Tag Archives: young adult

Scandals, Secrets, and Subversion: Why I’m hooked on CW’s Riverdale

14 Apr

riverdale

Die hard fans of Archie and Betty and Veronica Comics will either love or hate the CWs new series Riverdale. Aside from the characters names and appearances, pretty much the only thing that is consistent with the old school comic series is the setting–the small, idyllic, East coast, town of Riverdale. Most everything else everything is different and way more scandalous. The series pushes the boundaries for sure and, as a die hard vintage Archie Comics fan, I’m here to say I love it.

**Spoiler warning: from here on out I will tell you some things about the story-line. Not enough to ruin it, only enough to entice you.

The series starts with the death of Cheryl Blossom’s brother, Jason Blossom. A suspicious death isn’t scandalous but the near incestuous relationship between the twins it. Its hard to ignore the did they or didn’t they questions the relationship provokes. Don’t believe they’d put that on mainstream  TV? Check out this picture.

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Many of the relationships go beyond what you typically see in a teen series. All-American high school football player, Archie Andrews, and Mrs. Grundy, the music teacher, are making music. But not in the classroom.

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The characters are awesome too.

Moose, a stereotypical dense jock in the 1950’s Riverdale, is a more realistic, complex, and actualized human in this new version. He has a brief  fling with Kevin Keller who quickly moves on to the town’s bad boy.  Who could blame Kevin? We’ve all fallen for the bad boy. At least in our minds.

riverdale

Is it wrong of me to think the brooding writer Jughead is hot?

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Vixen Veronica provides a continual vintage-inspired fashion show.

image rrr

Want more of the scoop? Check out the trailer for next week’s episode:

Already checked out Riverdale? Love gritty, scandalous YA stories? Tell us about it in the comments.

Follow Lady SmuOne Queen (1)t … all the way to Atlanta! Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more. Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers.

Heartless: Soul Sucking Sex Moppets

9 Jun
heartlessA

Two hot twins trying to solve one four hundred year old curse.

by Madeline Iva

Heartless, a dark Y.A. TV show from the Netherlands & Netflix, makes all my guilty-pleasure bells ring.

It’s got everything you’d want from a twisted dark Y.A.: from a paranormal premise to all the pretty people at a rich, decadent, ancient boarding school. It starts off with two hot orphan twins — a boy and a girl — tormented over the fact that they’re awful and they’re going to get caught and arrested at some point as they crawl about the city, soul sucking energy from the disco populace at large.  The boy, Sebastian, can’t control his impulses and kills people by sucking too much from them their bodies until they ignite and burn.

Do we like shows about black-eyed, soul-sucking succubus twins? -- hell yeah!

Do we like shows about black-eyed, soul-sucking succubus twins? — hell yeah!

So it’s the girl, Sophie, who has to go out and git some for the family.  The actress, Julie Zangenberg, is so good, even though their backstory is never spelled out in detail, her nuanced acting gives you all the feels of the young girl who’s had to go trolling among the creeps.  She’s had to be fondled and felt up until she can get them into her soul sucking grasp.  Survival has taken its toll in this nasty world, and there’s a bit of orphan self-pity and hurt in her gasps and cries as her brother sucks what he needs from her.  (In a way that is so hot and so wrong, btw.  When I said this show is a guilty pleasure I *meant* it.)

They go back to the orphanage they ran away from years ago to find out more about the mother who abandoned them way back.  She herself was a teen, they learn, and they gain some clues about her that lead them to–wait for it–Ottmannsgaard–an elite boarding school specializing in double letters.  (Just kidding.) In fact, the grounds in the woods surrounding Ottmannsgaard are littered with the decaying bodies of other youths just like Sophie and Sebastian on the hunt for the ‘truth’. If only they knew.  Cue the cackling of merciless evil male laughter.

Like a soul-sucker about to expire, I hoovered up the series in a very short time.   The show’s characters are for the most part so hot–even the ones who aren’t supposed to be–like Nadja, that I floated along on the waves of beauty and sin.

It was hard for me to determine which if the twins I liked better.  Sebastian seemed more the type to blend into a rich surroundings.  He had that golden boy thing about him.  It was so captivating to watch him fall in love for the first time and realize he couldn’t even kiss the girl he has feelings for–afraid he’ll kill her when his powers go out of control.

