Transcript: Not Now, I’m Reading The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

CHELSEA: Welcome back to episode 12 of Not Now, I’m Reading, your one stop shop for all things genre. My name is Chelsea.

KAY: And I’m Kay.

CHELSEA: And today’s episode is Not Now, I’m Reading The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian.

KAY: Yessss.

CHELSEA: It’s so good.

KAY: It’s so good!

CHELSEA: We are so excited. It is a male/male Regency romance novel that is, it’s just wonderful. We’re gonna wait to get into it. First we’re gonna tell you what we’ve just finished reading and some of the stuff we’re currently into. I’ll go first this time. I made you go first last time.

KAY: Do it.

CHELSEA: So I just fin–in-between religiously watching seasons of Hannibal and also binging the new seasons of Real Housewives of New Jersey, because my tastes are wide and varied, I managed to finish An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire which is the third book in the October Daye urban fantasy series. Faerie series.

KAY: I love those. I love those.

CHELSEA: They’re so good. Luckily, literally all of the novels and all the short stories were included in the Hugo packet so I’m just very slowly working my way through the omnibus on my Kindle, cause it literally is just one big long story. This one, as promised, the stories get better as you go. The characters flesh out a little more. Her writing definitely improves from book to book. This is the first book that I thought the plot was really captivating. It’s really interesting. In this one, this is the one where she essentially, Blind Michael is on the hunt and he steals faerie children once every hundred years and it’s time. And he steals some of the faerie children belonging to friends of Toby Daye and Toby can’t have that. So she goes into Blind Michael’s land and she is gonna wage war and get these kids back. And it is so good. It’s so fantastic.

KAY: It’s really good. I do love that one.

CHELSEA: And there’s this weird, what’s that thing called? Where you start you see something and then you see it all the time? You start seeing it everywhere? There’s a name for it.

KAY: There’s a scientific name for it.

CHELSEA: But anyway. One of the plot devices in this book is the poem How Many Miles to Babylon

KAY: It’s the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon! Sorry. It’s. It was gonna bother me. [laughs]

CHELSEA: Well, you had definitely the energy to google and I did not. The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. So it was a plot point in this book and then I turned around and it was a plot point in a major plot point in the long Hannibal fic that I’m reading. I’ve really never heard this poem until I read this book. It was just never one of the kid poem things that crossed my attention. But now I saw it and now it’s here and now I feel like I’m literally seeing it everywhere. So. Which is fine.

KAY: You’re being stalked by it. It’s fine.

CHELSEA: It’s fine.

KAY: Don’t worry. There’s nothing coming to get you.

CHELSEA: Why would you do that?

[Kay laughs]

CHELSEA: Why would you go there? And then the other thing that I’ve been reading is a piece of young adult science fiction. It’s Want by Cindy Pon. It is near-future —

KAY: I have an ARC of it, but I haven’t gotten around to it, yet.

CHELSEA: You’re gonna want to, it’s so good. It is as if —

KAY: I’ve not read her before so I’m excited.

CHELSEA: It’s like if Six of Crows slash your favorite heist crew was set in future Taipei and the heist was related to environmentalism?

KAY: Sold. I mean, ya know?

CHELSEA: It’s so good. I listened to it on audio. I literally finished it in a day because I stayed up unhealthily late to finish it. But I highly recommend. It came out June 13. Pick it up. It’s so fantastic. I’m so excited for the sequel to come out. It’s gonna be at least a duology if not a trilogy. It ends not on a cliffhanger, but with a clear set up next step for further books, so.

KAY: You say that and I hear Chelsea is trying to get me to read this, but there’s a cliffhanger.

CHELSEA: There’s not a cliffhanger!

[Kay laughs]

CHELSEA: Cause that’s the thing, right? Balancing the internal plot and the overarching plot that’s gonna go through all your books and this book does a very good job of that. It very much resolves an internal plot point while still laying the groundwork for the bigger heist structure that’s happening.

KAY: So both of the books you read did that well. Because the Toby Daye books do that really well, also. Where there’s big overarching plot threads throughout the series, but there’s also a really great individual plot per book. I love that.

CHELSEA: Mmhmm. That’s what I loved about the Toby Daye book, is this self-contained plot was the first one where I was super, super into it. The first two books are good, but this was the first where I was really into it.

KAY: They’re the very first things she had published. The first Toby Daye book was the first book she had published. And it’s not bad, but it’s a first book. And you learn more with every book that you write and they’ve just gotten consistently better.

CHELSEA: Literally every person who saw me reading the first one was like it’s good but you have to keep going. They get so much better. Just keep going. And confirmed. Definitely is the case. I’m excited to continue.

