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Previewed during Funko Funday event at SDCC, the new wave includes Faith, Giles, Dark Willow, Prophecy Girl Buffy, Xander and Xander with eyepatch.

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

B-

How I Married a Marquess

by Anna Harrington
April 26, 2016 · Forever
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by NoeRD. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Historical category.

The summary:

A SHOCKING DECEPTION . . .
Josephine Carlisle, adopted daughter of a baron, is officially on the shelf. But the silly, marriage-minded misses in the ton can have their frilly dresses and their seasons in London, for all she cares. Josie has her freedom and her family . . . until an encounter with a dark, devilishly handsome stranger leaves her utterly breathless at a house party. His wicked charm intrigues her, but that’s where it ends. For Josie has a little secret . . .

. . . LEADS TO AN EXQUISITE SEDUCTION
Espionage was Thomas Matteson, Marquess of Chesney’s game-until a tragic accident cost him his career. Now to salvage his reputation and return to the life he loves, the marquess must find the criminal who’s been robbing London’s rich and powerful. He’s no fool-he knows Josie, with her wild chestnut hair and rapier-sharp wit, is hiding something and he won’t rest until he unravels her mysteries, one by one. But he never expected to be the one under arrest-body and soul . . .

Here is NoeRD's review:

If I had to sum up in a few words what I thought of this book, I would say: It’s the first too stupid to live heroine I like. No, no, cross that. Both main characters where pretty stupid or reckless in the course of the book.

The thing is I found them endearing most of the time and the banter between them was very entertaining too. So, let me begin again with this review.

The hero, Thomas Matteson, son of a duke and Marquess of Chesney, by himself is an ex-spy that wants to become a spy again. We are told that he was shot a year ago and this had something to do with him not being a spy now. He has something that I assume is post traumatic stress disorder and some anxiety issues because of this and he is desperate to go back to his old ways and not let this event define the rest of his life. So, because the War Office is not minding his requests, he feels he has to get a recommendation from a very powerful lord who has asked him to catch a highwayman who is robbing his guests in some country state.

Enter Josie Carlisle. She is the adopted daughter of a baron and because a lot of pompous asses won’t marry her for this reason, she is pretty much on the shelf. She is, most of the time, very smart and ballsy. She still takes care of the orphanage where she lived prior being adopted and is very independent by that time standard. She meets Thomas in the very powerful shady Lord’s house and the chemistry between them is off the charts. They can see right through each other and is a lot of fun to see how they try to outsmart the other.

Although I found the book very fun to read, the pace just perfect and the characters endearing (I like that word!), there were some flaws that could kill the book for you if you don’t get in its hype.

Firstly, I mentioned Thomas anxiety issues. As a partner of someone with anxiety issues I understand Thomas’s problems and motivations, but the book falls in the misdirection of pretending love cures them all. Thomas is first attracted to Josie because she “calms” something in him in their first meeting, and he decides to pursue her because he wants to know why. Then, his sleep anxiety disappears the first night they spent together. That’s not how anxiety works for most people and it could be harmful for your relationship to pretend that love is a magic cure. The only part when it’s done right is in a scene when Thomas and Josie are alone and a shot is heard in the distance and Thomas gets in full panic attack mode. Josie intuitively tries to appease him and does it by the way she speaks to him not through her mere presence.

Another thing that bothered me was that for all the admiration that Josie’s badassness causes in Thomas, he doesn’t trust her 100%. Sure, when he asked her not to do something she went and did it, almost getting herself killed. But near the end of the book, he locks her in a cell to stop her from meddling in his plans instead of telling her those plans and asking for her cooperation.

Then there is the issue of Thomas’s spy skills. He is like the worst spy ever. Thank God he chooses love above his country, because there would be no Queen alive otherwise.

Which brings us to the matter of “The secrets.” Josie has a secret that is very obvious from the start and is revealed around the 30% mark of the book. I had no problem with that. There also is a veil of secrecy around the details of Thomas’ shooting and it makes you wait for it and then is… meh. So I didn’t get why the secrecy in the first place.

All in all, beside its flaws I really enjoyed this and will look forward to reading more books from Anna Harrington.


