Hey everyone, we are so excited for you to hear this extra special Valentine’s Day bonus episode that we recorded with Melissa Brayden, lesbian romance author extraordinare. But first, we put a call out for you to share your Valentine’s and we’re going to read them all out.
I know, I was so excited to get as many as we did.
Right? And also like, How cute are all these people? I love all these people that love love as much as you do.
Right. It made me feel good that we did get as many as we did. And they were all excited to do it. You know, it’s like, “Here. Here’s my valentine”. I had one person reach out and say, “Hey, are you still accepting Valentine’s?” Yes, yes. Give them to me.
So the first one is: “Happy Valentine’s Day to my wife Sarah. I’m a pain in the ass and you are lovely. Cheers to you, love Anna”.
I just love, “I’m a pain in the ass but you’re lovely.” It’s so cute.
Very lovely. And then one of my besties actually she did a shout out. C.F. Frizzel everybody knows her as Frizz, she said this about her wife: “To Kathy. The true angel in my life, my better half. I love you my forever Valentine”. Isn’t that amazing? That’s so sweet.
So sweet. I love it. So we got an anonymous one that said “Dear Queerly Recommended, This is such a fun, cool idea. I would like to send some love to the GCLS writing Academy 2022. All the students are so wonderful. I love all their stories. Every writer is so enormously talented and it’s a privilege to get to read their works in progress. And I wanted to send some love to our amazing, insightful extremely inspiring teachers who are brilliantly gifted writers taking their time to pass along some of their magic. Happy Valentine’s Day. My cat says Happy V-Day, he loves your podcast too”. I think this is the first Valentine I’ve ever heard of from a cat Thank you cat.
And we got this one that says “34 years and still I want more. More laughs, more vacations together, more you putting up with my differently wired brain and grumpiness. I eventually get it, we got to communicate and boy we do that well sometimes. I love you forever and at least another 34 years, from Ashley.”
That makes my heart so happy. That’s so amazing. Now this one made me laugh.
Yes on a wildly different note.
On a completely different note, we have an anonymous one that says “To Hot Boss. Thanks for the raise. It’s my turn to raise you…. up against the wall”. Well! There’s some fantasies going on there.
Uh-huh. Yeah. I see why they stayed anonymous. That is like an HR call in the making.
“To my wife, Susan. It’s been a long time, from lovers to friends and back again. Even during that time in the middle, I couldn’t get you out of my head. And now we’re married. Thank you for asking me. We’re stuck together now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s the 30+ more Valentine’s together, from Diane”. Oh.
I love this. It’s a real second chance romance.
Seriously, there are some really massively cool ideas coming from, you know, just reading these Valentines. Yeah.
Right. There second chances. There’s office romance.
Up against the wall. We’ve read it. We want to read it more. Yep. Oh, yeah. And then we have “To Amy, there is no life I could imagine without you. You’ve been my shelter through the worst storms. And every beautiful, wonderful thing in this life leads back to you. You’ve taught me that some things- that something doesn’t have to be a house to be a home and you, you are my home, from Tiffany”. That is beautiful.
That’s beautiful. And so we actually got one that’s a twofer because it’s a couple that sent in Valentine’s for each other. So there’s one that says: “To Em, You warm me up more than my favorite whiskey”. Which as a former whiskey drinker, that’s pretty lovely. And Em wrote one to Jay that says: “To Jay, you are my favorite person to everything and nothing with.” Which I think is pretty great. Yeah. I love that. And the last one is from Cathy Pegau, who actually wrote us a little poem that says “Roses are red, fries are from France. We love Tara and Kris and queer romance”.
I love it. That’s great.
Cathy, I love that poem and we love you too. Those were so cute.
Thank you to everyone who participated, we greatly appreciate it. Especially me, like because I -yeah, it’s just so nice. It’s so lovely to read about love and to hear about other people’s loves, rather than just ones that we read about in books or write about. True love, real love.
And now- Now we’re gonna go on to the episode and the delightful Melissa Brayden.
Hello everyone and welcome to Queerly Recommended, the podcast where we recommend queer books, TV shows, movies, video games and more. I’m Tara and I review queer women’s fiction at The Lesbian Review, Lambda Literary and Smart Bitches Trashy Books.
And I’m Kris Bryant, a contemporary romance writer with nearly 20 books out through Bold Strokes Books.
We are so excited because this is our very special Valentine’s Day bonus edition of Queerly Recommended and who better to join us than the Lesfic Queen herself, Melissa Brayden. Melissa has around 20 romances out about women loving women also with Bold Strokes Books. And there’s a new, I’ve heard, interactive video game that’s out through Chapters. Welcome, Melissa.
Melissa Brayden 6:06
Hey, guys, thanks so much for having me. I didn’t know it was a bonus episode. That’s exciting. I’m here on bonus day. It doesn’t get better than that.
Melissa Brayden 6:16
We figured that since love is such a- I mean, I love Valentine’s Day. It’s my favorite out of the holiday non-holiday holidays. I love Valentine’s Day. So we wanted you on because yeah, you write about love.
Melissa Brayden 6:31
Yes. And so talk about Chapters, like a long time ago, not a long time ago. But I remember you were talking about it. And then all of a sudden, it’s here now. So tell us about Chapters and tell us what it is, how people can find it. And anything else you can add?
Melissa Brayden 6:49
Well, I think I’m very lucky because it could have not happened. I am somebody who needs to be better about email. Let’s just get that right out there right now. And the Chapters folks were great. And I didn’t know anything like this existed. And so if you’re out there and you’re wondering, “What the heck are they talking about?” You’re kind of like me in that sense. And so they emailed me and said, “Hey, we’re interested in making an interactive, you know, kind of choose your own adventure of some books that you wrote.” And I kind of laughed that off and thought that’s very funny. And you kind of think that these things get sent out a lot. So I don’t think I responded, which is dumb, because this has happened before in other mediums where I haven’t responded to something that turned out to be really cool. Because I’m really bad at telling what’s important and what’s not.