KAY: That series is one of the only things that my dad and I both read. So my dad and I both read the Toby Daye books and we both read everything John Scalzi writes.

CHELSEA: My mom and I share a kindle account and she just finished the Spindle Cove series cause I just finished the Spindle Cove series.

KAY: Nice.

CHELSEA: So she’s gonna start. She is super into really long serials. So she loves Jim Butcher. She really loves.

KAY: ugh, Jim Butcher.

CHELSEA: James Patterson. That kind of every month new book.

KAY: I have read the first ten or eleven Dresden books and I just don’t know why, because I love myself more than that. Like. [laughs]

CHELSEA: I read one and it was like, I understand why the people who are into it are into it, it’s just not for me. It’s not my style.

KAY: That world is cool and that’s the only thing I enjoy about those. The fandom for that series is actually excellent. There’s some good fic there. But don’t read those. Don’t read those books. [laughs]

CHELSEA: And then the piece of fic I wanna recommend is, it’s great but it’s really bad.

[Kay laughs]

CHELSEA: This fic fed the part of my brain that is also fed by reality TV so it is that same kind of pleasure center for me. It’s called Harry Potter and The Sexual Awakening. It’s by jrayoh23. And of course links will be in the show notes. Basically, so here’s the summary. Harry Potter gets outed by Rita Skeeter in a recent Daily Prophet article and decides to take matters into his own hands. He decides to write a tell-all that everyone wants, the story of how he came to terms with his sexuality. What no one, especially Draco Malfoy, expects is this book doubles as a love letter to someone Harry calls, L.B. In the midst of being assigned to read and review Potter’s new book, Draco realizes that some of the stories Potter tells in his book seem a little too familiar. Thus, bringing up old feelings about the man. Um, so this story’s being told —

[Kay laughs hysterically]

CHELSEA: — in alternating chapters between Draco Malfoy reading and reviewing this book and then the book itself, which is literally Harry Potter being like and then here’s how I wound up giving Neville a hand job. And here’s where Cedric Diggory and I took a bath together. And here’s where I got super into Malfoy. And it’s so good. It’s just so good.

KAY: By good she means terrible.

CHELSEA: Kay is shaking her head and looking at me with this face.

KAY: She means terrible. And this is a perfect example of the very different ways that Chelsea and I approach —

CHELSEA: Everything. Media.

KAY: Everything media. I am never gonna judge you for reading a thing. You get to do whatever the fuck you want with your free time.

CHELSEA: Oh, yeah, I don’t care.

KAY: And that is fine! But I would never spend my time reading something that’s written just really badly. I’m just not gonna do that, there’s too many beautiful things for me to read out there. Even in fandom there’s really amazing writing. I don’t need to read bad fic. But there are specific reasons why people enjoy that that I don’t understand, but it’s fine.

CHELSEA: I will not read all badfic. There is some badfic that is just actually very poorly written. To me, this fits the perfect category of the writing is fine. It is serviceable. It tells the story. It gets across the plot. But it is not poetic in the same way that, like, the Hannibal fandom is deeply poetic in the vast majority of its prose. But! The plot of this fic is so delightfully, like, bananapants.

[Kay snorts]

CHELSEA: And smutty that I don’t mind the standard, serviceable prose.

KAY: I wish you guys could’ve seen her face when she said bananapants. She was so delighted.

CHELSEA: It’s so good. I love it so much. So yeah. It’s not gonna be everybody’s bag. But if that kind of delightfully mediocre, but really crazy entertainment is something for you, then I highly recommend you check out this fic. I loved it.

KAY: God.

CHELSEA: I don’t even care. It’s 2017. The world’s on fire. We all gotta do what makes us happy.

KAY: You do you. Be happy.

CHELSEA: Exactly. Alright. Please. Save us from whatever this has become and tell us what you’re currently reading.

KAY: [laughs] So I’ve got three books to touch on and then three fics I wanna recommend. So the last couple of things I’ve been reading, I’m always trying to find more contemporary YA because it’s something I grew up enjoying reading and it’s something that it’s very hard for me to find that I like anymore. Mostly because the trend so much goes towards first person and it’s very hard to do that well without me wanting to throw the book across the room. And that’s just a personal preference thing. First person YA, first person in any genre, really, is just very tricky for me. So I just, I have bad luck. Neither of these were first person. Unless I’m remembering incorrectly. But I still didn’t like either of these contemp YA books I read. So first was the new Sarah Dessen book. Which like.

CHELSEA: I saw you tweeting about this.

