Welcome to the inaugural episode of Classified, an ongoing series where Mackenzie and Lily read and rank all of the existing work by a romance or romance-adjacent author. We're kicking things off with the work of Taylor Jenkins Reid because Mackenzie is founder, president, and CEO of the TJR fan club, and Lily has also read all of her books. (She likes them too, she swears!) Production note: We're aware that this episode has some hinky audio. Because it was based around the element of surprise, we didn't want to re-record and not capture those reactions. We'll be back to our baseline quality audio next week! Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00), Housekeeping (1:37), Introduction to Main Topic (2:00), Introduction to Taylor Jenkins Reid (3:59), Discussion of What Makes a Quintessential Taylor Jenkins Reid Novel (7:46), Discussion of the Ranking System (19:49), Discussion of Our Last Place and Second-to-Last Place Books (22:02), Discussion of Our Fourth Place Books (31:51), Discussion of Our Second and Third Place Books (37:54), Discussion of Our First Place Books (54:40), Recommendations for TJR Starter Books (1:06:24), Conclusion (1:09:44). 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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/292095932008569/.
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).
Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Lily Herman: Hey y'all, welcome back to 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 And yes it is B-I-T-C-H. So full word. Yes. Okay. Continue with our intros.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Hi, I'm Mackenzie Newcomb. I'm founder of Bitch Book Club, influencer marketing expert, and an aspiring TikTok star. I can't say it's going well though. Hi Lily.
Lily Herman: Hello, hello. I'm Lily Herman. I am a writer and editor during the day time. I am also a person who dislikes the sound of vacuums and I am one of Mackenzie's best friends. I feel like everyone who's listening should know that we've had the struggle bus city getting our audio today. So that's—
Mackenzie Newcomb: Thirty minutes of it!
Lily Herman: Some time was taken. So basically we're saying like Taylor Jenkins Reid had better listen to this because the amount we've struggled for her on her behalf is incredible.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I would die for most Taylors. Taylor Newcomb, my sister. Taylor Swift, the greatest song writer of our generation. And Taylor Jenkins Reid, my favorite author by a landslide.
Lily Herman: True, true, true, true, true. Onto, I guess, the housekeeping note too. This is a reminder that you can find our show notes and our transcriptions for every episode, including the books we talk about, at badbitchbook.club.com/podcast.
Introduction to Main Topic (2:00)
Lily Herman: The title already spoils what we're doing today. And we already kind of said it, but Mack, do you want to explain what we're, what we're up to in today's episode?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Absolutely. So today we are going to be ranking all of Taylor Jenkins Reid's six novels. We are all big fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid at the Bad Bitch Book Club network, and we are so excited to rank all her books. And so Lily and I actually don't know each other's rankings and I'm very excited to hear what she has to say. I've been kind of spying on her Goodreads reviews, trying to see what she's going to say about each book, 'cause I don't know yet. And, overall, just so excited for this one.
Lily Herman: I have to laugh too because I, of course, when Mackenzie and I decided we weren't going to share our rankings with each other beforehand, I just used a Notes app note, very simple things. Meanwhile, I go into the Bad Bitch Book Club's Google Drive, and I'm opening up the folder for this episode because of course we are organized biddies over here, and Mackenzie has labeled her ranking "Top Secret," like to not look, and I'm just thinking to myself, I'm like, we could do away with the entire surveillance state with the level of encryption that Mackenzie has created for her TJR rankings. Incredible. I did died silently to myself. Like I thought it was the most hysterical thing.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Hoping you would see me. I want to make you laugh.
Lily Herman: It was good. It was good. So I'll also mention essentially this series is called Classified because to have a little, you know, double entendre here, obviously. Once per season, we're going to be ranking or classifying an author's books, talking about our favorites versus our least favorites. And then also, obviously this is funny because yeah, we're keeping them a secret from each other. It's classified, especially Mackenzie's because it was uuber top secret. So everything we're saying on this episode we're hearing from each other for the first time. This is not like we pre-planned and did all of that shit.
Introduction to Taylor Jenkins Reid (3:59)
Lily Herman: To start us off, I will do a little introduction into Taylor Jenkins Reid, who we are talking about today. I know that there'll be some people in this episode who have read all of her books and are joining cause they're like they also want to hear our rankings. And then there might be some people who are newer to her. We're not going to spoil any of her books in this episode just to make it fair for people who are maybe still reading along or have never even touched her books. So that's just a, a heads-up on that front. But essentially the other thing too that I think is important is her name is obviously a lot to say: Taylor Jenkins Reid. Like, five syllables is a lot. So we are going to, for the most part, be referring to her as TJR throughout the episode, just to avoid some confusion, because I know someone midway through it was going to be like, "Who the fuck is TJR and who are we talking about?" That's the disclaimer, I'm going to do the little dive in intro to who TJR is and what the six books are as of mid-2020. When we are recording this episode, Taylor Jenkins Reid has published six full-length novels and one short story, since it's hard to compare full-length, 300-plus page novels to one single short story, we won't be including that short story in this ranking. That short story though, it was an Amazon Original, so I guess she worked with Amazon. I'm conflicted. I'm chaotic. We hate Jeff Bezos over here. So we'll like, let her slide on that one. But it's called Evidence of the Affair. It's only like 80 or 86 pages or something. It came out in 2018. It doesn't really cost much to get on Amazon, or it might be included in price—
Mackenzie Newcomb: If you have Kindle Unlimited. So if you just bought a Kindle read Taylor Jenkins Reid's short story.
Lily Herman: Then burn everything because Jeff Bezos is the fucking worst.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That's the truth. This is not endorsement of Jeff Bezos or the Kindle Unlimited program. But simply we read it.
Lily Herman: Yes, we were scientific. So we had to see all of the evidence of the affair, as we did with that story. Anyway, onto the six novels that we are talking about. And when we actually start discussing them, we'll go into a one- or two-sentence synopsis of what they're about. So this is just the quick overview. So Taylor Jenkins Reid's first book came out back in 2013 and that was her book Forever, Interrupted. The following year 2014 was After I Do, 2015 was Maybe in Another Life, 2016 is One True Loves plural, 2017 is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and 2019 was Daisy Jones and the Six. And I believe Daisy Jones and the Six was a Reese Witherspoon book pick. I can't remember.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Correct.
Lily Herman: Was Seven Husbands anything?
Mackenzie Newcomb: It wasn't, it was not. Maybe Book of the Month club, maybe I'm lying to you. It might've been Book of the Month club, but it was never a Good Morning America pick or Reese Witherspoon pick, Jenna Bush Hager pick, none of those.
Lily Herman: You know, it was a Book of the Month pick, cause I read my roommate Kaitlyn's—shout out to Kaitlyn—I read her Book of the Month copy of it. That's I think was the full scope of how big it got. So the other thing I will also mention is, within looking at her books, I'd say they fall into two separate "eras," if you will. So her first four novels are contemporary romance, and then her two more recent picks, which are the most popular of everything she's published, are more historical fiction that have romance in them. But I don't necessarily know if I'd categorize them as historical romance as their overall genre. So that's kind of where everything falls. And I think before we begin, we definitely wanted to chat for a second about what makes a quintessential TJR novel.
