Special Guest: Sarah Wendell

Introducing Sarah Wendell!

By day Sarah Wendell is mild mannered and heavily caffeinated.  By evening she dons her cranky costume, consumes yet more caffeine, and becomes Smart Bitch Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The site specializes in reviewing romance novels, examining the history and future of the genre, and bemoaning the enormous prevalence of bodacious pectorals adorning male cover models. Sarah is the co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels (2009), and author of Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels (2011).
sarah wendell

Sarah Wendell is a fascinating woman.  I was first introduced to her through her much discussed, and sometimes, controversial site, www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com.   But what I didn’t know, or understand, until I read Sarah’s new book, Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels, was just how much she loves the romance genre.

Sarah Wendell is a romance junkie.  (Like me!  Like so many of you!)

She is also a fan of some of my most favorite authors…Loretta Chase and Georgette Heyer, to name just two, and she has sections in her book that literally warmed my heart (her chapter  ‘We Know How to Spot Real Life Heroes and Heroine’ is awesome), so I’ve asked Sarah to talk to us today a bit about who she is as a reader, a writer, and yes, the feared book reviewer.

Sarah, okay–reviewing can’t always be easy, because if you’re honestly reviewing, or giving an honest review, you’re not going to love everything everyone writes.  I know I don’t love everything even my favorite authors write, so it has to take some thick skin.  Was there ever a point you said–I don’t like doing this?  Or were you able to step into big-girl panties from the start, and separate you, the woman/wife/mom from you, the reviewer?

I haven’t reached a point where I have said, “I don’t like doing this,” and I hope I never do. I love what I do, and I love that I talk to readers about books at any hour of the day. That part is wonderful fun. I can separate the job from me as a mom or wife or silly person, but there’s a piece of that role in me every moment anyhow. I can compartmentalize my priorities – i.e. not checking email for the next few hours because ZOO! – but I’m still the reviewer and the mom and the person who likes to makes silly jokes no matter what the priority is at that moment. It’s just a question of what my most urgent task is when I am working.  Plus, I think everyone is reviewing something more and more frequently. We’re invited as consumers to give feedback and stars and comments and reviews for all sorts of services and commerce opportunities. Like I said, nothing is exempt from review, and that goes for books, too. Books most especially, because finding someone whose tastes align with yours is invaluable to a dedicated, curious reader!

What is your perception of social media marketing and how can it help an author’s business goals?

Social media enables a writer to connect directly with her readers. There are few connections more powerful than that- there’s no one between you. For most readers, being able to speak directly to an author whose books they love is a terrific and exciting thing, and never gets old. If an author’s business goals include building a name that is recognizable, social media interaction is a key component – most forms of social media are free to join, and many have readers already there.

How much time should authors spend on social media every week?

As much as is beneficial, but not so much that it harms productivity and creativity. That’s a different amount for every person.

Your advice on how authors should handle negative reviews on social media and review sites?

No one is exempt from reviews. Not the vacuum cleaner, not the restaurants we eat at, not the things we buy, the things we wear, and the things we consume. Everything gets reviewed.

Therefore, no book is exempt from reviews. This is what you signed up for when you published a book: people will review it. They might not like it. That’s ok.

Your enemy is not a negative review from a reader who did not like your book. Your enemy is no review, and no one talking about your book at all.

Let’s switch hats, and shift  from Sarah the critic to Sarah the writer.  Was there anyone or anything that helped inspire you to be a writer?

Email! Honestly. In the beginning of …whoa, I get to say “my writing career,” DUDE THAT IS AMAZING. Anyway, in the beginning, before I found online journals, I’d email rants about crap drivers or how much I hated this one billboard or why my cats were insane to my friends, and receive replies asking for more. Then I found online journals and was inspired by those writers to be more brave and more public about what I thought and what I wanted to say. But initially, it was email – I could type and rant and send and get instant replies. That feedback loop can be addictive.

So let’s talk about your new book!  

Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels – by Sarah Wendell

Backcover blurb;  

Take a dashing hero with a heart of gold and a mullet of awesome. Add a heroine with a bustle and the will to kick major butt. Then include enough contrivances to keep them fighting while getting them alone and possibly without key pieces of clothing, and what do you have? A romance novel. What else? Enough lessons about life, love, and everything in between to help you with your own happily-ever-after.

