November 2019

If you’re a romance reader, you’re probably also a fan of Christmas romance movies.  And if that’s the case, there’s no way you could have missed all the trailers and ads for Last Christmas already in theaters or The Knight Before Christmas coming to Netflix on November 21st.


So let me go in for the kill right away on Last Christmas.  Although the song is catchy and the script is co -authored by Emma Thompson, THIS IS NOT A ROMANCE. Starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, and that great Christmas song, it looks like it’s a love story (and I was so glad to see a hot Asian guy in what I thought was the love interest lead), but there’s a “twist” that is so wrong, that it ruins the movie.  But don’t let me be the judge. In the immortal words of Rolling Stone reviewer David Fear, “Incredibly, shockingly, monumentally bad. The kind of bad that falls somewhere between finding a lump of coal in your stocking and discovering one painfully lodged in your rectum.” I do not think I could have said it better

So that leaves us looking forward to The Knight Before Christmas, which is the Christmas version of Kate & Leopold but with a knight instead of a duke. The plot is basic time travel fantasy - a sorceress transports medieval knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse) to present-day Ohio during the holiday season, where he befriends Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens), a down-on-love science teacher. She helps this knight out of time navigate the modern world and discover how to complete his quest—the only act that will return him to his time. Of course, as they grow closer, and he appreciates the new world and Brooke’s charms, he begins to wonder just how much he wants to return to his old life.


Though schmaltzy, The Knight before Christmas is just the right kind of holiday rom-com fluff.

November 10th

By Lori Perkins

It has long been rumored that Whitney Houston was bisexual, and that her true love was a woman, but until now no one has come forward with an authentic romance.  This week, Whitney’s teenage best friend Robyn Crawford, published her autobiography in which she tells the story of the intimate romance between the two women when they were young adults.


In the just published A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston, Crawford tells the story of meeting the teenage Houston in NJ, when she was already a Wilhelmina model, and how the two became inseparable.


“I'd come to the point where I felt the need to stand up for our friendship,” Crawford wrote in her memoir. “And I felt an urgency to stand up and share the woman behind the incredible talent...I wanted to lift her legacy, give her respect and share the story of who she was before the fame, and in that, to embrace our friendship.”


Crawford was 19 and Houston was 16 when they met.  They kept their physical relationship a secret, and Crawford believes no one suspected its true nature, which she described as “deep.” 

According to her memoir, right after Houston signed her Arista record deal with Clive Davis in 1982, Houston told Crawford that their romance had to end: “She said ‘I don’t believe we should be physical anymore.’ The music business was a world that we were learning and we didn’t want anything to interfere with where she was going.” To truly prove the point, Houston gave Crawford a slate blue Bible. “She said if people find out about us, they would use this against us—and back in the 80s, that’s how it felt,” Crawford wrote in her book. 


Crawford and Houston remained close friends throughout most of her life, but they were estranged at the time of Houston’s death.


“I watched her rise to the top of her game” Crawford explained on the Today show on Thursday.  “And I felt compelled to share who that woman was behind all of that fame. I never envisioned speaking publicly about my life. And then I asked myself the question: What would Whitney want?"

November 11th

By Lori Perkins

Yes, you read that right.


Meg Ryan and John Mellencamp have broken up again, after getting back together earlier this year and announcing their engagement.


You may be a little dizzy from all this on-again/off-again romance.


Ryan and Mellencamp starting dating way back in 2011 for three years and we all remember how happy she seemed to be (after that disastrous divorce from Dennis Quiad following her affair with Russell Crow), and how they broke up quite suddenly due to “distance,” which supposedly meant that he didn’t like New York City (he had a farm in Indiana), but then we blinked and he was dating Christie Brinkley. Then suddenly in January of this year, Ryan was spotted in New York City wearing a nice piece of ice on her ring finger. The pair had started dating again in May of 2017, and they were seen together numerous times. They spent last Christmas Day together with their kids from previous marriages in New York City.

But this past week Ryan was seen around L.A. without her engagement ring while attending the Governor’s Awards.


According to People Magazine, the couple have called it quits one year after announcing their plans to wed, “He didn’t want to get married again,” a source told People. 

I guess that even after three marriages no one told him that an engagement usually leads to a wedding?