Lily Herman: I would say to start off, all of her novels are really revolving around really seemingly simple or basic premises that then end up being far more complicated. So for instance, Daisy Jones in the Six, which is the most popular and well-known of her books, is essentially about the meteoric rise and then cataclysmic fall of a 1970s rock 'n' roll band. That's kind of how it goes for her. Mackenzie, I know you have a list that you put together and I have some hot takes within the list where I think we're going to—I don't want to say we're going to disagree. We're going to differ slightly on the perspective.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. I love that and I'm excited for it. So after each one, I'll stop and see if you have anything to add.
Lily Herman: Okay. Go forth.
Discussion of What Makes a Quintessential Taylor Jenkins Reid Novel (7:46)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Number one. Okay, so not all Taylor Jenkins Reid books are created equal, but there's definitely some common themes in a lot of them. Number one, Taylor is not afraid of an unlikable or multi-dimensional protagonist. Daisy Jones—no one was really rooting for Daisy Jones except for her to stay alive. Evelyn Hugo had some clear issues within, she was definitely a celebrity that could be described as problematic. Emma from One True Loves definitely was someone that people could have a hard time relating to, for an example. And so I don't think any of these women are traditionally likable in that sense. And they all have multiple love interests, which I feel like gets people a little bit.
Lily Herman: Yes, I could see that. I think turning that slightly on its head, I've noticed that within the romantic or contemporary romance genre, she has sort of an archetype for how she does her protagonists and how she does her love interests. And then similarly with her, to historical fiction or historical fiction books, again, I would say Daisy Jones and Evelyn Hugo were actually very similar characters.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Totally agree. Yeah.
Lily Herman: So I think, again, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but I could see how some people maybe like their authors to have variety or what not. You're not necessarily going to get that with a TJR book. Like all of her female protagonists for her contemporary romance books are all typically middle to upper middle-class, they're all a little bit, almost, I don't want to say boring, but they're all a little bit—.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Normal, aggressively normal.
Lily Herman: Yeah, aggressively normal. And I think the love interests are always these guys who seem a little too good to be true or a little too suave compared to like the average 27-year-old man, or like a lot of her characters, they meet in college and I'm like, what 19-year-old is this smooth? And then on top of that, how are there multiple 19-year-olds who are this smooth? Like, I have questions.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That's really funny. I think that you're definitely onto something there. I mean, if you think about Emma from One True Loves working in her family's bookshop and Elsie from Forever, Interrupted being a librarian. I mean, they're basically the same character.
Lily Herman: Yeah. All of them, as I actually had to sit with all of the books out and was like ranking them, I was like, wait a second. We have definitely seen this before, just from the same author. And I don't, again, I don't think that has to be a bad thing. We all have authors where we like that we know what we're going to expect. Like for instance, I love Christina Lauren. You're always going to get some sort of protagonist where there's tons of banter. Christina Lauren is a duo, Christina and Lauren, and they love some banter. Like all their books have it. I live for good dialogue. Like I know what I'm getting into with them. And that's again, not the worst thing or a terrible, it's just a pattern.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Christina Lauren, also a friend of Book Bitch Book Club. They also have a thing where they have protagonists that hate buffets. It's a thing. It happens in multiple of their books and I respect the hell out of it.
Lily Herman: So I think similarly Taylor Jenkins Reid gives you some similar vibes, which can be cozy and nice. And sometimes we all want a little bit of predictability. So again, don't think it's inherently bad.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Nope. It's just an archetype and it does change, but it changes into another archetype. And I think we'll really see in the 2021 release of Malibu Burning, which is another "historical"—because we don't know if that's how we're describing it—romance. I think we'll know if it really is something that she's going to continue with.
Lily Herman: Totally.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Another thing about Taylor Jenkins Reid books is most of them alternate between the past and the present with the exception of Maybe in Another Life, which alternates between two different lives.
Lily Herman: That's true. Spooky. I would agree. I think Daisy Jones is the most interesting. So Daisy though, this isn't a spoiler, Daisy Jones is set up as an oral history as opposed to a traditional novel setup. So the people are talking in the present tense about past events, if that makes sense. Like if you were getting interviewed about something that happened in your life 10 years ago, presently you're talking about it, but it happened in the past, but yeah, I'd say she really likes, she really loves just kind of like playing with time. If I had to sound like an English major, it's a running theme of her books. Thematic, as they say.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I really love it. Maybe in Another Life set up probably better than any other book. And so maybe I'm okay without it too.
Lily Herman: Yes. Yes. I'm excited to talk about Maybe in Another Life, depending on where we both rank it, but like I'm excited because it's sort of a weird outlier book for her and she took some risks with it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. So there's almost always a tragic element to her books. All of them, that made me cry, at least one tear, others have required a full box of tissues and an extra appointment with a therapist because they're that intense.
Lily Herman: True. I should think my thoughts at first, but I think she just really in all of her books captures the essence of like the human condition really well. Again, I sound like a pretentious English major. Like someone please slap me,
Mackenzie Newcomb: Be pretentious! We've read all of her books, you could write a thesis on her.
Lily Herman: I mean, you write a dissertation. Okay, a side note too, for everyone listening, so usually with our episodes, I'm the one who's like, I've researched this. I went and found this obscure academic journal and printed out these 18 articles and dah, dah, dah, dah. And this episode, Mackenzie basically wrote a PhD dissertation on Taylor Jenkins Reid before I even like opened the document, like she's going around asking people in our Bad Bitches in Love subgroup like, "What's the DNA of a Taylor Jenkins Reid novel?" I'm like, is this a laboratory? Like, are we scientists, who knows? But I do think though that she really is someone who loves to boil down to the essence of, you know, for instance, what does it actually mean to be married and being a long-term partnership with someone? Or how does fame and fortune rot people, or, you know, no matter how high you climb, whether it's in your life or your professional life, how do your personal issues going back years or decades or to the beginning, how do those continue to affect you and then therefore affect the outcome of the rest of your life? So I think there was always very, like I said, very basic ideas, but they're really getting at larger and much deeper human experiences.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. And she loves to play with the idea of the concept of multiple soulmates and multiple true loves. And I find that so relatable, just, I'm a big soulmate person. I'm totally that cheesy bitch who fall in love at first sight. And I love the concept of multiple true loves. And so I think maybe that's something that I really like about Taylor and why her books connect with me so much. It's so great. Okay. So she loves a quirk. TJR is obsessed with a good quirk. For examps, in her first book, Forever, Interrupted, Ben, who was the love interest—also the name of my fiance—is obsessed with young adult novels. And I have to say, I thought that that was a really cute quirk and a very unique one that I haven't seen yet in literature. And also like really relatable to bookworms. And Maybe in Another Life, okay, this is the quick I hated: Hannah was obsessed with cinnamon rolls. I don't, I don't get it. My dad is too, but I still don't get it. And I just didn't—I found that to be a kind of a cop-out for a personality. It's not a personality type that you like cinnamon rolls.
Lily Herman: Okay. I'm gonna, I'll get to my hot take in a second.
Mackenzie Newcomb: You love cheesy bread. Don't you, you have one of those things.