How I Married a Marquess by Anna Harrignton received a B+ in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

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Posted by SB Sarah

In the Bitchery HQ Slack this week, Amanda shared this link to the ever-outstanding Kelly Faircloth on Jezebel:

Men Are Apparently Adopting Ambiguous Pen Names to Sell Psychological Thrillers to Women

From Kelly’s write-up:

“…there is a huge market demand for psychological “Girl Who” thrillers, often featuring dead or missing women, written largely by women for female audiences. And the guys—and their publishers—want in.

Her source, a Wall Street Journal article with a truly cringetastic headline:

These Male Authors Don’t Mind if You Think They’re Women

Well, thank heavens, because you know I was worried about it.

Jessica Jones rolling her eyes mightily and dropping her head to her chest

The WSJ article is behind a paywall, but the salient details are also on The Guardian:

Riley Sager is a debut author whose book, Final Girls, has received the ultimate endorsement. “If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this,” Stephen King has said. But unlike Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, The Girls, Luckiest Girl Alive and others, Final Girls is written by a man – Todd Ritter. This detail is missing from Riley Sager’s website which, as the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, refers to the author only by name and without any gender-disclosing pronouns or photographs. (His Twitter avatar is Jamie Lee Curtis.)

Ritter is not the first man to deploy a gender-neutral pen name. JP Delaney (real name Tony Strong) is author of The Girl Before, SK Tremayne (Sean Thomas) wrote The Ice Twins and next year, The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (AKA Daniel Mallory) is published. Before all of these was SJ (AKA Steve) Watson, the author of 2011’s Before I Go to Sleep.

“Literally, every time I appear in print or public,” Watson says, someone asks about why he uses initials. It was his publisher’s decision to avoid an author photo and to render his biography non-gendered. He has never hidden, but when Before I Go to Sleep went on submission, editors emailed his agent and asked, “What is she like?” Watson found the mistake flattering.

Right, because with profit, they’re “okay” with you mistaking them for women.

I’m so relieved.

Never mind the incredible violence faced by, you know, actual transgender individuals.

Wow, did that entire reading experience leave me with side eye and a frown. There’s already plenty of barriers to entry within publishing if you’re not a white dude, so this was the news equivalent of rubbing a cat backwards from the tail to the shoulders.

This part of the WSJ article particularly rubbed Amanda the wrong way, as it did Kelly Faircloth. She wrote at Jezebel:

One of the authors featured has gone so far as to try on a bra so he didn’t make any obvious mistakes that might throw female readers out of the story. Wonder if he also gets the infuriating emails or the creepy DMs or the generally patronizing bullshit?

…Nevertheless, if only being a woman in, say, serious nonfiction or literary fiction were as straightforward as publishing under the name Steve.

Well, thank God the bra question was addressed.

Given that Elyse and Amanda both love thrillers, especially those that focus on women, they had a few things to say about this discovery.

Amanda: Since I just got Final Girls, I’m kind of bummed about this, Elyse.

Elyse: Dudes ruin everything.

Amanda: It’s weird how my excitement for the book just got sapped out of my body.

RedHeadedGirl: It’s one thing when women are exploring the things that make the world unsafe for us.

It a whole other thing when it’s men and since they are, you know, one of those things, it feels exploitative.

Elyse: THAT.

RedHeadedGirl: DUDES.

WHY ARE DUDES.

Sarah: Because Money.

Elyse: I guess I have two books to donate.

I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers written by men, and I have no issue with that. I think the reason this is squicky for me is that so many of the “Girl” mysteries deal with deep female POV, and that POV is often dealing with themes like toxic masculinity and gaslighting by men.

Sarah: The whole picking another name thing seems a lot like gaslighting.

Elyse: Yes. I have written about why I really love this new trend of female driven psychological thrillers. It’s reclaiming a genre that commodifies violence (often sexual) against women. It’s about female rage and about reclaiming our bodies. For me the genre works because it subverts the traditional narrative in a genre dominated by men.

Sarah: It’s a familiar feeling. An unpleasant one.

