Is this the end of F2L? This week, Mackenzie and Lily come to virtual blows (sort of) about one of the genre's most popular tropes—and one of Lily's personal favorites: Enemies-to-lovers. Is it really as great as everyone says it is? Or is it totally overrated?
Spoiler timestamp: This episode contains spoilers of The Simple Wild by KA Tucker from 13:07-23:21.
Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00), Housekeeping (1:12), Introduction of Main Topic (1:58), Discussion of Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan and It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey (7:44), SPOILERS: Discussion of The Simple Wild by KA Tucker (13:07), Discussion of The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa (23:21), Discussion of Top Secret by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen (25:56), Discussion of Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (28:04), Discussion of The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata (30:52), Discussion of The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (34:19), What We’re Reading Now (39:39), Conclusion (47:20).
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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.
Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan
It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
The Simple Wild by KA Tucker
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Top Secret by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
Hold Me by Courtney Milan
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 and an enemies-to-lovers critic.
Lily Herman: Oh damn. We're just starting there off the bat. All right. I see how it is. I'm Lily Herman, a writer, editor, person who is legitimately considering buying a hundred dollars worth of Pukka tea, and one of Mack’s best friends. I'm a little more fun today.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Do it.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I should. I need to get my current Lipton stash done and then new inventory can be added, 'cause all I drink is tea. So should- shall we housekeep? Keep the house.
Mackenzie Newcomb: House keep. House keep it.
Lily Herman: Yes. So as a reminder, you can find show notes to every episode, including every book we talk about, at badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. You can join the Bad Bitch Book Club patreon at patreon.com/badbitchbookclub for only $12 a month. You can also follow 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. And then lastly, you can follow Bad Bitch Book Club on Instagram at badbitch.bookclub and on Twitter @badbtchbookclub without the "i" in "bitch." Mack, what are we doing today? How is our friendship going to end today? It's all over.
Introduction of Main Topic (1:58)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, I'm so caffeinated and so ready. Today, we are debating one of Lily's favorite tropes, enemies-to-lovers. We're coming at this topic from very different places. I am someone who usually (not always) doesn't love the enemies to lovers trope and it's Lily's preference. The definition to enemies-to-lovers is...
Lily Herman: According to the internet...
Mackenzie Newcomb: According to the internet, is two people on opposite sides of a war, a battle, or a feud who fall in love and work together to give an end to the conflict. Rivals-to-lovers, there's no war battle or feud. If there is, they're on the same side. So Lily, why don't you open it up? Tell us- tell us a little bit of background. Tell us how you're feeling.
Lily Herman: Oh, I feel fine. I'm-- everything's chill.
Mackenzie Newcomb: You're excited.
Lily Herman: I'm excited. I do love enemies-to-lovers. As a trope, it's one of my favorites to read. I think it's also one of the easiest for me to get into-- insta-love is a harder sell. You can go listen to the episode about insta-love from last season if you want to hear why I feel like I have issues and a lot of authors, I think struggle with insta-love. I think enemies-to-lovers is an easier also entry point for a lot of authors. It's just-
Mackenzie Newcomb: True.
Lily Herman: It's a little bit easier when there's already a conflict there. And I think too, I think the distinction between enemies and rivals is always interesting for that exact reason, but falls under the sort of "an agitated pairing learns how to not be agitated with each other and then they fuck," or maybe they just hold hands and tell each other they love each other and whisper sweet nothings. I don't know, but that's sort of how I look at that kind of grouping of books so to speak. That's that trope: "agitated people who are no longer agitated with each other." But I would say I've always loved enemies-to-lovers romances before I knew they had a name. And that goes for any medium. So TV, film, books, for instance, Pride and Prejudice, the book, is one of the most well-known sort of enemies-to-lovers or rivals-to-lovers books, depending on what you think the central conflict is. But I can't get enough of Matthew Macfadyen's hand flex in the Joe Wright 2005 adaptation of the novel. If you've watched the film, you know what I'm talking about. It was the hand-flex scene and felt all over the world and is one of the most, I think, sexual moments to ever take place on the screen. I'm just saying, I'm just saying. Again, if you've watched it, you know what I'm talking about, but I'd say, as I said, they are some of the easiest books for me to get into. That doesn't always mean I like them, but I think I can see that-- I can see how that happens with people. I will say though, because I do love the trope, I'm also very critical of books that do not do it well. So some of the books I've loved the most have been enemies-to-lovers and some of the books that I've had the most issue with have been enemies-to-lovers. And it kind of-- and there's not always a ton of in-between for me. But I've always tried to put into words why I love this trope so much, and I saw this tweet a couple of weeks ago from @Trangondong on Twitter. And it said, "Someone said 'People whose favorite trope is enemies-to-lovers are enticed by the idea of showing someone the worst parts of yourself first and still having them fall in love with you.'" And that shit hurted.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Aww, that's cute. That's cute.
