Book of the Month for August: Fearless Flying by Karen Gordon


fearless flying.pngThis was originally posted on Chapter and Verse Reviews

The time has come again for my Book of the Month!

This month’s book is a bit of a cheat one – it’s written by a Twitter friend of mine, and it’s not yet available for purchase through Amazon etc., but I was so excited about it that I wanted to share it as my Book of the Month.

Fearless Flying by Karen Gordon is – at first glance – a charming contemporary romance novella. Certainly if that’s what you’re in the market for, you will love this. But I also found it grew deeper as I read on – there’s a lightness of touch about the characters and situations which makes it a pleasure to read, and the depth of significance is subtle. Particularly, our heroine Vivey is engaging and “real”. Usually I hate that – people describing fictional characters as “real”. But if – like me – you’re tired of reading ingenue heroines who are swept up by men, then you’ll love Fearless Flying. I’m sorry I can’t give you a link to own it right now!

There are lots of great little touches throughout – including tiny planes to mark new sections in the typesetting, which I particularly appreciated.

Reading the work of someone you know – even if it is e-friendship via Twitter – is always tense, but it’s joyful too, when you realise that you can whole-heartedly recommend it. Of course, I guessed that Karen and I had similar tastes when we bonded over Outlander (sploosh) and Arthurian literature, but I am so so happy to make Fearless Flying my book of the month, and you’ll just have to watch this space to read it for yourself!

You’ll love this book if:
– You like engaging female main characters
– You like a good romance
– You’re into contemporary women’s fiction

You might want to avoid this book if:
– For some reason you dislike graphic sex scenes in novels, no matter how enjoyable😉

Unmasking Elena Ferrante: Journalistic Victory or Violation?

BN-QE023_NYFERR_P_20161007155612.jpgOver the last few weeks, social media (my social media at least) has been abuzz with the news that Elena Ferrante has been “unmasked”. Some of the reaction has been outrage, some eye rolling and accusations of ‘prissiness’ and ‘whining’.

I guess it’s a truth of this modern, well-connected world, that it’s hard to keep anything a secret. Unless you really know what you’re doing, there’s always a trail. If you tell one person, a secret’s no longer a secret. As they say, the truth will out.

But for me, the burning question is why does it matter? It reminds me of those passionate but (in my opinion) misguided scholars who have spent their lives trying to “prove” that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare, but was in fact the Earl of Oxford, or someone else or someone else. Curiosity is one thing, but surely what is more important is the way the author has presented themself to us?

To me, the “unmasking” of Elena Ferrante is petty and pointless. Knowing the author’s “real” name makes no difference to us as readers, and will have a pretty big and perhaps upsetting impact on the author and their day-to-day life.


You don’t have to show your face to give a lot of yourself away 

There are lots of reasons authors want to use pseudonyms. But I’ve never enjoyed a book less knowing the author wasn’t using their “real” name. I don’t know that we do “deserve” to know about the personal lives of those whose works we read. Celebrities like Taylor Swift are constantly coming under fire for micro-managing their online “persona”, but we don’t deserve other peoples’ secrets.

So from my perspective, this is sad. It feels like cheap journalism, of little benefit to the readers. But I’d love to hear from you – do you think we deserve to know the “true” identity of those whose books we read? Do you think authors can have a reasonable expectation of privacy?

*NEWS* MORGAWSE Now out in beautiful paperback!

It’s a very exciting day once more in the Collins household as the Morgawse: Queen of the North trilogy is available as an omnibus in a gorgeous paperback, courtesy of the lovely people at The Book Folks (and, of course, me).

For the first time, read the untold story of Queen Morgawse in this passionate fantasy romance. Intrigue, steamy love-scenes and lots of sumptuous medieval scenery – what more could you want?

a sexy psychology lesson’
‘highly charged romantic extravaganza’ 

Find it on Amazon here! 

Why I’ll Never Date a Feminist: A Response

The internet has already had a field day mocking this deceptively friendly-looking chap for his frankly crushingly predictable op-ed on why feminists are not on his “would bang” list. 