Lily Herman: Okay. I'll get to this for a second. I have, I have many thoughts on like her insertion of quirks into her, especially her earlier books, but first and foremost, yeah. We, for the romance challenge, we read Maybe in Another Life and everyone hated the cinnamon roll thing. Like everyone's like, this bitch will not shut up about cinnamon rolls, which are very delicious, but not this delicious to where it was brought up—I'm sure if someone actually did the math—at least 20 times. Like that's not even an exaggeration. Every other chapter, there was like four mentions of cinnamon rolls, how she wanted one, how she wanted one of her many men to get her one, et cetera, et cetera. So my other hot take on this front is, I think, I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I think because TJR has these very kind of bland-adjacent protagonists and love interests. I almost sometimes feel like the quirks are there cause she's trying to insert something interesting. And I don't like, it kind of reminds me of college. I went to Wesleyan, not to be confused with Wellesley, which is where Hillary Clinton went. But Wesleyan had a lot of people who took up the banjo just to like have a personality. And I feel like, similarly, she doesn't, you know, so Ben, the love interest in Forever, Interrupted again, kind of a suave dude, a little surface level, then she's like, "Oh, but he loves YA." Like that's supposed to be a personality. And I'm like—
Mackenzie Newcomb: I loved it.
Lily Herman: I'm not saying there's anything wrong with like the quick itself, but it's like what they're used. And again, it's interesting—
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's only a personality trait, really .
Lily Herman: Exactly. Like, Forever, Interrupted too is interesting, which we'll get to because it's her debut. So obviously debut authors tend to lean on certain things more than others. And especially in like romance, there's a tendency to be like, yeah, like this person has this one thing. Like they like to run and you're like, cool, so does everyone else? Or like they like YA. I'm like, literally everyone between the ages of 12 and 87 loves YA. Like I don't, I don't really know what to tell you, but anyway, we'll get into that. But that's my hot take.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's a fair hot take. I feel like men are much less likely to read YA than women, but because they have like this ego thing. When we talk about Forever, Interrupted and we both feel very strongly, you're welcome, Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Lily Herman: I'm sorry to her, sorry to this woman that I'm like, I'm not even roasting her, but I'm just having hot—
Mackenzie Newcomb: You read all of her books! And also we love her. And the fact of the matter is I'm sure she took a writing class. Like whatever her creative writing class was like, okay, you need this quirk that will make people remember your book. And I think she stayed with that for a while until she didn't have to use it as a crutch anymore. Okay.
Lily Herman: I agree. That's a good point. Yeah. I could see it, but yeah. So anyway, so that's my like hottest of hot take. And then you have, I think a fifth point,.
Mackenzie Newcomb: One last thing. So the glam, I actually, you know what, you kind of went over this already, but the one thing that's changed in Taylor Jenkins Reid's books over the years is the glamour of the protagonist. In the beginning, all of our characters have very normal jobs and normal predicaments that people could easily find themselves in. Her later work, as Lily said, are more historical glamorous protagonists. So we actually kind of already talked on that. I think that's possibly the evolution as a result of her own success and she wanted to be a little bit more creative with it either way. We love it. We love an author that's evolving.
Discussion of the Ranking System (19:49)
Mackenzie Newcomb: All right, Lily. Let's talk about our ranking system.
Lily Herman: Yeah. So I I'm about to explain this, but Mackenzie literally like came to me and again, Professor Newcomb over here, is just coming in hot with all of the fucking rankings, takes, rubrics. So we have a rubric, we essentially have five elements. So it's a multi-pronged rubric where we're ranking these factors on a scale of one to five. So that's making up our multidimensional look at these books. And so I'll go through them quickly. But one, we're looking at the humanity of the protagonist. In other words, are you rooting for her despite her flaws or because of her flaws? Like, do you even care about the protagonist one way or the other? It could be you hate her, could be love her, but do you have some sort of reaction to that person? Two, we're talking about the quality of the love interests, which again, based on my hot takes, I have more hot takes on. Number three, the originality of the plot, you know, have we seen this before, both in her books and also in the general book world? And again, some plots I think are more interesting than others. Number four, I like to think of this, as I know, Mackenzie, you labeled it originally as like number of "tissues used." I think of it as like immediate emotional impact. So when you're reading a book, are you sobbing? Are you tearing up? And obviously too, this is subjective. I'm more of a tear-up sort of reader. I know Mackenzie, you will like casually bawl to things.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, Ben asks, my fiance, is like, is someone dead? Just in a book.
Lily Herman: Right. Peace out. Like we good. And then lastly, in number five, we're talking about long-term impact. So I read most of these books—I read at least for the most part, like three or four-plus months ago. But am I still mind-fucked by this book later on? And I will say the big exception is I read Daisy Jones and the Six recently, like in the last couple of days, that was the last one I hadn't read. So that one we have to think about in terms of skewing it a little bit,
Mackenzie Newcomb: The most recent one I read was Forever, Interrupted, her debut novel. So we're basically on the same exact page here. Everything else has been at least a few months. Yeah.
Lily Herman: Yes. Okay. So we're gonna start with—we're each gonna go through and give, what, our last place pick, which also sounds weird, cause I feel like both of us don't hate any Taylor Jenkins Reid books.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I don't hate any of her books. Yeah. I would say for the one that I liked the least, I still liked it a lot better than I liked a lot of other books. And I would say I'm lukewarm on it.
Lily Herman: Yeah. I'd say there's definitely other authors where I typically love their stuff and they have that one book where I'm like, nah, like not a fan of it. So I think it says a lot that there's nothing that I despise or hate or see as like that book that she fucked up or something like that. But anyway, without further ado, Mack, what was your number six?
Discussion of Our Last Place and Second-to-Last Place Books (22:02)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. Hello. Some people are going to really not going to like it but I'm going to say it. Okay. Daisy Jones and the Six. I'm sorry. So I read Daisy Jones and the Six, full disclosure, immediately when it came out. I'm a Random House bookstagrammer and they sent me a Daisy Jones and the Six t-shirt band T. It was a really cute marketing idea, shout out Random House. And I had only just read Evelyn Hugo about two or three weeks beforehand. And I loved that one and it was the very first Taylor Jenkins Reid book I read. And so I went into Daisy Jones with really high expectations. And this is why I rated it 13 out of 25. So the humanity of the protagonist, I gave Daisy a three, I felt that she was distant and unknown to us as a reader. Despite the fact that I liked her, I actually preferred Billy Duen's wife, whatever her name was. I totally forget. It's Monica?
Lily Herman: Uh, Camilla, Camilla.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I really liked Camilla. I thought that she was my favorite character in the whole book, uh, but was a three for me as far as a protagonist goes. Quality of the love interest, I fucking hated Billy Dune. I think he is—I think he's nothing of the sort. However I did feel that he was realistic. And for that reason, I gave him a 3.5. The originality of the plot, so I gave this a 3.5 because I did, I have never had a book in documentary format before. And I did feel like that was really unique, but the plot itself felt like it could be applicable to any rock band in the seventies, specifically Fleetwood Mac. I think most people feel Fleetwood Mac in there. And that just, I don't know. I didn't feel like it was a super original plot. I didn't cry much. So I only gave it a 1.5 as far as the tears go. I had probably the least emotional impact on this book than any of her other ones, which I don't think was accidental. I think that this is, she knew that this wasn't going to be one of her status books. And um, long term impact. I would say I gave it a 1.5. Cause I think I like this book less with time. I've almost gone back and changed my review from a four-star. So I really liked this book. I gave it four stars, two or three stars simply because I was disappointed by it. And I know some people are probably listening to us being like, you have absolutely no taste. You're a piece of trash, but this is my truth. And I'm just here to tell you, Lily, let's hear what's your last place.
