Why are there so few plus-size protagonists or love interests in romance novels? And why are there even fewer books with plus-size protagonists AND love interests in the same story? This week, Mackenzie and Lily dive into the romance genre's ongoing issues with fatphobia and discuss which books and authors are at least getting the conversation going. Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00), Housekeeping (2:25), Introduction to Main Topic (3:10), Discussion of Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (12:43), Discussion of Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (17:51), Discussion of Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon (21:52), Discussion of One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London (26:23), Discussion of Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean (33:05), Discussion of If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy (34:24), What Else We’re Reading (36:08), Conclusion (43:18). 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.
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean
If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy
Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
What Does “Plus Size” Even Mean? by the Racked Staff (Racked, 2018)
Ever Notice How Even Plus-Size Models Have the Same Body Type? by Gianluca Russo (InStyle, 2019)
Ask a Fat Girl: Fatphobia and Racism by Charlotte Zoller (Teen Vogue, 2020)
Fat Is Not the Problem—Fat Stigma Is by Lindo Bacon and Amee Severson (Scientific American, 2019)
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 Mackenzie Newcomb. I'm the founder of Bad Bitch Book Club, an influencer/marketing expert, and a certified shopaholic.
Lily Herman: And I'm Lily Herman, a writer, editor, person who watched both seasons of the white AF show, Dream House - Dream Home Makeover last night, and one of Mack's best friends.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That actually sounds totally up my alley.
Lily Herman: Girl, I've had to watch a lot of intense shows and movies for my job. So I had to watch Pieces of a Woman, which has all that controversy around Shia LaBeouf. I had to - so I was like, "I need something when I eat lunch during the workdays that just is so simple and not complicated or complex." And sure enough, Netflix knew and was selling me via its algorithm on Dream Home Makeover, which features - it's about Shea and Syd McGee, a design duo based down in Utah. I am sure they have questionable politics, but I don't care 'cause I just wanted to watch something. And Shea's design aesthetic is the slightly more Utah/Mormon version of a Chip and Joanna Gaines - like the Joanna Gaines aesthetic. So it's a lot of white with like three accents of a muted blue and I was here for it. So that is your rec. If you're like, "My brain can not handle anything else this week," Dream Home Makeover will not require you to think about anything.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I would also toss into the ring Glow Up on Netflix. It's a makeup artist competition show, and it will serve the exact same purpose of you can just sit there and let your mind melt and have a good time. Anyways, what do we have for housekeeping, Lily?
Lily Herman: You can find show notes to every episode, including every book we talk about at badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. You can also join Bad Bitch Book Club's patreon at patreon.com/badbitchbookclub for only $12 a month. Follow us, as in the Friends to Lovers podcast, on Twitter and Instagram @f2lpodcast and that's 2 as in the number two and join our Friends to Lovers Podcast Facebook group, which is just spelled out the same way. And then lastly, you can follow Bad Bitch Book Club on Instagram at badbitch.bookclub, and on Twitter at BadBtchbookclub without the "i." And hopefully you all know why. Got that done.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Love it.
Introduction to Main Topic (3:10)
Lily Herman: Mack, what are we doing today?
Mackenzie Newcomb: So today we're talking about something that Lily and I actually both feel very passionately about, which is plus-size protagonists and love interests in romance.
Lily Herman: So many thoughts.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So many thoughts. Why don't you start with your thoughts?
Lily Herman: Okay. So before we get into any books or anything like that, there's a couple of precursor things that Mack and I both wanted to get out of the way. First and foremost is that people have a lot of thoughts on terms like "plus-size" and "curvy" and "fat." There's been a ton of feminist discourse out there about using a term like "fat" as a political statement, as well as a personal one. I can link to all of that discourse in our show notes. And there's also been a lot too about how people's desire to use terms like "plus-size" or "curvy" versus "fat" is rooted in fatphobia. So again, we'll link to all of that in the show notes. We just don't want to go into a huge deep dive into that on this podcast because that would take up a full hour and we would barely scratch the surface of all of that. So you'll hear us use different terms and that's just a heads up. I will say, though, for me personally, the term I probably won't use is "curvy"...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Same.
Lily Herman: ...only because in books, TV, film, and just general culture stuff, "curvy" means any woman between a US size eight and like a US size 20 or 22. So it's just one of those terms I have personally many thoughts on.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I agree with you. When I think of curvy, I think of myself. I think of someone who's mid-sized; they're just trying to tell me that she's not the hundred-pounds-soaking-wet Hazel from Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating. When they say "curvy," to me it means she has a body.