Amanda: Going back to RHG’s comment about women exploring things that make them feel unsafe, I’m skeptical of a man being able to accurately write a woman’s experience.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but (as an example from the WSJ article) how is trying on a bra really going to get to the heart of the experience of living as a woman and having to factor in your own safety to your daily routine?

It all just feels like a gimmick to me and leaves a bad taste in my mouth, given the amount of violence that often occurs against women at the hands of men.

Sarah:  And…cue the sound of us all nodding and grimacing as one.

I’ve been pondering this for the better part of a day, wondering if my reaction is outsized or uneven. For example, JK Rowling adopted the Galbraith pseudonym to write without the expectation and pressure that came with the Rowling surname on the cover. I get it.

These individuals masking their gender to sell thrillers, as RHG pointed out, feels exploitative, not because of the pseudonym, but because of the pseudonym and the subject matter of the genre – not to mention the politics of gender identity – in the exploitation and insecurity inherent in identifying as female.

That said, it is entirely possible that I’m cranky and there are much better uses for my ire and snarly energy.

What about you? Are you a thriller fan? What do you think? What’s your reaction?

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Posted by Heather

Without the helpfully screechy DIOR sign in the background, and the branding on her feet, I might not have guessed this was from the house that Hepburn called home. (Wait, I have been informed that I’m conflating that with Givenchy, which I think is because they’re both awful now.) Admittedly I haven’t kept up on […]


Movie Review: Their Finest

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Carrie S

Their Finest is a British movie that had limited release in the USA. If, like me, you missed it in theaters, you can see it now on iTunes. This movie is slow and matter-of-fact but it snuck up on me and had me bawling my eyes out by the end. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but due to a plot development near the end and a significant amount of tragedy it’s better described as a drama. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers, but here’s one I know none of you will mind:

There are two dogs in the movie, and they both end up fine. One of them ends up adopted by a strict but fond Helen McCory. We should all be so lucky.

Their Finest is a movie about a woman who makes a movie. Catrin, played by Gemma Arterton, gets a job helping to write a propaganda film (The Nancy Starling) in London during the Blitz. She’s supposed to provide the women’s touch on a film that, by order of the government, is to broadcast a sense of “authenticity and optimism.” Her co-worker, Buckley, is cynical and sexist but also very good at making a coherent story out of almost anything.

Buckley is played by Sam Claflin. Sam is one of the prettiest men ever to live, and as an actor he has perfected the art of wordlessly broadcasting intense and unrequited longing. It’s a relief that he spends the movie under an unfortunate, though period appropriate, mustache, as otherwise I would have spent the entire movie staring at him in a trance. He’s sardonic and bitter and funny and horrible and has fantastic chemistry with Gemma Atherton.

Catrin and Buckley typing side by side
Smart is Sexy!

Gemma plays Catrin, our heroine, and she is simply perfect. Whether she’s standing perfectly still or walking and talking very quickly across a set, she simultaneously broadcasts vulnerability and steeliness. In keeping with all opposites-attract type romances, Catrin and Buckley constantly look like they can’t decide whether to strangle one another or just start ripping off each other’s clothes in the middle of the office.

Back to the plot: Catrin meets middle-aged twin sisters, Rose and Lily, who took part in the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk. They stole their drunken father’s boat, but never made it to Dunkirk because the engine gave out. They got a tow home from a bigger ship and took some of the soldiers from that (overcrowded) ship. One had a dog in his kit bag, and another, who was French, tried to kiss Lily.

Catrin brings this story, minus a few details, to the movie people, who are thrilled. “It has authenticity, optimism, AND A DOG!” one of them crows. Soon she and Buckley are writing non-stop as the Rose and Lily of The Nancy Starling become pretty young women, their abusive drunk father becomes a funny drunk uncle, a fictional love triangle forms around the fictional Rose, and the dog has a stirring action scene.

