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615. RT Rewind: May 1994 Ads & Features


Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 615 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, Amanda is with me, and we’re going back to May 1994, this time to look at the ads and features of the Romantic Times magazine. It’s a time, y’all. I have some questions, and we’re going to answer them. Are Eric Braeden and Victor Newman the same guy? Is Kathryn Falk writing celebrity gossip and outing people? Are there Lorena Bobbitt jokes and glamour shots all over the place? Oh, these questions will all be answered, and we had a great time looking at the reviews. The ads and features are even better, so do not miss the visual aids. There’ll be a link in the show notes and on at the top of the page, so you can listen and follow along.

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All right, are you ready to go back in time? It’s quite a trip. We’re going all the way back to 1994, and like I said, don’t miss the visual aids. Fabio wants to croon to you. You think I’m joking, but I’m absolutely not – [laughs] – joking about that; I would never joke about that. On with the podcast.


Sarah: I had to be really judicious when it came to looking at the ads and features, ‘cause there’s so much to talk about!

Amanda: There’s so many, and a lot of the features are just like a weird author spotlight? And not, like, on a topic. ‘Cause you know –

Sarah: No.

Amanda: – the later issues it’s like, Oh, this author’s coming to talk about her book, but it’s also tied into some sort of publishing thing or trend thing or whatever.

Sarah: Right, like Brenda Jackson was taking a cruise and had a hot car. Valerie Bowman was on Say Yes to the Dress. Like, there’s other elements to the – and I’ve said this many times when talking about podcast pitching. Hey, I wrote a book is like a ten-minute conversation. These little profiles are like that. There’s so many of them, and they’re all like, Hello, I’m so-and-so, and I have a book, but I’m just going to talk! How much were those? How much did they pay for those?

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: All right. Shall we start with the cover?

Amanda: Oh my God, this cover.

Sarah: It is such a work of art. I had so much fun putting this on social media and having people go, Oh my God!

Amanda: It’s so good, and –

Sarah: So good.

Amanda: – the reason why I picked this was because of the cover. You gave me two options –

Sarah: Yes, I did.

Amanda: – and usually you do like an earlier one and a later one.

Sarah: Yes.

Amanda: And once you see this man and his curly hair and his mustache and the –

Sarah: You mean John Oates from Hall & Oates?

Amanda: John Oates from Hall & Oates and this, like, rich purple border, how can you pick anything else?

Sarah: It, it’s, it is so opulent, it is everything, and it’s both styles, right? Because you have Heaven by Bobbi Smith featuring a shirtless John Oates with a gun, and then on the right you have a photograph of a guy who kind of looks like that guy from the soap opera who was, who’s still on the soap opera? I think –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: You know who I’m talking about?

Amanda: Yes.

Sarah: You’re going to look it up because I couldn’t find this. I just, you just –

Amanda: No.

Sarah: You know who I’m talking about; he kind of looks like –

Amanda: Yes!

Sarah: – that guy from the soap opera who we’re going to name in a minute ‘cause Amanda’s like, I know who it is!

Amanda: Soap opera man.

Sarah: Soap opera dude! But he’s got like a mustache, and his hair is blown back, and he’s wearing a –

Amanda: Ooh.

Sarah: – sleeveless denim shirt that is open over his low-slung jeans and a gigantic belt buckle with a longhorn on it, and he’s leading a horse and looking off to the side, looking very manual-, manly and muscular. And that guy is on the cover of Carol Finch’s A Bid for Love.

Amanda: I think, I’m trying to find him. I think I found him in, like, a banner image, but it doesn’t tell me who he is. I think –

Sarah: Eric Braeden, The Young and the Restless. He looks like a young Eric Braeden; that’s who he looks like.

Amanda: That’s who…

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: I was thinking of, I’m going to send you this, it’s this older guy.

Sarah: Oh! That’s Victor Newman, right? That’s Eric Braeden!

Amanda: I think –

Sarah: That’s the same guy. That’s, that’s Eric Braeden. That’s Victor Newman. We’re thinking of the same dude. Yeah, that’s him.

Amanda: Okay, wait, okay. [Laughs]

Sarah: This guy looks like a young, young that guy. Thank you very much for going on this journey with us. Everyone I know listening to podcasts…podcasters google things is just a delight, but yeah. He looks like that soap opera guy –

Amanda: That’s the guy.

Sarah: – and we were, have clearly – [laughs] – it’s the soap opera guy; oh my God.

So here are some things I learned about this cover from Steve Ammidown, who’s going to be a guest on a future episode. When I posted this on Bluesky, he told me that these were from the Zebra line for romances with forty-plus leads called To Love Again, and he says that the covers that he has seen for this line had so many mustaches, so clearly the marker for a mature man on the cover to signal the elder-, elderliness of over forty is a mustache. And I only hope that the next episode of The Golden Bachelor features a hero with a big frigging mustache, like a big ol’ –

Amanda: That’s a –

Sarah: – Wilford Brimley walrus-lookin’ pornstache; that’s what I want.

Amanda: Like, he oils or conditions that –

Sarah: Oh yeah, he uses beard balm. He uses beard balm. Think of –

Amanda: – mustache.

Sarah: – think of the hair care that the John Oates guy has. Like, what does his bureau look like? Like, the shelf in his bathroom? Between the curly, shiny, perfectly coiffed hair and the big old bushy Wilford Brimley pornstache and his supple skin, this guy has a beauty regimen, it takes him like two hours in the morning.

Amanda: Did you look at the description for Heaven?

Sarah: No, I looked at, I looked at the description for A Bid for Love, and I will, I will, I’m going to tell you –

Amanda: We’ll, we’ll trade descriptions.

Sarah: We’ll trade. Okay, so A Bid for Love:

>> Yuppie love –

Sarah: Yuppies! Yuppies! Oh my God!

>> Yuppie love doesn’t have anything on this exceptionally well written romance that not only steams up the glasses with its passionate love scenes, but warms the heart with the –

Amanda: Don’t do that; I hate that!

Sarah: [Laughs] It’s so annoying when your glasses fog.

>> – but warms the heart with the depth of love, caring, and commitment the characters show for each other.

Yuppie love! This is a shirtless man leading a horse. Yuppie love.

Okay, so tell me, tell me about Heaven by Bobbi Smith.

Amanda: Also, I want to note that, you can see it on the Heaven cover, but he’s got stacked belt buckles, ‘cause one’s holding his pants up, and one’s holding his gun up –

Sarah: Oh, for sure!

Amanda: – which makes me laugh.

Sarah: Oh, for sure.

Amanda: Okay. I kind of want to read this one. [Laughs]

>> Heaven by Bobbi Smith: Entombed centuries ago, shrouded in legend and haunted by a curse, it is the most precious jewel of the Nile, and Alexandra Parker, daughter of a famed archaeologist, has come to Egypt to find it. As have two dangerously seductive men, Winn Bradford, a virile Englishman passing himself off as a priest, and Matt McKittrick, a rugged American adventurer. Both arouse desire; neither can be trusted. Driven by revenge and a secret she can never reveal, Alexandra embarks on an adventure that sweeps her into a passionate liaison and a rendezvous with destiny. She seeks a crown but will find a far more priceless treasure: one man’s irresistible love.

Sarah: Oh my gosh, that sounds amazing! You’ve got to read that, and you’ve got to get the original cover!