Lily Herman: Yeah. And then it's like, okay, so she has boobs, but she's skinny. Otherwise, anyway, it just becomes this term that just is so- one that I personally am always like, "I don't really know what that means in a book, but okay." So we got- we are on to a plus-size/fat/curvy/whatever you want to call them, protagonists. And then we'll also get into love interests in a second. Again, personal view here, I feel like we're finally entering an era of publishing and particularly romance genre publishing, where we're seeing more protagonists who are fat or are plus-size or who aren't just described as being. "skinny" or "tiny" or hearing those terms used as being synonymous for "hot." But I feel like we're still at a stage though, where there aren't enough books that feature plus-size or fat main characters, and that if there are books that feature them, often their struggles and all of this are centered on their weight, their feelings about their weight, society's views of their weight, which can feel a little bit like fat characters are only welcome if their stories can "teach us a lesson" or we almost see that it can sometimes feel like authors and publishers alike are sort of justifying the decision to have a fat or plus-sized character by making their struggle all about their weight. And speaking as someone who has been all over the size range, weight-wise in life and has- I've struggled with disordered eating and a lot of negative body image. I can- even in times where it felt like my issues with my body were all encompassing, I had plenty of other shit going on. So I think sometimes the issue is that often fat characters and especially fat protagonists can kind of be siloed into this very narrow box of "the only struggles they could possibly have or about their weight. How could a fat person ever worry about," I don't know, "their career, money, anything else?" And that, I think can be frustrating to me reading a lot of romance 'cause it's like, "Hi, even though that's an issue and a recurring theme in my life, I literally have 87 other things that I'm worrying about, and often, based on the level of urgency, way more than my body. So anyway, before we get into anything else, that's how I feel. Mackenzie, how do you feel about where publishing in the romance genre is at with fat protagonists?
Mackenzie Newcomb: So I'm also very into fashion, which is why I want to incorporate that into this a little bit as well, into the conversation 'cause I do think they're relevant 'cause it's society, right? So in my opinion, the body positivity movement for women is lightyears ahead of the body positivity movement for men. Even brands like Aerie, for example, who is kind of known for being "that inclusive brand," and they make it a point to show a variety of different body types of women on their site, including those who are disabled, they've just always done so well. They still only have ab-reppin' men modeling their underwear. And I think that's the same thing we're seeing in romance, right? You have- even when we have these fat/plus-size/curvy/whatever protagonists, we're still getting those ab-abby men that are dating said protagonist. And it drives me insane, which we'll talk about later. We've talked about this a number of times and I love what you say about it Lily, but romance shows us how we want to be loved. And I feel as though that if romances never show us as the person who's being loved, it's incredibly demoralizing. Even just yesterday I was reading The Simple Wild which we're going to talk about in a future episode, and the main protagonist has asked her weight and the guy guesses 105 pounds. And she's like, "No, I'm 130." And she like mutters to herself, "But a lot of it's muscle." Bitch, I am 175 pounds, right? And I still think I have a desirable body to society's standards for the most part, but, damn, that- it cuts! It hurts every single time a protagonist's weight is mentioned that's under 150 and they just describe her as the most gorgeous person in the world. And I get it. And I know that for people who are super thin, they're probably getting defensive right now while listening to this, but you're seen so much and nobody else is seen, until now. So if you are listening to this as somebody with society's ideal body type or have found yourself heavily relating to people like Hazel from Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, I invite you to listen to this episode with an open mind and consider we aren't asking romance authors to write less about you, just more about other people
Lily Herman: And also more about other people's problems besides...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Being fat!
Lily Herman: ...weight. Exactly. As if that's the only thing that could possibly ever be a struggle for someone who is not an ideal- society's version of an ideal body type. I would say too, the other thing then, which we'll get into a little bit in this episode as well, is the fact that there's a lot of books where if there is a fat woman protagonist, there's often an ideal body type type of love interest, whether that person is a woman, a man, non-binary, gender-fluid, whatever. So often you're seeing a plus-sized protagonist end up with a mega-ripped dude who has 18-pack abs or a woman with a bangin' rack and a size 25 waist. And I feel like that too is also not necessarily better 'cause that also sometimes inadvertently is giving off the message, again, depending on the author and the book, of, "Oh, isn't that lovely that this ripped man loves this fat person." Yeah, "can look past the flaw of her fatness," so that gives the other wrong impression. And so I think that that's also what we, as a romance novel readership have to unpack though, is if romance is often a genre about fantasy or about what we want to see in our ideal world, why is that fantasy always love interests that meets society's ideal, even if the protagonist doesn't? And so for instance, why aren't there more books of just two fat people falling in love? That's just what I want to have everyone just ruminate on. Or if you have seen books with two fat people falling in love, did you read them or were you kind of even just mentally or subconsciously like, "Hmm, not for me." I think the question is, why was that not for you? And I think similarly, I hope we, as romance evolves, continue to see romance novels with protagonists and love interests that also don't meet other societal ideals of appearance. So for instance, I'd like a dude love interest who is not 6'2"-6'4" in every romance 'cause bitch, it does not exist in real life. The average American man- the average American man is 5'10". Where- why can't the 5'8" men get some love? They too want to be loved and also love others. If you see a woman who's "tall," in a lot of romances - particularly historical - they very rarely show up, but when they do, there's usually a lot of other platitudes to make it sound better that she's tall. And even then she's not ever tall, tall; usually those women are like 5'7", 5'8", as opposed to tiny and 5'2". So I think that I just want to see more of people with different everything is basically what I'm getting at.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Not to mention a lot of romance writers are plus-sized.
