Sarah MacLean's Blog
December 29, 2015
I've said before that the book is my homage to many things: Romancing the Stone (or any enemies-to-lovers story); roadtrip romances; men who don't know what's hit them; women who want more than what they *should* want; gossip magazines; the Knowles sisters, the Kardashian sisters, and the Middleton sisters; hedge-mazes; handsome doctors; and heroes who end up on their knees for love.
I cannot wait for you to read it and tell me what *you* see in it!
To celebrate the launch of the Scandal & Scoundrel series, which (as it progresses) will have a few interesting connections to my earlier books, I'm giving away a signed set of all my previous romances--the three books from Love by Numbers and the four books from The Rules of Scoundrels series. Apologies, but due to shipping costs, this giveaway is US only.
YAY! So...TO WIN...comment below and tell me which of my books is your favorite (or which one you're most intrigued by!)! Winners will be chosen at random next Tuesday!a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you haven't already, I hope you'll consider ordering a *signed* copy of Sophie & King's story, which comes with very cool goodies, from my local indie bookstore, WORD (they ship worldwide). Or order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Books-a-Million, or your local indie!
Thanks, as always, for reading -- and for sharing your thoughts on Twitter & Facebook and your reviews on Amazon and other places. I'm always so floored by your generosity.
Now, I'm heading back to my writing cave to work on the next book in Scandal & Scoundrel, A Scot in the Dark!
November 17, 2015
I'm so so thrilled to finally tell you all about The Rogue Not Taken!
This book is the first in my Scandal & Scoundrel series, which is a spinoff from my Rules of Scoundrels series -- close readers will see all sorts of little references to characters from my prior books...with more to come as the series progresses.
Here are a few fun things that I can share with you without spoiling it!
1) This is a road trip romance...an homage to the big old-school romances that we all loved so much. You know the ones--the old Julie Garwood Scottish Medievals with the handsome brutes who are sent to England to fetch a winsome beauty to bring her back to Scotland to marry another handsome brute? But the fetcher is the most...well...fetching? *sigh*
In honor of those wonderful old road trip romances, I asked mapmaker Amy Solomon to design a map of the journey that King and Sophie take together -- all the way to the Scottish Border. Here's the map, which I think turned out beautifully. Click to make it larger and have a look at my annotations -- a little taste of each of the locations.
I love everything about this map -- so much so that all preorders from my local independent bookstore, WORD, will come with a reproduction of it (without the annotations, of course), along with signed copies and artisanal honey (which will make sense when you read the book).
2) Road trip romances make for delightfully rompy circumstances and even more delightfully close quarters -- even better if they include a classic I-hate-you-I-hate-you-oh-wait-no-I-don't-oh-no-I-love-you set up (one of my very favorites), which this does. Essentially, what came to pass was what I like to call "Romancing the Stone in the Regency."
Romancing the Stone with fewer crocodiles and more Kardashians, but a very similar obsession with shoes.
3) You read that right. When I conceived of the series, I wanted to take today's celebrity gossip and reframe it during a time that was equally obsessed with scandal--the 1830s. I wanted put an historical twist on US Weekly. Sophie is the youngest, least interesting sister of a family of sisters all named with S, who are famous in the ton for...well...being famous. Suffice to say, they should be Kept Up with. The book begins with a Met Gala-style bash, China-themed, and a disastrous encounter between Sophie and her brother-in-law, that will echo an elevator incident from a few years ago.
If it all sounds too modern, I would point you in the direction of the scandal sheets of the 1800s, which I happily researched at The British Library (where I'm headed in the Spring to find more fodder for my future books). Hollywood Royalty and US Weekly? Forget it. They have nothing on the 19th Century Aristocracy and the media that obsessively tracked it.
All that, and it was a ton of fun to write.
If you haven't already, I hope you will consider preordering The Rogue Not Taken--it will be released on December 29th, and it might be the perfect addition to your New Year's Day sloth (or am I the only one who has New Year's Day sloth?). You can preorder it wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Books-a-Million, or through your local Independent Bookseller. As I mentioned, if you order through my local indie, WORD in Brooklyn, you will received a signed & personalized copy of the book and a special gift (if you order before 12/15, you even get something special from me for any Christmas stockings you might be stuffing).