There’s just so much to unpack in this movie, which is quiet and slow (at about two hours, it felt like more) and restrained in the most British way but which tackles sexism, the war, grief, friendship between women, the creative process, the art and business of making movies, and some very nice hats. Helen McCrory does what she always does, namely takes a small role and simply walks away with the movie entirely. Bill Nighy promises Catrin that “Between you and I, we’ll have them weeping in the aisles” and then delivers on that promise. The whole cast has a chemistry which manages to progress from mass antagonism to a sense of comfortable familiarity. The actors who play actors combine certain narcissism with real warmth. When Bill Nighy sings a song with the line, “Will ye go lassie, go/and we’ll all go together,” to the cast, they feel like a real family, truly at ease with one another, and truly comforted during dangerous times by each other’s company.

Throughout is presence of war. Although this film is very funny in a deadpan way, I was surprised to see how many people have described it as a romantic comedy. It doesn’t have a romantic comedy ending, and anything funny transpires against a terrifying background. At one point Catrin has to literally step over corpses to get to her flat. “I’ll be alright after a cup of tea,” she tells her husband, only to be informed that the water main is out, a development that even the stoic Catrin cannot tolerate with equanimity. The making of The Nancy Starling is serious business that might affect the course of the war, and the war takes such a toll that at one point they fear that they’ve run out of enough people to finish it.

Towards the end of the movie, something happens that could make the viewer feel cheated. I felt shocked and sad, but not cheated, and here’s why:

  • The movie takes the time to follow through the ramifications of the event.
  • An arc has, for all intents and purposes, been resolved.
  • The movie has been hinting all along that all kinds of unforeseen events can and do happen, whether they be the result of bombs, guns, or, in one character’s case, being hit by a tram while on leave. Death is sudden and arbitrary. This is a theme all throughout the movie so when it causes a sudden tonal and plot twist, it feel both shocking and inevitable.

This movie was marketed as a romantic comedy, and up to a point it has the structure of one – very attractive people, the unappreciative husband, the witty banter, the chemistry, opposites attracting, etc. However, one of the running themes of the movie is that the movie within the movie keeps having different agendas and themes tacked on to it. The Nancy Starling is an action movie and a war movie, it’s a love story, it has comedy and tragedy, it’s meant to inspire America to join the war, and it’s meant to motivate the British to keep fighting. That’s not even a complete list of all the jobs that the poor Nancy Starling is expected to do. Through the writing of this film, Catrin is insistent that the film is, at its core, the story of Lily and Rose.

The Rose and Lily of the movie within the movie, piloting the boat
The fictional version of Rose and Lily

Similarly, Their Finest is marketed as a romantic comedy, but at its core it’s not the story of one couple or another. It’s consistently Catrin’s story. This means that while many characters undergo significant arcs, Catrin’s arc is the only one that matters and…

THIS IS A MAJOR SPOILER BEWARE
it requires her being alone for a while. Buckley dies so that from a character arc perspective we can see Catrin face being alone and independent instead of bouncing from one relationship to a volatile man to another. Basically he’s fridged for feminism.

The movie is also an ode to the women who kept Britain running during the war. They are paid less than men, they are resented and feared by men, and yet they are expected to manage the impossible. When Catrin finally goes to a screening of The Nancy Starling, she sits by an older woman who weeps copiously through the movie and explains that she’s seen it five times. “It’s our picture isn’t it?” she says, patting Catrin on the hand, “They’re our girls.”

I cried like a baby.

Their Finest is available for streaming/purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google:Play, & iTunes.

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Posted by SB Sarah

I almost titled this episode, “Same Library, Different Tastes.” While having dinner the other night, I was talking to Adam, my excellent spouse, about a series he was reading, and I realized we hardly ever talk about what he’s reading. I’ll go on for hours about what I’m reading (and I have!) but unless I’m asking him if he’d enjoy a book I just found, he doesn’t talk much about what he reads, and he reads a lot. So he made cocktails and I handed him a microphone, and we talked about it.

We don’t like any of the same things, but we both love reading. So I asked questions about his favorite series, books he’s enjoyed that I’ve successfully recommended (YES!), and what makes a narrative world appealing.  Adam likes to read fantasy, and he loves never-ending world building and deep nerdy dives into back story, so he’s a very avid and engaged reader. But he keeps most of it in his head. So I ask him nosy questions about that. We also discuss series and trilogies he loves, including Game of Thrones, Libriomancer, The Inheritance Trilogy, and a lot more – expect a big list of books.