So you know, cut to the conversation actually happening. And I realized, not only is this a legit thing, this is a really cool thing. This is something that I can’t believe, as a romance reader myself, I wasn’t aware of. So I went out and explored Chapters and what it is, is it’s an app that allows you to go in, and pretty much select the story of your choice, lots of different books, and I think they have some originals as well. And then you get to be in the shoes of the main character and walk a little bit on their path and make decisions for them as you go on. And so yeah, they made a really nice deal for four of my books. And so the first one that they contracted is Kiss the Girl, which is book one in the Soho Loft series. And that one debuted last month, I guess. And the first five chapters were dropped and in the following week, five more, and so they tease you a little bit and I played the first five so far. And I got left on a cliffhanger and I don’t know what’s gonna happen.
I think that’s rude, cause I mean, to me, it sounds like- I started it. I didn’t finish it yet. But I mean, I’ve played dating sims before, and like you get the whole game. It’s not like you don’t get the whole game at once. So to say like, “Oh, by the way, eh you got to wait.”
Melissa Brayden 8:59
“Come back next week to find out”. And you know what else is interesting is just to kind of, you know, make more of a game out of it when they give you a choice. Like what do you want to do in this moment? Sometimes you have to spend your little jewels – I don’t know if they’re jewels or diamonds, I call them jewels – to do the thing that you would like to do in that moment the most. But if you have not been frugal with your jewels, you might be left in the lurch. For example, I had a really good thing going with Jessica Lennox. We were flirting, we were bouncing off each other with our witty dialogue, and then she’s running for the elevator. And it tells me that I can stop the elevator and let her come along with me for the ride, which of course that’s preferable. Or I could shout out, you know, “Hey, I’m trying to stop it for you”. Or I could let it slam in her face. And I was out of jewels. So all I could do is let it slam in her face. And so, lesson learned when I play some more Chapters that I have to be a little bit more frugal with my spending. And there were several instances like that where I had to just be downright rude because I hadn’t planned appropriately. I’m sure that got in the way of my romance. But maybe next time.
Yeah, I thought it was great. I mean, I was really surprised because when you open up the app, it’s Kiss the Girl. That is what shows up. And so that’s I think I posted it. I was so excited-
Melissa Brayden 10:20
I think I tweeted, “Oh, my gosh, look!” And you have like, it has like over 19,000, like the number on it for views?
Melissa Brayden 10:27
Oh, yeah, that’s awesome.
Yeah, I mean, in the category, it’s under LGBTQ, but it’s also under CEO, which, I mean, I get the CEO concept. But I was really surprised that originally it wasn’t in LGBT. It wasn’t there. And so they just they recently moved it over there. But yeah, you’re I think third highest with 19000.
Melissa Brayden 10:47
Oh I’ll take that. You know, what’s great about that is it’s doing well, I think that that opens the door for more of our stories to show up on that particular app. And so I hope that that happens, and we can kind of come in and make a home for ourselves and see all sorts of stories there. So fingers crossed.
Right. I had somebody respond to the tweet and said that they had made it through the first five chapters. And yeah, so they were playing it. So it’s getting I mean, people know about it, and they’re, they’re already playing it. I think it’s great.
Melissa Brayden 11:20
That’s cool. I ran into some comments. And if you open it up, it had something like a few thousand comments on it.
Melissa Brayden 11:27
Yeah. So I was kind of just skimming through, seeing what people thought, overall, it sounded really positively reviewed, which made me happy. Not that I have much experience with this at all, but that was very cool.
That is cool. I don’t- I mean, I know that you can get it like ad free, maybe? I don’t know. Because every single time I open it, you have to go through like a bazillion.
Melissa Brayden 11:47
Yeah, I played the free version. But I will be upgrading now because there will be more books. So.
Right. For sure.
So are you sharing which other books they’ve picked? Are you allowed to say?
Yeah. I am. I am. It’s all three of the Soho books. So we’ll have those three as well as Waiting in the Wings. So I want to see what they’re gonna do with Waiting in the Wings, the theater backdrop, that should be really cool.
I have thoughts about that book. But that’s not the point of this podcast. Because I still remember, like when the breakup happened, and like how I felt at the time, and just the like.
Melissa Brayden 12:21
Four years later.
Yeah, yes. And I had never, I had read a lot of romance. But I hadn’t read a romance that did that before. And so it was just this very, like, gutting, “How can, how can that be?” So I’m really curious to see how that plays out with the Chapters app.
Melissa Brayden 12:43
Well, well, me too. And you know, part of the deal is once they take the book, it’s in their hand. And so I’ve run into some things, you know, playing Kiss the Girl where I was like, “Oh, well, that’s interesting. I didn’t write that”. But that’s fun. Okay, we’ll go in that direction, or that person didn’t appear in the scene. But all right, here they are. So you know, they have to make it work for a video game environment, which I completely understand. But it’s fun for me to kind of see those changes. So we’ll see if they do the the four year jump or not.
I think that your voice still comes through. I can-
Melissa Brayden 13:13
Yeah, for sure. I made sure. Because it’s so short, everything is like so condensed. And you know, it talks to you for two sentences, and then it gives you a choice of something, but it really still tells a story.
Melissa Brayden 13:25
Good. I’m glad you feel that way. I did notice that they kept some of the dialogue true to what you find in the book.
So I did hear your voice in there.
Melissa Brayden 13:32
Good, good. That makes me happy.
Okay, since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, we thought it might be fun to talk about our favorite things related to the holiday. Love, romance, just Valentine’s Day in and of itself. So I guess we’re gonna start with an easy question. Easy. What is everybody’s favorite on screen kiss? Melissa, let’s start with you.