Lily Herman: I think that's a great way to put it! It's a trope about miscommunication or misadventure or not seeing the full picture or sometimes even other people making mistakes and then having to atone or acknowledge them. I think that that's some of the-- when the trope is done well, those are the types of things that happen, right? Is that someone can be an asshole and then say, "Yo, I'm sorry, I was an asshole." And that opens up a new door. Or someone just assumes a person is an asshole. And then they have to figure that out. But I think that quote-- I was like, "Oh, I need to-- my therapist is going to be mighty busy with unpacking that one tweet for the next 30 sessions." So best of luck to her on that journey with me. But I think like any other trope though, it is about execution, right? So I do think it's an easier trope to execute well, but is also one that falls into the same kind of pitfalls if not done well. So I feel like either authors really struggle with finding the right balance of agitation or dislike by the characters in the beginning. So sometimes authors for instance, will make the miscommunication way too simple. And you're like, "You could have literally fucking talked to each other; this is so ridiculous." Or they just go and make the conflict way too irredeemable to where you're like, "I literally cannot get on board with this relationship." And often, those are the types of books where I'm like, "You all need therapy. Separately. Not each other; your relationship is not therapy." I was thinking of Angelina M. Lopez's second book, Hate Crush. I loved her first book, which we talked about I think on episode two, which I'm now blanking on the name on...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Lush Money?
Lily Herman: Yeah, Lush Money. Her second book has this issue where I'm like, both of you characters are too fucked up. You all need to just go to therapy, get on some meds, and never speak to each other again like that. That, to me-- they, there was some irredeemable shit done there. And then I think the other issue that often comes up-- so there's that issue, and the other issue that comes up is that authors will often rush too quickly through the steps of the trope and don't let sort of that mutual disdain or agitation breathe for a bit.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Chloe Brown.
Lily Herman: So they really want them to-- yeah, so they really want them to be besties after five seconds. So Chloe Brown has-- I won't spoil too much of it, but there's an incident. They dislike each other, the two characters, and then they basically...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Blink.
Discussion of Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan and It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey (7:44)
Lily Herman: ...figure out their differences by chapter three and suddenly you're like, "I'm sorry, what are we going to do for the rest of this book?" And I love Talia Hibbert, love her dialogue, but I was very confused when reading, 'cause I was like, "Isn't the whole point of this trope to be that they don't like each other for a while? At least some period of time." So that also gets on my nerves. So some examples of these two things: One, I absolutely love and adore Kennedy Ryan's books, love them, they are so deep. She does so much great research. She really is someone who does a deep dive if she is writing about people who have identities other than her own. But to this day, I think the only book of hers that I have not-- I have disliked, that I've read is Block Shot, which is the second book in her Hoops series. And it is one of the most chaotic books I have ever read to this day. And that's because the love interest, Jared, is just a toxic asshole - and he admits it throughout the book - and you keep waiting for the moment where Jared's going to turn and have this amazing arc and become a better person. And it literally never happens. And when I say that, I mean in the epilogue, he's saying, "I know I haven't grown as a person at all, but I love this woman..."
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh shit.
Lily Herman: "I know I'm a dickhead still." And I'm like "How this at all fulfilling in terms of a happy ending?" which is the only requirement of a romance novel. So anyway, I won't spoil anything else about that book, except that by the end, I was like, "Literally, he tells you he has not grown at all." So I was just-- So any other examples we give, that book was infinitely more stressful I think because I also had such high hopes because I love Kennedy Ryan. I still love her. Will still read everything else on her backlist and in the future, that was just the-- every author has the one where it just does not click. And I was like, "Jared is a disaster of a love interest." And then the other opposite end, these books that tend to fly through the various kinds of stops on the trope, so to speak. I recently read an advanced copy of Tessa Bailey's upcoming book, It Happened One Summer. She's the author of the Hot and Hammered series. So Love Her, Lose Her, Fix Her Up, and the last one Tools of Engagement. So she has this new standalone. Or it might have a second book, but right now it's a standalone coming out called It Happen One Summer. And it's basically about an Alexis Rose a la Schitt's Creek character who gets dropped into a fisherman's village. She's a spoiled LA princess type who's dropped into a fisherman's village. And of course, comes into immediate conflict with the head fisherman guy who's really hot. But Tessa Bailey in this book-- there's some great banter. There's some other great stuff she's known for these really off the wall sex scenes and dirty talk, which, that's a whole other conversation I have issues with in this book too, but she just speeds through the conflict portions. I was like, "All of their conflict is based on very basic miscommunications and they get over it so quickly to where I'm like, 'I wanted more!'" Give me-- You had the best setup: the spoiled heiress - which we'll talk about it in The Simple Wild in a second - and the grungy fishermen, like I wanted so much from that book. And I love Schitt's Creek. That's the other problem. But yeah, so I-- that's, I think where it comes down to is I love enemies-to-lovers, but I also can be hyper-critical of when it's done poorly. And it's often done poorly for those two reasons. So that is the end of my monologue. Mack would love to hear your issues with the overall trope or issues that you have, or what kind of-- I guess, what sort of enemies-to-lovers books do you really fuck with and which ones do you have issues with in terms of larger patterns?
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. So the reason that I personally avoid enemies-to-lovers, or at least don't seek it out, is because in my view, unless there's a really good reason, if you are enemies, then you probably shouldn't be lovers. I just don't like jerks. I'm a nice guy kind of gal. It's why I married a nice guy. And so that's why they don't really sit with me. I will say, I have liked several enemies-to-lovers books, like you said, when they're done super well. And I'm going to go into the specific ones later that I think really killed it with the understandable miscommunication that could easily happen and would definitely result in someone hating somebody and wouldn't necessarily result in a conversation. I think when enemies-to-lovers is done well, it's just an awesome romance and I fuck with it for that reason, but it's just not my favorite trope. I understand that tension is really easy to create with enemies-to-lovers, which, like you said, it's a really easy way to break into the romance genre. However, in order for me to be really into it, there has to be obstacles that they go through later on that have nothing to do with the original reason why they were enemies. They need to-- they need to be enemies-to-lovers, but then they have to go through something else. It can't just be the whole story about them not being able to figure out their shit or else I think they should give up and break up and find new people. An immediate turnoff for me in enemies-to-lovers is when the male love interest is just an asshole for absolutely no reason or because they want to bring the protagonist down a peg. I actually had asked the Bad Bitches in Love, the romance subgroup for Bad Bitch Book Club that Lily runs and does an amazing job running -
Lily Herman: Oh, thank you.
