What makes a romance novel steamy? And do other people think some of your favorite sexy romance novels are all that steamy? This week, Mackenzie and Lily dive into creating a five-level "steam scale" for how to rank the steaminess of books. Mack also discusses what level of the steam scales she taps out at, and Lily describes the novel that made her head implode. Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00), Housekeeping (1:23), Introduction to Main Topic (3:46), Discussion of Taylor Jenkins Reid's Novels (13:14), Discussion of Mhairi McFarlane's Novels and Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters (14:12), Discussion of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton and The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali (17:37), Discussion of Katherine Center’s Novels (19:50), Discussion of The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (20:22), Discussion of The Trouble with Hating You by Sajini Patel (22:00), Discussion of Roomies by Christina Lauren (24:04), Discussion of Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren (25:13), Discussion of Twice in a Blue Moon and Other Novels by Christina Lauren (25:51), Discussion of Talia Hibbert and the Brown Sisters Trilogy (30:37), Discussion of The Idea of You by Robinne Lee (31:54), Discussion of The Marriage Game by Sarah Desai and The Dutchess Deal by Tessa Dare (34:23), Discussion of The Roommate by Rosie Danan (40:06), Discussion of Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas (40:37), Discussion of Him by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen and Lush Money by Angelina M. Lopez (43:36), Discussion of Priest by Sierra Simone (50:28), Discussion of the Beards & Bondage series by Rebekah Weatherspoon (52:23), What Else We’re Reading (56:18), Conclusion (01:03:05). 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). Full episode transcription by Colleen Ward.
Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel
Roomies by Christina Lauren
Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
The Marriage Game by Sara Desai
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
The Roommate by Rosie Danan
Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas
Him by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen
Lush Money by Angelina M. Lopez
Priest by Sierra Simone
Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Sanctuary by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Harbor by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Lily Herman: Welcome back everyone 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/podcast.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I'm McKenzie Newcomb. I'm the founder of Bad Bitch Book Club and influencer marketing expert, and someone who is deeply, possibly problematically addicted to pomegranate seeds. But specifically, pomegranate seeds that have already been taken out of the pomegranate and sold to me in $6 cups.
Lily Herman: Okay let the record show that Mackenzie on our - we Zoom back and forth when we do this - and she just picks up this giant cup of pomegranate seeds to show off. So I feel like that was important to note. And I'm Lily Herman. I'm a writer, editor, person who's watched every bad romance challenge video on TikTok, and one of Mack's best friends.
Mackenzie Newcomb: All right, what are we - let's clean the house.
Lily Herman: Yes, cleaning the house. Housekeeping time. So you can find show notes to every episode, including every book we talk about at badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. You should also join Bad Bitch Book Club's patreon at patreon.com/badbitchbookclub. And that can give you endless perks, including a bonus episode that we put out right before the holidays and many other great things that are not even podcast adjacent, that are just great perks. Lastly, you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @f2lpodcast - and that's 2 as in the number two - and join our Friends to Lovers Podcast Facebook group. And then, you can also follow Bad Bitch Book Club on Instagram at badbitch.bookclub and on Twitter @badbtchbookclub, but the "i" in "bitch" is not in there. I know you love Jack Dorsey. I continue to not love Jack Dorsey and that's that about that.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I don't love him! Today we are so blessed to have sexpert Lily Herman on the podcast to discuss the official F2L Steam Scale. This is a highly anticipated episode and we're so excited to deliver it to you. We each came up with our own descriptor from one to five of what we believe sits on the steam scale. And though our rankings are very similar, there are some differences. And for each level on the scale, we gave examples of books that we feel fit the description. I would say that most of these are recommendations. Every book that I listed, I actually enjoyed. So I know sometimes - last episode, for example, when we talked about books from our adolescence, those were not recommendations. And here we are telling you that these are. I feel like we need to be very specific about that, especially given how many people picked up Trust Exercise last season.
Lily Herman: But in our defense, I was going to say, in our defense, we told them not to and they still did.
Mackenzie Newcomb: True, we were clear.
Lily Herman: So we cannot be at fault for your distress. Yeah.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We were super clear. If you want to join the conversation, add maybe your own steam to the scale, go to our Facebook group, the Friends to Lovers Podcast Facebook group, spelled out, and tell us which books and descriptors fit on your steam scale. Get that conversation going.
Introduction to Main Topic (03:46)
Lily Herman: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Oh, this episode, everyone brings up doing an episode on this all the time. So I think I'll give a little backstory for those who are like, "What is a steam scale? What's going on? What is this episode?" So a couple of different things have happened... Have converged to lead to this episode. So first, as you all probably know by now, if you've listened to season one and even last week, Bad Bitch Book Club has a romance subgroup called Bad Bitches in Love, and, in mid-2020, I started a thread where I asked a simple question of what is the cringiest sex writing or phrases that you constantly see in romance novels? So the example I always give is something like "pebbled nipples." Like anytime I see that in a book, my face just contorts very aggressively. And people had all sorts of shit, it was hilarious. Eventually though, that thread has slowly, in the last half-year plus, turned into people taking screenshots or literal pictures of cringy stuff they are seeing in books they are reading and posting it. So one of those; if you are a Patreon member, I included one of those that I put in that thread in another bonus episode we did for the Patreon. So that thread has been a source of joy and distress for me simultaneously since June of 2020. So in doing that whole discussion, it's constantly kind of come up in that subgroup, this idea of "What makes a steamy romance novel?" And I think what's so fascinating about this, is that what you consider steamy when it comes to your romance reading habits is incredibly subjective, right? So it depends obviously on your own personal experience or experiences, the sheer number of romance books you've read over time, it depends on the types of romances you read, the tropes you like and gravitate towards, and more. And I think that for instance, a lot of people think certain romance genres, or I'd say sub-genres or tropes are inherently steamer than others, just by the nature of what they are. So a of times people will say, "Taboo romances, oh, this book was so steamy." And I think it's more to do with the nature of the circumstances and not necessarily what's written on the page. 'Cause I definitely read books with a taboo premise that weren't actually as physically steamy as I thought they were going to be. But also what I find fascinating, and this has come up in the Bad Bitches in Love subgroup a lot, is if you've never read anything in the romance genre before, and also therefore have never really seen or read a lot of explicit sex or sexual activities on the page, you're going to think the first book you pick up is inherently the steamiest thing you've ever read...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Totally.
