S1 E9: Mackenzie and Lily's Favorite Love Stories of 2020

In the penultimate episode of season one, Mackenzie and Lily talk about their favorite love stories (not exclusively romance novels!) of 2020. Find out why ghosts deserve love too, who becomes the first male author ever mentioned on the podcast, why Lily believes everybody's read Mexican Gothic incorrectly, and more. Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00), Housekeeping (1:03), Introduction to Main Topic (1:57), Discussion of The Roommate by Rosie Danan (3:07), Discussion of Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (6:41), Discussion of Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (8:53), Discussion of Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (11:55), Discussion of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (14:45), Discussion of Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (18:00), Discussion of Layla by Colleen Hoover (21:20), Discussion of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (25:19), Introduction to What We're Reading Now (30:08), Discussion of Act Your Age, Eve Brown (30:14), Discussion of Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee (33:24), Conclusion (37:55). You can get full show notes and episode transcriptions on the Bad Bitch Book Club website: 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: Buy all books mentioned on Friends to Lovers: 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. ( and music by Eliza Rose Vera (

Show Notes

Books Mentioned

Other Tidbits

Episode Transcript

Introduction (0:00)

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

Mackenzie Newcomb: Hi everybody, I'm Mackenzie Newcomb. I'm the founder of Bad Bitch Book Club, and I am an influencer marketing expert and a Taylor Jenkins Reid stan, as you learned just a couple of episodes ago.

Lily Herman: And I'm Lily Herman. I'm a writer, editor, person who loves a good herbal tea, and one of Mack's best friends.

Mackenzie Newcomb: I have no time for any tea that doesn't have caffeine. My mom always tries it out on me and I'm like, why would I want that?

Housekeeping (1:03)

Lily Herman: So on the housekeeping front, just a reminder that you can find show notes to every episode, including every book we talk about and full episode transcriptions, at You should also join the Bad Bitch Book Club Patreon at for only $7 a month. I hope given that this is episode nine that you know all the perks of that. You can also follow us on social media at @F2Lpodcast, and once again, that is two as in the number 2. And join our Friends to Lovers podcast Facebook group, which I believe might have surpassed 200 people, so it's getting very lit all up in there. And then lastly, you can follow Bad Bitch Book Club on Instagram at badbitch.bookclub and on Twitter at @badbtchbookclub minus the "i," because Jack Dorsey sucks and I have no problem saying that.

Introduction to Main Topic (1:57)

Lily Herman: Mack, what is in store for this episode?

Mackenzie Newcomb: So we're so excited today to talk about our favorite love stories of 2020. Now, please note that we are not just talking about love stories that we saw in the many, many, many romance novels that we read this year in order to just escape from 2020. We are also talking about any kind of romantic couple that we've seen in any of the books that we've read this year. So these are really the top of the top of the top.

Lily Herman: I think it's like, if you want to yearn, if you want to love, if you just want to sit and cry in a puddle, or I don't know, be introspective, this is the episode for you.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Exactly, exactly. Like not every recommendation is just to get you horned up, but there are some. As always, we aren't here to fuck up your day and spoil a good time, so feel free to listen to this purely for the recommendations. And as always, there's like little tidbits of plot, but we're not going to spoil anything for you.

Lily Herman: Everything is either back cover or something that comes up in literally the first five to 10 pages where neither of us considers that a spoiler.

Discussion of The Roommate by Rosie Danan (3:07)

Mackenzie Newcomb: So my first recommendation is the Bad Bitch Book Club book of the month for November, which is The Roommate by Rosie Danan. Credit where it's due, of course, this is a Lily recommendation then followed by an Ella Dawson recommendation. And now it is my go-to romance recommendation and the November book of the month. So it's a story of this high-strung Greenwich socialite that decides to move to LA for a boy she's been obsessed with, but not sexually involved with, for the majority of her life. So she's going to be his roommate. Okay. When she gets there, he's actually decided that he's going to go on tour with his lame band and fills up his room with a subletter who also happens to be a very well-known and popular rising porn star named Josh. You can sort of guess what happens next, but I promise you that this book will surprise you a little bit. It's very steamy. Although according to some people I've exaggerated the steam. So it's steamy.

Lily Herman: I will say there's a lot of tension the entire time. So I think we actually have an episode that we have plotted for next season discussing what the steam scale is to each and every person. Cause it differs.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Totally differs. This is really steamy for me.

