A few years ago, my dad was busted by the cops for using an online forum to solicit escorts. The arrest and infidelity destroyed his marriage to my mom. My brother and I were in our mid-teens at the time and were angry enough with him that we asked him to not seek custody. He obliged, and neither of us has seen him since. I miss my dad—or the man I thought he was. I know part of my anger comes from how badly he hurt my mom. As I mature, I'm wondering if I was unfair to my dad by cutting off all contact. I don't think sex work is immoral. I don't think people who see sex workers are bad. But because my dad was involved in this bust, and because I had to become aware of the double life he led, I felt uncomfortable around him. It doesn't help that some of the girls were not much older than I was at the time. I think I'd like to get to know my dad again, but I'm not sure what kind of relationship I'm ready to have. He was a wonderful father—and on some level, I recognize I cut him off when he showed me he was human. How do I reach out to him?
Each of us is a writhing mass of contradictions, PH. We all have public personas and private personas, and there are always gaps between the two. And while those gaps, when exposed, can be mutually negating, that's not always the case. It is possible for someone to be a good dad and a shitty husband. The good dad you knew your dad to be? That wasn't a lie. It was one of your father's truths. That he failed as a husband and hurt your mom—with an assist from laws criminalizing sex work—is another of your father's truths.
You don't say why your dad was seeking sex outside the marriage, PH, and I can't imagine that was a conversation you wanted to have with your dad in your mid-teens—and it may not be one you ever want to have. But it's possible your parents' marriage was more complicated than you know. ("The victim of an affair is not always the victim of the marriage," as Esther Perel says.) But you're not an awful daughter for refusing to see your dad during a contentious, confusing, and most likely humiliating time. (I imagine there was press).
As for how to reach out, I think e-mail is the best way to reestablish contact after an estrangement. You can take your time crafting what you want to say, and your dad can take his time crafting a response. And you've already written a good opening line for your first e-mail to your dad: "I'd like to get to know my dad again, but I'm not sure what kind of relationship I'm ready to have. But I'd like to start talking—via e-mail, for now."
Give your mother a heads up, PH, so she doesn't feel blindsided. Good luck.
I'm a female masochist and super subby—I see nothing wrong with that. For the last couple of months, I've been pursuing "death wish" fantasies. When I start feeling low, I seek out guys on hookup sites who are sadistic enough that they might potentially help me carry it out. I've even gone so far as to put together a "blackmail package" for them, in case they start feeling like I might tell on them. I honestly wouldn't want anyone to get in trouble just because I'm not thinking right. My therapist knows about the masochist end of things, but I'm afraid to tell her this other part because I don't want to be put on any crazy pills. Is there a way for me to switch my brain from thinking about this and somehow find my way back to normal BDSM or something else entirely without turning off my sexuality completely?
Rather Not Say My Name
There are fantasies that are simply too dangerous to realize, RNSMN, even with a willing victim/sub and a reckless perp/Dom. And any person who pushes a woman's "death wish" fantasy into potentially-carrying-it-out territory deserves whatever trouble comes their way. Murder is wrong, even if the person wants it. And taking advantage of someone who clearly isn't in their right mind doesn't magically make manslaughter not criminal—"blackmail package" or no "blackmail package."
You must open up to your therapist about the risks you're taking, RNSMN. Some people with extreme and/or dangerous sexual obsessions have been successfully treated with talk therapy and low-dose antidepressants—meds, not "crazy pills." A good therapist and/or the right low-dose medication could help you find your way back to safer and saner BDSM practices without shutting off your sexuality completely.
I'm a woman in my early 30s having sex with a guy in his early 20s. The sex is more than casual, and we really care about each other. My concern is this guy has some alt-right sympathies that reveal themselves in our political discussions. He's a Trump guy, but hesitates to admit it because he knows I'm anti-Trump. He shares memes created by Mike Cernovich and Milo Yiannopoulos, he gets his news from hard-right publications, and his sister and brother-in-law are Holocaust deniers. This concerns and confuses me because he's such a sweet guy and, honestly, so goddamn good in bed. He might be the best lay I've ever had. I can't reconcile these two sides of him, but I also can't help trying to enlighten him a little bit. One of his best features is his open-mindedness. He's read books and watched documentaries I've recommended. I feel a responsibility to this young, confused, and frankly not-too-bright person who's surrounded by bad influences. I want to be understanding and gently guide him in a better direction, but sometimes his ignorance is aggravating. I can also sense that he's beginning to feel a little judged, which can only make things worse. I keep thinking of your Campsite Rule, and I wonder at what point does one give up throwing logic and articles at someone who thought Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor? Can I continue to have sex with someone who thinks the left is conspiring to turn everyone communist?
Don't fuck Nazis.
If someone you just met tells you they're a Nazi, don't fuck that Nazi. If you're already fucking someone and they reveal themselves to be a Nazi, stop fucking that Nazi. If someone tells you they're a Nazi and you fuck that Nazi anyway and keep fucking that Nazi because they're good at sex (for a Nazi), your effort to "gently guide" that Nazi away from being a Nazi doesn't make it okay for you to fuck that Nazi.