Lily Herman: ...when in reality, it might not scratch the surface of what the genre has to offer. And there's nothing wrong with that. We all have to start somewhere. I definitely think the first couple books I read that were adult romance, I was like, "Holy fuckin' shit," and now I'm like, "Oh, that was mere child's play compared to what I'm reading now." But we see that a lot in Bad Bitches in Love, where you have people who are new who maybe read a romance as part of some other reading group or something else, and then they come in and they're like, "I read the steamiest book," and everyone's filing their nails and sitting there and humming along. And it's like, "Oh!" But I think it's also funny in that there are certain people where, while I love them, we have entirely different ideas of what's steamy. And so they can't necessarily give me accurate recommendations because our steam scales are so different to where I feel like it's like, "Okay, I'm going to be caught off guard if this person is giving me a rec based on the steaminess of a novel," just because our value systems are very different. Mack, how are you feeling so far? I know I have more monologuing to do, but...
Mackenzie Newcomb: I feel good. I mean, I agree with you. I can think of the exact book in my own head that was the first really steamy romance novel I read in the last few years that I thought that it was just off-the-chain steamy and now it sits right smack dab in the middle. Because - we're not like completely - most people aren't completely off. They just don't really know what else is out there. And at that point, I'd rather someone just recommend to me a great plot that might have some sexy stuff on the side.
Lily Herman: Yeah. I like when people note if there's something out of the ordinary; someone before I read Rebekah Weatherspoon's boo Xeni had said, "Hey, by the way, there's pegging in this." And I was like, "Okay, I get where she's at, if there's pegging. Good to know; just a good note for myself." So I think the other thing too - and I've talked about this in our main group as well as in Bad Bitches in Love at times - is I'd also say that there's maybe actually two aspects to what makes up the steaminess of a romance novel, in my opinion. And often they are conflated, when I think that they are in fact two separate entities. So to me there's - and I call it this to make it sound scientific and academic, but you can call it whatever the fuck you want - I think that there is tension-building and then tension-release. So tension-building in books is often elements like banter or those physical close calls, like when the hero falls on top of a heroine and they almost kiss but then don't 'cause they're interrupted. And you're of course, as the reader, starting to freak out. I recently learned the term on Twitter called "bangxiety," which is not when you get enough anxiety to where you cut your own bangs, but it is when you, in fact, it is when you in fact want characters to get it on real badly and it's taking forever and you just start to get really distressed about it, so "bangxiety." So that would be included in the tension-building portion. And mostly it's just characters internally and externally lusting after each other. Tension-release is obviously, given the name, the more direct physical stuff. And most books have a mix of both; some might have one thing more than the other. I think for instance, Rosie Danan's The Roommate, which was Bad Bitch's November 2020 book of the month is actually a great example of a book that is mostly, I would say, tension-building and has a lot more of that than tension release. So I think it's a romance novel that - first of all - excellent romance novel, and incredibly just amazing from a tension standpoint, but not necessarily steamy or as steamy when it comes to the release stuff in the same way.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I'm much more of a tension-building girl than I am just all release all the time. I think that's why I liked it so much.
Lily Herman: Yeah. I think the banter was really good in that one. And you could - I think the conflict was so well established. So you could see the two points, the two people slowly getting there, but not quite. And they'd meander off the path a little bit.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I love that. And some people felt like in The Roommate they took too long to bang, and I personally would prefer they do a little oral beforehand, a little heavy petting. I like when there's something before just the full-on sex, because the sex isn't always the best thing anyways.
Lily Herman: Even in the first kiss I feel like - I am reading a book right now that has - it's insta-love, and it's in a series, so I have to read it 'cause the series goes in order. I'm required to read them in order and it's killing me. But they kiss on page five and that's supposed to set up that they are insta-, you know? And I'm like, "There wasn't much gratification here." It happened. I literally don't know these people, and then they're kissing. I'm supposed to be really invested in their love story based on this kiss, and I'm just personally, again, personally not. The other thing I'd say too, is the steam of a novel doesn't determine how inherently good or bad the book is or if it's a romance or not, I would say, like the physical steam, because as we know in real life, sex doesn't equal romance or love. And some of my favorite romance novels of all time are those that have little to no physical hanky panky happening in them. I think that's my only other note, but, steam is sometimes great for a novel; sometimes when it's poorly executed, I cringe.
Mackenzie Newcomb: There's lots of cringes happening in our line of work, if you will.
Lily Herman: So we're going to start. We're going to go through each level; we have five levels of steam. And once again, we'd love to hear in the Friends to Lovers subgroup what your levels are; if you think we're completely incorrect, or if you think we are the smartest people...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Tell us!
Lily Herman: ...yes, to ever exist.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Start a fight! What do we care, as long as you're still listening.
Lily Herman: Exactly. We're here for the controversy.
Mackenzie Newcomb: What do you think about level one, Lily?
Lily Herman: Oh yes. So we're gonna start with level one. So I'd say for me, level one books either have no real sexual content in them or are focused way more on the emotional growth of a relationship versus the more physical aspects. So anything beyond kissing or maybe the briefest of makeouts is often behind closed doors. So what - before we get to examples - what did you think was your level one, Mack?
Discussion of Taylor Jenkins Reid Novels (13:14)
Mackenzie Newcomb: So, my level one I decided, is women's fiction with a romantic plot line that like maybe wouldn't even fall directly into the romance category. So we still love them and we weren't expecting the sexy time. You know what I'm saying? So I have to use one of my examples in order to really explain it, but anything Taylor Jenkins Reid, right? All of her books have a romantic storyline, but no one's taking out any sex toys and you don't expect it from her. You're not looking for that from her. And you still love her books as they are. There's nothing wrong with level one. It's just not going to create any inspiration for your own life most likely.
Lily Herman: If you're saying that Taylor Jenkins Reid's books are steamy, then I'm like, "You need to - I'm going to put some shit in your hands 'cause you need to read some other stuff."
Mackenzie Newcomb: There is nothing steamy about them at all. Still great though.
Lily Herman: Yeah. There's an occasional makeout or something, but it's not...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, they have sex, but we aren't there.