Melissa Brayden 13:57
That is not an easy question. And you know that. Wait, so this was on screen right?
On screen. TV, movies, plays.
I’m going to go with something that might be controversial for the two of you, because I’ve heard a rumor that there was some debate about the movie, Imagine Me and You.
I wouldn’t say there was debate, we were in agreement.
Melissa Brayden 14:23
Yeah, but you’re very wrong.
You’re very wrong.
Melissa Brayden 14:28
You’re very wrong. And I’m glad that I could be here on this special Valentine’s bonus show to set you both straight about the wonders of the movie. So I’m going to go with the flower shop kiss to further prove my point about the movie and that’s going to be my answer, when she bursts in and they kiss on the bed of roses. I’m going with that and I don’t know that you’re going to be able to-
Okay. So I will say this. It was- and we talked about this, that we thought that their kissing was organic, and it felt- it seemed natural. And that’s one thing I want to see on screen, is I want to see the chemistry. I want to see the natural, organic kiss. It was just the plot that we weren’t great on, right Tara?
Melissa Brayden 15:16
Ah, you’re just wrong.
And some of the acting and pant choices.
Well, yeah. The pants choices. That’s right.
No, I think the problem was that we saw it in the year 2021, which I don’t think was the right time to see it for the first time, when there’s so much more kind of queer media out there. And I think-
Melissa Brayden 15:38
I was also expecting.
Melissa Brayden 15:40
I’m not done, wait. I was expecting it to just be about the two of them. And so much of it was about the husband’s experience. And I was like, “Why are these people telling me to watch-” Like, if you watch that trailer, it sounds like it’s his movie. And so it was a very strange- I don’t know, I want to see more of their epilogue is all I’m saying. I’m not sure I fully believe in their happily ever after.
Melissa Brayden 16:03
Oh, this is crushing, I really think you need to spend more time. Have you watched the director’s cut with the director commentary underneath?
I watched what was available on Amazon Prime and I did watch it twice. I watched it once to watch it and then once for the commentary.
Melissa Brayden 16:20
We could sit together and I could recite it with you.
That sounds really nice.
So many people in lesfic, they don’t like cheating in anything, they hate it. They will come out they will come at you. And any sort of cheating anything. Yeah, cuz I’ve experienced it. And my characters didn’t really cheat. But there was like some hint of it. And oh my gosh, they came at me. That’s why I’m just kind of like, “How’s everybody okay with this movie, if they hate it books?”
I’m not sure it’s the same people, actually, to be honest. Because there’s like a small super vocal will one start every book with cheating. And then there’s a bunch of us that are like, “Meh, it made for an interesting plot thing”.
Melissa Brayden 17:05
Well, and I do think that there is a different set of rules for when we’re dealing with screen versus page.
Melissa Brayden 17:12
I think so. And then there is even a third set of rules once you get onto the stage. So
Well and when it came out there were like, no movies if you wanted to watch women falling in love. That was the movie and then there were maybe a couple of other movies where people died tragically, but like this was the happy ending movie.
Melissa Brayden 17:31
Yeah, I still haven’t found one that I like more though, so.
Melissa Brayden 17:35
No, I’m trying.
Melissa Brayden 17:37
And I thought by now we’d have a million light fluffy fun romcoms and we just don’t.
I agree. There was one that and- I can’t even remember what the movie was called. We talked about it. And like Georgia loved it. And I’m like, “Are you kidding me? This is like the worst movie ever”. It had to do with Thanksgiving. And it was just awful. It was just
Melissa Brayden 17:57
You know which one.
Melissa Brayden 17:59
No, no, not even that one. Yeah, but also that one. We get her to talk about that one. But also, I will say that in that the kissing is organic. And we talked about that, too. I believed in the kissing. As long as I believe in it that helps.
It was the only good part of that movie. That movie was awful. Well, Dan Levy was also wonderful. But like the kissing was good. I believed they were a couple that needed therapy but could kiss real well.
Melissa Brayden 18:30
Right. No, I think I’ve seen this movie but only like about 10 minutes of it. I think I agreed with you on this one, but it was not, t was not my cup of tea. But I like that you keep your bar for kissing is “it must be organic”. And I’m like, I gotta take it further than that, though, Kris. I gotta say it can’t just be organic. I need it to be like, passionate and hot and like the chemistry just needs to bounce off those walls. I can’t just-
You can’t tell me that they off the walls in Imagine Me and You.
Melissa Brayden 19:00
Oh my gosh I so can. I so can and I will. I implore you to try again, because this is tragic. The takeaway? I can’t.
Well I love love. You know this about me. You know, I love romance. You know-
Melissa Brayden 19:16
I’m a little shocked. When I heard this rumor. I heard this rumor of this discussion. I was shocked. I had trouble sleeping.
But you’re right. It has to be passionate. And you have to really feel it and have to be excited for them to get together. You know, you just need that that “Oh, oh, they’re gonna kiss!” and you get that whole moment. That’s what want.
Melissa Brayden 19:38
And I was.
And you were. I was not. I was like, “Meh, okay. They’re cute”. You know, that was it for me? And like they are believable, but there was so many other problems with that movie. So yeah, I’m like, Okay, what about you two?
Melissa Brayden 19:54
I’m gonna write a 30 page dissertation.
Okay, we welcome it.
Kris, what was your pick?
Okay, so this is super hard for me because everybody knows that that’s all I do is watch movies, watch TV shows, watch all that. And I had a real hard time with this because it was really hard to narrow down. But I picked a scene in Atomic Blonde because Charlize’s Theron, “Hello? Hello?” That alone, she’s top five, where she makes out with Delphine, who is played by Sofia Boutella. And not only was a super hot and passionate, and it was completely believable, and Charlize’s just has such a beautiful mouth. And it was just, I love that. I love that whole scene, that whole scene in there. So I I don’t know how many people have seen that movie. It’s a great movie if you haven’t seen it. But that’s my scene that I picked. Of course, tomorrow it will be a different scene. But right now tonight, I’m going with Atomic Blonde.
