Shelf Love

090. Taboo Lite: Joyless Hags Book Club

Short Description

A touch of taboo...the Joyless Hags (Katrina Jackson & Tasha L. Harrison) reunite to dissect Seducing My Guardian by Katee Robert. We ask "What is this book trying to do?" When a book opens a door, does it have to close a window somewhere?! Also some news!


joyful hag book club, contemporary romance, romance novel discussion

Show Notes

A touch of taboo...the Joyless Hags (Katrina Jackson & Tasha L. Harrison) reunite to dissect Seducing My Guardian by Katee Robert. We ask "What is this book trying to do?" When a book opens a door, does it have to close a window somewhere?! Also some news!



Dame Jodie Slaughter River Boat Cruise & Virtual Event with Copper Dog Books! (August 10 & 11, 2021)

I launched a Patreon!

Watch my PCA Presentation about Romance Reader Stereotypes!

Support Honor Black Birth!

Show Notes:

Shelf Love:


Katrina Jackson: Twitter | Instagram | Kat’s Email newsletter | Buy Beautiful & Dirty

Kat's other episodes: An Unconditional Freedom | Polyamory/Financial Conversations | Kink | Angst | Religion | History | Blind Date With A Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden | Modern Romance Canon

Tasha L. Harrison: Twitter | Tasha's website | Buy A Taste of Her Own Medicine

Tasha's other episodes: Tasha L. Harrison Writes Romance for Black People | A Duke by Default

We Discuss:

Seducing My Guardian by Katee Robert

Previous Joyless Hags Book Club Episodes:

083. Earth is Ghetto: Joyless Hags Book Club


[00:00:00]Andrea Martucci:   Hello. It is me, Andrea Martucci host of Shelf Love. I have a few quick announcements before we jump into the episode with the joyless hags, Tasha and Katrina. First of all, doot doot doot doo. I am back from my summer hiatus. This is my official announcement.

Part of the reason that I went on hiatus was so that I could wrap up my research on romance reader, stereotypes, which I presented at the Popular Culture Association Conference in early June.

You can watch my presentation on YouTube. I recorded a version to share since the actual conference itself required you to register to see it. So if you are interested in hearing me share the research that I did on romance reader stereotypes, I created a channel for Shelf Love on YouTube, and of course you can find the link in the show notes.

And I also have a post on my website, Shelf Love Podcast dot com, which includes more information about the work that I referenced in the presentation, as well as a link to the YouTube video I hope you enjoy it.

I also launched a Patreon. You can find  it at ShelfLove. You'll hear more about some of the changes that I'm making in season three, which is coming fall 2021. But one of my goals is to use my time wisely and delegate. Today's episode was the first episode ever of Shelf Love that has been edited slash transcribed by somebody other than me.

In fact, it was edited and transcribed by the lovely Jhen who is the host of Monogamish. You may remember her from visits as a guest on Shelf Love. Of course, I am going to pay people fairly for their time, so this is not an insignificant given how long it takes to edit and transcribe. And I am paying for that out of pocket at the moment. So the Patreon is to support editing and transcribing with the goal of me then having more time to create even more awesome content, including in other formats, such as making videos or doing more written first content

So if you get value out of this podcast, and if you are able, I hope you consider supporting Shelf Love on Patreon. The tiers start at $3 a month and I'll be adding more perks as the community grows. Right now, all patrons will receive access to a private Discord community where you can talk about romance, get behind the scenes info, and have discussions about the podcast with other listeners.

Patrons who support Shelf Love at the $3 and $10 tiers will be listed on the Shelf Love website as patrons, and at $20 a month, patrons will be named in episodes as supporters. I'm thankful for the two patrons who have signed up for that top tier, which is called the Joyful Hag tier. First of all, thank you to Gail Martucci my mother-in-law who support extends to so many areas of my life. [00:03:00] And also thank you to Copper Dog Books. Links to the Patreon are in the show notes. And on my website. That URL again is Shelf Love. I appreciate you all for listening to the podcast. And I hope that if you're able to do so that you consider supporting Shelf Love on Patreon.

  So speaking of Copper Dog Books, which is my genre affirming local, independently owned bookstore, I'm thrilled to announce that we are collaborating on a very exciting in-person and virtual event with the one, the only Dame, Jodie Slaughter, romance, author, and general charming troublemaker.

Mark your calendars for August 10th and 11th, 2020. On Tuesday, August 10th, you can join Jodie and I on a river boat cruise on the Essex River Queen, which leaves from Essex, Massachusetts. If you are nearby, it will be a great chance to meet Jodie and I in-person as well as mingle with other local romance, readers, writers, and booksellers. Tickets are $20 and you can find more information on

For most of you who do not live in the area on Wednesday, August 11th at 7:00 PM, eastern time, we are streaming a virtual event on location in Copper Dog Books. Registration for the virtual event is free. You can also order Jodie's books through Copper Dog Books, and Jodie will sign them after the event.

Again. All the information and links to sign up can be found on Copper Dog And of course, I will have links on my website and in the show notes.

Now onto the episode, back from hiatus.

Hello and welcome to episode 90 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 guests today are Katrina Jackson and Tasha L Harrison. Shelf Love's  esteemed editorial advisory board is here, which means that the joyless hags have assembled for yet another joyless hags book club.

Let's start with some quick introductions. I'm Andrea, host of Shelf Love, and I'm a joyless hag today because of generational wealth and capitalism, and how those who already have tons of money, have the resources and time to succeed at other things. Tasha, who are you and why are you a joyless hag today?

Tasha L. Harrison: That's raised the bar a little bit. I'm a joyless hag today because police brutality is still a thing that we need to discuss and act like it exists.

Andrea Martucci: Agreed. And something definitely to be joyless over .  Katrina, who are you and why are you a joyless hag today?

Katrina Jackson: I'm Katrina Jackson.

I write erotica and erotic romance. And this actual chat is why I'm a joyless hag  because what is this heavy stuff? What are we doing here? Like I don't come here for this.

Tasha L. Harrison: We came here [00:06:00] to talk about

Katrina Jackson: Life is already a lot.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. Look, if I was truly just going to be like, what is actually bothering me, I'd talk about my hair, but I was trying to tie it into the book.

Tasha L. Harrison: Oh, okay. This makes sense.

Katrina Jackson: Well, I'm a joyless hag because of white supremacy then I guess, I don't know.

Tasha L. Harrison: I'm a joyless hag  because I can't believe that Instagram influencers make so much money.

Andrea Martucci: That's what I'm talking about. That's what I'm talking about. So speaking of what are we here for, we got to the end of last joyless hag book club, and we were like, that was fun. We should do this on a semi-regular basis. And then we were like okay. Mostly me. I was like, we should come up with some parameters here. What are we doing? What are our goals here? How are we structuring this?

And so I think what we came up with, and you two need to keep me honest here, was that the joyless hags book club would obviously be a gathering of the joyless hags in which one person recommends a book that they enjoyed. And we would go around counter-clockwise and that person has to have read and vetted the thing and be confident that we can have a meaty conversation about said book.

And I think that was it. Were there any other criteria that we came up with or that you think we should add now?

Tasha L. Harrison: That the listeners should know?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: That this conversation is not predicated on the idea that someone's dislike of a book makes the book unworthy or hurts my feelings or anything like that.

Andrea Martucci: That was definitely the lesson of our inaugural book club. Yes. Agreed. Tasha, thank you for reiterating that. Katrina, anything to add?

