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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's Special - - Manda Collins


I'm so pleased to host Manda Collins today, on the release day of her newest book, How to Romance a Rake - second in her Ugly Ducklings series.  I've had the pleasure of following Miranda's progression from drabbles on the Eloisa James bulletin board to manuscript writer to published author and it's such a thrill to know that the readers of the world (including me!) now have the opportunity to read this talented author's work. 

When Manda isn't busy writing richly emotional romances with an intriguing touch of mystery she's busy guiding students in her role as academic librarian at a small liberal arts college or gracefully navigating the cyber waters of social media.  I'm sure that somewhere in there she finds time to sleep.  I'm just not sure where. :)  You can find more information about Manda and her books at her website.  You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

Please join me in giving Manda a warm Romance Dish welcome!


A Heroine Like Me
by Manda Collins

First of all, thank you to the wonderful ladies of The Romance Dish for having me back for the release of my second book in the Ugly Ducklings series. This book release thing never gets old! And this book in particular holds a special place in my heart, because it features, for better or for worse, a heroine who is disabled like me.

Let me say up front that Juliet is not me, or a rough facsimile thereof. One of the fun, fabulous things about writing is that you can create characters who have a bit of you in them, but who aren't you at all. Such is it with Juliet. For one thing, I was not saddled with the kind of mother who makes Mommie Dearest look like Mother of the Year!

First, a little background. Juliet's mother was one of a trio of sisters—the Featherstones—who came to London in their late teens from no one knows where, and took society by storm on the strength of their beauty and charisma alone. Rose Featherstone, now Lady Shelby, has worked hard to earn her position in society as a great beauty and when her only daughter suffers an incurable injury to her lower leg while the family is in Vienna for her husband's diplomatic work, Rose is determined not to let her daughter's lameness overshadow her own social position.

For Juliet, this means that she must do whatever it takes to blend into the background. Though she is a gifted pianist, her mother prefers that she not play in public—though she sometimes does—because that would draw attention to Juliet and her injury. Though she is quite pretty in her own right, her mother's wishes mean that she must downplay her looks, and do whatever she must to keep to the fringes of society. And, most significantly, Juliet must never, never call attention to her injury. Because, as crazy as it might sound to us, Lady Shelby fears that her daughter's bum leg will detract from her own beauty.

But it is only in Juliet's third season that Lady Shelby hatches a plan to remove her daughter from her sight all together. She'll marry her off to middle-aged painter, Lord Turlington. When Juliet protests, of course Lady Shelby is ready with a put down to keep her daughter in line, playing to her deepest fears:

     "I do not mean to be unkind, my dear, truly I don't. But husbands require certain…duties of their wives. Duties that require a certain degree of…physicality. I simply do not believe your injury would allow you to participate in such activities. At least not with the regularity that a young man might require….An older husband…would be much more willing to overlook your frailty.  Indeed, I believe he might even be willing to let you continue with your study of the pianoforte.  After all you will need some way to occupy your time."

Fortunately for Juliet, she has learned that Lady Shelby is not someone she can trust, and Alec Devenish, Lord Deveril, is more than happy to put this fiction Juliet's mother has crafted to rest.

Though Lady Shelby is not the villain of How to Romance a Rake, a great deal of the novel is spent, I think, proving all of her assertions about Juliet's place in society, and her place in the world, wrong.

Obviously I live in an era that is much more tolerant of people with all sorts of disabilities than does Juliet. (This week, a double amputee from South Africa will be the first ever to compete on the track as a runner at the Olympics.) But even so, I felt some trepidation about writing this story. I'm not saying all readers are like this, but I've read threads on romance bulletin boards before where readers proclaimed themselves to be totally squicked out by heroes and heroines with missing limbs. There is still, for better or worse, a tendency on our parts to place anyone who isn't like us into the "other" category. We might not be as overt about it as Lady Shelby, but we are all—even me—guilty of it.