Sebastian, tortured soul in a golden-boy body.

Sebastian, tortured soul in a golden-boy body.

Yet Sophie was a real scrapper.  Getting into it–again in such a hot-yet-wrong way–with the ‘head boy’ evil Ditlev.  (I could make so many jokes about head boys.  I won’t though.) The bad guys in this TV show just go for the Hitler-youth thing in a no-holds-barred way.  And when the sexy Aryan-youth wants his sad moppet succubus girl–just, wow.  (In fact, when one of the bad guys gets it, my friend stopped watching the show–that’s how deep she sank into the show’s glittering perversity.)

Ditlev wants his sad sex moppet succubus.

Ditlev wants his sad sex moppet succubus.

Then there were the headmaster’s daughters — hot and hotter, and witches too, as it turned out.  The older one had an arresting quality, and yeah, looked like she could totally hold her own with whatever witch she might meet down some dark alley, for sure.  The younger one had one of those “I’m here, but I don’t get to say much” kind of roles.  Which didn’t matter.  I mean, she didn’t talk a lot, but she made birds drop dead out of the sky, in this perfect la la la I’m even more powerful than you, and la la la, even hotter than you, but whatever, just hanging out…off-handed way.

Witchy sisters. I liked the younger one, on the right best.

Witchy sisters. I like the younger one on the right best.

The core of the story revolves around a curse–a multi-generational curse at that–which has been working out badly for everyone for hundreds of years. But what I liked best about the show was the development of Nadja’s character.  She’s Sophie’s good-girl-but-dull roommate.  She falls for Sebastian hard, despite/because of Sophie’s warning that he’s heartless when it comes to girls.

That awkward face you make when you had a big orgasm, but like now half your soul has been eaten?

That awkward face you make when you had a big orgasm the first time you had sex, but, like, now half your soul has been eaten?

Nadja isn’t really a nerdy girl – however she’s the closest thing this school of hotness had to offer. She’s helplessly crushing hard on Sebastian, and she wakes up to find she’s love’s bitch.  Then she just owns it. She’s the underdog, the one flying under the radar—I liked her.  Sebastian uses her for some soul-sucking, and hey, she survives it.  She’s stronger than she looks. Moreover, she offers to let him do it to her again, to use her, even knowing he doesn’t like her.  This develops into a very interesting dynamic.  He’s not interested in her–and he doesn’t want to use her either.  He’s trying to redeem himself and he doesn’t want to be ‘that guy’ any longer.  But Sophie needs some of his energy, and with school curfew …he’s in a jam.

Only in Denmark would fencing be the only sport offered at a boarding school. Well, not *real* fencing...

Only in Denmark would fencing be the only sport offered at a boarding school. Well, not *real* fencing…

I just get so caught up in that struggle of what to do when he’s just not that into you but still needs to suck your soul from time to time dynamic.  I mean, if there was a season two for this show — I’d want it to explore this dynamic further.

Did I mention the queer relationships?

Did I mention the queer relationships?

The ultimate appeal for me was that whole ‘this isn’t really high school, but who cares’ genre of decadent rich, meets the cursed witchy, spooky, I-don’t-give-a-f*ck-cool poor, etc.  It just reeks of the most delectable darkness, and I could not get enough.

How about you? Any other dark Y.A. lovers out there? What would you recommend?

And follow us at LadySmut where we love sucking things — T.V. shows about sucking things, that is.

Madeline Ivaimgres writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance.  Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, and her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out Fall, 2016.

FREE READ — a peek at Best Friends Never

8 May

Isabelle Drake’s excerpt 

Chapter One: It Doesn’t Matter How You Play the Game, Only Whether You Win or Lose

Blood red.

And death black.

Whoever picked out Cherry Grove High’s school colors was an idiot.

Either that or a serial killer.

bestfriendsnever_800 (1)The hideous color combination blurred across the gym floor, spinning in the cheerleaders’ skirts, bouncing in the pom squad pom-poms and slicing through the air in the quivering band banners. Except for the bizarre Goth meets Glee effect, the scene was flawless. Even the shouts echoing off the walls were just right.