Lily Herman: Yes.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Which is insane to me; so many romance writers are plus-sized and yet they're writing these teeny itty bitty bitches. So frustrating. But I actually think that this really goes well into your first point in your first book regarding that disparity in...
Discussion of Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (12:43)
Lily Herman: Yeah. And I think not to say that every person needs to write only their experience ever, but it's interesting that I think the romance genre in general is super diverse and yet we end up with a lot of homogeneity in terms of the genre, which again also falls to publishing houses and whatnot. So I never want to put everything on the author when obviously getting published is a whole other ball game, especially by a mainstream big-five publisher. But anyway. So I guess we're gonna talk about, I think four books and I also had some bonus books, but for books that are- have some good plus-size representation, also maybe have some things that we've flagged, but anyway, I guess I will kick things off. So the first book I wanted to highlight was Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade. So I actually read an ARC of this book pretty early last year and hyped it within Bad Bitch Book Club. Olivia Dade has written a ton of books with plus-size characters. And what's interesting is this was her breakout hit. And it was kind of funny watching the discourse act like this was her first book or her first book with plus-size characters. And it's like, literally, if you go to her GoodReads backlist, she's got a bunch of them. So check out Olivia Dade for that in general. But Spoiler Alert follows the story of a woman named April. She's obsessed with this Game of Thrones-esque show. And she writes really, really popular fan fiction about it on a major stan site for the show. So it turns out that one of the most popular actors on the show, this guy named Marcus, he actually frequents this standom site and also writes fan fiction about what he wishes his actual character on the show could do. So it's kind of his weird wish-fulfillment when things don't work out for him as an actor in real life on this show. And so April and Marcus strike up this long-term internet friendship, obviously not knowing the actual identity of the other person and in true romcom form, their IRL worlds collide eventually. And obviously at a certain point, they kind of figure out what the dealio is, but, April is plus-size. And they're very- Olivia Dade's very clear that she's not curvy in this very ambiguous sense. She is a fat woman, which is really important to Olivia Dade. I think the book does deal really, really deftly with childhood trauma and how even the people we love most perpetuate harm in terms of how we look at our bodies. April has a ton of issues with her parents, but especially her mom, and Marcus is a great love interest, but the book plays into, as we were saying, this idea of, if you have a fat character, you need to have historically beautiful love interests. So Marcus obviously being an actor on a TV show and known for being the looks behind the operation is a "hottie with a body" in that sort of way. And so April contends with that at the beginning of their relationship, but yeah. I mean- yeah. You read this one.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I did, I liked it. It was a little too nerdy for me if I'm just being completely honest. I'm not a nerd as-
Lily Herman: I love that.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I'm just not a nerd, even though I run a romance novel podcast. I will say, I agree with you that even though this book does play in the idea of a plus-size woman with a ripped love interest, it is fanfiction about fanfiction, which is just, it's very meta, but quite cool. And so it didn't really bother me so much. And I really liked the part about her parents being super fatphobic, particularly her mom, as I- I have a mom who will never listen to my podcast so I can talk shit a little bit. My mom has been on my shit about my weight and my body my entire life and she's gotten better about it after so many conversations, but as someone who has a mom who's always like, "Do you want to go for a walk?" "Have you been to the gym yet today?" "What do you weigh now?" it's definitely, I could see a lot of my own experience in her, in the story.
Lily Herman: Yeah. Yeah, totally. And I think out of a lot of the books that are out there, this one handles that very well. And also a lot of the rest of April's life is great, which I think is important too. So that- it's not like her weight is this tragic thing that follows her around/her life is tragic because of it; it's like more that she's okay with her weight, her parents, her mom make it worse when she's around them on occasion, but otherwise is killing the game. Doing great. So, yeah, it's an interesting book 'cause I, I love it, and then I'm also like, "Well, could we get..." But, also it makes sense in the context of this particular book so that- that the love interest is this super-ripped dude, given that he's an actor on this television,- all these kind of Game of Thrones television shows where everyone needs to be ripped. So, yeah, I just- I liked it. I liked the handling of it from the fat woman's perspective. But I also see the obvious criticism of like this particular book; this man is beautiful. But that's also kind of the point. So I see why everyone's waffling on that from this larger body image/body type ideal for a love interest perspective.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Many feels but overall we recommend.