KAY: If you grew up reading contemp YA and you’re even roughly my age, you were reading Sarah Dessen’s books. This one is called Once and For All. And it’s about the daughter of a wedding planner. And she works as her mom and her mom’s best friend’s assistant who’s been working with them forever. And they’re all super jaded about romance. You don’t quite learn why the seventeen-year-old high school senior is as jaded about romance as she is until later in the book. Except it’s really obvious that something terrible happened with her first serious boyfriend. Who she met one night at a destination wedding and then they did long distance. And massive spoilers for the new Sarah Dessen book! They kept hinting that something terrible happened with him —

CHELSEA: Was it sexual assault?

KAY: — that involved a school shooting. No! And I was like —

CHELSEA: I say okay like that’s better, but it’s usually sexual assault.

KAY: I am sure she did not intend this, because I don’t think Sarah Dessen would’ve intended for me to think that her boyfriend turned out to be a school shooter, but the way that she was dropping hints made me think the boyfriend maybe was the shooter.

CHELSEA: Oh no.

KAY: He was not the shooter. He was killed by the shooter at a school shooting. He was a hero kid. Who tried to talk the guy down cause that’s a great idea.

CHELSEA: Oh. So she’s. Jaded against love because her last boyfriend died in a school shooting?

KAY: So here’s’ the thing though.

CHELSEA: That’s a very big difference between victim and perpetrator and you need to make sure your hints are.

KAY: Yeah, the hints she was dropping were not as clear as she thought they were. But that’s not even my main problem with the book.

[Chelsea laughs]

KAY: Which tells you! So the thing about this is, it’s you’re definitely supposed to read this as a romance. And as a big romance reader there are specific things I am expecting, which include some sort of relationship development between your eventual romantic partners. Which, they do end up together at the very end of the book. But she literally, the main character, spends the whole book dating other people because and her eventual lead have a bet that he can’t date someone for a long time and she can’t date around, cause it’s the opposite of what they normally do. So she’s dating other people the whole book. And then she’s also got these alternating chapters with flashbacks to her and her first boyfriend that was killed in the school shooting. Who was delightful! And was a wonderful first boyfriend. And her eventual romantic lead in this, that she actually doesn’t date in the whole book until they’re at the very end, is an asshole. So why would I even want her to end up with this guy? But I just. Not here for that.

CHELSEA: Why couldn’t we just keep that delightful boyfriend alive and give us their happy ending?

KAY: And I was disappointed that the romance was so disappointing because the rest of the book really works. Her best friend and her best friend’s family is very interesting and cool. Their dynamic is great. Her mom and her surrogate father figure who is her mom’s gay best friend who helps run the wedding business, they’re both really interesting and they both get their own romantic plotlines that are really charming.

CHELSEA: Do you think that’s a function of the book setting it up as a romance? Or the expectation that Sarah Dessen as a contemporary writer is gonna have romance in her books and it just don’t come through?

KAY: I think it’s that, there’s the obvious problem that I had expectations based on things I had read by Sarah Dessen before. Her contemp YAs are almost romantic in the traditional this is a romance novel way, but in a YA setting. So that was a problem. And then the really awkward hints about the shooting. A lot of pieces of this book worked really well. And her actual prose is great. And her pacing has actually gotten much better since the last time I read one of her books. But I was not impressed with this one and I was sad about it. Cause I wanted to like it. And then the other contemp YA book that I read and also didn’t’ love was called Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennet. It’s basically pitched to me as a YA You’ve Got Mail and you can’t do that to me. I love You’ve Got Mail! I love You’ve Got Mail even though it has some total trashfire aspects.

CHELSEA: Just listen. We all know it can be problematic, but I love it.

KAY: It’s a problematic fave. So that’s a movie for book people. And this is a book for movie people. And so I thought that was a charming twist. Cause they bond through their love of movies. But.

CHELSEA: That’s cute, I guess.

KAY: They did the thing where you know how we talked about, when we read the Julie Kagawa book, how all of the teenagers were making references that they would not make?

CHELSEA: Oh no.

KAY: I think this one actually escaped that.

CHELSEA: Okay. That’s good.

KAY: It wasn’t just making slightly outdated references. They were talking to each other about a lot of classic things in film.

CHELSEA: So like you would be into if you were in.

KAY: If you were an uppity high school nerd who was trying to prove you were super into cinema. That’s the kind of stuff they’re talking about.

CHELSEA: I knew some of those kids.