Outside, beyond the gleaming floor-to-ceiling windows and careful flowerbeds, past the student parking lot dotted with Nissans, Volvos and European SUVs, early autumn trees shaded the tidy streets with the first brush of rust, orange and red leaves. It was Cherry Grove after all—anything less than perfection would be inconceivable.

The bleachers were jammed with students, some actually excited about the annual back-to-school pep assembly, the rest just screaming like mad, glad for the chance to be crazy on the first Friday afternoon of the new school year.

From her spot at the boosters table, Lexi Welks could see it all. The teachers huddled in the corner by the wrestling mats drinking Diet Pepsis and eating popcorn, the basketball players lined up under the net, shoving each other, wanting to be the one standing closest to the podium, and the mini-mob of freshmen trying to squeeze themselves into the tiny niche that led to the empty space behind the bleachers. Apart from the chaos stood the football team, arms folded over their Cherry Grove jerseys and looking like they’d rather be anywhere but where they were—right in the center of the attention.

“Here’s your baseball fundraiser auction sign-up sheet.”

Monica Sanders, coming up out of nowhere like a giant weed that not even the deadliest dose of Roundup could get rid of. One of the wicked plants from Little Shop of Horrors.

Only this plant had a nonstop figure wrapped up in a come-screw-me black turtleneck. Half the guys in the school wanted a piece of her. The rest wanted her ACT scores.

Lexi?

Up until a week ago, she and Monica had been friends. And now Lexi was paying the price for what had seemed like fun at the time.

Monica looked over Lexi’s shoulder, waved at basketball center Eric Watson, then came back with a careful smile, showing off her bleached teeth as she slid into an empty chair. “Not that the sign-up is going to do you any good. You know, with next year.”

Lexi took the sheet, dropping it onto the table as though she wasn’t the least bit concerned. Which, of course, was a huge lie. Because getting the right names on that single sheet of paper would change her whole life.

“Can I have your attention? Students?” Dr. Guerra, the superintendent, tapped on the microphone, sending out a series of heart-thumping thuds.

It worked—even the cheerleaders shut up, dropping to the floor to sit cross-legged like a row of overgrown preschoolers. “We need a moment before we get started with the pep assembly. Could everyone please welcome Officer Davenport from the Cherry Grove Police Station?”

“Where else would he be from?” one of the newspaper nerds muttered. “7-Eleven?”

The cop slid behind the mic, adjusting his navy blue uniform tie while he waited for the losers in the back rows to catch on to the idea that he had something other than the D.A.R.E. essay winners to announce. Once the room fell silent, he started talking about Jon Eagle, the kid who’d gone missing a couple of days before. Each word out of his mouth made the knots in Lexi’s stomach pull tighter as images of that night skittered through her mind.

“We’ve been checking leads and retracing Jon’s steps. We’re in constant contact with his family—they’ll be informed as we uncover substantial information.” He flattened his square palm across his jacket lapel, pausing dramatically as he looked out at the faces. “We know how distressing this is for you all, for all of us. For those of you who’d like someone to talk with, your lead counselor, Mrs. Howell, has added appointments before and after school. She’s assured me and all your parents that she’ll do anything she can to help you through this difficult time.”

Monica took out her pretty pink leather-bound planner and wrote down the officer’s name. Then she waited, pen poised, for anything else noteworthy.

“Please keep in mind,” he continued, “that we have no evidence of foul play at this time. There is no reason to believe that anyone else is in danger.” He went on to add that the detective in charge thought that Jon had been in touch with kids who, for some reason, were choosing not to tell anyone. “If that’s the case, we urge you to come forward at this time.” Contact information flashed from the huge ceiling-mounted projector onto the wall behind the podium. Lexi barely held in her roll of nausea as Monica jotted down the counselor hours, the hotline phone number and email address with one hand, all the while texting with her other.

But that was Monica Sanders. Smart. Capable. Efficient. And a real self-serving jerk. Too bad it had taken Lexi three months to figure it out.