Poor Dave. Dave, if you’re reading this (though I’m not sure why you would, since I have ‘feminist’ in the tagline of my blog) I’m not here to make fun of you. I am, however, concerned about the state of the heterosexual dating scene, and I want to spread some comfort. Although I will concede that your op-ed truly is the reason why you will never date a feminist, aside from this we don’t agree on much.

tumblr_nfbk64DMSZ1thkqcyo1_1280.jpgThis is not the first declaration from a white man (and somehow, all the ones I’ve come across, they are always white,  I don’t know why) that have sworn off dating feminists. Not sure why they need to – feminists tend not to want to date men who don’t consider them their social, economic or political equal. Hell, #notallfeminists want to date men but, Dave my friend, I will return to that point later. There’s currently a rather odd backlash against feminism. Women, and even cats, are now loudly declaring themselves against feminists and feminism.

Everyone seems rather confused.


Now, Dave, Dave my man, I’m not going to get into it with you over your claims that there is no such thing as the wage gap or rape culture. Let’s agree to disagree. I’m not interested in dating you (nothing personal, Dave) so our political differences hopefully won’t get in a the way of a little intellectual discussion. I am concerned about your interpretation of the “Red Pill.” You claim that the Red Pill is a ‘philosophy’ ‘which aims to point out how derogatory, hypocritical and vindictive third-wave feminists can be.’ Is it, Dave? Is it? Or is it PUA-speak for disregarding women’s wishes on the dating scene? You see, I’m a bit concerned that you both dismiss the existence of rape culture and then use the language of one of its strongest proponents. I’m also unclear on what’s ‘derogatory’ about women asking to be paid the same as men, not raped, and given equal civil liberties.

One much-praised commenter points out:

“If you disagree that rape and being paid less are problems, then you aren’t qualified to date. You’re probably not qualified to be in the presense of a woman, but something tells me your attempts at dating haven’t gone very well because you’re spending too much time on the Red Pill subreddit being convinced that women are out to get your money and children, of which you have neither.”

I’m afraid, Dave, I rather take his point.

But I’ve got distracted, Dave. I’ve done that thing you hate! I’ve made a comment critical of your sincerely-held belief that feminism is I know I’m not going to talk you out of that. So let’s move on.

My real problem, Dave old pal, my real problem with your op-ed – which is so middle-of-the-road MRA PUA that there was almost nothing in it to stimulate me to reply apart from this – is this little gem you have left at the end:

“Maybe one day, men and women will stop trying to eliminate the lines between us and realize it’s the differences between the sexes that make romance, family and love an enjoyable experience.”

Now Dave, dear, sweet Dave, I don’t want to shock you, and I hope you’re sitting down, but  I feel obliged to tell you that there is such a thing as same-sex love, sex and romance. I know! Hard to believe. Also – now I only speak for myself here – but when choosing a romantic partner, chromosomal makeup isn’t my only criteria. Now, I may be crazy. Perhaps all other humans date by choosing someone who is as diametrically opposed from them as possible on the gender scale. But I’m not so sure. I know two rather lovely ladies who manage to have a very enjoyable romantic and family experience without any difference between the sexes. I know! It sounds mad, Dave. But I tell you I saw it with my own two eyes.

Dave, Dave my old buddy my old pal, you’re so right. You will never date a feminist. You say it’s because of people who are ‘more loyal to their gender’ than to their partner. I’m afraid, I think the person who is wedded to their gender is you. To that, and a bizarre idea of worldwide heterosexuality and binary and diametrically opposed gender identity.

The Red Pill isn’t real, Dave. The Matrix is a movie. Women are people, human beings, just like you. Some of them like women, some of them like men. Some of them are feminists, some of them are not. Some say they are not, but fundamentally believe in the radical notion that they are humans like you, deserving of the same love, respect and dignity. Love isn’t about being opposites on a sex or gender binary. Love isn’t about people fitting into cookie-cut roles. Women don’t hate men. Sometimes they point out systemic oppression, and that’s not fun to hear about. Sit yourself down and listen to some Beyoncé. Feminists – women  – like love, sex and romance just as much as the next guy. But I think it’s right you’ve decided not to date feminists. We’ll try to get through it. I’m afraid it says more about you than about feminists that you’re afraid of dating someone who considers themselves your social, political and economic equal.