Discussion of The Simple Wild by KA Tucker (13:07)
Mackenzie Newcomb: You're welcome - what book they would recommend to someone who wants to fall in love with enemies-to-lovers and one of the books that was recommended, and I picked it up 'cause Jordan Ellis told me to read it, was The Simple Wild by KA Tucker.
Lily Herman: Oh you're blaming Jordan for it!
Mackenzie Newcomb: No but I actually want to thank Jordan-- I actually want to thank Jordan. So shout out to Jordan, because I think that this book per-- while it was very readable and I did enjoy my time, this book perfectly exemplified why I don't like enemies-to-lovers as a trope and why it just doesn't really hit it for me and I, okay. So I have a huge issue with cult favorite, The Simple Wild by KA Tucker, which came highly recommended by every romance novel fanatic in the entire world. Honestly, I think it's as problematic and chaotic as November 9th without the arson.
Lily Herman: I disagree with that, but I agree with some of your other points, which I know what some of them are, but anyway, continue. November 9th-- I feel like November 9th is just a level of fuckery that I just am still unpacking.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay, but I kind of feel like this is the same. So I gave it an extra star because no one was setting anything on fire in this particular book.
Lily Herman: No one's stalking anyone else for forever.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Sure. Right, right. That's why it's-- I think I gave November 9 either one or two stars, but The Simple Wild was a three, maybe a three-and-a-half star for me.
Lily Herman: Yeah.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So The Simple Wild by KA Tucker is about Calla, a 26-year-old Canadian aspiring fashion blogger who just got fired and coincidentally gets invited to visit her dad in Alaska for the first time in 24 years. He has cancer and is-- she gets a surprise call asking her to come visit saying he doesn't know, but she should really be there. She has the time. So she makes her way out to East Bum, Alaska, as her mom would put it. She's like, "This is not pretty Alaska, this is ugly Alaska." And I'm like, "That's too bad because I think that I would have liked it to be pretty Alaska, but whatever." Once she gets there, she is met by a tall, big, and broody Jonah, who is the pilot who is going to take her from Anchorage to Bangor, which is where her dad lives. He is immediately extremely rude to her as he blamed her for never once coming to visit her father, Wren, in Alaska. No surprise here, but Calla falls for the only age-appropriate man in the teeny town of Alaska. Now the following includes spoilers, so just go ahead 30 seconds to my next point if you need to. But ladies who love Jonah, we need to talk. What the fuck? Let's go to therapy, okay? First of all - and this is all spoilers - the way he patronizes Calla with his words. He calls her high-maintenance and his nickname for her is Barbie. That's fucking rude and patronizing. Second, he makes so many inappropriate comments about her body. He asks her if her boobs are fake and asks how much she weighs. Now, granted, he was asking how much she weighs so he can put her on an airplane to make sure the airplane didn't go down. But she was clearly skinny bitch, because she said that she weighed 130 pounds from all of her muscle. So that was going to be fine. His actions: he purposely took her in a smaller plane so she wouldn't be able to bring her luggage with her and knew that it would scare her. He hid her luggage and never apologized about it in his house so that she had to wash the same clothes for, I think it was five days, and then never apologized about it. And then later once she got her things back, he hid her makeup from her.
Lily Herman: Can I just say, I was, in this book, more angry with Wren, the dad, than I was with Jonah. And I think I would have disliked Jonah more if I hadn't had so many issues with Wren, the dad, who was not there for his kid...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Terrible dad.
Lily Herman: Terrible dad, wasn't even gonna-- 'cause I think you might've skipped in your previews that Calla doesn't know he has can- She doesn't find out for a large part of the book about him being sick. So he was just gonna...
Mackenzie Newcomb: She knows he has cancer, but she doesn't know that it's-- he's gonna die.
Lily Herman: Yeah. He's being very cagey about everything. So it's-- he just, I feel like I was just so angry with Wren and a lot of the resolution with Wren that I was like, "Okay, at least Jonah is not fucking, leaving his fucking kid, refusing to come to her graduation, and all this other shit, like holy fuckin' shit." So I think that's where now I'm looking-- I'm thinking about, 'cause I was like, "Why did I not dislike this book as much as...
Mackenzie Newcomb: 'Cause you were thinking of the dad, the problematic dad, hashtag relatable.
Lily Herman: Yeah. I'm sitting here, I'm looking back-- I was looking at my notes. 'Cause remember at the time being like, "Okay, I have some issues with Jonah. I do like their banter. Calla is annoying at times." I don't want to pretend-- I'm not saying she deserves it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Definitely.
Lily Herman: She is definitely an annoying protagonist and makes a lot of assumptions about Jonah as well. So in the context, they're both making a lot of assumptions about the other. But yeah, I was just gonna say though, that Wren throughout this entire fucking book bothered me much more than Jonah.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. I mean, I get it. I actually kinda liked Wren, so that's interesting that you say that, but...
Lily Herman: But we have very different relationships with our dads as well.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Exactly, I like my dad.