Okay, okay: This guy might not be a Nazi at all—although it sure as fuck sounds like his family is, and they probably have more influence over him than you do. It's possible this young, confused, and not-too-bright boy is merely a Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist and maybe I'm still too upset about Charlottesville to be impartial. Or, hey, maybe this guy is already a Nazi and hasn't revealed the full extent of his odious political beliefs to you, CL, because the sex is good and he's hoping to fuck the Nazi into you before you can fuck the Nazi out of him.
Finally, good people don't worry about making Nazis "feel judged." Nazis should be judged—à la Judgment at Nuremberg, an old film with a feel-good ending that's worth watching right about now. Another thing good people don't do? They don't fuck Nazis.
On the Lovecast, women in gay bars—we have a problem: savagelovecast.com.
L keeps saying she has a good feeling about this, but I had a good feeling about the other one right up until I didn't, so I am not doing any premature celebrating at this point. I mean, I think last time everything went so smoothly and I was basically carried along feeling incredulous and lucky and we saw how that worked out so. Back to cautious optimism and trying to manage expectations. And looking at potential furniture and paint colors, of course.
Gosh, the carpeting is so bad. I mean, first of all, I don't like carpeting but secondly, why white shag? why brown? These are not appealing (to me, and given that the apartment was still available when I got to it, to a lot of other people). If you are trying to sell your apartment, maybe make better aesthetic choices! Don't even get me started on the number of really terrible photos I've seen. I realize that taking pictures is a skill, so if you don't have it, find someone who does to take your pictures and then - protip! - upload them in the right orientation. I closed out of so many potential listings because the photos were a. terrible and b. rotated 90° counterclockwise, making them impossible to parse without a lot of neck craning. Don't do that!
I mean, re: the ugly carpeting: I'll have money left to rip it up and sand/polish/seal the wood floors beneath, but I've seen apartments in the same neighborhood and price range that already had that done, and they look so much nicer. *hands*
Anyway, now the seller just has to sign and we can officially be "in contract" and move on to the next step in the process.
I'm so sleepy. I want to go home. All day I've thought it was Wednesday and that I would be off work for 6 days (I'm taking Thurs/Fri/Mon/Tues off), but no, it's only Tuesday. Stupid Tuesday. Always the worst.
Thanks to everyone who made their way to Flame Con 2017! Every reader I met was incredibly enthusiastic and positive, and as always, it’s an honor. Talking to you guys in person is my favorite part of conventions. A reader requested a sketch of Parse in their copy of Check, Please: Year Two so there you go! Parse says “thanks!”
My next conventions are STAPLE in Austin, TX Sept 9th & 10th and SPX in Bethesda, MD Sept 16th & 17th!
This HaBO is from Seraph, who wants to find a historical romance based on some limited details:
This might probably be a long shot since I never actually even read the book…
It’s definitely a historical romance/regency novel. The only main thing I remember is that they’re using a book about the art of war, but applying it to courtship instead. I believe it’s the heroine using it to make the duke/earl/marquess fall for her, but not 100% sure.
I’m unsure if the book is strategy-based or is actually The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
If the Duke Demands
If the Duke Demands by Anna Harrington is $2.99! This is the first book in the Capturing the Carlisles. Readers loved the mistaken identity element that kicks of the hero and heroines deal to help each other woo other people. Though readers warn that the hero does kiss another woman, which I know some readers don’t like.
A LESSON IN SEDUCTION . . .
Miranda Hodgkins has only ever wanted one thing: to marry Robert Carlisle. And she simply can’t wait a moment longer. During the Carlisle family masquerade ball, Miranda boldly sneaks into his bedchamber with seduction on her mind. Soon she’s swept into rock-hard arms for the most breathtaking kiss of her life. But when the masks come off, she’s horrified to find herself face-to-face with Sebastian, the Duke of Trent—Robert’s formidable older brother.
Shocked to find Miranda in his bed, Sebastian quickly offers her a deal to avoid scandal: He’ll help her win his brother’s heart if she’ll find him the perfect wife. But what begins as a simple negotiation soon spirals out of control. For the longer this reformed rake tries to make a match for Miranda, the more he wants to keep her all to himself.
The Duke of Deception
The Duke of Deception by Darcy Burke is 99c! This is the third book in The Untouchables series, but it can be read as a standalone. Readers loved that the heroine wanted nothing to do with marriage and actively tried to avoid it, but others said the book has some pacing issues. It has a 4.1-star rating on Goodreads.
After five years on the Marriage Mart, Miss Aquilla Knox is ready for spinsterhood until a benefactress steps in to help her secure a husband. Only Aquilla doesn’t actually want to marry—her failure is entirely on purpose. When the earl she’s nicknamed the Duke of Deception sets his sights on her, she refuses to be drawn in by her attraction to him. If there’s one thing she knows it’s that a gentleman is never what he seems.
Edward Bishop, Earl of Sutton, has a reputation for courting young misses and dropping them without a second thought. This has earned him a reputation for deceit, a description he can’t refute because he does in fact, harbor secrets and will do anything—deceive anyone—to ensure they don’t come to light. As he comes to know the charming Miss Knox, his resolve is tested. However, trust comes at a price and Ned won’t pay with his heart.