Katrina Jackson: No. I don't care.



Tasha L. Harrison: Why are you...She is legit joyless and discontent right now.

Andrea Martucci: I okay

Katrina Jackson: I really don't care about most things. I'm just like, whatever. Like. Okay.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. I do think though that , because we want to have a fun conversation, I think we intended on choosing books that were pushing the envelope a little bit more. So not necessarily choosing books that are our top favorite, that we only are like, this is a great book and everybody should read it.  I don't know, it problematizes everything perfectly.

Tasha L. Harrison: No, I don't think we ever agreed on that. We don't need to problematize everything perfectly. We're just examining the work for what it's doing in the book.

Katrina Jackson: I also think relative to that, I'm not really interested in talking about like the new hot book on the New York Times bestseller list. I don't really care. I don't read a lot of trad pub anyway, but I don't really care about reading, the perfect example of romance, because I think that's also debatable and it's super individual, like what we, we think about that. But also I think having conversations about things that vary in  sub genre and like length or what the author is trying to do or form, that's actually more interesting to me

Tasha L. Harrison: Was, is this book good? Do you love it? If you love it, I hate it. And if you hate it. I don't love you.

Andrea Martucci: Well, I mean, books that are like in a binary of was this good or bad that's a really boring conversation. So I, yeah, maybe it's fair to say that the underlying goal is that we want to choose a [00:09:00] book where we can have a good conversation.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. And the book that at least one of us enjoyed  too. Cause I also think like having a conversation about a book that you all hate is actually not fruitful.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. That's just a hate read and a hate discussion.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah I don't hate read anymore.

Tasha L. Harrison: No,

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Katrina Jackson: I've been burned.


Andrea Martucci: Same. Okay. So along those lines, Tasha, you brought today's book.

So can you please share the book that we read and tell us why you wanted us to read it? How'd you find it? What did you enjoy about it?

Tasha L. Harrison: That's a lot. That's loaded. The book is Seducing My Guardian, A Touch of Taboo by Katee Robert. I chose the book because number one, I'm just a huge fan of her as a person. Have been for a long time.

Her first series with Forever the O'Malley series. I reviewed that for Romantic Times Magazine back in 2017. So I've been a fan of her since then. And I read pretty much everything she's written and just initially the whole taboo series, just watching her joyfully, write it online was what drew me to it.

Like just her deciding I'm going to write whatever the fuck I want and just the pure joy that came with that, like I was 100% into reading what came out of it.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. And I feel like we should also give a brief disclosure about any of our personal relationships with Katee. So I will say Katee has been a guest on Shelf Love and I guess I would categorize my relationship with Katee as like a Twitter acquaintance slash she was somebody who was a guest, so I have spoken to her on the podcast.

So that's me. Tasha, are you in a writer's group with Katee?

Tasha L. Harrison: She's in my writer's group. She's a member of Wordmakers. She's been in for about six months now, I think. She's just a joy and a delight to have around. Like, for one, she's just prolific. She decides to do something, it's done by the end of the day.

She's like, Oh, I need a  paperback store. By five o'clock that evening, everything is set up, graphics, everything.

Katrina Jackson: I am also on Wordmakers, but I show up as infrequently as I show up literally everywhere else but Twitter.

Tasha L. Harrison: She's a flake. Just, she's a flake

Katrina Jackson: I'm not a flake. I'm just here sometimes

Tasha L. Harrison: She's in the group and  will literally ask while we're doing write-ins, is anybody writing?

Katrina Jackson: It's like a lot.  I'm not a joiner. And word makers is very much a community and they're like always there and they have their favorite Times and whatever people to write with.

And I'm like, Oh, I have a book I need to finish. Literally Today. I'm in every write-in and then I don't show up for two weeks.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. True. True.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. So what is this book about? Seducing My Guardian, A Touch of Taboo series. Here's the synopsis: "on the night, my parents die, I meet a sexy stranger who tells me he is my new guardian. Before I can as much as blink, he ships me off to boarding school and then ignores me for three years until he shows up on my 19th birthday to save me from myself. For six years that's his routine, show up on my birthday, save [00:12:00] me, tempt me, and then send me on my way when the chemistry between us sizzles too hot. That all ends tonight.

I'm 25 and at midnight I get control of my trust fund. After this. I never have to see Devin again, and he'll no longer drive me crazy with his devastating dominance. This year, all I want for my birthday is 24 hours with my guardian. After nine years of taboo desires and built up lust, I have a lot of unfulfilled fantasies to act out." And scene.

Tasha L. Harrison: Why are synopses so hilarious to me. I don't know why

Andrea Martucci: I think that synopsis pretty much tells you everything you need to know about what is going to happen in this book.

Tasha L. Harrison: That's it.

Andrea Martucci: That's the plot. So  Katrina. What did you expect coming into this book?

Katrina Jackson: I don't know, honestly, I don't have any idea. I read what's his book, like three, the series, like three books right now. It's four. It's already four? What's the fourth one.

Tasha L. Harrison: It was Your Dad Will Do, Gifting Me to His Best Friend.

My Dad's Best Friend.

Katrina Jackson: Oh, yeah, I read one of them. I've tried to read one other. What was I expressing when Tasha suggested this book? That I was going to think it was too long and there was too much sex. And that is exactly how I felt when I finished. .

Tasha L. Harrison: Which is completely off brand,

Katrina Jackson: It's totally off brand. And I don't know what it is. I really like Katee's writing. I remember when she wrote the first book in this series, like we all just watch her Instagram, like having the whole time of her life and I loved it. Yeah. She's actually the reason why Brandy Bush exists. Cause I like watched her and it was really great.

But I tried the first one, Your Dad Will Do.  I maybe got to the second scene and I was like, they are still in this goddamn living room. Can we, I just, and I love sex scenes. I love long sex scenes, but there's just something about this series in particular that I'm just like, is the plot moving?

Is there a plot? Like what's happening? And it's too much sex for the length and so little plot for the length, but around about 20% of my brain just gives up. The only one I got through was Gifting Me to his Best Friend. Cause that is my very particular kink.

So it also depends on if she writes your kink, how you can appreciate the book. So I knew that there was going to be an issue for me.

Andrea Martucci: Okay.  Getting into our thoughts on

Tasha L. Harrison: Hold on, what did you expect?

Andrea Martucci: Me. Oh, what did I think going in? I think it was pretty much what I expected it was going to be, where it was a concept. This is a taboo and, we're just full on exploring this concept.

I think I was eventually surprised at how traumatized our main character was and like how much that impacted the emotional journey of the book. And  so I think coming in, I didn't really expect that was going to happen. I fully expected it to be focused on this taboo.

Tasha L. Harrison: Which is fair because  when I read this one, I wasn't expecting her to [00:15:00] be like broken.

Katrina Jackson: I actually like that part.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. I liked that part, but out of the four books, this is the only book that has like a major character wound.

Andrea Martucci: Well, And so maybe I expected coming in, that it would be like lighter and lighter in the sense that it's not delving into the characterization so much and really just leaning hard into this taboo, kinky, fun?

Katrina Jackson: Are any of them fun though?

Tasha L. Harrison: No, they're all angsty.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. They all have this sort of like weird angst and depth to them, which I really like, which also for me then tends to be the problem because there's so much more that could be explored and then I'm like waiting for it. And then instead they're like having anal and I'm like, okay well, all right.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Katrina Jackson: Like. Emotion or anal?