Lily Herman: Yes.
Discussion of Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (17:51)
Mackenzie Newcomb: The next book that I would like to talk about...
Lily Herman: Yes. You're obsessed with this book
Mackenzie Newcomb: Jess Lee, this one's for you girl, the book that should have one Bad Bitch Book Club's romance of the year, Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert. I absolutely love Talia Hibbert and I appreciate her commitment to having plus-size protagonists that are not only plus-size, but described as being like absolute sex pots. She's like, "Yeah, she's fat. She's so fuckin' hot." No one's really that worried about their bodies in Talia Hibbert's. They're just happy to be themselves, and that's why I love queen bitch, Dani Brown. So Dani is too busy for love but not too busy for sex, and desperately trying to find the right person to be her fuck buddy. By a twist of fate, sweet and sexy security guard, Zafir, ends up saving Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong. The two get videotaped during this instance
Lily Herman: And he's carrying her out of the building dramatically, that's like...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Iconic, who doesn't want that? And doesn't say a single peep about her being too heavy to carry. 'Cause she's not 'cause she's his girl. And he's also a former rugby player, so no problems there. The two end up going viral and they end up in a fake relationship so that Zafir can do some of his business things that he needs to get done that will be really helpful with this press. And also Dani gets to have the fuck buddy that she wants. So this book is absolutely phenomenal; it is the second book in a series. The first book is Get a Life, Chloe Brown, which is good and honestly worth reading just so you can get to the other books in the Brown sister series. I highly recommend it and Aprés Reads, which is our chick-lit reading group is reading it, I think on February 11th they're discussing the book? So, so many reasons to read Take a Hint, Dani Brown. What did you think of this book, Lily?
Lily Herman: I love this book. My only criticism, which I've said, the only one I have is that Talia Hibbert sometimes drops off plot-wise in the last third of her books, but this one was so fantastic where I was like, "Okay, it's fine. I will get over this." I really liked this book. I think- yeah. Dani Brown - phenomenal character. I would also like to say Talia Hibbert in general has some of the best dialogue writing game in the biz. The bitch knows how to write dialogue. A thousand percent, a million times over. I love it. And I do love that her weight is not even a conversation in this particular book. And as we were saying, not every book needs to dive into weight and not every book has to ignore weight or fatness or fatphobia, but this one it's just nice to have this escapism of this dude seeing this woman and just being like, "Damn, she's hot, and also her- I love her brain. She's smart. And I love that..." All the different things about her. That's just nice and refreshing. And I also find, Dani Brown is like the baddest bitch in the club. So...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Totally the baddest bitch in the house for- every day. I mean any place she is, she's the baddest bitch.
Lily Herman: Oh yeah. And once again, too, we'll say to everyone, or we'll tease that Act Your Age, Eve Brown, the final book in the Brown sisters trilogy comes out in 2021. This year.
Mackenzie Newcomb: April, I think.
Lily Herman: Yeah, March or April. I can't remember. Maybe even May?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Spring! Spring.
Lily Herman: Spring of 2021. Another fantastic book. The third Brown sister, Eve Brown, is also plus-size, is also fabulous and living her life. And, yeah. I just love Talia Hibbert's books. She does a phenomenal job with them. I, again, her dialogue and everything else is so good, I forgive any kind of drifting of plot that can exist sometimes. And I, yeah, I love Dani Brown. As much as I love the Bad Bitch Book Club romance of the year book, Beach Read, I also love Take a Hint, Dani Brown and would have been more than pleased with that as a winner, a thousand percent.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Absolutely. What's your next pick?
Discussion of Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon (21:52)
Lily Herman: So this is one I know you recently read and loved. Oh my god. So everyone, I've mentioned this book on the pod in season one, but it needed further unpacking and that is Xeni, X-e-n-i by Rebekah Weatherspoon. So, oh my god. I love this one. I will say it's self-published but definitely a more mainstream pick of Rebekah Weatherspoon's self-published books, but it follows Xeni, this amazingly sharp, witty young woman who's a little aimless, she's fine with her- everything's just fine. Fine with her job, fine with her living situation. But everything's just kind of static. She's not really moving anywhere or going anywhere.
Mackenzie Newcomb: She's a teacher; she's chillin'.
Lily Herman: Yeah, just chilling. But essentially she has an aunt who passes away and she learns at the reading of the will that this aunt whom she thought was just kind of this lovely, pleasant woman living in rural upstate New York is actually loaded as fuck and has left Xeni millions of dollars. But...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Goals.