Amanda: Yes! It has a four point – oh yeah, I have to buy the original. It has a 4.2 star on Goodreads.

Sarah: Well, it got re-released with a Jo-Goodman-looking cover.

Amanda: But it, like, the Jo, it’s interesting, ‘cause it makes it feel like a Western, and then you see the pyramids in the background?

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: Like, what?

Sarah: Surprise!

Amanda: I guarantee –

Sarah: Why is this guy running around without a shirt on? He’s going to get a sunburn.

Amanda: It’s hot!

Sarah: He’s going to –

Amanda: He’s in the desert! It’s, he’s hot!

Sarah: – going to burst into flames!

Amanda: This has to be the American.

Sarah: Oh, has to be.

Amanda: Out of the two, it has to be the American. He has…

Sarah: That is not a priest. Mr. Oates, Mr. Oates is not a priest here. Not with that –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – not with that pornstache.

Amanda: This sounds bonkers.

Sarah: Yeah. I could, like, hang this on my wall, and people would be like, What is this? And I’d be like, Just strap in; I’m going to tell you all about it.

Amanda: I would love this cover so much. Like –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: And, to be honest, we talked about this in a previous episode of, like, growing up and reading romance, I was pretty, like, anti-body-hair? I’m like, Ooh, facial hair –

Sarah: Oh –

Amanda: – long hair –

Sarah: –  yeah.

Amanda: – smooth hair –

Sarah: Chest like a baby dolphin.

Amanda: I want to, I want to slip right off!


Amanda: But – and I’m not someone who also is like, Ooh, I love that cover model and I, like, follow sort of the covers that they’re on. I feel like I have never been more attracted to a cover model in my entire life than I have to this smoldering, luscious, lusciously haired man on this cover. It has been a sexual reawakening of surprising proportions.

Sarah: So you got a hot –

Amanda: Gazing upon –

Sarah: You got the hots for John Oates here.

Amanda: I’ve got hot Oates!


Sarah: Please tell me you’re going to buy the original cover and read it and display this book prominently in your home.

Amanda: This is the most serious I’ve been about acquiring – [laughs]

Sarah: So, so what you’re saying is the hot Oates are compelling you.

Amanda: I’m being compelled by the hot Oates, one hundred percent.

Sarah: [Laughs] Oh my God. I cannot wait –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – for the follow-up when you tell me about this absolutely bonkers book. Wow. We’re going to find out –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – more about the model on the cover in this magazine, which is just such a delight. But let’s move on –

Amanda: Good for him.

Sarah: – to the inside cover, page 2 of the PDF: Chanting the Storm. He’s got a staff that is attracting lightning. He looks like, like a mage in Dragon Age. He’s got his shirt, his, his cloak is open. He’s got the fantasy belt, which is apparently disks of gold and a big buckle. She’s swooning and, like, running her hand down his chest. He’s got a big old mullet. This, by the way, is rrromantasy. Ret con, ret con! But romantasy, hundred percent.

Amanda: As someone who owned a belt like that, they’re a bitch to get through those belt buckles.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: I remember having one, like, in middle school –

Sarah: Oh my God.

Amanda: – and then they’re just like disks. I, it was so awful – [laughs] – trying to get that thing into a pair of jeans.

Sarah: Then on page 3 – I promise, folks, I’m not going through, like, I’m not going to talk about every page. I could talk about every page.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: Like, there is something to say about every page in this magazine, ‘cause it is so interesting. Like, I could talk about this one issue for like hours and hours and hours. But remember, if you sign up for the Patreon you get to see the whole thing yourself.

On page 3, there’s a free hardcover collector’s edition of the tenth anniversary of Harlequin Temptation. So they did a free collector’s edition – sound familiar? – with Rita Clay Estrada, The Ivory Key – Rita Clay Estrada being one of the cofounders of RWA and the original namesake for the RITA – Glenda Sanders, Daddy, Darling; and Gina Wilkins, A Stroke of Genius. Now, I went looking to see if there were pictures of this book? Like, what did the hardcover look like? I can’t find any pictures of it, just of the title page, but it’s available online for eight bucks if you wanted a hardcover special edition –

Amanda: That’s not bad.

Sarah: That’s not bad! It says, I love in the description on Biblio it says:

>> Red silk bookmark. No writing. Giftable.

So in case you were wondering what you were getting for your birthday –

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: – it’s giftable.

And then on page 4 we have the letter from Kathryn Falk, which is really, really wild. I won’t read the whole thing, but there is a lot happening here? And this issue is all about Mr. Romance. So:

>> Our escape to Romance Weekend in Manhattan, held at the Roosevelt Hotel March 5th and 6th, was the perfect break after weeks of snowstorm. In addition to fabulous writers’ workshops and seminars, the first New York Mr. Romance cover model pageant had two great winners, John DeSalvo, who wore tight black leather studded buccaneer pants and a romantic white pirate shirt in a costume competition, and Patrick Hazlewood, a law student who called himself The Fabio with a Deep Tan and Short Hair.

Patrick Hazlewood, for the record, is a, is a Black man. So he didn’t call himself the Black Fabio; he’s just Fabio with a Deep Tan.

Amanda: I also feel like, you know, a drinking game of, like, you have to drink every time John DeSalvo appears or is mentioned. [Laughs]

Sarah: I love him. Like, I interviewed him for my book, and he was so chill and had such a great sense of humor about his work as a cover model. That guy did so many frigging covers, so many more than Fabio.

So the judges of Mr. Romance included models Cindy Guyer and Joe, Joe Anselmo; illustrators Pino, Sharon Spiak – who was a guest on the show – Franco; and photographer Michelle La Grue; along with Heather Graham, Elaine Barbieri, and Judy Zacharius, daughter of Walter Zacharius, the president of Zebra Books. Like, so they had a weekend at the Roosevelt Hotel, they had the Mr. New York Romance pageant, and they had writers’ workshops, so it sounds like at this time, RT was doing conferences throughout the year, and regional pageants! This was a regional pageant train! Holy cow!

And then on page 5, we meet the winner of Mr. Illinois Cover Model pageant, who is a Frenchman named, his name is Guy de Boo, B-O-O. He is now – I found him on Instagram – you will be excited to know he is a health coach and a Juice Plus+ salesperson, and you can follow him –

Amanda: Why is it Juice Plus+ sounds like an MLM?

Sarah: Oh, absolutely it does. But Guy de Boo is a, very active on Instagram and has a lot of motivational things and Juice Plus+.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: Guy – regional conf- – this is amazing to me.

Amanda: I, so, on the next page there’s, like, fan letters that people can send in, and there’s one called “Computer Age.” It was written by Joyce Smith in Louisville, Kentucky.

>> I look forward to the answers to Nancy Shaw’s letter from RT issue 119 on cataloging home romance collections on computers. I –

Sarah: Oh wow!

Amanda: >> I –


>> I too wish that there were some good programs to help track some home book collection. He makes it seem possible for a ten-thumbed person to successfully navigate the hazards of a modem!

[Laughs again] So they just want more about, like, how this person cata-, catalogs their romance collections on their computers, and I thought it was very cute!