Listen to the podcast →
Read the transcript →

Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:

We also mentioned Elyse’s Bachelor and Bachelorette recaps.

And if you’d like to try it, here’s a recipe for Bee’s Knees, my new favorite cocktail.

And! The RWA Signing! July 29, 2017, from 3:00 – 5:00pm! 

Hundreds of romance authors in one place, and all proceeds of book sales go to literacy organizations. Some of your favorite authors are likely to be there, like Alyssa Cole, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Julie James, Cecilia Tan, Beverly Jenkins, and Jill Shalvis. And, for the first time, I’ll be signing, too – yay!

The signing is at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Pacific Hall. Saturday, July 29th from 3-5pm. And if you come and find me (I’m in the Ws near the cashiers) and mention the podcast, I have a special sticker for you – if you’d like one.

Get all the details at:  https://www.rwa.org/literacy.

 

If you like the podcast, you can subscribe to our feed, or find us at iTunes. You can also find us at PodcastPickle and on Stitcher, too. We also have a cool page for the podcast on iTunes.

Thanks to our sponsors:

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What did you think of today's episode? Got ideas? Suggestions? You can talk to us on the blog entries for the podcast or talk to us on Facebook if that's where you hang out online. You can email us at sbjpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-3272. Please don't forget to give us a name and where you're calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.

Thanks for listening!

This Episode's Music

Our music is provided each week by Sassy Outwater, whom you can find on Twitter @SassyOutwater.

This is from Caravan Palace, and the track is called “La Caravane.”

You can find their two album set with Caravan Palace and Panic on Amazon and iTunes. And you can learn more about Caravan Palace on Facebook, and on their website.


Podcast Sponsor

This episode is brought to you by Too Scot to Handle by Grace Burrowes. This New York Times bestselling series with its “heartfelt emotions, humor and realistic, honest characters [is] a fan favorite,” raves RT Book Reviews.

In this second book of the Windham Brides series, Burrowes delights Regency romance readers once again with an irresistible rough-around-the-edges Scot who takes on saving an orphanage to win over the fiery, intelligent woman who captures his heart.

As a captain in the army, Colin MacHugh led men, fixed what was broken, and fought hard. Now that he’s a titled gentleman, he’s still fighting-this time to keep his bachelorhood safe from all the marriage-minded debutantes. Then he meets the intriguing Miss Anwen Windham, whose demure nature masks a bonfire waiting to roar to life. When she asks for his help to raise money for the local orphanage, he’s happy to oblige.

Anwen is amazed at how quickly Lord Colin takes in hand a pack of rambunctious orphan boys. Amazed at how he actually listens to her ideas. Amazed at the thrill she gets from the rumble of his Scottish burr and the heat of his touch. But not everyone enjoys the success of an upstart. And Colin has enemies who will stop at nothing to ruin him and anybody he holds dear.

As Tessa Dare puts it, “Grace Burrowes is a romance treasure.” Don’t miss Too Scot to Handle, on sale wherever books are sold this Tuesday, July 25th.

Transcript Sponsor

When It’s Real

Our podcast transcript is being brought to you by When It’s Real by #1 New York Times bestselling author Erin Watt.

A pop star. A regular girl. The world’s watching…

Wealth, fame and a real-life romance she never expected—seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett lands it all when she agrees to become a pop star’s fake girlfriend in this smart, utterly addictive novel.

School Library Journal calls it “a fast-paced, ‘he said, she said’ page-turner.” Kirkus Reviews writes: When It’s Real is “undeniable fun” and “a quintessential beach read.” You’ll fall head-over-heels in love with this electrifying and addictive new romance.

Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths.

There’s nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star’s got Grammy awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he’s settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary.

Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley’s image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She’ll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little.

Because when ordinary rules no longer apply, there’s no telling what your heart will do…

You can find When It’s Real wherever books are sold.

Remember to subscribe to our podcast feed, find us on iTunes, via PodcastPickle, or on Stitcher.

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