One of our favorite historical authors is Sarah MacLean. She writes wonderfully fresh characters who suck you in with page one and keep you there for the duration of the story. In her latest series The Second Rule of Scoundrels we meet a group of men have quite literally met their match in the women who are their heroines. We are excited welcome Sarah here today to talk about herself and her series and her new book One Good Earl Deserves a Lover.
Thank you so much for having me!
TBRG: Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
SM: I cut my romance teeth (like so many of us) on the classics — Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood & Johanna Lindsey. When I’m in the thick of writing, I’m always thinking back to those books that really drew me to the genre: Almost Heaven, The Black Lyon, The Gift, Gentle Rogue. And while those books definitely represent a place and time in romance, I’m always thinking about what it was about those particular stories that made me love romance . . . and trying to keep that alive in my own writing.
Without those women, I wouldn’t be a romance novelist. But now, as I grow as a writer, I have to say that my greatest influences are the people I’ve met on this great writing journey: my brilliant editor at HarperCollins, Carrie Feron; my critique partners, Sophie Jordan, Carrie Ryan & Sabrina Darby; and myriad writers who I now call friends who are not only brilliantly talented, but also willing to brainstorm and talk shop.
TBRG: What is the one thing your readers would be the most surprised to know about you?
SM: If my readers use Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, it’s probably tough for me to surprise them . . . as I’m a total social media addict and have very little filter! But here’s something: Looking back, I often think that if I were to do it all again, I’d have gone to medical school.
TBRG: Where is the one place you have always wanted to go, a place on your bucket list?
SM: There are about 1 million places on my bucket list! But there’s a hotel in Sweden inside the Arctic Circle carved out of ice. It’s actually redesigned every year when it gets cold enough by a group of artists. You can stay there and sleep in towering rooms made entirely of ice and snow, and then head out into the arctic circle to see the northern lights. I’m a generally freezing person, so I’m not sure I’d like to do more than a night inside the ice rooms (they have cabins on the property with heat, too), but I’m all for remarkable experiences . . . and I can guarantee that would be one.
TBRG: What was the first romance book that you read?
SM: Jude Deveraux’s The Black Lyon. An unbelievably emotional Medieval romance that is the start of her Montgomery family saga. A year ago, Avon reissued the book with a new cover—and I was able to give a cover blurb for it. I’m thrilled I had a chance to tell Jude & the world that she is the master.
TBRG: I have to agree with you about The Black Lyon. It is one of those books that stays with you long after you read it and shows you what a hero is really all about.
TBRG: Who are some of your go to authors, and what are you reading right now?
SM: It’s probably not what you were looking for, but John Irving is my favorite storyteller – I would read a grocery list if it were written by him. As for romance—we really do live in a golden age of the genre—there’s so much brilliant work being done. In historicals, I love writers who push the envelope: Eloisa James, Jennifer Ashley, Lorraine Heath. In contemporaries, nobody does it better than Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Kristan Higgins. And I’m just now dipping my toe into Paranormal, but I’m wild about Pamela Palmer and Kresley Cole.
As for what I’m reading right now . . . I’m actually reading At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing a brilliant compendium of writing on boxing from the Library of America. I started it telling myself it was research for Temple’s book, and now I’m just sucked into the rhythm of these incredible essays from Jack London and Joyce Carol Oates and Richard Wright. There is art in boxing to which writers seem to be drawn. I sure am.
TBRG: If you weren’t writing and keeping us in books (thanks for that by the way), what would you be doing?
SM: If medical school is out (I mean, I’d be 93, or something, by the time I was done), I choose coffee shop. I’d love to own a little coffee shop here in Brooklyn, where I could fill the walls with art and the counter with fresh pastry, and make a little, happy difference in people’s lives.
TBRG: What is your guilty pleasure?
SM: Cable news. I’m a junkie for the 24-hour-news cycle. Once CNN goes on in this house, it doesn’t go off until either I go to bed or my husband gets irritated with Wolf Blitzer (which is not uncommon).
TBRG: Who is on your playlist when you are writing?
SM: I write to mostly classical music, as lyrics tend to distract me. That said, for each book, I have a few songs that embed themselves in my brain. For One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, it was Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and the Plain White Ts’ “Rhythm of Love.” For No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, it’s Regina Spektor’s “Patron Saint” and fun.’s “We Are Young.”
