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REVIEW: Sweet Home by Tillie Cole

Sweet Home Tillie Cole

Dear Tillie Cole:

This book was/is burning up the Kindle bestseller list. A football hero and an English transplant? Buying it was a no brainer to me but there were so many things wrong with this story.

First off, the football. The hero is the starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide and is talked about as a number one draft pick. However, his Alabama parents hate that he plays football and his father believes his son, Romeo Prince, is wasting his time. Football is a religion to Tide fans and there is just no way that Alabama parents aren’t in love with the fame and glory attendant to a Tide starting QB who is leading his team to a National Championship game.

Here’s where it is interesting. It was clear to me that there was some research done, but it was written by someone who didn’t have a clear understanding of football or how to interpret her research. For instance, when Alabama played Notre Dame in the book, the players are referred to as “Dame linebacker”. Romeo is constantly referred to as a first draft not a first pick in the draft or a first draft pick. The phrase “first draft” was so irritating throughout the book. When the next play or set of downs is described, it is referred to as the next phase:

For over three hours we’d watched as Alabama scored, swiftly followed by Notre Dame. Alabama now had the offensive team on the field and with seconds left, they could take the win, if Romeo successfully completed the last phase.

I gave some leeway considering the narrator was a young British woman so I excused the use of pitch to describe the football field or referring to the distance in meters instead of yards. But just the feel of it was wrong. Early on in the book, the heroine, Molly Shakespeare, attends the football game and the hero throws a ball that hits her in the glasses. Romeo then runs off the field and into the stands to cradle her in his arms and then give her a kiss.

Nothing about that scene is remotely plausible. How crappy of a QB are you if you are throwing the ball into the stands? Sure, you have a gun for an arm, but your aim is so bad that even the Bad News Bears are going to bench you. And a QB running off the field into the stands? Sure, if he could fight through all the people on the sidelines, past the security guards that ring the interior, and then over the chest high barrier.


Because football was such a big part of the story and so many of the elements were so obviously wrong, it was really hard to give myself over to the narrative. My mental red pen was out at every juncture (not to mention some cringing typos like “with a vicious growl, he wrenched my legs apart to straddle him, his hardness lying perfectly against my scolding centre.” She has vagina dentata? I mean that’s the only way I can figure out that her “centre” is capable of scolding anyone.

His tongue wrestled with mine, and he drew out all of my latent need with every wet lash. With an exasperated sigh, he broke us apart, his tan skin a scolding temperature to the touch.

he wrenched my legs apart to straddle him, his hardness lying perfectly against my scolding centre.

Scolding tears ran down my face as I clawed at his forearm. “Romeo, I’m so sorry.”

I don’t know. Is that a British spelling for scalding? But if you can set all that is wrong about the football aside and close your eyes to the grammatical issues, the plotline is so over the top ridiculous. Romeo Prince’s parents treat him like crap and yes there is a somewhat (although weak) explanation at the end, their actions are vaudeville like. Romeo’s father punches him in the face one early morning on campus. (Like this wouldn’t have been all over ESPN and the blogs) At another juncture, Romeo’s mother gets physical with Molly.

Romeo is a dominant in the bedroom and out of nowhere, starts ordering Molly around. The sex scenes were probably the best part of the story, scolding centre aside.  He likes to be in control and that’s the one area that he has it. (He’d also have it on the football field, but whatever).

Molly is a TA from Oxford at the age of twenty. She’s helping a professor prepare a paper that will be presented at Oxford. In the meantime, she’s randomly inducted into a sorority and then moves into the sorority house right away. (Let’s not even begin to talk about how inaccurate the sorority representation in the story was – Molly and her two friends get into the sorority by agreeing to kiss a frat boy blindfolded and guess what he ate. Okay.).

The larger girl in the story is a friend of Molly’s and I think it was supposed to be a positive presentation but it came off so wrong. She was portrayed as a vulgar food obsessed woman. When Molly is knocked off her feet by the football, Cass asks where her “large bag of chips and root beer” is. Cass is described as chowing down on her third corn dog and then loving meatloaf. All the other women in the book either don’t eat or drink diet and eat salads.  Cass likes crotchless panties and cut out boob bras and lube.  Our delicate heroine likes “soft, subtle” and not “pornographic” or “hooker” like attire.