I worry that some readers might see How to Romance a Rake as a step backward for the disabled because I focus on the way that Juliet overcomes the stigma surrounding her disability. The goal, of course, is a world where there are disabled characters in novels who are totally unremarkable and who are accepted for who and what they are. But that hasn't been my own experience of the disabled life. And though Juliet is not me, at least at this point in my writing life, I needed to explore the fears and shames and societal pressures of being a disabled woman. And I'm okay with that.

So, gentle readers, are there certain books that have resonated with you because you saw yourself in them? For me, one book that stands out is Edith Layton's To Wed a Stranger, which captured perfectly what it is to be a woman with a serious illness. What's yours? I'll give away a copy of How to Romance a Rake to one commenter.

59 comments:

  1. Hi Manda,

    Congrats on the new release. I do hope you're not as nervous this release day, does it get better or harder with each new release? I don't think I identify with any particular heroine, I think I'm every heroine while I read the book. I so love getting lost in a story. :)

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    1. I tend to be the same, Beebs. I lose myself in just about every heroine I read.

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    2. Thanks, Beebs! I'm not nearly as nervous this time as I was for the last. So I think it does get better. Though waking up this morning felt a lot like waking up on a birthday when you're a kid. Like I knew excitement was coming my way today! And it is:)

      I'm actually very able to lose myself in whatever heroine I'm reading, too. I think it's one of the things I love about reading. I can be and do things in a book that I would never do in real life!!

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  2. Happy How to Romance a Rake Release Day, Manda! I love the book, and I love the terrific reviews HTRAR is getting. Juliet is a wonderful heroine. Watching her grow in confidence in her own strength was one of the best parts of the book, and Alec is a heart-winning hero.

    Shy, bookish, Rubenesque, eldest sister--heroines with one or more of these characteristics evoke the strongest sense of identity for me, but other favorite heroines are those who possess qualities I wish I had. The free spirits and the take-charge heroines fall in the latter category.

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    1. Thank you so much, Janga! It means the world to know you love my books.

      Ooh, I really identify with those heroine types, too! It's so hard to throw off the mantle of elder sister, even as an adult. And I agree about the free spirits. I wish I could be that way, but it's good enough for me to read about heroines who are like that.

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  3. Congrats on the new book!

    I love the first book and looking forward to reading the second one.

    I think that I relate to any characters that is a little on the shy and plain side. :)

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    1. Thank you so much, May! I hope you enjoy it!

      One of the cool things about being a writer is that you can create characters who embody all those different facets of yourself. I'm not always shy, but I am in enough situations that I really love reading about characters who are shy and overcome their shyness. :)

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  4. Welcome, Manda! It's such a treat to celebrate the release of How to Romance a Rake with you today. I loved this book - and these characters - so much!

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    1. Thank you so much, PJ! I love coming here:) And I'm so glad you enjoyed Alec and Juliet's story:)If you like a book I know it's good!

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  5. Hi, sweet Manda!! I can't wait to read How to Romance a Rake. Another gorgeous cover, too!

    I love atypical heroines and heroes. I think it's important to celebrate what makes us different and unique. It makes life so much more interesting....as well as the books we love to read. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Gannon! I am soooo lucky with my covers. I want to paper the walls with them!

      I agree about atypical heroes and heroines. And I love that ultimately, no matter how different a character seems, I can always find something to relate to. Because in the end, we're all human. :)

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  6. Hello and welcome, Manda!! It is so nice to have you here today on your release day. Congrats to you! I have your first book in my TBR pile and will be adding this one to it. Can't wait to read them!

    My favorite heroine of all time is Kate Sheffield from JQ's TVWLM. She may not be exactly like me, but I felt so connected with her as a character. She's like my fictional BFF! :)

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    1. Thanks, Andrea! I love Kate!!! You're right. She IS like a fictional BFF. Great way to describe it:)

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  7. Congratulations on the new release. I don't really see myself in any book that I read. There might be a similarity of circumstance where I'm curious as to how the author describes it, but as you noted, nothing is exactly the same.

    You mentioned that you have wonderful family support. Did you still have to reassure everyone that Lady Shelby is totally fictional?