KAY: We knew those kids! But that was kind of the only thing about it I found charming. I didn’t really like anything else about it. I really hated the absentee mom stuff in this. Because it was written in just a very thoughtless way. And I don’t really want to get into it too deep. I don’t think that your family has to have two parents constantly involved in your daily life. And I don’t think that your parents need to be married. I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is the way that one parent was written in a really irresponsible way, frankly. I. [laughs] It was just bad and I was really upset about it, basically any time it came up in the book. Because her father is really wonderful and super excited to finally have her living with him post her parents’ divorce. And if he’s such a great father how come he didn’t even know her mom hadn’t talked to her for months? How come these parents were not communicating at all? And the mother is depicted as being evil even though she’s going through another breakdown of a relationship that is probably breaking down because she should not have been in it. Because she’s still suffering from severe PTSD because of something that happened to the daughter. The main character. That we don’t find out until very late in the book. There’s a lot of things about the book that didn’t work for me.

CHELSEA: I feel like a lot of times young adult writers don’t necessarily consider parent/child aspects as a part of the worldbuilding, and a pretty key part of the worldbuilding. Because you can’t just drop in things like oh my dad was so stoked to see me and not counterbalance that with but also he doesn’t know anything about me. You can’t drop that in there without doing a little work to unpack it and explain it. Or you can. But it’s gonna rub readers the wrong way and it’s gonna be, probably, not the healthiest depiction ever. So.

KAY: yeah. And there’s a really unfortunate depiction of a teenager with a drug problem. And that was just kind of written in not a particularly mindful way. And I don’t know. I just was not a fan. I was not a fan. I’ve been told that this writer also writes urban fantasy and I know a couple people who really like her non-ya stuff they’ve read. I didn’t think the writing itself was bad. Her prose was good. I just felt like contemp YA was maybe not what she should be writing.

CHELSEA: Yeah. Her prime genre.

KAY: It just didn’t work for me and I was sad I didn’t like it because I wanted to like it. A thing I read and did like was, I have an e-galley of the next Toby Daye book, The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire.

CHELSEA: Jealous.

KAY: And it was great. It was really great. [laughs] I don’t wanna spoil anything. It doesn’t come out for a while.

CHELSEA: I was gonna say, I wanna ask what Toby’s up to but you can’t really talk about that. That’s the one drawback of it being book number twelve? Something like that?

KAY: Something like that. I’m really excited for y’all to read it. Highly recommend The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire. You should just go read that series. And then I have two fic recs. Cause I’m just gonna talk for 5,000 years today apparently.

CHELSEA: Whatever. That’s fine.

KAY: So the first is a Hannibal fic which Chelsea’s gonna need to immediately read. And this one is by one of my favorite fic writers in any fandom, coloredink. It is called he has raised me from the pit and set me high.

CHELSEA: Just the title alone is so good.

KAY: And there’s really gorgeous art that goes along with this. Which we’ll link to also. But it’s basically, in Hannibal canon when Will is a detective in New Orleans he gets stabbed in the shoulder and never regains full mobility and goes on desk duty and uses his pension, or disability money they give him, to finish his forensics degree or whatever. And that allows him to go to DC and work at Quantico blah blah blah. In this he becomes a member of the clergy. And he becomes an Episcopal priest.

[Chelsea gasps]

KAY: But still ends up in the DC, Baltimore area and still meets Hannibal. And the story opens with him stopping a shooter in his church. And events unfold. And it’s really good. It’s, how long is this? It’s about 44,000 words. So. It’s a nice long read. Someone help Will Graham, as always. But it’s really good. [laughs]

CHELSEA: Oh, man. I just. You guys can’t tell just super into Hannibal right now. Kay and I are just having a moment together in life of good fandom. Which, Kay has had several moments. I am new. So I am swimming through all of my emotions for the first time, where Hannibal is related.

KAY: Are you done watching the show yet?

CHELSEA: No. Not even. Nope. Because I have to wait for Mark! If I could just watch it by myself.

KAY: I didn’t know you guys were watching it together.

CHELSEA: Yeah, it’s cute. We needed a new show. We finished the most recent season of Orange is the New Black.

KAY: That’s legit.

CHELSEA: That wasn’t Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Parks and Rec. Again. Not that I don’t love both of those things because I do. But we literally just finished watching both of those things.

KAY: Beautiful. My other rec is Instigator by lbmisscharlie. Who, I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything by them in Marvel fandom before so this was a surprising delight when I got the email alert for it. It is a Rule 63 fic, which is always my favorite thing. Both Bucky and Steve are women. But the other lovely aspect of this is that Steve is from the past. Bucky is from now. And they meet, not exactly cute, because it’s in the middle of an alien invasion. But they run into each other again and it’s really good. And there’s some really lovely talk about, like, butch and femme dynamics. And femmeness as power and butchness as power. And it’s really lovely. And it turns out Bucky’s pretty femme and Steve is really not, but that wasn’t exactly an option back in the day. Please picture giant lady Steve with a really gorgeous undercut and then just take a moment.