Discussion of Mhairi McFarlane’s Novels and Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters (14:12)
Lily Herman: Exactly, exactly. I'd say. Yeah. So I was thinking kind of similarly about, for instance, I love Mhairi McFarlane, and Mhairi McFarlane spells her name M-h-a-r-i just for those who are like, "I've never heard of that author." I think I've mentioned her before in an episode. I love Mhairi McFarlane's books but they are not steamy. They are romances, but they are not steamy romances. She kind of - in keeping with the UK tradition of kind of romance without a lot of other stuff, her books are really about women sort of figuring out their shit and the romances that might also simultaneously be happening. So her book, Don't You Forget About Me is about a young woman who in high school was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" or something like that, but 12 years after graduating, she's 30, she gets fired from working at a random restaurant. And she, she finds kind of an ad for - to be a bartender essentially at this random pub. And it happens to be owned by a guy who she was sort of dating secretly in high school. And he was sort of the loner weirdo who has gone on to be ultra successful, ultra rich. So their lives have sort of swapped. And so the book is sort of, not just this unpacking of their relationship back then and how it forges now, but it's also very much about what happened in high school - she had a lot of traumatic things happen - what's happened to her in the present. So that's really a big theme of it, but the romance is definitely baked in. And I think Mhairi McFarlane is the queen of doing that. I think her books are excellent. They're well-written, She had the book, If I Never Met You, that came out in 2020 that's wonderful. It does feature a fake relationship and some social media stuff, but it really is about a woman who is getting over a breakup, that, you know, I think it was an 18-year relationship, and sort of learning how to deal. And then this romance sort of comes on in that post-breakup time. But the other book too, which is not a recommendation, because to be honest, I didn't love it, but I know some people do love this sort of stuff, is Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters. It was a debut and it's very rom-commy in terms of the hijinks, but it's basically a young woman who is trying to become a screenwriter, has an annoy- she's an assistant at some agency - has a client who is basically forced to write a romcom. And so they sort of challenge each other where he forces her to go, have all these big romcom events so that he can feel inspired and write about them and then meanwhile, she's trying to write her own stuff at this coffee shop and meets a guy there who's kind of mysterious and also very nice, but there's a lot going on. I had many feelings on this book, but I think if I'm not in the head space for like hijinks of the montagey-romcom variety, I'm just - it's not going to work. But Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters. Both of them, no real steam to speak of other than a kiss here or a little tongue action there. But all involving the face and the mouth. No tongue action down lower, I should say,
Mackenzie Newcomb: Feel free if anyone that's like, "Ooh, this sounds like my shit," revisit season one, episode one, which is romance novels you can gift to your grandma. Level one and level two are pretty much covered in there. What's your level two, Lil?
Lily Herman: I was going to say, what other books did you have? Yeah.
Discussion of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton and The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali (17:37)
Mackenzie Newcomb: So for my recommendations for level one steam, I had anything Taylor Jenkins Reid, Maybe in Another Life and One True Loves, I think are her two most clearly romance books. There's a clear romantic storyline. I'd also recommend Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton and The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali, both things are recommended in our Books You Lend to Grandmas. But the reason I chose these ones in particular is because these are all five-star books that are - have beautiful romance stories within them that aren't steamy. And I wanted to like give them that kind of credit that I feel like they really deserve that they can still be an amazing romance novel, even if I'm not horny.
Lily Herman: Yes. Romance and horniness are two different things, which we learned from ACE by Angela Chen.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We are an educated bunch. What's your steam scale number two?
Lily Herman: Yes. Level two. So I think level two books start to bring the foreplay heat, but often anything that happens after that is behind closed doors still, or it's more alluded to than it's shown. So yeah. Do you agree? Disagree?
Mackenzie Newcomb: I agree with you. I think that maybe there isn't as much foreplay as you think there is in a level two. Like to me, a level two romance is more like right above level one, but officially defined as a romance novel and there is sex, but the sex scene is probably just like one page.
Lily Herman: Interesting.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So there's no sex in my opinion in level one. Whereas like, we are just now getting sex, but I agree with your examples. So I feel like maybe your examples, we just see them differently?
Lily Herman: I feel like we also have a level two versus level two and a half versus level three. I feel like some things are in the half zone where - I think of a lot of them as, okay, sex is on, might be on the page, but it's very vague. It's like "They came together and loved each other." I'm like, "I don't - I can't imagine anything off of that." I just kind of generally speaking know that some shit went down.
Discussion of Katherine Center’s Novels (19:50)
Mackenzie Newcomb: This is my, in my opinion, level two is perhaps unfortunately where most commercial romances that are like really well-known sit. And I'm not talking about like the commercial romances that are steamy, I'm talking commercial romances that are just romances sit, like Things You Save in a - anything, Katherine Center, for example.
Lily Herman: Interesting. 'Cause I'd put her almost at a level one.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's like one and a half. I liked your example though.
Discussion of The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (20:22)
Lily Herman: Yeah. So my first, I had two, the first is The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. And I feel like any of her books could kind of fall in this category of, and it's interesting 'cause to your point about them being books that are romances, I think level two books are often books that introduce people to the romance genre if they don't have friends or other people who bring them in. 'Cause I know a ton of people in Bad Bitches in Love who've been like "The Wedding Date is the steamiest book to ever exist." And obviously some of us here who are reading Sierra Simone are sort of very quiet. So it's very, he's takin' off her top. Her boobs are flying everywhere. You're like, "great, excellent. We're so happy for them." But it's not - I haven't read The Wedding Date in a while; I did skim a couple of the other ones that I have on my iPad with me, but they're not, after a certain point you don't see a lot and you obviously know what happens, but she's not gonna give you a play-by-play of what happened in the bedroom or on the couch or whatever.
Mackenzie Newcomb: You know more about what's on top of her pizza then on top of her man, like that's a Jasmine Guillory motto. I would say the only one of her books that even maybe reaches level three steam was probably The Wedding Party, which followed Maddie and Theo, 'cause they were, that one was a little bit more sexy-based. Whereas then the very next book, The Royal holiday, you are brought down into negative two steam scale.
Discussion of The Trouble with Hating You by Sajini Patel (22:00)
Lily Herman: I feel like The Wedding Party was yeah, 'cause the whole premise for those who don't know is that these two people sort of become accidental friends with benefits. So obviously with that, if you're not really showcasing or talking about the benefits, what's the point? So, yeah, I definitely think her books sort of range from two to 2.5 for me on the steam scale, like right in the middle, right in the average. But the other book I think is great that I wish had more steam 'cause it, the tension in it was so good that I was like, "I need a good release here." And then it didn't really come was - no pun intended - was somebody help me, was The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel. It was her debut and it was one of those books that I saw on NetGalley, the cover was intriguing, and I downloaded it with, requested, downloaded it without really knowing much about it. Obviously she's a debut author so there's nothing really for me to look at to see what else she's written and it's fantastic. But it's enemies to lovers, it's a lot deeper of a story than you think it's going to be. I will say that there, I should say there are some content warnings around sexual abuse and some other things, not between the love interest and the protagonist, but in her past in particular, and some, she's been ostracized because of it. So, yeah, but it's an excellent book, but definitely I was so excited when they finally got together, I was rooting for them and then suddenly, literally they go into the bedroom, they close the door and then it's the next chapter.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And you're just cut off.