October 14, 2015
FYI! There's an awesome giveaway below!
Being an author means I get to do some pretty cool stuff now and then, and next month (in just over 3 weeks!) I am dong something very pretty cool. I'll be participating in a two-day reader conference in New York City sponsored by the lovely people at BookRiot.com.
BookRiot LIVE will be held November 7th & 8th in New York City, and will be filled with remarkable, remarkable people... from Laurie Halse Anderson and Jason Reynolds to Alexander Chee and Margaret Atwood (!!!!) ... and the best part? This is going to be a tremendously fun, not at all snooty conference -- there are going to be SO MANY great romance voices there! Beverly Jenkins, Alisha Rai, Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and me!
It's going to be so fun, you guys. I'll be talking with Bev, poet Jill McDonough & William Johnson (editor of LAMBDA Literary Review) about writing relationships, playing a rousing game of Slash with Sarah and the amazing Alexander Chee, and guest-hosting an all-romance episode of the Get Booked! podcast with brilliant Amanda Nelson from BookRiot (speaking of, if you have romance-related recommendation questions, send them to Amanda at email@example.com, and we'll happily answer them!). All this, and MARGARET ATWOOD. I'm so so excited.
You should come. I so firmly believe that, that I'm willing to buy one lucky winner a pass to this awesomeness! Here's the deal -- if you can get yourself to New York on November 7th & 8th (or maybe you live here already?), please comment below and tell me what you're most excited about seeing as part of BookRiot LIVE, and be entered to win a free two-day pass to the event!
I'll choose one winner randomly (don't forget to include your email address!) and happily pay for your two-day pass to BookRiot Live! Please don't enter if you don't think that you can be in New York City that weekend (travel and lodging are NOT included in this giveaway -- it's ONLY the ticket to BookRiot itself). But maybe you've got a friend here who you've been dying to visit? Or maybe you live here already?
Anyway -- I hope to see you there!
(Prize includes a two-day pass to 2015 BookRiot LIVE, November 7-8, 2015 in New York City. Travel, lodging and incidental expenses not included. Entrants must be 18 or older. Younger entrants should have a parent or guardian enter for them. Giveaway ends October 23, 2016)
August 24, 2015
A few weeks ago, as the romance internet discussed a deeply problematic book in the genre (I encourage you to read more about that at Katherine Locke's tumblr), I realized that I was able to name more romances with were-bear heroes than I was able to name romances with Jewish main characters. Luckily, Twitter was there to fill the gap in my romance knowledge. I didn't want those recommendations to disappear into the Twitterverse, so I culled them into a reading list for myself--and for you, if you'd like it! Here are the recommendations that Twitter provided, in no particular order. Full disclosure: I haven’t read many of these, but I’m working on it! What other books must not be missed?
KJ Charles, Think of England (m/m)
Rose Lerner, True Pretenses
Liz Carlyle, Never Deceive a Duke
Hope Tarr, Tempting
Eva Ibbotson, The Morning Gift (WWII)
Carola Dunn, Miss Jacobson’s Journey
Nita Abrams’s The Spy's Kiss
Alyssa Cole's 'Let it Shine,' a romance short in The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology
Lora Leigh, Maverick
Deirdre Martin, Chasing Stanley
Sarina Bowen, Blonde Date (new adult/novella)
Allison Parr, Imaginary Lines (new adult)
Yeal Levy, Starstruck (2 love stories in one book)
Peggy Bird, Lights, Love & Latkes (novella)
Megan Hart, Naked (and more) (erotica)
AJ Pine, If Only (new adult)
“All of Susan Isaacs’s books”
Astrid Amara, Miracle of the Bellskis (m/m)
Sarah Wendell, Lighting the Flames
Tiffany Reisz, The Siren (erotica)
July 1, 2015
Throughout June I offered weekly writing advice through the Romance Writers of America newsletter, The End: Writing Wisdom. I'm not entirely certain that it was "wisdom" per se, but I was happy to share four ideas that I keep in mind as I work. While the newsletter was only available to RWA subscribers, I'm happy to share those four ideas here, for anyone to find.
I have all of these thoughts on post-it-notes on my office wall, just to remind myself of them. Every page. All the time. And I still blow it a lot more than I get it right on any given day. So, keep writing. That's the best advice anyone could ever give you. Don't believe me? Listen to Nora.