Lily Herman: Okay. So my hot take last place is Forever, Interrupted, which was TJR's debut novel from 2013. Essentially the overarching synopsis—which there are no spoilers, this is back cover sort of stuff—there's a woman named Elsie Porter. She meets this man, Ben, of her dreams at this kind of random meet-cute. They have this really whirlwind romance. And within six months they decided to have this spontaneous wedding. And then unfortunately 10 days after their wedding, he dies. The big to-do is obviously on top of grieving a spouse, she has to deal with the fact that he actually never told his family, including his mother, that she had existed, let alone was his wife. And also she's contending with the fact that pretty much anyone else on earth actually knew him for longer than her. So while she might feel this deep connection to him, she's struggling with the fact that everyone else is like, okay, who is this? Like we've known Ben since, you know, for 20 years or whatever it is. And this woman claims that, you know, she is his wife and she just showed up a couple months ago. So that's the overview, my overarching issues with, with this one—I, one, found Elsie not to be particularly compelling. I did love—Taylor Jenkins Reid does a great job in this book explaining the multiple dimensions of grief and how you can be irrationally angry at everyone and know you're lashing out, but also not want to stop cause you're just so consumed by like devastation. Number two, I didn't like Ben as the love interest, I found some of his efforts kind of love bomb-y, like just a little iffy and a little too much. He also just, aside from the YA thing, like didn't have much of a personality. There wasn't much to him and I think, quite frankly, I was almost hoping the book—cause plot-wise, it's actually just really not particularly original. And again, I don't wanna explain or spoil what happens, but I think it's a classic "grieving a person" novel. I was really hoping that a huge part of this novel would maybe be, you know, the protagonist Elsie discovering that the guy she married and thought was amazing and had this whirlwind romance, maybe wasn't who he said he was, but that doesn't really, I don't know. I wanted something interesting. Like I just wanted another layer there. I wasn't too upset about this one and I honestly have not really thought about it since reading that much. Other then again, it's a well-done novel. It has some good stuff, but like is not something that has long-term really made me think necessarily. I think there were just some elements she could have added in to bring it to that level.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's debut as fuck.
Lily Herman: Yeah. It's very debut. It's still a really strong debut compared to some of the other authors have done, but definitely has some debut elements of like going a little bit on script here. That's why, but yeah, that's why kind of why it's fun. And it was my lowest by far. I think I only gave it like 11 out of 25 or something.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, I actually, so I'm just going to go on with Forever, Innterrupted and cause it was my fifth for sure, without a doubt. So I really liked Elsie as a character. And I think that you all are going to realize this really quickly about me if you haven't already, because this is like episode eight of the podcast, but I'm very into love at first sight because I fall in love at first sight and I love relatable stuff. I also met my fiance when I was 22. So even though I was slutty as hell in college, I don't have a lot of adult dating experiences. And I really like to read books that reflect or mirror my own experience. So I really liked Elsie. I also, my fiance's name is Ben. Elsie married Ben after six months of dating. I moved in with my Ben after five months of dating. So we were also very zero to 100. So I really liked, I really liked her as a character only because I saw myself in her. I didn't find her to be particularly compelling though. Other than that, I gave her a four simply because I was able to see myself as Elsie. But I agree that other than being a librarian, there really wasn't anything that stuck out about her personality. I loved Ben because he just is like the classic guy that you'd want to go and fall in love with. And I actually love that he didn't end up being someone she didn't expect. However, I think the storyline about him wanting to hurt his mother was incredibly unreal—I mean, not wanting to hurt his mother was incredibly unrealistic. Why wouldn't you tell your mother you're dating a girl? She obviously would want to know if you fall in love. I just think that's so ridiculous and stupid. And I think that makes it kind of a plot hole in the book. Like the entire book is dependent on Ben never telling his mother about his girlfriend. And I just find that to be so weird because the mom didn't seem like the kind of mom that wouldn't want to know about a girlfriend. So I gave him a three for that. I think I personally really loved the YA novel quirk, cause I've never seen it before and I've never really heard of a guy in my own life who loved YA novels. So I actually thought that was a cute and original quirk, whereas some quirks that Taylor gives her readers.I don't appreciate. Three, I feel like we've seen this story before that and it's a typical grieving story. Lydia Bird came out after, but I saw some similarities there and I did read it ahead of time. And I gave it a four for sadness. The entire book was just fucking sad and I did cry at the end. But it was not the five-star standard for tears has not been released yet. It's on this list. However, and I think for long-term impact, I'm just going to have to give it a two. I already forget things about this book and I read it a week ago. So overall I did enjoy it. I did find it relatable. And I also kind of knew that people didn't love this book when I had read it a week ago. So I went into it really with low expectations and I do think they were exceeded. But as far as TJR books go, this is definitely not a top three.
Lily Herman: Yeah, no, I agree. And I will say too, cause we, it sounds like we've flipped. I had two books for my other in the bottom three that were like tied basically. So I will say number five for me, I'll just put it there is, is Daisy Jones and the Six. So I feel like we were generally, I think we generally had the same. I had pretty much all the same issues you did. So I don't think I need to repeat them, but generally it sounds like surprisingly, I thought you were gonna put Forever, Interrupted up there. Cause you were like—.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I tried to throw you off last weekend.
Lily Herman: You were like, "Oh my God!" You put on your Instagram stories. You were like this book, like—
Mackenzie Newcomb: I gave it a five on my Instagram story, but I changed it to a four-star in Goodreads.
Lily Herman: So, so tricky again, except for the fact that the feds are terrible, you could totally apply for the FBI with those stealth skills. CIA watch out. But again, we don't want to be the feds over here.
Discussion of Our Fourth Place Books (31:51)
Lily Herman: So I want to hear what was your number four?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. This, I don't think we're going to be on the same page about, so my number four, it was actually One True Loves.
Lily Herman: Oh, a hottest of hot take right now now.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. I loved this book. I think it's a fantastic—this is where I started to get to that "I loved this book" phase of this ranking five stars and I don't take it back and all these middle books for me were very, very close. For this I have a 19 out of 25, so I think that's pretty good.
Lily Herman: Okay. Can you give first a brief two-sentence overview of what the One True Loves synopsis is, like the back cover?
Mackenzie Newcomb: So Emma is from Massachusetts like myself and she falls in love with a boy named Jesse and they're high school sweethearts. And then they go off and they go to college together in LA, they get married. So there's not really any spoilers. This is the back of the book. And on their one-year anniversary, he disappears when he's off filming a documentary in Alaska and is pronounced dead. They can't find him. And so Emma moves on, she moves back home to deal with her grief and she reconnects with a boy that she—a man now, but a boy that she had known in high school that she had worked with at her parents' bookshop. I think anything else is a spoiler.
Lily Herman: Oh, well, the twist is on the back or the first page on the back.
Mackenzie Newcomb: He comes back. I personally liked Emma as a protagonist. I thought she was likable and she was normal. And I think it was actually Taylor's last normal protagonist. One True Loves was published in 2016, right before Evelyn Hugo. This is kind of her last normal chick protagonist. And so I did like Emma, she was normal. It was easy to picture yourself in her position. I thought that her love interests like her were pretty normal and easy to picture your life with, leaving room for her choice to be pretty impossible. So I gave her love interests a four and I gave her a four. However, the reason I ranked this book pretty low on my TJR list is because I didn't necessarily think the plot was that original. I think that she basically watched Castaway and was like, I want to write a book from Tom Hanks, his wife's perspective, in this book. And for that reason, I gave that a 2.5, which is kind of what took my whole breaking down because the end of the day I'm like this isn't really necessarily an original concept, even if I haven't seen it in literature before. However I did like it, I did think it was fun. This is the standard for tears. This is the gold standard for tears. This book got a five for crying for me. I sobbed, I hyperventilated. I'm still upset about it. And I read it in March. Definitely the most tears for me for a TJR book. And for long-term impact, I would say it's definitely something that makes you think about your own life and what it means to love to people. I've always been a proponent that you can love two people at once. And I think this is truly an impossible situation and I love an impossible situation in a book. So I gave it 19 and 25 star—points. And overall I really enjoyed this book, but it is third to last for me.