Lily Herman: I was like "Sajni, my girl, I needed this." And then it didn't happen. Because the tension was so well-written in this book. So I still loved it. But if it had just a little bit in there, I would have been so sold, but it was, it's a really good book, I really enjoyed it. I know a lot of other Bad Bitch Book Club people have as well, but definitely unexpected. And it came out, like a lot of books, in the midst of the pandemic. So did not necessarily get what it was due in my opinion. But McKenzie, what were your recs for level two?
Discussion of Roomies by Christina Lauren (24:04)
Mackenzie Newcomb: So I wanted to, co-sign officially co-sign The Wedding Date series, but I also wanted to mention, I'd say that even though I have heard that the serieses are significantly more steamy. I think that most standalone Christina Lauren books actually do fit into the level two. Some examples being Roomies, which is one of my personal favorites only because it's so ridiculous of a storyline. It's just so original. It's about a woman who is obsessed with a man who plays guitar in the subway stations in New York and tries to get him a job working for her uncle's Broadway play by means of illegal marriages, getting a green card. No, no, marriage of convenience.
Lily Herman: Yeah. He needs a green card to stay in- he might be undocumented, I can't remember. But he's from Scotland or Ireland or something...
Mackenzie Newcomb: He overstayed his student visa from Ireland.
Lily Herman: That's right. So she essentially marries him - it's a marriage of convenience trope - marries him to help him, because she's obsessed with him, both be in the show. And then also she's obsessed with him.
Discussion of Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren (25:13)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Big stalker vibes. I wouldn't say start with this as far as the Christina Lauren book goes, but if you've read a few Christina Lauren books, spoiler alert, we're going to eventually rank them, but not right away because they have so many books. I would say that this is a really, really fun one. Especially since marriage of convenience trope is so hard to find anything mainstream and I feel like Roomies is kind of mainstream. And also Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, which is a very classic friends to lovers story about...
Lily Herman: A quirky girl who's sort of a chaotic mess.
Mackenzie Newcomb: A manic pixie dream mess.
Discussion of Twice in a Blue Moon and Other Novels by Christina Lauren (25:51)
Lily Herman: Yes. And I was afraid she was going to be more of a manic pixie dream mess. And then she was a little bit deeper than I was expecting, which was great, but it's a guy she knew in college and this girl. And then they essentially try to set up each other on dates. There are some hijinks in there too. So again, if you're someone who likes sort of the hijinks of things going wrong and being a little bit more of that kind of classic romantic comedy shtick, it's great. But I will say their books, CLo's books, I think are always for me somewhere between a two to a three of the mainstream standalones I should say; the earlier series, very different, but of the standalones they've written since 2016, they come up with about two a year, yeah, I would say definitely between a two and a three, depending on the book. I'm trying to think if there's anything, Roomies is interesting too. I will say because I would say Roomies and Twice in a Blue Moon are there two most polarizing books in terms of what fans either absolutely loved or hated. And I feel like a lot of people typically love one and not the other. So I really enjoyed Roomies and was not a particular fan of Twice in a Blue Moon. And to this day is the only Christina Lauren book I've ever read that I did not like. Even other books, The Honey-Don't List is one, people are... If not, I still enjoyed it, but not their best. Right. But Twice in a Blue Moon, I had serious issues with. But we'll discuss that at a different time. Were there other books on your level two? Oh my God.
Mackenzie Newcomb: No, those were... I just, those were them. Christina Lauren and Jasmine Guillory. I would say that almost their entire standalone options are all steam level two.
Lily Herman: Yep. Two. 2.5 maybe.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I love them. They're both auto-buy authors for me. I know you feel differently, but that's okay. What about number three? What about level three?
Lily Herman: So I think we both are in similar places with level three, but for me, I find level three, because it's in the middle to be sort of average in terms of what you find in a lot of mainstream, big publisher romance novels. So these typically are very formulaic again because mainstream publishers, especially in romance, kind of know what beats they need to hit. So, or what they want authors to hit. So there's usually three or four different physical moments. They all go slightly further than the last. And it goes without saying though that some authors are better at writing those scenes than others, but you'll usually have an escalation of, oh, the characters kiss. Then they make out. Then the dude goes down on the girl, if it's a straight romance. Then they have sex. It's always that progression, you never have char- you rarely, and I'm not saying never, but in traditional mainstream romances, it usually goes in that order. Some books might have a one night stand to kick things off and then progress backwards and then forwards again. But there's sort of these beats that they hit. And, especially for instance, historical romance, so many historical romances are very, very, very formulaic in terms of how they hit. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing 'cause I've read a bajillion historical romances, and that's all I can emotionally handle right now. And I like the formula. It's just easy. It's straightforward. So that's where I would say my steam level criteria is for level three. What about you, Mack?
Mackenzie Newcomb: So yeah, we talked about this a little bit yesterday. Spoiler alert: we do plan out our podcasts in advance. And L3, as I'm going to call it is where most steamy recommendations sit at I think. Like we said, when people first joined Bad Bitches in Love and they're like, "Oh my god, I found this steamy romance." Usually I'm going to give people the benefit of the doubt and say it's probably a level three steam. Especially, this is where you might start to get a little hot and bothered, maybe bring out the toys, but there is still a clearly-defined plot for the most part. I think they need the plot to lean on. In my view, this is kind of the perfect level of steam, because I like to read at the, while sitting at the beach, and there's only so much steam I can handle while laying out in the sun, quite frankly. I would also describe this segment as "books you think are explicit until you read books with abs on the cover." So until you, so you think that these are, if there is a graphic cover, what's the word called for the covers? The graphic covers? Is it just called graphic covers?
Lily Herman: They're often called graphic covers or vector covers because they use sort of vector technology. Yeah. That's what I've heard them called. Oh, illustrated.