Lessons like…

•Romance means believing you are worthy of a happy ending

•Learning to tell the prince from the frog

•Real-life romance is still alive and kicking

•No matter how bad it is, at least you haven’t been kidnapped by a Scottish duke (probably)



Sarah, I bought a copy of Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels, at Nora Roberts’ book store in April and I love it.  It’s creative, fun, inspiring.   I think my readers who embrace romance, would, enjoy it, too.  Can you tell us more about it?

I describe Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels as something of a book-sized party for the romance genre. While the first book, Beyond Heaving Bosoms, was critical and evaluative in nature, EIKAL is all about celebrating the parts of the romance genre that are so valuable to the readers and writers who enjoy it. If I could arrange streamers, balloons, party horns, and confetti to explode from the pages when someone opened it, I would, but I suspect bookstores and libraries would find that especially tiresome. My goal when I wrote it was to rebuke in as many possible ways the idea that romance has no value. On the contrary, the stories and characters of many romance novels offer subtle and sometimes seditious messages about honor, courage, sexual autonomy, self actualization (to use Pam Regis’ term), commitment, and the process of maintaining healthy, happy relationships.

My other goal was to give readers a piece of “Good Book Noise,” which is my name for that sigh when someone finishes a book that makes them feel very happy and intellectually and emotionally sated. It’s a lofty goal, and I can’t ever know for sure if I achieved it with every reader, but so many books have given me that feeling over the years, I wanted to give a piece of it back. Romances that have left me with that wonderful feeling of blissful intellectual satisfaction are among my most treasured books – I still have most of them. And that connection to the books we romance readers love is one of the major parts of the genre that I wanted to celebrate.

So some easy things to answer now!  What’s your astrological sign?

Gemini! My birthday is this week, in fact!

Vampire, werewolf, alien or ghost?

Vampire werewolf alien billionaire viscount secret cowboy tycoon, please.

Best book signing moment?

Every single time someone comes up to me and asks if I would sign their book. It never gets old, it is always so exciting, and I get giddy every time.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Be Yourself. Always.


Sarah, thanks so much for sharing with us!  I really enjoyed having you here and know my readers and friends will enjoy this sneak peek into the writing/reviewing world.

Readers, do check out Sarah’s website to learn more about her, and what this talented woman does in the book world.  To celebrate Sarah’s visit on my JaneBlog, I’m giving away, to two lucky winners, a copy of Sarah’s novel Everything I know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels, a Starbucks drink card, a small stack of romances, and lots of fun JP goodies!  For a chance to win, tell me how much emphasis you put on reviews before you buy a book.  Contest runs through Friday, and I’ll announce winners on Saturday.


  1. I can’t believe I am first. Happy dance.

    I do like to read reviews and always appreciate those that are most honest. I know that everyone has different tastes, so I will take away from the review what applies to me.

  2. Happy Birthday, Sarah! I always read the reviews unless it is an author that I know and love. In that case, I just buy the book and am never truly disappointed. If I am not familiar with the author, I take all the reviews into account. However, I think I really just go with a gut feeling. I notice that I will place more weight on the positive reviews if I really want to read the book and more emphasis on the negative reviews if I don’t.

  3. I usually read reviews on authors I am not familiar with or as familiar with. With my favorite authors I read the book description to see if it interests me.

  4. Sarah’s website is great! I do like to read the reviews on her website to find some stories I would enjoy. Nowadays there are so many books out there but the problem is that it’s just not possible to know which stories are the ones I will like. When I find a webiste that has reviews that are in depth and spell out what the person liked or disliked about the story then it is a place that I will keep revisiting.

  5. I’ve been reading Sarah’s reviews and I’m always taken by her commentary!! I do like reveiws because I read a variety of authors and am always looking for someone new!
    PS nice photo

  6. Since starting to blog in 2009, I now try not to read the blurbs (whereas before it was my only way of differentiating between which books to buy) and instead read what is said online – at least with new authors to me. I read what other blogs and authors are saying, which books win awards/contests, etc. for the new ones. For the rest of the authors I have read and enjoyed, though, I keep a list and “automatically” buy whatever is new on the shelf for those authors (and their old books if I can find them too). I prefer my “auto” list of authors’ books, but sometimes people like Jane make me aware of oh so much more out there. It’s just that there are only so many hours in the day to read, LOL!