Lily Herman: Ooh, interesting. Okay. Well we know I ranked it—just based on, I'm not, I'm not saying yet we'll get to it,. But okay. So my, my middle of the road, like third to last pick was actually 2014's After I Do. The tables are turned! But okay. So here's the thing with After I do.. Again, did not hate, it was very sweet. So After I Do is essentially the story of two people that got married super young. They realized many years in that they're just missing that spark. They're always angry at each other all the time. They're not really planning their future together anymore. And so they decided to both take a year with no contact with the other, no rules, no nothing. They just go off and live their own lives for that year and then see where they fall a year from then. So that's the premise and yeah, I think quintessential again, protagonists and love interest Lauren and Ryan, like not really much there for me. Love them in the book when I was reading, again, I put that in the brilliance of TJR is actual writing, but I think the plot is not particularly original. Like, let's be real here. A couple that doesn't get along spends a year apart, like, or any amount of time apart to figure out their shit is like, you know, a second chance tale as old as time. And I think too, I cried a little bit, there were some sections like teared up, but I don't think of this as like an emotional wallop for me. And I think similarly, like long-term impact, yeah, I haven't really thought about this book all that much in the past. Like what is it now? Like five or six months since I read it? So it was February. Yeah. So I, yeah, I didn't hate it, but I just like, in terms of, again, long-term how I feel about it. I'm just kind of like, okay, two people who were good in the moment, like a fun read, a good read, a deep read. But I, and again, I don't also know if it's cause I am very single and not married or in some sort of long-term partnership, so I think on my mind is less in a place of trying to figure out how you stay together with someone. So that's not—but I remember really liking it when I read it, but I just, yeah. Like compared to other things, it's just not something that has quite stuck with me.
Discussion of Our Second and Third Place Books (37:54)
Lily Herman: So anyway, that's my number four, but I guess we can, unless you have any, any thoughts we can move on to our top three.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think we can move on to our top three.
Lily Herman: Oh, okay. Interesting. Go for it. What was your number three?
Mackenzie Newcomb: My number three pick was Maybe in Another Life. I, once again, absolutely love this book. I gave it 20 out of 25 stars, which was literally just one point above One True Loves and 0.5 lower than the one I ranked above it. Really where it lost points for me as—oh, I'm sorry. I need to tell you about the book. Okay. So Maybe in Another Life is a story about fate and the book centers around Hannah, who is 29 years old. Doesn't really have her shit together and tends to move from city to city to city. Can't really find her footing. Can't really find those friendships. Can't really get that good job. She's just kind of at a standstill in life, no matter where she goes. And she goes back to LA to spend some time with a friend, considers moving back out there, and on the first night, she's back, she has the opportunity to go home with her high school sweetheart, who she's held a candle for for a while, or just go home with her friend who she's staying with and see this guy another time and see what happens. And can I say what happens next? Or is that a spoiler?
Lily Herman: I think you get the spoiler. Yeah. Well I'll say, I guess what could be said is essentially the book is about how this one very simple decision whether to stay at a bar with this former flame or just go home and like chill for the night leads to entirely different trajectory.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. That's like the overarching theme here. Absolutely.
Lily Herman: It's very clever. I will say too. This was actually my number two, but it was basically tied with something. So I subjectively ranked it slightly higher, so yeah. So we're about the same, like you ranked it, number three, I ranked it number two.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes. This was like this kind of for me and my number two, I would say my number two and number three a really tied, I liked them equally. I only switched it up just for—I took off 0.5 points cause I hated Hannah's cinnamon roll thing. And that is the only thing between my second place and my third place. I don't think wearing a top knot and eating a lot of cinnamon rolls is a personality trait. But I did like that she was just a normal person aspect. And unlike the normal aspects, as in her other books, Hannah does not have her shit together.
Lily Herman: Yes. I agree. Yeah. I liked that aspect of her yet. I didn't love the cinnamon roll thing. I was like, okay, we get it like quirky, quirky girl.
Mackenzie Newcomb: She was a hot mess. And I think this is Taylor's first dabble with a hot mess character. I will say that I had to give it 4.5 stars for the love interest. I think the love interest situation in Maybe in Another Life is absolutely amazing. Like in most of her books, there's multiple love interests. And I think both men were perfect for her in different ways. And I live for a story that centers around fate and being in the right place at the right time. As I have said in the past—yeah I gave, I think a four for the plot. I liked it. It was original.
Lily Herman: I will say, again, not really spoiling anything, it just gets a little confusing at times because it basically flips between these alternate universes, every chapter, which you find out pretty quickly in the book. And I know when we, it was a yeah, a pick that we did for the romance challenge, that was something that a lot of people struggled with. At some point they were like, wait, which alternate universe am I in? Like, where, what is she doing? Who is the potential person? Like, is he going to come back? You know, you're, you're just kind of thinking through all of these different things all the time. But I would also say too, this book has mind-fucked me for the last several months since I read it in—whatever, that was April. Like girl, I love like time travel time-space continuum, alternate universe shit. Cause I just love to sit there and think about it all day and like this satisfied my love of sitting there and just like thinking like, yeah, like, are we in a million different universes? Like, am I a million different people? My podcast microphone wasn't plugging in, what would have happened if it did and we had started five minutes sooner, like that's the kind of that I love to just sit in. Like that's like my angst-ridden side. So I just love that aspect. I just thought that was so good. I'm still thinking about this book. I've recommended it for that reason to people of like, "Hey, do you want to have to talk to your therapist about lots of things? Great, Pick up this book!" So yeah, so, Oh yes. I loved this book. I really, really love this one.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think it was actually maybe the second favorite for me. I think I messed up my ratings, but it's okay. It doesn't matter. It's not a problem. I agree about the whole time-space continuum and different lives. Mostly, you know this cause I've spoken about it in our romantic challenges before, but unless we have a whole new audience at this point, which I hope I do, I met my fiance in summer school right after graduating college. And the only reason I was in summer school is because I dropped a class when I was studying abroad because I wanted to party more and go to the beach in Australia, and had I not been that it who dropped a class in college—so privileged and stupid—I never would have ended up in summer school and I probably wouldn't be marrying the person I'm marrying. So I love the whole idea of one small choice in your life, impacting the trajectory of the remainder of it, especially when you can actually pinpoint something like that in your own life. Just so fun. I gave it a five for plot because I have never seen a plot exactly like this before. And I thought that it was incredibly well-executed. Some people maybe found it confusing, like you said, Lily, but I personally didn't and I really, really enjoyed it. I gave it a four-star for crying. Cause it doesn't quite hit the One True Loves crying scale of number five because there is a clear standard for that. But there was definitely a lot of tears and I gave it a four for lasting impact because I really enjoyed this book, but I can't exactly remember why I loved it enough to give it five stars.
Lily Herman: I got you. I feel you. Okay. So then my number three, which I feel like might be a slight hot take for you is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Shook! I'm shook. This is how you know, we really didn't know each other's head. No. Okay.