Sarah: That’s really adorable. One thing – and this is very prominent in another issue that I think we’ll recap in the future? – one thing I think that RT does not get enough credit for is the way in which it taught readers to read digitally. There were so many articles and explainers of here’s how you read an eBook; he’s how, here’s how you download an eBook; you’re going to need a PayPal account because that’s how they all take payments; here’s how you read. And RT did so much work teaching people how to read digitally, and then those people taught other people how to read digitally. And RT had a big role, I think, in creating the eBook audience in romance and genre fiction, because they were, like, very into teaching you how to do it. And here’s Steven Zacharius talking about how to use a bulletin board system that you have to access through a modem.

Amanda: And then on page 13 –

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: – there’s this column, and –

>> Harlequin’s romance report is out. Guess who are the top ten most desirable dates for 1994.

So they polled a bunch of lifestyle editors from newspapers across North America, and those editors voted the top ten men and women that they would most like to spend a romantic Valentine’s Day with, and these are celebrities. So for women, they, number one was Cindy Crawford; number two Meg Ryan; three, Julia Roberts; four, Michelle Pfeiffer; five, Sharon Stone; six, Candice Bergen; seven, Nicole Kidman; eight, Whitney Houston; nine, Janine Turner; and ten, Emma Thompson?

Sarah: This was peak rom-com and Northern Exposure time, and yeah, that makes sense.

Amanda: Yeah, and then in parentheses it says like:

>> (Rumor has it that three of these women above are married to gay husbands –

Sarah: [Gasps]

Amanda: >> – and vice versa!

Sarah: Holy shit, what?! Kathryn Falk!

Amanda: Yeah!

Sarah: Kathryn wrote this! This is Biz Buzz by Kathryn Falk! She’s just out here –

Amanda: But also –

Sarah: – outing people! Holy balls!

Amanda: But what does that mean, vice versa?

Sarah: That they’re gay too; they’re bearding each other.

Amanda: Oh, got it.

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: And then they picked the top ten men! Number one, Mel Gibson.

Sarah: Ewww, nooo! Ew! Gross! No, thank you!

Amanda: Number two, number two, Kevin Costner.

Sarah: Still no.

Amanda: Number three, John Kennedy, Jr.

Sarah: ‘Kay.

Amanda: Four, Tom Cruise.

Sarah: Nope.

Amanda: Five, David Letterman!

Sarah: Still no.

Amanda: Six, Kenneth Branagh.

Sarah: Eh.

Amanda: Seven, Dennis Quaid.

Sarah: Still no.

Amanda: Eight, Denzel Washington.

Sarah: Would.

Amanda: Nine, Alec Baldwin.

Sarah: St-, oh no! [Laughs]

Amanda: I know. And ten, Andy Garcia.

Sarah: All right, Andy Garcia is kind of hot. I don’t know if he’s still alive.

Amanda: I think he is!

Sarah: Oh yeah, he is. He is still alive. I was mixing him up with someone else who I know is, is, I was mixing him up with someone else who is dead.

Mel Gibson, huh? Adam and I have what we call the Mel Gibson line. So once you’ve crossed the Mel Gibson line, I can’t enjoy any of those things anymore.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: I can’t watch Lethal Weapon. Not a chance. Like, there is just nope! I see Mel Gibson, and my whole body is like, ooh, recoil, cringe, run away! Ah! Yeah.

Amanda: A lot of celebrities who have not, like, aged well –

Sarah: And I don’t mean aged well –

Amanda: – at all.

Sarah: – in terms of appearance. I mean aged well in that a lot of them became sex pests. [Laughs]

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: I cannot believe Kathryn Falk wrote, and which is, by the way, three of these women are married to gay husbands and vice versa. What?! Oh my goodness! Ow! Okay!

So moving to page 14, we meet the men on the cover of this issue. I could do two episodes just about this one article. So first, the gentleman who we have been calling hot steamy Oates is David Alan Johnson. You can buy on eBay 35 mm slides of this guy from 1996 and a wife-, in a wife-beater tank top that says The Leading Men/New Faces of 1997/Hollywood’s Hottest Hunks. I mean –

Amanda: Oh boy.

Sarah: – this isn’t even a good picture, and they’re selling this slide. Look at, his, his eyes are closed! Can I give you a small spoiler?

Amanda: Sure!

Sarah: This is a small spoiler. Okay, small spoiler. Friday, December 8th, 2000, there’s an article in the Austin Chronicle. New Writers of Purple Prose Looking for Love in All the Right Places, where Romantic Times hosted the eighteenth annual Book Lovers Convention, and of course they used all the standard language to talk about it.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: He was the first Mr. Romance. Cover model David Alan Johnson was Romantic Times’s first Mr. Romance in 1993.

>> It’s permissible to –

Amanda: Wow.

Sarah: >> – snicker and laugh here because no one will dispute the fluffy sound of the title, least of all Johnson. Neither will anyone deny that Johnson is just how the dream gunslinger hero or medieval rebel should look: taller than average, impossibly beautiful face, well muscled, but not too beefy, dark-haired, green-eyed, and an utterly disarming smile. “I’m thirty-six; I had to be more than just a waiter with a dream of getting on a soap opera. Back in 1993 I was a USDA inspector for the poultry division, and my friend urged me to enter Mr. Romance contest. I did, but I didn’t tell any of my friends and family, and I won. And after that, I went to LA, I got an agent, started doing acting and modeling in commercial things as well as still doing surveillance for the USDA.”

I love this man! I love him! Mr. Romance –

Amanda: Don’t quit your day job!

Sarah: – grading eggs. That’s amazing. But he was the first Mr. Romance, and I learned that there was, there were two Mr. Romances crowned at this time? One for under forty and one for over forty, so that’s why there were two winners in New York, John DeSalvo and the other people; they had an under-forty and an over-forty. Isn’t that interesting!

Amanda: Congratulations!

Sarah: I know! One last thing I wish to tell you: on the next page we meet James Fox, who’s the guy who looks like Eric Braeden from the soap operas, who’s walking around leading a horse with his shirt open?

>> Zebra editor Ann LaFarge, editor of Carol Finch’s book, is featured on the back cover in a romantic pose with James. How’s that for an industry perk?

Ew! No! Oh my God! You’re just trying to do your job; you don’t need to po- – Ho! Ee!

Amanda: No!

Sarah: The editor! The editor is on – I’m going to ask every editor that I meet now, Hey, have you ever wanted to pose with a cover model on the front of the magazine? They’re all going to be like, No!

Amanda: No! No!

Sarah: Isn’t that wild?

Amanda: That is wild.

Sarah: These two profiles of the cover winners, I, I could spend hours with them. They are just incredible. They’re amazing. And by the way, this is absolutely the era of glamour shots? Which we will get to. There’s a lot of glamour shots pictures here.

Amanda: Yeah. So much.

Sarah: Pages 19 through 28, we’re starting with Bertrice Small, and the authors are introducing their books to you, and it’s weird because it kind of reads like –

Amanda: So weird.

Sarah: – paid placement? But Bertrice Small tells you about Love, Remember Me, which is also the centerfold for the magazine, which sounds really weird for me to say, but it is the center spread. And then we have authors introducing their spring books to you and like, I’d like to thank my readers, and here’s what’s next, and here’s what I’m working on, and this character is so close to my heart. It’s like, it’s like direct sales pitches from the authors, right?