[laughter]

CHELSEA: Oh my god.

KAY: It’s really good. It’s really hot. It’s under 10,000 words. You should just go read it.

CHELSEA: Talk about a thing I didn’t know I wanted to see until I heard it said out loud and now all I want is for a bunch of delicious Rule 63 fanart of sexy undercuts. Mm. Yeah.

KAY: And wearing a plaid flannel. You know?

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

CHELSEA: That’s a good note to switch on. We’re gonna talk about our book of the week. I don’t have a ton of in-depth stuff to say about this book other than I super, super loved it and adored it.

KAY: We just loved it.

CHELSEA: So it’s The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian. Which is the third book in her, I mean, I guess they’re not officially part of a series. Or at least they’re not labeled that way on goodreads.

KAY: They are.

CHELSEA: They are part of a series. And this is the third one. But! You do not have to have read the first two, necessarily. As is lovely about most romance novels, as long as you’re willing to know that the relationships —

KAY: I don’t think they have a name. That’s weird.

CHELSEA: It’s whatever. That’s weird, too, cause they’re clearly part of a series. As long as you’re willing to be quote unquote spoiled on the knowledge that the previous couples of other books end up together happily.

KAY: Which is not a spoiler in romance.

CHELSEA: Which is not a spoiler in romance at all in any way. Then you can read this one with absolutely no other knowledge. I love this book. It’s the story of Lord Courtenay is a rake and a scoundrel and a rogue. But he wants to form or to reestablish a relationship with his nephew. And he’s not going to be able to do that if his nephew’s guardian and all of society think he’s just this wanton scoundrel. So he appeals, or is appealed to by a friend of his, whose brother is the poster child of being a British gentleman who has worked his whole life building his reputation. And he’s going to use that positive reputation to help rehabilitate Courtenay into society. HIs name is Julian Medlock, and the last thing he wants is to squander all of his hard work building up his reputation with someone like Courtenay. All of this is made worse because a book has recently been published about the sexual exploits and roguish behavior of a count. It’s all fictionalized, but it’s very clearly supposed to be Lord Courtenay. So he’s dealing with all of this. His reputation is even more at stake. All of this is happening. Julian’s trying to get him invited to all of these parties. Meanwhile–

KAY: Accepted into the best society.

CHELSEA: It’s so good. There’s opera houses and ballrooms and really intense bickering.

KAY: There are multiple really lovely subplots going on in the background. And it just makes me so happy.

CHELSEA: It just makes me so happy.

KAY: I continue to be super impressed with Cat Sebastian’s handle on pacing with subplots on really compelling side characters having their own story arcs. I just. Her stuff is super polished for someone who has as few things published as she has already. And I thought this from the first book of hers that I read. Her stuff is just super polished. And not in any kind of a false I’m trying really hard for you to think I’m a professional way. Her stuff is just really beautiful. Really well done.

CHELSEA: Really great craft.

KAY: She’s just amazing. We love her and her writing so much.

CHELSEA: Let’s talk about these characters. Because I love Courtenay. Right? Obviously. Lord Courtenay is our dashing rogue and it’s great and he’s fine. But there is something about that buttoned up prim and proper Julian Medlock.

KAY: I love Julian.

CHELSEA: That is just so good. And the unraveling of that proper appearance is the hottest part of this entire romance.

KAY: Can we take a minute to talk about how his prim and properness is all just really his shield? Because he needs to feel like he is collected? All of these people have these amazing fully drawn backgrounds. They are such fully fleshed out characters. So he and his sister were raised in India, basically by their grandfather, because their father was kind of ne’er-do-well But it’s hard to know how much of his being a ne’er-do-well was his father disapproving of him and he drank because why not. So Julian was learning how to run the family business from a very young age. He’s very gifted with numbers and finds them very soothing. He loves the order of numbers. And I can understand that even though I’m not really a numbers person. My sister who works in accounting is very like that. [laughs] And he also contracted malaria as a child. And I don’t think that’s a super big spoiler cause I realized that was the thing that was happening when they were mentioning his symptoms earlier in the book before they explicitly say that yes he had malaria as a child. Because at the time you would have these relapses over and over that were really debilitating and could kill you. And the climate in England was better, basically.

CHELSEA: Less mosquitoes. Less humid.

KAY: Cause you weren’t being constantly re-infected by malaria-ridden mosquitoes. So they moved to England and he basically was trying to make his sister’s life as perfect as possible so he wouldn’t feel bad about taking her away from India.

