small and this is why I think I don't get it. How can you not read- I'm going to keep coming back to Beverly Jenkins because I think she does something a little bit different. Even the works that she does that are set in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the Reconstruction period. The historicals that she writes, she is not representing Black trauma.
I'm not saying that it isn't there, but she doesn't represent it. I'm not going to feed white supremacist need for Black trauma. So you can say, Oh my God, I feel so sorry for them. That was then this is now the expectation about what kind of Blackness is going to get represented. What kind of Black history is going to represented ?
She ripped that to shreds in her historical work. I think the idea of the Black billionaire, of the Brown billionaire, of the Asian billionaire. That's being ripped to shreds constantly with contemporary romances. It's ironic that where people have the most tension [00:57:30] is I'm going to say, pre-Civil War US. And Americas and pre Emancipation Britain and Spain in Europe, because we don't do enough. That's where you have to actually do the historical work to find out that, Oh my God, this is not true. Whiteness walking was not walking by itself.
The second book and my Daughter's of Saria series. The one I had the most fun with, which was set in a brothel. The shapeshifter is based on, she owned a brothel. They kept busting her. She kept getting free, but her name was Anne Stewart.
And she was called the Queen of Morocco and she's a Black woman. And they would arrest her because she had clothes that were too expensive. She wasn't married. She had money on her all the time and she would be arrested in a brothel. Or she'd be arrested with entertaining clients, but her clients were members of the Gentry and the aristocracy. But she was living at the time during James's reign and she claims that her father was King James the first.
So there's this narrative about her and I came across it in the archives and I use that for the basis of my character. I have archival material on this, but people don't want to do the work. So they'll write a late 17th century Restoration novel, and there'll be no Black people in there at all when they're there. If I can do it, you can do it.
I think that's what Beverly Jenkins has said repeatedly with her books. She may not have said this directly. Hey folks, I did it. You can do it, but she does it with her books and the same people who will read her books, voraciously will turn around and write an historical romance set in the 19th century.
Either in U S or in England and not replicate that complex diverse history. It's willfulness. It is not ignorance at this point. It is not ignorance. It's a choice that people make. And that's, I think something we have to realize just as we say, writers, readers, have a choice. Writers have a choice.
And and then the issue that for me is problematic and what [01:00:00] again, what Jenkins does and we need to own it. Is that the idea of hereditary race or race being a hereditary in genetic sense category in the United States as Morgan shows in that essay was in a 1662 law. And the reason for that is the child took on the status of the father up until that point.
So if your father was free, you are free, you are technically white. And that law became canon law throughout English colonial America, so that you see the transference of patrilineal heredity. To matrilineal heredity to serve a white supremacist agenda.
And so what does it mean? When we think about that, when we're writing the past. The same, when we say England didn't have enslavement as part of its social fabric. England, and not English colonialism, but England which is true. People would go to England and, I'm free and settle, et cetera. And there were communities that worked for them.
Why is it that people don't deal with that? What does it mean for the person to leave Barbados or Virginia? When I go to England become free. What happens to them? Think about that. Think about that skilled labor et cetera. So it's like the imagination shuts down. So that even if you represent working class people, and then we have, Oh my God, do we have a bias against working class people? White working class people. I'm like, gosh.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that this is - okay, so let me come back to the Black billionaire thing. This is, look, this is me. I'm going to talk about the real world for a second.
Margo Hendricks: Okay.
Andrea Martucci: I don't think anybody should have billions of dollars. Like billions. Like the way the economy is now millions, by the time you retire is not that much. If you want to retire, quote-unquote comfortably, like that's not absurd. So when I'm thinking of that framing, I'm also saying, is the problem in romance that there aren't enough Black Dukes or is the problem the aristocracy and that concentration of power and wealth and privilege in a small group of people?
So when we think about like romance narratives, like at romance novels, the genre of romance, as you're talking about Beverly Jenkins. Even when she has characters who are wealthy, they're not aristocracy. They're living a nice life, [01:02:30] right?