Amanda: Yeah! So, like, some of the authors – and I didn’t check to see if it was all of them – but some of the authors are talking about books that are reviewed –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – in the magazine, and we’ve seen this in later issues too, of authors getting certain features or whatever, and they’re also reviewed in that issue, and so I was wondering if, like, maybe RT is like, Hey, you’re going to get a good review in the magazine. If you wanted to spend some extra money and do, like, a feature, like a paid feature, that might, like –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – boost awareness –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – of your book in the –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – in the magazine, so.

Sarah: So on page 28, there’s a full-page ad for Topaz – the gem of historical romance, which is a line from Penguin –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – Alexis Harrington –

Amanda: I remember this cover.

Sarah: Oh yeah. Alexis Harrington’s Homeward Hearts, Melinda McRae’s Prince of Thieves – that’s the guy with the very shiny bum that we talked about in the last episode – and Wild Desire by Cassie Edwards. Would you look at the stepback? Can you describe this? Like, I don’t know if this defies description. It might!

Amanda: It’s…This is how I, like, why I wish everything was in color, ‘cause these covers are something. So the stepback is a white horse in some water –

Sarah: Oh yeah, deep water. Like, past his withers.

Amanda: Yeah, up – yeah. And a man, Topaz man, so he has long, like, dark brown, black hair over one shoulder. He’s almost naked, except for the teeniest little loincloth. Like, it’s a black string around his waist and then, you know, a piece of, like, tan fabric covering his important parts. You barely notice it; like, it kind of blends into his body –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – a little bit, so you, if you glance too quickly it’s like, Oh, he’s a Ken doll, but it’s, no, it’s like a little teeny tiny loin cloth, and he’s reaching down and holding onto this red-haired woman who’s, like, getting swept into –

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: – the water, and she has on this pink, off-the shoulder dress with white trim. I have no clue how he is staying seated on the back of that horse. He looks like he’s about to slip into the water.

Sarah: He’s got a magic, magic ass –

Amanda: But that loin- –

Sarah: – that guy.

Amanda: Yeah, he’s holding on with just his butt cheeks alone, and that loincloth is doing a lot of work.

Sarah: It is doing a lot of work.

Amanda: I cannot stress how tiny of a strip of fabric it is.

Sarah: And the string.

Amanda: And the string.

Sarah: Like –

Amanda: Is there anything in back?

Sarah: I mean, I’m going to guess that his ass is like the suckers on an octopus’s leg? So that’s how he’s stuck to the horse. Like, that’s, he’s fused to the horse through his butt-suckers. I just said that.

Amanda: You said butt-suckers, yeah. [Laughs]

Sarah: I said fused to the horse with a butt-sucker. Good job!

Amanda: As you go through the magazine, and it’s not just on page 34 where I pointed it out, it’s on several pages of publishers congratulating their authors, agents congratulating their authors for being nominated for Romantic Times Annual Award is what it’s called, but it reminds me a lot of the back of yearbooks when, like, parents would take out a page to, like, congratulate their, their graduating senior?

Sarah: With a baby picture, yeah.

Amanda: I know. So I just think it’s, I thought it was sweet and funny…

Sarah: It is very sweet. And the one that you called out, the one that you called out on page 34 is actually from the Carolina Romance Writers congratulating their members on their, on their awards. Like, it’s so, it’s so cute!

So page 46, there is a Readers’ Corner where they talk about a book club, and this is the Literary Organization of Romance Enthusiasts, aka LORE, which met at the B. Dalton bookstore in their mall in Fort Collins, Colorado, the fourth Monday of the month. Here’s my favorite thing: they profile all of the, the, the members and what books they like the most.

>> Characters with dumb names irritate these readers. It detracts from the books’ overall quality when the names are unbelievable. For example, heroes named Ziggy, Shaws, Strong O’Kelly, and Thorne with an E just aren’t okay with this group.

I am so charmed by this whole page.

Amanda: So as I was scrolling to that one, there are two things that I didn’t make a note of that I do want to talk about.

Sarah: Bring it on! Tell me all about it.

Amanda: The ad on page 43: that is a startling cover for The Fourth of Forever by Mary…

Sarah: Oh yeah! The fourth, the, The Fourth of Forever, also looks like The Of Fourth Forever; it’s terrible layout.

Amanda: Yeah…

Sarah: It looks like she’s about to nurse.

Amanda: Or like he’s a giant.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: He looks massive.

Sarah: He really does.

Amanda: And then –

Sarah: I’m pretty sure that that cover won like a, like a worth, worst cover.

Amanda: It had to have been. It’s not good.

And then the next page after, on 44, the column on the left-hand side, it talks about reference books for romance novels.

Sarah: Oh wow! Oh, look at that!

Amanda: And it, like, you use it to reference, like, previous books and authors and titles.

Sarah: Wow. And it’s, it’s not even like historical research; it’s authors –

Amanda: A catalog…

Sarah: – listed alphabetically; titles, authors, and pseudonyms cross-referenced; 6,100 titles in groups; books by series, spinoff, and saga with related characters and asterisks included next to series that should be read in order. So you’re just printing book lists as reference manuals. Wooow, that’s really cool.

Amanda: Yeah, I thought it was cool to have, like, reference material.

Sarah: I cannot find if The Fourth of Forever was, was ever named worst cover?

Amanda: It should, though. We’ll name it worst cover.

Sarah: We’re going to name it worst cover, ‘cause it’s a bad cover, and we’ll, we’ll show you, we’ll put it, put a picture of it. It’s great.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: It, it’s very, very – it’s slightly on the edge of ooh, a little uncomfortable.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: Then on page 47 to 51, this is, this is where I kind of got what this magazine was at this point? Because there’s the Readers Corner where they showcase this book club in, in Colorado, and then there’s letters from readers, and this is when I realized that this is a fandom magazine. This is like a very old, this particular style of RT is a fanzine, because there are people sending in sketches inspired by books. There are people sending in poetry. There’s somebody who sent in a whole sketch and then did sketches on the envelope, and they reprinted the envelope – showing her return address; excellent – and all of these people are sending in art and poems about romance. Like, there’s a woman from Silver Spring – hey, neighbor –

>> I am an eighty-year-old widow –

Okay, probably not my neighbor.

>> – who loves to read historicals. I became addicted when my sister gave me Sweet Savage Love. They keep me, they keep alive the memories of my own love with my husband of forty-two years. They fill my life with the romance I no longer have, and that can be a very exciting thing.

And then wrote a poem about romance. It’s so cute.

>> Handsome heroes, lovely maidens
In a world of love they dwell
Flowing from the writers’ pens
Oh, what stories they do tell
In all the world, in every age
Our lovers fight through thick and thin
They cast their spell on every page
And in the end they always win

And that was written by Rose Berlin of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Amanda: Aw.

Sarah: Cheers to you, Rose. That was adorable.

But that was when I realized, Oh, this is a fan magazine! The authors are introducing their books and introducing themselves. People are sending in art, and they, they are creating in response to the books that they’re reading, and this was the venue where that happened, so I kind of understand now even better, how the magazine was operating in the romance world at the time. It wasn’t just for booksellers and librarians. Like, this was also very much a fanzine too. Which I think is kind of cool!

Amanda: On page 50, right after that, is a crossword puzzle!