Good one. So mine is not super passionate, because it’s from a kids show. And that’s not really what happens in kids shows. But hear me out. It’s from- okay, so Kris, remember when Sinclair Sexsmith, we were talking to them and they were recommending Steven Universe? So this is a kiss from the show Steven Universe. And I’m going to try and explain it and it’s going to make no sense because you’ve never seen the show. But I’m gonna do my best anyway. So there is a character named Garnet, who is this like, giant woman with like three eyes and what- it doesn’t matter. But she’s actually the fusion of two gems. So she’s the fusion of Ruby and Sapphire. And I guess that’s kind of a bit of a spoiler, but also the show ended years ago. So I’m sorry, if you’re not caught up on Steven Universe. Like, it’s too bad.
And you don’t find out until like, late until I think the first season that she’s a fusion until like they’re split apart, and they’re separated. And just like the panic that they haven’t been separated. They’re actually tiny, when the Ruby and Sapphire, which I also find delightful and adorable. But like, when they come back together, it’s the most beautiful, pure thing. And it was shown on Cartoon Network for families, which I also think is amazing, like just the rep for kids to get to see this, that it’s this like normal, beautiful thing. There’s so much queer rep in that show. But they were the first that really Oh like, I just had this little warm burst in my chest when I saw it the first time because it was so perfect.
I got nothing I can’t res- Okay, cuz I haven’t seen it.
That’s fair. I don’t know if it would be your jam.
Melissa Brayden 22:30
I think you sold it very well. I think you both had great explanations for your kissing scenes.
Well, we’ve talked about the onscreen kiss. What’s next, Tara?
All right. How about favorite on the page kiss? So Melissa, what’s your pick?
Melissa Brayden 22:48
Yeah, so this one was hard. I went back and forth. And it- I don’t know why this one was so much harder than the on screen or wasn’t one that just rose to the top. But you know, recently, I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and there’s a moment that is not a traditional kiss. But it stood out for me in the narrative. And it is when she goes and she kisses the television screen during the Oscar acceptance speech. And it’s a- they have a callback to that moment later in the book. And it becomes kind of something special. And it becomes a signal that’s used later on. And I thought that was such an interesting and clever device that rang true. So I really did enjoy that particular callback. So I’ll go with that. Because it’s not traditional, and it kind of got you right here on that call back later.
Yeah, that was a great book. And everybody needs to hear that book or read that book. Tara, that’s a- you’re up. I mean, you need to read it.
Listen, tell the Calgary Public Library to come give me the audiobook.
I’m going to get to the audiobook. I’m going to get you the audiobook and I want you to listen to it. And you’ll be like the rest of us saps out here that we’re balling. I cried so hard on that so many times. But that was a very good kissing scene.
Melissa Brayden 24:11
Untraditional, but good.
Non traditional and good. That’s true. Yeah, it was super hard for me. Because when I read a book, and we get to the scene where they kiss, and there’s that buildup, every book is- every book is good. And you want that buildup in your- you’re on that journey with those characters to get them to kiss. And so it was really hard for me to pull one example. It was really, really hard. But then I thought, okay, I know something. And it’s kind of cool because it goes with what we were talking about earlier. So there’s this first kiss that printed off really weird because I pulled it off my Kindle and then I tried to print it which don’t tell anybody I guess you’re not supposed to do that. So it kind of-
Melissa Brayden 24:59
Oh, you’re going to to kindle jail now.
So and here’s the deal, for me I like- I don’t know that I like the slow burn. But I don’t like the right off the bat kiss. I just I- normally it’s not my thing. I like the characters to get to know each other better. And I like the whole, the back and forth and back and forth. And that is my thing. But then we were talking about Chapters and Kiss the Girl. And I thought that was a great first kiss.
Melissa Brayden 25:28
Well, because we take it away. It happens, then we take it away for a while, and then we have to build back up to it. So it still kind of fits your rules.
It was just very clever and cute. And it was like your, “Oh!” It was such a surprise. And it was a good surprise. But yeah, I like the builds up. But that was really clever. I like that. And I don’t ever like the kiss that early. You know, in chapter –
Melissa Brayden 25:51
Oh good. Yeah, it was early.
So that was a good kiss for me. I liked that.
Melissa Brayden 25:57
So that was almost my pick. And then I thought, I’m not doing it. Well, but I do but I do. It is- probably it is one of my very favorites. Well, and also because it shows like that immediately right away. It’s like, “Oh these people have chemistry”. And so I didn’t care that it was right away in the book. But then I got to thinking about it. And then I remembered the book Tricky Wisdom by Camryn Eyde. Have either of you read that book before?
Melissa Brayden 26:21
I haven’t read it yet, but I know of it.
It’s a fake relationship book between two med school students. And the idea is that their roommates. Olivia is like the ice queen one. And she’s like, very, very icy. And then Darcy is like the more laid back kind of roommate. And Darcy has had a crush on her friend back home for a long time. And basically is like, “Oh, I have a chance to shoot my shot when I’m going back for Thanksgiving. Can you please come and pretend to be my girlfriend?” And for whatever reason Olivia says yes. Their first kiss is – if I’m remembering correctly – it’s almost like a first show thing because they think she’s gonna see or she’s close by or something. And it’s terrible. But the thing that I love about how bad it is, is that it’s like they have this really horrible kiss that’s immediately followed by an incredible kiss. And so I loved how it subverted my expectations as a reader because kisses are only ever amazing in romance, except this time, and it was like, “Oh, that was bad. Oh, wait, this is better”.
Melissa Brayden 27:21
A journey. It’s a journey.
Yes, it was a journey. And to me, that’s actually probably my favorite aspect of that particular book too.
