Mini Interview with Courtney Milan

[Aidee here!] Courtney Milan generously answered some questions I had following the release of her most recent novel, After the Wedding. I have not yet read this book, and this mini-interview contains no spoilers. After the Wedding is the second full-length novel in the Worth Saga, which begins with Once Upon a Marquess. Milan writes historical and contemporary romances; the Worth Saga is her current historical series. What I enjoy most about Milan’s books is the humor and the way she subverts common tropes. Without further ado, here is the mini-interview!

First, I’d like to know how you think authors can change romance’s centering of England in the historical genre, aside from not setting the story in England?

Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan Book CoverHistoricals used to range the whole wide world and I think one of the reasons this stopped is because people very awkwardly realized that there were massive issues with unproblematically glamorizing certain portions of the past. Like there used to be a whole genre of southern historical romance novels that just…glossed over the issues with slavery? Yeah. Or the entire spectrum of historical titles involving stereotypical Native Americans, sometimes with racial slurs in the actual titles? Eeeeek. It seems almost horrific to me that those exist, and yet there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, published over the years. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Ines Bautista-Yao on Filipino Characters in Filipino Settings

Hello friends!!! I’m thrilled to introduce another first time guest to A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet. Ines Bautista-Yao was kind enough to respond to my request for guest posts for APAHM!I know that “#ownvoices” is the “trendy thing” right now but … it’s not a trend – it’s life, and I’m so pleased we’re able to continue celebrating SHM months!

Filipino Characters in Filipino Settings
By Ines Bautista-Yao

Growing up, my favorite books were by authors Enid Blyton, Carolyn Keene, Jahnna N. Malcolm, and Sheri Cobb South. I would lose myself in the adventures, heartaches, and triumphs of the characters. That was easy. Emotions, no matter where in the world you belonged, were universal. What wasn’t so easy was trying to imagine what it would be like to see what the characters saw, and to interact with people who had blue or even green eyes, and flaming red or flaxen hair. Funnily enough, my classmates and I didn’t know what flax was, but when we read “flaxen hair” in a book, we all knew it meant blonde. So whenever my classmates and I would write stories or imagine characters, they would more often than not have blue eyes and that so-called flaxen hair. It had gotten to a point where I would stay after a movie was over so I could read the credits and file away the last names in my mind. I didn’t know enough American last names for my characters, and movie credits were a good source of information.

It had never crossed my mind to write a story about a little Filipino girl like me. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Ekaterine Xia Redux The Prequel: The Flatness of [Western] Romance

Hi friends! Do you remember the first 2018 APAHM post we had? Ekaterine Xia was our guest and I talked about how I’d messed up? So I found the emails from 2014 – she agreed to let me use the first post as a comparison, since she piggybacked off of it to write the May 5th one! (Are you confused yet?) In 2014 she said she’d tell me which book covers she wanted me to use … but that didn’t happen so I’m going with my picks. 😀 The most important thing though, is of course the post. Enjoy! N.B. I came up with the ~title. Because I think it’s accurate.

The Flatness of [Western] Romance

So it all started when Limecello tweeted with:

New quest! Any African American, Asian American, Hispanic, or Native American romance readers around? 😀

So I responded with: “Chinese person who reads romance over here. …I think I qualify as As-A?”

Not Just Human by E. Xia CoverThe thing is, it isn’t that easy. It’s the short answer.

The long answer is that I’m a third-culture-kid, aka global nomad, aka syncretic mutt of a first-gen fresh off the boat kind-of Asian American.

I was born in Taiwan, but we moved to the US when I was two. So technically Mandarin Chinese is my first language, but not by much. I grew up mainly in the US and it’s where I call home, no matter how much border control seems to disagree. Continue reading

SAPAHM: Into the Badlands & Ali Wong

Hi friends! SAPAHM! Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! What do Into the Badlands and Ali Wong have to do with each other? Very little!

But! They’re both popular right now, and they’re both Asian and/or Asian peripheral! Ali Wong is self explanatory. (OMFG somehow I accidentally typed “sexplanatory” which made me laugh and also maybe is accurate because she does talk about sex a lot in her specials?) So! I’ve seen both her Netflix specials! The first a few months ago, the newer one more recently.

I’m including trailers for both because hopefully they hit the highlights and you get the chance to watch – if you have your own NF account you definitely should watch them … and if you don’t, see if you can watch with a friend. I laughed until I wheezed.

But! Into the Badlands!

Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev
Contemporary Romance released by Kensington on December 26, 2017

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev Book Cover

Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen years old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into a black market organ ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul’s deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe—and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances.

Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart.