Sarah: Yes! Oh my God, it’s so great! I should just, I should just isolate this page and put it up on the site, shouldn’t I?…this puzzle?

Amanda: They said, there’s like a little note that’s like:

>> In this month’s puzzle, several of the questions refer to the Men Made in America series published by Harlequin and Silhouette. Those questions will be marked with asterisk.

So not all of them. I don’t think I could do this puzzle because I was, what five, six years old?


Sarah: It’s all author names and book titles. Like –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – seven down:

>> B. J. James wrote A Step _____ for Silhouette.

So you have to know names, titles, and you have to know the names of authors.

>> Abbreviation for Oregon.

So that would be like OR.

>> Uneasy alliance by Jayne Anne Krentz.

Like, that’s just, here’s a book title.

Amanda: And I don’t know if they did this for every issue, or this was just, like, a special fun little thing that they would do every so often, but I was like, I love a cute little romance crossword –

Sarah: It’s so cute.

Amanda: – every issue.

And then the next page, on page 51, they have Readers Recommended Reading List, and people would just send in their list of, like, keeper, Keeper Shelf books that they would want to share with other readers. So some, some of, they had four people total, and they included their mailing addresses, which is, why they did that I don’t know. But they share four lists from four different readers. Some of them are longer than others, some only have like three titles, but it was cute to see who, or, like, what authors made the list. Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor is on two of them.

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: Judith McNaught, A Kingdom of Dreams, is on there.

Sarah: Ohhh, Bees-, Beat-, Bertrice Small, Skye O’Malley; LaVyrle Spencer; Janet Dailey; Sandra Brown; Elizabeth Lowell.

Amanda: Julie Garwood.

Sarah: Julie Garwood, may she rest. I wonder if the addresses are so you could, like, write to these people and be like, I love that book too!

Amanda: Maybe! But, like –

Sarah: ‘Cause you’re supposed to send your list to Romantic Times in Brooklyn, but then they’re publishing your full address, which is kind of freaky, I agree. Wonder if it was sort of like a low-key pen pal thing? Like, Oh my God, I loved A Knight in Shining Armor! Let’s talk about it.

Amanda: Yeah, but I feel like, even when they describe what it is, there’s no mention of, like, Hey, we’re going to include your address so other people can share their lists with you! Or anything –

Sarah: No.

Amanda: – like that. They do –

Sarah: Yeah, it’s –

Amanda: They do cap it at, you can only have twenty-five titles on your list. Which is wild; I can’t imagine having twenty-five, like, keepers. But yeah, I thought that was cute of, like, people sharing their –

Sarah: Isn’t that cute?

Amanda: – their favorite books. I mean, the usual suspects are on there that I would expect, but –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – loved it!

Sarah: Kathryn Falk was on Joan Rivers’ new show Can We Shop?

Amanda: Can We Shop?

Sarah: – and, and then appeared with a list of romance tips, gave out recommend-, recommended romance scenarios – moonlight breakfast, perfumed pillows, silky lingerie – as ways to please a man. And then Joan asks, So, what turns a man off? And Kathryn says, Lorena Bobbitt jokes. Wow.

Amanda: Well, continue! Continue, ‘cause she tells a joke.

Sarah: Can you give us an example? says Joan. Did you know that Lorena is looking for a new man? But he has to be unattached. So Lorena Bobbitt became a punch line ‘cause she cut the dick off her husband John Wayne Bobbitt, I believe because he had assaulted her, but it was reattached. John Wayne Bobbitt later went on to star in porn!

Amanda: Become a porn star!

Sarah: Yeah! I don’t know if he’s –

Amanda: Way to make lemons out of lemonade, or lemonade out of lemons.

Sarah: Yep. But yeah, that was, that was a big trial in 1989. That was a big story and a lot of jokes about something that’s actually horribly not funny, but it’s wild that Kathryn Falk is going on Joan Rivers’ Can We Shop and talking about romance! [Laughs] Oh my God!

Amanda: Speaking of, like, this timeframe and, like, news stuff, I would always get Lorena Bobbitt confused with, was it New Jersey or New York where the mistress shot the wife?

Sarah: That was Long Island, I beg your pardon!

Amanda: Long Island?

Sarah: That was Long Island. That was –

Amanda: I said New Jersey or New York, so.

Sarah: All right, but that was Long Island, and that was Amy Fisher and Joey –

Amanda: That’s, I –

Sarah: – Buttafuoco.

Amanda: I would get those two confused.

Sarah: Lorena, Lorena Bobbitt and Joey Buttafuoco and John Wayne Bobbitt. I mean, I can understand –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – it was very salacious.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: Let’s, let’s make punch lines and salacious humor out of some really fucked up situations. Anyway, I interrupted you because I forgot about Joan Rivers. Please go on!

Amanda: So on page 57, on the left-hand side, there’s like a TV Guide?

Sarah: Yes!

Amanda: April Romantic Movies on AMC? So there’s like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is not really romantic when you rewatch it and rethink about it? [Laughs] But they’re all movies from like the ‘50s or earlier, so, like, classics.

Sarah: One is from 1937. Whoo!

Amanda: Yeah. And, one, that’s crazy – [laughs] – and why aren’t they, like, doing, like, classic rom-coms from the ‘80s or early ‘90s? That was, like, a good time period! But two, it reminded me that TV Guides were a thing. I remember –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – like, visiting my dad on the weekends, and he would have the TV Guide, and we’d have to look – like, we’d be flipping the channels, and it’s like, there’s no guide to look at, so you’re like, What the hell is playing on channel 12 right now?

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: And then you’d have to, like, go and consult the TV Guide. It’s like, Oh, 6:30, channel 12, it’s this.

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: And I would do that, and I would call – I don’t want to say it was 411, but you’d call, like, the local operator to find out what the weather is for tomorrow, and they would tell you what the weather and like the temperature outside. And as a kid, like, that was one of my favorite things to do was to call the operator and have them tell me what the weather was.

Sarah: [Laughs] I remember that. I used to call and get the time, too.

Amanda: Yeah. [Laughs]

Sarah: To set my clocks.

Look at the bottom left corner of this page.

Amanda: Oh boy. Oh boy.

Sarah: Read that little box ad on the corner of PDF 56.

Amanda: Oh –

>> Help launch romance classics and win a free T-shirt!

Sarah: Listen to what they’re asking you to do.

Amanda: >> Write now to your local cable operator and ask him to –

Sarah: Right, write a letter. Write a letter to your cable operator! [Laughs]

Amanda: Write a letter.

>> Launch romance classics in 1994. Send RT a copy of your letter to your cable company, and we will forward it to AMC. AMC will send you a romance classics T-shirt. Make romance sparkle at the cable companies!

So you didn’t have to send it. ‘Cause they just want a copy of the letter. They can’t verify if you sent it or not.

Sarah: Oh my gosh. So you’re –

Amanda: Right?

Sarah: – supposed to write a letter to your local cable company and ask them to launch romance classics! [Laughs]

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: Wow!

So let’s talk about glamour shots, specifically page 66. Look at the author photo on this page. So this woman has short hair, it’s been teased into a big bouffant, she’s got big earrings on, she’s wearing a strapless sort of gown that’s all ruffles and puffs in the back and in the front, she’s got a lot of makeup on, and she’s leaning forward so you see, like, the full line of her shoulder, and I’m like, Oh, that’s a glamour shot, and then I noticed how many author photos in this issue are glamour shots. Did you, did you notice that?