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

Popular Romance: A “Literature of Protest”


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An excellent recent article has talked about romance novels as a literature of protest. 

IMG_0322It’s always heartening to hear someone voice an opinion you yourself hold.

Why are they so derided? They’re formulaic, sure. They’re genre fiction. So are crime novels and thriller novels, horror stories and a wealth of other fictions. But these are books in which, almost always, the subjectivity is female. Therefore they are frivolous and silly.

I mean, sure, there’s sex and love, talking about feelings, tropes that you expect, but when a man writes about love and sex then it’s literary fiction (even if it’s awful), but the sauce is not the same for the gander.

People love to make distinctions. This is high-status, this is low. That’s why we talk about ‘guilty pleasures’. Romance novels are my ‘guilty pleasure’ – to write and to read. Except I don’t feel guilty, and I won’t, and neither should anyone else who enjoys this.


Two medieval ladies who express how I feel about the haters. 

This genre belongs to women. It’s written for women, with our desires in mind. Of course, this leads to a lot of drum-beating about how they usually depict swooning, submissive women with dominant men (mine don’t, but that’s by the by). But I put this to you: when Max Mosley paid to be spanked at his birthday party, who was in charge? If a man pays to be dominated, he’s in charge. If a woman pays for a book which represents a certain type of sexuality or sexual behaviour, she is in charge. Because a sexual fantasy is not the same as a desire to live something out in real life. She who buys the book has the power.

Romance fiction is ours. We’ve taken back the night. Let’s take back the books.

The Burkini Ban and the French Secularist Hypocrisy


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burkini-blur.jpgI’m not the first voice to decry the French Burkini ban. I guess it’s something about a photo showing two armed policemen standing over a woman, forcing her to strip in public that just repulses people.

Fundamentally, I understand the ethos behind French secularism. It’s meant to promote equality, neutrality, communality. But it works against its own purpose when it’s singling out Muslim women.

I know that this isn’t what the French ban is about, but many people’s objection to the burqua (which, by the way is the full-face veil, not the headscarf or niquab) is that it oppresses women. Certainly, it oppresses women to be told what to wear. But how is it better when the state – including armed policemen – enforce this rather than a religious authority?

As usual, it is women who suffer. On whose bodies the political anxieties of the time play out.

It is immensely sad that in 2016 we are still policing what women wear. Of course, there are women who are compelled to cover. But there are many who cover of their own choice. To strip them, publicly, is an act of unforgivable and inhuman violence and humiliation for which there is no excuse.

I was pleased to hear that the burkini ban is being called off. It’s interesting that such things have meaning only when women wear them. My father used to have a rather fetching wetsuit that covered his head in quite the same manner as the burkini. As a white man, no one had any questions about this. But we always care what women wear.

It’s time that changed.

Lavinia’s Book of the Month: June

As you can see from my shameful lateness, I’m still catching up with these (it’s been a mad summer in the Collins household) but here it is, June’s Book of the Month, which can be found in its original form here. 

everyday sexism.jpgEveryday Sexism – Laura Bates

June’s Book of the Month is (!) a non-fiction book.

This book was lent to me by a kind and beloved friend, and I thought it would just be everything I knew, set out in nice neat statistic form. I’ve seen Laura Batestalk, and she presents a very clear-cut case. She’s angry – of course she is – and utterly sick of this shit, but she’s calm. Ordered. Logical. This book is the same. Broken up sensibly into neat categories and set out with factoids and headings, it is a very rational book.

I found it quite emotional to read. I expected to a little, but I was surprised by the toll certain sections took. Would I say it was a fun read? No, I don’t think I would, but it is an important one. To tackle a problem that affects all of us – because sexism is not just women’s problem – we must see it for what it is. Systemic.

