Welcome to Friends to Lovers! On the inaugural episode of the first season, Mackenzie and Lily dive into romances that won't make your pearl-clutching grandma break out in hives from the utter steaminess and sexual tension.
Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00), Housekeeping (2:00), Introduction to Main Discussion (11:22), Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (13:44), Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (15:47), The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali (18:36), Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton (22:04), You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac (24:55), Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (29:18), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (31:42), Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay (31:42), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (31:42), After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid (31:42), Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (31:42), One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (31:42), What Else We're Reading (34:19), Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall (34:19), and Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier (34:19). You can get full show notes and episode transcriptions on the Bad Bitch Book Club website: http://badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. Give us a five-star rating wherever you get your podcasts, and say hi to us at @F2LPodcast on Twitter and Instagram. You can also join the private F2L Facebook group.
If you want to support Bad Bitch Book Club's initiatives (including this podcast), become a Patreon member: https://www.patreon.com/badbitchbookclub. Buy all books mentioned on Friends to Lovers: https://bookshop.org/lists/friends-to-lovers-podcast. Friends to Lovers is a Bad Bitch Book Club podcast hosted by BBBC founder Mackenzie Newcomb and writer, editor, and bestie Lily Herman. Each week, they use books as a jumping off point to talk about sex, relationships, dating, love, romance, and more. Podcast logo by MKW Creative Co. (https://mkwcreative.co/) and music by Eliza Rose Vera (http://www.elizarosevera.com).
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (13:44)
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (15:47)
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali (18:36)
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton (22:04)
You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac (24:55)
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (29:18)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (31:42)
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay (31:42)
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (31:42)
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid (31:42)
Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (31:42)
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (31:42)
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall (34:19)
Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier (34:19)
Hallmark Channel Pulls Zola Ads Featuring Brides Kissing by Heather Murphy (The New York Times, 2019)
Hallmark’s making some Hanukkah movies. The only problem? They’re anti-Semitic. by Britni de la Cretaz (The Washington Post, 2019)
Review of Evvie Drake Starts Over by Roxane Gay (Goodreads, 2019)
Nicholas Sparks Says He's Sorry For Those Anti-LGBTQ Emails by Amanda Arnold (The Cut, 2019)
Lily Herman: Welcome, everyone, to the very first episode of Friends to Lovers a podcast where we use books as a jumping off point to talk about sex, relationships, dating love, romance and more Friends to Lovers is part of the Bad Bitch Book Club network, and you can learn more at badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. And yes, that is bitch, B-I-T-C-H.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Hi everyone. My name is Mackenzie Newcomb. I'm the founder of Bad Bitch Book Club. I'm an influencer marketing specialist and a reformed and retired relationship blogger. You can follow me at @mackinstyle on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok If you want to see some really embarrassing content.
Lily Herman: And I'm Lily Herman. I am a writer and editor by day, a romance novel fanatic by night—also sometimes day when I'm not doing my work—and I should also mention that Mackenzie and I are best friends. You can find me on Instagram at @lilykherman, that's "K" as in "kangaroo," and on Twitter at @lkherman.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We actually, funny enough, we started off as internet friends. We met on Twitter live-tweeting Big Brother, which is kind of embarrassing, back in, oh God, probably 2013.
Lily Herman: 2015?
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think 2013, Lily.
Lily Herman: I think it was 2015 because it was BB17 when Vanessa Russo was on.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That was when we finally really connected. We were chatting before then. Yeah, but we are IRL friends who hang out in real life when there is not a pandemic.
Lily Herman: But we’re different states. [laughs] A casual issue.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Care to housekeep a little bit, Lil?
Lily Herman: Oh yeah, we should move on to the podcast.
Lily Herman: So I think first order of business is what the hell this podcast is. To start us off here, I think seeing as I love romance novels and Mackenzie runs this gigantic virtual book club and used to write viral articles about sex love and dating on her blog, it kind of made sense to combine those two passions. Mack, before I dive into my serious notes and what not, do you also want to explain what the Bad Bitch Book Club is? Because hopefully other people besides Bad Bitch Book Club people are listening. Fingers crossed, but we love them! But what is the Bad Bitch Book Club?