Discussion of Talia Hibbert and the Brown Sisters Trilogy (30:37)
Mackenzie Newcomb: If you see a book with an illustrated cover that has like super sexy scenes in it, it probably reaches level three. That's the most that publishers are really willing to take a risk on. So some examples, and you're totally going to be nodding your head and agreeing with me on this one, dear listener, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. People read this book and they're like, "Oh my god," but it's only because they haven't read that many romance novels. And I'm sorry. And I love you. And I agree with you. And I think as a steamy book and I enjoyed it, but it doesn't reinvent the wheel it any way. The Brown sister series by Talia Hibbert: Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Take a Hint, Dani Brown. I can't speak for about Eve Brown quite yet, 'cause I haven't read it yet.
Lily Herman: Eve Brown gets a little into 3.5 territory.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think Dani Brown could arguably be 3.5, but this is Lily's podcast, and she rates down. It's downwards.
Lily Herman: I gave it four stars, so I will say I enjoyed it. I feel like each book in the Brown series, I said this last season, gets better and better. I feel like Talia started solid. Dani Brown is excellent. And then Eve Brown, I was obsessed with, I'm still talking about it. Like she took it away. Anyway, continue.
Discussion of The Idea of You by Robinne Lee (31:54)
Mackenzie Newcomb: And then The Idea of You by Robinne Lee. I think all three of these books are examples of books that when people first read them, if they don't read a ton of romance, are like , "This is the book. This is the steamiest shit I ever read in my life." And I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to pretend to be someone I'm not; I like a level three steam book. Like that's where I usually sit. That's what I'm looking for. That's all I have to say.
Lily Herman: I really enjoy them when they're super well-written, right? 'Cause there are some books that I love and may be formulaic in terms of what the pretty vanilla, but they're so well-written that you're like, "Holy shit, this is all I want to read for the rest of my life." There's so many authors that I think just write it so well that it's like, I don't care that they are not pulling out like a chain or a whip or anything. You're like, "This is just really well-written and I believe that these people are like connecting on multiple levels." So, love it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: There's still usually a good plot in level three; there's usually still good plot and I like a good plot. Whatever, sue me. What about you?
Lily Herman: Well, first thing I was gonna say is if you don't have a good plot and you don't have good steamy scenes and you're a level three, I'm out. I'm just like, "no thank you." But I will say one of my favorite books to debate is The Idea of You because of the fact that it's one of those books that falls in that category of, "I can't tell if it's a steamy book after a certain point," or people think it's steamy or because it's a taboo romance because some people are like, "It's the most genius thing ever," when in reality it is closed doors after a certain point, which I've always found really, really fascinating, when people talk about it. But I think it's what does occur and who it occurs between...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Is what makes it sexy.
Lily Herman: ...that people get really, for those who don't know, it's an age gap romance between a 20-year-old and a 39-year-old. And there's more to it than that, but that's the basics of the taboo part of it. So people are of course having many thoughts on that. But that's my theory because I'm always fascinated when people act like the book itself is like the steamiest thing to ever happen. I'm like, how much is the taboo? Like you wouldn't do this in your real life sort of aspect, but...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Totally, totally has something to do with it, for sure. Same thing with The Hating Game. It's, a lot of people it's the first time they've read a steamy romance. And so it's the steamiest romance they've ever read by default.
Lily Herman: Yep. 100%.
Mackenzie Newcomb: All right. Which are your recommendations?
Discussion of The Marriage Game by Sarah Desai and The Dutchess Deal by Tessa Dare (34:23)
Lily Herman: I have two random ones, 'cause I know we had also pointed out CLo and some other people. One book, which another one of these is, it's another one of the ones that came out in the middle of the pandemic and I think should have gotten more, was the debut from Sarah Desai, "de-say" or "de-sigh," her last name is spelled D-e-s-a-i. And it's her book, The Marriage Game, which is a very fun romcom. It's one of those books that's so well-written where it does have some romcom hijinks in it but I don't even care because it's so well-written. But essentially it is about a woman. She, it's a desi-romance, she's Indian and her family wants her to marry, and so they set her up on these 10 blind dates with eligible men. And meanwhile, she has to, she's trying to start a business separately from this whole thing. And she has to share office space with this very grumpy, capitalistic annoying man, who's I think a family friend if I remember correctly. And so they hate each other and for a variety of reasons, he ends up coming with her - she kind of needs a chaperone and some other things - he ends up coming with her on all these dates. And obviously they hate each other, they're stuck going on dates together. He's trying to kind of sabotage her as she's on these dates and they 'eventually fall in love. But the book was steamier than I thought it was going to be. 'Cause it was kind of hijinksy. I was like, "Okay, I'm feeling this." And then Sarah Desai brings the fuckin' hammer down. Like I was like, "Holy fuckin' shit." I was not expecting it. So it was a pleasant surprise of a book. Also a gorgeous illustrated cover, just a really enjoyable read. It might be part of our, Bad Bitches in Love has these readathons; there's no Zoom calls or anything, we just discuss them in the subgroup where we're reading books by different women of color, different romance novels, I should say, by women of color. And this spring is going to be a spring of South Asian romance, and this is definitely a contender to be on that list because it was a more mainstream release. It's very widely available, but excellent book. The other book I'll point out on the historical front is Tessa Dare's, The Duchess Deal. This is her most popular book. If you haven't read historical, Tessa Dare is an excellent place to start. Sarah MacLean, fellow historical romance author told us this last season; people kind of read their books in tandem. But Tessa Dare's books are always really great banter, really funny, really interesting. This is also enemies-to-lovers given that it's me, but essentially The Duchess Deal is about a woman who's a vicar's daughter-turned-seamstress. She essentially, for a variety of reasons, barges into a duke's giant mansion or whatever, because he needs to pay for a wedding dress that his ex-fiancee never paid for, and at the same time - this woman obviously doesn't know this - the duke has decided he needs to marry and produce an heir. Unfortunately, he had an accident. So he has these giant scars and things all over his face. It's almost beauty and the beast-esque. So no one, everyone's afraid to marry him 'cause he's kind of ghastly looking. And so he basically obviously makes this seamstress an offer she can't refuse, which is like, "You should marry me and become a Duchess," and they hate each other. And so, love to see it. Yeah, I guess we'll go on to level four. Okay. Level four. I think level four steam books are my favorite, not to say again that I don't enjoy books at any other steam level, but I feel like we've reached- level fours to me are great because we haven't reached a point where romantic plots are being cast aside in favor of explicit sex scenes. But there's definitely another level to them whether intangible or otherwise that just make them steamier. So whether that's that the scenes are more explicit or there's just more of them or there's some sort of other element that we don't see in sort of these "vanilla mainstream" sex scenes and romances. There's sort of like an, I had a tough time defining level four maybe because I like it so much. But it's, I think it's a fun level 'cause you can kind of push the boundaries, but level five, you're not level five and wanting your head to explode.