Lily Herman: It was like, the tension in this is ridiculous, but I will say sexually speaking, I wouldn't say there's not anything, there is stuff, but the tension is what is like the driving force of this book.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Definitely.

Lily Herman: It's these two people who are like encircling each other, but not touching the goods and don't know what to do about it. Or like rubbing against the goods, but anything about it.

Mackenzie Newcomb: I mean, this book made me want to have sex like immediately, and then I did. So I would say that it's very steamy and I highly recommend it and it's just a totally unique romance novel and a plot that we haven't seen before. So that's my first recommendation for sure.

Lily Herman: Oh my goodness. Oh wait, wait. First two things about this book. One, I think Ben owes Rosie Danan a fruit basket and Edible Arrangement.

Mackenzie Newcomb: He definitely owes her an Edible Arrangement.

Lily Herman: Ben, if you're listening, please get on that. You need to show your gratitude to the Patron Saint of steamy sexual tension that lasts for 325 pages. Second, Rosie Danan—her second book is coming out in April of 2021 called The Intimacy Experiment and is about Naomi from the first book. And those who've read it know she is the ex-girlfriend of Josh, the main character, and a fellow former adult film star, and the person she falls in love with, and this is on the back cover, so I ain't spoiling it, it a rabbi.

Mackenzie Newcomb: It has to be part of the romance challenge, Lily.

Lily Herman: I love that book. I got an ARC of it. Immediately as a Jew, I will say like the Jewish people needed this. It's the literature we've been waiting for. And there's also, I will say too, there's that book. And then in January, Rachel Lynn Solomon, who's written a ton of great YA, is coming out with her first adult romance. And that has a Jewish protagonist as well. So the Jews are getting on it in 2021, like just saying love to see it for our people. We deserve this after 6,000 years of like wandering deserts and shit, like we deserve this. So that is my diatribe. So go pre-order The Intimacy Experiment and The Ex Talk, which are both on Bookshop and places that are not Amazon.

Discussion of Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (6:41)

Lily Herman: So anyway, after that small tirade for my people. My first pick is I think the first and only dude slash white dude that I've mentioned this entire season, I want to say, and that is Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. I will say if there's going to be only one man mentioned this entire season, I'm glad it's him in this book. I'm fine with that. Anxious People, for those who don't know, is the story of this incredibly confounding bank robbery by the world's worst bank robber. And this bank robber ends up fleeing and taking roughly half a dozen people hostage at a real estate open house. And the story essentially begins with police trying to talk to the various freed hostages, all of whom are very difficult witnesses for a variety of reasons. It's definitely a very smart book. It's about sort of a dark humor and this very kind of funny and very specific writing style, but within it, there's this love—I mean, it's a book about love in general and kind of how, you know, how we love other people, how we love our loved ones and all of that. But there's a specific love story, which I don't want to spoil that sort of snuck up on me, and when it kind of came to fruition at the end, I was sort of sitting there like, "Oh my God, this is a very adorable story." And it involves a very, very difficult woman kind of finding herself into this love that she doesn't feel like she deserves for a variety of reasons. So I loved Anxious People. I know that some people felt like it was over-hyped or whatever. I read it actually right as soon as the ARC came out, again another perk of being a media person, and loved it. So I would say ignore what you've seen online, or ignore any reviews and just read it for yourself. It's a very particular type of book, but I think it's just a really, really beautiful story about love. So thank you Frederik for being the white man of the group.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Congrats to Fredrik, white man of the year for the Friends to Lovers podcast. We're so happy for you and this prestigious award. I have not yet read it, but I will read it. I've read only, I think, three books by men this year. So I'm at my capacity, but 2021 is looking good.