Mackenzie Newcomb: So Bad Bitch Book Club is a virtual online book club and community. We read books written by women exclusively, and in addition to having a monthly democratically voted book of the month, we also have various reading groups that people participate in. For this fall, which we're currently in, we have a feminist reading group called Resting Book Face. We have an LGBTQIA+ reading group called House of Bad Bitches. We have a YA reading group called the Bad Bitches of the YA-YA Sisterhood. And we have a thriller reading group Ghouls’ Night Out. All of these started this month, so if you are not a member of the Bad Bitch Book Club, there are always many events going on, and it's a really fun place to be on the internet. A very fun, very healthy place to be on the internet.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I'd say I'm not always a huge fan of book internet communities. They can get really, really toxic and just sort of ridiculous very quickly. And I will say Bad Bitch Book Club is one of my favorite spaces, and not just because I know Mackenzie and we're friends, but I think it's a really supportive group. Obviously it's vast majority women, but there are men and non-binary folks in it. And yeah, if you just come for the book recommendations, there's endless book recommendations. If you come because you do want to do some reading group stuff, especially if you feel like you're suffering from kind of being alone or not seeing a lot of people, there's kind of, I think a little something for everyone, which is really, really cool.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh my gosh, I totally agree with that. And I will say on the note of other books spaces online, and this is not to be critical of them, but some can be either incredibly pretentious or they can be incredibly basic and you just see the same stuff over and over again, or they’re very self promotional. It's just a bunch of people promoting their own Instagram accounts the entire time or asking for recommendations on what to read after Evelyn Hugo.
Lily Herman: [laughs] We'll get to my issues with that at a later episode, Oh my God.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It really hits that sweet spot, but really at the heart of it, it’s all about community, and I personally love it and I know that it's helped a lot of people through this hard time.
Lily Herman: Love to see it. So back to the podcast, before McKenzie is gonna talk a little bit about the logistics of this, I think also building on that idea of community and diving a little deeper when we read, I think on a more serious note, I've always said that romance novels say a lot about how we love other people and how we want to be loved. And also love just doesn't have to be just solely romantic. There's obviously a bajillion different types of love and different types of relationships and bonds and connections. But seeing that romance in particular is a billion dollar industry, and one of the only genres written by and for women, I think that there's a lot for us to unpack in terms of what the hell is going on here. And also I think something important to note too is while it's an industry that was kind of largely founded to be buying for women, we also in this podcast talk a lot about books that are about non-binary people and written by non-binary or genderqueer authors. We do have a few dudes on occasion, but like largely steer away from dudes because they had their chance for the last several centuries.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Uh-huh. They’ve been seen. They’ve been heard.
Lily Herman: Yes, they don't need another podcast dedicated to their bullshit. So we sort of let them do their thing elsewhere. Good for them, et cetera, et cetera. [Laughs] Mack, do you want to go over the logistics so to speak?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Absolutely. So here's what's in store for all you folks. So we'll be splitting this podcast into 10-episode seasons. If you know Lilly, you know that she already has the next four plotted out for us. The first will air now through mid-November and then we'll pick up again after the new year for season two, barring any problems and assuming you're loving what we're serving up.
So this podcast is going to be a little bit different in the sense of, instead of focusing on one book per episode, each episode will have a theme and we'll talk about books within that theme. Most of which are recommendations. Occasionally it's a roast, but a nice roast. We’ll include all the books that we discuss in our show notes, so no need to have a pen and paper out while you're listening to us.
And like Lily said, most of the books we recommend will be written by women and non-binary folks, be cause that is all we read. You can expect complete and total transparency from us. We have really high standards for the books we recommend. We don't judge you if you don't love the same books that we do, but we're not going to sugarcoat anything and we aren't particularly filtered individuals, but we will always try to do so with grace and kindness and not be rude about books that we don't like.
Lily Herman: Yeah I think we're pretty clear when we maybe weren't a fan of a book or we were disappointed, what that stems from. You're not expected to love every book, and I think giving feedback or criticism isn't inherently a bad thing. I think it's just better when you actually have a reason. And the other thing I was going to say too, is on the note of the podcast eing more thematically based: We're generally not going to do spoilers. We'll give you kind of a back cover synopsis or maybe something that happens on the first page of a book. But this is definitely not a podcast where you need to have read what we're talking about, whether we have an interview with an author or something or we're just giving recommendations. Don't feel like you have to come in here ready to like skip entire sections of the podcast, because I think that's one of my—I wouldn't say pet peeves—but something that makes a lot of book podcast hard for me is obviously I'm like, I really want to listen to this episode, but I haven't read the book. So does that mean that half the episode is completely not relevant to me until I read it? So that's just also something to keep in mind.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And on spoilers, I feel like if there are any like spoilers, they will always be mild spoilers that happened in the first like 50 pages of a book.