Amanda: I feel like this was a, definitely of its time? One of the photos that I remember seeing in my own house is my mom’s glamour shot, and she had, she had, like, short hair, but it’s, like, puffy on top, or curly on top, and she is wearing, like, a leather jacket? And the, the back is like a, background is like a, like a fuzzy navy blue or a purple, and I can’t remember if she has, like, a hat on, but I remember she’s holding, like, a bright red rose.

Sarah: Yes…a pose with a flower. Glamour shots was a particular thing, and I really wonder if, for anyone who’s listening who’s not familiar with, glamour shots was like extremely late ‘80s, early ‘90s makeup, hair, and color, and, like, you would come in and they would tease your hair and do a full face of makeup, help you pick some props, and then you’d get to take basically glamorous shots. So sometimes they were very sexy; sometimes they were very, like, corporate with big shoulder pads. But I really think this is one of the ways that authors could get a head shot that was easy and they knew where to go.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: Because head shots are hard. Like, it’s a pain in the ass. I really think it’s interesting how many author photos are glamour shots, ‘cause clearly that was the best and easiest option for a lot of people.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: So page 71, the centerfold I will obviously share. It’s color images for The Law and Miss Penny by Sharon Ihle [Aisle? Eel?], and then a two-page spread for Love, Remember Me by Bertrice Small. If you’re wondering which book that is, that is Nyssa, Blaze Wyndham’s daughter, who goes to the court of some guy, probably Henry VIII still – yes – and then the third ad is Janelle Taylor’s Chase the Wind, and it looks like these are very expensive full-page ads.

Amanda: Yeah. ‘Cause, I mean, you have the center of the magazine and they’re full color.

Sarah: Full color, car-, heavier stock. Not cardstock, but heavier stock.

Page 71 is conference promo, includes selling intensive writing workshops and all of these two-day pre-con intensives, which they, they continue to do – again, glamour shots in this page. They continue to do the pre-conference writing intensives. Like, I remember those from RT, but it’s wild to me that that was still happening in 1994, ‘cause not only did you have a fanzine, but you had a No, you can write these too, and writers will show you how.

Amanda: Yeah. And it, the cost of this workshop I think was pretty good, ‘cause it’s two days –

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: – and it included breakfast and lunch both days.

Sarah: At the convention hotel, right.

Amanda: Yeah!

Sarah: And it was a hundred and seventy-five bucks!

Amanda: Yeah. And they limited, they limited the class to a hundred students with the hope that, like, everyone can get, like, personalized attention by the authors, so –

Sarah: That seems like a –

Amanda: – I think that was a pretty good deal. But a hundred people is also a lot of people.

Sarah: It is a lot of people to try to get a personal attention.

But on page 73, meet Fabio and Topaz Man in Nashville. So you have Fabio, who gets his name, and Steve Sandalis, who is Topaz Man. I think he’s referred to more as Topaz Man than by his name in this whole issue. He’s Topaz Dude.

Amanda: Is it –

Sarah: Poor Topaz Man!

Amanda: So Topaz Man ‘cause he was on a lot of Topaz covers?

Sarah: Every Topaz cover had a little medallion at the top with a picture of him.

Amanda: Ohhh, okay.

Sarah: Yeah, if you – Steve Ammidown has written about Topaz Man and that, I think he was also a Playgirl model? But I’ll drop a link. Poor Topaz Man. I’ll drop a link to –

Amanda: It also mentions that there’s, they had their own fan clubs and the president of those fan clubs.

Sarah: Pro-, they were promising lots of news and excitement focusing on their respective romantic heroes. Do you think they had, like, a brawl?

Amanda: No, like a, like a West Side Story

Sarah: Like, okay, and now the final showdown, Topaz Man versus Fabio. Who will reign supreme? And they just, like, tweak each others’ nipples?

Amanda: How do you become president of the fan clubs? Like –

Sarah: You, I think that’s something you just sort of declare yourself. I’m the president of the fan club!

Amanda: Okay!

Sarah: It’s a self-elected position. It’s self-reporting.

Amanda: Okay, Grandma, whatever you say!

Sarah: I’m the president of Mr. Topaz Man’s fan club!

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: Then on page 74 through 77, we have coverage of the regional and national Mr. Romance pageant contestants, and some of these guys have eyebrows that are bigger than shag rugs. Ro- – oh, this is so gross.

>> National in springtime is the perfect place to let your dreams come true and let your fantasies run wild. For one glorious once-in-a-week, once-in-a-lifetime enchanted evening, you can be anything or anyone you’ve ever dreamed of being. Would you care to become a medieval lady, a peasant girl, a fighting knight, an alien, a Native American, harem girl, queen, witch, Regency miss, Egyptian ruler, favorite character from your favorite fantasy novel?

[Laughs] Did you run out?

Amanda: It keeps going.

Sarah: It just ran out, and it, it keeps going. But the Mr. Romance section is massive. Like, this, I did not know this was a regional thing.

Amanda: Hm. Also, what’s –

Sarah: And –

Amanda: – John DeSalvo up to these days?

Sarah: I don’t know! No idea!

Amanda: I’m trying to, like, google, and I can’t find any trace of, like, a contemporary presence!

Sarah: I don’t know what John DeSalvo’s up to.

Amanda: Yeah! What’s he doing these days?

Sarah: There were also hospitality suites for readers and booksellers?

Amanda: I saw that, and that’s where they also mention the price, I think, was on this page, too.

Sarah: Yeah, page 81. This is wild. Why don’t you read the top box, ‘cause it’s wild?

Amanda: It says Plan and register now. So they have different kind of like plans and tracks, depending on what you want to do, but the full convention, which includes Thursday evening welcome party; Friday, which has, like, breakfast seminars, lunch, the Mr. Romance cover model pageant, dinner; Saturday, more breakfast seminars, lunch, and tête-à-têtes; Sunday, book fair, costume competition, Evening in Camelot costume dinner and ball; and then Monday, more breakfast seminars, lunches, awards banquet. So one, two, three, four, five days.

Sarah: Thursday through Monday, yeah.

Amanda: Thursday through Monday. Not including the writing intensive; that’s extra. It is three hundred and ninety-five dollars –

Sarah: Wow.

Amanda: – which I think was the same price we were paying –

Sarah: It’s pretty close. Yeah, it was around four –

Amanda: – when we were attending.

Sarah: It was around four hundred, five hundred dollars for – and that was, gosh, by the time we stopped, by the time RT ended it was nearly a week. Like, I would fly in on Sunday or Monday, and stuff would be happening Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Amanda: Yeah!

Sarah: Wow!

Amanda: So I was surprised that it was still pretty close in price, even –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – you know, twenty years earlier.

Sarah: The booksellers program was a hundred and fifty dollars. The spouses plan to just go to the food stuff was two hundred and fifty.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: Like, it’s, it’s really interesting how, how, how much the conference has changed and not changed, especially in the price.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: So I’m going to scroll down to page 100, because I just, I think we need to check in with Diana Palmer.

Amanda: [Laughs] Check in with Diana Palmer.