The Art of Sinning
The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries is $3.99! This historical romance came out last summer and is the first in a new series. Readers loved the pairing of an American artists and a London heiress. However, a few reviewers mentioned that this lacks the passion and pace of Jeffries’ previous titles. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads and several more books of hers are available for $3.99 or less.
American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.
No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?
Slouch Witch by Helen Harper is 99c at Amazon! This urban fantasy looks all sorts of fun and I’ll definitely be buying it. Readers say it’s on the lighter side of urban fantasy, but others wanted more of a mystery to create some forward momentum. Anyone else interested?
Hard Work Will Pay Off Later. Laziness Pays Off Now.
Let’s get one thing straight – Ivy Wilde is not a heroine. In fact, she’s probably the last witch in the world who you’d call if you needed a magical helping hand. If it were down to Ivy, she’d spend all day every day on her sofa where she could watch TV, munch junk food and talk to her feline familiar to her heart’s content.
However, when a bureaucratic disaster ends up with Ivy as the victim of a case of mistaken identity, she’s yanked very unwillingly into Arcane Branch, the investigative department of the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment. Her problems are quadrupled when a valuable object is stolen right from under the Order’s noses.
It doesn’t exactly help that she’s been magically bound to Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter. He might have piercing sapphire eyes and a body which a cover model would be proud of but, as far as Ivy’s concerned, he’s a walking advertisement for the joyless perils of too much witch-work.
And if he makes her go to the gym again, she’s definitely going to turn him into a frog.
This book is on sale at:
I found this wonderful dancer with a hoop--and this young man doing same..
This HaBO comes from Lindsay and she’s searching for a bonkers, time-travel historical romance:
I’ve been looking for this one for a while now. I read it about five years ago on my B&N Nook, and have been back through every book in my account and cannot find it, so I’m hoping someone out there knows what it is.
Our heroine, whose name I don’t remember, falls in love with the laird of the castle (maybe early to mid-nineteenth century?). I’m pretty sure his name was Ian/Iain. I don’t remember how, but she somehow gets sucked back in time at the magic castle and winds up in prehistoric Scotland, where she shacks up with a caveman in a village that sounds a lot like Skara Brae. She’s really into Mr. Caveman, but also desperately misses Laird Ian-What’s-His-Name, and when Mr. Caveman has to go to war, he sends her back to the nineteenth century. Obviously, our heroine has some ‘splainin’ to do, and she and the Laird reach a Laird-Caveman/Time-travel-time-share agreement, which both dudes–who never meet– seem weirdly cool with.
Like I said, this one is like a crazysauce-covered sundae, and I would love to find it again.
I’m kind of a sucker for love triangles turning into super cool triads.
This is maybe oddly specific and I imagine fairly low-stakes, but I genuinely have no idea how to handle it. My boyfriend and I are both busy people, and planning time together can take some doing. We live together, so while we do see one another a bunch in passing, it’s rare to have a genuine night in or a date. He is also a lot more spontaneous than I am; I’m a planner, mostly because I work a lot more hours than he does and also in part because having a rough sketch of what my next week looks like helps me manage my diagnosed anxiety.
Here’s the issue – oftentimes, I’ll really be looking forward to spending some time with him (may be structured or unstructured) but he will, at the last minute, essentially ask to cancel. Oftentimes it’s stuff that I’m invited to, too, but here are some examples:
1. At the last minute, his sister called and could we go have dinner with his family that night? Bonus points if I’ve already started cooking dinner for us (“can you just freeze it or use it tomorrow?”)
2. He got a text from the softball team he subs for, and they urgently need one more tonight or they need to forfeit.
3. His friend is in town for the weekend unexpectedly and he wants to hang out – since we’re just chilling at home/the corner bar is it cool if he and his girlfriend tag along?
4. His coworker ended up with an extra ticket to [sport/concert] and he just has one but it’s tonight only.
Like I said, in all but the last example he does invite me to tag along, but it really throws me. I’m not exactly introverted, and I do like to socialize in groups, but it really changes the character of our plans and can be a major re-adjustment of the dynamic – group vs. solo, going out vs. staying in, getting a chance to talk to him vs. spending most of the night watching him play a sport. Sometimes I feel like the third wheel to my own date night. I also feel like it’s a lot of extra effort to re-arrange things at the last minute and I usually shoulder that.
To be clear, it’s not a double standard. He is really laid-back and rolls with the punches, and any time I do have to change plans for my own reasons he takes it totally in stride. Also, it’s super apparent through our years of relationship that this is the way he was raised. His family seldom plan anything more than a day in advance, usually less.
Here’s the issue:
1. His position is that, since we live together, we can *always* reschedule or easily spend time together whereas the things that come up are usually time-sensitive or urgent (friend is in town just one night! team is in danger of forfeiting!). My position is that this happens often enough that I feel like I’m constantly being moved down the priority list and taken for granted. Also, I don’t have time to make a back-up plan for myself so if I beg off because the new plan doesn’t sound especially fun I’m effectively ditched.
2. His additional position is that, well, he is just asking and I have ultimate veto power. If I say no, he won’t do it. My position is that, by putting out there that he has this unique and time-sensitive opportunity and asking to do that instead, he’s putting me in the position of having to tell him “no, don’t do this thing you’d rather do – hang out with me, which you can do anytime.” It’s uncomfortable, and I’d rather not have the weight of his experience on my shoulders.
