Transcript: Not Now, I’m Reading Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin  MacLeod plays]

Chelsea: Welcome back to episode five of Not Now, I’m Reading, your one-stop shop for all things genre. As always, I’m Chelsea.

Kay: And I’m Kay.

Chelsea: And this is podcast recording after dark. We’re recording on June 2 at 8:30 my time.

Kay: And you know what that means. It’s Wonder Woman day.

Chelsea: It’s Wonder Woman day.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: It’s Friday. It’s Pride month. It’s so many good things all happening at the same time.

Kay: It’s just so many good things. [laughs]

Chelsea: We are here this week to talk about Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai. But first we’re gonna start off, as we always do, by talking about our current reads. And things that we’re loving. And then we’ll wrap up with talking about what’s coming up on the horizon.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Chelsea: So why don’t you start us off, m’dear. What’re you reading right now?

Kay: All the things, Chelsea. I’m reading all the things as per usual. So I am just about to start When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. And she did really cute, little giveaway thing for people who preordered the book and emailed their receipt. So she also sent an extra scene and a cute little bookmark and stuff. Which was adorable.

Chelsea: Aw, that’s cute.

Kay: I love when authors do cute little freebies like that.

Chelsea: Yeah, that’s really nice.

Kay: So I just finished rereading Acute Reactions by Ruby Lang, which is the first book in her Practice Perfect series. There’s three of those and they are all heroines who are doctors. Which is really great.

Chelsea: But they’re like, specialty doctors. In Hard Knocks isn’t she a neurosurgeon or a chiropractor or something?

Kay: Yeah, so the first one, Acute Reactions, she’s an allergist. In the second one, she’s a neurologist. And in the third one, if I’m remembering correctly, she’s an OB.

Chelsea: Okay.

Kay: So they all have different specialties. And they’re friends who all fall in love over the course of the series. And they’re super swoony.

[Chelsea sighs]

Kay: And Ruby Lang’s prose is just gorgeous. She used to write for The Toast. And I’ll make sure to link to some of her really great Toast pieces, but yeah. That whole series is great. I really highly recommend them. I started reading that because the second one, Hard Knocks, I was asking for hockey romance recs and friend of the podcast, Jenny, of Reading the End, recommended that as a good choice.

Chelsea: We love Jenny. She’s, she always.

Kay: We love Jenny.

Chelsea: She always comes through.

Kay: Really on-point. Really on-point recommendations. And then I have a couple of fic recs. The first one is, I don’t know how to say this. I’m sorry. It’s definitely Latin. Um.

[laughter]

Kay: Jus Ad Bellum? Jus Ad Bellum by seperis. It’s an X-Men movieverse fic. Logan and Rogue is the pairing. So the summary is: ‘One Rogue. Two timelines. Three personalities. Every possibility. Rogue discovers who she is, could have been, and everything she can become.’ And this is just an amazing exercise in both worldbuilding and characterization. It’s 160k and it’s just amazing. And I’ve never had particularly strong feelings about Rogue, one way or another, and Bree, somewhere, just, like, gasped and had no idea why.

[laughter]

Kay: And the other fic I wanna rec is life is a history of absences (and unprepared returns) by . It is a Captain America, Marvel Cinematic Universe fic. And it’s both about Bucky and Steve’s friendship and it’s Bucky/Steve pairing. They have it marked as ‘reader’s choice,’ but it reads very shippy to me.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: Even though it doesn’t get shippy shippy til the end. [laughs] And it starts with the Avengers throwing Steve a birthday party and him trying not to harsh their buzz when they find out that the US government retconned Captain America’s birthday, ’cause his birthday is actually the eleventh, not July 4th. And then it goes on and does these really lovely alternating timeline bits and pieces of him and Bucky throughout the years and then finally reuniting with Bucky in the present. And it’s really, really lovely. And you should go read it immediately.