Andrea Martucci: In fact, the female main character, in order to avoid talking about emotions, suggests anal.

Katrina Jackson: Right.

(Katrina Laughs)

Tasha L. Harrison: Classic avoidance, let's not talk about the thing that's actually bothering me. I think this is actually a  completely fair assessment. Number one, Katee doesn't write light and bouncy, so I've never expected that from her.  It can be fun, but in a cruel way sometimes, But you, this was your first time reading her, right?

Andrea Martucci: Yes yeah. I have intended on reading Katee Roberts books for probably at least the last year, and this is no shade to Katee and her work.

Tasha L. Harrison: She has a shit ton of books.

Katrina Jackson: She has so many books.

Andrea Martucci: She has a lot of books and I'm interested in the concepts, but I always feel like I have to have this excuse of I just usually have reading assignments that I have to read for one reason or another.

So if I need to read a book, it needs to be an assignment.

Katrina Jackson: That's terrible actually

Tasha L. Harrison: Yes. You need to figure out how to read for pleasure again, that's actually horrible.

Andrea Martucci: I totally agree. So anyways, this was an assignment, but also I enjoyed reading it. Tasha. I know you wanted to talk about how Katee is like walking this line, because one of the things that I sent to the group chat, I went to go buy this book and I, search in Amazon Seducing My Guardian and Katee's book pops up.

And then the next five or six books, at the top of this search result, are books that are very clearly marketed in such a way and titled in such a way where they're leaning into a keyword of a taboo or a kink. And  I guess I would say straight up kink erotica.  So yeah say more about that.

Tasha L. Harrison: So the thing that I really admire the most about what she's doing with these touch of taboo books is that number one, she's writing like very specific id  driven books. You know what I mean? Like it's tapping into a very specific id, but it's just a mind fuck. It's not entirely taboo because the people who were participating in it are actually adults.

So like this one in particular was about her fantasizing and him fantasizing being with her before she was an adult. And now that she's actually an adult, they're going back and talking about how they fantasize about being with each other.

Katrina Jackson: Not when she was not an adult though. Like she was an adult in every single [00:18:00] detail, even in the. From 19 on. Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: She was a legal adult, but even still, he thought that was still, a plus he was her guardian and he thought that was.

Katrina Jackson: Right. Right.

Andrea Martucci: There's a power dynamic at play that they're very conscious of.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yes. So I think it just, it taps into that id and then also having the couple actively discuss the taboo and why they didn't do it then and why it's okay now or maybe not okay. It's playing with the taboo idea, but not actually doing it. And I like in that search, like I did the same thing after you sent the screenshot. And I was just like, yeah, all of these books are actually taboo, erotica. They're not playing with an idea. They're actually 17, 16 year old kids.

Katrina Jackson: Yikes.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. And I think that what's happening is, because these books do really well for her, is that she's tapping into those people who are into taboo, but actually have some moral fiber about them that they're like, eh, I don't want to, you know what I mean?

Like I'm not really into reading about, teenagers, but like the idea of this is interesting to me and those people are the ones that are buying the books, like she's toeing the line.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. There are many explicit conversations in this book about that. And I think that you're right, that Katee is tapping into Like, why are these taboos titillating for us? And most people feel shame for having this because they know that engaging in the actual taboo itself is harmful to people. And so this is very interesting on acknowledging it, allowing the participants who are all consenting adults, and consent, I think, is like a very big part of this.

They communicate very clearly about the scene that they're about to engage in. It allows them to indulge in that it leans into the like, Ooh, I'm not supposed to be doing this, but also nobody's getting hurt.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Which. just thinking about the whole in terms of like this taboo in this series. So like the first book in the series was a daddy kink. Isn't it like a cheating fiance and then she with her cheating fiance's dad. Yes. So that's, again, like it's playing with the daddy kink, but obviously not her dad.

The second one is cuckold fantasy or is it just a threesome?

Katrina Jackson: Kind of It's a bit of a cuckold fantasy.

Tasha L. Harrison: A bit of.

Andrea Martucci: But a consenting.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. And it's like a softball of the cuckold fantasy. Like the idea of it is implanted during the actual book, not something that the character came to the page wanting.

Does that make sense? It wasn't something that he was fantasizing about just sitting there and watching them have sex. But once the idea was implanted in his head, that's where it went.

Katrina Jackson: Well, no. It was

Tasha L. Harrison: Cause he was in love with both of them,

Katrina Jackson: But the cuckold is her husband.  It's not the best friend, it's her husband because you remember in that first scene, they talk [00:21:00] about that being of them like cheating, they're playing at cheating. So the cuckold is her husband  and then you discover that he was in love with both of them and the two dudes they're like childhood friends and they'd been in love for awhile and the timing never worked. But yeah,  it's like a round of about cuckold.

Cause that's not really the fantasy. It's also, now that you think about it, what is the taboo there? Is it just the threesome? Yeah. There's not really a taboo.

Tasha L. Harrison: It's really just about the whole gifting thing. Like for Christmas, it's almost as if the heroine involved in the threesome like she doesn't have any agency, like he's giving her to his best friend, but that doesn't yeah, it doesn't pan out that way.

And I think that's pretty much  the theme for all of these books.  Like none of them actually pan out to be the exact fantasy.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Because even in this one, they play with the whole like virginity trope and  it's very, self-aware  she's like, no, I don't actually put stock in this.

But it's fun to play with that I'm losing my virginity.

Katrina Jackson: I could have done without that, to be honest.  Cause it came before they did it. So it undercut everything that came after. I was like, Ooh, I wish it had come either later or not at all.

Tasha L. Harrison: I think that one, when it comes to how it was executed, there were a lots of tropes that were presented.

So like those, the one thing we can talk about too, there's like a locked door mystery feeling going on here. It's like in every one of these books, the characters are trapped with each other in this one space. It's forced proximity to the max, and the first one she went to visit the dad and he wouldn't let her leave.

And the second one with the best friend, they were snowed in during a Christmas. Same thing with the the best friend's dad. She went to see him to confront him about something. And then a thunderstorm happened. She couldn't leave. Like she couldn't get off Island. It was a ferry or whatever.

And this one kind of the same thing, it's limited to 24 hours, they're trapped in her room. So there's like this locked door thing that she's doing, where everything happens in that one space, which I feel like would probably be navigated a little bit better as far as pacing goes. In this one, I feel like there was a lot of tropes juggling.

There was every scenario, it was like a very specific trope and it's  like, okay, do we need to have this trope? Or could we just done something emotionally here?

Andrea Martucci: Because  they're reenacting, of her six birthdays, they're trying to reenact five of them. And she really tries to stick to that structure for at least the first three and then things start to fall apart.

But  that's a lot, like that's a lot of scenarios.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. I think the other problem to it for me, at least with it, cause the pacing is my big issue and I've said that like it just feels like it drags on when it shouldn't and it goes too fast when it also shouldn't. So I never really get my bearings.

But there's this way in this one in particular where it's like walking you through the tropes also walks you through the explanation of the kink and we don't need it as often as we get it. So like that first virginity one where she's like, I don't put any stock in virginity. And you're like, okay I didn't need this paragraph because it was very much like I'm going to pretend to be a Virgin. Or I [00:24:00] was a Virgin that I think is right. She tells him,

Tasha L. Harrison: That was already implied.