The (very!) few times I have said I’d rather we stuck to our original plan, to his credit he hasn’t complained or sulked or made me the bad guy to his friends. He’s taken it pretty much in stride.
But I still don’t like it, and I’m having a hard time finding words for why this feels unfair and crummy. He’s right that he’s just asking, and he’s also right that we see a lot of each other albeit incidentally. But what I’d like to see if occasionally for him to just say, “hey, sorry – we have plans already” to his friends without putting it on me. I’d like him to feel like our time together is an important enough commitment that it’s not on the same tier as “free time” in his calendar.
But it’s not getting through, and I often end up sounding like I want him to read my mind (“how was I supposed to know you wouldn’t want to without asking you?”). How do I articulate this in a way that still leaves room for who he is as a person (to be clear, sometimes I love his spontaneity!)? How do I manage this without being too high maintenance? To be fair, I can see how sometimes I say yes when I mean no and then end up resentfully picking a fight, which isn’t especially cool of me.
Thank you for reading my letter. She/her pronouns, please.
It’s easy in a long-term relationship where you live together to fall into the pattern of “Why should we gotta make the plans when I can see you any old time?”
It’s also easy to fall into the idea that Group Social Time counts as Together Time if he is there and you are there, and I know I’ve personally had to make it clear that “Hey being invited to be a spectator at your band practice is not the same thing as a date, hard pass btw, call me when you’re actually free.” Go in peace, hot-yet-oblivious-bass-playing-almost-
My first suggestion is I think you should start taking your dude at his word and saying “I’d prefer we just continue with our solo evening, is that cool?” when you don’t want to change plans. At least sometimes! Like, family dinners are great, and family dinners can also come with 24 hours notice or else he might have to miss one because he has other plans (plans with you). If his claim is that he’d be cool if you said no is true, then see if he’s actually cool when you say no. You say he usually is, and if he continues to be, that’s good information. If he starts “resentfully picking a fight” when you say no that’s also good information.
My second suggestion is to ask him to clarify his question when he asks. “Are you asking me if I’d like hang out with your friend who is in town or telling me that you really want to hang out with your friend who is in town?” Get him to own the fact that it’s not just a simple question. Depending on how he responds, you can respond with what works best for you, like, “Can you and I have dinner together, just the two of us, and then you can peel off afterward and meet them?” or “Hey, I’m out, but go and have fun!” or “Sure, the more the merrier!”
I think the thing that’s bugging you is that he’s checking in with you to ask you what you think when it’s clear that he wants to go do the other thing. He says it’s a real “ask” situation but you don’t feel like it is, and right now, “Love, is it cool if my friends join us for drinks tonight?” = “My friends will be joining us for drinks tonight.” It would be more honest if he said “Babe, I can’t make dinner tonight, I gotta go play softball or we’ll forfeit” rather than going through the rigamarole of asking you thereby putting you in the role of Chief Timecop and Funkiller.
You say sometimes you feel like a third wheel to your own date night and you sometimes get resentful and pick fights. My third suggestion is, when date-plans turn into group plans, don’t go. You know you don’t like it except on rare occasions, so, turn “Sure, it would be cool if we all went together…I guess” into “Not for me, but you go and have fun!” and then stay home and do something else.
Fourth suggestion: If you do say yes to changing plans, can you add a request to reschedule right then? You say that you’re doing a lot of work of re-accommodating things, so, can you explicitly place that work on him? “Okay, cool, have fun. When you get home tonight, can we put something else on the calendar for just you and me?” His logic is that you can always reschedule something with each other, and yours is for that to happen on the actual space-time continuum it needs to be scheduled.
Fifth suggestion: Your letter is crying out for a regular, sacred Date Night, something where you both agree that On Tuesdays We Hang Out Together Come What May, and you both agree to say “that sounds great but I have plans” about any other plans that come up during that time window unless it’s a true emergency (involving a hospital) or a fun emergency (“I know we said dinner at home but I have Hamilton tickets, meet me at 7“).
The script for asking for a reset is “I am happier when I know that I will get at least one evening/week where it’s just you and me at home together and when I can put it on my calendar in advance as a done deal to look forward to. And it does bug me when we carve this out and then you want to bail. I feel like the bad guy who is holding you back from a fun thing if I say no, but I get annoyed if I say yes and now my evening that I looked forward to and carved out of my schedule to spend with you is shot. I want to make room to be flexible and spontaneous, but it would mean a lot to me if you would treat x, y, z as pre-existing plans that we have together that can’t be ditched so easily.”
And then ask him what he thinks would fix it. “Do you have any ideas for how this can work better?” “In a perfect world, how could we fix this so there is some room to be spontaneous but we also make sure that we put each other first?”
Sixth, I know I say this a lot, but make sure you are getting some time for yourself and that you have time & room to nurture your other social relationships. If you institute Date Night Taco Tuesdays over time you can also institute Go Have Fun & Give Me The House To Myself Fridays or Saturday Morning Best Friend Pancakes. It sounds like you’re busy and as a result a lot of your social units are couple social units. Make sure there’s something in there just for you.