“Thank you for your attention.” Dr. Guerra was back at the mic, struggling to say something press and parent friendly. “If we all work together, we might… Maybe we’ll… Jon might…” Thank God she finally gave up, because while two band geeks in the front row were snapping pics, some of the yearbook girls over by the art teacher were starting to cry. A cloud of awkward silence filled the gym, everyone’s face tense. Everyone’s except Monica’s. She was dumping her stuff back into her bag and getting to her feet, all while looking as fresh and fantastic as ever.

“Taylor told me to ask you if you had questions about the sign-up,” she said as she pushed the chair back. This time she wasn’t even bothering to hold on to that flawless, fake smile.

“You mean like why are you even bothering with yours?” Lexi tapped her own sheet with her finger. “Because all the names that matter are going right here.”

Monica practically snorted as she spun on her heels, swinging away without a reply.

Lexi watched the girl’s model-perfect ass until she ducked through the red and black cluster of drumline kids clogging the double doors at the end of the gym.

Once she was sure the girl was gone for good she picked up the sheet, staring at the empty rows and imagining the names she needed scrawled across those blank lines. Planning how she’d get them there. And fighting back the fear of what Monica would do when she did.

Need More?

Get yours from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, or direct from publisher Finch Books.

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy–and young adult thrillers. Best Friends Never, is available now.

Because you want more Lady Smut, follow us here and on Facebook. We’re here to rock your world in all the ways you like.

Tiger (Beat) by the Tail: Keeping the 80s Hot Today

3 May
High School Confidential: Click here to score this story of two friends separated by a dark secret.

High School Confidential: Click here to score this story of two friends separated by a dark secret.

By Alexa Day

Celebrating Isabelle Drake’s new release, a young adult novel called Best Friends Never, has put me in mind of high school. High school is now in my distant past, and I’m surprised by how little of it I remember. For one thing, I think my mind is trying to protect me from it. High school wasn’t all that gentle with me.

I have only shadowy recollections of prom season, football games, and the inimitable pain-pleasure of wanting the cutest boy in school to talk to me mixed with the horrifying certainty that I would say or do something ridiculous if this encounter actually took place. Good times, good times, right?

But two special friends made high school in the 80s easier to survive. Their names? Tiger Beat and Bop.

Tiger Beat would tell you why Johnny looks so serious here.

Tiger Beat would tell you why Johnny looks so serious here.

Let’s be honest. Tiger Beat and Bop were basically a version of Playboy, marketed toward the teenage girl. Sure, there was some incredibly hard-hitting journalism buried in their interior pages. If you wanted to know how if John Stamos was going to choose his family over you or what really happened with Scott Baio’s breakup or if George Michael was just going to walk away from Wham!, Tiger Beat had you covered.

It was a more innocent time ... for some of us.

It was a more innocent time … for some of us.

I wasn’t reading Tiger Beat and Bop for the interviews. I’m not sure I remember reading it at all. I was more about the pin-ups. Thanks to them, I always had someone super cute waiting in my locker between classes. Today, I’m learning to appreciate staying power at least as much as good looks, and my vacation down Memory Lane into the 1980s showed me that quite a few of my favorite pin-up boys have become fine pin-up men.

Check out these timeless beauties.

Looking like a billion dollars as Tony Stark, RDJ is older, smarter, stronger ... better.

Looking like a billion dollars as Tony Stark, RDJ is older, smarter, stronger … better.

Robert Downey, Jr. See that guy on the cover of Sassy? Hard to imagine that he’d eventually become the mighty RDJ we know and love today. First, of course, we must consider the obvious — he’s aging splendidly. Robert Downey, Jr. Is every lick as hot as he was almost 30 years ago, if not hotter. But what makes the man so very tempting is the knowledge that he has been through Some Shit and emerged a better, wiser, stronger man. That smooth, unlined face is a thing of the past, but in his place, we’ve got someone with perspective, wisdom, and a brilliant sense of humor. And did I mention that he’s still hot? Even hotter than before? I said that, right?

Not to worry. That frown won't leave a wrinkle.

Not to worry. That frown won’t leave a wrinkle.