So that was disappointing. It’s not an unreadable book as evidenced by the fact that I finished it but the football was all wrong, the portrayal of Cass was offensive, the over the top soapy extreme characterizations obviously worked for a lot of people but not for me.  D

Best regards,


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. claire
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 11:36:59

    I’m English so the whole American Footie inaccuracy passed me by completely (although I sort of figured running off the pitch for a kiss would be a stretch in any game!). I just felt perplexed by the speed of the romance and couldn’t buy into the big, immediate connection that Romeo felt. Also I got jarred out of the story whenever Molly ran a lecture (wildly off piste conversations and lasted about 2 minutes – no one getting much education there!). However I did also finish it and it passed a few hours away on a rainy day – think your rating is pretty fair. By the way, scalding is the correct spelling here as well – a scolding vagina should result in a trip to the doctors for a check up I think!

  2. leslie
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 11:43:08

    Oh Jane! Loving football as you do I imagine you wanted to “sack” the author. It would have taken little effort to get it right…..all she had to do was watch a few minutes of ESPN.

  3. Kimberly
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:12:34

    I was instantly interested in this when I saw it was set in Tuscaloosa and the hero was the quarterback of the Crimson Tide. (I live in Alabama and three of my kids are students at UA) I admit, I’m a harsh editor when it comes to books set in locales I’m familiar with, so I was a little biased going in. I gotta say, I couldn’t get through the sample and most of the reviews weren’t very helpful. I was still curious though. Glad now I passed on this one.

    Being QB of this National Championship football team makes you a god in this state. No parent in their right mind would consider it a waste of time. Roll Tide!

  4. Bookbeauty
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 12:14:09

    I almost bought it… but I couldn’t stop giggling at the names, Romeo & Shakespeare (ehem…) so I stopped myself.
    After reading this review – good thing I did!

  5. Bamaclm
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 13:01:22

    Maybe Romeo’s parents were Auburn fans?

    Was there any romance in this book or just a bunch of bullying?

  6. Rei
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 14:23:50

    I don’t know. Is that a British spelling for scalding?

    Hah! No. No, it is not.

  7. Ros
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 16:14:02

    The only thing I think I’d forgive her for is the heroine’s age. It’s by no means impossible that she’d be on a PhD programme having graduated from Oxford age 20. I was just 20 when I graduated and there were younger people than me doing so. And you’d go straight on to the PhD programme (maybe with a one year MPhil that you upgrade at the end). So if she was brilliant, which I assume she’s meant to be, that does just about work. The rest, I got nothing.

  8. Ros
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 16:17:53

    @Bookbeauty: I was giggling at the notion of a football team called Crimson Tide. But apparently that’s a real thing…

  9. Moriah Jovan (@MoriahJovan)
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 16:47:52


    I was giggling at the notion of a football team called Crimson Tide. But apparently that’s a real thing…

    You have no idea how utterly contemptuous this sounds, do you?

  10. Ros
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 16:53:45

    @Moriah Jovan (@MoriahJovan): Sorry, I really didn’t mean it to be. It’s just that the connotations are so strong, it’s hard to take seriously. I guess it’s one of those things that just doesn’t cross cultures.

  11. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 16:59:59

    @Ros No, it doesn’t cross. Here’s the history:

    And apparently (I haven’t read the book, so I hesitate to say anything), the author couldn’t be arsed to find someone to advise her about a very complex game that takes most people years to understand, if they ever do.

    ETA: Oh, also, Notre Dame is usually referred to as the “fighting Irish” or just “Irish.”

  12. Marina
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 17:13:38

    @Moriah Jovan (@MoriahJovan):

    I was giggling about the name as well. I don’t think I’d go as far to say it’s contemptuous to find a team’s name funny or strange

  13. HJ
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 17:31:04

    Re the name Crimson Tide – given the strong reaction from Moriah Jovan I thought the name must have deeply religious or serious historical significance so I checked the link. I don’t get it. Why is laughing at the name “contemptuous”?

    I just don’t understand why anyone would try to write a book so centred on American football if she is not a rabid fan. It would be like expecting an American author to write about cricket. Why not have an Oxford TA fall for (say) an oarsman? He could be an international-standard rower doing a post-grad and hoping to take part in the Boat Race. I should have thought mugging up on rowing was a lot easier than trying to get to grips with American football, let alone the way it is perceived in a specific place.

    Or better yet, have her fall for a star of a sport which the author actually likes and knows about!

  14. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 17:33:19

    @Marina: For some reason, it just hit me badly, much like, I expect, when Americans write about the British nobility and get it wrong and just fluff it of like it’s not important to take the time to get right. It still irks me, but my response was over the top.

    @HJ Actually, I was thinking of another word, but used contemptuous instead. It wasn’t the best fit for my purposes.

  15. reader
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 17:41:30

    @Moriah Jovan (@MoriahJovan):

    I don’t get why it’s contemptuous, either. It seems a normal, innocent reaction to me.
    You’re assigning contempt where there appears to be none.