I read Sonali Dev’s first book and loved it, it was fun and light and yet complex and filled with such lovely details. I heard that the next book was the opposite of those things—it was not light and fun at all. I don’t really like contemporary suspense romances so I opted out of that experience. All this to say, I’m reconsidering my decision not to read the books before A Distant Heart, because this book was everything I didn’t know I needed. Dev slowly rips apart the characters and their actions and emotions and then puts them back together; in the case of the hero and heroine—Rahul and Kimi—this results in a happy ending. She also conveys the way people perceive their surroundings, even when those surroundings might be considered worthy of elaborate detail. If you like friends to lovers kinds of romances, this might be your cup of tea, but be warned that their is a lot of emotional tension, because Dev goes into people’s motivations and the way their past experiences shape their actions in a way that makes the reading experience very acute. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Chris Mariano on Air, Sea, and Birth: How the Filipino Community Has Grown in Alaska

Hi friends! Please welcome first time guest Christ Mariano to ALBTALBS! I really hope you take the time not only to read what is said, but also think about the history, and [cross] cultural aspects. <3

Air, Sea, and Birth: How the Filipino Community Has Grown in Alaska

Wired Differently by Chris Mariano Book CoverIn downtown Juneau, a raven takes about six hops to get from one wall of flowers to the other. He is watching, waiting, from his spot. To call his tiny public space a park would be an exaggeration; the droves of tourists descending from the cruise ships might easily dismiss it as a traffic junction. But this is Manila Square, a little piece of (my) home 5,898 miles away from an eponymous city, belonging just as much to the ravens and the wild Alaskan landscape as it does to the many Filipinos who have come to Juneau ‘by air, by sea, or by birth.’

By Air

Many Asians know the drill. When visiting another person’s home, it is more polite to leave your shoes by the door. Wait for house slippers. Offer to go barefoot, even. This is how you show your respect.

I wonder if other immigrants feel this way, too. Like you’ve left your shoes by the door, next to the life you used to lead. You can walk through this new house knowing where the cutlery and the best china are kept—maybe you even have permission to bring them out and host your own dinner party—but you know better. You’ll always feel like a guest too paranoid about overstaying her welcome.

I feel it sharply here in Alaska. Its people are warm even in the coldest weather, but the land can never be subdued into domesticity or familiarity. From fur trappers to gold prospectors to salmon canners to oil drillers, many people, including Asians, have come to Alaska seeking fortune or adventure or escape. My own family has chosen to live in Juneau—papers in hand, figurative shoes by that invisible threshold but somehow clinging to most of the baggage we’ve accumulated over the years. And while our migration story is rather common, it still amazes me that so many Filipinos would leave a home in the tropics to settle in a place known for its long and dark winters. Continue reading

Review: The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
Contemporary literary fiction released by Random House on April 17, 2018

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale CoverWe first meet Leda in a coffee shop on an average afternoon, notable only for the fact that it’s the single occasion in her life when she will eat two scones in one day. And for the cute boy reading American Power and the New Mandarins. Leda hopes that, by engaging him, their banter will lead to romance. Their fleeting, awkward exchange stalls before flirtation blooms. But Leda’s left with one imperative thought: she decides she wants to read Noam Chomsky. So she promptly buys a book and never—ever—reads it.
As the days, years, and decades of the rest of her life unfold, we see all of the things Leda does instead, from eating leftover spaghetti in her college apartment, to fumbling through the first days home with her newborn daughter, to attempting (and nearly failing) to garden in her old age. In a collage of these small moments, we see the work—both visible and invisible—of a woman trying to carve out a life of meaning. Over the course of her experiences Leda comes to the universal revelation that the best-laid-plans are not always the path to utter fulfillment and contentment, and in reality there might be no such thing. Lively and disarmingly honest, The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky is a remarkable literary feat—bracingly funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and truly feminist in its insistence that the story it tells is an essential one.

I think that this book is exactly what the blurb says it will be—which is a wonderful thing to say about a book, because sometimes you read a blurb and you read the tiny excerpt and you get the book, and it’s not what you were led to believe it was going to be. Sometimes, that’s okay, and other times it’s incredibly frustrating. This book does indeed follow Leda—the main character—through life, starting when she’s in college all the way to her death. The epilogue is told from her daughter’s point of view, although to be more accurate, it’s in limited third person. I enjoyed the candidness of the novel; we get Leda’s occasionally illogical behaviors and her bouts with depression; we also get to talk about things that impact huge numbers of women at an individual level. Do not expect huge does of romance, or eroticism in this book—yes, people fall in love and have sex, but that isn’t the point of the book and it’s given a different kind of attention. Continue reading

SHM APAHM Guest Georgette Gonzales: When Creativity Blooms Late In Life

Hi friends! I’m really excited to welcome Georgette Gonzales to A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet! She was kind enough to respond to my call on twitter (and hat tip thanks to Chachic too!) to guest for APAHM! She really does the introducing in her post, so read on!