Lily Herman: But I think that makes a lot of sense then, what you focused on versus what I focused on.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. Now don't get me wrong. As a personality type, I feel like Calla was based on my personality type, right? A micro-influencer, aspiring fashion blogger, very into image. But I thought it was insane that they made it so that she wore makeup while she was working out, that she brought Louis Vuittons to Alaska, and I just feel like they were so mean about her lactose intolerance that maybe if she had her luggage, she could acquire some dairy pills and had the whole fat latte after all. I think that she was a very one-dimensional character, so I didn't like her either, but he-- Jonah never sees any personal growth in is-- at the very end is a problematic asshole, like I said before, toxic with no growth. And that is why, even though I really did have a good time reading The Simple Wild, I think that it perfectly encapsulated why I don't really fuck with enemies-to-lovers. And as Lily said, our romance preferences show us how we want to be loved. So for those of you who say that Jonah is your book boyfriend, maybe reevaluate. People are going to hate me for this. I looked at GoodReads...
Lily Herman: This is your-- this is your time. Don't worry; everyone will hate me on the polarizing romance episode. It'll be fine. Here's my thing about this book. I think. Yeah. Two things of why I think I like this book more - One: Yeah. I thought-- I don't think Jonah is at all my book boyfriend. I enjoyed their banter. I have about 87 other book boyfriends, especially of the broody kind. We know I love a broody man, but there's a very competitive roster there. So you really better bring it to make it on the broody man list. So that's thing number one. I think one - yeah. Wren: a problem. Wren, the whole time, I was like, "What the fuck is going on with Wren-- the dad?" So that was a whole fucking thing for me. And then I think too, the reasons. This is interesting, The Simple Wild is one of those books, that BookTube, AKA book reviewers on YouTube, love; they talk about it constantly. And as with a lot of insular communities, bookstagram could be another, or just any other community, regardless of topic, there's always a couple of things that people are obsessed with. So often I'm very skeptical of those books. Another one that I went into, I mentioned to Mackenzie and to other people in our IRL romance group like nine, 10 months ago was Birthday Girl by Douglas, which...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Love!
Lily Herman: ...but is another BookTube book that BookTube constantly brings up and I'm like, "I don't really," so I think The Simple Wild surprised me in that I liked it more 'cause I was so prepared to not like it given how much BookTube loves it. So I think that's why I liked it more. But yeah, I would never say that Jonah's my book boyfriend. I do think this is a book where if it had had alternating person-- POV perspective, so Jonah and Calla, it would have seemed a little more even keel.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh yeah, I totally see that.
Lily Herman: The other issue with a lot of enemies-to-lovers, if it's just from one perspective, you can't see the inside of someone else's head, which sometimes can be great for again, building the tension if you don't know what's going on with them. But also sometimes you're like, "Can we just get what Jonah's..." 'Cause once we figure out Jonah's deal and we hear more of this too in the sequel, which is Wild at Heart, you're like, "Okay, I can at least kind of see where Jonah is coming from, how he turned out this way." But yeah, I feel like that would've made the book from that perspective, maybe a little bit easier. 'Cause we understand and we empathize with Calla, even though she's being annoying and someone with no context to her might be very annoyed by her, but we see the inside of her head. We never get the inside of Jonah's head.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Totally agree with that. I think that it is one of those books that would have done better with that, but honestly good for KA Tucker. She has a 4.41 on GoodReads for this book.
Lily Herman: Which I think is ridiculous. I'm sorry. I think-- I don't agree with that whatsoever. We're in agreement on that.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That is insane!
Lily Herman: I'm just laughing. I looked over it before this and I was like, "I know Red, White & Royal Blue, for instance, has been read more, or Beach Read's also been read more. How does it have a higher rating than those books?" I'm stressed.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Thank you for agreeing with me on that one.
Lily Herman: I agree. A thousand percent. Oh my God. We're not as different as-- I would agree with both.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I feel like you see where I'm coming from a little bit.
Lily Herman: I see where you're coming from and you see that I think Wren is trash as well. So the men in Cal-- Calla needs therapy. Except for the stepdad; the stepdad was great. Who's just like supportive from afar.
Mackenzie Newcomb: The one who makes her a latte every day.
Lily Herman: Who's also a therapist. She has a different therapist than Simon, but he's great. He's the only man in this book that can stay, the rest, take it or leave it
Mackenzie Newcomb: Hard agree. So as the enemies-to-lovers connoisseur you are, what are some recommendations that you think do the trope justice?
Lily Herman: Okay. I came up with a smattering of suggestions here. So I kind of went less with necessarily books that I personally loved and that are-- were my favorite favorite. I also steered clear of anything that was super super well-known.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. I was surprised a little bit by your recommendations here.
Discussion of The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa (23:21)
Lily Herman: Yeah. These are mostly-- if you're looking for books that I think just do the trope well, and I'm not saying they're the best books ever or my favorites, but I think if people are like, "I want to see when enemies-to-lovers is done better, or the conflict makes sense." You understand the long-simmering agitation with each other. Like I-- and it can be-- it could be a romcom enemies-to-lovers or more of a romantic enemies-to-lovers book. That's what I was going for here. Less so than my personal favorite enemies-to-lovers. And I also avoided things I've talked about a lot in the podcast 'cause that would be no fun. So, first and foremost, this was an author who actually visited Bad Bitch Book Club in June for our first annual romance challenge. And that was Mia Sosa and her book The Worst Best Man. I think this one is great because the conflict in it, you understand why these people do not like each other.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Absolutely.
