A cozy, open-hearted, shameless look at the best and most interesting romantic TV shows, movies and books reflecting a particular trope or theme each episode. There's too much shaming of romance, and I'm here to right that wrong! You can learn about a lot about yourself and your desires by enjoying romance in all its forms, so I'll be your extremely enthusiastic, gushing companion as we take a look at the wide variety of hopeful, compelling stories that this genre has to offer.
Advice Romance Part 1: Romance Road Test
In the next couple of episodes I take a look at advice romance: fictional advice in a contemporary romance and a romcom set at radio stations, real life online advice, and a smart, funny new podcast called Romance Road Test.
What will pull these couples closer together--or push them apart? In Romance Road Test, good friends Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg put romance hacks to the test in their marriages.
The show is a spin-off of their long-running, popular By the Book podcast. How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books synthesizes lessons learned from hosting the show.
Here's a nice round up of some of the best female online advice columnists in modern times. Not all of the columns are still running, and some have changed hands, but the archives are a treasure trove. Bye-bye Dear Abby.
"I implore you to do everything you can to connect yourself to peers and professionals who will offer you support and guidance. Doing so won’t likely make you feel great in one day. You might not even feel great in a year. But you’re going to feel a whole f**k of a lot better, I can promise you that. There isn’t any reason for you to be alone in this, dear one. You are not alone. There are so many people out there who will nod their heads in understanding and recognition when you tell them all the things you just told me."
Cheryl Strayed is one of the best online advice columnists. Her long-running Dear Sugar (not Ask Sugar as I said in the episode) is a modern classic for a reason.
Heather Havrilesky has gathered her Ask Polly columns into a book How to be a Person in the World: Ask Polly's Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life and that's not an overpromise. Her writing is vulnerable, sometimes raw, wise and full of compassion for herself and others, so chock-full of insight on the thorny issues of life, that I have bookmarked the majority of them. She narrates the audiobook and it's fantastic.
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Bedroom Therapy: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande/The Sessions
Sometimes what you need is a deeper connection, some bedroom therapy, a sexual experience full of healing. And sometimes that means going to the experts — at least those skillfully played by actors. I'm joined by friend of the podcast Diana and former sex worker John S. to help break down fantasy vs. reality and explore these fictional journeys to sexual fulfillment.
I think anyone over a certain age who still desires healthy sexual experiences will feel the bittersweet emotional journey of Good Luck to You, Leo Grande right down to their soul. It's an intimate chamber piece that packs a quiet emotional punch. The incredible performances by Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack give this movie its emotional force.
It's hard to describe the funny, touching and uplifting emotional tone of The Sessions but there isn't a drop of pity to be found anywhere. The performances byJohn Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H Macy aren't showy but they're exceptional.
"Sexual surrogacy is a therapeutic practice designed to help a person become more comfortable with sex, their body, and/or the emotional and physical skills they need for intimacy." Sounds like a lot of us could use that kind of therapy.
The market for male sex services has tripled in the last five years, according to one study. If my reaction is anything to go by, I'm thinking Leo Grande might now increase those numbers.
“It turns into a relationship,” a male escort says, “even if it’s only for one night.” Mmmmmm. The Sex That Women Want When It's Costing Them $400 an Hour: Eight Surprising Things You Can Learn from Male Escorts by Men's Health magazine.
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Quick Take: Fire Island
Happy Pride Month! Squeaking just under the wire with a quick take on this frothy, fun gay retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in that historic LGBTQ+ summer destination, Fire Island in New York. What a sunny, cute, romantic romp of a romcom this is!
There's more than a touch of Boogie Nights in the look of Fire Island.
Joel Kim Booster talked to Variety about how the movie was developed. His favorite romcoms are My Best Friend's Wedding and Clueless, so the guy knew how to put together a solid retelling.
Here's a taste of Joel Kim Booster's stand up. He's adorable, even when he's making fun of difficult topics.
Fire Island’s queer literary history is fascinating, starting with Oscar Wilde visiting Cherry Grove in the late 19th century.
Fire Island has a National Seashore and here is a bit more about its fascinating history stretching back to the 1700s. It has a few structures on the National Register of Historic Places, and a long history with pirates and shipwrecks.
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Hot for Teacher: Romance in Academia
School's out for summer! I was a nerd and school and libraries were my happy places. Intellectualism, books and words were my religion. So it's no surprise that I'm a sucker for romances set in academia. The age gap and power difference tropes can be difficult to handle well but some romances manage to walk that fine line while bringing all of the absurd humor and steamy romance.
Passionflix ("we find the most passionate content to satisfy our viewers") is like the Hallmark Channel for those who like their romance spicy and steamy. They adapt best-selling romance novels into original content and since the company is run by a woman and the films are mostly written and directed by women, movies that emphasize the female gaze are their specialty.
This trailer for Gabriel's Inferno is like a mini-telenovela, in all the best ways. Have an icy drink nearby.