Discussion of Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (8:53)

Mackenzie Newcomb: So the next I want to recommend is Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert. So this is actually the second book in the Brown sisters series and the follow up to Get a Life, Chloe Brown. I liked Chloe Brown, don't get me wrong. I think it's a pretty good book, but I just think that Take a Hint, Dani Brown was lightyears better. I personally gave it five stars. And like, how often do you give five stars to a book that you gave three stars to its predecessor? I feel like that's fair. Anyways, Dani Brown is a bisexual academic feminist who does not have the time nor desire for a relationship, but she does have really good banter with a security guard at the school she works at, who also happens to be like a really sweet softy pro rugby player with a sad and emotional past named Zaf. And he's my book boyfriend, but I'm willing to share him with only Dani Brown. And it's just a great, it's a great audio book. The British accents—the voice actors are fantastic as they always are with Talia Hibbert's books, it's incredibly steamy. And I feel like it's really rare to have a protagonist that's just like totally not down for love, just trying to get fucked. And that is Dani Brown. And I just, I think a lot of people can relate to that because not everybody is out there looking for a romantic relationship. And sometimes you just happen to stumble upon a sexy man who works with you. I also love that he's a blue collar man.

Lily Herman: And I was going to say, that's amatonormativity to tie in something from, I think, episode five, the idea that everyone needs to desire a long-term committed, monogamous relationship or else you're like weird or whatever.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Exactly. And Dani doesn't want that.

Lily Herman: She’s against those social constructs. We love to see it. I also really, really love this book. I feel like for me, which I'm actually got to talk about the third book later on in this episode in that series, but I feel like, yeah, Dani Brown is definitely a huge improvement on Chloe Brown, which is still a great book, but I think was missing a couple of elements or a couple of things were under developed.

Mackenzie Newcomb: It checked a lot of boxes. Yeah.

Lily Herman: Chloe Brown checked a lot of boxes and was great. But I think for instance, they try to set it—or Talia Hibbert tries to set it up as like an enemies-to-lovers book, and then they stopped being enemies as of chapter three kind of thing where you're like, wait—

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, the enemy thing didn't really make sense. Why the enemies, which as you know, we don't like that. It has to be very obvious why your enemies.

Lily Herman: Exactly. Yeah. So there was some issues like that where we're still, the banter was excellent. Love the characters, but there also wasn't a plot after a certain point in Chloe Brown. I think in Dani Brown, that's the only issue I had with it was that there sort of stops being a plot around the two-thirds mark. And it just kind of goes off into a lot of internal yearning and what not, which ,nothing wrong with that. I think I was just a little thrown off, but I will say as a teaser to get to the end of this episode, when I talk about the third book that's coming out, I believe in March of next year, which is Act Your Age, Eve Brown, I feel like Talia Hibbert really nails it with that one on all fronts. So I'll get, I'll get into this more in a bit.

Discussion of Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (11:55)

Mackenzie Newcomb: What's your next one?

Lily Herman: Yeah. My next pick, which has become sort of a cult favorite amongst romance readers in Bad Bitch Book Club, is Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall and I'll point out Alexis is genderqueer author that goes by he/him pronouns. So I just wanted to put that out there. So Boyfriend Material. First and foremost, I am always looking for books, and I've said this I think in other episodes, that remind me of the vibe of Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue, which means I look for great banter, I look for kind of interesting wacky plots, and then have a sweet love story at the center of it. But I feel like Casey McQuiston really created something amazing with Red, White & Royal Blue. And I've mentioned that Only Mostly Devastated, which we talked about in I think our second episode on Angsty Youths, that book has similar-ish vibes. And I think Boyfriend Material is the next one, which I read an ARC of this one too in advance and immediately told our romance subgroup, Bad Bitches in Love, about it. Cause I loved it. So Boyfriend Material is amazing, but essentially it's the story of this man named Luc in his twenties. He's the son of two washed-up celebrity has-beens and he's been a fixture of the party scene as a lot of celebrities' kids kind of become over the years, and he works this fundraising job that he's indifferent to, but after yet another small tabloid scandal, his boss says, "Hey, we need you to clean up your act because donors are getting spooked by this. So either clean it up or get fired." So basically over time he decides, okay, I can start a fake relationship with someone who's maybe clean-cut, has their life together externally speaking, whatever, and fix this problem. So he begins a fake romance with a friend of a friend named Oliver whom he's only met a couple of times and thinks is simultaneously the most boring and condescending man of all time. And so Oliver and Luc are just doing the most all of the time. I absolutely loved it. Alexis Hall's dialogue in this is fantastic. Absolutely lovely and adorable and just hilarious. And Luc as a character is just so flawed and I love it. He's just very self-aware of how kind of fucked up of a person he is. And not like in terms of really deep-seated issues, just a day-to-day is clumsy or doesn't say the right thing or whatever, but in a way that's very self-deprecating and funny. And I think it's a book that's definitely also about two people really trying to figure out themselves and dealing with a lot of their own shit as much as they are trying to figure out each other. I love Boyfriend Material. I definitely want to reread it because the dialogue is so good in this book. Like everyone is just so well-written and I loved it. So Alexis Hall, thank you for this book. It is delightful.