Lily Herman: Exactly. So it's centered on a wedding planner named Lina, three years prior to the book's events. She is left at the altar on the day of her wedding by her fiance and his slacker younger brother Max is the one left to deliver the news. And unbeknownst to Max, his brother essentially threw him- Max, the brother - under the bus when he called off the wedding saying, "Oh, well Max said something that made me reevaluate our relationship. Therefore, I don't want to get married to you." So understandably again, a conflict that makes sense. Lina thinks Max ruined her soon-to-be marriage. Max is kind of confused and thinks Lina is just being kind of an asshole to him when he's not the person who dumped her at the altar. So that's like an understandable conflict. And also understandable that you, over the course of three years, would not say to yourself, "You know? I want to go talk to my ex-fiance-who-left-me-at-the-altar's brother to clear shit up."
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. You wouldn't, you wouldn't. You just leave it in the past, it exists rent-free in your mind forever. Of course.
Lily Herman: Exactly. Exactly. So that-- that I feel like-- if you're looking for enemies-to-lovers where the conflict makes complete sense, that is number one. I was like, "Yes, I get it. I understand it. It's not a basic miscommunication. It is literally you thought your life was over and that your heart was ripped out from your soul. And then his brother was the one who was the beginning catalyst of all these events. So, The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa. Second, this is the book in Mackenzie's thread where she asked her recommendations that I had recommended for her...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Would have texted you if I wanted your opinion. Just kidding. Keep going.
Lily Herman: Okay. Somebody is drinking too much caffeine and fighting today.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Kidding, keep going.
Discussion of Top Secret by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen (25:56)
Lily Herman: I was sassy in that thread though. So it's fine. The book is Top Secret by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen. Oh, I love this book. It's a tad dark, but in a good way. But it's about two fraternity brothers. One is vying to be president of the frat. He really likes frat life, has a lot of friends in the frat, whatever. The other is a man who's literally-- who literally rushed the frat because he doesn't have money. And because frat housing was cheaper. So he's only basically in the frat to get better housing-- a better housing deal. So he couldn't give less of a shit about the frat. So understandably, the really popular guy and the kind of loner dude who thinks frat life is dumb but lives in the frat, do not get along.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Of course!
Lily Herman: And yeah. The book is good about not making it so that they're bitter enemies. They hate each- it's just, they're not fans of each other. They just kind of are disdainful of each other, stay out of each other's way. The big to-do is they're the only two who live on the third and upper floor of the frat house, but they ignore each other. They don't like each other. They end up actually both running for frat president. But again, for different reasons, one for the legacy of being frat president, the other to get free housing. Anyways, that's the bigger, in-real-life plot. Here's where things hit the fan. One of them is openly bi. And so he's on this grinder-esque app, obviously looking for the D. Good for that dude. So that's the loner guy. He's kind of openly bisexual loner guy. And then the president of the frat is straight and at the beginning of the book is in a relationship with a woman and she tells him that she wants to have a threesome for her birthday. So he only goes on the app at first to find a third for them. And so you have two people who strike up an internet friendship anonymously, who then hate each other in real life, or dislike each other greatly and avoid each other, living next to each other, literally next door in the same frat house. And that is Top Secret by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen. Do you see why I thought this would be good for you?
Discussion of Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (28:04)
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, that sounds like something I would like. And it's kind of-- I imagined I would like it because I really liked my first pick which is my mainstream pick. You know me, I always come in with one really big mainstream pick for the Friends to Lovers podcast, kind of like prerequisite reading in a way, which is Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. This is definitely one of the most popular books in the Bad Bitch Book Club community and one of my personal favorites. Red, White & [Royal] Blue is about Alex Claremont, angsty youth and son of Ellen Claremont, the first female president. And of course, Prince Henry - you can imagine who he's based off of, it's pretty obvious - who is the sexy young Prince of England and Alex's nemesis thanks to tabloid magazines that pitted them against each other. So part of the reason why I probably love this book is I love glam. I love glam. I love glitz and I love alternate histories where Donald Trump never existed. I think, god damn, nothing gets me hornier than that. So this feud was created by mass media, which is again, something I totally fuck with, and I feel like these two got over their differences early on so they could move to a secret romance trope, which is another-- which is a trope that I fuck with a little bit more. I loved this book so much and Casey is going to be visiting us to talk about her latest book, One Last Stop, in June for our June book of the month. If you're a Friends to Lovers podcast listener, now you know a secret that only Patreon knew. So, needless to say, we wholeheartedly suggest you read her books. Lily, you love this book. Obviously.
Lily Herman: I love this book. I will say too, this book will always have a special place in my heart because I had been reading a ton of nonfiction for a while a couple years ago. And, without getting into too much detail, went through a breakup. And the first book I read after that breakup was actually Red, White & Royal Blue. And I listened to the audiobook. It's a phenomenal audiobook. It-- I don't know why, it just completely snapped me back into life. I just-- the writing is so crisp. Casey McQuiston is just-- as a writer, there are some other writers I look at and I say, "What the fuck? I will never write as well as this ever in my entire life." And she's just one of them. She's a gem to follow on social media, both Instagram and Twitter. And so I just love this book for so many personal reasons, as well as just as a reader. It's, yeah. It's honestly also one of the enemies-to-lovers tropes done well. And also we'll say it's only told from Alex's point of view and it's a very well-done single POV enemies-t- lovers book, which I feel like is harder for reasons we've discussed, in that you're never in Henry's head.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, true. I think we get in his head a little bit, 'cause we see letters, emails back and forth between them, but I know exactly what you were saying. Although I wonder if the people who hated the book 'cause they don't-- they hate Alex, would have liked the book better if it was dual perspective.