Mackenzie Newcomb: There's definitely less plot than level three, but it is still there. There can still be the potential of a plot, which is why one of my examples is my favorite because they manage to do both. I would say that level four for me is the "Warning: Do not read in public" level. We've finally hit it. I don't like to read these books on the beach. I like to read these on my couch. I need my husband in the other room, just in case. I would say that, I almost started to say I actually cap out at level four. I could lie and say that I read level five books. I simply don't. But I like level four because I'm always looking for something that's going to fit into our books' reading groups. And I feel like this is the cap for that. I like to scandalize people, but I can't scandalize myself if I don't know where to go. And so...
Lily Herman: I was going to say too, I feel like, I feel like level four are the types of books where I wouldn't recommend to everyone. Whereas The Hating Game, if someone's new to romance, I'd be like "Try out The Hating Game." I would- some of my picks here I would never recommend to people who weren't already intermediate or veteran romance readers, because they're just going to be a little bit scandalized and shocked. Or if someone was not into a trope or something, that's where we're getting to. They're good books, but I would be recommending them to a much smaller audience than a level one, two, or three book.
Discussion of The Roommate by Rosie Danan (40:06)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Exactly. You'd recommend them to the Bad Bitches in Love subgroup with war- like with certain content warnings. And you would not put them in the main group being like, "Hey, everyone needs to read this. Everyone in this 5,000 person book club needs to read this." Which is why it was kinda wild of me to pick The Roommate by Rosie Danan as a book of the month selection for Bad Bitch Book Club.
Lily Herman: The more tension than release helped. 'Cause it's not, it's the tension that's so engrossing...
Discussion of Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas (40:37)
Mackenzie Newcomb: So intense. I would say that level four books make me want to have sex, whether it's with myself or with someone else. There is very clear intent there. And so my two recommendations - this is like as intense as I get, for example - The Roommate by Rosie Danan; I just thought the tension in this book made me lose my breath so much that I was just constantly gasping for air as I was reading it, remind my- I had to remind myself to breathe. So it was very hot for me. And I will also say like, I think the difference between a three- and a four-flame book can often be the reader. If something doesn't hit with you, it's not going to be hot for you. So you could have read The Roommate and been totally let down by it. But for me, it just caught me at the right time. And then I was on this ride with them and then I had to have sex in a car, which I've mentioned before. 'Cause I stupidly read it at my in-law's house. I didn't, I didn't think clear- that clearly. My other example is Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas. I know that she has books that definitely reach level five. I know her books Corrupt and Credence probably are way more taboo and are way- why I'm not putting this in level five. I'm putting it in level four because I know even just in her own collection, she has books that are steamier. This is again an age gap romance, which may contribute to why it's so taboo for some and not so taboo for others. And it's about a 19-year-old who moves in with her boyfriend and her boyfriend's dad only to find out that Daddy Pike is actually far sexier than her lame-ass teenage boyfriend. And there isn't a ton of P and V action in this book. I mean there is, but not until the last 20%, which pisses people off. But what I was really impressed by in Birthday Girl was the use of fantasy and dreams as a way of getting out sexual tension. I actually thought that that was pretty fucking brilliant, and another reason why this book still in my opinion, had a bit of a decent plot.
Lily Herman: It had a plot that makes sense. You can, you can see the emotional trajectory of character, even if it was a shallow emotional arc, there's an arc nonetheless. It was, you could easily make the argument that there was, you're not grasping at straws with Birthday Girl to argue that, if there was a plot or not, or emotional depth or not. It was, yeah. I would say it's even maybe like a 4.2-five level or 4.5. It's getting up there.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, I'm going to round it down, but it's getting up there. I would say it's definitely, I don't know. Some people, it's totally up to the person. If you're like me and you live for an age gap and you always want to fuck old dudes, you're going to love this book. But if you're somebody who's like creeped out by anything more than a five-year age difference, you're going to fucking hate this book. That's level four for me.
Discussion of Him by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen and Lush Money by Angelina M. Lopez (43:36)
Lily Herman: I'd say it's a great book too, if you are starting to get into more taboo or kind of steamier hotter romances that are a little more explicit. I think it's a good, I wouldn't say the first book you should start with, but maybe the first five, more explicit, slightly getting into erotica books that you get to or taboo romance. It's a great introduction to taboo romance, which isn't just age gap, but age gap is one of the sub-genres of more taboo set ups and storylines. But Birthday Girl a huge has a huge cult following within Bad Bitch Book Club, particularly Bad Bitches in Love, people have thoughts. The two that I was going to give, one is one of my faves, I've talked about it before, is Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. I love this book 'cause there is in fact a plot though it's slightly light, but there's a ton of emotional character development. There is just, it is the ground zero for yearning. If you just want to watch two characters yearn and pine for each other, it's the book to read. But anyone who knows Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, they bring the fuckin' heat. And there was just a lot of sex in this. And I learned a lot about the prostate. So I'd like to thank them for the anatomy lesson. They did it better than Cosmo. So you can just skip all of Cosmo's articles about butt stuff, which they're very into in this era. I don't really know why, but this book though is great. But essentially for the plot, for those who are curious, there are two hockey players. They used to go to the same hockey camp every summer and became best friends every summer. Didn't really speak during the school year, but would see each other every summer. They have sort of a minor sexual incident when they are, I believe seniors in high school. And the big to-do is one of the guys is openly gay and the other one is supposedly straight. So they go from this incident, the gay guy's afraid that he maybe baited someone or did something wrong; the straight guy is just kind of confused as to why the gay guy ghosted him all of a sudden. So four years later, they're both seniors in college. They have a chance meeting at a state hockey tournament and it turns out the seemingly straight guy is still a coach. He's now a coach or camp counselor at this hockey camp every summer. The gay guy decides, "Hey, I'm intrigued. I want to go also be a coach counselor at this camp." So the two of them are at this hockey summer camp and they have to room together. Yep. So that's that book. Yeah, very good. And then the other book I wanted to bring up, which was in our Autumn of Latinx Romance, which is Lush Money by Angelina M. Lopez. This was her debut. It came out, I want to say maybe last year, maybe last year was in 2019, maybe 2020. But great. I had some issues with the book, but overall a great debut. She's a really intriguing author and has a very interesting but compelling way of writing sex scenes, which is why I wanted to include her. She's a little different, but also a master at building tension. This book is about a Latina billionaire who's built her own giant corporate business from the ground up. She decides she wants to have a kid, but does not want to deal with the inconveniences that come with trying to find someone she loves to have a child with and whatever. So she ends up brokering a deal to enter into a marriage of convenience with the prince of a tiny municipality. But he spends his days working as like a botanist on some college campus. And basically they have an arrangement where for a year, for three nights every month for a year, they get it on to try and get her pregnant. And then after that, they divorce after a year and just share custody of the child. So that's the setup for that. People again have thoughts. There's a couple of things that are dicey in there, but a really intriguing author. I'm intrigued, but it's definitely, anyone who read it was like, "Holy fucking shit." Like, as you can imagine, that setup gives room for lots of interesting moments. It's also very dramatic. There's some soap opera quality to it, but it was well done. So I enjoyed it. But Angelina M. Lopez, please read her book. I did not love the second book, but the first book in the series is excellent. And I am waiting for the third 'cause I think it could be really good, but... Level four, anything else you had on level four?