Right, because, you know, a lot of times first kisses are awkward in real life. They’re not right, you know, and that’s probably why we like them so much in romances, because they’re perfect.
And in this case. Yeah, I mean, this is more realistic. I can’t I mean, how many times have you had a really good first kiss?
Oh, god, it’s been a real long time since that.
It’s been a while. But um, historically speaking, mine haven’t been great. Just putting that out there. Real life sometimes it just don’t get it.
I had one in high school and we were like at an actual firework show. So where I grew up, if what people say is true, the fireworks show that they do, it’s kind of around like Fourth of July because I grew up in a border city. So there’s like Detroit on one border and Windsor on the other. And so they would do fireworks basically to cover both sides of the border. And they said it was like the largest fireworks show in North America. Is that just marketing? Probably, I don’t know. But I had a first kiss there. And I remember thinking, “Wow, this is supposed to be one of those like magical settings. All right, I guess I’m kissing a person”.
And it was bad. Was it bad?
I don’t think it was horrible. But let’s just say things didn’t work out. Because again, I was in high school and like, no.
Ah, well, then what is everyone’s favorite couple on film? Or even a book? G`o either way. Favorite couple that you’ve read about, you’ve seen on TV, watched in the movies, seen in the theater?
Melissa Brayden 29:09
That’s too broad.
Yeah, when I was writing down my notes for this, I wrote “This question is rude even though I helped come up with it”.
This is gonna be fun. So Melissa.
Melissa Brayden 29:22
I’m going to limit myself because if you were to say like in movies and TV and everything, I could never come up with an answer for you, because the universe feels vast all of a sudden, and I want to get it right. So I’m going to limit myself to genre. And so I really love Caid and Robyn from And Playing the Role of Herself. I think I’m going to go with that because we talked earlier about chemistry, and it’s just oozing off of those pages. And so that is, that is a couple that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.
That’s a good one.
Yeah, it is.
Kris, did you pick one?
I did. Everybody knows my answer.
I can’t think of it off the top of my head. Oh, wait, is it Wayhaught?
Is it Wayhaught? Of course it’s Wayhaught.
Of course it is. I was stupidly thinking books when I should have known if you go to the conference, like come on.
I go to the conferences, come on. Wayhaught. Yes, Waverly Earp and Nicole Haught from Wynonna Earp.
My characters have a very positive, openly queer relationship in a town and nobody questions them. They’re very accepting. That’s just the way it is. And this, you know, the whole series ended on a positive note for them. So, I mean, they were so cute, and they fought for each other. And it was just wonderful to see them fall in love. And in my opinion, they didn’t have a great kiss. Their very first kiss wasn’t great. And that was probably a mistake that I said, at one point, but their chemistry got a lot better on screen. You know, the more into the relationship they got. So Wayhaught for sure.
Melissa Brayden 31:07
We should have seen that. Yeah. Yeah.
I rolled through literally, every woman loving woman romance that I five starred on Goodreads. I give away, way too many five stars is what I learned first of all. Secondly, so it was really hard because then I started to feel guilty about all the couples that I was not going to name and I know that they’re not real people and I know they’re not going to take it personally. I’m going to say sorry anyway. So where I landed was Catherine Ayers and Lauren King from The Red Files and Under Your Skin by Lee Winter.
I love The Red Files to an unreasonable degree, which if anybody’s been following my reviewing, my podcasting, anything I’ve been doing, they probably know that. And I guess the thing I love about them is that they start off super antagonistic. Again, like Catherine is a total ice queen. She’s a mega bitch, like the kind that I love to read about but like I’d never want to spend any time with in real life. I don’t want to spend time with people like that. But like, I want to read about them because they’re fun to read about. But like Lauren is so- she’s laid back and she’s funny, and she doesn’t actually care that Catherine is that serious. And they’re forced to investigate something together and kind of find love along the way. And so what I really like is that because there’s a sequel- so they get together in The Red Files, and we see them planning their wedding in Under Your Skin. And in Under Your Skin, you actually get to see how different Catherine is with her versus with everyone else. And so there’s that really beautiful dichotomy there. And you see that she has this incredibly tender side that’s only available to one person, but she will like stone cold murder someone with her words if they’re not that person.
Melissa Brayden 32:56
Mm hmm. Yes. I could have listed like five other couples. Oh, man, so many of Radclyffe’s books, there were couples that I was like, “Oh, but what about them?”
No. This comes up in a later question for me.
I had her on my old podcast once and I was like, “So do you think you’ll ever write a book for Diane and Valerie? Please and thank you”. I was much nicer than that. But she was like, “Yeah, people ask me that every so often”. And all I could think was like. “So write the book. Please”.
People would read it.
They’re a throwaway couple in- not throw away but like they’re just like a minor couple within the Honor series. But they’re so good. And they haven’t been there for the last three or four books. And I keep getting the books when they come out thinking “Are they here now?”
Melissa Brayden 33:42
Where are they?
Yeah, I don’t know. Are they alive? No. Kris, what’s our next question?
Um, we have favorite gift to receive on Valentine’s Day. Melissa, what is your favorite gift?
Melissa Brayden 33:57
I am an acts of service person. That sounds bad. But yeah, like I had my closet was cleaned out for me once as a surprise and it was like I almost like fell to my knees and wept with joy, like it was the coolest thing. Like my closet was cleaned out and organized and things like that just really moved me. they’re a little unconventional but like an experience, if an experience were planned for me or if we went somewhere really cool and got the, you know, the great VIP treatment or some sort of surprise was set up. That’s always just going to steal my heart in a way that maybe a gift doesn’t in the same sense. I appreciate gifts. I think those are fabulous. You know, flowers, chocolate, who doesn’t like that kind of stuff? But if you clean out my close…
You’ll love them for life.