There's more than a touch of Jane Austen's Emma, that novel of "young hubris and romantic misunderstandings" in the plot of Maggie's Plan. I love its brutally real modern exploration of the intersection--or not--of mothering, romance, commitment and career, all from a female perspective.
The name of Ethan Hawke's TED talk is "Give Yourself Permission to Be Creative." I absolutely love that he's sitting in a bar with string lights all around giving this "talk" which is more like a conversation. He's just too down to earth to wear that headset on a stage. This is the best nine minutes you'll ever spend.
I've only read the first Gabriel's Inferno book and while it isn't the best written romance I've ever read, it's definitely one of the most sexy and unforgettable, full of the juiciest, slightly naughty romantic tropes. Gabriel is an irresistible Stern Brunch Daddy.
When a student accidentally leaves a story in an essay assignment, detailing her most private and erotic fantasies, it could have meant total humiliation. Instead, The Professor is impressed with her talent and presents her with a choice that includes private tuition at his home. Whewwwww. Charlotte Stein writes steamy romances in a witty, elegant literary style that's pure catnip to me.
If you can't get enough of romance set in academia, Goodreads has assembled a good list. Some of the books feature large age gap tropes, so definitely check the descriptions if that isn't your thing. The Kiss Quotient and Only When It's Us aren't hot for teacher stories, but they feature a university setting and they're fabulous.
Charlotte Brontë even wrote her own version of academic love.
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YA Nerds in Love: Along for the Ride/Dash and Lily/Never Have I Ever
I'm tired of the grown-up world! Give me whipsmart, funny teens having adventures, falling in love and exploring how to navigate young adulthood — teaching the grown-ups in their lives a few lessons along the way. They're the inspiration I need right now.
Along for the Ride is the most warm-hearted, tender story about one of the biggest milestones in a teen's life. It's based on the best-selling novel by Sarah Dessen and written by screenwriter Sofia Alvarez, who also adapted the YA novel To All the Boys I've Loved Before for the screen.
Yeah I'm all grown up but I was thoroughly sucked into the story of Dash and Lily. The clue treasure hunt! The diary entries! Dash's distraction from his lonely Christmas! Lily finding her intellectual equal! The will they or won't they like each other in person! This is my idea of a perfect holiday story.
Sex Education has gotten a green light for a fourth season, which is good news because I feel like these students are my friends — despite the fact that they get lucky more than I ever have in my entire life.
High school sophomore Devi has a newly awakened libido that she's dying to try out in the hilarious Never Have I Ever. Co-created and co-written by Mindy Kaling, loosely based on her teen years, the series is full of her trademark vulnerable, warm-hearted hilarity. The third season debuts this summer.
I've covered Cyrano de Bergerac retellings in previous episodes and The Half of It, from writer-director Alice Wu, is one of the very best.
What do you do when you're a teen angry about the gender status quo? If you're the daughter of a former punk activist, you create your own radical feminist zine at your high school. That's Moxie! Directed by and starring Amy Poehler, with a screenplay adapted from the 2015 novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu, this show is comedy, a takedown of patriarchy and social commentary in one.
Enola Holmes is the teen sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, and she's inherited the family talent for solving whodunnits. When her eccentric mother goes missing, she enlists her brothers' help in tracking her down. Millie Bobby Brown as Enola is a smart, spirited wonder, and Henry Cavill in 19th century coats and cravats is pure hotness.
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Quick Take: Gentleman Jack
An announcement, and a quick take on the BBC/HBO co-production Gentleman Jack. This show is regency-adjacent romance reimagined, reflecting sexual identities hidden at the time, turning the period into an era where all love stories were represented and accepted. From the production and writing to the ensemble acting, it's thrilling delight.
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I'm only partway through S1 so this Gentleman Jack trailer thrills me down to my toes. I can't wait to see Anne find love and come into her own as a talented industrialist landowner. You can binge the complete S1 on Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBOMax. S2 is airing right now on HBOMax.
More on the fascinating life of Anne Lister who lived in Halifax, West Yorkshire "... tucked into the foothills of the Pennine mountains in the north of England, the location of such well-known and beloved stories as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Secret Garden."
I found out that director/writer Sally Wainwright is from Yorkshire as well and created two of my favorite UK TV shows of the last 20 years, Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax!
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I really like this podcast. It isn't just about romantic novels, but also romance movies and TV shows. Each episode ties into a theme, and Poppy also adds in links to videos related to the movies/shows or the book links. I really like that, so I can explore the titles some more. This is a sweet indulgence.
Super fun and insightful!
The podcast is a great mix of fun and insightful commentary on everything along the spectrum of love and romantic story telling. Just a delight!
Charming, Lovely, Beautiful.
Her voice, enthusiasm and stories drew me I. and kept me listening and smiling throughout. I can’t wait to hear more!