You’ll love this book if:
– You’ve been dismissed in one too many conversations and told that ‘feminism is irrelevant’
– You don’t mind looking hard facts in the face
– You want to be armed with cold hard info the next time you get into an internet dispute with a Reddit neckbeard (jk; they don’t care about info)

You might want to avoid this book if:
– You are sensitive to sexual violence and harrassment triggers
– You have ever unironically used the #notallmen hashtag

Lavinia’s Book of the Month: May

So, obviously I’m a little behind on these. Partly that’s because I write them for my friends, Chapter and Verse Reviews (lovely people who always support indie authors), and they run them first, partly because I have not been as organised as perhaps I should have been. Please accept my apologies and enjoy May’s book of the month! 

Every month, our friend Lavinia Collins is going to share with you a book she’s read and recommends. As Lavinia has been busy with the release of the last part of her Queen of the North trilogy, and with the upcoming paperback edition of the series, we’ve decided to put her May and June choices back-to-back.

The Edible Woman– Margaret Atwood

edible woman.jpgAn oldie, but a goodie. The Edible Woman is one of the older and less well-known of Atwood’s works, but it is by far my favourite. I’m slightly cheating because I re-read it rather than read it for the first time this month, but here it is.

The Edible Woman tells the story of Marian, a woman who works at a survey company and is engaged to Peter, a boring man who likes to have sex in the (dry) bathtub. She tries to run away from him (literally), is collected, scolded for being silly, and returns to her life. But the quiet frustrations of everyday sexism – microaggressions, perhaps we could call them now – wriggle under her skin, and Marian finds herself going progressively off her food.

The Edible Woman is a wonderful book, because it is so subtle. All of the little niggles and digs are small and everyday. There is nothing wrong per se with Peter. There is nothing wrong per se with Marian’s life. There’s something about her frustration which is so real, and something about the way it manifests – in the quiet refusal of more and more food – that is at once so real and immediate and so keyed in to a tradition hundreds of years old of women silently objecting to their circumstances by refusing to eat, from fasting nuns in the early middle ages to suffragettes in the early twentieth century. When you can’t control anything else, you can refuse to eat.

This book is also so much more than a feminist parable. It’s funny, it’s light, it’s ambiguous at the end – we are left with the question: who is trying to consume whom?

I would highly recommend this as a first Atwood for anyone who is yet to read her, one for Atwood lovers, and one to re-read. It’s perhaps the most mundane of her works in terms of subject matter (most similar in tone to Cat’s Eye), but in this ordinary setting she achieves so much. I cannot recommend this book enough.

You’ll love this book if:
– You like humour with an edge
– You have ever been a woman

You might want to avoid this book if:
– You secretly (or indeed openly) hate women

The Guy Ritchie King Arthur Trailer – Excitement and an important question…!


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Here it is! The first glimpse of the latest King Arthur movie (I heard the rumours before and I was excited then). Here’s the trailer for anyone who hasn’t seen it:

Now, I am still excited. I see you there, fire-weilding Jude Law Vortigern – what is your deal? I simply must know. But I have some concerns. Indeed, I wouldn’t say that the trailer has dampened my excitement, but it has confirmed a few worries I had about the film in the first place. The big one being:

Where are all the women? 

You can see one creepy sorceress woman (bet you £5 that’s Morgan le Fay), and that’s about it. There’s lots of men with those particularly Ritchiesque mockney accents making glib comments, some pretty stunning looking CGI and a lot of fightin’, but no women.

I mean, this is fairly typical of Ritchie’s oevre. A passer of the bechdel test he ain’t. So I wasn’t surprised. But it is disappointing when the sausage-fest that is medieval literature manages to provide a more nuanced and gender-balanced version of the myth than this trailer seems to suggest (and I look forward to being proved wrong when I sit my sweet ass down in the cinema to watch it). The women of Arthurian literature are many, complex and just as prominent, especially for writers like Malory, as the men. It will be a little disappointing if it turns out that this has been consciously excised (for there is no other explanation for their absence, other than making this a “man’s film for men”) from a twenty-first century version.

Now before you say it’s a tough-as-nails King Arthur with a gritty modern twist so there’s no room for women, just sit yourself down a minute. I could see a very tough and gritty Morgan, Morgawse or indeed Guinevere in a version like this. Perhaps I will. Perhaps in the cinema I will weep with joy. I hope so.

Watch this space for a review when it hits the screens!