Lily Herman: So basically this is now the concluding episode of our podcast, where Mackenzie has unfriended me for life. Like that wedding invite has been rescinded. So here's the thing, Evelyn, Hugo, I just, hmm. How do I explain this? Um, Evelyn Hugo is excellent. Again, that's like point number one, I think, though. So basically Evelyn Hugo is, uh, the story again, keeping in mind what we talked about earlier, which is that for TJR's two historical fiction books, they're kind of almost like oral histories. Like that's essentially what they are. And in this one, a reporter gets this mysterious message saying, hi, this reclusive, you know, former Golden Age Hollywood star, Evelyn Hugo she's super old. She suddenly wants to tell her life story. And obviously you're like, why the fuck does this woman suddenly want to do that? So this reporter goes, and basically the story that unfolds is Evelyn Hugo telling her life story. And obviously given that the book is called The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, she got a lot of matrimony going on. But it's way more again, continue with the theme. It's way more complex than it leads on. You're like, okay, this bitch has gotten married seven times. It's like, nope, a lot of shit going on. I will say though, I just I feel like everyone acted like this entire book was such a bombastic, like ridiculous, like plot twist and turn like sort of thing. And it's very good, but I don't know because like other people have had similar plots and similar twists and similar steps. Anyway, that's my issue. It's it's not a TJR issue. It's just—.
Mackenzie Newcomb: When did you read it?
Lily Herman: I read it like, what January of this year in 2020? I read it in 2020.
Mackenzie Newcomb: After two years of hype, there is no way it could live up to that.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I just don't—yeah, it's interesting. And again, I think there's a debate to be had about, you know, how certain, so for instance, books like Gone Girl and the thriller genre, like how a lot of the thriller genre changed after Gone Girl came out. I think similarly, some might argue that in kind of historical fiction, Seven Husbands, that did come out in 2017, did it kind of shift some things? I don't know, like it's kind of hard to say, I haven't really looked into it. Again I'm becoming like this English major and I absolutely fucking hate it as much as all of you do, but I, yeah, so I don't, I don't know. I just, some people are super obsessed with it to the point where I'm like, okay, this was a very, very good book. But like for me, for instance, I have not actually thought about it to the extent that I've thought about Maybe in Another Life, in terms of my own life. Like, it was a great read when I read it, but people act like they've never seen anything like it. And I'm just kind of like—I don't mean to be mean to anyone who is like obsessed, obsessed with this book, but I just, I read a lot of different genres and a lot of different things. And I'm just like, it's a very good book, but like—
Mackenzie Newcomb: It wasn't your favorite book of all time,
Lily Herman: The way people talk about it being this life-changing cataclysmic something, but like aren't able to articulate to me why that is. I think that's the hard part is people are obsessed, but like no one's able to actually pinpoint. So yeah, I—because I know where it falls for you. So I mean, I'm excited when we get to it for you. Cause I do want to pause and let this again, this polarizing take, you know, set in for everyone, but that's like, where I leave off on it. I really liked Evelyn.
Mackenzie Newcomb: What'd you give it for points?
Lily Herman: Points wise, it was—I think it was tied for what, like 20 or 21.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So good score. My second place score.
Lily Herman: Yeah. So my top three were all within like two points of each other. So again, for it to be like a number one spot, it's just missing that like long-term impact thing for me. I did tear up a little bit, but again, I just, yeah.—if someone, if anyone wants to tweet or DM me and like, articulate why this book was so like groundbreaking for them would love to hear that too. So that is my crispy flaming hot take for everyone. You are all welcome. Come at me. I don't care. So that that's that on that, but we'll get to why I gave my number two—I want to, I know where you're number two and number one are going to fall cause I know you, but go ahead.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. I'm gonna run through my number two pretty quickly cause you talked about it a lot, but my number two is After I Do and After I Do was a Bad Bitch Book Club pick in March. March?
Lily Herman: Or was it April?
Mackenzie Newcomb: I don't remember when Bromance Book Club and when After I Do were, but they were March, April, whenever they were. Sorry, it's been a while. It was March, sorry. It's been a long year. So After I Do was a Bad Bitch Book Club pick. It was recommended by Hanna Bastin, shout out Hanna for listening to this. And I really loved this book. So I actually gave the protagonist a 4.5. I really liked Lauren. I found that she was unapologetically the breadwinner, which I respect and also I can relate to in my own relationship. And she was also a sneaky. I loved that. She went through emails like that is my jam. I love that she was into sketchy but you still want her to win. That's how I know that, you know, when a character is well-written. But I gave Ryan the three, like who was Ryan?
Lily Herman: Yes, that's exact—and it's her second book. So it's like, that's my exact issue with some of her early books. Like we didn't really get—other than that, again, he was a suave like 19-year-old when they met in college, there's not really much, but I will say it was fine character-wise yeah. The big things, like I said before that I took points off for were originality of the plot and then tissues consumed and then the long-term impact again for me and my—
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's funny, cause that's where they got a lot of points for me.
Lily Herman: Again, I think we're in very different places romantically. So it makes sense that you are sitting there, you know, half a decade into a relationship being like, yo, like how do we keep the magic alive? Whereas I'm like, do I want to deal with a person in any way, shape or form? Like probably not even if we weren't like—
Mackenzie Newcomb: And they'll know that I give Ryan a three, but I really should have given him a two cause like he's literally nobody. But I remember that I liked the character that she had a little fling with. So maybe he gets one point, so I would keep it at three so my rankings don't go up. As far as plot goes, I actually found it to be really original. I had not seen this before and I feel like I read a lot of romance, but this was kind of at the beginning of my romance binge, which happened in spring 2020. And I think a couple taking a year off marriage is just crazy enough to make it an interesting story, but simple enough that it's applicable to anyone's life who's in a long-term relationship.
Lily Herman: Whereas I've read a lot of, sort of like marriage in trouble, hey do something crazy, so I'm, I'm a little—I shouldn't say crazy that's abelist but so they do something that's just like out of character for them. But yeah, I think that's where we differ is that I was like, okay, it's another one of these, but again, well-written, hella well-written.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I gave it a 4.5 for plot. I think maybe I was being a little generous, but I really enjoyed, I really, really enjoyed this book. I gave it a 4.5 for tears, which is the second highest tear ranking I gave. And that's just because I felt this book in my heart throughout the entire book. I think I started crying by page 20. So this is a book I cried throughout, not just one giant breakdown at the end and I have to give credit where it's due. I was also just really able to relate this to my own life thinking like, okay, things may get to the point where Ben and I hate each other at some point where we think each other is super annoying and don't really want anything to do with each other. We're not having sex. We're fighting over where we parked the car, but there is the potential to still get through it. And I think it's really for couples who are in long-term relationships that are perhaps on the brink of getting married or newly married, you fear that moment where you fall out of love. And this book kind of showed me that you can fall back in love. You can which they don't necessarily do in the book. And I also really enjoyed—back to the plot, I felt that you really don't know whether or not they're going to get back together and this could be a spoiler,
Lily Herman: So let's not spoil, but yeah, but like, I think that's also—
Mackenzie Newcomb: But you don't know what's going to happen.
Lily Herman: I will say, almost all of her contemporary romances, except for Forever, Interrupted, there's definitely a point where you're like, wait, I literally could see this going multiple ways. So Maybe in Another Life, I had no idea that plot, you know, because they're dealing with multiple people and love interests and other things. And you're like, okay, is this some big round circle? Is this just, yeah, like completely two points on a line, like veering in different directions with this book? With After I Do, you're like, okay, I could easily see them never speaking again. I could easily see them getting back together. Like there's no really defined conclusion until you get to a certain point.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, exactly. And you don't even know what you want for them.