Lily Herman: Yeah and we’re definitely not going to be revealing twists here. And also let's be real: For a lot of romances, the whole point of a romance is it has an emotionally satisfying ending. So us being like, these characters love each other. If you're like, “That’s a spoiler, you assholes!” I'm like, hmm, I think you need to read more in this genre. We're hoping everyone can kind of listen to whatever and follow along and read whatever they feel like depending on what we talk about whether we loved the book or did not love a book. But yeah, so that'sour little intro of what we're doing here.
I'd say too, in terms of last bits of housekeeping and what's in store, truly this season, we've got everything. We have an episode where we are going to be talking to a bestselling author, TBD because we want you to stick around about, Empowering Blow Jobs™, so that'll be fun. We're talking about condom usage and contraception in romance novels or the lack thereof. And we also have an episode coming in a few weeks where we are asking the question about why publishers are currently promoting romances centered on Democrats and Republicans fucking, so lots to say, lots to be said.
And lastly, on the housekeeping front we have to call it our social media. You can join Bad Bitch Book Club’s Patreon, which is at patrion.com/badbitchbookclub, again B-I-T-C-H. And that is only $7 a month for lots of perks, including discounted merch, getting to vote on book of the month picks early, and lots of other amazing stuff, including also there is a patron-only Facebook group. That is one of my favorite places on the internet. So 10/10 recommend.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's ridiculous. It's so good.
Lily Herman: Yes. And then you can also follow this podcast on Twitter and Instagram at @F2Lpodcast. That's F, two is in the number 2, L podcast. We also have a Friends to Loverspodcast Facebook group that is spelled exactly just that. And you can also follow the Bad Bitch Book Club on Instagram @badbitch.bookclub. And again, B-I-T-C-H. And then the only place on the internet where we don't spell “bitch” completely out is on Twitter at @badbtchbookclub, but missing the “I” because Twitter has a character limit that is very, very obnoxious.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And no other reason, just the character limit. [laughs]
Lily Herman: It's not a statement on the sudden need to be more conservative with our cursing. [laughs]
Mackenzie Newcomb: Especially not on Twitter.
Lily Herman: No sir. So we are diving right in today. Mack, do you want to say what the topic of today's discussion is?
Introduction to Main Discussion (11:22-13:44)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes. So today's topic is romances you can read and then lend to your grandma.
Lily Herman: So I think we wanted to start with something a little more PG, because I feel like if we went straight into blow jobs, people would just—minds would explode.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Pearls would be clutched.
Lily Herman: Yeah, like people would just implode on the spot. We'd have no audience left [laughs] So we’re starting with something that I think is a little easier. Admittedly, I had said romance novels that make perfect Hallmark movies, but not only was Mackenzie's idea better, but Hallmark is very cancelled after being low-key homophobic and antisemitic.
Mackenzie Newcomb: High-key homophobic. High-key.
Lily Herman: Yes. And then low key more antisemitic, but they basically advertised that they were creating Jewish Hallmark movies, but they were essentially Christmas Hallmark movies with Jews who were like, “I don't know what Christmas is,” which is a complete lie. Every Jewish person in America knows what Christmas is. [laughs] I'm sorry to break the news to anyone who didn't already suspect that. Yeah, so no Hallmark, we’re doing romances to lend your grandma. Mack, I know we came up with sort of a criteria for like what a good grandma romance novel is.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh yeah. So first and foremost, there’s little to no steam; sexy chemistry is totally okay. But we are not invited in the bedroom. We get a little bit more than a fade-to-black, maybe like a steamy kiss. We know that sexy time is happening, but we don't know in explicit detail what is happening. That's, I feel like, probably the most important, although we know that grandmas are different just like anybody else. Some grandmas may love the sex and others prefer to be closed out.
There needs to be a focus on something other than just the romance itself. So the character needs to go through a growth journey, dare I say often a divorce or a death. I feel like those are some real hot grandma topics.
Lily Herman: The grandmas love them.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Grandmas love a good divorce and a new man and bonus points, of course, if this deals with parenting or familial relationships. Because A) there's a lot to talk about, and B) we can't have a book that's entirely about the romantic and sexual chemistry of a couple because that ruins the whole point number one.
Discussion of Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (13:44-15:47)
Lily Herman: So I will kick us off with my first pick, which is Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, and essentially it's a Pride & Prejudice retelling. And what I love about it as a pick for spreading to the rest of your family and your grandma is the broad strokes feel familiar enough, but it is an entirely different world. It takes place up in Canada. And obviously the main character, Ayesha, she is Muslim. So there are a couple of key details changed, but I think the average person in general knows what Pride & Prejudice is about. It's easy generationally to talk about the storylines in there and everyone kind of knows what's supposed to happen.