Lily Herman: ...the little fine print says though, that Xeni cannot cash in on the millions of dollar bills, unless she marries this farmer for at least 30 days. So Mason is this sweet little boy. I want nothing but the best for him. But the big to-do with this book is that Mason is described as "thicc" by Rebekah Weatherspoon. She's very clear that he's not some ripped farmer dude, like in all these other books with a cowboy hat; he is a thicc man doing things. Also, I will say, both characters, him and Xeni, are both bisexual and they're both very confident and mature and fine about their bisexuality. That's not- there's some discussion of previous bi-phobia by other people, but neither of them have any issues with their own bisexuality which is really, really refreshing for similar reasons that having a fat love interest is. And I just- I love him. I want so many good things for Mason and Xeni 'til the bitter end. Mack, what did you think of this book?
Mackenzie Newcomb: I loved it. I gave it five stars. It's probably not a five-star book if I'm really honest with myself, but for me it was a five-star book. And the reason that I loved it so much, aside from just being so fun and so wacky and so compulsively readable that I lowkey read it during a work day - don't tell my boss; I started it during lunch and I could not stop.
Lily Herman: It's short, too. It's only like 260 pages. So you fly through it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, yeah. It was a four-hour- that I'll never forget, but it was amazing. My husband is plus-size, and I've never seen anybody that looks like him represented in romance. And I guess I was just shocked by how much I needed to read this book. And it made me kind of even see, on kind of a deep note, I feel like I saw my husband differently after reading it a little bit. I was like, "He's someone that could be desired by a lot of people." And even though you don't see people that look like him in romance, it doesn't necessarily mean that he wouldn't be desired by the masses 'cause he's just such a nice man with such a nice beard and a thicc body. And I just- I don't know. I just- I thought it was so special and- but it made me even more disappointed afterwards 'cause I was like, "Damn. There aren't a lot of romances like this."
Lily Herman: Yeah. You're like, "I would like to see more Ben in a romance, who's just..."
Mackenzie Newcomb: Exactly! Ben, he's like the perfect guy to be in a romance novel. He's so nice and smart, but...
Lily Herman: And yet.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And yet.
Lily Herman: And yet.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And yet!
Lily Herman: Yeah, no. It was just such a good book for that reason. And I- I'm always- I was like, "I would like more Mason or anyone else like Mason in books." 'Cause he was just so- he was just so mature about everything. I don't know. That was the other thing too, he was a mature dude livin' his life. They're both older in their thirties, so they're just like- that's the other thing that I love about this book. It's not about two 24 year olds who are a disaster. These are two mature adults who have both gone through their shit, figured it out, gone to therapy, and are ready for a real sumpin-sumpin. So, Xeni. Truly a unique book on many fronts.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And we might make you guys read it in the future for something that we have planned in the future. You never know what could happen. So definitely add it to your TBR; request it from the library. You never know what's going to happen in the future.
Discussion of One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London (26:23)
Lily Herman: Wonder what that could be. Mack, what was your other book that you were- I know you're hyped to talk about this one.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I love this book. Okay. So One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London. And I just want to note quickly before I get into it that this was actually, I think, the first or second book that I read with a fat protagonist. So it was still a really novel concept to when I picked this up last summer. So One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London was a top five book of 2020 for me. I loved the concept. It's about a fat fashion blogger who writes a critique of Main Squeeze, which is basically The Bachelor, for their lack of body diversity, and ends up being cast as the lead in the show. Chaos ensues. Now don't get me wrong. The fatphobia in this book is in abundance. But you can kind of imagine that that would be the case if they were to put a fat protag- fat lead on The Bachelor now. A lot of the debate and conversations surrounding the show probably would be about the person's weight, so I think it was realistic in that sense. But I just loved reading a book that was clearly based on one of my favorite shows, The Bachelor, especially since at that point it wasn't even filming. So it really was the escapism I needed. And I love seeing a fat woman in the spotlight, especially since Kate was very clear that she was not "curvy." She was not "mid-size." She was clearly- I think they describe her as a size 20, am I right?
Lily Herman: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. She's like, "I'm a fat woman."
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, "I'm a size 20, I'm not a size 12. I'm not, you know, whatever." But I also want to say, now that I'm watching The Bachelor right now and having just read One to Watch six months ago or so, I hate- I kind of hate it. It's so demoralizing. I was watching all the girls get out of the limo - women, sorry, I always call women, girls and know it's a problem - but I was watching all the women get out of the limo and they all just had such teeny waists in silk dresses. And I'm like, "Holy shit, there isn't a size eight in the bunch." And I just think that since it's the most watched show in America most weeks, I would like to see a little bit more body- a lot a bit more body diversity on this show, especially since it really just perpetuates the norm that no one above a size six is attractive.
Lily Herman: Yeah.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And I fucking hate that.