  16. Lori
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 17:50:42

    Everything (and it’s very little) I learned about football was from a crazed Tide fan. And I agree, the name sounds like what I called my period.

    The Romeo and Shakespeare names are cringe worthy, even if intended.

  17. Kaetrin
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 18:08:21

    I didn’t know there was a real team with the name Crimson Tide either.

    Many sports-themed romances have made up teams – I think Angela James explained the reasons somewhere when she was talking about an Allison Packard book – I can’t remember exactly but it was something to do with keeping the author and publisher out of trouble somehow (copyright? trademark?… I don’t know – I’ve forgotten now). Anyway, unless I happen to know the team, I tend to assume the team is made up.

    Is “crimson tide” not a eupemism for menstruation in the the US?

  18. Jane
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 18:15:38

    @Kaetrin: I didn’t care that she used the Crimson Tide as her team. It’s the number one team in college football today.

    It’s hard to explain to people not in the US but in the South, particularly in certain states and Alabama is one of them, college football is a religion and you are revered until the day you die if you play on one of those teams and if you’re the QB of a National Champion, I’m pretty sure everyone believes you crap roses.

    Johnny Manziel who won the Heisman last year was on the cover of Time Magazine. When the students go to the football games in the South, they dress up like they are going to church. The reverence people have for football is why we have football players getting away with stuff in Steubenville and Missouri. Why a mom kills so her daughter can be a head cheerleader. Why there is so much dirty money. It’s a multi million dollar sport but boosters are giving players (illegally) free stuff for the sole ability of saying that their alma mater is a winner.

    If the author had picked some random school in the Midwest, Mountain States or East Coast, then maybe she could’ve pulled off some of her storyline but she picked the highest profile position of the highest profile college football team in one of the most rabid fan bases in all the country.

  19. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 18:15:46


    Is “crimson tide” not a eupemism for menstruation in the the US?

    I can’t speak for other regions of the US, but where I live (a LONG way away from Alabama) and have lived (twice again the distance from Alabama), it’s not, no. Around here, most people growing up hear “Crimson Tide” as referencing Alabama before they make a connection to “crimson tide” as a euphemism for menstruation. I mean, yeah, we get it and I suppose some people use it, but it’s just not in…um…heavy usage. Me, personally? I can’t recall ever hearing anyone use “crimson tide” to refer to menstruation. But the US is large and I haven’t lived long enough in any other region in the US to know if others do or not.

  20. Kaetrin
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 18:25:20

    @Moriah Jovan: It’s not a phrase I’ve ever used myself but I’ve heard it used. Even so, that’s what I thought of because it’s the only context I’ve ever heard the phrase, except, I think, isn’t there a movie by that name to do with a submarine as well?…

  21. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 18:29:30


    It’s possibly safe to say that many, many people hear of or cheer for “Crimson Tide” before hitting puberty, so there is no frame of reference to menstruation at all–until someone starts menstruation and then bam, has a V8 moment. But it doesn’t matter because it’s not significant. (For instance, my girlfriends and I all use(d) “Aunt Flow.”)

    Re the film. Yes, a sub called the USS ALABAMA.

  22. Kaetrin
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 18:54:22

    @Jane: I know very little about college football, but even I know that it is HUGE in the US. As far as this book is concerned, the author’s main market is the US surely? And if the Crimson Tide are the biggest college team in the land, isn’t it reasonable to expect that the average reader will have at least a passing knowledge of the culture of football, if not the rules of the game?

    We don’t really have anything like it here. The big teams are all state or national adult teams, not associated with any school or university.

  23. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 19:28:50

    Treating football like a religion is a problem that probably contributes to some players/coaches feeling above the law. I’m thinking of the many recent, highly publicized rape cases. Authors should do their research, of course, but there’s no need to respect football so much that we can’t giggle at the name Crimson Tide. The tone of the review is funny/snarky (vagina dentata–ha) and invites similar comments.

  24. Crista McHugh
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 19:47:04

    Wow – so glad I didn’t pick up this book. I’m from Alabama. My dad’s a football scout for Auburn (the Tide’s rival). I went to my first Iron Bowl when I was 2 months old. We live, breathe, and worship college football there. The author obviously doesn’t understand the game and culture of the SEC.

    And Romeo’s parents should’ve loved the fact their son played for the Tide – if they weren’t getting kickbacks from the Alabama boosters now, they’d definitely be rolling in the dough after he was drafted. Just ask Mark Ingram’s family. (Sorry – I couldn’t resist a little jab at the Tide because that’s just how it is in the South.)