Johnny Depp. The big difference between RDJ and Johnny Depp? I’m not so sure Johnny is aging. Even as Captain Jack Sparrow, he looks like he’s been around, but he doesn’t really look any older than he did in the 80s. Put that pinup next to something a little more recent, like this shot from Sleepy Hollow. Does it look like time is passing for Johnny at all? The best thing about Johnny is that he’s unpredictable. There’s something weighty and serious behind those dark eyes, and I sometimes wonder if he even knows what he’ll do next. But one thing’s for certain: almost 30 years after 21 Jump Street, he can still put a smile on a teenage girl’s face. (He’ll make a grown woman cry, too, if you’re not careful. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Kiefer Sutherland. I’m going to cheat a little here, since I can’t put my hand on an actual pin up of Kiefer. I know I had one, though. Of all the super cute hotties of high school, he stayed in my locker the

Tiger Beat would tell you what Kiefer is looking at.

Tiger Beat would tell you what Kiefer is looking at.

longest. What can I say? Gentlemen aren’t the only ones who prefer blonds. I supplied a little something from Young Guns, which I’m ashamed to say I have never seen in its entirety. I was more about The Lost Boys, where Kiefer was at his angular, platinum blond best. Hey, if blonds are good, blond bad boys are better. And then, just to hit the hot trifecta, can we talk about that voice? This was a while after the pin-up era, but listening to Kiefer’s super sexy voice giving orders to poor Colin Farrell in Phone Booth — just the thought of that is making me fluttery. Still smoking hot in the present day, Kiefer is right now involved in HeForShe, a gender equality initiative for men and boys standing up for the rights of women and girls. Hot blond bad boy with a sexy voice becomes a hot blond feminist with a sexy voice. I will not be heard to say no to that.

Reunited sure feels good to me! Kiefer and Lou Diamond Phillips look like Young Guns just happened.

Reunited sure feels good to me! Kiefer and Lou Diamond Phillips got back together for ’24.’

So who kept your locker nice and warm back in the day? Rob Lowe? The estimable Marky Mark? Did you get caught up in the Second Coming of the Monkees, like I did? Tell all in the comments.

Be sure to get yourself a copy of Isabelle Drake’s Best Friends Never, for all that delightful teenage drama.

And make sure you’re following Lady Smut.

I am who I am: fiction writer. Why I chose not to use a pen name for my young adult work

8 Apr

By Isabelle Drake

Before signing the contract for Best Friends Never, the first in Cherry Grove, my young adult suspense series, the question of a pen name came up. Since I also write erotic romance, should I use a pen name for my young adult books? Would that be the better? The more I stewed on my eventual answer, the more complex the question became. Here’s how it went.

I started by…um…thinking about myself.bestfriendsnever_800 (1)

If I create a new name, I’ll need to create a whole new online identity and wow… time? Creativity? Rather use those for writing more stories. Besides, the online identity that I do have is not all *that* steamy. I post mostly vintage pics, talk about movies I’ve seen, all “nicer side of naughty” stuff. No worries that YA readers or the YA community will be scandalized by what I post.

Next I thought about YA readers themselves. Will publishing a YA series under the same name as my erotic work be confusing or inappropriate?

Nah. Many YA readers have read 50 Shades, seen the movie and talked to their moms, friends and boyfriends about it. They aren’t shocked by the sex and they’re very thoughtful about the content and the relationship.  Also, there is a long tradition of edgy in young adult books. There are, and have been for decades, many books and movies for the YA audience that have “adult” content. My point, YA readers are already exposed to intense situations, violence, sex, drugs, abuse, in stories. Most importantly, YA readers are savvy, intelligent and sensitive to the complexity of what it is to be human.

Sexuality and the acceptance of non-traditional sexuality is the new wave of human rights. Young people are a big part of this movement. High schools have GLBT student organizations, students are “allowed” to be openly transgender in school, wearing clothes that aren’t traditionally aligned with their physical sexuality (guys wearing dresses, girls wearing boys’ style clothing). This is world we live in, one that is open discussing sex, sexual relationships, and non-traditional roles. Given this reality, most young people, especially those who are likely readers of my YA work, will not be bothered, confused or offended by anything I post or write. In fact, my sincere and open approach to sexual topics would be appreciated.

What about parents?