Lily Herman: And you know, too, that the second- first of all, everyone's touting the season for its racial diversity, but obviously too, everyone has said there has to be other types of diversity as well. And not to say that racial diversity shouldn't be important, given The Bachelor's history. And I don't want to turn this into like a Bachelor podcast, but basically to your point, I feel like too, if there was even a contestant who was fat or was even mid-size, so size, I don't know, 8-14ish, that that would be that contestant's storyline. You know they would pull that. And so okay, then they would need to get half the women to be above a size eight for this to not be THE THING that the show is going to make it out to be. But yeah, you won't find a single woman who isn't able to fit into some Brandy Melville, one-size-fits-all clothing, all right.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That's the standard.
Lily Herman: Straight up. That's tea though, I'm not even lying. All those women could fit into Brandy Melville just fine. So- and I remember last season when Tayshia was the lead, everyone's like, "Tayshia actually has boobs." And I'm like, "I can't believe that that is the standard that we are holding ourselves to, 'I can't believe the lead actually has a chest.'" "What?" "So crazy!"
Mackenzie Newcomb: "Can you believe the progress we've made in society?"
Lily Herman: That's where we're when we go to watch The Bachelor. That's literally where we were at, is us being impressed that the lead has above a B-cup in her chest size.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Huge titties. I was like, "Ben, why have you watched this entire season of The Bachelor with me? He's like, "Um..."
Lily Herman: Also Tayshia is still though very thin and...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Perfect body.
Lily Herman: ...a lot of other ideal body things for how society looks at body. So, but anyway. But we're just saying overarchingly, yeah. I think The Bachelor is sort of interesting. And I know One to Watch is interesting in that I think there was a lot of- I wouldn't say it was a polarizing book per se, but there was a lot of discourse where some plus-size or fat women, however they identify, really loved this book, some felt like there was too much, again to this point I was talking about earlier, there was too much emphasis on her weight when there could have been other problems in her life. There was also a lot of awkward moments where people who definitely fit the societal norm of what it means body-wise to be attractive who were trying to weigh in and that made it very awk. It was sort of like, "Okay." Not to say you can't have opinions, but it was just kind of weird to see some of those people trying to lead that conversation. Yeah.
Mackenzie Newcomb: My sister, for example, my sister Taylor, she's a skinny bitch, super skinny, skinny as fuck, could definitely be on The Bachelor. She didn't like how a lot of Bea's- Bea, who's the main character, her internal narrative, her internal conflict was about herself and her own body image and her own weight. And she's like, "I want her to be confident! She's the lead of the show." And then I'm like, "Yes, Taylor. But imagine if all of a sudden The Bachelor had a plus-size lead, it would be totally the majority of the conversation, if we're being really honest with ourselves, would be surrounding that person's weight," which is so unfortunate, but I think makes One to Watch a realistic book.
Lily Herman: Exactly. Oh yeah, no, I think it's still a great book. And it's also, I will say too, to our points about, I think we talked about this in last week's episode in episode two, and we've also talked about it all the way back in episode one of season one, this idea of books you could read and lend to your grandma or books that lacks some steam. This was definitely traversing the line of - I hate the term - but like women's fiction and romance.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So- totally agree. So-so-sotally agree. So-tally agree with you.
Lily Herman: Gruel, gruel. But I think it's a great book if- I gave it to, for instance, one of my newly-minted stepsisters, 'cause my dad just got married. Mazel tov to Mike and Laurie. But I gave it to one of my stepsisters, 'cause I got everyone a book and I don't know her as well. So I got her One to Watch 'cause she watches The Bachelor. So I was like, "Great." And I know I won't scare her away 'cause I'm not recommending some book with pegging in it to this woman. So, yeah. So One to Watch. I also had two other recs and I don't know if you did either, Mack, but I had two other recs I guess, or things for people to check out.
Mackenzie Newcomb: No, you can go ahead though, I'd like to hear them.
Discussion of Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean (33:05)
Lily Herman: Yeah. Well you'll know the first one; we both know the first one very well. And it is the second book in Sarah MacLean's Bareknuckle Bastard series and it is Brazen and the Beast featuring our girl Hattie.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Hattie! Hattie! Hattie!
Lily Herman: Yes! Hattie stan club. For those who did not listen to this- these episodes - which, that is your fault - in season one, we had a two-part episode, I believe it's episode four, where we talked to Sarah MacLean about this book, both in terms of Hattie being a plus-size love interest, as well as the very empowering blowjob that goes on in that book. So, check out those episodes. There's also a history of blowjobs at the beginning of part one of those two episodes. So, something to do this weekend or this week, just let yourself hear all about the BJs. Definitely recommend not listening to it on a speaker in a house of people.
Mackenzie Newcomb: With children...