Melissa Brayden 34:46
Come on. Come on. So yeah, acts of services is really big for me.
Surprises yeah, like I like that whole concept. I didn’t think about it a surprise. That’s always nice, because I’m such a- “Am I a control freak?” I don’t know.
Yes. Sorry, did I answer too soon?
This is what happens when your friends show up on podcasts, Kris?
Yes. So it’s kind of nice to let go a little bit and let somebody else take charge. And so I like the surprise aspect of Valentine’s Day. You know, of course, pandemic, you know, what do you do? But yeah, I do like not knowing, I like the surprise, because every day I’m in control of so much. It’s just nice to kind of give it away on special days. So.
Melissa Brayden 35:35
I like that.
Tara, what about you? First of all, is Canada big on Valentine’s Day?
Oh, yeah, the marketers, they got us to. Except I went to a Catholic school when I was in grade school, and they made us learn about St. Valentine, locked away in his lonely tower writing notes or something, if I recall that far back correctly. Yeah, it is a thing here. I’m not really a big gifts person, either, although it is nice. But I mean, also, we’re kind of an age where like, we’re old enough and we have money, and we buy the things that we want kind of as we want them and need them. And so for Valentine’s Day, or any day of the year, I mean, food is truly the way to my heart. It’s just if you know that I- and it can be like my favorite kind of Doritos. It can be my favorite kind of candy. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s, if somebody shows up and it’s like my favorite one of that thing, then my heart feels happy. And I feel seen.
It’s often ice cream. Neil will just show up- wometimes he’s like, “I know you’ve had a real shit day”. And he’ll just have like a thing of the Tonight Dough ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s. And it’s like, yeah.
Melissa Brayden 36:45
That’s the best. I love that.
All right. So when we were planning this, we thought, well, we can’t just say one…that would be impossible and cruel and why would we set ourselves up for failure? So what are your favorite three romances that live on your reread shelf? Melissa?
Melissa Brayden 37:07
And do we want to stay women loving women genre specific to the podcast or you want to go back to when I was 12 and hiding Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel?
Are you still reading them?
Melissa Brayden 37:17
I read all romance, yeah. I’d say the ones that resonated with me would be and still do would be Star by Danielle Steel. The reason being on that one, I didn’t know romance novels existed until that book.
Which one was that one? I read well- so I remember, what I remember of her books I remember by like vague premises because the summer I turned 12 my mom collected every Danielle Steel novel. And that summer, I said, “Mom, can I read your Danielle Steel books?” And she kind of went, you can see like she was kind of going through the processing in her brain, she’s like ‘Eh, yeah, that’s fine. And I read all- there were like 30 or 32 of them. And I read them that summer. And then I kept up with them for another, I think through high school. And then there started to be some weird ones. And that was when I was like, “I gotta go”.
Melissa Brayden 38:04
There was a shift wasn’t there? There was a shift in her writing career. But Star was the one about Crystal who kind of has to be banished from her farm because her brother in law was such a such a creep and her brother is killed in the very beginning of the book, that’s not a spoiler, and she goes off and becomes a very famous country singer.
Oh, yeah, that one.
Melissa Brayden 38:24
And then there Spencer who was like the older guy, and we kind of followed them for years. And I yeah, I did not understand that a romance novel existed until Star fell into my hands and I could not wait to get home from school to figure out what was going to happen in this love story. They have to get together and it was a big reread for me for years. And I think I was maybe sixth grade when I when I read Star. And next I would fast forward to my freshman year of college, when Paradise by Judith McNaught was passed down every single dorm room of the fourth floor. Like this thing, the tattered cover, it was ripped, but it was like you’ve got to read this and you read it, you pass it on to the next room and just everyone. So Paradise was probably a little bit more of an adult book than some of the earlier stuff I had read. And it was more contemporary in nature. And it was one of- I think it was a pivotal book for me, especially in terms of influencing me now as a writer. When I look back over how I developed I think that book was, it was instrumental and so if you haven’t read Paradise, I definitely recommend it. And then fast forward, I only can choose three? Okay. I would have
I’m going to say, “We don’t care”.
I’m cheating. I’m doing more.
Melissa Brayden 39:45
Well, when I just look at the first handful of books when I discovered women loving women books, which would have been- oh I guess what, in the early 2000s or so there was Too Close to Touch, Georgia’s book, that was big reread for me. I love And Playing the Role of Herself was huge. I read that book many times.
Melissa Brayden 40:06
And I’m not a big re-reader. So that says a lot that I’ve done that with those books I love, and Tara, I’ve talked to you about this before, Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran, that one stole my heart. And so I would include that book as well. And there’s so many, Radcliffe was a big reread for me early on. I love the Honor series. I love the Provincetown series. But I think it was Turn Back Time, think that really was a big reread for me with Wynter and Pearce-
Melissa Brayden 40:35
I like they were doctors.
What about Fated Love, though?
Melissa Brayden 40:39
I love Fated Love too.
That’s on my list.
Melissa Brayden 40:41
But everyone has Fated Love here and Turn Back Time just beneath it. I would reverse them in my order. I like Turn Back Time more, but I think I’m on my own on that one.
I think I have kind of the two of them and then Crossroads all on roughly the same for me. Like I like all three of those medical ones together.
Melissa Brayden 41:00
Yeah Fated Love is definitely on my list.
Well Kris, do your list.
I know well, Melissa like took all of mine.
Maybe you have three now.
Yeah, on my notes, it says Too Close to Touch. I have- that’s definitely- I’ve re-read that one, out of like lesfic that’s probably my biggest reread. I have Faded Love, Quinn and Honor I mean, that’s a great story. It’s just such a great story. And like I didn’t even think about like when we were kids. And I’ve talked about this a bazillion times. I mean, if we’re gonna go that way, like I read a lot of Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts. But I loved Sidney Sheldon. I mean, that was a lot of intrigue and romance too, like Master of the Game and Rage of Angels. Like there was a miniseries, Jacqueline Smith. I was in love with Jacqueline Smith when I was a kid. I mean to this day, sure, too. But like she was in- she was the character in Rage of Angels and then a couple other ones that followed.