    But yeah, wow, sounds like a train wreck…

    Oh, and I’ve heard of menstruation referred to as “surfing the crimson wave” before, but not the tide.

  25. Laura
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 20:00:53

    In perfect timing, “60 Minutes” just featured a story on Alabama and coach Nick Saban.

    I think if you haven’t experienced college football in person, there is no way to understand or express the fervor and devotion it can inspire. I live in Austin, Texas; home of the UT Longhorns. There isn’t a soul in this city that doesn’t own at least one article of burnt orange clothing, and when the game is going on I’d say half the population is either watching or listening to it. College football is a machine, and a huge moneymaker for the universities. The kids and graduates have an emotional investment that is almost cultlike; witness A&M’s “12th Man”, the crowd is the 12th player on the field.

    I think sports romances are hard to write, because if you don’t truly love and understand the game you are writing about it will show, especially for devoted fans of that sport. It’s similar to historicals-if you don’t get it right, those in the know will have a field day. (Pun intended)

  26. hapax
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 20:20:07

    College football is a machine, and a huge moneymaker for the universities.

    I enjoy a Saturday afternoon game as the next Southern gal, but while college football may be a “machine”, it is NOT a “moneymaker for the universities.”

    As much as the universities like to claim that, in fact only about half of the NCAA universities with a football team turn a profit on that sport (far fewer get a profit on their sports programs as a whole). Moreover, I’ve never seen an analysis that didn’t prove that every dime of the money the team makes gets poured back into the athletics department, and no where else. (And not to the players, either, who can’t even control or be recompensed for the usage of their own faces in lucrative videogames!)

    Worse, a big-time football program often sucks money out of the academic programs; teachers get less pay and fewer teachers are even hired (inflated coaching salaries and huge rosters of assistants bump up the averages), and alumni donations are directed to the already well-endowed athletic departments rather than to anything that actually leads to education.

  27. Jane
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 20:39:01

    So the real strange thing about this book is that one of the “editors” thanked in the book is a Tide fan and that the author says her husband is / was a pro Rugby player so obviously there is a sports culture that she is very familiar with. Why she went with US football, I’m just not sure.

    Having said that I’m apparently the only one that was bothered by the football thing because the reviews are universally popular.

  28. cleo
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 20:55:15


    I think if you haven’t experienced college football in person, there is no way to understand or express the fervor and devotion it can inspire.

    I agree with that. I certainly have trouble explaining it to people who haven’t experienced it. I grew up in Ann Arbor, MI, home of the Michigan Wolverines – where college football is the civic religion and where the football stadium can hold the entire city population. We moved to A2 from Chicago when I was 8 and it was a culture shock. There were so many (inexplicable) things to learn – the fight song, how to pronounce the coach’s name, which colors were allowed to be worn with which colors, etc. I think it took at least 10 years after I moved out of MI before I could wear red and gray at the same time (the colors of rival OSU).

  29. Bamaclm
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 21:02:30

    @Jane: No, you’re not the only one bothered. I’m a Tide fan and although I haven’t read the book, it bothers me.

    I checked the reviews on Amazon and seems to me it’s non-sport folks who are reviewing. There were only a couple of posters who mentioned the football mistakes and then only in passing. Mainly it was the romance they were concerned with, but that doesn’t sound very appealing to me either.

    And I have to admit, after forty years in Alabama, this is the first time I’ve seen the Alabama Crimson Tide related to menstrual flow. Not even our rivals have correlated that, lol.

  30. Sunita
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 21:35:36

    I’m not even remotely an Alabama fan, but it’s just about impossible to think of Crimson Tide and not think of Alabama football. I came to the US when Bear Bryant was the head coach, and he was a towering figure in college sports, indeed, sports more generally. If you spent much time in the US you’d have to actively avoid not just the sports pages but the regular news pages to not know the primary meaning of Crimson Tide here.

    I tried to think of what crimson tide might mean aside from Alabama football, and what came to mind next is red tide (algae bloom in coastal areas). The menstruation reference would come third after that, and only because I was prompted by this discussion.

    I read the first few pages of the sample. Aside from the football problems, even if you’re willing to suspend disbelief enough to accept a 20-year-old Oxford student going to the U of Alabama to get an MA in Philosophy, the professor’s description of her “duel [sic] role of being my research assistant for a journal [sic] that I’m currently writing for an academic periodical [sic] and my teaching assistant for this class” should give a reader pause.

  31. Carolyne
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 21:52:12

    ::raises hand weakly and meekly:: Never heard of “Crimson Tide” as anything other than a movie until now. Or, if I had heard it before, there was no neuron in my brain connecting it with a football team. Go Sox.