Katrina Jackson: No, she literally tells him right before that, that she was a virgin. And  he's sort of like, excuse me. I didn't expect that. And then the very next, or like right after it's like, I don't put any stock in that.

And it's like, okay, girl I don't care. Like. Just Fuck

Andrea Martucci: Maybe that's the self-consciousness.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, because again, Tasha is right. She's playing with it, so she's never really delving into it. So I understand why she has the explanation, cause she's pointing out cause it's just play. But she does it for every single one.

Every setup has that moment where it's I don't really believe in this or this doesn't really matter. Or six years ago it doesn't feel like that. And it was like, okay girl, I get it. You're an adult, he's an adult.

Tasha L. Harrison: Like the overarching trope really is just age play. Both of them are turned on by age play. So  once that's established, I don't think it really needs to be repeated again. So yes, that part made the scenes overlong and it didn't need to be like. Every single birthday explored.

Katrina Jackson: Cause it was just a reminder of that,  but if you buy into it and she sets it up in such a way that you absolutely can buy into it.

Yeah, I did. I did too. I thought again, the first 20% of this book, like I remember I was texting y'all I was like, loved it.

Tasha L. Harrison: Wait a minute. I'm only on chapter 5.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.  And it moves so quickly and the sex was like fire. I was like, let's do it. And then I was like, okay, we're back here again. Got it. It's just,  the stop start of the story, not of their relationship.

And that part is really difficult for me.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. I feel like the relationship issues like in big peak moments. Those scenes were probably shorter than I wanted.

Katrina Jackson: They were too short.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. The scenes where she was really confronting,  the feelings, both of them were confronting their feelings where each other were too short.

I would prefer those scenes to be longer and more impactful than to have multiple role-playing going on.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, she talked about that birthday that he wanted to skip, and then she agreed with it. and I don't, remember what happened on that birthday,

Andrea Martucci: It was the one where she was roofied.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah she was roofied.

Katrina Jackson: Oh! Okay. Okay. I wanted that. I feel like

Tasha L. Harrison: That would have been good to have on page.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.  not necessarily the recounting the story, but like  when he's slipping and talking about having her longer and she's like slipping and feeling the same way I didn't get it.

And I'm like, I didn't buy into any of those emotions,  not at a sort of depth, that it's supposed to be at that moment. And that's because at every point that there was a time to talk about how they have been developing this relationship. And like she considered him like her guardian angel.

And I'm like, cause he showed up one day a year? And he was there like, I didn't get it right.

Tasha L. Harrison: But it was compounded by the fact that her birthday is also the day that her parents died. So this is why I want more emotional impact on the actual, the day where she got roofied. I think  discussing that more in depth would have been good characterization for both characters because then to [00:27:00] me, it seems like when it went beyond physical attraction to actual emotional attraction.

Andrea Martucci: Because that's the one time in all of these years of birthdays where they are together, where she is not being a total drunk mess, because she apparently like wakes up in the morning and he makes her breakfast or they get breakfast together in some way.

So every other time that they are in contact with each other, she is acting out and usually drunk. I don't think there was one of these birthdays where she was not like almost blackout drunk. And so I think the question I have about this is I have a similar feeling about wanting more emotional depth and  my questions are like, what do their lives look like every other day of the year?

Like we don't get any sense that Devin actually knows much about her life beyond what he can see on social media. How does he know her? Like we know that they have known each other for a long time, but they don't really spend any time together. Definitely not time where they are getting to know each other.

Tasha L. Harrison: Except for that one instance. Like that would have been opportunity to talk about it like that one birthday we're actually interacting without him actively trying to keep her from destroying herself.

Katrina Jackson: But he does actually offer her the opportunity to have a conversation and she skates away from it.

And  I go back and forth about it because on the one hand you totally get why. She's just not ready to have an emotional conversation. But then on the other hand, he is actually in those moments or in other moments really clear about there being a thing to talk about.

And then when she leaves, it's of course she doesn't want me. And it's like, what the fuck. We have just watched him say even when they wake up and have just like regular sex and she acknowledges that it is not the role-play she's like, was it a mistake?

And I'm like, when he offered you the opportunity to talk about it, it maybe that was an opening to talk about what's happening here.

Tasha L. Harrison: I think that  also the hero let her skate too much. There was really no confrontation.

Katrina Jackson: Because he doesn't know her. that's why he's too afraid that he'll say the wrong thing and she'll leave, as is she by the way.

And so it's it's hard to buy then that they have developed an emotional connection that could make love at the end of what, 36 hours a possibility when they don't know each other. They have spent no time together.

Andrea Martucci: And this is where, like the question I didn't ask before, but I was getting to was, are we asking this book to be something it's intentionally not trying to be?

Tasha L. Harrison: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: However,

Katrina Jackson: What is it trying to be though?

Andrea Martucci: What is it trying to be and then also it offers the possibility of these things.

Like we're not talking about things that we have made up, right? Like we're talking about things that are on the page. They're just not fully explored. And I think we get a lot of the trauma again and again, the heroine, like I have no constant in my life. The only constant that I have because my parents were cruelly, ripped away from me is Devin showing up once a year.

And he says at one point "You ever get tired of standing [00:30:00] on that pedestal you created Hazel? Of being unfucking touchable?" And the thing that I thought as he is psychoanalyzing her is I'm like, Jesus, I wish that I could find people who upon knowing me for six days and looking at my social media accounts can psychoanalyze me to the extent I would save a lot in therapy if people could just diagnose me like that.

I mean, this is  like a thing that happens in romance a lot where characters are able to diagnose and kind of understand exactly the problem with people.

Tasha L. Harrison: With implied knowledge of the character that isn't really explained. Oh, he only sees her once a year and he follows her social media, which he admits is completely superficial and so does she, so what is he learning?  How is he learning? What is he learning and how is he learning? but what could have solved that was just him being more involved in the back ends like talking to her therapist or whatever

Andrea Martucci: You can't talk to people's therapists! What is this Don Draper?

Tasha L. Harrison: You can, but you can't talk about specifics.

Katrina Jackson: So okay. To deal with Andrea's question. Cause there, I think there are two ways  to fix that problem of them knowing each other. But it really depends on what this book is. If this book is a romance, six days is not enough. If this book is a romance, it's not enough.

I'm sorry. It's just not enough. As erotica six days is enough plus like maybe she had a blog.  Well, you know what I mean? Like That he could read cause I will actually love the social media aspect. Like I really am because I love that it dealt with her sort of presenting herself in a way that everyone knew was totally inauthentic.

Or that she and, he knew that it was totally inauthentic, cause it really does hammer home that she is unable to make these other kinds of connections. And if this is straight up erotica that has maybe like a happy for now ending great. This book ends with them talking about marriage and kids in the future.


Andrea Martucci: This also is told exclusively from the point of view of our female main character. And so I think we also have like literally no sense, and she has no sense, what Devin does. And like, I could never tell like what...

Tasha L. Harrison: Security officer? Bodyguard? What? Is he in law? Is he in science?

Andrea Martucci: Is he a middle manager? I couldn't tell.

Katrina Jackson: He works in tech security, but that line where he goes, wow, what a punch to my ego. You didn't even Google me. And I was like, yeah, she didn't even fucking Google you. I don't understand

Tasha L. Harrison: Also if you're working in tech security, what would she find out? Absolutely nothing.

Andrea Martucci: She did. She did Google him. She couldn't find anything because working in tech security.