Seventh, do what you can to delete the idea that having needs and desires inside a relationship makes you “high-maintenance.” What can survive without maintenance? “Boyfriend, I feel like I work hard to set time aside in my schedule for you, and when you keep rescheduling me or telling me that we can always hang out later, it hurts my feelings, can we figure this out together” is not the utterance of some witch-harpy-fury-gorgon-insert the scary mythological being of your choice*- hybrid, ok? These are normal human feelings and they are important because they are yours and they are real. ❤
*Friend-of-Blog Jess Zimmerman is writing an awesome series about female monsters at Catapult these days. Collect them all!
It is now time for the summer Captain Awkward Dot Com pledge drive, where I shake the tip jar in the general direction of all of you kind readers. If you like what I do here and are able to support the work, please visit my Patreon page or make a donation via PayPal or Cash.me. Thanks to your support, we’ve made the blog ad-free. My next goal is to take a sabbatical from teaching in 2018 and work on a CaptainAwkward book and other writing projects. Every little bit counts, and I’m grateful for it.
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare is a fairytale Regency that blends Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella and Batman.
Seriously. And it’s amazing.
I actually read it twice. The first time I was at home on a Friday night, enjoying a few rum and Cokes and unwinding. Apparently I can have exactly two drinks before I start loving everything and then forgetting I loved it.
I woke up the next morning surprised to see that Drunk Elyse gave it five stars on Goodreads because I didn’t remember the end. I opened it up to a random chapter and was like, “Who the fuck is Trevor?”
So I read it again. But Drunk Elyse was right the first time. The Duchess Deal is full of Feels, and a hero who has his head up his ass, but is not completely oblivious to it. And it’s laugh-out-loud funny.
Emma Gladstone was kicked out of the house by her vicar father when she was found having sex with a young man. She walked all the way to London on a frozen winter night (losing a toe in the process) and pieced her life back together as a seamstress.
When the book opens she’s just completed the wedding dress for the Duke of Ashbury’s bride-to-be; unfortunately the wedding was canceled and Emma shows up at the Duke’s door to demand payment for the dress she spent so much time on.
Ash pays her, and offers her another deal as well. He was horribly wounded when a rocket went off near him at Waterloo, and as a result one side of his body and face is badly scarred. His fiancée broke their engagement off when she saw his injuries, and now he’s torn between wanting to spend his time brooding in the dark and knowing that he still needs an heir.
So he proposes to Emma. Sort of.
He sets the rules:
- They will have sex at night – no lights, no kissing – until she produces an heir.
- She and said heir will then go live in the country completely apart from Ash.
- She will not ask about his scars or touch them or even think about them too hard.
Emma agrees because she doesn’t feel like dying in poverty when she gets old and her eyesight fails and she can’t sew anymore, but she immediately goes about making their marriage an actual partnership rather than the nonsense he’s proposing.
I love it when a hero is being all broody and struggling with his man-feels and the heroine is like, “Right, you can go sulk in the corner if you want, but I’ve got stuff to do.”
He’s all like “Look at my horrible, monstrous visage!” and she’s all, “They’re scars dude, chill the fuck out. You’re upsetting the cat.”
Emma is never appalled or frightened by Ash’s appearance. She accepts it almost immediately and as she begins to fall in love with him, it barely registers. It’s Ash who can’t move past the way he looks.
And while Ash does spend time sulking, he’s still pretty upbeat all the things considered. I got the impression that he liked the idea of being a monster rather than actually being one.
Like the rest of Dare’s books, The Duchess Deal is full of snappy banter and teasing and moments of utter and delightful silliness.
Such as feline interuptus. Emma and Ash are about to consummate their marriage when Ash senses an intruder in the room:
How the devil had someone slipped in?
Never mind, he told himself. That question could wait. The more pressing inquiry at hand was this: How was he going to kill the bastard? He mentally ran through the available weapons in the room. The fireplace poker would be most effective, but was out of reach. The sash of his dressing gown could make a decent garrote, in a pinch.
If needed, he’d fight hand-to-hand. His only concern was keeping Emma safe.
He rolled to his side and came to his knees, putting his body between her and the threat. “You have three seconds to leave the way you came,” he ordered. “Or I vow to you, I will snap your craven, knavish neck.”
The intruder struck first, leaping forward with a fiendish yowl.
Something that felt like a dozen razor-sharp barbs pierced straight through his nightshirt, digging into his shoulder and arm. He gave a stunned shout of pain.
Emma flung back the bedclothes. “Breeches! Breeches, no!”
Claws. Teeth. Hissing.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance novel yet where the hero and heroine have been interrupted by their pet, which is wild because I’m pretty sure everyone with a cat or dog has experienced this delight.
I also liked the fact that even though Ash spends a fair amount of time having a pity party for himself, he’s still pretty aware of the people around him and he’s never intentionally hurtful.
In this scene he and Emma are preparing to go to the theatre (a huge step for him):
She remained at the top of the staircase, hesitant. Well, and why wouldn’t she be. She was about to go out in public accompanied by a hideous monster in evening attire. One who flung hats and walking sticks about at random intervals.
“If you’d rather not,” he said, “it’s all the same to me. I’ve a report from the Yorkshire estate to look over.”
“Would you prefer to stay home?”
“Only if you prefer it.”