    Not to argue with anyone that ignorance of football makes it a better book, only that I can see how there might be reviewers who have no idea about football culture even if they grew up in the US. I lived a while in Austin and was impressed by how huge football is there–that burnt orange is everywhere, EVERYWHERE–but it really didn’t impact on my life other than that.

    Which doesn’t excuse the book, also what with the duel role writing a journal for…oh, never mind, I can’t even go on. I hope the author has much better luck with her research on her next foray.

  32. Sarah James
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 03:30:14

    For me, I think the book itself was pleasantly well-written even though some factors about football were inaccurate. Romeo was the superstar QB of the Crimson Tide, and his past life was actually pointed out in the book. His parents were not supportive (his football career) since his dad had several women in the past. And in result of his dad’s awful past was Romeo. Due to the fact that his mother was barren, one of his dad’s mistresses gave Romeo to him. His family was wealthy and Romeo was the only person legally entitled for his family’s wealth after his parents. I may not be a huge avid football fan, but I think the author did not really focused on football. Tillie emphasized more the blissfulness and romance between Mol and Rome. The “home” really in the book was not Alabama or Football, but the bittersweet love of Molly and Romeo. I did expect that some parts of the book weren’t that accurate especially the football thing, but I guess the author was not really football-detailed. In correlation with the popularity of the book, I guess that football fans would actually appreciate the book more even though it wasn’t that detailed. The popularity of football widened because of this book. And yes, I agree to some factors mentioned by fans. They were all intellectually right about football. But the author really wanted to focus more about the flow of love not football.

  33. Meri
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 03:54:46

    @Kaetrin: Yes, the movie about the submarine is Crimson Tide – and the submarine itself is the USS Alabama, thus the name.

    I like the idea of sports romances, but being something of a sports fan, I can’t help but notice when authors don’t research or don’t fully understand the sports that they are writing about. The odds that an Alabama QB would have parents opposed to his playing are only slightly higher than zero. Also, if you want to write a book in which the heroine is supposed to be extremely bright, Stanford has a great football team.

  34. CD
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 05:43:31

    I think I would have enjoyed the disturbing but hilarious vision of a scolding vagina over a scalding one – that just makes me think “ouch” for the poor hero’s todger…

    This does seem like a terrible book – even aside from American football mistakes – honestly, she couldn’t write a book about a footballer or a rugby player or something. Or if she wanted an American sport, then basketball seems a lot easier to get to grips with (it’s netball but with bouncing, isn’t it?). I watched five seasons of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and I still don’t understand American football. The sum of my knowledge is that American footballers pass the ball forwards, have far more dangerous tackles than rugby, and stop the game every few minutes for tactical discussions.

    Completely off the topic, in terms of hotness, the gear that American footballers have to wear really doesn’t show them to advantage next to our beefy, oh so very dirty/mud covered rugger buggers during a game. Or doing a Haka [fans self]. But I am willing to be converted…

    And crimson tide… Hmnnn. I know that crimson wave is a euphemism for menstruation so I can see the link. Seems like great ammunition for a rival team ;-)…

  35. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 08:01:00

    @Sunita: Eh, I’m a longtime football fan (but pro, not college) and before this review I actually thought Crimson Tide referred to fans or was a team nickname, like Fighting Irish. Either way, a person can be aware of both meanings. And I’m still confused about why or if it’s inappropriate to laugh, should we accidentally think of periods.

    I agree that football is complicated. I’ve been watching for 20 years and I’m nowhere near an expert. The rules are a mile long and change constantly. Someone tweeted recently about the connection between footfall and literary criticism. Part of the draw of the sport, for me, is in discussion and interpretation.

  36. Sunita
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 10:16:08

    @Jill Sorenson:

    I actually thought Crimson Tide referred to fans or was a team nickname, like Fighting Irish.

    That’s correct; it is a nickname like Fighting Irish.

    Everyone makes jokes that fall flat, I don’t think doing so has anything to do with inappropriateness. I admit, though, that jokes that depend on the teller and listeners’ cultural ignorance to work rarely strike me as funny, so no doubt I’m missing something.

  37. Beth
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 11:53:19

    As someone who’s written a sports-based story (baseball tho, not football), I think getting the details right is extremely important. It’s the same with historical details. If you’re going to write about something, it should be correct, or as correct as you can make it. I hate to be judgmental, but with the amount of resources available about American football, there really aren’t excuses for getting it wrong. And if the author truly did have an editor who is associated with Alabama football, at the very least her facts should have been correct.