I asked around, talking to parents, booksellers and librarians. I found out parents are happy to support reading of all types and most don’t place limitations on what their teen reads. Parents are not actively trying to prevent their teenager from being exposed to “adult” books. Teens are “allowed” to read whatever draws their attention, this include adult books of all types. The benefit to a teen being exposed to adult material is that it starts or maintains a dialogue that both the teen and parent are comfortable with. Parents find this extremely beneficial. The parent and teen can discuss what to read and why. When the teen does read something, either a YA book or an adult book, the questions asked by the teen are not, “If I want to drink, have sex or quit school, what would you think of that?” Instead, the questions are “I was reading this book and the character did___. What do you think of that?” These conversations come from the content of books themselves, not from the author who has written them. If a parent is concerned about the content of a book, the concern is applied to a specific book, not to an author.

6a1c4193f5046b3fd2329a80cc12f997Me being me, I did some research. Here’s what I found. Teens typically select their own books. Based on numbers from a 2012 Bowker study, only 12 percent of 28 percent–roughly 3%–of YA books are purchased by adults for YA readers. And, as mentioned above, in instances where an adult does have input on selection, the focus is on the content of the book in question. If the author has written something the parent does not want to teen to read, that conversation is just as welcome and beneficial as the more common ones about the contents of books.

Lastly, I considered the publishing world in general and the YA market in particular.

The line between YA and adult readership is blurring. YA and new adult books sales are rising and not only because teens are reading more. More adults are reading YA books. Consider The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight and the Harry Potter series.

According to the Bowker study:

“More than half the consumers of books classified for young adults aren’t all that young. Fully 55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 – nicknamed YA books — are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44. Accounting for 28 percent of sales, these adults aren’t just purchasing for others — when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78 percent of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading. The insights are courtesy of Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, an ongoing biannual study from Bowker Market Research that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids.”

Even more compelling, and, I imagine, of interest to everyone in the YA book market is this analysis from the same study:

  • The trend is good news for publishers as these adult consumers of YA books are among the most coveted demographic of book consumers overall. Additional insights from the Bowker study show these readers are:
  • Early adopters. More than 40 percent read e-books, equivalent to the highest adoption rates of adult genres of mystery and romance
  • Committed: 71 percent say that if an e-book of their desired title was unavailable, they would buy the print book instead
  • Loyal: Enjoying the author’s previous books has a moderate or major influence over the book choice for more than two-thirds of the respondents
  • Socially active: Although more than half of respondents reported having “no interest” in participating in a reading group, these readers are very active in social networks and often get recommendations from friends.

Consider also, Megan Abbott’s Dare Me and The Fever. These books reflect the trend of blurring the line between YA and adult fiction in both content and marketing. Her books feature YA characters in typical teen settings but are marketed in a way that appeals to both adult and YA readers. This strategy is beneficial to the readers, who get the books the desire and publishers, who enjoy business success.