Chelsea: Amen. Always here for some Stucky. I haven’t read that one yet, but it sounds really good.

Kay: It’s super cute.

Chelsea: I have to do a little brag, because I finally finished this goddamn book that I looked and have literally been reading since 2015.

[laughter]

Chelsea: So, that is. I’m just. This is like a moment that I’m having. So the book I am talking about —

[Kay’s still laughing]

Chelsea: — is Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. And the reason it took me two years is because I’ve been reading this book on audio. This book on audio is like forty-eight motherfucking hours long. That is literally two entire days worth of time. Not like listening days.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: Like days worth of hours. Which, I mean, I’m assuming all of our listeners are smart enough to know what forty-eight hours is —

[Kay laughs harder]

Chelsea: — but what I’m saying is it’s a longass book.

Kay: It’s a really longass book. [still laughing]

Chelsea: And in my library you can only have digital checkouts for two weeks and then they go away. They just take it back.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: Which is how it always works. But if other people want it, you can’t automatically renew like a physical book because you have it. You have to get back in line. And because everybody wants this book and because this book is a thousand fucking pages long it just took me forever. So. I finally finished it. I actually enjoyed it. There, I mean, it’s a thousand page book. It’s the second book in what is supposed to be a ten book series? Eleven book series? They’re all supposed to be a thousand pages.

Kay: How ’bout no?

Chelsea: So we’re literally —

Kay: How about no! [laughs]

Chelsea: — only 20% into this story. So I’m enjoying it, but I’m going to have reservations, because who the fuck knows what’s going to be happening a million books from now? [laughs] I liked the second Game of Thrones book, too, but a lot of shit has gone off the rails since then, so. For what it is, there were plot threads I really enjoyed and characters I really enjoyed. I will give Brandon Sanderson credit, his worldbuilding is fantastic. He is incredibly creative. His magic systems are always really cool, but yeah. It’s just, it’s a longass book.

Kay: I’m literally falling asleep as you describe this book right now.

Chelsea: I know.

Kay: For the record, Kay does not generally enjoy second world fantasy and epic fantasy is almost never my bag.

Chelsea: And, you know, that’s probably the most amount of screentime we’re ever gonna devote to an epic fantasy book by a straight white dude, but I did just —

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: — wanna say that the albatross is gone.

Kay: Congratu-fucking-lations.

Chelsea: But guess what? Number three is supposed to come out later this year. So.

[laughter]

Kay: You’ll finish it in 2019! It’s fine!

Chelsea: At this rate, I will literally be finishing them very shortly before the next one comes out. Which kinda feels very much so like Sisyphus forever rolling the ball up the hill. But what’re you gonna do?

Kay: The Sisyphean nature of being an epic fantasy fan.

[laughter]

Chelsea: And I try not to get involved in stuff like that, because I just can’t. I’m also right in the middle of the second Spindle Cove book.

Kay: Nice.

Chelsea: By Tessa Dare. Which is A Week to be Wicked. I really love these books. The Spindle Cove series, in general, is really delightful.

Kay: They’re super charming.

Chelsea: Yeah, they’re super charming. Spindle Cove is basically a summer community of girls who kind of don’t necessarily fit in in society. They can be oddballs or shy or some of them are sick and are physically recovering or mentally recovering from various illnesses. And they just form this little community of ladies. And in the first book there is a regiment of soldiers that is formed, a militia, so this kind of lonely spinster life is invaded by a group of rakish young men. [laughs] And the second book just continues those adventures. I love the heroine in the second book. Like, a lot. [laughs] She’s super academic. She’s a geologist. She’s a secret member of the Royal Geology Society of London or whatever. No. Of Scotland. And so this whole book is about her convincing a man, Lord Payne, to take her to Scotland so she can present at this conference after which, of course, her reputation will be ruined, but she doesn’t care because then she can just live as a scholarly spinster and it’ll be whatever. But naturally, they have to travel together in close quarters for a week to get there. And it’s a romance novel. So I’m sure, dear listeners, you can imagine how that works out for her. [laughs] I’m about half of the way through it and they literally just did the thing that I didn’t know I really liked, but I do. Which is where he convinces her that they have to have sex for science. [laughs] He’s like how can you possibly know what you do or do not like unless you try it, we must conduct an experiment. And because she’s an academic she’s like okay. And I’m just like oh. It’s just

Kay: The scientific method is a beautiful thing.