TBRG: Where do your ideas/characters come from?
SM: Everywhere. Movies, books, stories my friends tell me, newpaper articles. I’m constantly asking questions: “What if that happened in the 1800s?” or “What if the killer were actually a hero?” or “How could I fit that painting/tree/food into a book?” And suddenly . . . there’s a character or a scene or a theme ready to be written.
TBRG: Are you a planner or a fly by the seat author?
SM: A little of both. I usually have an outline, but I rarely stick to it.
TBRG: How did you come up with The Rules of Scoundrels Series?
SM: I knew I wanted to write a series that was darker than my first series – I wanted to move away from ballrooms and into some of the quieter, more nefarious corners of London in the 1800s. I am a sucker for a good heist movie and spend a lot of time watching the Ocean’s movies . . . and it was a matter of time before I went looking for the history of the casino – which just so happened to come into being in the Regency.
TBRG: Tell us about the series?
SM: During my research on early casinos, I discovered a man named William Crockford—the grandfather of the modern casino. By all accounts, there was nothing sexy about William Crockford – he was ham-fisted, pasty faced, foul-mouthed and fouler-smelling, with a penchant for prostitutes
But he was cunning and wealthy and more than enough for me to be down the imaginary rabbit hole. Crockford’s Casino became The Fallen Angel, and Crockford himself morphed into four fallen aristocrats—Bourne, Cross, Temple & Chase—each exiled from society either by chance or by choice. Scoundrels, yes, but clean, handsome, charming (when they want to be), and in need of love.
The Rules of Scoundrels quartet began with Bourne’s story, A Rogue By Any Other Name, and continues with Cross’s (One Good Earl Deserves A Lover), Temple’s (No Good Duke Goes Unpunished), and finally Chase’s.
TBRG: Tell us about One Good Earl Deserves a Lover
SM: One Good Earl Deserves a Lover tells the story of Lady Philippa Marbury, the strange, bespectacled, brilliant youngest daughter of the Marquess of Needham & Dolby – who is about to be married to a perfectly nice, perfectly ordinary man. But Pippa, ever the scientist, won’t marry without getting some answers – namely, information about what really goes on between men and women on their wedding night. She can’t trust the women in her life to tell her the truth, so she seeks out someone who is widely regarded as an expert on the subject—Cross, the tall, handsome financier of The Fallen Angel.
TBRG: What do you want us to know about Cross and Phillipa?
SM: They are clever and funny and wonderful to watch. And they’re my favorite of all my couples.
TBRG: Using 3-5 adjectives describe Cross and Phillipa.
Cross: Wounded, clever, ginger-haired scoundrel.
Pippa: Curious, bespectacled, dangerous bluestocking.
TBRG: What are you working on now?
SM: Temple’s book! No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is the third book in the Rules of Scoundrels series. Temple who is the opposite of quiet, perfect, cerebral Cross. Temple is all physical–a broken-nosed, bare-knuckle boxer who, aside from being massive, brutally intense and wickedly sexual, is widely believed to be a killer.
TBRG: Thank you so much Sarah for coming on and talking to us today. I can’t wait for the next book in the series…which will be when?
SM: No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, out in the Fall!
TBRG: Once again we want to thank Sarah for coming on and talking about her latest book and series with us. We have one copy of a Rogue By Any Other Name, the first book in the Rules of Scoundrels series, to give away to anyone who asks Sarah a question. It is open to US and Canada only.
Lady Philippa Marbury is odd. The bespectacled, brilliant fourth daughter of the Marquess of Needham and Dolby cares more for books than balls, flora than fashion and science than the season. Nearly engaged to Lord Castleton, Pippa wants to explore the scandalous parts of London she’s never seen before marriage. And she knows just who to ask: the tall, charming, quick-witted bookkeeper of The Fallen Angel, London’s most notorious and coveted gaming hell, known only as Cross.
Like any good scientist, Pippa’s done her research and Cross’s reputation makes him perfect for her scheme. She wants science without emotion—the experience of ruination without the repercussions of ruination. And who better to provide her with the experience than this legendary man? But when this odd, unexpected female propositions Cross, it’s more than tempting . . . and it will take everything he has to resist following his instincts—and giving the lady precisely what she wants