CHELSEA: Right? Cause the other part of this is that her, his sister was kind of courting and in love with and had married one of their childhood friends. Who was also, was he a merchant? Or he was in the Navy, right? A commander in the navy?

KAY: I think he’s a merchant, cause he was working as an interpreter and stuff in various times when Courtenay ran into him abroad. He’s some sort of businessman, I think.

CHELSEA: He’s Indian. So that is anther —

KAY: I mean, he’s from a very old British family, but he is, yeah.

CHELSEA: So there’s tension there because Julian feels very bad for kind of pulling his sister away from this relationship, but the husband kind of later returns and they have a discussion about how his race would’ve complicated things for them if he would’ve joined them.

KAY: And he thought she didn’t want him there. And she thought he didn’t want to be there. And it was just. [sighs] Their relationship is a really lovely thing happening in the background in the whole book that’s so delightful.

CHELSEA: And of course Julian doesn’t really know this is happening because he’s not really talking to his sister. He’s doing that very lovingly misguided thing of I’m gonna make it all better by just doing this thing that I think makes it all better as opposed to asking what you want.

KAY: He’s a fixer. Okay? Julian is a fixer. He will see a problem he will take care of it in the most expedient manner available to him. And he doesn’t really understand why people don’t want him to just fix things for them.

CHELSEA: Yeah, exactly.

KAY: It’s so great. [laughs]

CHELSEA: He’s not that friend you go to when you just want somebody to listen to your problems. He’s gonna be like cool, well your boss is shit. We’re gonna write an email and then you’re gonna do this and I’m gonna do that and it’s just like. He doesn’t understand why that, for people, is maybe not always a helpful thing. For him to be doing.

KAY: Also, we didn’t mention the sister. The sister is the crazy scientist inventor lady from the previous book in this series. Which is how everyone knew each other already. [laughs] So you don’t have to have read that, but it’s a really nice tie-in. All of these characters in this book have appeared previously and I love her and her army of cats.

CHELSEA: She has a cat room. She has a kitten room.

KAY: #Goals

CHELSEA: Well, not. I’m allergic to cats

KAY: Same. But I love cats. I’m just really allergic to them.

CHELSEA: Same. I think they’re adorable. Super allergic. But.

KAY: Hypothetical goals.

CHELSEA: And her being a scientist brings up a lot of cool stuff about gender roles and gender propriety. But. Courtenay, on the other hand where Julian is crafting this shield of perfection and order and numbers. Courtenay is like everyone expects me to be a lush so I shall be a lush. Or I shall work on reforming my Lush-ous ways. He’s bad at business. He doesn’t really care about, this is a reductive way to say it, but where Julian is mostly brain, Courtenay is mostly heart. Like, Courtenay has been shunned by his entire family, but is still paying to put his mother up in a London house with London servants even though she’s married to a new person.

KAY: And her step-children are all living there on his dime and he’s living in this shithole and he is paying pensions for servants and things. And living in, not total poverty, but pretty close to total poverty to support all these people who do not support him even emotionally.

CHELSEA: And who have been pretty awful to him for a large portion of his life.

KAY: Truly awful to him. His, the scene where we finally meet his mother? I have very rarely wanted to reach into a book and throttle someone this badly.

CHELSEA: Oh, but it’s so good

KAY: It’s so good for me. It’s so — it’s really lovely for Julian to stand up for Courtenay. Cause Courtenay is always so incredibly shocked whenever anyone shows him the barest scrap of kindness.

CHELSEA: Because he’s so — he’s just my poor broken baby.

KAY: He’s not broken! He’s just never been treated properly and needs loving care. And he’s going to get that loving care from now on.

CHELSEA: And that’s the whole. That’s the great thing about the dynamic. Julian is able to use some of that social capital he’s stored up and he does it in this really great way. He doesn’t necessarily say anything super improver. He just holds her to the standards of propriety she should’ve already been held to. So he’s like bitch, you gotta get out this house, but we got another house you can move into. You’re not gonna be homeless. And anyway this is how it should’ve been this whole time. Remember how you have a husband who’s supposed to pay for you and also his own kids? Get the fuck out! It reminded me of that scene where the Weasley twins swoop in and just fuck shit up for Dolores Umbridge and you’re just like yeah, yes good, get it!

KAY: Except that they’re chaotic good and he is very much lawful good. He is the living embodiment of lawful good. [laughs]

CHELSEA: Oh man. But yes. It’s just. So you know. As happens in romance novels, Courtenay kinda breaks down those walls Julian’s built up and Julian’s shown Courtenay how he should’ve been treated.