Katrina Jackson: Okay. I'm just going to go ahead and say that's inaccurate because she knows  he served with her father in the army. There are things to find, sorry, there are just things to find, right?

Maybe not a wealth of information about his current job, but again, she doesn't know what he does. Like where does he live?

Andrea Martucci: Where does he live?

Katrina Jackson: She knows nothing.

Andrea Martucci: And okay.  Without even trying to unravel the mystery of why her father designated Devin to be her guardian and they served in the army, but her parents are super rich. That part was confusing to me. Like her dad serving in the army.

I was like, there's something incongruent here. Like now I have questions about her parents.

Tasha L. Harrison: There are ways that you could be rich in the army.

Katrina Jackson: I thought the money was already there.

Tasha L. Harrison: I thought the money was already there. Like they already had money. It said they served in the army together, but both of them have separate [00:33:00] careers. So they were no longer in the army. That means that he could have got out. Listen, you could have got out of the army and made money. You know what I mean?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. But I was like, what socioeconomic strata is her family from? But then he sends her off to a boarding school. Like it felt like she existed in this realm of socioeconomic strata that he was not in. And also it didn't make sense, like the connections there. That's what confused me.

Katrina Jackson: No, I got the feeling and this is also true about the other books.  I feel like all of these are like upper middle-class or higher people who don't have to worry about money.

Money is just not a factor. And there's certainly some gradation there, but I think she's purposefully writing people with privilege.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. So I think that just to wrap up the, like how much emotional depth did we want from these characters and how much development? So we know that Hazel is in a lot of therapy and is dealing with her past trauma.

But I think I still felt like. It has been nine years since your parents died. It seems like it completely destroyed her life. And so I think I was just confused where she was at emotionally, where she obviously had taken steps to work on stuff in therapy but I don't know how to talk about it.

Katrina Jackson: Here's what I would say. I think comparing this to Gifting Me, I really loved the possibility of emotion and trauma here. And I think she handled it pretty well for what it was, which is indicative of the fact that I wanted more. There were actually a lot of really interesting questions to ask about her and her own recovery.

I didn't particularly think that she needed to be necessarily better on. She seems like the kind of person who's been in a lot of therapy and has learned how just to cope. But like interpersonal relationships, like forming, like bonding attachments are hard, which makes sense. Because then the relationship she's able to bond to, is someone who knew her. And she kept saying someone who knew her at her absolute worst, that part actually made perfect sense to me. So it was really actually frustrating to see those moments where we could dive a little bit deeper and then not do it as opposed to in Gifting Me, there was like no emotional depth. Like godspeed  they were just fucking friends for like ever and ever.

And I was like, girl, can we like, get this DP going? There was just like, it was not.

Tasha L. Harrison: That was one of the complaints. It was like, where was the DP? I am upset.

Katrina Jackson: I think there was one time that it happens and it's not, there's literally one. And it's not enough. And I was unhappy about it or maybe it like starts and it, whatever, but I didn't buy also that emotional attachment because  there didn't really need to be one. Here, there was such a wealth of possibility and she gave us just a hint and I felt like we didn't really get to dive into that because there was just so much goddamn sex.

Tasha L. Harrison: I think that the reason, and then now we're coming back to the point of what is this book doing? What should we be considering?

I feel like if it's just on the surface and just erotica, I would have preferred it to be [00:36:00] dialed back and probably less scenes and then that's it. If we are, because of the ending, framing this as a romance, these characters had so much growth to do. There was a whole lot of trauma bonding that was going on, because we're getting this totally from her point of view, but also he was close enough to her parents for them to give her to him when they died.

So there was some connection there that wasn't explored. I would have liked to hear more about how he was dealing with the death of his long time friends and accepting the fact that this man who is not married doesn't have any children, no relationships on the horizon and now he suddenly has this teen girl to care for. So number one telling it from one point of view limits that viewpoint, but there are ways that could have been explored like around the trauma that would have made sense. Like instead of letting her back off, making him be a little bit more because at this point, let's put it this way.

At this point, both of them are considering that she's 25 years old now. He has no responsibilities to her. They're acting out this fantasy and both of them are just saying, this is it. This is going to be the night. What harm would it do to say the wrong thing? What harm would it do to confront each other on these topics?

Because if it goes well, then great, it goes well. If it doesn't, fuck you, I'm going home tomorrow. Like it's not a big deal.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I do think that maybe the ultimate ending would have been more believable if we had gotten Devin's point of view and understood more about why he didn't push her or like how he felt about her and why he feels like it's worth pursuing a relationship with her other than that, she's hot.

Katrina Jackson: That's the other thing. Oh God. At one point he calls her the smartest woman he's ever met. And I was like, based on literally fucking what? Those six days sound like absolutely atrocious. So yeah, Oh yeah. I, you just reminded me of how much I fucking hated that. Cause it wasn't believable in the context and it wasn't necessary either. Like she doesn't have to be the smartest person he's ever met for him to love her. She doesn't have to be the hottest person he's ever met for him to love her. And it just felt like whatever the depth of emotion  they felt for one another outside of just wanting to fuck, they didn't make any sense cause there was nothing really to hang it on.

Also one of the things I like and actually dislike about reading  this kind of erotica is how like scummy, white supremacist it feels? The way in which he talks about like blonde hair and red lips and like the sort of descriptions of bodies, it feels very gross. And I like Katee's writing, so this is not really a thing, but it's the way in which when you have such a thin emotional relationship,  those kinds of descriptions feel a bit grosser.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah

Andrea Martucci: it felt also like a lot of that was resting on consumerism or consumables. Like having a designer dress that is not only expensive, but rare and like expensive lingerie and sort of a physical body that is very much crafted to be [00:39:00] consumed.

And that takes money and effort and privilege.

Katrina Jackson: Which is her job too.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. She is an influencer. That part I didn't dislike as much because she has framed her occupation, her vocation, around her appearance. That part didn't bother me so much. But also it speaks to where she thinks what her only value is like her view, because she knows that she's broken and that, like once someone discovers what her wounds are, that they're not going to really want to deal with her no matter how pretty she is. This is her frame of mind.

So all she really has to offer is her body is her appearance.

Katrina Jackson: It also makes Devin not stick out then. Because he wants to consume. Yeah. He wants to consume her for the same way. I think when she's talking about her ex-boyfriend rutting on top of her. It's ah, the sex is better with Devin, but  otherwise there's no sort of substantive distinction.

But I think that those sort of scenes where he's talking about her other positive attributes, they're meant to sort of differentiate him, but there's just not enough. We don't know enough about him. We don't know enough about their lives  and again, if this is the erotica, fine.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah.

Katrina Jackson: Perfectly fine.

But again, that's so that ending really matters. Yeah. It frames it as a romance and I'm like, don't want that.

Andrea Martucci: And so then I feel like we should also talk, thinking about her, viewing herself as a consumable product, then thinking about them videotaping themselves having sex or videotaping her, but her body, even before they're together.

Tasha L. Harrison: I'm sorry. That was hot. Thanks.

Andrea Martucci: no, no, but I think that's like a, kink, right? Or that is a kinky aspect of their sexual relationship is like  viewing their sexual relationship later, being able to  artfully package it up.

Tasha L. Harrison: Well because there's always been distance. Like they're comfortable with the distance, like the actual act. And I would argue that when there are recording, he's creating distance intentionally. Like viewing it through a camera is different than actually experiencing it in your body in the moment. If you're paying attention to what's being recorded, you're more concerned about what you're doing, what you capture what the cameras capturing, not necessarily what you're experiencing.