Discussion of The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata (30:52)
Lily Herman: Interesting. Yeah, that's what I always wonder. That's actually a perfect segue into my other recommendation. And then I want to hear your other book that you loved. This is also single POV and I'd mentioned it briefly in a previous episode but as a jumping-off for a different book, which is Mariana Zapata's The Wall of Winnipeg and Me. So this is the book that I had said was the slowest of fucking slow burns to ever fucking exist. It's like 650 pages long...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Geez. No thanks.
Lily Herman: ...single POV. It's only told from the woman, Vanessa's, perspective, which, people have thoughts on if they like that, if they don't like that. But it's not a traditional "they're enemies" story. But it's mostly that - I can't remember if I mentioned it in a previous-- or went this far into detail - but basically there is this guy, Aiden, he is a well-known beloved football player. He's Canadian, but plays football in the U.S., obviously. And Vanessa was his assistant for two years, and was just never particularly nice to her. Was never mean, but they never really struck up a friendship or relationship or rapport. She just kind of did her job. He paid her well, 9-5 in and out, was never angry with her over everything-- anything, but it just, wasn't a great situation or a situation you felt like, "Oh, I want to stick around. I want to grow."
Mackenzie Newcomb: A job.
Lily Herman: Yeah. It was a job. So she leaves after two years. Aiden think-- he thinks he won't care either way, and he comes knocking on her door and says, "Okay, well, on top of the fact that she was a really good assistant, it turns out that his visa is expiring and the quickest and easiest way to stay in the U.S. is to get a green card marriage.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I love a green card marriage.
Lily Herman: So it's worth it 'cause it's kind of this book where, again, it's within the enemies-to-lovers trope universe, but isn't the quintessential quick enemies-to-lovers, but it also has this marriage-of-convenience trope, which I personally can really fuck with if done well. But it's really kind of at these people over many months dealing with the fact that they never really got off to a good start in terms of their professional working relationship, and are now stuck together at least for a couple of years to make it seem legit and are trying to find-- and it's, again, it's from only told from her perspective, which some readers love, 'cause he's kind of this mysterious guy she's trying to figure out. And some people were like, "I loved Aiden but wanted to get in his head." So-- but that's-- if you're like, "I love to just yell about how slow a book is moving," The Wall of Winnipeg and Me is the book for you. If you just want to be frustrated because these people are not even kissing, it is the book for you.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh my god.
Lily Herman: Congrats.
Mackenzie Newcomb: They don't kiss until page 273.
Lily Herman: Oh, girl, we're talking like page 602 kind of thing. I don't even know...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, lord.
Lily Herman: I said it's a slow burn. It is a realistic look at two people who were not fans of each other having to then marry. So.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay, that sounds actually really good. I'm never going to read it because 600 pages...
Lily Herman: You're never gonna read it. I feel like if you and Ben ever go on the longest road trip of your lives and you just want to have something hummin' in the background for like 16, 18 hours and you've already listened to Barack Obama's memoir, this is what's next. It's Barack, and then it's Mariana Zapata.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh honey, we know I'm never going to read Barack's memoir; I already read his wife's. I already got Michelle's. I don't need to read her husband's.
Lily Herman: What was the other - and I know you were a huge fan of this book - what was your favorite?
Discussion of The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (34:19)
Mackenzie Newcomb: This is one I'm a really big fan of. So, my next book is The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai. So, what happens when one of the most powerful CEOs in online dating is ghosted by an NFL player after a one night stand? Feelings get hurt. Especially when you use a fake name, Rhiannon, it's not going to help you. So what happens when he resurfaces as a business rival? Well, you'll have to read to find out, but I really liked this one because ghosting is awful. And I think this man had a very real-- you will find out he had a very reasonable reason to ghost, especially since he didn't have the contact information for our protagonist. And I can totally understand why this would be something that would really hurt someone's feelings and therefore they would hold on to it. And it might be something they have to talk through with their therapist. They're going to find it a little bit traumatizing, especially when they're someone who was having a really hard time getting into dating anyways and didn't necessarily have much of an interest in finding love. I think, again, the reason why they hate each other, why they're enemies, was legit and that is why I liked it. I also think Alisha Rai's books are just really great on audiobook.
Lily Herman: They're excellent audiobooks. Excellent.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, they're awesome on audiobooks. Anyone that I know that likes them a lot like I do, listens to them on audiobook and people who think they're just okay tend to read them. So if you-- I would recommend that medium. But ghosting is traumatizing and it brings the enemies-to-lovers drama that I like. I also fully stan Alisha to the point where I think she knows who I am, but only as a slightly creepy stan. I always reply to her TikTok videos being like, "You're so funny," and "so creative." I think she just thinks I'm super fucking weird. But this woman's writing talent is only matched by her TikTok skills. So read her books, but also follow her on TikTok 'cause she is so funny. And I plan to start the third book in this series this weekend. So I will let you all know,
Lily Herman: Ooh, I should also read it 'cause I have an ARC, but I-- to your point, I do think the audiobooks actually put a lot of her-- they make a lot of her dialogue sound better than the dialogue is read, if that makes sense.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Totally.