Admittedly, I will say things get a little bit saucier, not in terms of sex or anything like that. But a couple of the plot points around other characters are different. So maybe consider this pick, Ayesha at Last, for a slightly more liberal grandma who won't be offended. For instance, there's a plot line about a woman potentially doing some sort of strip tease on the internet and that scandalizes the community. So like something like that. Just be aware that those plot lines do exist, but they aren't front and center necessarily
Mackenzie Newcomb: Good for a grandma who has compassion for sex workers!
Lily Herman: Yes! Good for a grandma who has compassion for sex workers. And yeah, won't be offended by that stuff being in it. And also obviously too, unfortunately we do have a lot of Islamophobic people in the U.S., so also, I don't really know if your grandma's like a raging Islamophobic person; I don't think this is necessarily the book to give either.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Certainly not mine. My grandma probably doesn't even know what Islam is.
Lily Herman: Yeah. So just a word, but yeah avery quick read. Definitely, like I said, the nice thing is it goes through the plot points of Pride & Prejudice, so very easy for you and your grandma to converse about it without it feeling like you both don't know what actually happened in the book. So, Ayesha at Last. 10 out of 10 recommend.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes, we love to hear it.
Discussion of Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (15:47-18:36)
Mackenzie Newcomb: So I am going to recommend for my first selection—and this is number one, in my opinion, of the three—is Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes.
Lily Herman: I looooove this book, the dialogue though.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So Roxane Gay once described this book as a juicy red apple or freshly sharpened pencils. And that has really stuck with me since reading her review and reading this book, because it is so spot-on. So this is the story of a woman who has to start over after her problematic husband dies, who, unfortunately, and this is not a major spoiler (this is like the back of the book), was a hometown hero. So Evvie knows that her husband's an asshole, but the whole town thinks that he was a freakin saint. And I'm sure that's very relatable to a lot of grandmas out there. I love this book for a number of reasons. Like you said, the dialogue is amazing, the love interest is also starting over, not from a past love, but from a failed career that has ended suddenly. I think because of injury...not injury, actually. I think it was mental?
Lily Herman: Yeah. He's basically choking every time he has to go out and throw a pitch or do whatever he did.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So cute. And I especially love this story because it actually takes place in the town in Maine my grandma grew up in, which is a town called Camden. So the actual story takes place in a town that’s supposedly right next to Camden, but Camden is mentioned often, and the town that they have as a setting is a fictional town. So we're calling it Camden, Maine. And it's just an incredibly wholesome, very readable, feel-good book that I feel like everybody truly needs at this moment in time.
Lily Herman: Oh yeah. And it's feel-good, but it does have these deeper themes around like, what if you’re someone who knows this person was awful, but obviously a lot of people are like, “don't speak ill of the dead.” Or Evvie Drake also deals with the problem of like, “are you being the perfect grieving widow?” And a lot of people are judging her if she's not, especially in the small town, if she's not performing that role correctly or to their desired level. So it does have a lot of deeper themes, but then also the dialogue is just so pithy. I just fucking love this book for just the dialogue. Such a good pick.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Did you give it five stars? I did. It's one of my five stars.
Lily Herman: I did. It was one of my few five-star books. I inhaled it. I truly just sat—I remember I started at like 7:00 PM and read til like, one or two in the morning when I read it all the way back in the winter.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Evvie Drake, what's not to love? What's your number two, Lil?
Discussion of The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali (18:36-22:04)
Lily Herman: So number two, this was a Bad Bitch Book Club pick and one that Mackenzie recommended. I am stealing it because I put in my picks first, and that’s what you get to do when you’re first. [laughs] That is The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali. It's a historical romance book that takes place in 1953 Tehran, Iran and also in present-day Massachusetts. It follows the doomed love story between a protagonist named Roya and her first love, Bahman. And so I think there's so many amazing things with this book. First of all, it takes place over the course of 60 years, and I think if you're trying to relate to a grandparent, I'm sure a lot of them have stories about first love or first crush, of leaving behind a life. It doesn't just have to be immigrating to a place like the United States from Iran, but all these different themes are really, really relevant and really easy to talk intergenerationally about. So I just think it's really great from that perspective. It's definitely a book that will make you cry a lot. The ending, I was just sort of like casually sobbing to myself, and quite frankly, I definitely saw elements of Nicholas Sparks’ is The Notebook, but see The Stationery Shop as a much more elevated and better version of The Notebook.