Sarah: So Diana Palmer has taken out an ad, and it says the following:

>> Dear Readers, I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend the RT National Convention. I will be studying feverishly for final exams, but I hope you all have a great time. I have been flooded with questions about “relatives” in other states. Please note that while I have many “adopted” brothers and sisters among my wonderful readers all over the country, I know them only through the mail or over the telephone, and they are not actual relations. I only have one blood relative, a sister in Atlanta. Also, I have not designated anyone to represent me in any way at conventions, with the exception of my editors. God bless you all, and I hope Nashville is a great success. Love, Diana Palmer

So remember when I said you just declare yourself the president of somebody’s fan club? Diana Palmer was having a bad time!

Amanda: Yeah, I wonder if, like, she heard that, I guess she can’t go, and then she was worried –

Sarah: I’m representing Diana Palmer! And Diana Palmer’s like, Hold up. No, you’re not.

Amanda: I’ve never met you before in my life!

Sarah: And you’re not representing me at Nashville! Just, oh my gosh! And if you didn’t really know what people looked like and it’s a, it’s a big industry, you could just be like, Well, I’m Diana Palmer! Maybe I’m Diana Palmer today.

Amanda: And, like, there was no social media, so it’s not like –

Sarah: And with everyone looking like glamour shots, no one looks like their normal selves.

Amanda: – google, yeah!

Sarah: Glamour shots at this time is like filters on Snapchat today. Like, you, I, I had glamour shots done. I did not look like that on the daily, but I looked good in those glamour shots!

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: Yeah, glamour shots then are what, like, filters are now on Instagram and, and Snapchat.

And then on page 106 in the PDF, another cruise! Amanda, the universe has things to say about, about what our future should be, and apparently our future should involve cruising.

Amanda: But, like, I don’t want a cruise with activities. That’s the thing.

Sarah: This, this ad is:

>> Voyage with Ciji Ware, celebrated historical novelist, to the British Isles aboard the MS, Holland America MS Statendam July 21st through August 2nd, 1994.

And it’s going to go to, it looks like Copenhagen and London and all of these places, and then she writes a little article about how the Adams World cruise specialists approached her about hosting a historical romance cruise, which is going to require her to do a few things, but mostly just be on this cruise. [Laughs]

Amanda: And it’s –

Sarah: That sounds amazing!

Amanda: – twelve days; it’s twelve days.

Sarah: Twelve days, yep.

Amanda: And it starts, the prices start at $3,210…

Sarah: Which, if you’re thinking interior cabin, no windows, twelve days, I mean, I guess that’s kind of a lot? Like, I’ve seen cheaper.

Amanda: Yeah, I feel like when I went on the only cruise I’ve been on, which was like a week, if that? Maybe five days?

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: And we had a balcony, so it was more expensive. I think it was like five thousand dollars.

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: But we went on, like, Royal Caribbean. Like –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – a bigger, more commercial –

Sarah: A bigger ship?

Amanda: – cruise line, yeah.

Sarah: Yeah, this cruise is going to go through the fjords to Oslo, then Loch Ness in Scotland, Orkney in the Hebrides, North Wales, Dublin, Waterford, Guernsey, puts in at Dover and on the rover, river Thames on the second, so it’s going to go all the way around!

Amanda: That sounds nice.

Sarah: That sounds great, and –

Amanda: …good time.

Sarah: >> – my part in all of this, Carol and Barbara explained, is to offer a minimum of six hours of enlightenment during the cruise, including lectures and tea time chats on the art of novel-writing, subjects pertaining to the real-life characters in my books, as well as my new historical novel.

So she –

Amanda: No.

Sarah: – takes this cruise, agrees to promote it, hosts some stuff, promotes her books – that sounds like a great deal. I hope Ciji Ware had a great time.

Amanda: I wouldn’t want to do that. I’d be like, as an attendee, like, having six hours’ worth of opportunities to talk to an author that I, I enjoy –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – not my bag!

Sarah: You don’t want to go on a cruise with Kresley Cole? You’re like, Let’s – you, you’d go on a cruise with Kresley Cole, and you guys would hang out and drink and have a great time.

Amanda: Maybe, but I don’t like big crowds of eager fans.

Sarah: No, I don’t like crowds of people either.

Amanda: That’s the thing. Like, if it, if we were just Thelma-and-Louise-ing it? Sure.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: Party it up. But, like, yeah, I don’t know; I’ve reached an age where I’d have to think of, like, would I go to, if RT Book Lovers was still a thing, would I want to go? Like – but post-lockdowns, I feel like a lot of people’s opinions on attending conventions and conferences and large-scale events has changed?

Sarah: Yes, I agree with you.

Amanda: And I, I’m one of those people especially. Like, would I ever go – like, Book Expo America, RIP – would I want to do that again?

Sarah: I hated BEA. You, you can’t pay me to go to the Javits at this point; I just won’t do it. If RT still existed in its original format, I would go for work reasons. It was great work-wise.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: It was a wonderful, wonderful work thing, especially doing interviews live and having people, like, come to my room and do podcasts and things like that. That was great. I don’t know; I think as a, I think there’s a lot of demand now for reader conferences. I mean, look how many people went to Readers Take Denver.

Amanda: And that was a shit show.

Sarah: ‘Twas a shit show.

So on page 124, there is a Husbands Column, which I think is just bonkers, but there is a column by Larry Lind about how to support your romance writer wife at a conference.

>> How, how can I have agen-, an agenda when it’s my wife’s convention? I thought I was there to lend support, but there’s an agenda? Well, yes, it’s more than just support and carrying luggage. Does she have an agenda? She will be ten times more effective if she has a plan. Help her crystallize it.

This is some mansplain-y bullshit.

Amanda: I, well, we’ve seen this before in other issues of, like, there’s always some kind of column boosting the husband of a romance author.

Sarah: It’s weird, right?

Amanda: Or there’s also some, like, man who’s like, has business acumen in publishing and can tell you what to do. There’s always some sort of, like, man angle.

Sarah: Yeah. And this man angle is really weird. Like, the last paragraph is:

>> Hey, guys, if you haven’t signed up for the convention yet, it’s not too late. Camelot is for us romantic stud muffins and our lovely brides. When you’re not charming the socks off her, there’ll be a number of activities for us weary helpers. Look for a men’s activity person when you sign in. Be a wall-leaping hero and meet the writing world’s family of writers at Camelot.

What –

Amanda: Like –

Sarah: – On. Earth?

Amanda: Look for a men’s activity person as in, we’re going to drop you off at the men’s daycare. We’re –

Sarah: Yeah, we’re going to drop you off at the, at the, at the men’s care section. You’re going to have some, some videogames and some snacks.

And then on page 128, there are unique gift ideas: Romance Alive audio cassettes. They’re abridged books; they’re ninety minutes. Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught, $5.99 on cassette. Abridged! Ninety minutes! Think about how long a his-, a historical romance is.

Amanda: What are they…

Sarah: All, like, are they just leaving the sex? It’s, I mean, those were some sexy – Virginia Henley’s The Pirate and the Pagan, there’s a lot of boning in there. But, like, think about how long historical romance is on audiobook, and this is abridged down to ninety minutes? Those things are like seven hours!

Amanda: I feel like that’s criminal. Yeah –

Sarah: And then –

Amanda: – it’s criminal.

Sarah: – there is a little bottom column: Fabio.