So I feel like that was  a barrier for him to put up.

Katrina Jackson: What's great though, is it's a barrier that she leans into. I don't think he's actually super invested when they have that second recording scene in the bathroom, because again, we only get it from her perspective, so it's hard to be sure, but she's watching the screen.

Totally hot scene. Loved that shit, but she's watching the screen and it is absolutely giving her a barrier between having to deal with how she feels about this and all she remembers about that actual night. And he's giving her fantasy, but  we only see his fantasy in that scene where they're pretending that she showed up at his job after, and that didn't land for me.

I didn't need it.

Tasha L. Harrison: Well, because  we don't have a clear understanding of his motivation besides that she's hot.

Andrea Martucci: But when he says that that felt like the crux of his insecurity about their relationship is I want you to come to me for once. And [00:42:00] I think that's because the dynamic is that he always goes and gets her, which makes him feel like the one who is less desired in the relationship.

And that she only cares about him as somebody to save her. Chain around her neck.  The guardian of her trust fund, whatever. And so then when we get to the end where she is leaving and he sees her leave and then she's like, I want him to chase me. I'm like he has been chasing you the entire years.

And the only thing that he ever asked for was, I want you to come to me. That felt like in terms of an emotional payoff, I was like, No, you go to him, you find him.

Tasha L. Harrison: And then she turns around and does the same fucking shit in the epilogue where she doesn't go to him. He comes to her rescue again.

Andrea Martucci: That's what I mean!

Katrina Jackson: This is, you know what, Andrea, this is why I love the two of y'all because I had not, I actually still don't like that scene because there I have another problem with the scene in his fantasy.

I'll talk about in a second, but you're a hundred percent, right. Like he only ever asked her to come to him and to be safe with her social media and the end of this love story, apparently is her doing the exact opposite of that. And I just cannot.

Tasha L. Harrison: No growth. Zero Growth.

Katrina Jackson: Zero growth. Zero growth. Call your therapist. We have ah, we have some issues we need to discuss.

Tasha L. Harrison: Like therapy and becoming self-aware. It's not a straight line, you know, it has twists and turns and doubles back on each other. And maybe it's taking her longer to get this one thing, but I think that the punch would have really been there.

Like I would have believed that there could have been more with them if she had actually heard him or processed it later and was like, Oh, maybe he really does want me to come to him and then goes to him. Versus Hey, here I am. Once again, out being dangerous, come rescue me, Devin with your big belly and your arms.

Katrina Jackson: You know what, I did not like the ending of Gifting Me to His Best Friend, partially for this exact reason, which is that the best friend was like, I don't know how I fit in your life. That was his big concern that you two are married. I don't know if there's room for me. And what about what will happen with these relationships.

And in the end, he ends up with them, but none of those questions are actually really answered. And if his fear, which it is his fear, is that he will be disposable. Right. Or, and he will lose these two people who are important to him.

We're telling you that we love you. And we're going to always like, stay with you. That's enough, right? Because look, the other thing too is if that was enough, they told him the exact same thing before they went home. So why do we need to be separated over the holidays. If you already.

Tasha L. Harrison: Just continue your friendships, but this is the thing like in that it's really just a couple of hierarchy. In a poly romance,  the couple is putting their relationship center and not really caring about how, you know.

Katrina Jackson: Which you know I hate.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yes, this is a dynamic that is reoccurring and lots of polyamorous romances, where [00:45:00] just the one person who's on the outside, who's not a couple, ends up doing most of the emotional work and heavy lifting.

Katrina Jackson: And also making themselves vulnerable in a way that the couple never has to for them. I really dislike that.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. So then let's talk about then the parallel to this book where this is all about Hazel and what Hazel needs.

Hazel needs to feel that he is a constant and he will come for her. And it's told entirely in her point of view, it's entirely about her trauma and at no point, does she seem to consider what he needs and what's going on in his head? The only thing she thinks about him is how he can gratify her.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: Yeah. Yeah. And that's, I think that's the danger of telling a story from one point of view. But I think that would have been a non-issue if it had been shorter.

Katrina Jackson: Or if they had just fucking talk. It doesn't have to be that long. One conversation. Just one conversation. They only have to have. Oh God, this actually makes my head hurt because for me, it would have changed.

And this is again, every reader is different. I really do actually have a bit of a problem with characters who have the opportunity to communicate and don't and the reason it doesn't work for me here is because he gave her so many opportunities to be vulnerable with him and he wanted to be vulnerable with her.  Which is why that scene in his fantasy didn't quite work for me because I expected him to push her to be vulnerable again, because that was really what he wanted.

He really wanted her to come to him and to be open with him and to tell him what she really wanted outside of this night. And instead he's like, go put on that schoolgirl outfit. Okay sis. I guess.

Andrea Martucci: And also, along with what are Devin's emotional things, or like, what's his emotional depth.

I feel like we see his insecurity tied also to his size. And so the way he is described is a big guy, like he's not ripped, but

Tasha L. Harrison: I didn't get the football player.

A little bit of a belly still muscular.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Like  we're talking a lot about stereotypes here.

Like the way Devin is described. And then when she sees him without his shirt on for the first time, she's like, Oh yeah, you're so hot. And he's like, am I? And this is where we see his insecurity is around like how attractive he is to her.

And I feel like that's wrapped up in wanting her to come to him.

Tasha L. Harrison: And not only that. Wrapped up in  wanting her to come to him and also seeing who she had dated in the past, like what she projected as her type on social media is completely the opposite of what he is.

Katrina Jackson: Agewise too.

Tasha L. Harrison: Age wise as well.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, like, not completely the opposite, because again, we're still talking about white guys of middle to high socioeconomic status, right? Like we're not talking about that different more just like 15 years in the future,

Katrina Jackson: but that's actually the problem, right?

Like all of these touch of taboo books end on a romance note. And I just it just doesn't always land. [00:48:00] Because all of them have previous relationships so there is that sort of understanding that they have some kind of previous connection.

But if you're going to convince me that this is ending with, he literally says

Andrea Martucci: I'm gonna put a baby in you..

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. If I find you what and waiting, I'm going to put a ring on your finger and a baby in your belly before you know it, or at some point or something like that.

And he's like, not now, but eventually. And she was like all excited about it. And I'm like, okay, maybe you should like, figure out who pays his bill? maybe we should figure out where he lives like maybe you should figure out his middle name.

I don't know. There just feels like there should be more here, but also if you aren't going to do any of that, maybe you should give him the thing, the only thing he asked of you. Maybe you should ask him how he feels. And then when he gives you the opportunity to ask you take it. Katee gets you right at the door where they are going to be open with one another. And then she's like, how about I fuck you against the door jam instead, like we don't walk into your room. Yeah. They

Tasha L. Harrison: not walk through it. See it, this is a beautiful door. You can't go there.

Andrea Martucci: That is a problem.

Katrina Jackson: And we'll have sex, but we are not, we're not going to walk into this.

And that's the problem.

Tasha L. Harrison: Like all the other parts, like leading up to where the door is, everything else is perfect up until here's the door. And that's what I'm finding frustrating. It's either there needs to be more emotional.

Andrea Martucci: The depth is there. We just don't go down into it.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. You're right.

Tasha L. Harrison: You can see how deep it is. You're looking over the edge. You can see down in the deep end of the pool, we never actually go in, it's like, Oh,

Katrina Jackson: that's deep. For the length of these books, there's room.