Chelsea: It’s a beautiful thing, especially when put to good purpose. And then fic-wise, I’m not doing a ton of fic reading. I’m not doing nearly as much as you are, 7 million gajillion thousand words all the time.

Kay: [laughs] We’ll just not.

Chelsea: We’ll just not.

Kay: We’ll just not.

Chelsea: [laughs] But you did link me a very quality piece that I’m gonna pass on and recommend. It’s Hermione Granger’s Hogwarts Crammer for Delinquents on the Run.

Kay: YES. So good!

Chelsea: By, uh, by . I’m not sure how you say that, but of course we’ll link it. This is a Drarry fanfiction, Draco/Harry. And it is basically, I didn’t read the tags closely enough. #StoryOfMyLife.

[laughter]

Chelsea: And I didn’t realize it was canon-divergent. But basically it starts out and the whole premise is that Harry never went to Hogwarts. So he has no idea what the wizarding world, he has no idea what’s happening, but all of the other characters know of him. So on his seventeenth birthday, when the protections on him break, the other characters go looking for him because they need his help. Like, everything in the wizarding world was still going on.

Kay: And the other characters are basically folks from what would’ve been Dumbledore’s Army plus Draco.

Chelsea: Plus Draco, for reason.

[laughter]

Chelsea: But it’s super, super delightful and it’s actually, it’s very, very funny. And I”m not always a person who actually laughs out loud at books a lot, like, actually laughs at books that are funny.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: But this one I was actually laughing out loud.

Kay: So funny.

Chelsea: there was just the right amount of pining. I tend to like slightly more angst and pining in my fic than Kay does. We’ve said that before. I’m sure we’ll say it again.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: But this was a good balance between the two, so. It’s.

Kay: And don’t forget it has some of our favorite things. Which is both Harry and Hermione are people of color in this.

Chelsea: Yes. And it’s delightful.

Kay: Yes.

Chelsea: And it does a wonderful, wonderful job bringing that into the story as an interesting aspect without making it the focal point of the story, so. A+ to that, it’s all done, it’s finished. So go indulge. That’s about it in terms of things that are currently on the go.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Chelsea: So we will go ahead and talk about our book of the week, Hate to Want You, by Alisha Rai. This is what’s the best way to describe it?

Kay: She has described it as Romeo and Juliet meets Hotline Bling minus the suicide and the sexism.

Chelsea: I would say that’s good and I would add: grocery stores. Because I really like —

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: — the fact that the conflicting family business in this is a grocery story, or a chain of grocery stores. I just thought that was fun. [laughs] But yes. So, essentially, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler’s grandparents founded a chain of grocery stores together. And when some deaths in the family lead to Nicholas’ father basically scamming Livvy’s mom out of her share of the business things blow up and things go pretty bad. Livvy and Nicholas had been dating before this happened. But then, naturally, both of them kind of pick their families in the blow up and they end up not seeing each other. Except! [laughs] They do see each other.

Kay: Except. [laughs]

Chelsea: They get together one night a year in whatever city. She literally just texts him coordinates, map coordinates, and he goes there and then they fuck. And then they leave.

Kay: They part ways for the year.

Chelsea: They part ways. Until, of course, one year they don’t anymore. Livvy’s mom has broken her hip and so Livvy has to, or chooses to go back home to take care of her and that puts her back in a town, this town that Nicholas also lives in and that several members of her family live in. And that stirs up all sorts of stuff. I love Alisha’s books. [laughs]

Kay: Same.