  7. Happy Birthday Sarah! I am defintely going to be checking out the website and the book.

    If an author is on my autobuy list like Jane is, then I don’t read the reviews, but I do review so that others who might be discovering an author for the first time will have something to go on. I do read reviews of new authors and take in the good with the bad, but ultimately if I think the book will appeal to me I will read it not based on the reviews. I am like that with movies too. I often don’t agree with what is reviewed.


  8. I appreciate well written reviews, but I don’t base everything on them. I also love recommendations from people who I know have similair tastes as I do.

  9. honestly it depends if its a reviewer ive followed forever I will keep in mindtheir opinions but usually the more negative the review the more likely I will buy it just to see what the fuss is about. I rarely buy a book based on a review if its glowing> While I love to read reviews its more if its an author I dont know and want to know more about the book do i read the reviews. And i use that as a baseline if i want to read it more or less. Sarah’s book sounds like a fun read would love a chance to read it deff adding to my wish list

  10. I’m not big on reviews. I feel like my taste in books is different than other peoples. While I will read a review about a book when I see them, I don’t let them sway my judgement on whether to read that book or not. I’m open to trying to read anything.

  11. I usually don’t read a review of a book until after I read the book. Then I like to see if anyone thought the same things I did about the book. What steers me to a book: 1. the author, 2. covers and 3. blurbs! Looking forward to reading Sarah’s book. GREAT interview!!!!!

  12. Thanks for introducing Sarah. What a talented and lovely young woman. I like to read reviews which gives me insight into what others think about the novel. Best wishes and much happiness.

  13. If the cover and description sound good I grab it, I have read books with not so good reviews and loved them

  14. I get a lot of my reading material from book reviews I find in magazines and the internet. The majority of the time, I agree with the person doing the review and am thrilled to find new authors. I am excited about reading Sarah’s book!!

  15. I depend heavily on reviews. I always read reviews before purchasing a book. There are some authors that I will purchase no matter what the reviews are. Reviews are very important!! Thanks for the chance to win some awesome gifts!!

  16. I loved Sarah’s book! I also have to remember that book reviews are subjective. There are people who don’t love LORD OF SCOUNDRELS, for instance. I don’t understand them. 😉 If the reviewer is evenhanded and fair, I’ll give more weight to their statements than someone who gives a long list of why they Hated It.

    Jane, we’re thinking of you and hoping everything is wonderful!

  17. I pre order most of the books I read since a lot of the books I read are from authors that are auto buy for me I don’t put a lot of emphasis on reviews ( a lot of time I don’t even read the blurb before buying a book if it’s from an author I know and loved her other books).

    When I try new authors I will look at reviews but most of the time I’ll buy a book because a friend recommended it or an author mentioned it on Facebook/ Goodreads etc.

  18. So going to have to follow Sarah now! I read reviews–especially if it is a new author–but I usually make my own opinion.

  19. If I don’t know the author I might read the reviews. If it is an author I know I like, I don’t need to read the reviews because I already know I’ll enjoy the story. I like to find new authors to me through authors I already like. That is the way I read new authors, a lot more than reviews.

  20. I read some reviews but I really don’t pay much attention to them. First of all, I’m always afraid they’ll reveal the plot and secondly I know everyone has different opinions. Someone could hate it and I could still end up loving the book. But if there are a lot of negative reviews sometimes I will take that into consideration.

  21. Reviews are important, but don’t really mean everything to me. I know we all have different tastes and sometimes what one person doesn’t like, I just might (or the other way around). So, if the story sounds good, I will read it it. Or, if it’s an author I that I have liked their books in the past, I usually always buy their’s again (and certain ones, I buy all their books). I enjoy writing reviews for the books I read. Not too long ago, I really didn’t know how important they really were. Now, I know a lot of people depend on them.

  22. There are certain blogs that have reviewers that I’ve discovered have similar taste to what I like to read, so I’m always interested to see what they have to say. Sarah writes hilarious reviews and after I spent many hours on a very long road trip listening to all her old podcasts, I feel like she (and Jane from DA) are my bffs.