November 9th

By David T. Valentin

While it’s been a year and a few months since fan favorite Netflix sci-fi series Sense8 has come to a conclusion, the characters and their actors are still fresh in our mind. Specifically, Tony-nominated heartthrob Brian J. Smith and his performance as Chicago cop Will Gorski. While his charms and good looks have certainly caught the eyes of everyone, the actor has recently come out in the cover story for Attitude’s December issue. 

Unfortunately like many LGBTQ+ Americans across the country, Smith faced harsh discrimination growing up in suburban Texas. 

“I was terrified. At school I really couldn’t fit in anywhere. I was a jock or a nerd,” he told Attitude. “Forget about any [LGBTQ+] union or groups. There was absolutely nothing. I was completely alone. I heard all the names: p---, f---. I Could never be who I was. I was constantly having to check myself and make sure I wasn’t looking at someone too long or making someone feel uncomfortable.” 

Eventually Smith got involved in his high school theater productions, finding comfort in the feeling of slipping into that kind of person. “In front of an audience, I disappeared and became someone else. I had 600 students at school, all of whom probably thought I was an absolute idiot, a nerd. [But] on stage, they paid attention to me, and they saw that I had something. And that’s when I didn’t feel alone.” 

Of course, everyone was wondering how Smith felt on the set of Sense8, a cast that has been known to be open and loving and familial. Smith recalls thinking, “Finally, I can just be myself, I don’t have to put on airs for any of these people.”

As someone’s who’s started watching Sense8 with my boyfriend and being overwhelmed at the amazing chemistry between the actors on screen, it’s nice to hear that the familial feeling they bring on screen also extends to outside the show.

November 7th

By David T. Valentin

For those not dealing with mental illnesses, it’s hard to imagine a wound of the mind when you can’t physically see it as you do a physical illness. But to help those who don’t understand mental illness, let me help you. 


As one comedian I once watched put it, who’s name I can’t remember, said dealing with mental illness is like watching an improv show. All your mind needs is just one word, one phrase, one change of tone, one little thought, and it’s making 100 little skits in your head with endless possibilities, none of which are real. Practitioners of yoga call it the monkey mind—which simply means that your mind is untamed, wild, and, most of all, scary.


Of course that’s not to say that there isn’t a way to tame it, as yoga practitioners will tell you. Yoga is a meditative way of dealing with monkey mind, a way of aligning the mind and body so that you can calm and understand your mind. Therapy is another way, as much as people would like to make fun of “how do you feel” language. 


Yesterday morning I stumbled on an article about Julie Andrews and her own discussion seeking out therapy after separating from her first husband. 


Andrews in an interview on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” said, “My head, My head was so full of clutter and garbage. Believe it or not, it was [director] Mike Nichols who really tipped me into wanting to go to therapy because he had been ... he was so sane and so funny and clear. He had a clarity that I admired so much, and I wanted that for myself and I didn’t feel I had it. So I went and got into it, and it saved my life in a way.”

When asked why she felt it was important to open up about her experience with therapy, she explained, “Why not [talk about therapy] if it helps anybody else have the same idea? These days, there’s no harm in sharing it. I think everybody knows the great work it can do. Anybody that is lucky enough to have it, afford it and take advantage of it, I think it would be wonderful.”


Although I’m not a huge Julie Andrews fan, for me, and most probably so many others, her words are inspiring and truthful because of her status as a revered, successful actress, 80-year old woman coming from a generation where it was almost taboo to speak of mental health. 


For those in the creative fields as a job, such as acting, writing, painting, etc., your quality of work is reflective of your mental state. In other words, unlike other fields of work where a somewhat passive act pushes you through your work, creative fields are constantly active and always demanding of your mental attention. To see someone as successful as Julie Andrews admit to her battles with mental health issues after her divorce and seeking therapy shows the world that you can struggle mentally and still succeed.

November 6th

By Lori Perkins

Cooper Hefner, 28, heir to the Playboy throne, married his finance Scarlett Bryne, 29, who played Pansy Parkinson in the Harry Potter franchise films Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Part 2, wed in a California courthouse this weekend. They plan on having a second, larger wedding in the near future, as seems to be the new tradition amongst celebrity couples.


The couple had announced their engagement in August of this year.


They both announced their marriage on social media.