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    1. Thank you, Kim! I think one of the reasons I like to read so much is that even when a character is like me, they're also different enough that it's not like looking in a mirror. Otherwise we'd be able to to tell what was going to happen next. Wouldn't we?

      LOL, no one has asked about Lady Shelby yet. That either means that my family is really secure in my love for them, or they're plotting their revenge!

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  8. Happy Release Day, Manda! I just read your How to Dance with a Duke and am excited to read this next one in The Ugly Ducklings series. It's fun to find little bits of myself in heroines from some of my favorite books. I related quite well at times to Lillian from Kleypas' It Happened One Autumn. She has a bit of a mouth and can be direct and so can I. While there isn't any one character that I've read and said, "Aha! That's me!" it's still nice to relate and connect to who I'm reading about.

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    1. Thank you, Emily! Hope you enjoy this one:) Totally agree with you on connecting to the heroines we read. It is fun! I think what I really loved about LK's Wallflowers was that even though I wasn't exactly like any of them, I related to all of them. There were, as you said, little bits of me in each of them. Though I think I related to Evie the most. But that might just be because I liked her man best of all:)

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  9. Congratulations. I must admit I haven't read you as yet but your books sound like something I would enjoy. I have to agree with some of the others that I get lost in the story and when I care about the characters, I feel what they feel. I aways take away something from everything I read. I think above all else, tolerance needs to be taught. How much better a world this would be if we weren't afraid of other's differences but embraced them!

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    1. Thank you, catslady! I think you're right about tolerating differences. It's very important for all of us. And I agree that reading about characters who are different from us is a good way to start.

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  10. FYI...

    Manda is hosting a Twitter Release Party this afternoon for How to Romance a Rake! I'll be at work and won't be able to join in the fun :( but there will be a chance to ask questions and win prizes so don't miss out! Go to Twitter between 5pm and 6pm ET and use hashtag #MandaCollins.

    More info on the Twitter Party here:

    http://tinyurl.com/cv6wc4g

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  11. Manda, I thought How to Dance with a Duke was great. I'll be looking forward to How to Romance a Rake!

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    1. Thank you so much, Nancy! That makes my day:)

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  12. Hi, Manda! First of all, how do you find time to write and work at a full time job as well? Amazing!

    Poor Juliet. Her mother sounds like a woman that needs a big smack upside her head. Shame on her for saying such awful things to her daughter. One would think that her mother would happily "promote" her daughter and her musical talents to prove to people that although she has a slight disability, she is still a gracious and talented woman who would make a wonderful wife and mother. I have to read "How to Romance a Rake" and see how Juliet is able to overcome her mother's cruelty.

    People with disabilities can overcome just about anything. My neighbor lost both of his legs in Vietnam but came home to be a very successful businessman, husband and father. His determination in life reminds me of my mother's old saying: "There but for the grace of God go I."

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    1. Hi Connie! Thanks for coming by:) Mostly I end up writing on weekends, otherwise my brain would turn to mush.

      Juliet's mother is a piece of work. But Juliet does a pretty great job of overcoming her nastiness, I think. With a bit of help from Lord Deveril:)

      What an amazing man your neighbor must be! Gotta love a survivor.

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  13. Hi Mandy! Happy release of your book. This is another stunning cover :)

    A book that really resonated with me is Annie's Song by Catherine Anderson. Annie's character really touched my heart and despite her sad circumstances I didn't pity her but appreciate her independence and quiet strength.

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    1. Hi Na! Thank you--about the book and the cover! I have been very lucky in that regard!

      I need to read some Catherine Anderson one of these days. I've heard lots of great things about her books.

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  14. Hi Manda! First of all, huge congratulations on the release of your second book in the "Ugly Duckling's Series!" As you know, I had the honor and pleasure to get an early peak at "How to Romance a Rake." It is a rare gem of a book, even if it did not tackle some very difficult topics. The fact that it does, and does it so well, takes it into a much higher catagory. Even though Juliet is not you, you have taken a huge chance by putting yourself out there with a subject that is rarely addressed in novels and romance novels in particular. Let me say: It has paid off big time! I know that this book will be a big hit with readers because we all struggle with some type of personal disability. It may not be a physical one or even a visible one, but what about shyness, poor self esteem, dysfunctional family dynamics, etc,etc. But you get the idea, and your readers will relate in their own personal way. Brava, Manda!
    Even though I have read the book as an e-Galley, I'm not taking myself out of the competition for a print copy. I need one for you to autograph for me in Atlanta next year!