Discussion of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (14:45)

Mackenzie Newcomb: So I'm finally venturing into a pick that isn't exactly—isn't at all a romance novel, but it is a story about relationships. So it's the vanishing half by Brit Bennett, which was our July book? It was our July book of the month for Bad Bitch Book Club. And even though this book is not a love story, it does absolutely include one of the book club's absolute favorite romances of this year, without any doubt. And we're obviously talking about Jude and Reese from The Vanishing Half. So now this book is really about two sisters who are light-skinned Black women living in Louisiana in the 1950s. One of the sisters named Stella disappears one day to live her life as a white woman, whereas the other sister, Desiree, marries a much darker man and has a very dark-skinned daughter named Jude, who goes off to college—spoiler alert, but not really like that's not much of a spoiler, kids go to college someday—and meets a man named Reese who is a transgender man. They then go on to have the least chaotic and most stable relationship of anyone in the story. It's basically a non-story. We love them so much.

Lily Herman: Yeah. And it's like, they go through a lot, but you never questioned their devotion. He never questioned their devotion to each other. It's just kind of, "Oh, you have this thing happened. Great. We'll like overcome it together." And you're like, wow. Meanwhile, Jude's mom and aunt are a disaster as people and just trying to figure out all their shit. And Jude's just sitting there like trying to do stuff as an adult.

Mackenzie Newcomb: She has a cool boyfriend who she loves, wondering when they're going to get married sometime soon, you know, when the world allows it. But yeah, it's a really amazing book in general, but I think that their love story was just this unbelievable—is it tertiary plot? Is that what you would say? Or at least secondary, it kind of goes in and out where you're—

Lily Herman: Yeah, because obviously the focus is on the two twin sisters who are a mess and live very different lives based on what they decide to do racially speaking.

Mackenzie Newcomb: It's just a great book and it's a great romance and we love that so much. And you would just love seeing a trans character framed this way, where they're just like, the hot guy that is like a little too into their artsy, like side project and kind of needs to go get a job. Just like any other boyfriend that's like in his early twenties, you know, just like anybody else. And that's why they're the best. Yeah. You loved this book, right?

Lily Herman: Yeah. I adored this book. I will say too, I know it's one of those books where people are like, it lives up to the hype. It doesn't live up to the hype, but I definitely think regardless it is just one of those books you need to read because there's nothing really else like it, especially in the more commercial fiction market. And Brit Bennett's work, both this and her first book, The Mothers, are both just excellent. But I will say that both are definitely reads where you need to be in a certain headspace and be ready. They're slower. Like you're not going to get plot points on plot points on plot points. So you have to go into it ready to kind of commit to the book for a while.

Mackenzie Newcomb: And not to read in a day. Like you might read it in a day, but don't go in being like Saturday morning, I'm going to start this, I'm going to finish it by night. Like enjoy the book. It took her like four years to write it, so take like four days to read it.

Lily Herman: Yeah. Just let it wash over you slowly.

Discussion of Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (18:00)

Lily Herman: My next pick is Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, which is a YA novel. And we briefly mentioned this book in our Angsty Youths episode all the way at the start of the season, but I think Kacen Callender created real perfection here, so I definitely wanted to give it a longer discussion. So basically this book is centered around Felix Love, who is a Black trans teenager in New York City who's, like a lot of people, just trying to figure out life at this point. He's dealing with transphobic bullying at his school and also run-of-the-mill asshole classmates and is traversing these larger questions around his identity and what it means to shift or mold your identity over time. But he's also dealing with a lot of other things that every other teen who exists is dealing with, including that idea of "can I be loved? Will I ever be loved? I'm going to die alone" as we all do when we are 16, 17, 18 and think that life is already over. I just thought Kacen Callender created this incredibly unique book, and not just in the sense of, I don't want to say like, "Oh, you know, black trans people unique," but just a really interesting book in terms of the trajectory of the book. It doesn't follow the typical storylines that I think a lot of YA books are right now and then, and especially too, as far as the love element goes, there's just a lot going on there that feels a little more real than just this really clean storyline of two people falling in love. It's, you know, it's messy and everything is all over the place. And Felix is dealing with a lot of other stuff aside from just his love life, which I think is really important. And the other important thing I want to mention is that it was just announced that a couple of months ago that the book is actually being developed into a TV series by Amazon Studios. So that's the only time we'll like Amazon.