    As for Crimson Tide, I’ve always felt it was kind of an odd nickname for a team to have, but again, football is like a religion in the South, and you don’t really mess with that. BUT there are teams that are just as weird. Stanford is THE Cardinal, not the CardinalS and their mascot is this bizarre Christmas tree person-thing. Football is so much about continuing tradition, especially at the big schools like Alabama. You can’t really judge some of these traditions with a modern lens because they’re over a hundred years old. Just my .02 cents.

  38. Isobel Carr
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 14:04:32


    Is “crimson tide” not a eupemism for menstruation in the the US?

    Yes it is, and a pretty common one, too. I’m right there with Ros having uncontrollable giggles every time I hear it connected to a sports team and their fans. But then I don’t follow Football at all and have never heard of the team.

  39. Charlotte Russell
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 15:08:11

    @Isobel Carr: I would have to respectfully disagree with you that it’s a “pretty common” euphemism in the US. I’ve lived in the Midwest (IN), Southwest (AZ), and Pacific NW (WA) and never heard menstruation referred to as the “crimson tide” or even the “crimson wave.” But I have known Alabama’s team nickname for as long as I can remember and I’m not even from the south.

  40. AlexaB
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 17:10:38

    (apologies in advance for the tl;dr)

    I’m with @Charlotte Russell: I’ve lived in Northern & Southern California, Texas and New England. I’ve never heard “crimson tide” as an euphemism for menstruation, and that includes several years in London.

    I’m also with @Sunita about jokes that rely on cultural ignorance. Been an expat, lived that, don’t really care for the t-shirt.

    I’m soooooo tired of the Great Self-Publishing New Adult Gold Rush of 2013. For [insert deity/choice of afterlife location/favorite Anglo-Saxon term]’s sake, can’t these authors DO SOME @^(&ing RESEARCH on their way to hitting “upload” on Smashwords?!?! We have the internet, people, it’s not all that difficult. Even a quick perusal of Wikipedia and a brief glance at the University of Alabama website would have corrected many of these errors.

    I read the sample and I’m guessing that the author’s exposure to life on a US university campus was restricted to…well, actually, I can’t think of a TV series or a film that got it THIS wrong. NO, grad students are not housed with undergrads as a matter of course. NO, a student would not be trying out for the cheerleading squad in the fall of her senior year. NO, NO, NO to any and all attempts to depict anything resembling sorority rush. A thousand times NO to the football.

    Look, I get it, college football isn’t everyone’s thing. But why use the setting if you can’t be arsed to do even a modicum of research?! If you want to use the tired New Adult trope of alphaholic male with control issues/mousy girl with tragic past who transforms into Jenna Jameson in the bedroom, then pick a setting you DO know. Don’t set it in a country and/or a specific milieu of which you know nothing and can’t be bothered to ask someone to vet it. This goes not only for Ms. Cole, but also the people behind Christina Lauren (shyeah right, the heroine of Beautiful Bastard is a Northwestern MBA student), and Raine Miller, who in her book Naked depicts her supposedly British hero pulling his Range Rover into a mini mall in central London to pick up some Advil and a PowerBar.

    I understand reading for the feels, and I suppose this is why the book is burning up the Amazon charts. But I am oh so weary of having my readerly intelligence insulted by authors who think they can slapdash any old thing out there as long it hits the trope, and not be called on their sloppy work.

    Last: this book would not fly if set in the Pac-12, either. I lived in Palo Alto during the Andrew Luck years , and I constantly heard his name around town even though Stanford is not what I would consider a football school. Same when I lived in LA during the Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart years – they were treated by the local press like the resident film and TV celebrities, and this in a city that can’t sustain a NFL team despite being the #2 market in the country. I can only imagine the hoopla surrounding a ‘Bama QB in a national championship year! Also, if the hero’s family conflict is over inheriting money – a top NFL draft pick makes eight figures. Luck signed a $22 million contract with the Colts that included a $14.5 million signing bonus. If Romeo makes it to the NFL, he won’t need no stinking family money. And his parents would know that.

    Again, authors, GIYF.

    (Pedantic aside time: speaking of Stanford, it’s not the Cardinal – it’s just Cardinal. As in the color. When the school first opened its doors, they were the Stanford Indians. That was deemed unacceptable in the 1970s, and they switched to Cardinal. The marching band tree – which is not an official mascot – derives from the tree depicted on Stanford’s seal. But my all-time favorite school mascot has to be the University of California at Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, followed by the University of California at Irvine Anteaters. Their cheer: “Zot!” after the anteater in the comic strip “Wizard of Id.” Too bad neither school plays Division 1 football; I’d love to see their mascots on the field.)