Chelsea: Full disclaimer up front, I loved this book. I gave it five stars. This could be a little bit of fangirling going on. I really, really loved this one.

Kay: [laughs] I also really liked this one. I didn’t give it five stars, mostly because I give almost nothing five stars. And it’s a little more angsty than I personally prefer.

Chelsea: See, I loveeee it.

Kay: But as I was reading this I was like Chelsea’s gonna love this.

Chelsea: I loved it. It was so good.

Kay: Full disclaimer both of us received copies of this from the publisher for review consideration.

Chelsea: Where do you want to star?

Kay: Where do you want to start? I just feel like we could probably just flail about how great this is.

Chelsea: I know!

Kay: I do wanna mention that I believe this book is Alisha’s first book at a big publisher. If I’m remembering correctly this is her first release with a multi-book contract at Avon. And she’s one of the first women of color they’ve published, aside from Beverly, this is one of the first, and that’s bananas. But I’m really pleased for her.

Chelsea: Yeah. She’s super fucking awesome. She deserves it. She definitely deserves the contract that she has. Her books are super great. They’re super, they’re contemporary and they’re, would you call these erotica? Because they’re…the language in them is super blunt.

Kay: So I would say the majority of her previously published work, I would classify as erotica. This I would not. I would say it’s very steamy contemporary, but I wouldn’t say it’s erotica.

Chelsea: Okay.

Kay: But obviously your mileage may vary and everyone’s definition is a little variable on that one.

Chelsea: I wanna talk about the angstyness. Because I really like it.

Kay: Primo angst. My thing is.

Chelsea; Yes.

Kay: A lot of the angst, here, it has to do not with communication failure, which I hate.

Chelsea: I was gonna say that’s nice.

Kay: Communication failure as a plot device I loathe, because I think that’s just lazy writing.

Chelsea: Just talk! Just talk to each other!

Kay: They’re communicating with each other. But they’re not…it is a communication failure, but not in the traditional sense.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: It’s where they’re both just really faily at talking about their feelings.

Chelsea: I was gonna say, they’re both just bad at talking to people in general.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: They both have problems with communicating across the board. It’s not that the’re intentionally keeping secrets and not talking to each other.

Kay: And they’re both people who can hold their own out in the world, but when it comes to dealing with their feelings and taking care of themselves emotionally, neither of them is very good at that.

Chelsea: Yeah, it’s very shut down. It’s very closed off. They do the thing where without speaking to each other about expectations, they both act in what they think is the best interest of the other person. Which it, it creates a lot of problems if you don’t already have an open line of communication about what the other person actually expects and wants. [laughs]

Kay: Mmhmm. I’m trying to think about how much we can say, cause I don’t really want to spoil to much of what happens in this.

Chelsea: I don’t want to spoil too much of the book, either. I will just say that my favorite part of the angst is the relationship between Nicholas and his father and Nicholas and his grandfather. And then the grandfather and the father. The three of them and their relationship and how they each perform masculinity and how they each interact with each other in terms of this relationship. I just thought all of that was very cool and very layered.

Kay: Yes. Don’t you love all of, both of them have these multiple multilayered very complex family relationships. And each of their relationships with the individual people are very multilayered. I was just super impressed with how well all the family dynamics were handled.

Chelsea: I really, this is something we can talk about in the adaptation episode, but I think this is a book that would transfer really well to movie.

Kay: Oh, please.

Chelsea: I think a lot of romance novels would transfer really well.

Kay: Please!

Chelsea: The drama and all of the side stories and internal conflicts here would play really well onscreen together.

Kay: Well, and I think one of the really interesting things is the worldbuilding for this series is the setup of all of these complex family relationships. And when you see each of these new characters you’re like okay so that’s who, there’s gonna be a book about this character and this character. And there’s gonna be a book about this character and this character. And I love thew ay that she set that up without it feeling like you sometimes get in these first books in series. Like I need to introduce this character cause the next book is theirs.