Lily Herman: With children. But excellent. And I know Mackenzie, you loved this book too.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I did and I dislike historical romance. I've finally accepted to myself that I don't like historical romance, but I still love Brazen and the Beast because Hattie is just one of those bitches. Just one of those chicks, you can't help but be obsessed with her.
Discussion of If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy (34:24)
Lily Herman: And the book does deal really well with her larger issues and weight is one of those without it being THE central issue. And there is some weird miscommunication, but actually makes sense from a plus-size person or "curvy," whatever she is - a person who is not the "ideal" body type - what they deal with when it comes to intimacy sometimes. So loved Brazen and the Beast, and the other one, which actually I have not read, but it's coming out and I'm very intrigued by. So Julie Murphy is the author of the critically-acclaimed book-turned-Netflix-film, Dumplin', which Jennifer Aniston plays the mom in Dumplin'.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes she does.
Lily Herman: Yep. So Julie Murphy is actually coming out with an adult romance. She's largely done a lot of YA. It's a Cinderella retelling meets The Bachelor.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Into it.
Lily Herman: Yeah. It's called If the Shoe Fits, and we'll say it does again, feed into this idea of fat protagonist-skinny/ripped/whatever main character, just judging by the cover and some other things I've seen about it, but I can not confirm that because I have not read it. But I'm very intrigued by it because of what we've seen with books like One to Watch, Spoiler Alert, Dani Brown, Xeni, all these other books we're talking about.
Mackenzie Newcomb: If you're the publicist for that, send me an ARC. I want to read it.
Lily Herman: There you go.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Ask and maybe you shall receive, I don't know.
Lily Herman: It's out there. But yeah, so that's the other book. Those are the two that I'd say bonus ones that I think are interesting or I've flagged, but I'm sorry that I've not read If the Shoe Fits; I try to read most of the books that we talk about or we're recommending, but. So for all I know, it's terrible; for all I know it's a life-changing book, but it's going to be out there sometime in 2021. So...
Mackenzie Newcomb: And it has a plus-size protagonist. Boom.
Lily Herman: Yup, exactly, exactly. Amazing.
What Else We’re Reading (36:08)
Mackenzie Newcomb: What else are you reading?
Lily Herman: Well, I've talked a bit. Why don't you start off, Mackenzie? What are you reading right now? I know what you're going to talk about and I know you're gonna- I'll let you go on for like 27 minutes about it. 'Cause I know you're obsessed.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. I'll take approximately two minutes and seven seconds, so, kind of like 27 minutes, but okay. So I recently finished Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker. And I could really go on for 27 minutes about this book, but I'm gonna not. Instead I'll just tell you that she is going to visit Bad Bitch Book Club on St. Patrick's Day. 'Cause I'm so funny. Anyways, this book is about one woman's journey to sobriety and it's also a cultural analysis of AA and sobriety culture. Holly Whitaker was living in the Bay area working in tech, and by night chugging multiple bottles of liquor and woke up- waking up in her own vomit. Things were really fucking bad for her. But AA wasn't the right fit, and she talks a lot about why AA is not necessarily the right fit for a lot of women and why sobriety culture actually is pretty toxic towards women. And I have a lot of sober people in my life, so I just found it to be incredibly enlightening, especially since- I'll just leave you with this one nugget in case you don't really care to read the book: A lot of AA is about squishing the ego of white men because it was made for white men in the early 1900s, and women and people of color don't really need their ego smushed anymore. We've had society batting our egos down for our entire lives, and so therefore a lot of the lessons in AA just don't work for us. And a lot of it is about how alcohol is essentially poison. And even if you're not an alcoholic or addicted to alcohol, that it still would be better for you if you don't drink alcohol. Anyway, since reading it, I have had not a single sip of alcohol. It is- when we're filming this, it is January 17th. I have not had alcohol in 17 days. I have no interest in drinking, at all. I don't know if I'll ever drink again. I'll probably drink champagne for celebratory occasions, but I just don't care about alcohol anymore, which is insane to me 'Cause I'm someone who drank every single day of quarantine. And it also taught me that you don't need to be an alcoholic better yourself by not drinking. I actually lent this book to my ex best friend. And I think it was what helped her realize she didn't want to be my friend anymore. So read this book. It clearly works for some people.
Lily Herman: No, but yeah. It's funny because I'm someone who's- there's never really- there was never really a culture of alcohol in my house growing up, and my parents were never shameful about it, they just both didn't drink. Therefore I never really thought to drink. So as someone who- I went six months not drinking in quarantine and didn't even think about it. I don't really- I have plenty of other problems. And as we talked about disordered eating and everything, but alcohol has never been on my radar. So it's one less thing for me to worry about, but I'm really interested to read this, especially after in the fall we read for the feminist reading group, we read Nina Renata Aron's amazing memoir, Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls, which, very, very intense book, but gets into a lot of the same themes of AA and a lot of these mainstays of American sobriety culture not being the best fit for women or in her case, she's talking more as the loved one of an addict. So they're not great for those people either. So I think- I feel like there's just a lot of really good books being very critical of sobriety culture and also just even just drinking culture in America that have been coming out recently.