  41. Laura
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 18:27:08

    @hapax; You are correct, I shouldn’t have made such a broad statement. My information is strictly anecdotal-a family member worked for UT Football for decades. The amount of money involved is staggering, and of course it’s not shared outside the athletic department, there has never been a pretense of that. Football program charters planes, debate team rents Econoline vans.

  42. Mary
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 18:29:06

    I think this can all be boiled down to: write about what you know. If you want to write about something you don’t know, research it until you do know it.
    Which is a problem with New Adult in general, I think. I’m a college student and none of the books I’ve read/sampled have had any similarities to my own experiences as a 21st century female college students. I go to a medium-sized (10000 student) public university in the South, after growing up in Indiana and experiencing a lot of the Indiana University (40000 students) culture. My big sister went to a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts (1600 students). And yet none of the New Adult novels I’ve attempted to read have captured any of the feeling/culture of any size college.
    In order to stay relevant-Big Southern universities=college football is big. Also…sorority rushing is something taken very seriously by those who chose to do it and those in the sorority don’t let random girls join for random reasons like those stated in the review. You have to rush at the beginning of the semester, show your interest, it’s almost like an interview process. And even though once the school year starts Greek life can get trashy, at the rush stage it’s still something that is taken seriously.
    No matter how touching the love story, inaccuracies take me out of any book. I don’t read books with blatant historical inaccuracies, no matter how good the reviews (cough cough Grace Burrowes) because they drive me BONKERS. And inaccuracies in contemporary settings…that’s just lazy.

  43. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 18:47:31



    I lived in LA during the Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart years – they were treated by the local press like the resident film and TV celebrities, and this in a city that can’t sustain a NFL team despite being the #2 market in the country.

    I live in Kansas City (9-0, suck it Broncos), and my husband’s from LA and he was a bit bemused by our enthusiasm for football. I tease him all the time about KC being able to support a football team. (Um. We don’t talk about that “baseball” thing, though.)

    @Isobel: Your experience is not universal. I can see how it might be a common phrase wherever you live and thus seem ubiquitous, but it isn’t where I have ever lived, and there were many commenters before you who said they had never experienced it, either, so to say, “Yes it is, and a pretty common one, too.” smacks a tidge of provincialism.

    Also, +1 to Sunita and AlexaB who pinned down my irritation by articulating “jokes made that rely on cultural ignorance.” Excellent descriptor.

  44. KarenH.
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 02:39:25

    So, was I the only one who ended up with a Steely Dan (Deacon Blues) earworm?

  45. Reading What You Know (aka The Great Pet Peeve)
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 07:38:04

    […] an interesting conversation going on in the review thread to Tillie Cole’s USA Today Bestselling book Sweet Home, which features a British heroine […]

  46. Cassie Knight
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 09:06:50

    On menstruation as crimson tide/wave, I’ve was born in PA and have lived in Oklahoma, Washington, a military base in Okinawa and now in Oregon and I have heard of this, many times, so whenever I hear/see that name, that’s what I think of. Can’t help it.

    @AlexaB said: understand reading for the feels, and I suppose this is why the book is burning up the Amazon charts. But I am oh so weary of having my readerly intelligence insulted by authors who think they can slapdash any old thing out there as long it hits the trope, and not be called on their sloppy work.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this except that readers are allowing authors to get away with this by gushing the story is so great, or as Alexa says, reading for the feels, who cares about the errors.

    I’ve seen author readers and reader readers say this about many a book–including Fifty Shades and the knock-offs. Yet, this will NEVER change unless readers start to care more and I don’t see that happening.

    The “handful” of us that do care are not near enough to matter. All I can do is not buy into the hype or curosity to see why the hype and buy the books. That’s the only power I have and that isn’t much. It’s a shame, really, but we will continue to see poorly written stories for a long long time.

  47. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 09:39:31


    So, was I the only one who ended up with a Steely Dan (Deacon Blues) earworm?

    Nope. Which I find funny because it’s another (meta?) layer to its cultural significance.

  48. Anion
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 10:50:43

    Forget Steely Dan, am I the only one thinking of Mama Cass?

  49. TomHoef
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 11:41:13

    It’s saddening to me that a book this bad (just based on the review) has inspired 48 comments. I’m not only embarrassed for the author, but a little bit for the reviewer that she admitted finishing it. Woof.

  50. Janine
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 12:02:51

    @Charlotte Russell:

    I would have to respectfully disagree with you that it’s a “pretty common” euphemism in the US. I’ve lived in the Midwest (IN), Southwest (AZ), and Pacific NW (WA) and never heard menstruation referred to as the “crimson tide” or even the “crimson wave.” But I have known Alabama’s team nickname for as long as I can remember and I’m not even from the south.