    Hugs,

    Flora

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    1. Thank you so much, Flora! And you are so right that we all struggle with some kind of disability--even if it isn't something that's visible. I couldn't have worded it better myself! And I will happily sign a copy for you in Atlanta! :)

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  15. Happy Release Day, Manda. Can't say I really identified with any character, but I think Lisa Kleypas' Wallflowers quartet really resonated with me. I do see a little bit of myself in each of those heroines.

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    1. Thank you, Jane! I think we're probably not alone in our love for the Wallflowers! They're so good!!!

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  16. Happy Release Day!!!

    I've been counting down and I'm so excited cuz my copy of this book is waiting for me at home!!! (please don't enter me in the giveaway). I loved, loved, loved How to Dance w/ a Duke and when I read the snippet of this book in the back of that one, I was hooked!

    One of the first romance books I read was The China Bride by Mary Jo Putney and it really resonated with me b/c it was the only HR book (or really romance/fiction in general) that had an Asian heroine. I'm Korean and sometimes it's nice to have a heroine that I can really, actually relate to.

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    1. Thank you so much, Erin! Glad you enjoyed How to Dance with a Duke and I hope you like the new one too!

      Great example. And if you're anything like me, it's not that you ONLY want to read books with Asian heroines (or in my case disabled heroines) but it's so good sometimes to read a book with a heroine who looks like you for a change. I mean, if I only wanted heroines who were like me, then I'd have to make them all overly tall, thirty-something librarians who write romance on the side;) Thank you for sharing that with me!

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  17. Hi Manda! Happy, happy release day! After reading Cecily's story in How to Dance With A Duke, I have been waiting for How to Romance A Rake. I am really looking forward to reading Juliet's book. Hope that Madeline's book won't be too far behind. I love books in a series, and always hate to have to read them as they are released because I am so impatient. Lol!

    I never really see myself in any books that I read. Sometimes I can connect with a character that has frizzy hair like me or has had an unhappy childhood though.

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    1. Hi Cathy, thank you so much! I hope you enjoy Juliet's book. Madeline's will be coming out at the end of January 2013. But there will be snippets along the way.

      Thanks for coming by!

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  18. Congrats on release day. I don't know that I really see myself in book characters. If I can choose one to emulate though, I'd want to be like Jessica Trent in Lord of Scoundrels. She was smart, capable and a pretty good shot as I recall!

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    1. Thanks, LSUReader! You could do a lot worse than emulating Jessica Trent! Plus she ends up with the ultimate bad boy:) Not too shabby!

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  19. Hi again Manda,

    I forgot to add that the subject of limb deformity and/or amputation is very current and important to today's reading community. It is an unfortunate fact that many of our brave military personnel, both male and female, are returning home with severe, life changing injuries. Your heroine, Juliet, has a war related impairment; this is sure to resonate with this heroic group as well as with their families and friends.

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    1. Excellent point, Flora. It is so sad to me that prosthetics are getting so good, because it means necessarily that there has been a higher incidence of amputations. And aside from diabetes, the big reason for the uptick in the US is war. If my book helps anybody who has suffered that kind of loss then I'm doing pretty well.

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    2. It has been a pleasure blogging and tweeting with you on you release day, Manda!

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  20. I end up 'seeing' the book unfold as a movie in my head... so while I don't jump into the 'heroine' I do try to see everyone in the book fully.

    I do like 'not perfect' characters in books I'm reading... no one's perfect or has a perfect life...

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    1. Interesting that you "see" the books unfold, girlygirl! That's pretty cool:) I'm with you on perfect characters. Aside from them not being very believable, they're also pretty darn dull.