Mackenzie Newcomb: All deserved, just an excellent thing book. I gave it five stars too.

Lily Herman: Yeah, it's fabulous and very pretty short too. So you all know how I feel about authors who are able to make their very good points in as short a period of time. So just a very efficient book, but not too much to where you feel like you're sprinting through any plot points or anything. It's just a really, really well-done book. So Kacen Callender's Felix Ever After. Just a delight but also a book you could probably read in a day if you wanted to, but you could get really absorbed in it. And all of the angsty yearning that Felix does the entire book, cause it's so much angsty yearning, like the whole book.

Mackenzie Newcomb: It's teen boys!

Lily Herman: It's a teen boy and all of his teen friends and all of them are all just the most. And they go to like a creative artsy school, so of course they're all also like, "I am an artiste!" It's like, you're 12, stop it. So yeah, so Felix Ever After. Definitely check it out if you haven't, it's just a truly lovely read. So usually we only do three recommendations, but then both of us separately wrote four because we couldn't—

Mackenzie Newcomb: Well, I saw you wrote four and I was like, Oh, how convenient, I couldn't decide between my two.

Lily Herman: We both similarly had our first two picked and then were choosing between the last two. So we just threw in a fourth.

Discussion of Layla by Colleen Hoover (21:20)

Lily Herman: So Mack, what is your bonus pick?

Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. This is my bonus pick and I actually like calling it a bonus pick it's a little bit of—maybe perhaps will eventually be controversial. Okay. So my fourth pick is going to be Layla by Colleen Hoover. And this comes out on December 8th. So I'm counting it. Okay, so this is a weird one, but I would like you to hear me out here. Okay. So on, on December 8th, Colleen Hoover comes out with her first paranormal romance, which is being called Layla. I have said for a long time that Colleen Hoover's romances are just—CHoov, if you will‚are just like a little—.

Lily Herman: She's CoHo. She's CoHo.

Mackenzie Newcomb: CoHo? CoHo.

Lily Herman: Yes, just so that the fandom doesn't come after us.

Mackenzie Newcomb: So I've said for a while that her romances, they're just like a little too problematic for my taste. Like I loved them when I first read them, like probably four or five years ago, for example, It Ends With Us. But the one I most recently read November 8th, just like—.

Lily Herman: Ninth. It's November number nine. But also a side note on November 9, I was talking to her publicist Kristin, who we both love, wnd we were both discussing if it's November 9 or November 9th as to how it's pronounced, and apparently CoHo pronounces it November 9 in interviews, which fucks me up until Sunday.

Mackenzie Newcomb: That's unnecessary! Just adding to this book that we already struggled with too much.

Lily Herman: Yeah. Continue about CoHo.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Listen to our episode on insta-love if you want more opinions on that. But her romances always include like a little bit of abuse, either emotional or physical. It's just a little much for me, but they are really like really compulsively readable. Anyways, so Layla, this is her first taste at paranormal romance coming off of her first thriller, which came out about two years ago, which was called Verity, which has totally become a cult classic. It's self-published, but given the fact that like every single person I know reads it, it's probably one of the most popular self-published books in the last couple of years.

Lily Herman: She made some bank off that book.

Mackenzie Newcomb: The book's almost become like a cliche at this point, which is—

Lily Herman: Secure that bag, Colleen Hoover, like, girl,. We didn't love a book. But I'm like, girl, take that money and run like, do you.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, take my money. I paid for it. So she took her, her thriller and she took her experience writing romance novels and she combined them into this book called Layla. And this is—this kind of a story about love at first sight, but then some mysterious forces that change this woman. I can't really tell you anything that happens in this book without completely spoiling it. But let's just say I am blown away by the storyline. Love knows no bounds, even ghosts. As I was reading it, I kept just being like, this is so fucked up. This is so fucked up. So fucked up. And then at the end I was like, wow, what a love story?