Lily Herman: 'Cause I listened to The Right Swipe, read her second book, which I'm now of course blanking on the name - Oh, Girl Gone Viral, and I definitely... Yeah. And I had different reactions to them and I wonder, 'cause I-- yeah. I really liked the audiobook for The Right Swipe. Huh.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That's why I got the advanced listener copy for First Comes Like, which is the new one. Because even though I have the ARC, I'm so spoiled. I'm so spoiled. Even though I have the ARC on my Kindle, I was like, "I don't think I really want to read it on Kindle. I think I need to listen to it. I think I need to listen to it for sure." There are dozens of others that I like, but didn't move the needle for me. So like The Unhoneymooners, for example. Liked it, didn't move the needle for me. Get a Life, Chloe Brown. Liked it, didn't move the needle for me. So another example of-- everyone loves The Hating Game. Liked it, didn't move the needle for me. I think that they're good books and I definitely enjoy myself. But as I was looking through all the enemies-to-lovers books I've read in the last few years, they're-- it is very hard to get more than a four-star out of me. And I'm like-- I'm a pretty generous grader.
Lily Herman: I am not.
Mackenzie Newcomb: You're not. You're the opposite of me. Like if I see Lily gave something three stars, I'd be like, "It's probably going to be a four-star for me." That's how it goes almost every single time. I'm a really generous grader. And I never give five stars to an enemies-to-lover book. It's just-- except Red, White & Royal Blue. So yeah. I think we found some common ground here. I actually like-- I don't know. I feel good. I feel good about this episode. I feel good about where we're sitting. What about you?
Lily Herman: I think we were both worried that our friendship was going to end today. I would just drop off from Bad Bitch Book Club and the podcast-- No, I'm kidding.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah.
Lily Herman: I think it's always more complex. Like why peo-- even the insta-love, I proceeded to read it an insta-love book a few months ago that I really liked. I was like, "Oh yeah, I fucked with this. That had some good other conflict that they had to overcome. That seemed realistic." And I think similarly, yeah, The Simple Wild I-- yeah, it's-- there are very few books where I'm like, "I will defend it to the end," and The Simple, Wild is not one. I'm like, "Eh." It's like Wren sucked more to me, but that's pretty much the big difference.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We had-- We just were keeping different problematic men in mind.
Lily Herman: We love the problematic. It's all-- honestly, I-- you know what it is too. I have not-- I liked The Simple Wild; I have not at all felt the urge to read another KA Tucker book immediately. You know how there's certain authors where you finish a book by them - like Casey McQuiston - as soon as I found out that was her debut, I was like, "Well, fuck, I have to wait until she publishes another book," you know? Or like Tessa Dare. We all know I have read so much fucking Tessa Dare. She had me reeled in from book one like...
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes.
Lily Herman: ...whereas KA Tucker, I liked The Simple Wild, but I have not felt any urgency to read the rest of her backlist despite there being a pretty extensive backlist. So I think that speaks to...
Mackenzie Newcomb: She'll be fine. I think she's probably pretty rich at this point; I'm not worried about her.
Lily Herman: Self-published, a lot of people who fuck with her real hard. Yeah, she's fine. My lack of reading of her backlist or checking out books in the library will not undo her career whatsoever. She will not be unraveled by either of us.
Mackenzie Newcomb: No. She's fucking fine. We might lose fans from this episode, but...
What We’re Reading Now (39:39)
Lily Herman: Wait, so what are you reading now that may or may not be romance related?
Mackenzie Newcomb: So it actually is romance related, but it's not a romance. I'm reading-- or I finished yesterday, Come- Oh, finished, ah! Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by neg-- by Emily Nagoski. And okay, look. You can't really find a therapist right now. It's like impossible. I've had more luck this week, but I've been trying for months and I've had no luck. So I've just decided to DIY therapy. And so that is why I've been preaching very specific nonfiction self-help books, okay? Quit Like a Woman. I mentioned it last week, which is about alcohol. And this book Come as You Are, which is about sex and science by Emily Nagoski. So I was looking for some answers and I definitely found them in this very science-y book. It's essentially all about our bodies and how they work and sex and how women and men are different and how women are not like men-lite. We are just women and we are separate. And how sex is not a drive like eating or sleeping like we have been conditioned to believe, but it is an activity.
Lily Herman: I am all about this already.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I wanted to listen to the entire thing before I recommended it to you specifically. And they're coming out with an updated version in March with more recent terminology. So I do think you should wait until the March edition because this was written in 2015 and so I think some of the terminology is a little bit dated, but-- 'cause things move really fast in this.
Lily Herman: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Mackenzie Newcomb: But I do think you will like it. And I was looking for answers. I feel like I found them in this book. It's very long. It was like an 11 hour audiobook. But if you listen at 1.5, it's like eight hours, which isn't that bad. And it just felt like sex education that I never got. And I highly recommend this to pretty much any woman because even if you leave with just one nugget of wisdom or one thing about yourself and your body that's clarified for you, that's something you can take with you your entire life. And I feel like I really-- I got something out of this and...
Lily Herman: I love that.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. And I liked it a lot. So I definitely recommend Come as You Are. What about you? Yeah, I really recommend it. It's very science-y so if you're not smart - like me, I'm not smart - it might be really hard for you to listen to it, but she does TLDRs at the end of every single chapter and I listened to it on audiobook. And so if you just remember the TLDR from every chapter, you're going to be fine.