And I'd also say that obviously Marjan Kamali is way less problematic than Nicholas Sparks, who's homophobic and has lots of other problems. So if you want a book of that kind of vibe and kind of dealing with a lot of similar themes, I would definitely recommend The Stationery Shop.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Ugh, it's beautiful and Marjan actually came to speak to the Bad Bitch Book Club, and she was, first of all, so delightful. And second, she told us that the inspiration behind her book was actually a visit to a senior center when she was touring her first book. And she saw this man there who was saying that he had traveled the world with Charles de Gaulle and had dinner with princes. And he had this really outlandish life, and everyone kind of just rolled their eyes and brushed him off and it turned out all of the stories were true. And so she was like, “I wonder what it would be like to write the story from the perspective of the crazy person at the nursing home.” And I think she did an outstanding, beautiful, beautiful job with this book. So I'm so glad that you loved it. It's always a risk giving Lily a book recommendation, because she's a really tough reviewer, so I am honored that she included a Bad Bitch Book Club selection on here. And especially for those of you who love historical fiction and maybe aren't into a typical romance novel, The Stationery Shop is perfect.
Oh, and the food descriptions!
Lily Herman: The food descriptions! Excellent. Love me a good food description. I think too, which we discussed it within Bad Bitch Book Club at the time when we were reading it, I think maybe some part of the population, especially abroad and particularly in the U.S., knows about the 1979 Iranian revolution, but a lot of Bad Bitch Book Club people were saying, “I have never heard of the 1953 coup, I had never heard of the time period when the story takes place in Iran.”
So that's also a really great element; it’s definitely woven in. It's a huge part of the story. So if you really want that history element, you do in fact get it with this book, which I think is awesome.
Discussion of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton (22:04-24:55)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Speaking of history, my next pick is also a historical fiction pick and also a former Bad Bitch Book Club pick from December 2018, actually. So really early on, there was only about 100 of us at that time. So go back and read it if you haven't. It’s Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. I love this book and I love this series. There are three books in the Next Year in Havana series, all of which totally work as standalone novels, and they follow the different sisters in the Perez family. But I do believe the first is the best and so that's why I'm going to recommend it today.
So this is the story of Elisa Perez in 1958 Cuba and her granddaughter Marisol in 2017, when the U S began to allow tourists to visit Cuba again right after her grandmother died. So each chapter goes back and forth from the grandma's perspective and the granddaughter's perspective from modern time. And it is just such a beautiful story. I did not know a lot about Cuba during that time. I knew that things were bad, but that's really all I ever knew. And I feel like the whole Next Year in Havana series has taught me so much about that time period. It's also just a beautiful story about love and loss and having to leave a country and a home that you really did not want to leave and felt very connected to, which is something that grandparents, particularly immigrant grandparents, I'm sure can really, really relate to. And it's just a beautiful, engaging historical fiction novel. And the love interest is sexy. Like very, very sexy. So everybody go pick up this book, and while you're at it, go pick up all of her books because they're also good.
Lily Herman: I still have not read this book. This is the only book on the list I haven't read, and Mackenzie’s about to kill me. I feel like between this and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, you are about to unfriend me for life.
Mackenzie Newcomb: [laughs] There's only so many books I’ve asked from you!
Lily Herman: I know, I'm making my way through, but the lists though of my books is just like, ugggh.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I feel that, I have a spreadsheet.
Lily Herman: This is definitely in the top, like, 10 to 15 books though, where I'm like, I know I need to read it. Like I absolutely know. I need to read it. It's somewhere on that list of like mentally in my head, ugh. But yeah, I just need a time period to come where I'm not reading shit tons of ARCs, Bad Bitch Book Club books for different reading discussion groups, helping you vet, doing other things. But it's on the list. It's definitely on the list.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Maybe by the time this podcast episode comes out, you’ll have read it in real life. But probably not. [laughs]
Lily Herman: God willing, I will try. But then yeah, my thoughts won't even be in it. I'll be like, Oh yeah, I finally read it. And it was, it was good. I assume it's going to be good. Yeah. Like I'm assuming it's good. Let's just assume in advance that I liked this book.
Discussion of You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac (24:55-29:18)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. What's your next one, Lily?
Lily Herman: So my last book pick is one that I wish had gotten talked about more than it did at the time. I found out later on that it wasn't a huge release in the U.S. but actually had a little bit of a bump in the U.K. I guess a more popular celebrity book club picked it as a pick. I forget the name of it, but one of our U.K. Bad Bitch Book Club members had mentioned that. Thank you for letting us know because it's just us ignorant Americans not reading a good book. [laughs]
So the book is You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac. Oh, I love this book. It's just the perfect—I know we're in September now—but it's the perfect beach read. So if it's the middle of winter and you're like, “I want to pretend that I am sitting on the sand with a mojito with a little umbrella in hand,” this is the book to read. Or if you just want to eat a French baguette while you read—
Mackenzie Newcomb: Maybe a cheese plate.