You can take out one  sex scene or part of a sex scene. And then we have the room to even just explore the contours of that. And I have to say, I can't believe  I'm like admitting to this. it's too much. Like, I love a good sex scene, but there's a point in this book.

And I felt the same way with Gifting, where one chapter ended with a sex scene and we picked up, still in the sex scene and at one point in both of these books, I was like, Oh God, are we still

Tasha L. Harrison: I think in and gifting her to his best friends, the moment that I wanted them to have the conversation was after she did the now kiss moment. Like I was like, Now we can talk conversations

Katrina Jackson: Katee's such a great writer. She really does write you right at the point where you're like, yup, let's go. I'm ready for whatever this like cry and shit is about to be.

I don't usually love books like that, but  she always gets you to that point where you're like, give it to me, break my heart. And then she doesn't really break your heart. She does this sort of manufactured whatever third quarter breakup or whatever it is. And it's just okay. Or not.

Andrea Martucci: I want to come back to reader expectations because I think that where we have gotten to in this conversation is we know the depth is there. We feel it. We want to go through that door. And then going back to what Tasha brought up about how Katee is walking this line of playing into these taboo fantasies [00:51:00] and yet not quite crossing that line.

And so what do we think readers are expecting when they come into this? It seems like they're expecting exploring a taboo without  crossing what some people might consider lines of morality.  Like they want to explore the taboo without actually crossing the line, but they are there for the taboo. They're there for the erotica. They're not there for the emotional element in which case

Tasha L. Harrison: But that doesn't makes sense for her audience though. Cause she writes primarily romance. So she has to put the romance in there.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah, I think people would riot if she didn't give them a story with a happy ending..

Tasha L. Harrison: It would be an uprising.

Like they would be  online dragging her for filth if she just was like, yeah. So they broke up and that was it. So it may be a situation where she wanted to do that. And then she thought I have to add this romantic arc.

Katrina Jackson: I say this all the time, I really don't care about a happily ever after ending.

But that sort of idea that that's a satisfying ending. I think Katee does actually give a satisfying ending to these books. If you normally read romance and what you wanted to know that everyone will be together forever. The problem is I don't buy that shit in a 65,000, 70,000, 80,000 word contemporary romance anyway.

So I'm really not going to buy it here right.

Tasha L. Harrison: In a four day locked room situation.

Katrina Jackson: Especially without that kind of emotional vulnerability. And  again, her audience probably doesn't care, right?

Tasha L. Harrison: I'm and your audience, I like, yes. I'm recognizing that these are spaces where I would have wanted more, but also I don't care.

Like I will just read, I'm fine. Like I'm satisfied with how she ended the book. I enjoyed the book, but if we're going to discuss what the book is doing and what it's not doing, these are the things that are coming up.

Katrina Jackson: Which is also great because, Hey, I'll say this doesn't work for me, but I think the next one is like a FFM and I'm probably going to be up on that pre-order as well.

Andrea Martucci: I think what's really interesting about this book and our discussion about it is how much we had to say about it.

And I think it where we're all going at the end is like how it's enjoyable, it is making us think about this stuff  and obviously  the point of this is that, we can have this fun conversation about something. I think, something that's kinda been in the news on romance, Twitter, or on book Twitter, is like are less than five star reviews bad for, people.

And I think that really the takeaway from this should be, is that anything that gets people talking and engaging with your content? Like people don't expect perfect media, people want something that makes them think about something or is enjoyable.

Tasha L. Harrison: I don't think that all people want to think about it, but I think that's where the problem really is.

I think that if I wasn't having conversations with y'all, I probably wouldn't have them with anyone else because most people do not want to talk about romance like this. Even the friends that I've had, that I've met in the romance world and known for almost a decade. Now they really don't want to talk about this shit in depth.

Like they just talk about the stuff that they loved and that was it. So I don't think that this conversation that we're having, this is very [00:54:00] specific to how we process books, not necessarily how the community, or even the literary community at large processes, books, like people just want to talk about what they like and what they don't like.

There's really no nuance or gray area in between.

Katrina Jackson: I agree, my training is to think about things deeply, whether or not I like them, but it is so much easier for me to think about things deeply if I enjoy something about them.

I don't tend to hold things super personally so it's been really frustrating when there's no space to have a conversation about a book that other people potentially have liked, but didn't note that there were problematic aspects or things that we should maybe question because the way that the community takes it, is like any criticism or anything less than perfect, like adoration is somehow burning the house down when at least my own training and the way my own brain works is that this kind of attention, this kind of critical thought builds a house stronger, right?

Like it literally builds my own ability to read things hopefully deeply or critically or understand things meaningfully, it builds my ability to do that. But then it also makes the community stronger. And book Twitter book, the book bookish community takes it the exact opposite is if any criticism rightful or not, however mild or not is like an attack. And that is really unfortunate.

Tasha L. Harrison: And kneecaps the community. Like within the community, there's always these conversations about, Oh, we want to be taken seriously, or we want this, we want that. But then when it comes time to actually be criticized and evaluated on the same way that most literature is, there's this blow back.

Like you can't talk bad about romance.

Katrina Jackson: You can only talk bad about people other people don't know or like and that's disingenuous. That's not real then.

Andrea Martucci: You guys know I've been working on this research that is ostensibly about Bridgerton, but it's really about people's attitudes towards romance novel readers and romance novels themselves, and stereotypes about them and all this.

But as part of this research, one of the pieces of information that is coming up a lot is the sense of escapism, which is not a surprise to anybody in the community. It is something that romance novel readers will self identify as the reason they read romance novels is to escape. And I think that also non romance readers are able to identify that is why people are attracted to romance novels.

What's different, I think is the value judgment inherent in what escapist means, but as I think about this, does escapism to some people mean that if it is an escape that you do not want to have that critical engagement with it?

Tasha L. Harrison: My issue is that I don't care if you want to have the critical or engagement, leave it to people who do. If you just want to read it to escape, when people are talking about a book, like analyzing it and talking about what the book is doing, what it's not doing on a timeline, that is [00:57:00] not the time for you to come in and be like, oh my god. Don't, Kool-Aid your way into this.

You know what I mean?

Andrea Martucci: But that's what I'm talking about. It's the dichotomy that some people have in their mind that if something is escapist for them, that it is not worthy of, or it should not be engaged with, because it is meant to be an escape. And therefore I go to this place to not do this as opposed to those things being able to coexist.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. So my issue with that line of thought is that again, this is a space people go to, to escape. And yet they have no problem calling out books that they don't like.  Let's say I don't like age gap romances.

I do. I don't care. But let's say that I didn't, my ability to escape in that should not preclude someone else from saying that's not for me and it's fine.

I honestly think it's just an excuse. Like people who use that line of thought that this is my place to escape, have no problems saying when other things impede on their ability to escape into the fiction, right? Whether it's because they want content warnings or they want to not see certain kinds of literature, they are fine with saying, this is the boundary of my escape.

But when I, for instance, say, Hey, all these white heroes actually impede my ability to escape into the genre. All of a sudden it's well, we shouldn't have to talk about that.

Andrea Martucci: I can't help what I'm attracted to. This is my escape..

Tasha L. Harrison: So I think all of this is related to the things that they always respond to from outside of the community.

Like whenever there is any sort of hint of shaming or guilt put on Romancelandia as readers or writers from the outside of the community, they're responding to push back against the shame. So whenever we're even bringing it up within the community, when they feel shame. The reason why they pushed back on it, is because they actually do feel ashamed.