Here they are, my far less profound thoughts:Torture Builds Character.
We've all heard it: if you're bored writing, the reader will likely be bored reading. While I don't necessarily ascribe to this theory (writing is a job, and sometimes you wish you were playing, not working), I do ascribe to the idea that exciting books come from exciting characters—and nothing builds character faster than torture.
As you're thinking about your characters, try to get deep into their psyche—think about what many call a character's 'deepest wound.' What is their greatest fear? What is the worst thing that could happen to them over the course of the book? Force them to face it. If you have a crusty duke terrified of scandal, make him the center of an unbearable scandal. If you have a heroine who has hired a hero to be her fake boyfriend, have it all fall apart at the exact worst time. If you have a character who thinks of himself as a protector, put him in the position of not being able to save the day.
All of these things will spur your character to action, enhance the conflict in your book, and keep the pages turning!
At the heart of every romance novel is the breathlessness that comes with the question of whether or not these two characters will ever, finally, get together. The most satisfying books keep readers on their toes until the very very end of the book.
What makes romance writing so difficult is keeping the hero and heroine on the page together while keeping them from their happily ever after. As writers, we have to be careful not to resolve one conflict without introducing a new one, ensuring that readers (and our characters) will be put through the wringer, uncertain of the final resolution of the story.
Try asking yourself after every scene, 'Why can’t these two be together right now?' If the answer isn’t clear, or (worse), if the answer is that they can be together—consider the possibility that something is off, and take a moment to go back and fix it.
We hear it all the time: 'I couldn’t finish the book because the heroine was too stupid to live.' Well, the truth is, too stupid to live is often in the purview of inactive heroines. Life just happens to them. They are recluses who open the door to discover that a man has arrived on their front porch, and he just happens to be the man of their dreams. They are sleeping beauties, clever and witty (we hope), but basically just lying around until their Prince Charmings show up to kiss them awake.
The best books are the active ones, where things are constantly changing, wrenches are always appearing in plans, and heroines (and heroes!) are taking action. They’re doing what they think is best, they’re acting in the moment to change their circumstances and their world. And that action is the best way of ensuring that readers love them. And their story.
We’ve all been there, happily writing away, surprised and a little giddy that this book is moving so well! So easily! Finally, finally, we have mastered this writing thing! And then—BAM. We hit a wall. For me, this usually happens partway through a scene, when I’m writing dialogue and thinking: Nothing is happening here. Why isn’t anything happening? Is it getting boring? Oh my gosh. It’s getting boring. I can’t write anymore. I’m terrible at writing. This whole book is terrible.
And then I look at the little post it note on my computer that says, 'Who stands to lose the most?' And, invariably, the answer is 'Crud. The other character.' Meaning, I’m writing the scene in my hero’s deep POV, and it should be in my heroine’s. Or vice-versa. There’s a classic writing adage that says something like, 'Every character should want something in every scene. Even if it’s just a glass of water.' So, think about what the characters in your scene want, and choose your POV based on who wants the most important thing. We want to be inside the head of the character who stands to lose the most in the scene. We want to know everything they’re thinking about, everything they’re hiding from the other character, every move in the game they’re playing. And we want to know why it’s so important that they win the scene.
If you can work this out before you write each scene, you’ll get stuck a lot less than I do!
April 29, 2015
I'm guessing that few people noticed that I've been offline and out of contact with the world for the last few weeks, which is something that makes me rather pleased with myself, as my whole goal was to drop out of sight and return, just like this, with an announcement about where I'd been and why some of you might have heard a thing or two about my next book, The Rogue Not Taken, being moved back in the calendar. You see, I didn't want to tell anyone what I was up to until it was over.
It was just this minor thing. I had a little bit of brain surgery. (NB: My surgeon would interrupt me here to tell me that I'm lying to you. It wasn't really brain surgery it was vascular surgery. But he cut a hole in my skull and went spelunking in there, so I'm going to point to my lack of a medical degree and say, if there's a hole in my skull it counts.)