KAY: Which is with kindness, respect, and enthusiastic consent. And communication. Cause we haven’t talked about the sex scenes, but they’re fucking amazing. Oh my god. They’re really great in all of her books, but the sex scenes in this one are by far my favorite.

CHELSEA: The scene in the opera house? I am still thinking about. Weeks after having finished it.

KAY: I need to just pull up the quote here.

CHELSEA: This is not actually a sex part, but I just wanna say there’s a scene where they are cuddling in bed and Courtenay had previously shot a hole in his wall and Julian takes the gun and lines up the shot and literally shoots the same hole and holy Jesus was that super-hot.

KAY: There’s so much amazing competence porn in this, which I just love.

CHELSEA: So good.

KAY: Okay, this is not a sex scene quote but oh my god. Medlock was made of ice and thorns. Venom and gunpowder. It ought to be hard to get anywhere near him, let alone fall into love with Medlock. But it hadn’t been hard at all, had it? It had been as easy as breathing. And like, that’s just the epitome of their relationship right there. Basically Courtenay likes being manhandled which is established fairly early on. And Julian’s definitely fine with that. And he says, “If you want me to be in charge–” “Yes,” Courtenay says immediately. “Then I want to tie you up.” “I.” Courtenay cleared his throat. “Medlock, I hadn’t seen that coming.” And then they have this discussion about you need to not call me Medlock anymore, we’re fucking you need to call me Julian. Courtenay says, “I’ve never done that. I mean, I’ve done the tying up, but nobody’s ever offered to return the favor.” “No time like the present,” Julian said briskly. “The only condition is that you need to tell me what you want.” “At the moment, I want you to tie me up, dammit. Who knew?” And then they proceed to have this really lovely sex scene with all this open communication and checking in with each other to make sure everything is going well and I just. When people talk about romance novels as just being written porn, I think it does a disservice to really well-written sex scenes. Because not only is a really good sex scene demonstrating a writer’s action writing chops, because nothing’s gonna pull you out as quickly as appendages in the incorrect place. But you’re also completely ignoring how difficult it is to write really compelling chemistry between two people. And to make sex scenes sexy. And these sex scenes are all really sexy.

CHELSEA: My favorite quote is on the same vein, but takes place a little bit later. Julian narrowed his eyes. “I think you usually give people what they want. And because you’re basically a hedonist with a broad range of taste, you enjoy yourself perfectly well despite never articulating what you actually crave. Is that how things usually work for you? You just sort of drift into these situations and drift through them?” Courtenay was silent for a moment, as if he’d never considered the matter in that light. “Well, yes?” “There will be no drifting tonight. Now tell me what you require for your pleasure.” [sighs] It’s so good. And that, that to me points a little bit to the other thing I really liked about this book is that Courtenay is bisexual? Or it is clearly implied he has had sex with men and women in the past and his sexual interests are broad ranging.

KAY: He just really loves people. He’s, I think he’s, if it was today I think he would be pan. He enjoys people and he will occasionally have sex with people whether he’s super interested specifically in having sex or just in having more of  relationship with that person or not? It’s just another way he uses kind of to get to know people, which was not exactly socially acceptable at the time, but just. You know. How he was and I love it. Super here for it.

CHELSEA: Here for it.

KAY: I love them. I love their love. They’re just so beautifully, painfully in love. And they’re both super baffled by how this happened, but they’re also really concerned about making sure the other person knows. You know? They want to be very clear and use very simple things that they say to each other to make it clear. At one point, “Because you’re my favorite person,’ Julian said simply. Courtenay thought his days of being shocked were over and done with. He thought he had heard everything it was possible to hear, in bed or out of it. But at Julian’s words he thought his heart stop beating. There was no other declaration that could’ve lade him so bare or pleased him so much. “I think you may be my favorite person as well,” Courtenay said. [sighs] I just. I just. You’re my favorite person!

CHELSEA: That’s it!

KAY: That’s it.

CHELSEA: You’re my favorite person.

KAY: I just. You can’t see our faces but we’re grinning like fools right now.

CHELSEA: Nothing but smiles.

[sighs]

CHELSEA: Oh, man. I am going back through my bookmarks and realizing, speaking of competence porn, how many scenes I marked where it’s Julian retying Courtenay’s cravat. That was a thing, for some reason, when I was reading this book that I was really into.

[laughter]

CHELSEA: Bookmarking. Because it happened a lot. And I was apparently into it every time.