    Ditto. I’ve lived in the US for 32 years, and during that time I resided Midwest (IL) the Northeast (downstate and upstate NY) and now live on the west coast (Los Angeles). I have never, ever heard of “crimson tide” as a euphemism for periods. For that matter, I’ve only seen “Aunt Flow” in books and never heard it used in person. The only period euphemism I can think of off the top of my head is “on the rag” but I may be forgetting another.

    @CD: I had to laugh out loud at your comment! Even after 32 years in the United States I still don’t understand the rules of football. In my teens I described it as “One guy catches the ball and tries to run with it. Everyone from the opposite team piles up on him.”

  51. Graham
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 12:25:24

    I have some sympathy for the author’s struggles to describe football. I’m an American but I’m writing a story in which cricket plays a central role. Reading the rules of cricket makes me feel like I’ve gone insane.

  52. Isobel Carr
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 13:09:16

    Well I guess Cassie Knight, Ros, and I must live in some alternate universe.

  53. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 13:37:28

    @AlexaB: I went to Santa Cruz in the early to mid-80s, during which time there was a (thankfully failed) attempt to change the mascot from the beloved Banana Slug to the Sea Lions. Gag me.

    Fiat slug!

  54. Zara Keane
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 16:13:08

    @Isobel Carr: In that case, I’m a fellow resident of your alternate universe. I also thought the football team’s name was a play on the “riding the crimson tide” euphemism.

  55. Sheri Cobb South
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 17:57:41

    I’m a lifelong Alabama fan–my dad got his engineering degree there, and my great-uncle played in the 1930 Rose Bowl–and I would have to agree that this author didn’t do herself any favors by choosing a sport and a team that so many people are so passionate about. I felt the same way about a different book (whose title escapes me) reviewed at another site, whose villain was supposedly the University of Alabama’s play-by-play announcer. In fact, the play-by-play announcer for the Crimson Tide is Eli Gold, a very well-known and highly respected commentator who also announces NASCAR. That alone would decide me against reading the book, just as the football errors (even if they weren’t about my favorite team!) would do the same with this one.

    Oh, by the way…the movie CRIMSON TIDE? I’ve never seen it, but I do remember that when it was made, they requested permission from the University of Alabama to use the school’s fight song in the movie.

  56. txvoodoo
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 18:38:14

    “Crimson wave” as a euphemism gained steam after Cher used it in Clueless, afaik. “Mr. Hall, I was surfing the crimson wave!” (to her teacher, to excuse a tardy episode)

  57. Kathryn
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 21:36:13

    I’ve lived in the midwestern USA and on its east coast and in the southwest as well as all over Canada and am an alumna of the other university mentioned in the review (those “Dame Irish” who actually weren’t that dame when I was there). I’ve heard of “surfing the crimson wave”, but I have to admit the Crimson Tide has always made me think of Alabama or problems with mussels off the shore of PEI (the island of Anne of Green Gables for those who aren’t familiar with Canada). But then one of the major journals in my academic discipline (medieval studies) is named “Speculum” and the tablet that I own is called an iPad so I think I’ve become accustomed (or resigned) to weird cultural phrases that are word plays on women’s issues, whether intended or not.

    And I think that the smart thing to do when writing a sports novel is to invent a team (à la Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Chicago Stars football series), because it just makes it easier for your potential readers, especially the ones who are fans of a particular team. Those people are knowledgeable and unless you are equally knowledgeable, you are just going to make them unhappy about what you have done to their beloved team and its tradition.

  58. Kaetrin
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 21:56:22

    @Graham: There’s your first problem Graham. Cricket doesn’t have rules. It has LAWS. (I’m a cricket fan and an Australian but the pretentiousness of it makes me roll my eyes hard).

  59. Kaetrin
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 22:14:23

    I was thinking a bit about the references to cultural ignorance and humour. I guess different people find different things funny or amusing and people have sensitivities, cultural and otherwise, which as responsible humans we ought to try and be careful of.

    But even humor is a cultural thing. In Australia, we get laughed at all the time and we don’t have any problems laughing at ourselves. In fact, we “take the piss” out of ourselves all the time. So I suppose, culturally, we are (in general) less likely to be bothered. In fact, we are likely to laugh along with many USians when they’re amused when we say (for instance), we’re “putting our thongs on”. (Thongs over here are flip-flops, not underwear.)

    ETA: I feel I should add that I refer here not to racist humour but rather, examples of how different words and phrases are used differently in other Western cultures.

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