Lily Herman: Yeah I think they cover the same issue but very differently, but also are getting at the same larger themes from what I could- I have not read Quit Like a Woman, but it is on my list for the next- before St. Patrick's Day.
Mackenzie Newcomb: You have to admit that's really funny that I arranged for that.
Lily Herman: And funny, I have a weird thing where strange things have happened every year on St. Patrick's Day, every single year for the past several years. So I like that this year's is gonna be this- Holly Whitaker coming to visit.
Mackenzie Newcomb: To talk to us about sobriety.
Lily Herman: Yeah. I'm excited though. And like I said, I'm not someone who has any issues with alcohol dependency or addiction or anything, but I'm still very excited to read her thoughts 'cause I think a lot of it will apply to other parts of life too, so.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Sure, sure. What are you reading?
Lily Herman: Okay. Another book where I'm like- Mackenzie and I are both like, "Hint, hint, hint," that maybe you should check this one out for future reading and discussion purposes. So I finished reading about a week ago An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole. Alyssa Cole is another sort of mainstay of the romance genre. She is fantastic. And as I said, I read this book a week ago and I'm still thinking about it very actively. And if you are someone who's looking for a historical romance that keeps the steam, but takes place somewhere other than Regency or Victorian England...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Ooh, me!
Lily Herman: ...this is the book for you. So An Extraordinary Union, it's the first book in I think it's called the Loyal League series. It takes place during the Civil War and features a black free woman who's a spy for the Union posing as a slave in the Confederacy. So that is the protagonist. We fuckin' love Elle. And she meets a white man who's also a recent-ish Scottish immigrant to the U.S. who is also a spy for the Union. So they are both fighting the Confederacy...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Spies!
Lily Herman: ...and are deep undercover. He's playing a Confederate soldier to get all this information from the front of house, so to speak, from the white enslavers and these terrible, awful people. Elle is working behind the scenes collecting intel from just being- slaves were not treated as people, so you would have these white enslavers who would say things in front of their slaves that they honestly would not or probably should not have said. So they're both collecting information. They end up meeting. And obviously, the book has plenty of steam to it, but also obviously deals with a lot of really deep themes around Elle's feelings about having feelings for a white man obviously to, deals with- there- I would say definitely check out content warnings for this one, 'cause there obviously obviously is a lot of racism and a lot of- the N-word is dropped, things like that. But I think Alyssa Cole out of anyone handles the whole issue so well, and it's just a brilliant book. Like I said, I'm still thinking about it, but definitely, definitely a one of a kind romance in a lot of ways. And I think, like I said, it just shows what especially the historical romance genre has to offer outside of just this very narrow idea of like Regency romance, 'cause I know everyone's reading Bridgerton right now, so.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I'm excited for this one, especially since it's not Regency romance because Regency romance just ain't my thing.
Lily Herman: I love Regency, but I also love other types of historical. 'Cause I've been eating up- I read for instance, Joanna Shupe's Gilded Age America series, Uptown Girls, I read all three of those books in two and a half days; this one I inhaled in a single evening. So, yeah. So love to see it. I guess we can talk about next week.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, let's talk about next week.
Lily Herman: So, next week Mackenzie and I are getting into it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, we're fighting.
Lily Herman: We are talking about my favorite, her fave-to-hate: the enemy-to-lovers trope. So as I said, I think it's great, or I think it's great in many cases, Mackenzie thinks it leaves much to be desired. And we should- we should have lots and lots to talk about next week.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We're gonna find some common ground. We're gonna find some common ground
Lily Herman: I don’t know. Mackenzie thinks she's coming for me. And little, does she know my two-lawyers-for-parents ass is ready for this fuckin' battle.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I told everybody that I was coming for you too.
Lily Herman: The receipts will be out. I think that's it though. Mack?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, thanks for listening! Thank you everyone for listening to this episode, please make sure to give us a five-star rating and subscribe to this podcast. If you're looking for more info on Bad Bitch Book Club, you can find us on Instagram at badbitch.bookclub and Twitter at BadBtch - without the "i" bookclub or head to badbitchbookclub.com. In addition to show notes and transcriptions, we have the chicest merch of all time, including the recently released Library Hoe collection. Follow this podcast at f2lpodcast on Instagram and Twitter and join our podcast Facebook group. You can find me @mackinstyle...
Lily Herman: And you can find me on Twitter @lkherman and on Instagram @lilykherman.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Love you so much, see you next week!