Lily Herman: Exactly, a board, so to speak. So yeah, essentially the book is about a British woman named Jess. She has a 10-year-old son named William and they are vacationing in France at this fancy ass chateau owned by Jess’ ex and William's father named Adam. Essentially Jess is angry at Adam because he's always neglected their son, just made a lot of promises to William that he hasn't kept, never really came home a lot to the U.K. He stayed in France or was galavanting around with these much, much younger girlfriends. And also Jess has some secrets that she's keeping, which I'm not going to spoil. So Adam's lack of interest in parenting is particularly infuriating and terrifying to her.
I, first of all, love a chateau moment. It was just so lovely and magnificent to watch these people sunbathe at a pool next to some cool chateau and make their little trips to get a croissant. I just loved that that was an element of this book, which is just lovely and wonderful. Anything in here on the sexier side is still very fade-to-black, so you're not going to have to worry on that front. And then I think also grandmas, mothers, just women in general love to complain about a neglectful father figure.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh yeah!
Lily Herman: Yeah, so there's just a lot to yell about with Adam and I think it also dives into Jess’ relationship with her parents, their feelings on her and Adam's relationship and how he's done as a parent. So there's just a lot of intergenerational conflict and a lot of discussion around what it means to be a parent, which any grandparent, regardless of gender, would definitely have many thoughts on that.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I loved this book. Lily recommended this to me and I read it over the summer. First of all, one of my number one things is I love a romance novel that takes place in a beautiful spot. There is no more beautiful spot than a fancy ass chateau. And I found the twists to be really unpredictable, which is really, really rare in a romance novel.
Lily Herman: Yep, did not see some of the stuff coming, which I liked. But I also felt like it wasn't egregious and over done to where I was like, “oh my God, like Catherine Isaac, you're just creating plot points.” Like they actually made a lot of sense.
Mackenzie Newcomb: They made sense. The book flows really well. I would say maybe it would even fall more into women's fiction. I hate that term, but that's then just a straight up romance novel. And I think everybody would love it.
Lily Herman: Yeah. It's just a good beach read.
Discussion of Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (29:18-31:42)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. This is my last pick. And this one was recommended to me by Lily. So I saw that she stole The Stationery Shop, and I was like, well bitch, I'm taking Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center.
Lily Herman: I don't know why I didn't pick this as one of mine. Like I truly don't know.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I don’t know, but I'm glad that I had the opportunity to, because I love, love, love this book. Cassie Hanwell is an award-winning firefighter with a truck full of emotional baggage. Her mom left her as a teenager on the same night she had what was probably the most traumatic experience of her life that left her avoiding dating forever. And when an unexpected turn of events prompts Cassie to have to move from Texas to Rockport, Massachusetts, her trauma becomes unpacked. Now, if you have not been to Rockport, Massachusetts, and I'm sure that is many of you, you should make it a 2021 priority because it is pretty much the definition of a really cute, quaint New England town with amazing beaches and little shops and just charm for days. But this book is great because A) I think it's the best example of love at first sight done well.
Lily Herman: Ohhhh! A hot take for a later episode!
Mackenzie Newcomb: Right? That's a hint I think it's really love at first sight done super well. I loved learning about firefighter culture. I don't know nothing about firefighter culture and now I feel like I know something about firefighter culture. Its’s also timely with the #MeToo movement. It is fade-to-black as it comes. I would say the one issue I have with this book, and I'm just going to be honest. I hate virgin-washing. I hate when a protagonist is made to be so innocent that it's unrelatable, but in Cassie Hanwell circumstances, I understand why she was made to be such a prude. And your grandma will really understand.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I think too it does a really good job of unpacking the whole cool girl, “I'm not like other girls” narrative, because to be honest, when I first picked up this book, and I listened to the audiobook, I was like, “oh my God, we have a protagonist who is like, ‘I only hang out with men. I'm this cool chick who would hang with the dudes.’” And then she has this mom that I couldn't stand at first. I was like, I don't know how I'm going to survive getting through this book. Katherine Center really works her magic in terms of getting you to love characters or see how they came to have certain views. So everything I think with this book isn't quite what it seems when it starts out, which I really, really loved. And I couldn't believe at the end that I liked Cassie, was rooting for her mom, liked the love at first sight element to this, which was like, a shocker to me times a million. But yeah, I really, really loved this book.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Everyone should read this book. I think it's probably Katherine Center’s best book.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I've read her three in her most recent kind of—they're not actually like an actual trilogy of any sorts—but there's How to Walk Away, Things You Save in a Fire, and now What You Wish For that just came out. But I'd say this is definitely my favorite of those three.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We love it.