Lily Herman: Oh yeah. Oh, that's absolutely how I feel about all of her contemporary romance, except Forever, Interrupted.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Sitting there waiting for TJR's fate. So I gave this book a four for like how I remember it, like lasting impact just because it was probably one of the most likable Bad Bitch books of the month this year. And I think it holds up and I really enjoyed it and I would probably re-read it, but I kind of feel like Maybe in Another Life was meant to be my second place book. And this was maybe meant to be my third place book. I feel they're tied. They're just fucking tied. I'm sorry. I'm not placing one over the other. That's just how it's going to be. Lily, what's your number two?
Discussion of Our First Place Books (54:40)
Lily Herman: We did my number two? That was Maybe in Another Life for me. And then my number one. Yeah. So we're both. So we're both doing now our number one.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. What's your number one?
Lily Herman: Okay. Let me also say, let me repeat, actually that my top three were all within like two points of each other, but I think One True Loves. It's interesting cause I didn't really love Emma as a protagonist for the reasons stated previously about all the other protagonists. I feel like I'm shitting on TJR, I feel like I'm just being very honest about like—
Mackenzie Newcomb: We're not shitting on her. We love you. If you're listening to this, we love you.
Lily Herman: Yeah. I was like, you know what? I liked that there were dueling love interests. I think originality-wise it was iffy. But I do think the fact that, yeah, as you were just saying, I had no idea where this was going to go until maybe almost two-thirds of the way through the book, because I was like, okay, you can make the case for her getting back with her husband. You can also make the case for her staying with her now-fiance that she met after she thought her husband had passed away. So I literally was like, until there was kind of a couple of pivotal scenes that happen between like the halfway and the two--thirds point where you're like, okay, so then it gets to a point where it's not necessarily this question of who, but how is she going to make that person see her point of view in all of this. Because obviously both men are reeling from the fact that yeah, someone they love loves someone else too. So I did like that kind of originality point was that there wasn't an obvious point of view or there wasn't an obvious conclusion that we were just kind of being led towards. So I really liked that. I did tear up quite a bit. And I think in another, I would say another, okay. To pause again. I think another huge thing that I love in my life, I'm a huge fan of the very problematic show How I Met Your Mother. Not because it's problematic, it is problematic, but I also like grew up on it. So it's like definitely in kind of my lexicon.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We all have a thing or two that's a little problematic about us.
Lily Herman: How I Met Your Mother, it's racist. It's transphobic, it's homophobic. It's sexist—anyway. So it has problems. That's what I want to say. However, a huge theme of How I Met Your Mother, which I think is great, is this idea of do people need to stay together forever for that time together to be meaningful? And so I think that that theme has always been really present in my life. Not just romantically, but platonically with other friends and things like that, of just thinking of, you know, people coming in and out of your life, what does it mean? You know, how do those people affect you or impact you long-term? So I love that idea so that when I was reading it, I was like, oh, this is my shit. Like this is a thousand percent like a Lily Herman point. And then I thought about that a lot since reading it. So I think though for me, yeah. It's okay.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That was a really beautiful description of why —
Lily Herman: I'm back in my professor mode. I'm feeling a philosophy professor today, but yeah, because anyway, so that's why I, again, my ranking of the top three were very, very close, but I think that's why it was edged out for me was I thought about this book quite a bit, same as I have Maybe in Another Life, in a way that Seven Husbands was a great read at the time, but hasn't been some sort of longer-term thing that I've thought about in the same way or that I've been able to. Like see myself in kind of like you did with After I Do, whereas I'm like, cool, great.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Very relatable, same with Maybe in Another Life. I think once you, I was probably the book I felt the least related to, but the way you just described how people are like really important in your life, despite the fact that maybe not lasting forever, was very touching and it's totally good assessment.
Lily Herman: And now you've ranked it number—no I'm kidding, you're not ranking it number one. Anyway, your number one, which I knew was gonna be—
Mackenzie Newcomb: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. And I think a lot of people feel similar leave to myself.
Lily Herman: I mean, here's what I want to hear, cause based on the point I made, yes, what is like the it-factor of this book for you that I am missing that everyone else has seen?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. So I think it's important for me to put a few things into context. First one, I read Evelyn Hugo only a couple months after it came out and I wasn't super into the book scene yet. I've never been really big on bookstagram. So I was not really subject to a lot of the hype. I had heard from a handful of people that it was good. And I thought the cover was really pretty. And so I bought it for myself. I bought it for myself, I think for Christmas, in 2018. And I didn't even get around to reading it for a couple months because I had—literally just didn't think much about it. And Evelyn Hugo is basically everything that I love in a book. I love, I live for a celebrity memoir.
Lily Herman: I'm more indifferent celebrity memoirs, which is funny because over the summer, this past summer I had been helping run the celebrity memoir challenge, but I'm a little more like, they're cool, but they're not like my favorite.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's not your shit. And I just love celebrity culture. Like for example, when I was growing up, my mom and I used to watch E's True Hollywood Stories together. So I know pretty much not everything about every celebrity, but I know a lot about celebrities and I just love them. I'm very fascinated by celebrity culture. So this was the first book that I had read about a fictional celebrity. And I think for that reason, I was really engulfed in it. And I'm also like a little bit of, um, I used to be a dating blogger as well, and I touch on some earlier episodes. And so I love a promiscuous woman and promiscuous protagonist, and I find that so many protagonists in romance novels, female protagonists, are virgin-washed. They've only slept with as many men as they can count on one hand, no offense if that's your journey. And I just really enjoyed that. That was not Evelyn, she was the kind of woman who could get married on a whim. Clearly she's had seven husbands. And I just found her to be awesome. I gave her four stars because I felt that she was a really multidimensional protagonist, you can totally see her being a woman who would be called in the tabloids to be a diva or like have a lot of enemies, made a big splash. I only took off one point, because I felt that Monique wasn't a fully realized character.
Lily Herman: That is literally what I was about to say is that—so for those who haven't read the book, essentially, as we were saying earlier, there's a journalist who is listening to Evelyn Hugo as she tells her life story. And I will say, I also felt like Monique, the journalist was a very, very half-baked character.
Mackenzie Newcomb: She was a half-baked character that was like really important to the storyline, but at the same time really wasn't. I agree. She was totally half-baked. I wish that she had spent a little bit more time working on Monique and making her more exciting. So I gave it a four for the main character simply because I felt Monique was supposed to be a main character, but kind of just wasn't. I gave it a five star, however, for love interests. Many a love interest. I think the title really grabs you in. And I think her one true love story was really remarkable. And I wouldn't necessarily say crazy unique, but maybe applicable to some Hollywood rumors that are never fully confirmed. I'm not going to get too specific on that because there's people who you're not supposed to speculate about people's sex lives. If, you know, if you read the book, you know what I mean? But as a celebrity-obsessed person, I was able to kind of fill in the holes of inspiration. So five for that. I gave it a five star for originality. Again, I had read it a long time ago and I had never read a book like it since then I have kind of fallen into the whole celebrity fictional celebrity genre. And it is definitively my shit. I gave us the only four-star for crying, because again, One True Loves is the standard for tears. There is nothing—if it can't touch that, then it can't get five stars. And I gave it a five for lasting impact. So this is just one of my favorite books of all time. And I think what you wanted to know is why, like why this book, why does everybody love this book so fucking much? And I think part of it is it's so unrelatable and yet you are able to really connect with the characters. I personally can not relate to really any aspect of this book, unlike some of her other ones where we're really meant to see ourselves as a protagonist. I think we're just meant to see the protagonist for who she is and her multi-dimensional ways. We're not meant to be Evelyn Hugo. None of us are Evelyn, she's so much bigger than us. We're not Meryl Streep. And I find it to be one of those books that if you meet someone who's like, oh, I haven't read a full novel in a year, or, you know, I'm not a big reader. You can hand them Evelyn Hugo. And by the end of it, they'll be like, oh my God, what do you want me to read next? Because it's the kind of book that can really suck anybody in and they will love it.