“I want to go. I should say, I’d hate to waste Mary’s efforts.” She touched a gloved hand to her hair.
What a horse’s ass he was. She wasn’t hesitating because she was concerned about his appearance. She was waiting for him to compliment hers.
A moment later:
Ash offered her his arm, and she took it. He escorted her down the staircase and out to the waiting carriage, mindful of her voluminous skirts, but never pausing. He refused to give any appearance of reluctance.
Tonight, it didn’t matter that he was scarred and hideous and would prefer to hide from society.
Emma deserved to be seen. And this night was for her.
I also liked that there was a really solid foundation for Ash’s Wounded Feels that didn’t come entirely from Ash being self-conscious regarding his scars.
And because we’re not done with the awesomeness, Emma becomes friends with some amazing (slightly eccentric) ladies who live nearby and are clearly sequel-bait. Female friendships FTW.
Now, I bet you’re thinking “But Elyse, you mentioned Batman earlier. Please explain.” When he’s brooding Ash walks the streets at night and, after chasing off some thugs who are robbing a woman, gets named the Monster of Mayfair by the press. The Monster’s nightly appearances get either exaggerated or entirely made up, and earn Ash the affection of a boy who is determined to be Robin to his Batman. It’s all adorable.
So I totally recommend reading The Duchess Deal, but preferably while sober so you can really appreciate all of it. It’s the perfect blend of two of my favorite fairytale tropes, it’s got a hero who never an alpha-hole, it’s funny, and it’s got female friendship. What more could you want?
I was actually much more attached to these books than I ever was to Anne -- they're about an extended group of cousins who have very wholesome adventures together. The cousins include:
Beverly, Our Narrator, most notable for his mildly purple narration and deeply sentimental soul
Felix, his little brother, who is Fat and Sensitive About It
Felicity, who is Very Beautiful and Very Prosaic and also Extremely Bossy, like Lucy from Peanuts if she also looked like Elizabeth Taylor
Cecily, who is Very Good and Very Serious and probably also Doomed to Die Young Like Good Children Do
Dan, Felicity and Cecily's brother, who is an Annoying Brother
Sara Ray, who lives down the road and cries all the time
Peter, who is But a Hired Boy but Clever and Talented and also In Love With Felicity
and, of course, Sara Stanley the Story Girl, who is not pretty but interesting, and has a spellbindingly beautiful voice, and is prone to stopping in the middle of any given conversation to announce that she knows a story that has some vague relation to the topic at hand and will then proceed to relate that story come hell or high water, which: oh god, of course I imprinted on these books as a kid, because I of course do the exact same thing, except without any vestige of a spellbindingly beautiful voice, and also instead of 'I know a tragic story about our uncle's great-aunt's wedding' my version is usually 'I read a book once in which somebody banged a griffin.' But, much like the Story Girl, once I get started on an anecdote of this kind there is very little chance of stopping me. I apologize to anybody who has suffered from this.
ANYWAY. Fortunately, the other kids (with the occasional exception of Felicity) never get fed up with the Story Girl and are always glad to hear an entertaining anecdote about the minister's cousin's grandmother or whatever the topic of discussion is that day.
The kids also get into normal turn-of-the-century-Canadian kid stuff, like pretending to be ministers, or freaking out because the local old-lady-who-might-be-a-witch sat in their pew at church, or panicking that it might be the Day of Judgment. Normal turn-of-the-century-Canadian kid stuff centers very prominently on appropriate church behavior, as it turns out. L.M. Montgomery's world is composed of Methodists and Lutherans and that's about it. I don't remember this being weird for me as an emphatically-not-Christian youth but it is slightly retroactively weird for me now.
Other notable things that happen in The Story Girl and The Golden Road:
- Dan eats poison berries because Felicity tells him he would be an idiot to eat the poison berries, nearly dies, then goes back and eats more poison berries because Felicity made the mistake of saying she told him so
- Cecily the Very Sweet and Very Good is mean to exactly one person in both books, a boy in her class who conceives a terrible crush on her and will not leave her alone despite multiple stated requests until she publicly humiliates him in class, which she ruthlessly does; a good lesson
- The Story Girl gives a great and instantly recognizable description of synesthesia without ever actually using the word
- The Story Girl befriends a desperately shy neighbor who is known as the Awkward Man, "because he is so awkward," our narrator Bev helpfully explains
- the Awkward Man is later revealed to have a secret room in his house containing women's clothing, which, the Story Girl explains, is because he's spent years buying things for an imaginary girlfriend - and, I mean, far be it from me to question the Story Girl! but some grad student could probably get a real good paper on gender and sexuality in turn-of-the-century children's lit out of this is all I'm saying
The theme of today's post: MSM chǎomiàn / Cant. caau2min6 trad. 炒麵 / simpl. 炒面 ("fried noodles").
When I was a wee lad growing up in East Canton (formerly Osnaburg; population about a thousand), Ohio, all that I knew of Chinese food came out of cans, and it was branded either as La Choy or Chun King. The noodles were short, brown, hard, and crunchy, the vegetables were rather tasteless (with mung bean sprouts predominating and plenty of somewhat rubbery sliced mushrooms), all in a mucilaginous matrix of thick, starchy sauce. But it was a lot of fun to prepare and eat because of the way it came in three cans and was so very exotic — not like the daily fare of meat, potatoes, peas, beans, and bread favored by Midwesterners. Oh, and the watery, caramel colored soy sauce was so cloyingly salty.