And yeah, so that that got me on the romance train real fast. I you know, it’s funny, because my mom is German, so she doesn’t read anything English. And so my dad had all these like Sidney Sheldon books, and I’m like, “I’m just gonna read this”. Mom’s like, “Okay.” You know, Sidney Sheldon like pretty hardcore. So yeah, so Sidney Sheldon really, really got me going on that. And then another one I like to read is Winter Jacket.
Oh, yeah, I still haven’t read that one. Which, I know is bad. I’ve heard it’s really good.
It is really good. And it’s a very simple book. But it’s so good. Because you don’t- maybe because it’s very simple. But it’s also, you know, the whole teacher-student thing and you want to know why she wears her winter jacket, too.
Did you read the whole series?
I have not read the whole series.
Did you read the one- So apparently there’s one. I think it was when Meghan O’Rourke was on my old podcast, she recommended it but she- I think she said there was one where it takes the story from Winter Jacket and flips the perspective.
I think so. I think I started that one. But I kind of like- it’s one of those where it’s just kind of wanted something you found that so good. You just wanted to leave it alone. Because it’s in your head. And it’s in your heart a certain way. And sometimes it’s okay, just to leave it there. And so that’s how I feel. I mean, that’s how Melissa feels about Imagine Me and You. So I think there’s-
Melissa Brayden 43:26
You stop it right now.
I’m surprised we didn’t lose like half our listeners after putting that thing out.
Melissa Brayden 43:37
I don’t know, I see some future debates at a bar some night. I see it happen.
Yeah, let’s do The Pig, you know, and we were talking. I’m googling something now, I’m stalling because the one book or the one movie I saw when I was either 11 or 12. I’m googling this right now. It was a movie with Carrie Fisher and John Ritter. And this is the book- this is the movie that got me into- it’s called… What is it called? Leave… Yesterday Behind. Leave Yesterday Behind. So it was- Gosh, I don’t even know. 1978. So I saw I mean, I didn’t see when it came out.
How is it possible?
You were not born!
No, I literally saw it in the 80s ,I really did. And I just I kept watching it and I would go to bed early like at 730 at night, I would go to bed, because in my head I would keep playing that movie over and over again. And so that had such a big impact in my life and I’m sure if I watched it I’d be like, “This is the worst fucking movie I’ve ever seen”. But for me as a child I you know, you just- that just did it for me, that got me into romance, that got me into thinking about it all the time. And that’s what got me into writing.
Melissa Brayden 44:50
That’s great. I love Kris at night with her little imagination time.
I know. Like, “Why are you going to bed at seven?” My sister. “Why did you go to bed at seven?” “Leave me alone?” Probably thought I was doing other things. But I really was reconstructing the- what I saw. It was so it was so beautiful. So, anyway.
Melissa Brayden 45:09
I don’t know if it still is, but I don’t know what to know. It’s one of those where it’s in my heart, it’s gonna stay there. It’s gonna stay untouched. It was beautiful at the time.
I feel that way about Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. That was like, my shit when I was like, twelve. Dr. Quinn and Sully was just like my couple and I’m afraid to go back. I can’t like, it’s probably- what if it’s terrible? It probably is.
Melissa Brayden 45:34
I hope not. I recorded that.
Jane Seymour, we all crushed on her.
Melissa Brayden 45:39
Oh my gosh. Oh, my God.
I didn’t realize it at the time. But again, as an adult, who understands, “Oh, yeah, that was why I watched it.”
Melissa Brayden 45:46
That’s what was going on.
So I did pick three books. Although if we’re gonna go way, way back, I’m going to add, and also like not queer books. So Jane Eyre was my one that I read over and over and over and over again, I thought it was the most romantic thing. My high school English teacher gave it to me when I was 14. And unfortunately, I went back to it in my 30s. It was like, “Oh, Mr. Rochester was so gross. And what he was asking of Jane was so inappropriate”. And I kind of wish I would have just left it in the past. Because I had a lot of good memories of that book. But yeah, I probably read that book more than any other book. I probably read it 20 or 30 times in my lifetime.
But in terms of lesfic books, I chose All That Matters by Susan X. Meagher.
Melissa Brayden 46:36
I love that one.
So, so good. One that.I can’t say- Kind of thinking how to say this kindly. Because it’s like a first book. And I think we have to be kind sometimes to like first books. So it’s not a perfect book, but one that like, I get sucked in every so often just because of the characters is Course of Action by Gun Brooke. There’s just something about the chemistry between those two leads that I just love and completely gets me. Didn’t Stay in Vegas by Chelsea M. Cameron, I love. It’s so fun, because it’s about two best friends who wake up hungover in Vegas, and they’re married. And one of them is a completely useless lesbian who does not recognize that her best friend has been crushing on her and her best friend Emma, who’s like, “What if we stayed married because of like taxes and benefits?” I know benefits are like a real bad situation in the States sometimes, but like, I don’t know, maybe that’s enough. But there’s like no angst. And it’s super lovely.
And then my other one, we’ve all gone way over three.
Melissa Brayden 47:46
All right, totally fine. We’re breaking our own rules.
I have a fanfic which is Truth and Measure by Telanu, which is a Devil Wears Prada fanfic that basically says, “What if Andy didn’t quit? What if she stayed? And what if Miranda got pregnant and her marriage fell apart – well her marriage is falling apart anyway – but she got pregnant. And what if Andy helped her and they kind of fell in love all the way?” And here’s the thing. The premise sounds kind of like, really? But I heard it recommended on a podcast that Andy Marquette and Jove Belle used to do a long time ago. And Jove Belle was the one that was like, “Oh my god, you guys, you have to read this fanfic. It’s like, 300,000 words”. And I was like, “Okay, I’ll bite” because she spoke really passionately about it. And then I couldn’t put the fucking thing down. It was like three days, it consumed my life. And I recommended it to other people where they’re like, “Oh, that was so good”.