Mackenzie Newcomb: You sold me on both those books by the way. I'm sitting here like I'm a listener of Friends to Lovers Podcast and I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to buy those books."
Lily Herman I think you would love Him. I'm just going to say it's a gay romance. So you're going to...
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think my sister Taylor is also a huge fan of hockey romances, and I didn't really put them together until now that they're probably gay hockey romances because boys and girls don't play each other. Boys and girls could, hey, wait a second. Men and women can't be enemies to lovers in a hockey game. This was... Whatever, what's level five? What's level five for you?
Lily Herman: Okay. I think level five, I wrote that it's reserved for books that have made my head explode in some way. And that could be the sheer amount of sex in a book, the novelty of whatever sexual things the characters are doing, or the fact that the book leans more heavily on being erotica than romance given the genre. I'd say these books can be very light on plot, like barely trying very hard to consider romance, but are erotica in a lot of cases. And they are books that I do not necessarily recommend to almost anyone unless the person is a diehard romance fan who has read sexually explicit books in the past and knows themself very well. But I would not, there's maybe 5% of let's say Bad Bitches in Love are people I could recommend some of these books to kind of thing. I know we've listed some of them, but I know who those people are. And when it's not in that group, I'm not giving them these book recs unless they have read it or have worked their way up to it. If they hear me talking about it, great. But like I would not be openly bequeathing these books perfect for everyone. Even just general romance readers. What about you?
Mackenzie Newcomb: So okay. I think your descriptor is perfect. And I do fully intend to not only read a Rebekah Weatherspoon book this year, but also something in Penelope Douglas' sadistic backlog, as I promised many people. One thing I would maybe add is that like level, scale level five, steam scale level five also probably requires doing some sort of sexy stuff that wouldn't be part of someone's daily routine with their partner. The stuff that's happening, steam level five is not stuff that's happened- probably happening in your bedroom unless you're way more fun than I am.
Lily Herman: Or not happening every day I would say.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes, and so here is where...
Discussion of Priest by Sierra Simone (50:28)
Lily Herman: There's some prep required for some of this stuff. One of the books I was going to, I wouldn't recommend it, is just so perfectly fit in this steam level five category is the book that I've talked about on multiple occasions, both on Facebook and in this podcast is Priest by Sierra Simone. So this book could be called barely a romance. Although Sierra Simone tries very hard and I know she's written stuff that's a little more romancey but also stuff that's way more erotica-based. Priest is a very simple premise. There is a 29-year-old priest. He has been in the priesthood for three years and he has sort of a sordid past in a difficult, complicated relationship with the church, but he becomes a priest nonetheless. And one day a new parishioner comes into the confession booth or whatever it's called - I'm Jewish, I don't know these terms - comes to the confession booth...
Mackenzie Newcomb: You're right.
Lily Herman: ...and from the second she opens her mouth - yes, perfect - he is enthralled by her. He yearns for her and he thinks she's very hot. And lucky for him, she feels the same way about him. I will say again, almost no plot to speak of. There's no character development really, the woman in this, I think her name is Poppy, very much a manic pixie dream girl. We really, we don't get anything from her. Yeah. We don't get anything from her point of view in the entire book. If you really look at it, there's not really an understanding of why they're so attached to each other, other than being very attracted physically to one another. Her storylines make no sense. His also are just kind of half-baked. But, to this day, some of the scenes there are forever burned and etched in my mind. Obviously, given the setting of his job, you could say it's an unconventional workplace romance, and they take full advantage of the unconventional places that exist within a church to do it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: When in Rome.
Discussion of the Beards & Bondage series by Rebekah Weatherspoon (52:23)
Lily Herman: When in Rome. Oh goodness. But yeah, this book... There's just so much in this book where, I think the other problem too, is there's when we're talking about things that need preparation, this book has a lot of scenes where I sort of have to be like, "You need more prep work than this to make this thing happen." The fact that you skipped eight steps and are just like, "It's happening.!" I'm like, "I don't think that happens in real life." Like for instance, there is, I will say anal sex in this book. I feel like they skip 27 things that need to happen to prepare for such an undertaking. Yes. And so I am, of course eye-rolling at that, and it happens quite frequently. So I'm just... I have many thoughts on this book. If anyone else has read it, please let me know in the podcast subgroup, would love to commiserate with you. The other book or the other series I should say that falls under this is Rebekah Weatherspoon's Beards and Bondage series. I think I talked about it on season one, but essentially the whole theme is they are romantic suspense books, kind of funky in terms of how they're laid out. Yeah. But really fucked up plot lines that lead people to each other. But it- they're also, so it's, it's a romantic suspense with BDSM in it. And when I say BDSM, she's not doing some bullshit fuckery like 50 shades. It's like actual BDSM. It's obviously well-researched. Rebekah Weatherspoon really likes putting together characters who are emotionally mature enough to handle stuff and are mature enough to communicate and talk about things. So it's actually a very interesting way to write books, but she, I love her books. There always really interesting, but the third book Harbor is a polyamorous romance with BDSM in it. And I just feel like that alone is just a lot for people who might not be used to consensual non-monogamy or BDSM themes. So that's definitely not a book for someone who likes level three steam to start with. It's definitely, I'm glad I worked up to it and knew that that book was going to be a little bit of a ride, but that's where I land on the level, level five for me. And then there are books that are just like, get super like Den of Vipers. I'm like, "I don't know if I'll ever fucking read that book. I've heard things. And I don't know if I'm going to touch it ever." So that's where I sort of land on there. Level five.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I love that, yes! I feel like level five, it could even be described by some as like sadistic. It gets a little bit, not everyone, but there is definitely a lot of sadistic romance once you hit level five.