Hefner wrote on his Instagram account, “Scarlett and I have made it officially legal and the two of us could not be happier…Cheers to a life full of love, happiness, adventure, and great purpose, Mrs. Hefner,” he wrote, adding a slideshow of photos of the couple over the years. 

Byrne wrote on her Instagram account, “Cooper and I are excited to share that we legally married,” the actress wrote. “We are looking forward to planning our wedding in the coming months where we will celebrate further with our friends and family.”


“I love you Cooper,” she added. “I am proud to stand by your side, as your partner, your friend, and your wife. I cannot wait to continue building a life together. My heart is so full and I am so grateful for our love.”

Hefner inherited the Playboy empire from his father hoping to rebrand the company for millennials. In January 2019, he assumed the role of Playboy Enterprises’ chief of global partnerships, but in April told The Hollywood Reporter that he was stepping down to launch his own digital media platform. According to People, he had planned to call it HefPost, but on his social media accounts he now describes himself as the CEO of StagDaily, whose tag line is “Arouse and Inform,” which he hopes to launch in 2020.

November 5th

Keanu Reeves Goes Public 

with Age-Appropriate Girlfriend

By Lori Perkins

Everybody’s heartthrob Keanu Reeves stepped out in public holding the hand of Alexandra Grant, who we had known as his business partner and the artist on all his books, but, it turns out, she is also his girlfriend.  The couple showed PDA at the red carpet opening gala for a recent exhibit at the La County Art Museum this Saturday. Grant is the first girlfriend Reeves has gone public with in decades and we couldn’t be happier, since she’s age appropriate (46) and a book lover!


They have known each other since 2011, when they created the Ode to Happiness book together. In 2016, they also produced Shadows, which was written by Reeves with illustrations by Grant. The following year they founded X Artists’ Books, a publishing house.

In addition to being a partner with Reeves in the publishing house, Grant is the creator of the grantLOVE project, which produces and sells original artworks to benefit artist projects and non-profit art groups. The project has raised funds for Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), Project Angel Food, Art of Elysium, 18th Street Arts Center and LAXART, according to her website.


Grant is also an artist whose work has been featured at LACMA, MOCA (Los Angeles), the Hammer Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario.


And, according to her instagram account, she can also officiate weddings.

November 4th

By David T. Valentin 

Most of us in the business of romance have most certainly heard a friend say, “oh, I’m going to do this for your wedding.” Or “I’m going to get you this for your wedding.” For example, I’ve consistently told my cousin that for her wedding I will dress up as Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast and perform “Be Our Guest.“


For recently wedded Blair Hardy and her friends, it was chicken nuggets. Prior to Hardy’s wedding ceremony, her maid-of-honor, Jenna Spetz, hatched an elaborate plan to get her a bouquet fitting to her taste, one made entirely of chicken nuggets from Tyson.


During Hardy’s toast at the reception, she pulled the bouquet of chicken nuggets out and presented the heartwarming gift to Hardy. 

If that’s not crazy enough, coincidentally, Hardy’s groom’s name is Adam Tyson. 


After Jenna had made contact with Tyson for her friend’s wedding, Tyson decided to supply nuggets for the guest as well. The Tysons were also lucky enough to be given a year’s supply of chicken for the couple. 


What if we were all lucky enough to have our own Jenna Spetz for our weddings? What would your friends get you?

November 3rd

When You’re #NotEngaged: 

Woman Created Instagram Page to Announce She’s Not Engaged

By David T. Valentin 

We’ve all had that one friend. You know, the one friend who gets engaged and starts doing that thing; the one with the flipped out wrist, pin straight fingers, and a diamond centered on her ring finger. The traditional “I said yes!” post. It’s so common, in fact, that there are vines and Tik Toks about it. 

But one instagramer, Mary McCarthy, had a special twist on the flick-of-the-wrist/ring-on-the-finger pose. As HuffPost described, “Mary McCarthy takes the perfect engagement ring selfie: Her hand posture is on-point, her nails are trimmed, her photo backdrops are almost always interesting. The only catch? She’s not engaged."

McCarthy pokes fun at the stereotypical engagement post by posing her hand up to scenic views of her on vacation, and posts them with hilarious captions like her post taken in Santorini. 