And so that’s how it went. In the end, I decided that potential readers won’t think, “I don’t want to buy/read that book because Isabelle Drake also writes Fifty Shades type stuff.” In fact, I think it’s the opposite. I think potential readers will think, “Cool, she wrote something for us.”

~~~~~~~

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy–and young adult thrillers. Best Friends Never, is available now, direct from Finch Books. The general release, including paperback, will be April 19.

Because you want more Lady Smut, follow us here and on Facebook. We’re here to rock your world in all the ways you like.

Six Ways Sweet Valley High Lied To Us

1 Apr
Double Love

Photo courtesy of Goodreads and my childhood.

by G.G. Andrew

There are many memories that burn bright in my early days of reading, but few can compete with the day I discovered Sweet Valley High.

As a third grader, I was at a friend’s house when we stepped into her sister’s room and saw a revolving book carousel filled with paperback Sweet Valley books. Those 1980s covers held such pretty, pastel images of handsome guys, pink phones, and two perfect blond twins (with their matching size six bodies, aquamarine eyes, and lavalier necklaces). It was book love at first sight.

A lot of my friends read The Baby-Sitters Club books, but here was something even better. Smuttier. Older girls who drove and french-kissed! Much to my mom’s chagrin, I spent the next couple years devouring the series whenever I could (and even, years later, still read book blurbs to find out what befell my beloved Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield).

But, as much as Sweet Valley has fed my fascination with sisters, opposites, and relationship drama through the years, it wasn’t all that…realistic. Here are six ways Sweet Valley lied to me about love and life:

1.) Kisses don’t always taste like french fries and milkshakes. 
In Sweet Valley, Elizabeth Wakefield’s perfect boyfriend Todd always seemed to be french-kissing her after they left the Dairy Burger, the local hangout. In real life, it’s more likely you’ll be kissed by someone who recently drank a Pabst Blue Ribbon, or just rolled over in bed.

Secrets

Photo courtesy of Goodreads and my desire for that pink phone.

2.) Your flirty and likely evil sister will probably get the guy.
We were supposed to root for Elizabeth in Sweet Valley High, the “good” sister who kept up her grades, worked on the school newspaper, and was kind to all. And Elizabeth usually ended up with the best high school boys. But in real life it’d be Jessica who’d nab all the guys. Sure, Jessica was pretty much a sociopath, but she was a perfect size six too, and she wore bikinis and knew how to flirt.

3.) You don’t get to date the high school basketball star and then the stellar soccer player.
It just won’t happen.

Dear Sister

Photo courtesy of Goodreads and my irrational fear of motorcycles.

4.) If you land in a coma, then come out of it with a temporarily different personality, people aren’t going to let that slide.
Elizabeth Wakefield took an ill-advised ride in her boyfriend’s motorcycle in Dangerous Love, and as a result got into an accident and slipped into a coma–and then somehow woke up with a completely different personality. She flirted shamelessly, she hung out with rich bad boy Bruce Patman, she was irresponsible–shit, she was like Jessica. Then something happened like she got hit on the head again and bam! back to the old Elizabeth, and everybody was happy. But if this ever happens to you in real life, you’ll be lucky to come back with any friends, let alone the star basketball player by your side.

5.) Getting listed in anything resembling a slam book will be more likely to lead to an uglycry, not romance.
Superlatives (“Most popular,” “Most likely to marry”): less likely to start love connections, more likely to ruin your life.
Slam book

6.) That rich, arrogant jerk you knew in high school probably isn’t going to do a 180. 
In a strange followup to the world of Sweet Valley, in 2011 Francine Pascal published Sweet Valley Confidential, an update of the Wakefield twins ten years after high school. Elizabeth and Todd had broken up, and he was now with Jessica, and (spoiler alert) Elizabeth developed feelings for… Bruce Patman? While the pairings were kind of inspired, the book was not so much, and I couldn’t help but think that Bruce probably couldn’t go from alphahole to Nice Guy in ten years. Unless, of course, he had a motorcycle accident that landed him in a coma. Then, as we all know, anything is possible.

 

G.G. Andrew writes quirky romantic comedy–stories about people who fall in love with the most unlikely person, and stumble through some awkward conversations, mistaken identities, and ill-advised kisses along the way. Her latest book is GRAFFITI IN LOVE, a romance between an infamous British graffiti artist and the American woman who hates him. There are no twins in it. Nor, sadly, pink phones.

Cindy Gallop Rocks My World at Romance Festival ’14

8 Jun

By Alexa Day

Cindy Gallop is my hero. If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, you’ve heard me talking about her before. Yesterday, I got to listen to her for an hour at the HarperImpulse Romance Festival, at an electrifying Google Hangout. There’s so much to love about Cindy: she opens the conversation by talking about the younger men she dates, she’s on a mission to put porn and sex into perspective for everyone’s benefit, and she is a strong, confident, savvy, successful businesswoman.

I’m going to touch on just a bit of what she covered in the Hangout, but you can see the whole thing right here on YouTube.