KAY: If you are listening and you don’t know precisely what we mean by competence porn, this is a thing, not just in romance, but also really common in fic that people talk about. It’s one person really appreciating someone else doing something well. No matter what that thing is. And you may not find that sexually attractive, but there’s something about a person being really good at something that is really satisfying in a visceral way. And sometimes that does translate into romantic or sexual attraction. But it’s very satisfying. It’s just very satisfying. [laughs]

CHELSEA: If you’ve ever been, in real life, a person at their job or their hobby in their element. If you’ve ever seen an artist drawing or a surgeon performing surgery. There’s something compelling and attractive. Not necessarily sexually attractive, but like an attractive force to watching somebody be very good at the thing they’re doing. And sometimes, as in this case, it does translate to sexual attraction, both between Julian and Courtenay and also me and this book.

[Kay laughs]

CHELSEA: There’s a lot of cravat tying and it’s really hot. So this book is super great. Highly recommend. Cat Sebastian is obviously an auto buy everything she’s got coming out.

KAY: We’re really looking forward to her next book, which comes out in December. And is called It Take Two to Tumble. Which is the story of a bossy sea captain and a free-spirited vicar.

[excited sounds]

CHELSEA: I don’t know what that noise was that I just made with my mouth.

KAY: [laughs] It’s gonna be the first in a series of three about the sons of a radical, slightly unhinged poet loosely inspired by Coleridge. And if you didn’t know you needed that in your life? You do now.

CHELSEA: She’s got another one coming out in 2018 called Unmasked by the Marquess and the series title is Regency Imposters and ohmygod I am exploding with excitement at just the sounds of whatever.

KAY: That comes out in the spring. It’s the story of a servant who dresses as a man to impersonate her empl9yer and then accidentally falls in love with a prickly bisexual aristocrat. So you’ve got a girls in trousers thing going on.

CHELSEA: So excited. Just so excited.

[laughter]

CHELSEA: We are so thrilled for everything Cat Sebastian’s going to write in the future. I am just at a loss for other different words to describe how excited I am for these books to come out and to reread these books. I think they’ll stand up pretty well to a reread. I’m excited to add them to my to be eventually reread stuff.

KAY: Didn’t you already reread one of them?

CHELSEA: Yeah. I reread The Lawrence Browne Affair before I read this one. I love that book, dude.

KAY: I love them all. I love them all!

CHELSEA: I love them all. That one had the extra sugar and spice of dealing super well with mental health stuff and sensory input stuff and I just. [Sighs] I love the book a lot. Yes, I did reread it. I might reread it again. I haven’t decided yet.

KAY: I think the only other thing I have to say was, “Love was somebody aiming a pistol at your heart while you sat there and acted like it was perfectly fine, because you trusted them.” And I’m not gonna tell you what that means, but you’re gonna read the book and scream with joy when you get to that part. Just like we did. I’m literally clutching my face in my hands right now. [laughs]

CHELSEA: My cheeks hurt cause I’ve had the biggest ass goofy smile on my face.

KAY: I like how completely incoherent we were about this book, because we love it so much.

CHELSEA: We’ve said nothing critical at all.

KAY: Legit just babbling about how you should read this book because you should.

CHELSEA: Enough to go through and, listeners might not know this, but once upon a time on a different podcast, Kay started tallying up the times I said ‘A+’ that something was A+, because it’s a verbal tick that I have. I’m gonna have to go through this episode and see how many times I said it’s so good, because —

KAY: It’s so good!

CHELSEA: Oh man. Okay. Well.

KAY: Right there was like four.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

We’re gonna go ahead and wrap it up. Join us next time for another media episode. We have just decided to give in to the urge and we are gonna do a whole episode just about Hannibal. We’re gonna talk about the TV show. We’re gonna talk about the fic and the fandom.

KAY: We’re also gonna talk a little bit about the books that is based on. Just a little bit.

CHELSEA: Tiny bit. And just a little about horror as a genre and where it kind of crosses over with some other fandom stuff. WE just figured it’s where we’re living right now. So we’re just gonna go with it.

KAY: We’re leaning into it.

CHELSEA: Leaning into it super hard. And you know what? I’m not mad about it. I’m actually super stoked.

[laughter]

CHELSEA: Join us next week for that and then after that we’ll be back to reading some really great books. Until then, you can always get in touch with us all over the internet. Bye, guys!

KAY: Bye!

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin MacLeod plays]

Outtakes:

KAY: It’s your Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. [laughter]

CHELSEA: There is probably not a week that goes by where one of us doesn’t yell in all capital letters at the other one WHY DO YOU WORK THE WAY THAT YOU DO? WHY ARE YOU THE WAY THAT YOU ARE?

KAY:  I can’t remember the names of book characters ever, but you want me to name you a fic I read three years ago and who it was by?

 

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