“When ur #notengaged and u were able to get up early and do a three hour strenuous hike without anybody being like ‘but babe watch me swim’ boy take a hike. With me. Or don’t I don’t care I’m going anyway.” 

“McCarthy created the account after coming home from a friend’s engagement party. (she jokes she’s been a bridesmaid about ‘seven million times,’ so she has attended a lot of those.)” HuffPost writes. 

McCarthy went on to explain that she “picked up tacos on the way home and texted a picture to my friends ‘when you’re not engaged, but at least you have tacos!’ and the rest is history. The Instagram essentially started as an inside joke with a handful of friends and now it’s grown into a much larger inside joke.” 

Her Instagram, @notengaged, had an instant success with social media, now garners over 106,000 followers where single people and couples flock to get a few laughs in. 

Now, I can’t stop wondering what McCarthy’s own engagement post will end up looking like when her own time comes. Will she change the account to @engaged, where the post will be exaggerated engagement photos with just ridiculous backgrounds? We can only hope!

I believe in NaNoWriMo. It didn’t exist when I was in high school and college writing my first novel.  I am sure I would have gotten to The End (instead of writing two 100 page novels that petered out mid-way) if I had known I was part of a national wave of writers working on their 50,000 word first draft. *


I also believe that NaNoWriMo books are good books—books worthy of publication with a little spit and polish.  I know a lot of people think they are throw-away books, but Riverdale Avenue Books had a NaNoWriMo contest in 2014 and we published what I consider to be one of the best science fiction titles I’ve ever read.  Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Seigel is an LGBTQ Hand Maid’s Tale.  It is so good that I had to ask the author if she had really written it in 30 days, or if it was a work shopped trunk novel she had submitted for the contest.  Of course, she has written it in just 30 days.

The point of that is that I want to encourage NaNoWriMo.  

Now go write!


* NaNoWriMo began in 1999 when 21 San Francisco writers pledged to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days in July. The next year, November was chosen as the month, and 140 writers participated, most of who were not from San Francisco. The following year, 5,000 people joined. In 2017, a little under 500,000 people joined the NaNoWriMo website, but many authors write a NaNoWriMo novel without registering.


Here is the official website where you can sign up and get helpful advice.

November 1st

Mattel Releases Day of the Dead Barbie;

Critics Question Appropriation

By Lori Perkins

Mattel shipped their limited-edition Day of the Dead Barbie to retailers in September so it would be there in time for the November 1 holiday, as well as the Christmas rush.  To doll collectors and Day of the Dead fans, the $75 doll is a tour de force, but to others she’s a symbol of cultural appropriation and growing commercialization of a once-scared holiday.


Mattel is no stranger to criticism with Barbie over the year’s as they has navigated the cultural waters from fashion icon to working woman, astronaut and president. Critics have taken a hard look at the doll’s once limited, gender-specific professional choices and unrealistic body standards. Over the years Mattel innovated by introducing a wheelchair fashionista doll and a new line of inspiring women which includes such real life figures as Frieda Kahlo and Rosa Parks (both of which sold out in their first run and went back to production and can now be ordered again).  The toy company also just released a new line of gender diverse dolls.

But according to Ad Week, some critics feel that marketing the limited edition Dia de los Muertos Barbie doll lessens the holiday’s sacred meaning.  Dios de los Muertos is a 3,000-year-old indigenous observance that celebrates the remembrance of lives of deceased friends and family. The holiday originated in Mexico with the Aztec, Toltec and other Nahua people, but is celebrated in other areas of Latin America from November 1 through the 3rd. Critics contend that consumers can buy the doll without understanding the history behind the holiday or having any consideration for the indigenous community.

Mattel, however, contends that thought and care was put into the design of the doll. The doll was designed by Mexican-American Javier Meabe and the doll’s black dress resembles ones he saw his mother wear. According to Matte, the designer’s details coincide with the holiday’s traditions, as marigolds are the main flowers used to decorate the ofrenda, or altar, where the spirits are welcomed back to earth. The monarch butterflies are believed to hold the spirit of loved ones, and millions arrive in Mexico like clockwork just in time for Día de los Muertos.

The  sold-out doll wears a ruffled, long black dress “embellished with heart and butterfly details.” A crown of monarch butterflies and bright marigolds sits atop her head and a traditional white skull mask, better known as Calavera Catrina, make-up adorns her face.