Bad Bitch Book Club Member Recommendations (31:42-34:19)
Mackenzie Newcomb: So what did the book club members recommend?
Lily Herman: So for certain weeks where we're doing more recommendations, we actually reach out to the Bad Bitch Book Club’s romance fans, and they will send us some of their recommendations for books that follow whatever theme we're talking about.
So for this week we obviously said, “hey, what are some books with romantic elements that you have lent to your grandma or you would feel totally comfortable lending to your grandma?” Again, keeping in mind that your grandma is not really far one way or the other in terms of culturally what she would like in a book.
So first and foremost, Kelly Marie Bunting recommended the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Marianne Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This book actually got turned into a film that Lily James stars in. So if you like your Lilies, including moi, you should go check out that movie. I believe it's on Netflix. So definitely check it out. But essentially the quick soundbite is it's a historical fiction novel a woman who starts a correspondence with a “book group” after World War II.
Second, Samantha Rey recommended Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. It's an epistolary novel that gets told through a woman's letters. She's had a hard childhood and she finds herself at Northwestern's prestigious Medill journalism school for her Masters, and it's via a scholarship that she got from an anonymous donor. That anonymous donor’s only request is that she writes them regularly. So that's a little teaser for that. I have not read either of those books, so there's that.
And then lastly, we just had to mention that four or five different people recommended Mackenzie's main girl Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Mackenzie Newcomb: TJR!
Lily Herman: Ugh, we love a TJR moment so much so that we're going to be ranking her novels later on this season.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Really excited for that.
Lily Herman: Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open because we have takes on takes, but in particular, people recommended The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which I will say does have some twists and turns in it, so maybe save that for a grandma who’s more open-minded. And then After I Do, which is one of her earlier contemporary romance works as well as Maybe in Another Life and One True Loves.
Mackenzie Newcomb: All of which are great grandma picks.
Lily Herman: Oh, we'd love to see it. So hopefully if that wasn't enough recommendations for you, I don't know what will be, but yeah, so that's like nine recommendations right there iff you want to share some, some mems with your grandma.
What Else We’re Reading (34:19-40:44)
Lily Herman: And then lastly, so to end every episode, we want to take a few minutes just to tease a book or two that we're reading now or have recently read that might not fit the day's theme, or just might not be a romance novel at all. So Mack, what have you been reading recently?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay, so I am currently reading Hood Feminism and I am reading that for the Resting Book Face feminist reading group that's happening.
And this is in three days, so I think you have time to read this book if you feel compelled to, but either way you should read it at some point anyways.
So this book basically put me in my place in five minutes flat. It's essentially about the exclusionary elements of modern feminism that attempt to encompass the struggles of 55% of the world's population, which sounds really fricking insane when you think about it, but actually only focuses on the issues of the privileged few who are trying to become CEOs or take the next step in their career or outearn their husbands.
I highly recommend listening to this on audiobook if you're trying to erase a lifetime of subconscious white supremacy. If you've already read this one, I would try Thick by Tressie Cottom, which I loved and read just a few weeks beforehand. Thanks to Deonnah for the rec.
Hood Feminism is so great because it really talks about food insecurity and domestic violence and these issues that are facing so many women around the world yet seem to become a relic of feminism of the past for some reason. And Mikki Kendall really brings them back into the conversation to be like, actually, these are huge issues and they are women's issues. This is why they're women's issues. And this is why we need to rally and fix this for ourselves because white women are not going to do it.
Lily Herman: Yes. And she's really big on the theme of we don't need to have solidarity. What we need is to come together for common goals and come up with a plan and execute it and to not worry about the semantics of like, “we're all just girl bosses out here together, you know, hashtag whatever.” So she's much more saying, okay, yeah this very narrow-minded idea of “the gender pay gap in corporate environments,” that doesn't encompass all of feminism or even affect the bulk of women who need feminism. So yeah, it's a great book. And as a co-host of the Resting Book Face discussion group, I obviously recommend it wholeheartedly and we're starting there because it's sort of a great way to really flatten anyone who's coming in thinking that we're going to just talk about leaning in and to speak up more in meetings when feminism and companies encompasses so much more than that and the issues affect so many more people than just that tiny subset.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And the group that you're running will talk about corporate feminism from a different angle as well during the reading group, which I think really is awesome. But I think that this is honestly the most amazing place to start because it erases any egos right off the bat.