There's a story about people living a nice life. And as you said, not like suffering and it's not a pain, struggle narrative. And yet there's this insistence of erasing, I think, like the historical context of the situation and continuing to fetishize that small group of powerful people as the only worthwhile people who have stories worth telling.
Margo Hendricks: Yes. With a capital H.
Andrea Martucci: Right? Yeah. Where do we get this idea? These ideas that those are the only stories worth telling and " well, we all know that only white people can be aristocrats. So therefore only white people can tell these stories."
And if you have a historical romance novelist who wants to tell a British historical story, they're like well, I'm being historically accurate, right? Only white people were Dukes and duchesses and whatever. And you could even get into, there were incentives to keep the group of people in this group very small and not even let in like wealthy white people, right? Like we need to keep this amongst ourselves and hoard this power.
I think, part of my hypothesis is that a lot of American romance novelists who write historical romance prefer to jump over to England, A because they have the aristocracy. They have the people who were born into power and privilege to play with. It's this playground, it's this made up history.
And there's the belief that they don't have to deal with the messiness of America's racial past, without A acknowledging that England has its own messy racial past.
Margo Hendricks: Absolutely.
Andrea Martucci: And B, and related to that, a lot of times these wealthy people may not have a plantation with enslaved people working on it like themselves, but they are financially benefiting from that system in some way.
How else do they get this immense wealth? It is coming from somewhere. They're not doing the labor. Somebody
Margo Hendricks: That's Right.
Andrea Martucci: They're exploiting somebody.
Margo Hendricks: Yeah. You've A, answered your own question. I'm just putting it out there, which is true. I think the conventions of a particular sub genre, which is the aristocratic Regency. Because Victorian is actually becoming more interesting. I'm leaning more towards reading the Victorian historical romance than the Regency ones. And I think the Regency ones are locked step in a model that is incredibly difficult to break away [01:05:00] from simply by virtue of setting it quote during the Regency interval. I think that's the problem. And again, you're thinking about readership and let's be real. We're not writing romances simply because we want to. We want to, but we do it for money too.
Andrea Martucci: Hopefully you enjoy your job, but you don't do your job for free
Margo Hendricks: And people don't like to talk about that. People like to think about literature and this is why I say we need to remind ourselves that it is literature because we face a double standard on the one hand we faced that monetary monster that is capitalism that keeps us producing books that then sell in order for us to keep producing the books in order to sell. And there's a willingness to allow us to write the books that we want to write as long as they sell.
And if someone says to me that that literature doesn't do that, if they ever said it to my face, I'd bitch slap them.
So I'll verbally do that because literature has always been about the sell. It is never been about just doing it for the nothingness. There were a few writers who could do that, but even there, then monetized their writing in other ways. Patronage. What the heck do people think, Sydney and Shakespeare and all them were doing, they weren't getting their money for free.
So I think that's part of it. And I think the conventions of Regency are probably perceived by readers and writers to be some of the most regimented restrictive romance writing that you can engage in, which is why I would never write a Regency. Never.
Like I said, there are writers who are breaking through that mode. I think Sarah MacLean is just absolutely brilliant with what she does in terms of writing her historicals that she's writing about working class people who make it, but she still plays into the aristocracy because that's what will sell to that large body of readers that she has built. And what keeps her publisher saying, we're going to give you X amount of dollars.
I think that we don't have to hold to that anymore. I really think that there has to be, there is a way for pushing up against that. You just have to be willing to do it. I think there needs to be more platforms that say, look, here's a writer who's doing X and it doesn't fall within this [01:07:30] framework.
There are a lot of independent writers indie writers, self published writers who are writing some fascinating stuff.
Andrea Martucci: Thanks for listening to episode 80 of Shelf Love and thank you to Margo for joining me. A transcript and show notes for this episode can be found on shelflovepodcast.com, including a book list that Margo sent me before we started talking, which was incredibly helpful as I was doing the transcript for this. And I was like, what is she saying there? Because I had the book list to follow along anyways, check the transcript if you're looking for a particular part, but also check out her book list if you're interested in any of the books that she mentioned along the way.