>> Fabio Fever, the biography, the music, Fabio After Dark, a selection of Fabio’s favorite romantic tunes make for a perfect romantic evening. Between songs, Fabio whispers, croons, lulls you into romantic oblivion. Don’t miss his signature song “When Somebody Loves Somebody.”

Amanda: I mean, this man is terrible, right? But, like, yeah, I admire the lean in –


Amanda: – aspect.

Sarah: This is Fabio After Dark.


Amanda: Oh boy.

Fabio: Buon giorno.

Amanda: Well, like –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: Ooh!

Fabio: I’m Fabio.


Fabio: And I’m very interested in what makes romance work.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: I’m going to mute this in like five seconds, and I can’t.

Sarah: Oh my God!

Amanda: It’s so embarrassing. [Laughs]

Sarah: Oh my gosh! Is my face red? My face feels hot. Oh my God.

Amanda: But you also posted –

Sarah: Then there’s the video!

Amanda: – a clip of the Fabio Fitness! And it’s not him teaching a gym class; it’s not him –

Sarah: No.

Amanda: – teaching you aerobics. It’s you watching him get gym lessons.

Sarah: Yes.

Amanda: There’s a woman there showing him how to do certain gym moves, and you’re just watching him do them.

Sarah: >> Let Fabio show you how to develop a strong, fit body with his at-home exercise program developed by fitness expert Brenda DyGraf.

It’s so ridiculous! There’s, they’re lifting weights; there’s, do you, do you remember aerobics, step aerobics? They’re all sitting –

Amanda: Yep.

Sarah: – on aerobics steps, and she’s like, How you doing, Fabio? He’s like, I’m fine. The weights that Fabio is using probably weigh less than my cat. Like, these are not, he’s not working out. He’s just moving around.

Amanda: And of course you have the stereotypical, very high cut –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – leotard –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – ladies.

Sarah: All right, and then there’s Fabio: A Time for Romance fantasy video, the first video novel ever created. Stars Fabio as the hero of a romance novelist’s fantasies. He appears as a pirate, a Viking, and an Italian count. Now, I linked to, I am cry-laughing, and I would love for you to please click that link, because I paused it just as he titty-fucks her with the sword! [Laughs]

It just shows the tip of the sword down in her –

Amanda: He’s, like, eating a tiny little chicken wing, too.

Sarah: [Laughs] He just puts the tip of the sword down her dress!

Amanda: I’m very curious if this sold anything.

Sarah: I don’t know, but it’s just amazing how much of it is on YouTube, and I am so grateful that it is. [Laughs]

Amanda: Boy. It says sixteen thousand views –

Sarah: So –

Amanda: – and was uploaded eight years ago.

Sarah: I will link to all of this. I don’t think anyone should worry – maybe they should get their own post. Like, we found these; here’s some enjoyment. Please enjoy –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – all of this. Fabio After Dark. Fabio whispers, croons, and lulls – listen, I’m not paying $9.95 plus shipping and handling for Fabio’s mouth noises.

Amanda: But also –

Sarah: I refuse.

Amanda: – passion, Passionflix who?

Sarah: Passionflix who! [Laughs]

Amanda: Ugh.

Sarah: So what did you think of this issue, the ads and features? This was a ride, right?

Amanda: Yeah! I mean, as I said in the previous one, this is still one of my favorites, and –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – I think, like, I wish this was in full color, like the entire thing, because –

Sarah: Oh, it would be amazing!

Amanda: – there’s something about, you know, like, current covers now are very, like, pastel? Very lighter? But –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – covers are so saturated with color, and they’re so striking, and, like, the colors are, like, rich, and, like –

Sarah: They’re so rich; that’s exactly the right word.

Amanda: – deep jewel tones and, like, they’re decadent covers –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – of, like, juicy butts in satin pants. Like, you know? We saw that!

Sarah: [Laughs] Juicy butts in satin pants. This episode is going to have so many good subtitles. Juicy butts in satin pants; it’s true, though!

Amanda: Yeah!

Sarah: It’s absolutely true!

Amanda: That, that’s my only, my only negative is, like, I wish everything was in color. It would have been –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – such a feast for the senses!

Sarah: Especially when you go and look up the covers for some of these books, because, like, holy shit, how’s his loincloth stand, still on? It’s being held up by dental floss!

Amanda: Yeah. And while we were taping this, I did go and buy a copy of Heaven by Bobbi Smith, so.

Sarah: Yes! I cannot wait to hear everything about it. Yes!

Amanda: [Laughs] I’m, I’m –

Sarah: Amazing.

Amanda: It has the original cover as a photo, so we’ll see. If it’s not I’m going to be, I’m going to be pissed, ‘cause that’s what I want, but –

Sarah: I mean, that’s, that’s the reason.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: If you’re going to own a copy of this book, it has to be that copy. It’s like, it’s like owning the Christina Dodd with three hands! You don’t want Castles in the Air with a castle! You want Castles in the Air

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – with three hands!

Amanda: I think the only other older romance that I’ve physically bought in, in, like, an actual copy because I love the cover so much is Kay Hooper’s Summer of the Unicorn?

Sarah: Ohhh, that is a great cover.

Amanda: So I have an original of that one.

Sarah: I mean, absolutely! You should take it to a print shop and have ‘em do a high-res scan and make it into a poster.

Amanda: That would be beautiful.

Sarah: Well, thank you for doing this recap episode. I’m having –

Amanda: You’re welcome!

Sarah: – such a good time with this one. I will, I will be in touch about what to pick next, ‘cause I haven’t done a full inventory of all the R-, RTs –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – that I have, but hey, 1994 was a wonderful journey.

Amanda: You could, if, if you feel like it, maybe let our Patreon vote –

Sarah: Oh, that’s a good idea!

Amanda: – we’ll do the next one.

Sarah: I can have the Patreon vote. Here, here are some options –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – I’ll put the covers up. Pick which one we’re –

Amanda: Yeah!

Sarah: All right! I think that’s a great idea; I think we should have the Patreon folks decide. Get ready, Patreon folks; you’re going to pick our next episode.


And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you, as always, to Amanda for taking these time-travel journeys with me, and thank you to Mari the Romance Girl for sending me this, this issue. It is so fragile. I have special boxes for them now; they have little houses. [Laughs] We’re having a great time doing this series, and I hope you are enjoying it as well.

If you are and you leave a review, you are my favorite person. Thank you.

As I mentioned, we will have a link in the show notes to the visual aids. There are YouTube links. You want Fabio to croon to you; don’t pretend like you don’t. Have a look at; top of the page, you will find a link to the visual aids, and you can listen from the top of that page. There’ll be a little player; you can listen to the episode and follow along. Look, Fabio wants to croon to you, and I think we should all just, you know, take a moment to appreciate how absolutely bananas all of this is. It’s so much fun!

As always, I end with a terrible joke. This week is no exception. I love this joke so much, and if you know me, I’m sorry, you’re going to hear this from me several times. Pity my poor family.

Did you know that the person who invented the Ferris wheel and the person who invented the merry-go-round never met?

Yeah, it’s true. They traveled in different circles.

[Laughs] It’s so bad, I love it! Oh, pity everyone who knows me; they’re going to hear this joke. That’s from dadsaysjokes, and I am delighted.

On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find outstanding shows to listen to at

[end of music]

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