Lily Herman: I think that's a really good point. And I think that's where my issue lies is I read a ton, like a ridiculous amount.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So it's not necessarily for you and you read it in 2020. At this point, it's had so much hype, I mean, hard-pressed to find a book that is more hyped than The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
Lily Herman: Yeah. So I think that's always interesting as is like the time when, yeah, when you read a book, because there are certain books where I feel like the hype was just so high and it's always fascinating to me though. Like why people are obsessed with certain books and why not others?
Mackenzie Newcomb: I gave it a 23 out of a 25 and the closest one to that was, um, 20.5. So I will say there was a pretty decent gap in between my first and second, but my second, third and fourth were like right there. I really think One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, and After I Do are kind of all tied for me, but Seven Husbands is definitely my favorite. I love it. It's not your favorite. I think that, it makes it interesting. It'd be a little boring. I was watching Taylor Jenkins Reid ranking YouTube videos on BookTube.
Lily Herman: I'm sure a lot of people said Evelyn Hugo was their favorite. I'm assuming.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Sure. I'm so basic with that opinion. I totally recognize that I am just one of a million that loves Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but it's my truth.
Lily Herman: I'm glad I could be contrarian today.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I thought you were going to say the same thing as me. We're just gonna be like, well, that's that, it's the best book, but I liked that. You said One True Loves, and quite frankly, I think it's a great pick for you. My mom's actually currently reading it.
Lily Herman: Ooh.
Mackenzie Newcomb: She's loving it. She's like getting her oil changed right now and she forgot her book. She's like, oh my God, I can't believe I forgot my book. It's so good. What am I going to do?
Lily Herman: We'd love to see it. Yeah, no, I'm glad we had different, different opinions, but yeah. Overall I think we both, we both really—I know Taylor Jenkins read is your favorite author. And she's one that I definitely love. So I don't think, yeah, we had really anything particularly, I don't know. We didn't really have anything particularly salacious in terms of like disliking a book or anything.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Exactly. So we chose TJR as our first #classified author. Cause we know a lot of Bad Bitch Book Club members are familiar with her work, have read a lot of it, and could play along with us for this episode. After all, we have chosen two of her books as Bad Bitch book of the month, which is an honor that has only been bestowed to TJR and Roxane Gay. If you are TJR or her publicist, know that I am willing to make Malibu Burning our book of the month when it comes out if she agrees to a Q&A.
Recommendations for TJR Starter Books (1:06:24)
Mackenzie Newcomb: However, for those who have not read a TJR novel before Lily, where would you advise? They start?
Lily Herman: I actually would say that my pick for the book that I think is a good encapsulation of her work, but it won't make you feel like you read the best book first is After I Do.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think that's right.
Lily Herman: Cause like you don't want to start off with Evelyn Hugo cause then I think that's also, a lot of people did start with Evelyn Hugo and then were very disappointed by Daisy Jones or with her or—they didn't realize that she had only written two historical fiction books and had written a bunch of contemporary romance. And so I think After I Do was the second or third of hers I'd read and I just, yeah, like even though it's not like a book I love, love, love, and want to revisit and all this stuff, it's just a really solid look at all those different elements. We were talking about the DNA of a TJR novel. It's a very typical Taylor Jenkins Reid book where you're going to tear up a little bit. You're going to think about your own life. You're going to feel like solidly about people, the characters in the book, but maybe won't be obsessed, obsessed. So I think it's just a good, solid first book.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. I actually would agree. I'm going to give someone an other option just because right now, but I will say, I think that Lily's onto something there. I would say another really good first TJR book would be Daisy Jonesand the Six because you don't have your standards super set high if you are a historical fiction lover with Evelyn Hugo. I find that most people that read Daisy Jones before they read Evelyn Hugo like it a lot more and I've heard it's amazing on audiobook. I know we're all audiobooking it up right now. So I'm gonna say Daisy Jones, this is my least favorite, but I think it would not be my least favorite had I read it at a different time.
Lily Herman: I could see that. Yeah. I read it because obviously it was my last of her current books that are out that I read and I enjoyed it. I really, really enjoyed it, but I think I could see how, depending on when you read it in relation to certain other books, how you could just feel like it was a letdown. If again, you also didn't necessarily have the context to all of her other work that I did. So yeah, I think that's a good—
Mackenzie Newcomb: What I would say, I wouldn't recommend starting with would actually be Forever, Interrupted, despite the fact that it's her debut novel. I think it's better to look back at as almost a time capsule of TJR and see like, oh, this was her first book and kind of treat it with grace like you would with any debut author because it was published a really long time ago. And I don't think it's really reflective of the quality of her other books.
Lily Herman: I'd agree with that. Yeah. It's a good book. It's still a very good book, a better debut than like 90% of debut authors, 85 to 90% of them. But I think compared to her other work, if you were to read it first, you might be like, wait, why is everyone obsessed with this woman? Like why is she full beloved? Again, great book, but I think, yeah, that she hasn't reached the level of complexity quite yet that she does with some of her other contemporary romances and then with her historical romances.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And I feel like there's a big jump between Forever, Interrupted and After I Do in my personal opinion, as far as her skills that as an author goes.
Lily Herman: I agree as well. Yes, we're in agreement finally, after an episode of us being—we did it.
Lily Herman: So that's all we have for today. Thank you for listening to a lot of minutes of us yelling about TJR's books. Once again, you can find all the information about this podcast episode at badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. You can also find me at @lilykherman on Instagram. And I was always, the "k" is "k" as in "kangaroo." And you can find me on Twitter at @lkherman. Mack, do you want to give your self-promo and Bad Bitch promo?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Absolutely. So you can follow me at @mackinstyle. Please comment on my outfit photos and tell me how cute and stylish I am. I am also at @mackinstyle on Twitter. Feel free to harass me about my ranking of Daisy Jones and the Six. And if you want to follow Bad Bitch Book Club, we are at @badbitch.—don't forget the period—bookclub on Instagram and we are at @badbtchbookclub with the "i" on Twitter.
Lily Herman: It's @badbtchbookclub without a period?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, @badbtchbookclub. Sorry. I was just getting these confused. @badbtchbookclub without the "i" for Twitter, not for any kind of censorship reasons, just because there's only so long Twitter handles can be.
Lily Herman: Facts though. Serious facts. Awesome. Well, so next week, episode nine out of our 10-episode first season, we are discussing our top three love stories of 2020. And I think what's going to be really, really fun is that we're not just saying romance novels or romance genre per se. We're doing love in general. So come back, join us again and thank you again to everyone for listening. We hope Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of you who listened to this episode.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Love you, Taylor come to a Q&A with us about Malibu Burning! Be our friend! Follow me on Twitter!
Lily Herman: We love it. Thank you. All right. see y'all next week. Bye!