And it has this incredible thing where Miranda recognizes that she has feelings, and she says, “Okay, what if we were together, but it was platonic?” And Andy is like, “Are you kidding me?” And it’s totally ridiculous. And then it just ends up in the most incredible payoff. And so here’s the thing about this fanfic, though, the author is actually Rosalyn Sinclair, who was published with Ylva did The X File and the other one, The Lily in the Crown. And so she’s rewritten it and it’s being released this spring in two volumes, a month apart each. One of them called Truth and Measure the other one called Above All Things and like I am equally parts excited beyond belief and completely terrified.
Melissa Brayden 49:22
I was gonna say, are you going to sleep? This is a big deal.
Well, it’s a big deal. But also, I love the fanfic so much, that I’m just afraid like, what if I don’t love the books as much?
Melissa Brayden 49:36
Because on the flip side, like recently, we watched the film Eternals, and I heard that it was the most boring thing ever. And so I went into it and I was like, “All right, well, this is gonna be boring. I’ll just keep my Nintendo Switch nearby, so I can start gaming, like if it’s that bad, and then I actually really liked it, but I can’t do that-
Melissa Brayden 49:52
Because you already have your expectation. Yeah
Yup. So we’ll see. But yes, I mean the fanfic is still- all of her fanfic even when they’re rewritten because she does truly, to be fair, because I’ve seen some fanfics where it’s like, “So that was like lightly dusted?” Like no, she full on rewrites her stories to turn them into original fics. So I mean, I can always go back to the fanfic. I suppose.
Melissa Brayden 50:20
It’s not going anywhere. That’s right.
No, no. So before we close, Melissa, you have a book that’s coming out soon. Can you tell us what it’s called? When’s it coming out? What’s it all about?
Melissa Brayden 50:32
It’s called Exclusive, and it’s a March release. And it’s the story of Skyler Ruiz, who is a reporter kind of out in the sticks covering a string of small towns and really just can’t get her foot in the door of TV news the way she has always hoped to. And because of some connections through some family, she’s able to score an interview at a San Diego news station, which is a top 30 news station. And because some things work out she gets her big chance to report for the big time. And she is working alongside her longtime crush, and veteran news anchor Carolyn McNamara who maybe isn’t so friendly at first, but perhaps that changes as they work together. It’s near and dear to my heart. That was my first job out of college is I was a TV news reporter here. And San Antonio before I realized that I did not have the thick skin required for that particular job. But I do have fond memories. And I did love the industry a great deal.
So it was fun to kind of pull back on some of my own experiences and weave them in in different ways. And see those things play out in fiction. And it’s also a callback to my second novel Heart Block because Skyler, the main character, is the younger cousin of Sarah Matamoros. And so we do revisit Emory and Sarah in that book and see what they’re up to and see what struggles they’re encountering.
Fun. I really liked that one. So I’m glad to hear that we’re going to go back to them. Oh shit, that’s a book that I reread a lot.
Put it on your list!
Melissa Brayden 52:06
We’ve got some glances at them, you get some glimpses of that couple. They’ve got some stuff going on.
That sounds so good.
I know and it’s coming out like just in a couple of weeks. So that’s exciting.
Melissa Brayden 52:18
Yeah, yeah, it’s a March 1. It’ll be out in the Bold Strokes website. And then a couple of weeks after that, you can get it everywhere else. So that’s not too far away. It’s crazy how time flies.
Well, I think that’s all for this episode. Thank you so much for joining us, Melissa. Where can people find you online if they want to connect with you?
Melissa Brayden 52:38
Oh, well, they can find me pretty much anywhere they would like to go I just hang out everywhere including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, I just started exploring Tik Tok. I haven’t fully figured it out yet the way Kris has.
I love yours. I love your Tiktok.
Melissa Brayden 52:53
Hopefully she will offer me some tutorials and I can figure out this medium. But if you want to see some videos about books, dogs and kids, you can head over to my page as I try to figure it out.
Yeah, I love the one with the coffee. I don’t know what you’re singing but you’re like, like fade and you’re like, “Yeah, toddler don’t mess with me.” It’s great. I love it. Love it.
Melissa Brayden 53:19
Thank you. I have fun.
I’m gonna go check that out later. So if you’ve all enjoyed this show, please make sure to hit that subscribe button wherever you listen to podcasts. You’ll get notified whenever we release an episode. Or if you have a friend that you think would like the show, please tell them about it. And if you’d like to support us financially, we do have a link to Kofi in the show notes or you can visit kofi.com/queerlyrecommended, not at all necessary, definitely appreciated though.
Or if you want to connect with us on your favorite social media sites, just search for queerlyrecommended on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. So goodbye everyone.
Melissa Brayden 53:59
And don’t forget to send your Valentine’s Day-
By text. Oh, no.
We cut that part out. That’s gonna be- It’s okay. Just say your last part and then we’re done.
What? Are we saying goodbye then? I mean to-
Yes, we’re just- Because we’re gonna have them cut into this episode at the end. That’s okay. I forgot to pull that part out of the outline.
That’s your fault.
That is my fault. It’s my fault. I am sorry.
It’s okay. All right. And I’m Kris Bryant, a contemporary romance writer with nearly 20 books and novellas out fuck. Fuck!
Just do your part. This is gonna be a goodun. I can tell.
Melissa Brayden 55:26
This is how it goes?
This is second zoom today.
Oh my god you big baby you are-
I know, I’m not used to that. I’m not used to Zooms and I had one last night that lasted forever. Okay.