Chelsea: Exactly.

Kay: It all felt really organic.

Chelsea: Yes. So it’s very easy, sometimes, to flag when a character walks in and you go oh, I bet. yeah.

Kay: Sequel bait.

Chelsea: Second book’s gonna be about you. Yeah, sequel bait. Which is fine most of the time as long as that character is an interesting character I don’t necessarily mind it. But when it’s as seamlessly integrated as it is in this book it is really nice to see. And it kind of stands out a little bit.

kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: In comparison to some of those other books. As seems to happen a lot in the romance books that you and I read at the same time, the mental health stuff in this book is really great.

Kay: Yes.

Chelsea: And plays a factor. Livvy struggles with depression. And there are things in her life to give her reason to suffer from depression, but it’s not just situational. She talks about —

Kay: And we do want to give a heads up that there is frank discussion about past suicidal ideation and continual treatment and handling of severe depression and depressive episodes that she deals with.

Chelsea: that might be a trigger for some of you.

Kay: That can be triggery.

Chelsea: And we definitely don’t want that to be the case. But that said, the discussion of that and the relationship structures and the support structures and actually that the role of therapy and therapeutic treatment and self-therapy and self-discussion as things that are portrayed in this book are really awesome.

Kay: Mmhmm. Agreed.

Chelsea: So there’s a lot. If you’re not triggered by some of those topics, the discussion of it is handled really, really well. And then they, there’s all the sexy bits.

[laughter]

Kay: Which were great.

Chelsea: Which were great. They were just really good.

Kay: As per usual in one of Alisha’s books.

Chelsea: As per usual.

Kay: Can we talk about how erotic the art is in this?

Chelsea: Yeah!

Kay: So the heroine is an artist. Specifically a tattoo artist who does specialize in watercolor, which is one of my favorite modern art forms. So beautiful. And there’s this recurring thing where our hero wants her time and she says if you’re gonna be in here in my chair, you need to be —

Chelsea: Getting tattooed.

Kay: — getting some artwork on that skin. And he says okay sure, but she doesn’t want to mark his skin when he’s just like okay sure. So she takes to drawing on him in various places various things. And it’s both very sweet and also gut-wrenching every time this happens.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: I don’t know how she did that, but oh my god.

Chelsea: it’s so good. One of my favorite scenes is, as a tattoo artist, naturally, she has lots of her own tattoos. And there’s a scene toward the end of the book where they kind of do an inventory of all the tattoos that she has and what they all mean and I. She has a tattoo, Alisha gave Livvy a tattoo of a heart inside a parentheses which is representative of the ee cummings poem i carry your heart in my heart. And I lost my shit. Because [laughs] that is my mom and I’s favorite poem. And I just thought that was so rad and I just thought it was so awesome and it was not only a cool tattoo idea that of course I can now never use, cause I would never commit blatant tattoo art theft from Alisha.

Kay: Whatever, you totally should! [laughs]

Chelsea: I will be getting a tattoo of that poem, but I promise to her, who is obviously listening [laughs] I will not totally steal your idea and get that exact tattoo. But I really like that.

Kay: I wouldn’t blame you at all, and I bet that Alisha would love that.

Chelsea: Did you have favorite specific parts? Or favorite lines?

Kay: So my favorite part is kind of spoilery, but I will say there is a scene with a cannoli.

[Chelsea laughs]

Kay: And it’s really —

Chelsea: It’s not as dirty as you’re thinking.

Kay: [laughs] It’s not as dirty as you’re thinking. But it’s super cute. So I don’t want to give any spoilers away. I’m sorry, both of these are things that I’m not gonna specifically say what happens. So we’ve got the cannoli scene which I love, and there’s also a scene where Nick finally has a confrontation with his father in the boardroom at their business. And it is amazing. And badass. And wonderful. And also is a really lovely scene for his sister. Who, I thought, was super fascinating and great in this.