1. Make Love, Not Porn. Cindy developed MLNP upon discovering that her younger partners were drawing their techniques from porn in the absence of other information about sex. MLNP is a video-sharing platform through which participants can upload videos of themselves having real-world sex with their partners, and stream videos posted by others. Even porn stars are into it. Porn stars have real world sex, too, after all, and it isn’t anything like the sex they have at work. (Which makes sense, right?) Cindy recalls the TED talk she gave on MLNP: “I am to this day the only TED speaker ever to utter the words ‘come on my face.'” It took her talk viral, and her project, MLNP, reaped the benefits.

2. Erotic fiction. Sexting is evidence of the written word’s power to excite and arouse in a world that’s often driven by the visual. Cindy sees an opportunity for those of us working in erotic fiction — we can tap an individual reader’s creative vision in a way that porn can’t. She also sees a future in erotica for men. So many men are interested in romance and its erotic components in that context, but society’s prevented them from exploring it. Men don’t want to be locked into an artificial gender construct any more than we women do, Cindy says. Erotic fiction also socializes sex and sexual issues. Fifty Shades of Grey made huge strides in this area; because “everyone” was reading it, everyone was talking about the subject matter.

“Women challenge the status quo because we are never it. That’s uncomfortable for men, but from that discomfort comes greatness.” — Cindy Gallop

3. Women in business. Fear of what others think is paralyzing to businesspeople in general and businesswomen in particular. If we continue to bow to that fear, we “will never own the future,” Cindy says. It’s keeping us from self-promoting — nice girls don’t brag. It’s keeping us from stepping into the spotlight — I’m no expert, I only know 99.9 percent of the subject matter. It’s keeping us from participating in the public forum — I have to be here in the office/at home in case someone needs me. Yes, men are in the majority in the business world, Cindy says, but we are still in our own way, and we have to stop that, for ourselves and for the girls who are watching us work.

4. Porn in perspective (or, your kids have probably already seen it). We would be better served to have even more sex and sexual content in YA books, Cindy says, because kids are being exposed to hard-core porn online at a pretty early age. Like at 8. Or maybe even 6. So many of the issues we have about sex in general can be resolved by opening up, says Cindy. Kids’ exposure to porn is no different. The new ‘sex talk’ means saying that not everyone does do the things you’re seeing out there. Some people really like the sorts of things you’re seeing, but others really don’t. Everyone’s different. Parents need more resources to really have this dialogue, and YA literature can supply those resources.

There’s still lots of Romance Festival left. Keep it here for all the hot updates and highlights … you know, if you’re not at the Festival yourself. Which you should be.

Romance and Young Readers

2 May

Shape Of My Heart by Kemberlee Shortland - 500by C. Margery Kempe

You may have heard that ‘New Adult’ is all the rage now, eclipsing even Young Adult; I don’t know about that. Marketing terms can be hard to parse exactly, but there’s no doubt about one thing: books aimed at younger readers are selling like hot cakes — and who doesn’t want to be young again? The appeal of romance to young readers is taken up by our guest, Kemberlee Shortland, writer of the Irish Pride series. She’s also head of one of my publishers, Tirgearr!

Take it away, Kem!

I was recently asked what age I thought was too young for reading romance novels. My first inclination was to say at least 16. But then I got to thinking, what was the first romance novel I read and how old was I? I started reading romance when I was 13 but really, it was probably earlier. 

I distinctly remember buying my first romance novel and knowing it was romance. That was in 1981 when I was 16; the book was Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux. I was an early reader though and thought romances were adventure stories. I can’t remember titles or authors prior to Deveraux, but I do remember being captivated by tales set on the high seas, wagons crossing the prairie, or epics taking place in far off places. I was a young woman on the brink of adulthood and where I’d previously ignored the intimate scenes of the characters, I was now intrigued by them. 

The question of how old a girl should be before being allowed to read romances has long been asked. Friends who started reading romance at a young age say, “The sex? I just turned the pages until the next action scene started.” Secretly, we read the mushy stuff because we were all growing up. Sex was something we didn’t understand. We read romances to see how the whole boy-girl thing worked. Sex Ed classes were basic and focused on the physical rather than emotional. What romance did for young girls was introduce us to the emotional. We craved the knowledge of a real loving relationship. We giggled over the purple prose, but we were growing up, and we wanted boyfriends! 

The publishing industry recognized this need in the market and started publishing books like Ann Brashares’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume, Jenny O’Connell . . . even V.C. Andrews. And more recently, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. These authors focus on relationships and emotional attachments of love while giving us great adventure. 

So what age is too young for romance? Only a parent can answer that question, especially romance with graphic sex. But if you ask me, given a choice of books about love or war, the adventure of life over quests filled with horror, I’ll pick love and adventure every time. 

And secretly, I still giggle over the purple prose — even when I’m writing them! 

 What was your first romance?

Irish Pride Series

Irish Pride Series
Available April 2014

 

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