Lily Herman: So wait, that's actually a perfect segue into the book I'm going to talk about it because I got to the end, and I was like, I think this is love? God, I don't know. Even ghosts. That's my favorite comment. I'm happy for the ghosts though. So

Mackenzie Newcomb: Ghosts need love too!

Lily Herman: End-of-season merch created.

Mackenzie Newcomb: We'd love to.

Discussion of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (25:19)

Lily Herman: All right. So to piggyback off of that my fourth pick that I had similar reasons for questioning whether or not to put it on this list, cause I got to the end and I was kind of sitting there confused as to if it was a good love story or not. But the book I'm talking about is Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. And I will say this is sort of my wildcard pick, but I wanted to add it in. I will say, okay, I have a slight disclaimer, caveat, a monologue before I dive into the plot. But essentially this book is a gothic horror novel. That is what the genre is that the book is classified. It's not a genre I read a ton. I'm not a huge horror fan in any type of media. I'm not a horror film fan. I'm still scarred by watching the movie The Strangers 12 years ago. Like I am not someone who reads a ton of horror, but I've been trying to read more in other genres, as I've mentioned in other episodes. The important thing I want to note about this book before I dive into what it is is there's been lots of things said about this book, but I think if you haven't read it or if you maybe picked it up and struggled with it and put it back down is I think the best way to enjoy it is to know going into it that it's a very slow burn and it is a gothic novel first and foremost over a horror genre book. So what that means is it's very much about ratcheting up levels of creepiness over time versus sort of "Stephen King scared and lock all the doors and windows in your house" sort of horror. So I think that's the important thing that gets missed here is that people kept saying, "Oh my God, it's just, it moves so slow. It's really boring. It's not scaring me." And I don't say this in like a condescending way, but it's a gothic novel and it follows it very much follows to the T the formula of what it means to create a gothic novel. So if you want a slow burn, if you want something that's more creepy than horror, I would—and is creepy also in terms of not just what happens, but in terms of a lot of the themes that are coming up, because it deals with themes around medical racism and all of this stuff in it and eugenics, there's a lot about eugenics in it. So again, creepy, awful themes that's meant to build on it. So that's my big caveat for anyone who hasn't read it yet—

Mackenzie Newcomb: Which is necessary because, this is a polarizing book.

Lily Herman: Yeah. So that's why I think if you go in with that mindset, you will enjoy a lot more. But what this book is about, it takes place in 1950s Mexico, and follows the story of Noemi, who is a kind of lighthearted socialite in Mexico's debutante scene. She's sent by her father to the rural countryside after her newlywed cousin sends this very bizarre distressing letter to her family saying that she needs to be rescued. So seeing as this is both a gothic and horror book, it's obvious that nothing goes quite right and nothing is quite as it seems when she arrives at this really gaudy mansion where her cousin and the cousin's new family live, and nothing there from day one is ever quite "normal." So that's the little teaser of the book. And I will say within it, something interesting if you ever look up what are the elements of a gothic novel, regardless of genre, it's that gothic novels always do have some element of romance or romanticism.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh.

Lily Herman: Yeah, a fun fact. Very, very fun. So, yeah, so this book has a romance in it, but what I loved about it when I took a step back after the fact is that you can't really trust it the whole time, and you're not really sure where it's going or what's happening, but I love the trajectory of what occurs with it. I don't want to spoil it, but it's definitely just this really different sort of love story and one I've thought about a lot.Se writes really beautifully, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, about this romance. So I really enjoyed that aspect of it. And so if you're someone who does want to look at romance, but in different genres and not just a straight up romance novel, this is definitely different. I will say to that, damsel in distress is another major element of the gothic genre. And this book sort of takes that, but flips it on its head in a way that I actually kind of really enjoy. So again, it's a polarizing book, but I think a lot of that has to do with how it was marketed and the headspace and just general reading mood required for it. But if you're feeling a little doom and gloom, if you want something you can sort of settle into but that you don't need to read at 11:00 AM on a Saturday to avoid having nightmares from, I think this is the book to pick up.

Mackenzie Newcomb: It's a pretty cover.

Lily Herman: It has a gorgeous cover. Mexican Gothic, huzzah.

Introduction to What We're Reading Now (30:08)

Mackenzie Newcomb: What are you reading like right now though? Like what's currently going on in your life?