A few years ago, during a routine MRI, the doctors found a small, asymptomatic aneurysm (most aneurysms are small and asymptomatic, which is why they're so scary -- because you don't find them until it's late and scary and you might die). But I wasn't going to die. It was small and I was possibly pregnant, so my neurologist suggested we watch and wait and see. And so we did. And then, in late March of this year, we watched and suddenly it was much bigger than it had been. Within days I was meeting with a neurosurgeon, and I was scheduled for what's called an open craniotomy, which my friend Meghan has basically told me I should never say out loud because it sounds scary. Essentially, they planned to cut a big hole in my head, clip the aneurysm, and "obliterate it." Suffice to say, I liked my Dr. very much when he said that part. I like obliteration as a solution to problems.
So, I won't bore you with details. We'll leave it at this -- on Wednesday, I went in and had it done. The surgery took a few hours, and I was out and in the incredible care of the Neurology ICU staff at NYU Hospital. On Thursday, I lost the ability to use all my numbers. Not some. Not just math. All of them. No dates, no counting, nothing. And then, 36 hours later, on Friday, everything came back. Like a switch. As though it had never happened (though, to be honest, I am going to have Eric read this blog post before I post it, in case I've lost all my skill at writing, which, it occurs to me, might have happened. This could all be jibberish and just sound coherent and interesting to me). Come to think of it, it could just sound interesting to me if it is coherent, so I'll get on with it.
The morning of the surgery, I turned to Eric in the cab, and said, "I'm ready. This is going to be an adventure." I think it was probably more of an adventure for him than for me. I was unconscious and then very out of it for four days. He had to entertain family, text friends, and pretend like he was totally not freaked out by my losing my numbers for a day and a half. And now that I'm home, he has to take care of a kiddo, make sure I don't hurt myself, and also, you know, be a human. We'll leave the fact that I love him more every day, and that I'm not quite sure how I landed such a top notch guy, here.
Man, do I feel lucky -- Not only because my family and friends have overflowed with generosity. Not only every time my phone rings with a text message from a friend checking in. Not only every time beautiful flowers arrive from thoughtful people. I feel so lucky to live in New York City, where one of the most brilliant aneurysm surgeons in the world also lives. I feel so lucky to have health insurance. To have access to this entire world of research and study. To have been randomly tested for something else entirely and to have stumbled upon this scary thing.
I feel very lucky to have this scar. It runs about seven inches just inside my hairline--once I'm healed, people won't know I've had surgery unless I choose to tell them. I could have told you that my book was just late. It wouldn't be the first time I'd written one that got moved because I'm a slow writer. But I'm proud of this.
This scar is my badge of honor and, compared to the scars that others bear, it's not that impressive. But it's mine.
It's my fear. The mark that makes me more me than I was two weeks ago. The mark that reminds me that sometimes, you stand up, you say yes. You take the risk. Because the reward is worth it. And because risk is where growth happens. Because the you on the other side of risk is very likely better than the you on this side of it.
There are lots of marks on my body right now -- pin pricks and bruises that are fading from black to purple to yellow and aches and pains, some that I expected and some that I didn't. It's weird to look at myself and think, this time last week, my head was open. My brain was in the air. My world was in the hands of a man I'd met twice. A man I've promised to dedicate my next book to.
Because that's what I'm doing today. Thinking about my book. And my future.
And feeling very very lucky.
December 11, 2014
I was destined to love Can’t Stand the Heat, the first in Louisa Edwards’s Recipe for Love series, from the start. You see, I’m obsessed with contemporary romances set in urban settings…almost as obsessed as I am with all things relating to chefs and restaurants.
The heroine of this book, Miranda, has had a tough go of it – raising her younger brother after their parents died, trying to keep him happy and healthy while building her own career. When she gets a shot at writing an expose in a NYC kitchen, she jumps at the chance, not expecting to fall hard for the guy who runs it – smokin’ hot chef Adam Temple.
What ensues is a kind of Hepburn & Tracy style battle of the sexes which allows for some pretty delightful moments between the two … one particular scene where Adam teaches Miranda to poach an egg is pretty fabulously fabulous. There’s also a terrific secondary love story between Miranda’s younger brother and the sous-chef in the kitchen, who is pretty badass himself.
Once you’ve read this one, you won’t be able to stop yourself from reading all the others – and then, for something a little sweeter, you can try Edwards’s small-town contemporaries, written under the name Lily Everett.