The only exception was that once a year our Mom would alternate taking one of the seven siblings to the big city of Canton (population about eighty thousand) five miles to the west and would treat us to a Chinese restaurant meal. I think the owners were the only Chinese in the city. The two things that impressed me most were how dark and mysterious the room was in the unmarked, old house where the restaurant was located and how the egg foo young (and I just loved the sound of that name!), which was so much better than the canned chicken chow mein we ate at home, was served to us on a fancy, footed platter with a silver cover. It was always a very special moment when the waiter uncovered the egg foo young and I smelled its extraordinary aroma.
Here's a description of an intrepid foodie preparing and eating today's version of La Choy's Chicken Chow Mein, which is still apparently "available at supermarkets everywhere":
La Choy’s chow mein dinner comes in three separate cans. Following the instructions faithfully I first heated the chicken and gravy mixture from one can in the microwave for two minutes, stirring in between. Right off the bat, the gelatinous concoction began making popping sounds, like it was exploding. While that was going on, I opened the can of vegetables—carrots, water chestnuts, etc.—drained them in a colander, then mixed them in with the chicken and gravy once they were done. This combo gets heated for three minutes, or until hot. Then you sprinkle on the dry noodles, which come in a can of their own.
Digging in, I found the dish unbelievably bland. The vegetables, such as they were, were indistinguishable from each other. The chicken was fairly unrecognizable as chicken, too. The noodles were the best part by far: dark, even burned-looking, deliciously crispy. An hour or so later, alas, I “had to go to the bathroom.” Badly. And, I can’t help thinking it was mainly because of the chow mein feast. Either my constitution is much more delicate than when I was a kid—or La Choy just ain’t no Chun King.
That's from "Bygone Bites: A Review of La Choy’s Chow Mein: Glenn and Carol do a side-by-side critique of these canned fake-Asian noodles. Cue the nostalgia." Carol Shih [and Glenn Hunter], D Magazine (3/4/14)
Here are some interesting facts about La Choy:
The company was founded in 1922 by Dr. Ilhan New (유일한), later founder of Yuhan Corporation in South Korea; and Wally Smith from the University of Michigan. The first product, canned mung bean sprouts, was originally sold in Smith's Detroit, Michigan, grocery store.
New left the company for personal reasons in 1930. Smith was killed by lightning in 1937.
And Chun King:
Chun King was an American line of canned Chinese food products founded in the 1940s by Jeno Paulucci, who also developed Jeno's Pizza Rolls and frozen pizza, and the Michelina's brand of frozen food products, among many others. By 1962, Chun King was bringing in $30 million in annual revenue and accounted for half of all U.S. sales of prepared Chinese food. Chun King was sold to the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, in 1966 for $63 million.
l won't go into the history of how the two companies competed and merged, nor how they were both bought by large food conglomerates. What's remarkable is that, in one or another guise, they survived for so long even after authentic Chinese food became widely available in America.
What prompted this post in the first place was the following photograph, sent to me by fintano:
Maidhc comments on the feelings evoked by the photograph:
I have a vague recollection from my youth that Stan Freberg made commercials for Chun King (which was founded by an Italian), and even as a child I loved Stan Freberg, and more so as an adult.
See Stan Freberg Presents the Chun King Chow Mein Hour in this Wikipedia article. This was during the advertising part of his career, which was later than most of his recordings.
I was just looking through the Yelp reviews and I found this:
"some dishes may be hella ma la hot"
Is this the most SF Bay Area sentence ever?
Chow mein from a can ≠ chǎomiàn / caau2min6 from a wok ≠ Chóngqìng xiǎomiàn 重慶小面 ("Chongqing / Chungking noodles") in a San Francisco Sichuanese restaurant, though they all have their own charms.
It was pretty cool to see the moon take a bite out of the sun. :) It was also vaguely disquieting, because the sky went... not dark, you couldn't remotely call it dark... but noticeably gray. The color desaturated. Also, when Dottie decided that her midafternoon walk should end with a five minute relaxing lie-down in a sunny patch of grass, the direct sunlight was not nearly as warm as it should have been for that time of day and the ambient temperature. So, nothing dramatic, probably nothing I would have noticed if I hadn't been aware of the eclipse and therefore actively paying attention, but still. Pretty cool. :)
2. I called the doctors' office about getting a psychiatric evaluation/anti-depressant prescription, but was unable to make an appointment yet because I'm in a weird limbo where they're not sure if I count as a new or a returning patient, since my last appointment was apparently three years ago. The clerk who answered the phone took some information about my insurance and has sent an inquiry to their billing department. A representative should call me later this week, after which I will be able to schedule an appointment.
3. Three of my squash plants seem pretty definitively dead. The fourth (which was worst hit by the powdery mildew but seems to have escaped the wilting sickness that subsequently struck the other three) might be in the early stages of slow recovery. So I think I'll uproot the dead ones on Wednesday or Thursday and plant new seeds.