Discussion of Act Your Age, Eve Brown (30:14)

Lily Herman: Yeah so I had mentioned earlier in this episode that I was going to talk about the third book in the Brown sisters trilogy by Talia Hibbert. So I got an ARC of this final book that comes out early in 2021.

Mackenzie Newcomb: You always get the good ARCs.

Lily Herman: I have very few perks in media because media people are underpaid, tired, burnt out, but we do get some free shit on occasion. So I will take the perks where I can.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Enjoy it, own it.

Lily Herman: But I got an ARC of the final book, which is called Act Your Age, Eve Brown. So it's about the third sister of the three Brown sisters. And I have to say, I think it is my favorite of the series and fixes the minor issues I had with the first two. So this book is actually about Eve Brown who is sort of, and you figure this out, she's mentioned and appears in the other two books. She's sort of like the—I wouldn't say bratty—younger sister, but the sort of quintessential youngest child, sort of the baby of the family, never really is able to keep a job, is just kind of floating through life. And essentially her parents, through a series of events, end up saying, "Hey, we're going to cut you off iff you don't get your life together, like you're not going to get your trust fund or anything else if you don't get your life together." So she essentially, by accident, ends up working at a bed and breakfast that is owned by a very mood autistic character named Jacob. And I have a family member, a close family member, who is on the spectrum and so I read a lot of books with characters who are on the spectrum, and many of them are so poorly done or lean on such hard stereotypes of autism. It's one of my pet peeves, but this book I think—and it turns out that there's a lot more about being on the spectrum and what not as the book goes on—I just think it's so well-done. He's such a well-done character. My biggest pet peeve amongst books that have an autistic character is when they give that character zero personality as if some sort of trait of autism is having no personality, which is absolutely offensive and ableist and not true. I'm like, excuse me, I'm sorry. You don't know anything about nuance. And so I think Jacob's just such a funny character and his interactions with Eve are so good. And I was like, cackling. I will say too, there's an actual plot throughout this, even though Talia can be a little bit plot-light. There's an actual plot. So I did appreciate that, which like I said, was maybe my issue with her proceeding book on Dani Brown. So this book, I felt like she just nailed all of it. I will tease that there may or may not be a dildo involved at some point. So all of the clutchers get your best pearls out to clutch because you will. I'm just letting the people know what they need to know, but I absolutely adored this book. I read it right before I really hunkered down for election coverage. And Talia Hibbert is a true delight. The romance community, romancelandia, is lucky to have her. She is magnificent. So Act Your Age, Eve Brown, go pre-order. It comes out, I think, in March. And that's what I'm reading now.

Discussion of Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee (33:24)

Lily Herman: Mack, what are you reading now? You have a very different type of book right now.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. I think I should get some pearls for the romance challenge so I can wear them as like a signature item. I was like, the pearl clutcher.

Lily Herman: Everyone has to show up with pearls on.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh my gosh. Okay. So my book is like totally, totally, totally different. I'm currently reading Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. So I heard about this book from Grace Atwood's Instagram account. And as soon as I saw the name, I was like, oh, I could use that joy. Joy, what's that? I could use that. And I started right before the election, right in the midst of a move. So I was like, this is going to be what I listen to. Didn't even bother reading what it was about. I just knew if Grace was reading it, I was interested, and it just seemed like exactly what I needed at the moment. So I started it on audiobook and I have to say, I think it probably would be better as a regular book cause I'm pretty sure it comes has like pictures included, which I think would be nice. If you're someone like me who has like a pretty good, like a map, like visual imagination, like I'm able to picture a lot of the things she's talking about, but the book would probably be a better choice. I think it'd probably make a really good gift for the holidays. So it's written by a woman who has spent her entire professional life traveling the world, searching for things that bring people joy. And as someone who finds joy in the little material things all the time, I immediately was really captivated by her because she talks about how people who can find joy in material things are often considered like shallow, superficial, materialistic, and as someone whose love language is gifts, I always thought that that was like, kind of like an unfair thing because, you know, a gift can be anything from like someone picking up my favorite candy when they're at the grocery store to like my husband almost always has an iced tea for me in the mornings. And that's like, I don't know, that's gifts to me. So I never really found that. I always hated when people would say that. And that was one of her immediate things that you came out with saying, and I was like, okay, this is totally the book for me. And it's basically just each chapter is a different thing that brings people joy. And some of those things are like circles. I didn't know circles brought people joy, especially when it comes to decor. So when I was looking for things for my house, I bought a lot of things that were circles, like a circle mirror and a circle end table. It's really been very helpful for me, especially as someone who has really intense seasonal depression and just moved back to Massachusetts where I grew up that is actually significantly colder than New York where I've been living; it's always about five to 10 degrees colder here, which makes a really big difference when you live in a place that snows. So I picked it to try and find ways to preventively find happiness and make my space that I'm living in a place of joy going into a potential second lockdown. I did things like buy a seasonal affective disorder lamp, which you can see here. I've just found it to be a really, really helpful guide. Her voice is so peaceful. And Ella Dawson said that she did a Ted Talk and she was one of the nicest people she met. So we love to buy something from nice people. And I will say the one tip that really blew my mind really early on in the book that I'm going to give to you all is if you want to experiment with color but aren't sure what colors work together, look at a Matisse painting and use that as your color palette. That's what I did. And I think my house is looking really, really good. I have a lot of colors included in it. So that is what I'm reading. And I would say highly recommended. I'm going to try and suggest it for the Shelf Help reading group. I'm not sure if they're going to do it for the winter. And if you want to buy someone a gift for the holiday season, they're a book lover, but you want to pick something you are like 95% sure they have not read already.,I would say this book is a great selection