Lily Herman: Oh yeah. It gets, it gets, a lot's occurring by level five. I'm just stressed about it. It's fine. Anything else to say about steam levels other than everyone should tell us theirs in our subgroup?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Honestly, I think that we have it covered, but if people think that we're wrong, we'd love to be corrected. Tell us we're wrong. Give us a five star review. I will say, I hope if there's one person I can call out to challenge me on this it's my sister Taylor, who reads very similar books to Lily. And if you all, I just want you all to know that I am your mainstream middle-of-the-road girl. And if you're looking for a middle-of-the-road romance, you can come to me. If you want something that's going to challenge your perceptions and break boundaries for you, call my friend, Lily Herman.
Lily Herman: I think that's a great way to put it. But you know, everyone needs a lot of good level three stuff. We all just need some level three. You can't do a level five every time. I think your brain might actually break in half. So it's good, good for variety. Do we want to do a quick "what else we're reading?"
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. People hate it when we skip up.
What Else We’re Reading (56:18)
Lily Herman: Yep. Okay. So, what I'm reading right now - so I've been, as mentioned in episode one, in a real historical romance mood ever since the election, not because of the election. I just think the election turned my brain and emotional capacity into a proverbial puddle. So, love Bridgerton, but I couldn't really get out of Julia Quinn's world. So I started her next series. That's a continuation of the Bridgerton universe, which is the Smythe-Smith quartet. And the Smythe-Smith family shows up in the Bridgerton series throughout the books. So that's all I could fucking handle. But the first book is called Just Like Heaven, and it's friends-to-lovers or almost acquaintances-to-lovers mixed with the brother's best friend trope, a favorite amongst many people. But it's basically, it's essentially two people who've known each other since they were children. They're five years apart, so obviously that sort of age gap is fine when you're in your twenties, but when you're 11 and someone's sister is six it's, it's different. So Marcus who is an earl or something, earl, viscount, whatever. He's never thought much of his best friend, Daniel's sister, Honoria, she's just kind of this annoying child that follows them around growing up. But years later, the brother best friend Daniel has to flee to the continent after some shit goes down. And the last thing he says is "Marcus, can you just take care of Honoria?" Just keep an eye on her; you don't need to be besties with her, but just make sure she doesn't marry a complete fool. That's his only guidance. And so Marcus spent several years keeping an eye out, but they don't really talk that much. They're not really friends during this time. And she's now in her early twenties and he's in his mid- to late-twenties. And of course a moment brings them together and then it sets off a chain of events. It was good. I liked it. It was a really nice book. It's definitely a slow burn for sure. Speaking of formula, it does not follow the formula. So, that's just a heads-up. I love it. And yet I was okay with it, cause it was a well-constructed slow burn. So we'll give it a pass on lack of formula. Mack, what are you reading right now?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay, so we're actually both reading historical books. Well, you know, me, I really don't go past 1990. I am the worst, but that's why we have someone else on this podcast who reads the 1800s all the time, so you don't need me. I am reading Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. And first of all, here's a reward for all of you for making it through this hour of podcast. Four Winds will be our April book of the month. So I'm giving you a lot of advance notice to acquire this book. Essentially, here's what it's about. It's Texas in 1934, we visit this family with a farm during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. So obviously everyone's having a terrible fucking time. And during this time there was a epidemic of men leaving their families because they wanted a better life. So they ditched their wives on the farm to take care of everything, to go live their own life and do their own thing. Men have never been good. Right? And so this particular book is about a woman, Elsa Martinelli, who just wants to live her fucking life. She just wants to stay on the farm with her husband's parents and her two kids and provide for them and make their clothes and live a normal life. She doesn't want anything to do with the Gold Rush. She's just trying to survive. And she's happy with being a normal woman living a normal life. Unfortunately, her, actually I can't go too far into this otherwise I'll spoil it, but I- because it's not a romance novel and it doesn't follow a formula, but essentially she has to make an agonizing choice, which is to fight for the land she loves, and go west to California to search for a better life. And it's basically just like a beautiful story of the Great Depression. It's really sad, like all Kristin Hannah's books. I'm not going to sit here and tell everyone that it's as good as the Nightingale, 'cause that would be a bold-faced lie. It's not, it is at best her third-best book, but it is still really good because all of her books are five-star books and it's surpris- it's almost eerily relevant, the things that this family has to deal with in comparison to what people are dealing with today, with COVID and the recession and unemployment. It almost hits a little too close to home, but Kristin Hannah is a amazing author. I was going to say she's a once in a generation author, but she probably isn't. She's very
Lily Herman: Well, she's one of many but many good ones of which there's a smaller group in a generation.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes. She's top-tier. She's top 10%. That's for sure. So what are we going to do next week, Lily?
Lily Herman: All right. So next week we are talking about plus-size protagonists and love interests, or lack thereof, in romance novels. We've got a lot of good shit going on in that episode, so definitely recommend. Mackenzie, anything to add to next week's episode?
Mackenzie Newcomb: No, we're so excited to unpack next week's issues with you, and we invite you to come in with an open mind. Have your Bookshop.org account ready to go so you can get some new books. Please make sure that you give us a five-star rating and subscribe to this podcast. And please leave us a review. If you're looking for info on Bad Bitch Book Club, then you can find us on Instagram at badbitch.bookclub and Twitter @badbtch without the "i" bookclub, or head to badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. In addition to show notes and transcriptions, we have wicked cute merch that you should definitely check out. You can follow this podcast @f2lpodcast on Instagram and Twitter and join our podcast Facebook group, which was spelled out in the beginning, just search Friends to Lovers Podcast, and you can find me @mackinstyle. Where can they find you?
Lily Herman: You can find me @lkherman and that's "k" as in "kangaroo," on Twitter and @lilykherman on Instagram.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Someday you have to figure your shit out and have the same handle for both.
Lily Herman: The problem is being verified on both. It's a whole, another disaster.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Someone verify me. I want these problems. All right. See you all next week. Bye.
Lily Herman: Bye!