I should mention that I'm working on a research project that is sort of about Bridgerton without actually being about it because full disclosure, like I haven't actually even finished watching it anyways. It's really about how people perceive Bridgerton. And so I don't want to overexplain my theories until I have the data, but honestly, episode 77 and 78 with Jodie Slaughter are a really good explainer for where my head was at when I started noodling on the idea. So you should definitely go listen to those episodes if you haven't already. And if you're curious about like what this research project is about - I didn't have the idea then, but basically that was like the genesis for the idea. So it's kind of like where it started.
If you'd like to take part in my research that I haven't explained just now or learn more about it, please visit bit.ly/romancegateway. Or of course you can find all the information on my website, shelflovepodcast.com
That said I am still going easy on myself in terms of releasing podcast episodes. I'm just loosey goosey guys. Just taking it easy. Playing it by ear, loosey goosey.
I have been doing a shit ton of reading about stereotype content model. I think you'll like it when I get around to talking about it on the podcast more. It's super fun.
Thank you 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].
This episode is produced by Moi Andrea Martucci. Look at me, speaking French. Anyways. Thank you to Shelf Love's editorial advisory board members, Katrina Jackson, and Tasha L Harrison. We three also answer to the Joyless Hags.
That's all for this week. Black lives matter. Stay safe, stay mad and keep reading romance.
Oh, yeah. And I should also mention seeing as how Jodie Slaughter [01:10:00] was kind enough to be part of the conversation that inspired a research project I'm doing. I should mention that To Be Alone With You, a novella by Dame Jodie Slaughter is available as of today, I'm recording this on Monday, March 8th, 2021. This novella is available. As soon as I finish wrapping up this podcast episode, I'm going to go read it.
This is not impartial. I love Jodie Slaughter. Like, I haven't read this yet. I'm sure it's going to be great. Let me tell you what it's about.
It's available on, uh, I believe Kindle Unlimited only. So here's what it's about.
"A decade ago Naomi Porter confessed her love to the handsome enigmatic sculptor her artist mother mentored. 10 years her senior and seemingly uninterested his rejection center reeling. Then it sent her running as far away from him as possible. Now he's more successful than ever, and she's a burnt out personal assistant in desperate need of a vacation only she's too broke to afford a real one.
Her mother's solution? Calling in a favor from an old friend and getting her daughter a week long stay in the luxe guest house of a gorgeous home in the California desert all for free.
The only drawback is that the house belongs to Ira Mack, the man she humiliated herself in front of all those years ago, the man who has somehow managed to become even more compelling in their separation. As desperation sets in, she finds herself with no real choice but to take him up on his offer. The tension between the two is palpable and only manages to grow more intense by the second.
But their past is too painful for Naomi to ignore, no matter how longing his looks or how heated his words make her feel.
When the world implodes less than a week into her stay and COVID-19 clenches the world in its terrifying fist, Ira makes her an offer: a place to stay rent-free until the world puts itself back together.
But every day, the possibility of that happening seems to get farther and farther away and Naomi is forced to deal with both what she wants out of her life and the man she's finding it increasingly more impossible to consider running away from again."
Check it out now it's called To Be Alone With You by Dame Jodie Slaughter.
It's novella. You can buy it for two 99 read it on KU. This is not an ad. This is just me talking about my friend's book. So check it out. Bye.
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antagonist april, audience reception, book discussion, book recommendations, business of books, category romance, contemporary romance, crossover podcast, fanfiction, film discussion, genre discussions, historical romance, joyful hag book club, joyful problematizing, original scholarship, pop culture in the classroom, problematic favorite trope, quarantine romance book club, queer romance, romance in pop culture, romance myths, romance novel discussion, romance novelist representations, romance scholarship, scholarly, scifi and fantasy romance, tell me about, tv show discussion, video available, young adult