Lily Herman: Oh. And that is Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes. And it's not pretentious. Like you don't have to be a rich person in any way to follow these instructions. You can be anybody shopping anywhere like yes, this book.

Lily Herman: Yeah. We like Ingrid. We're here for Ingrid. Ingrid's such a self-help name too. Like Ingrid, the self-help queen.

Mackenzie Newcomb: I trust a woman named Ingrid giving me self-help advice.

Conclusion (37:55)

Lily Herman: Love it. Love to see it. Well this concludes our penultimate episode of season one, which is fucking wild to say, oh my God. So for next week, for the last episode of season one, this is going to be a recurring series for our last episode of every season. And it kind of just deals with almost like a "what else we're reading" almost bonus episode, but they each are going to be themed. So the theme of this first one, because it's going to be coming out in mid-November about 10 days before Thanksgiving and then obviously before the rest of the holiday season, the theme is going to be our favorite books that we've read recently that are under 250 pages. So that way, for those of you who maybe just don't have the attention span to read something longer during the holiday season, or if you have a reading goal and you're maybe one or two books off and want something quicker that you're not going to get really stuck in the mud reading, that is the episode for you. We have a lot of great books in there. That'll be that last episode. And then after that, first of all, if you are a member of Bad Bitch Book Club's Patreon, you already know this, but you get a bonus 11th episode of the first season of Friends to Lovers. We'll only be posting that to Bad Bitch Book Club's Patreon. So if you needed yet another reason to subscribe to the Patreon, there it is. And then the second season of Friends to LLovers will be premiering in mid-January. So we'll take a little break and be back 2021, which I don't think is going to be much better in some respects compared to 2020, but we hopefully won't have a fascist in office! Mack, take us out.

Mackenzie Newcomb: All right, everyone. Please, please, please make sure to give us a five-star rating and a review telling us how smart and cooll we are, but if you don't feel that way, at least give us a five-star rating and subscribe to the podcast. If you're looking for more info on Bad Bitch Book Club, you can find us on Instagram at @badbitch.bookclub and on Twitter at @badbtchbookclub without the "i," or head to In addition to show notes and transcriptions, we have the chicest merch ever, and you know, yeah, it's so cute and we have more coming at the end of this month. You can follow the podcast at @F2LPodcast on social media and join our podcast Facebook group. You can find me at @mackinstyle and you can find Lily—.

Lily Herman: At @lilykherman on Instagram and @lkherman on Twitter, though I will say my Twitter right now, given the current state of America and being a politics writer, is mostly politics. So if you want some humorous takes on Steve Kornacki, that is the place to go.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Otherwise you can just find me talking about my dog.

Lily Herman: You have range!

Mackenzie Newcomb: Mine's just my dog's commentary on the election. Everyone, thank you so much for listening to us once again, we really appreciate you for making it to episode nine. We love you so, so, so, so much. Have a great day!

Lily Herman: Bye!

Mackenzie Newcomb: Bye!


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