Chelsea: Yes, his sister. And I’m assuming we’re getting a novel about his sister?

Kay: I think the third one is gonna be about her.

Chelsea: Okay.

Kay: But I, don’t quote me on that.

Chelsea: Yeah, don’t, we know nothing for sure, but I assumed —

Kay: We know the second book is going to be about Livvy’s twin brother —

Chelsea: I knew it! I knew it. I just knew it when he was like I have this whole other life in New York and it’s great, but I don’t want to tell you about it.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: I was like second book! Second book. It’s gonna be so good. So excited.

Kay: So we know that the second book is gonna be about Livvy’s twin brother and Livvy’s dead brother’s widow. So talk about forbidden romance.

Chelsea: Well that’s why, and that’s why I love Alisha’s books, dude. They’re so complicated and they’re so complex that. That emotional range, especially towards some of the heavier ends of the spectrum, are always oh. I love it. You can’t see me right now.

[laughter]

Chelsea: But I’m just so excited. I love it. It’s my bread and butter. So I have a couple of specifics that aren’t spoilery.

Kay: There you go.

Chelsea: But they’re very indicative of the writing style that I loved. And one happens from very early on and it’s Livvy talking to herself and basically. Or no. She’s in a scene she’s talking to Nick. He basically kinda drops information that he has googled her, or you can get a lot of information from the internet these days, one of those little side comments. And she goes ‘He’d googled her? No heart, don’t you dare go pitter pat over that. Googling is hardly a sign of caring. Do you know who casually googles exes? Everyone with a stinking internet connection.’ I have one more, the very last one, and this is actually a good representation of the kind of angst or the level of angst in this. It gets at this from, towards the end of the book, where Livvy and Nicholas are having a conversation about her having depression and how that might be for him. And whether or not he feels prepared to handle that. And whether or not how does he know he can handle that if he’s never handled it before? Which can be a really tough conversation to have with your partner if they never have been in a relationship with —

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: — somebody who has a mental illness. And it’s ‘His smile was tight and humorless. ‘I’m not good at expressing my emotions. I’m rigid and I have control issues. I want to do better by you and I will, but I’ll probably slip up now and again. I’m not perfect either, whatever perfect even means. You’ll have to love all of me, just like i’ll love all ofyou.’

[both make exaggerated crying sounds]

Chelsae: My heart! My heart! Butit’s just that kind of level of both ability to write about emotions and also the ability to be open about some of the more negative aspects everybody has parts of themselves that aren’t perfect. Being willing to address that with your partner and being really vulnerable about that? Can be super hot.

Kay: Which we, both ladies who live with mental illness, really appreciate it when that shit is done well.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: And it is not often done well.

Chelsea: Not often done well. It is not often done well. Even more so to find those conversations happening between partners and how those aspects of mental health can play out intertwined with your relationship dynamics and how complicated it can be. Just. Either start or continue a relationship. So. Yeah. Those are all my favorite parts. This book? I loved it. I thought it was great. I think everyone should go pick it up and read it. Highly recommend.

Kay: Loved it. [singsongs] Loved it!

Chelsea: Loved it.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Chelsea: Alright. Well, I think that about wraps up this week’s episode. We are gonna come back in a week for episode six, which is gonna be a discussion of adaptations. So we’re not talking about a specific book, but we’re gonna talk about some of the adaptations we love and didn’t love, but kinda more generally about what we think makes a good adaptation and why some of our less favorite adaptations don’t work quite as well. So join us for that. We’re gonna be talking about all sorts of great things. Until next time. Bye!

Kay: Buh-bye!

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Outtakes:

Chelsea: I like juice. I like juice. I’ve been thinking about it and it’s my preferred Latin interpretation.

Kay: The forbidden romance contemporary series that is just, like, absolutely Chelsea-bait. [laughs]