You know what I mean? I don't think is that, Oh, I'm so proud. I'm going to push back. I'm going to represent this community. I'm going to represent what I write da da da. I think that reaction is born out of feeling shame and not dealing with it.

Andrea Martucci: They're not engaging with the actual criticism.

They're engaging with your right to criticize.

Tasha L. Harrison: And because you've criticized them now, they feel shame and I'm not responsible for your feelings.

Andrea Martucci: That's your own personal thing to work on.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah.

Tasha L. Harrison: Like maybe you need to work on that.

But I don't think that these two things are actually joined. Like criticism has nothing to do with what the community is thinking about itself at large. It's more about how you're interacting with the actual work that's out there. And I don't understand why they don't understand that this is something that our community is really lacking.

Like it makes everything feel hollow and flat.  Praise feels hollow. Appreciation feels how all of it feels fake. It all feels fake and

Katrina Jackson: well it's that impulse to call romance feminists, that you say for one book is true for every, which is not true. And like the preponderance of the number of white heroes and the desirability [01:00:00] of whiteness through all romances. Not just mainstream, also diverse romance is the way in which whiteness becomes a center of desirability. That actually is a thing we should consider as a community. Have I said you shouldn't write white heroes? No. Have I said, we should consider like why we are always writing white heroes? Yes. That is a totally different conversation, but Tasha is right.

They take those criticisms as the same. And it's that sort of straw man argument. Like they're having a whole different battle that I am not trying to engage with. The way that the community often responds to the outsider criticism it's as if  we cannot delineate a useful argument, even if there are flaws and an attack. And that is so frustrating because it does knee-cap the community, but it also means, and I will say this until I'm blue in the face or someone shuts down my Twitter,

if you can't have useful criticism, that is able to delineate between the kinds of criticism being made, regardless of if you like the messenger, then it means that in 10 years you'll be having the exact same conversation. You'll be reproducing the exact same kinds of harmful content, because you're never able to figure out why you keep reproducing the exact same kinds of content.

And they may change a little, but not really.

Tasha L. Harrison: It's not even that they don't get a chance to figure out they just don't even discuss it.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I think Tasha, going back to what you were talking about And I think you were making this point, I'm just agreeing with you and adding onto this, is it's the same problem.

It's if we don't have any useful understanding of why people like something and why they feel positive about it, then it's not useful information. It's Oh, you liked this. Will I like it? I don't know. What about it did you like? There's no additional information. And I think that critique a lot of times is really just describing something accurately enough so that somebody else can  get somebody else's thoughts accurately enough to make their own judgment about it because otherwise it's so subjective.

Katrina liked it. Okay. Am I Katrina? No, therefore that's not useful.

Katrina Jackson: I think I will say I do actually believe in the importance of a critical conversation and it is really frustrating to see so much possibility for useful conversation.

Like we have been talking for over two hours about a book that takes probably about that time to read. There is no reason to have given necessarily this kind of a book such depth of conversation, unless you think is worthy of it. And it really is frustrated that there are people creating such really interesting content worthy of such amazing conversation and it all gets cut down at the knees because authors are attacking reviewers on [01:03:00] Goodreads or the community doesn't like to hear any whiff of this made me feel uncomfortable, kind of conversation. It's so sad.

There is just. Such a wealth of really beautiful, interesting, engaging, writing, coming out of romance. And yet the best we can do in these online spaces is, I liked it, I didn't like it, if I didn't like it, let's go to DMs and trash. It. That is so sad.

Andrea Martucci: Tasha, I know we already had the Wordmakers ad earlier. What's going on with you?

Tasha L. Harrison: 20 K in five days, which started out as a hashtag on Twitter and now as a whole ass writing community. Wordmakers, it's a writing community that's just basically about writing. Yes, we do talk about the business of writing. Yes. We do get ideas about advertising and marketing and all that kind of stuff from each other and how to make stories work.

But majority of what we do in there is just write together and it's been a very enriching experience for me and I hope it has been for others. Please join us. You can write with us. We are not a clique. We just like to be writers.

Andrea Martucci: Just a group of like-minded individuals learning from each other. Okay. And you do on occasion throughout the year have these 20 K in five day sessions.

Tasha L. Harrison: Quarterly 20 K in five day challenge, 20,000 words, 4,000 words a day, five days.

Andrea Martucci: Katrina, what's going on with you generally in spring, summer 2021?

Katrina Jackson: I'm probably sleeping a lot and tweeting a lot. Probably a lot of live tweets of TV shows.

I mean. I'm also probably writing some stuff depending on when this comes out, I will have either just released a book called Back In The Day. A book that has made me cry a lot.  I will be, also writing the next book in The Family series, The Enforcer.

Tasha L. Harrison: Are you in a new season or are you still just pretending like you're on hiatus?

Andrea Martucci: Oh, I'm not on hiatus. I've been releasing every week.

Tasha L. Harrison: But you never did announce the end of your hiatus.  Like you kept announcing that you were on hiatus.

Andrea Martucci: I did?

Katrina Jackson: Just wondering. Yeah, you didn't, you never actually did announce that you were off hiatus. You just started posting regularly again,   Thanks for listening to episode 90 of Shelf Love and thank you to Tasha and Katrina for joining me. Maybe we could do like a bye, bye, bye (singing). .


Tasha L. Harrison: No, Damn that was really white, Andrea.

Andrea Martucci: I was in chamber chorus.

Katrina Jackson: Of course you were. Whenever we talked about the white girl in high school who had a loom, oh God, that was amazing. I still laugh about that every now and then. That was great.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, no, me too. Me too. Anyways, a transcript and show notes for this episode can be found on shelflovepodcast.Com, Any thoughts on the show? I'd love for you to reach out to me. You can send an email to Andrea at Shelf Love Podcast dot com. I apologize. I'm not actually that good at responding to emails, but I do appreciate reading your emails.

I will eventually get back to you. I will feel guilty about it forever until I get back to you. Don't worry. This episode is produced [01:06:00] by me, Andrea Martucci. Thank you to Shelf Love's editorial advisory board members, Katrina Jackson, and Tasha L. Harrison.

At the end of episode 89, I said that I was going to be doing some thinking about how I could do my part to not just sloganize my support, but to actually do something meaningful to support the causes that I believe. I believe one way that I can add the most value is to use my platform, to help bring attention to projects and organizations that are doing the work.

At the end of every episode, I'm going to be sharing organizations with rad missions that I hope you consider supporting.

Today I would like to share Honor Black Birth. You can find them online Here's how they describe their work.

" Honor Black Birth is a St. Louis based storytelling incubator. Reclaiming our stories and depathologizing Black pregnancy one counter narrative. Honor Black Birth shifts the narrative about Black pregnancy and birth. We ground our work in a reproductive justice framework.

We respect lived experience as expertise. We value art and storytelling as a means to feed the imagination and a catalyst for social change. Our featured project is You Lucky You Got A Mama, a feature length documentary exploring the intimacies of pregnancy through a lens of gender."

And so that was directly from the website. On the website, you can find links to purchase merchandise. I purchased a beautifully designed t-shirt that says "giving birth is not a gendered experience." There's like a really beautiful line art drawing of two faces on it. It's really gorgeous.

You can also support Honor Black Birth by funding it on Fundrazr. All the links and more information can be found on