  23. I like to read reviews to see how many people say the same good or bad things about it, but in the end if something strikes me about the book I’ll buy it any way and decide for myself.

  24. I like knowing what others think of a book by reading reviews and from friends telling me about a good book. That being said, I have been known to buy a book(s)by just reading the inside cover or back cover blurb

  25. Happy Birthday Sarah! I am really wanting to read this book and so glad Jane has recommended it!

  26. Nice to meet you Sarah! I look forward to visiting your site and reading your novel! I do read reviews but I only pay attention if there are consistent poor reivews for a book.

  27. I put alot of emphasis on reviews because it helps me understand a book from an author that I have never read before at times and other times it lets me know when a book comes out that I had forgot was coming out. It nices to see another Gemini so successful.

  28. I do often read reviews before buying a book to see if there are any deal breakers in the story that I know I wouldn’t enjoy reading about.

  29. I do value a good review more now than I use to. If I have an unknown new author I want someone to tell me that the book is worth the purchase price. With favorite authors reviews are not as important. I am faithful to the authors who are my favorites. 🙂

  30. I find reviews interesting, but I tend to read them after I’ve read the book – just to see how others interpreted what I read. I read the blurb and a sample of the writing when making a purchasing decision.
    I love your site, Sarah and happy birthday. I’m looking forward to reading your book – you do a great service for the romance community. Thank you.

  31. It depends on how familiar I am with an author. Some reviews help, some make no sense, so I look at the story description to make my final decision. I like book covers, too.

  32. I like to read the reviews, but also like to form my own opinion. I will take into account the fact that the reviewer usually has or has not the same tastes as I do.

  33. Smart Bitches was my first online romance review/forum & has been for many years. I have spilled tears laughing at some of the posts & its a go to site to which I send newbies to get a taste of the rom community. Love esp when non-Rom readers take on the challenge (HIGHLY recommend going back & reading Doc Turtles walk through the first Black Dagger Brotherhood book.

    Turtle Back, baby!!
    Hi Sarah!
    Kisses Jane!

  34. Sarah, thanks so much for writing a book that celebrates the romance genre and its focus on the positive.

    I get so angry about this assumption that hate and violence and evil and pain are somehow more “real” than love and joy and forgiveness and generosity.

    As for reviews, the ones I take notice of are well-written and give a sense of why the reviewer reacts a certain way. Humor is always good, too!

    The ones I ignore are the internet troll types that go, “This is the worst book ever!” with no explanation.

  35. I don’t read many reviews. I don’t have a computer, only WebTV, which is what I use for my email and some sites on the internet, such as your blog. But, it is a slow process, so I really don’t use it for many things.

  36. I do judge a book by its cover, but I don’t put much, if any, reliance on reviews. This book sounds fun!

    Amy P

  37. I usually just buy the books of my favorite authors but read reviews of books from authors new to me and then decide to buy the book.

  38. Happy Birthday! I always read a lot of reviews. I like to know what everyone else thinks about a book before I read it. I my like it when they don’t

  39. I will read a review of a book, but If it is one that I want to read I will read it. Everyone does not like the same thing. Thanks why there is more than one flavor of ice cream!

  40. For my auto buy authors, I never read the reviews.
    Reviews I trust are from various blogs, such as SBTB and RT magazine.

  41. Hi! The book sounds like a great read. I do read reviews at times but often the cover or title catches my attention.


  42. I rarely read the reviews before purchasing a book. I will, on occasion, buy a book based on a friends recommendation, but I don’t usually put much stock in reviews…just because one person loved or hated a book, doesn’t mean I’ll feel the same way.

    That being said, I will totally judge a book by it’s cover 😉

  43. I will read reviews, sometimes, but I rarely let that completely influence the books I ultimately read. Everyone has different ideas of what they like so it makes it hard to really judge. Thanks for the great interview, Jane!

  44. Happy birthday, Sarah!

    I put a lot of stock in reviews before buying, because my book friends online tend to enjoy the same books as me. If someone that loves the same book as me gives a book 5 stars, I am most likely to pick it up!

  45. Thank you for having me, Jane, and thank you for the birthday wishes, everyone! This was a wonderfully fun interview and I’m very honored to be here!