Lily Herman: There we go. I love it. And I will also tease that, just as a fun little gift to people who've made it this far in the episode, Mackenzie and I are looking into doing some sort of non-fiction sex-related reading group series in the future. We originally, jokingly, were going to call it Summer of Sex 'cause it had a nice alliterative sound, but with the romance challenge and all this other stuff going on, it might be a lot.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We want to do it.
Lily Herman: But, yeah, looking at sex from this more academic or non-fiction perspective. So anyway, let us know if you want us to do that, but I don't know if this book might be too long or too science-y, but it would definitely fall under the category of the Summer-of-Sex-themed books, even if it does not take place during the summer. So what am I reading? I really just want to shout this book 'cause it's led to some good discussions in Bad Bitches in Love. I'm really excited about it. So we, as has been mentioned on the podcast before, within the romance subgroup, Bad Bitches in Love, we have an ongoing women of color and romance read-a-thon where we try to spotlight different authors and types of books in romance and whatnot. And the idea is there to be reading a real diverse group of authors, a real diverse group of characters, et cetera, et cetera. So the winter is the Winter of East Asian romance. So all of the authors are East Asian authors. They also have at least one East Asian protagonist in their books. So the first book was Hold Me by Courtney Milan. And it should be noted that this is the one thing that I do for Bad Bitch Book Club, where I don't vet in advance. 'Cause that would just be a lot of work on top of all the other vetting for book of the month and for various reading groups and whatnot. So this is the only time I get to go in completely not knowing what I have selected.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's fun!
Lily Herman: It's fun. Yeah. There's a real Russian roulette quality to it. There's been...
Mackenzie Newcomb: There's been-- mistakes have been made, but...
Lily Herman: Yeah, there's been some misses. There have been some real hits, so this was, I think, a good hit and even people who maybe didn't love this book still felt like it was a-- they were happy that they read it, you know? They feel like, "Oh, I did important work by reading this book." So Hold Me is excellent because - and similar to this whole theme of IRL hating or just weird relationship versus internet friendship - this book features a bisexual Asian male protagonist and a Latina trans woman protagonist.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh!
Lily Herman: They are both nerds. So he has already gotten his PhD, is a[n] adjunct professor looking for tenure, and she is actually in college. She took a couple of years off for her gender-affirming surgeries and to kind of get her life in order. She has dealt with some transphobia in her life, so she's like a 24-year-old college senior, but is-- she has a brother-- how she knows the other protagonist is he and her brother are friends and went to college together. So she's as nerdy as her brother is and as the other love interest is. So this book is two people, and they know each other online, but don't know that-- the other's identity, because the woman, Maria, has an apocalypse-themed blog that he is a fan of because it's scientifically accurate.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay, I like that.
Lily Herman: And they flirt with each other via science and math, like nerd pun shit. And nerdy, you have to understand how a laser works to get that he's saying that like he wants to shoot into her. You're just like, "What is this?" Amazing. Loved it. You've got some enemy stuff in there. He actually is a protagonist who does make some mistakes and she calls him out on it, which I know some people were iffy on. But definitely a book that's just very different. The dialogue's great. Definitely a book too, that has good LGBTQIA representation, but done in a way where that's-- it's not a trauma necessarily or a current trauma in a way. So for instance, the male protagonist is bisexual, but it's never like, "He has this horrible life 'cause he is bi," it's just a book where he's bi. It's like, "Oh, okay. He's bi." So again, not to say there shouldn't be books that exist that talk about bi-phobia, particularly against bi men, but this is one of those where it's just like dope. Good for you. Cool, great. And I was like, "You know what? I'm glad we saw this here. 'Cause that's fun. Good for him." So Hold Me by Courtney Milan, a delight, a surprise. It is the second book in a series, but it could act as a standalone. You didn't need to read the first to know what was going on. So I would love everyone else to read it to also comment on our threat about it in Bad Bitches in Love. But yes, that's what I we've got.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think you sold me, so I'm sure you just sold a lot of people.
Lily Herman: I think you would like it, 'cause even the nerdy parts, you don't need to understand them. You just get that these people are talking nerdy to each other, you know? That's the point of it.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Got it. I'm just not a nerd. What do you-- what do we have for next week?
Lily Herman: So next week, this is a highly-anticipated episode if you follow us on Instagram or in the subgroup. And we are going to be diving into the BDSM disaster known as Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. And we are super excited because we have a very special guest coming to discuss larger BDSM culture and what a lot of books like Fifty Shades get wrong. And that is Kim Pham, who is the co-founder of Omsom, which is an incredible food company. You can better explain it than I can Mackenzie, but.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. They're a direct-to-consumer food company. They provide starters for traditional Asian dishes. They have two packs, one is East Asian and one is Southeast Asian. There are two Vietnamese sisters that run this company and Kim is a vocal dom and agreed to come talk to us. And we honestly could not be more excited and happy. She's pretty much the dream guest, so.
Lily Herman: We are very hype biddies about this episode. She's gonna be great. So definitely listen in to that and yeah.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Please make sure to give us a five-star rating and subscribe to this podcast. If you're looking for more info on the 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, Bad Bitch Book Club has the chicest merch of all time. Follow this podcast @f2lpodcast on Instagram and Twitter, and join our podcast Facebook group, just fully spelled out. You can find me at @mackinstyle.
Lily Herman: And you can find me @lkherman on Twitter and lilykherman on Instagram.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Thank you everyone so much for listening. I hope that we're still friends after this, though I know that I've definitely lost a few fans and friends. Have a great day.
Lily Herman: Bye!