When Creativity Blooms Late In Life

My Special Valentine by Edith Joaquin CoverMany, if not most, of what I read in writers’ interviews detailing their backgrounds and writing journeys tell of a kid with a vivid imagination, writing stories down in a notebook, keeping their work underneath all other school stuff (because it’s their deep, dark secret) or sometimes sharing the precious words with a few trusted family members and friends. Often, those who would read their work ask for more, so they continue to craft and create, write and compile, amassing notebook upon notebook of maybe fantastic and not-so-fantastic tales that later may be turned into bestsellers. At any rate, the voices in their heads would not stop until the stories were written so might as well indulge their yet-to-be-identified-as fans (and imaginary friends), right?

I, unfortunately, do not have this kind of back story. I didn’t even know I could write until I was…shall we say, forced into it because of my job. Continue reading

Decades: A Journey of African American Romance Guest Author Carla Buchanan – When Inspiration Slaps You in the Face

Hi friends! Can you believe that we’re into the 1950s already? May! If you have no idea what I’m talking about … you can check out the information and excellent previous posts here.But! Today, we welcome first time A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet guest Carla Buchanan

PRIDE AND PASSION is the sixth book in the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance series. This series consists of 12 books, each set in one of 12 decades between 1900 and 2010. Each story focuses on the romance between African American protagonists, but also embraces the African American experience within that decade. Join the journey on our Facebook page

When Inspiration Slaps You in the Face

Pride and Passion by Carla Buchanan CoverHow does any writer decide what to write about? How does any writer decide what two characters to focus on or what story to tell?

If you have the answers to these questions then stop reading right now, search this post for my email address, and send me a message with the correct answer because I’m at a loss. In most cases, I have no idea what I want from myself or what the readers may want from me. No lie; I spend so much time pacing my living room space, talking to myself, bouncing ideas off my 12-year-old dachshund (who is never any help at all), a person would probably think I’m insane. And though, the worn path in my carpet might actually be proof of my insanity, during one of these passes across I was actually inspired. It worked. I laid eyes on a picture of my grandmother-in-law across the room, and it all became clear. I found a love for writing and reading historical romances.

Now, in no way is PRIDE AND PASSION about my husband’s grandmother, but if you met the woman you’d know what I’m talking about. With a personality so huge, it can barely fit into a room, I knew I wanted bits and pieces of her strength, her vulnerability, her love for her family, her dedication, and her feistiness in each and every female character in PRIDE AND PASSION. She lived. She dated. She raised a family, and she matured during the 1950s. Just talking to her made me feel like I was transported to that time, further inspiring me toward the story I wanted to write.

As far as the military aspect in PRIDE AND PASSION, I have been fortunate enough to have married into a family with more than one member who has made a career in the military. The same woman who inspired my female characters was also a military wife just like my heroine. She lost her husband just like my heroine, but that’s where their stories part ways and PRIDE AND PASSION takes shape becoming the kind of historical slice of life story anyone can relate to, whether they were alive during the 1950s or not. It’s the kind of story you’ll say… Oh my God, I’ve heard about a town like that, people like that, or a place just like that from stories my mother, father, or grandparents have told me about.

I mean, who can’t relate to the pressures of family, the desire to live your own life, all while trying to find where you fit in. Just like we are influenced by the world around us, the characters in PRIDE AND PASSION are the same. I was inspired by how much like me, like us, people were during the 1950s. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Ekaterine Xia on Circles and Cycles and Sometimes Spirals

Hi friends! Oh my gosh this blog post has been four years in the making. Ekaterine Xia first sent me a post in 2014 for APAHM and well, if you’re a “long time reader” you’ll know my life has been in shambles for pretty much this whole time but there was some extra going on then and ALBTALBS was pretty much on hiatus. And I do my utmost to avoid doing this sort of thing but – if there’s a someone else (which I think there might be but oh god for the life of me I don’t know/can’t remember) whose post I never scheduled or that I missed I am so very sorry. I’m sorry, please know I am truly deeply sorry, and it’s my fault.

… I already had this “conversation” with Ekaterine, so I wanted to share that. Anyway! This time WE’RE LIVE! Please give Ekaterine a warm welcome!

Circles and Cycles and Sometimes Spirals

Past Love's Triumph by E. Xia CoverFour years ago, I wrote a post about myself, the boundaries of romance, white privilege, and where a Chinese American third culture kid stood amidst the noise.

Now, Romancelandia is still dealing with privilege, erasure, and people fighting against those who want to keep the too-narrow gates shut.

Still the same issues, the same fights, but there’s more awareness, so I want to talk about happy endings and how my definition has shifted over the years instead of beating that drum further. For now. Continue reading