    The thing about reviews that makes them so powerful is that when you find a reviewer whose tastes align with yours, you have a recommendation source that’s extremely accurate and valuable. I don’t want my reviews to decide someone else’s opinion, but I do want to answer a reader’s question, “Do I want to read this?” Plus, when you know a reviewer has the same taste as you, it gives you a looooot to talk about – hence Jane and me chatting at Washington Romance Writers for at least 20 minutes. 🙂

  46. I love your answer, Sarah: Vampire werewolf alien billionaire viscount secret cowboy tycoon, please.

    I’m going to have to go with that, too.

    Thanks for introducing her to us, Jane. XO

  47. I certainly do like to read reviews of books and always look at the readers’ reviews at Amazon before buying a book. Sometimes I don’t agree with reviewers, but for right now in my busy life it is my way of being in a “book club” without having to go to the meetings. The New York Times Book Review section is my favorite part of the newspaper. Book Page is given away at our library for free by the FOL. I find new authors all over the internet, but especially appreciate the interviews you have here with authors Jane. I would so enjoy reading Sarah’s book. Thanks Jane! And, Sarah it is nice to meet you. I will see you at your website!

  48. I like to read reviews if it’s a new-to-me author… when it’s a tried and true author I will read reviews but even if they aren’t great I will usually go ahead and buy/read the book anyway. I do like to form my own opinions and I will take reviews under considerations, but if my interest has been piqued enough to read a review I will probably read the book. Good interview, nice to hear about the other side of the coin.

  49. I do appreciate honest revies. Do I use/read them? It depends on the book. If it’s a new author I have not read, then yes I will. If it’s an author I read most often, then usually no.

  50. When choosing a book, I always read the reviews and the first few lines of the first chapter. Reviews are one of the best ways to get a feel for what the mood of the book is going to be. Funny, inspiring, thrilling, etc. to see if it is something I want to read. Very useful to have them!

  51. Just for generalization I like to read the reviews. If I like what I read and feel about it, I’ll get the book to read for myself.

  52. Happy Birthday, Sarah!! I do appreciate book reviews only if it is an author I have not read before….otherwise it really doesn’t make much difference to me.

  53. If I know the author I just get the book. I know I won’t be disappointed. If not, sometimes I read a few reviews, but it is not always easy to decide, because reviews can be all over the place and so not always helpful. Most of the time I trust the blurb to decide if it is a story I am going to enjoy or not.

  54. I always like to read reviews; even if I’ve already read the book. Sometimes people pick up on things that I missed or they’ll validate thoughts that I had.

  55. “…believing you are worthy of a happy ending.” Should be embroidered on every child’s blanket! Can’t wait to read more.

  56. Honestly, I will read a book whether it gets good reviews or bad. If I want to read it, I will. I try to stay away from most reviews anyway to avoid spoilers. Then again, if someone who knows me well, like my sister, tells me it isn’t a book I’d like, I’d probably take their word for it. I always give books a chance if they interest me.

  57. I grabbed a Courtney Milan historical romance book from the library and I didn’t even read what it was about. I didn’t need anyone else’s opinion. I’m enjoying it. It’s called Proof of Seduction.

  58. I’ve been spending a lot of hours lately deep in my writing cave and plan to head back in there again today. The writing is going well and I’m so excited about the new story!

    But before I go, here are the two winners for Sarah’s novel –

    #35 Rebecca Kramer
    #69 Nicole

    Shoot me an email with your full name, address, comment # and the title of the this blog and I’ll get your packages in the mail soon!

    love to all,

  59. On new-to-me authors, I may check out the reviews, especially if the author/book hasn’t been recommended by a favorite author or a friend. Favorite autors – never look at reviews to see if I want to buy – just look at the reviews to make sure people are being nice to that particular author! 😉

  60. I read reviews if I stumble upon them. If I look at the book and understand what it could be about and i want to read it, I go ahead and do that. I don’t depend upon anyone else to tell me if it is good or not. That’s like the movies-the ones the critics say are good I usually don’t like. Same with books.

Leave a Comment

Your email is never published or shared.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By posting a comment, you consent to have your personally identifiable information collected and used in accordance with our privacy policy.