4. My church's rummage sale went pretty well, all things considered. I worked 12-4pm on Sunday, and 10-2pm today. The sale runs Saturday-Monday. Saturday is full-price, Sunday is half-price, and Monday is free with a donation box placed prominently at the exit. (We used to have Monday be 10-cent day, but that was immensely aggravating to everyone involved, so we swapped over to "free, but have you seen this donation box???" It turns out we not only save time this way, we actually bring in more money!) Monday is also the day we do preliminary breakdown, starting around noon -- first we start taking down a bunch of the shelving, and then we box everything up and cart it downstairs to the parlor so as to make things less inconvenient for the people hauling the unsold items away Tuesday morning.
(I think the unsold books go to the Friends of the Library book sale, but I wouldn't swear to it. The remaining fabric scraps probably go to one of the local sewing co-ops. I am also unsure what happens to the unsold linens and toys, though I think again there may be arrangements with various local charities. The rest... well, most of it goes to the dump. *sigh* But hey, it was going there anyway, and the sale does save an astonishing amount of stuff from being scrapped.)
5. Cornell classes started today, which meant that last week (and specifically Saturday) were the crush days for students moving back to Ithaca. And also students panicking and realizing they've forgotten to rent parking spaces. *wry* So the rental office was VERY BUSY -- in fact, Mom Boss and Aunt Boss came in to work from ~11am-4pm so we had four people in the office (usually Miss Cactus and I cover Saturdays alone), and that extra staffing was NECESSARY.
We will continue to be busy through... hmm... early October, probably? Here is why: A) people working out the glitches in their new apartments and returning their damage deposit inspection forms; B) the final parking rental rush; C) quarterly rent payments are due; D) people hurrying to pay for internet service after the free trial period ends; D) price listings for the 2018-19 year go up and we start apartment tours; E) current tenants get a couple weeks to renew or switch apartments before open renting starts; and F) open renting starts halfway through September.
But at least we're mostly done with key returns and sign-outs, we have the nice new folders for next year's leases set up, damage deposits and summer photographs are all done, and most of the giant packages in which people ship furnishings to themselves have arrived and been picked up. So that's something!
This again. It's the return of the Racial Receipt! The latest sighting occurred in New York, where a Manhattan restaurant recently apologized for referring to an Asian American customer as "Ching Chong" on a receipt.
Last Wednesday, a server at Cornerstone Cafe in the East Village entered an Asian customer's name as "Ching Chong" on the slip for a to-go order of steak and eggs. Because why bother asking for a customer's actual name when you can silently mock them with a racial slur, right under their nose?
The incident started picking up attention when a friend of the customer, Facebook user Ziggy Chau, posted a photo of the offending receipt on social media. That's when the internet went in on Cornerstone Cafe.
Read more »
If you like that, you will like this book. It's one of those slim but pithy volumes that precisely captures a time, a place, and a state of mind.
I've always had a fascination with ballet, ever since my second-grade teacher offered a trip to see the Nutcracker Suite (it was at least ten years before I realized that the second word was not "sweet") to her top three students. I had no idea what that was, other than that it was clearly desirable, so I went all-out to make sure that I'd get the prize. I was sufficiently enchanted with The Nutcracker and the general air of specialness surrounding the entire experience that I begged my parents for ballet lessons, at which I lasted something like three sessions. I don't recall the exact problem, but based on my age I'm guessing that there was too much standing around.
After that I confined myself to reading ballet books, which was more fun that actually doing it. Had I tried when I was older, I might have stuck with it for longer. Based on Bentley book and everything else I've read about ballet dancing, it has an austere, stoic, boot camp, push your limits atmosphere that would have really appealed to me if I'd been three to five years older. And then I would have gotten my heart broken, because I am not built to be a ballerina.
Winter Season beautifully depicts the illusion shown to the audience and the reality experienced by the dancers, and how the dancers live the illusion as well. It's got all the fascinating details of any good backstage memoir, without bitterness or cynicism. Even as it ground down her body, Bentley never stopped loving ballet; she seems to feel that she was lucky to have the chance to live the dream, just for the opportunity to spend a few minutes every day being the perfect expression of her body and the choreographer's art.
Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal, with a new preface
And I will place the next bit under a cut in case you just want to read about Winter Season. As opposed to ass. ( Read more... )
Anyway, we had it set up on a screen here in the conference room, so people could wander in and out, rather than having 400 people trying to stream it individually. I was outside in the beginning of it, but it didn't seem to be getting darker or anything (we didn't get the totality here), and I had no glasses or pinhole viewer, so I just came back inside and ate my bagel.
The only real downside is that I have had "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in my head for at least a week. Even listening it to a few times hasn't cured the damn earworm. That video remains super creepy.
In other news, last night, I finally watched Lego Batman, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I'm always a sucker for Bruce learning to be a good Batdad to his Batkid(s). The one thing I didn't care for was the Bruce/Babs insinuations, but at least she didn't seem into it, so that was fine. (Also, yay for Rosario Dawson, bridging that MCU/DCU divide!)
We watched the crescent, came back in, and people on TV in Oregon were watching the sun shadow retreat. I came up to get back to work, reflecting that it was so very nice to pass through the kitchen and tv area and not be hearing the words "terrorists" "Nazis" "Republicans" or "Trump." So very nice.