Lily Herman: Totes, especially for the white ladies.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Hell yeah. So what are you recommending, Lil?
Lily Herman: So I read this actually a little while ago, but I've been wanting to talk about it, especially because it came out I think in April or May during the pandemic when it was really just getting started. So I feel for a lot of authors who obviously had their book launches sort of overshadowed by what was going on elsewhere culturally. So this book is Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frasier.
I heard it described somewhere, and I wish I could remember where, as a book that proves that stoner kid narratives aren't exclusively for boys. And I was like, fuck yes. I love that. So essentially the main character is a pregnant 18-year-old in Los Angeles. So she works as a pizza delivery driver and just in general does not have any clue where her life is going, which obviously is a problem when you're about to bring a child into the world. What kind of complicates things and what I actually really like about this book is she has this very supportive boyfriend who is the father of her child and she has a very supportive single mom. But the main character feels super, super indifferent to them and never can figure out why she's also dealing with alcoholism, which obviously if you're pregnant, is terrible. I mean, it's terrible anyway, but it's also terrible when you are carrying a human inside of you. And she's also grieving the loss of her alcoholic and abusive father who died a couple years prior. And she also just has no interest in making friends. So generally again, that sort of like stoner kid narrative really comes in here.
So the big to-do about this book is her world gets turned upside down when this Manic Pixie Dream Mom of sorts named Jenny comes into her life through pizza delivery and the main character—again, she’s unnamed, so that's why I'm not naming her—she starts to become obsessed with this woman who's seemingly carefree, she's twice her age and also still figuring life out. So the main character feels this real kinship with her and it all just becomes a complete mess over time.
Two points for people that I think are really great. One, this book is only 200 pages, so if you just want something short or you're trying to meet a reading goal and you don't want to be reading like a ton of 700-word monster books, this is definitely a good palate cleanser on that front. And two, I think it's great that it's literary fiction, but I think it's still not overly pretentious to where someone who's maybe never dipped their toes into literary fiction won't feel completely lost or left behind reading it. So very easy to get through, very short, lots of themes packed in obviously given what I just teased about it, so definitely recommend for a quick little jaunt through LA with a woman who has no idea what she's doing in life.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Fun fact about pizza delivery drivers: It's actually one of the most dangerous jobs in America.
Lily Herman: Yes it is. And she actually deals with this too in the book of regular customers who she thinks are great and then kind of learns they're not who they seem in other ways, not just with this Jenny person. So definitely also sheds a little bit of light on that. Yeah. This book does a lot for it being 200 pages, which is actually kind of wild, but it's that short.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It sounds pretty good. I think maybe I'll have to pick it up.
Closing Remarks (40:44-43:18)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Well let's close it out. We've been talking for about an hour now. I’m sure people are worried they’ll have more book recommendations to follow.
Lily Herman: Oh no. Yeah. If you somehow, between what is it like 11 to 15 book recs to read, are like, “I don't know what to read,” I literally don't know what to tell you. [laughs] Truly. So our first episode is in the books. Next week, we are discussing one of my favorite or favorite topics and that is Angsty Youths™. And we're spelling this capital “A,” capital “Y,” trademark symbol. More specifically, we're going to talk about what makes an Angsty Youth™ book and also what to read after you finish Sally Rooney's book Normal People, which I consider the Holy Grail of Angsty Youths™ love stories.
Mackenzie Newcomb: God, I love Normal People. It's such a polarizing book, but I just love it so fucking much. I can't wait for our Angsty Youths™ episode.
Thank you all for listening to our very first episode of the Friends to Lovers podcast. Make sure to give us a five-star rating and review and subscribe. If you're looking for more info on Bad Bitch Book Club, you can find us on Instagram at @badbitch.bookclub and badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. We have chic merch, and you can find us on social media at @F2LPodcast, and I'm at @mackinstyle. Lily, thirst yourself out. Where can they find you?
Lily Herman: And once again, I am @lilykherman, so L-I-L-Y-K-H-E-R-M-A-N on Instagram. And I am @lkherman on Twitter. Yes, I know my handles are different and it's very, very annoying, but there’s nothing I could do about it right now. So thank you so much everyone for joining Please rate, subscribe, send us some social media love so that we know this podcast went. And we'll see you next week to talk about why those youths are so angsty.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Can't wait!