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  21. I can't think of any particular books that I saw myself in, but I've definitely seen aspects of my personality in heroines and it gives me a deeper understanding of their motivations. I also see some heroines that I wish I were more like, that's always fun.

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    1. It is fun, isn't it, Barbara? It's like trying out a racy outfit that you wouldn't really wear in public in a million years. It's fun to try on a new personality between the pages of a book--and safer than trying it in real life!

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  22. I'm so ready to read Juliet's story. I'm anxious to see how she handles her situation and then overcome it.

    I've seen myself in a lot of the stories I read and can relate to situations they find themselves in. I love strong heroines and Juliet seems to have an abundance of strength.

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    1. Hi Leah, you are right on the money about Juliet's strength. I think whether she got the strength from growing up as her mother's daughter, or from her disability is a toss up. But she's definitely one tough cookie!

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  23. I don't see myself in the books I read.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  25. Ooh, Manda! HTRAR and Juliet sound wonderful!! I can't wait to read the story.

    I have had two books where I have been able to connect with the main heroine. The first is Julia Quinn's ROMANCING MR. BRIDGERTON because Penelope and I could be sisters. Both shy, but not dumb; overweight in a pleasing way; and lack of self-confidence until we've come into our own. Loved that romantic story.

    The other was a book in Debbie Macomber's ORCHARD VALLEY Trilogy; can't remember which one, but the three sisters in each of the books reminded me of either me or one of my sisters. I bought them each a set because I thought that and they agreed with me!

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  26. Manda, thanks so much for hanging out with us today! Sorry I had to go missing for a while but the day job called. ;-)

    Again, congrats on the release of How to Romance a Rake. It's such a wonderful book!

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  27. I see myself in many of the books I read, although, they tend to be the younger me. I relate to the quiet, misunderstood spinster more of ten than not. Odd, because I am not all that quiet and have been married for 40 years. The other character type I relate to is the oldest daughter who sets aside what she wants to help the family. That one is closer to the real me.

    HOW TO ROMANCE A RAKE sounds like a worthwhile read. Congratulations on its release. I hope it does well.

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  28. I read to escape, so I never imagine myself in the stories that I read.

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  29. Congratulations on your new release, Manda! I've always had great sympathy for Evangeline Jenner from Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas. Not sure if it's a matter of affinity, but her way to stammer when insecure, her apparent vulnerability and plainess, and her hidden strength and strong will make her very endearing to me. Plus, she gets the best rogue in town!
    minadecaro at hotmail dot com

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  30. Sounds like a fantastic book! Congratulations, Manda! Hmmm...a special character that I saw myself in? Can't think of one off the top of my head, but I recently read Mia Marlow's How to Distract a Duchess and loved Artemisia! Her sass and wit and the fact she didn't follow convention really spoke to me.
    kjkamryn@gmail.com

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  31. Congratulations on the release of your latest book! I'm sitting here wondering how it has happened that I haven't discovered you before today. Your books are my favorite genre. From what I'm reading, your heroines are not 'perfect'. I like that in books I read and it is not done often enough. One of my favorite books was 'Blind Fortune' written by Joanne Waugh. The heroine was born blind. It's an excellent story and I highly recommend it.

    That said, Manda's books are all on my BTB list as of right now!

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

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  32. Hi Manda!

    My favorite books are historical romance and while I've never pictured myself in a specific book I often see myself as one of the spinsters sitting in a chair by the back wall of the assembly room or ball.

    Oh but the interesting thinks I hear and the things I see, why you'd be amazed. Sometimes it's nice to have no one paying attention to you!

    My imagination takes flight on occasion and I see myself in the lovely gown and being asked for a waltz. Why at times I just sit back and close my eyes and listen to the music and think what if that handsome rouge across the way glancing in my direction and starting to walk my way but dreams and wishes don't always come true.

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  33. hi manda! i have so many books where i saw a glimpse of my self in them, i just can't keep track :D

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  34. I can't say I've ever thought about that - if at all, it would probably with some of the 'bluestockings' and their interests.

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