December 10, 2014
I’ve said this before, but without JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, my Scoundrels probably wouldn’t exist. It was Spring of 2010, and I was headed to London for a week of bonding with my mom. I needed a book for the plane, and my sister recommended Dark Lover, the first in the series – the love story of Wrath, the reluctant Vampire King, and his Beth…but mostly the story of this tremendous band of badass Vampire guys who would die protecting each other.
Suffice to say, I bought the UK editions of the rest of the series at Waterstones. Immediately. And I read the first five books in the series while in London, thinking about what I was going to write after the Love By Numbers series. I kept asking myself, what would this book look like in the Regency? Who are these men in the 1800s? And what is their story?
The Rules of Scoundrels were born.
Thank you, JR Ward.
December 9, 2014
So, as a romance writer, I often think about deal breakers. The things that make a hero or a heroine unforgivable. There are a few that I can think of -- all pretty twisted. But there's one that many many readers identify as their personal deal breaker -- Cheating.
Infidelity is a big no-no in romance, and it's understandable, in part because there's this sense that once the hero and heroine meet, they should only have eyes for each other. It takes a very clever, very very skilled writer to make a romance about infidelity work.
Hear me, readers -- if this is your personal deal breaker, I dare you to read on. Because Lorraine Heath is that writer. Waking Up With The Duke is that book. And it is one of the best romances I've ever read. Easily on my top-5 of all time list. Here's why:
At the start of this book, our heroine, Lady Jayne, is a Marchioness in a loveless, sexless marriage. It is loveless for a number of reasons, but it is sexless for only one: her husband was in a carriage accident years earlier, during which he lost use of his lower body. Including pertinent parts.
The person driving? Ransom, Duke of Ainsley. So, when the Marquess goes looking for someone to give his wife the child she's always wanted, he turns to Ainsley and basically says, "You owe me." (In actual fact, he says "You owe me a cock!" Which is an awesomely shocking and perfectly apt line in the scene. Ainsley, wracked with guilt for both his cousin and Jayne (whom he's always had a bit of a thing for), agrees to the arrangement.
Jayne is horrified that she's been bartered, basically, but she does want a child...so she, too, agrees, with the caveat that 1) There will be no kissing and 2) There will be no pleasure.
Yeah. Good luck with that, considering this book is part of Heath's London's Greatest Lovers series.
But here's the thing. This is a Victorian-era romance. Divorce isn't a thing. So, if Ainsley and Jayne fall for each other, there's no possible way they can get their happily ever after. Of course, in Lorraine Heath's hands, it all works out. And you will be rooting for these two from the start.
December 8, 2014
I promised new releases! I know I’ve been waxing poetic about Kleypas and Mallory and McNaught…but I swear, I read more recent books as well. In fact, as you might know, I write a monthly romance review column for the Washington Post, and it’s the best job ever, because all I have to do is read romances and pick my favorite three of the month. This month, one of my picks was Megan Mulry’s Roulette.
Here’s what I wrote for the Post column, which this month focused on the power of duty and responsibility in a romance hero:
At the heart of Megan Mulry’s Roulette is a daughter’s duty. When Miki Durand arrives in St. Petersburg for a week-long visit with her father, she has the perfect job, the perfect man and the perfect future. But when her father dies, leaving Miki a multimillion-dollar business to run, perfect seems neither possible nor desirable, especially when the business comes with a handsome, billionaire French media mogul as a partner. Jérôme Michel de Villiers is everything Miki isn’t: bold, jet-setting, risky and irresistible.
What follows is a delicious tour of the bright lights and larger-than-life personalities of Paris, Hollywood, Cannes and St. Petersburg as Miki becomes inexorably entwined in Jérôme’s lavish world. But when Jérôme’s personal responsibilities force him to make business decisions that threaten Miki’s future, she chooses family over love, leaving readers to wonder how the author will ever get these two together.
So, there’s a lot in there that I love. That said, there’s something else about this book that really sucked me in – which is the authenticity of Miki’s voice. I don’t know if Megan Mulry has experience being a jetsetting billionaire daughter of a Russian mogul and a French actress, but man, I believed every bit of Miki. The book is written in the first person, so perhaps it was partly that? I’m not really sure. But whatever Mulry writes next, I’m in.
Roulette, by Megan Mulry
Available only from Amazon