Sunday, May 1, 2011

What You Should Read This Month: Or Sarah Maclean Does It Again!

Words written month of April: 13,007

Book I read this weekend: Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart (MacLean)

Book I’m reading now: Midnight’s Wild Passion (Campbell)


May is a beautiful month, and it’s going to be wonderful this year for a number of reasons. For one, I’m once again going to be writing in our Maywrapaho (sp? I’ll never get it right will I?) and I hope to at least double my word count. Well, my goal will be the same as last month’s: 1000 words a day. I hope you all will be doing the same—having your own writing goals to accomplish and revel in.


Unlike my contemporaries who refuse to read while they are writing—which is lofty, I admit and probably advised—I read. I mean let’s be frank. You’re a writer; you’re going to be procrastinating in one manner or another. You may be watching American Idol or Grey’s Anatomy (or both and all their competition!), or you may be on Facebook, catching up on the latest gossip and sucked into watering imaginary vegetables. Since I’ve deleted my imaginary gardens, I’ve found I have many more free hours to procrastinate in other ways.


So I’ve been reading. And this week I’ve been reading Sarah Maclean’s Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart. Now a lesser writer would be demoralized by how Maclean makes this all look so easy with her wit, humor, heartbreaking conflict, and sexual tension, but I refused to drown myself in the bathtub—at least until I found out how she makes the HEA happen. I also tried not to be depressed that this remarkable author must be a NYT’s bestselling author. She absolutely has the magic. I occasionally wondered if she pulled a Robert Johnson, selling her soul at the crossroads in exchange to write the most charming stories. Then I wonder what crossroads she used.


Many writing articles and craft books (Stephen King’s among them) recommend to writers that they read-read-read. Learning by osmosis, I suppose. And there is much to learn from osmosis from Maclean’s newest. She starts off the book with an Italian proverb (which I don’t even know is a real proverb—but if it isn’t, it’s a brilliant strategy to start the book because I loved this quote and it made me sigh with romance and pleasure every time I thought of it.) The proverb was: a single moment with a fiery female is worth eleven years of boring life. Ah, it just makes you want to be a fiery female, doesn’t it?


I turned the page, and our heroine, Miss Juliana Fiori, is in a bit of a mess. She’s in the gardens of her brother’s party and having to fend off the unwanted advances of a porky ass. But our heroine’s no wilting flower. First she punches him in the nose, then she knees him in the groin—and then she gets the hell out of Dodge. (Miss Congeniality would be so proud.) She then ends up in the carriage of the stuffiest duke in all of Christendom. This duke is so stuffy, he makes Mary Balogh’s Duke of Bewcastle seem positively liberal.


So of course we know these two are destined for each other.


There’s a challenge issued and some sexual tension, and then what follows are two weeks of dares and your normal Regency romance hero-and-heroine scenes. We have a horseback riding scene, a lake-picnic scene, a few ball scenes, and a country home scene. In this we have the familiar, the things we love most about Regency romances, and Maclean does beautifully at keeping the tension high and the conflict dark and painful. Because Juliana is not your typical virgin debutante, but the daughter born of a scandalous mother whose has left the legacy to her to deal with. We feel Juliana’s pain quite fiercely as part of her wishes she fit in more, but at the same time wishes she could be accepted just as she is. She struggles to be accepted and to accept herself, and here is a man she can’t help but be attracted to and he can’t accept her just as she is. It makes a reader wish to time-travel to the Regency and set some of these harpies in their place—and break a vase over the hero’s head.


Maclean doesn’t rush any fences when it comes to kisses or sex, but when the moment does present itself, she doesn’t close the bedroom door on us either. The sex complicates everything so much more—and leads to a black moment black enough to darken your eyelashes with.


But that wasn’t even my favorite part of the book. My favorite part was the duke’s secret. I have the worst time with secrets for my characters. But Maclean gave her duke the best secret ever. The secret was a perfect foil to the conflict between the hero and heroine, a subplot that reflected the bigger story, and watching the duke come to terms with these events was rather magical. It’s the kind of character growth that doesn’t seem to be apparent in many romances of late.


Treat yourself this month and read this book. You’ll enjoy it, I believe, and you won’t even realize how much you’re learning from this talented author. Maclean is wonderful at character driven plot and definitely so with this particular novel.


Ha, I meant to write this blog as the eleven scandals I would start if I were a romance heroine, but I got so caught up in telling you about the book, I forgot. Well, if I were a romance heroine, I would definitely start out by fetching my own lemonade at these parties. Waiting for a guy to pay attention to you or read your mind seems the height of stupidity. I’d probably also say that the Prince Regent needs to lay off the éclairs, and Brummel needs to lay off the frilly cravats. And most scandalous of all, I’d probably write romance novels with kissing and black moments to make debutantes swoon.


What scandals would you make if you were a romance heroine? (You are not limited to the Regency era if you find that too confining.) I have a copy of Eleven Scandals to give away today, and I also have a copy of Maclean’s previous novel, Ten Ways to Adored When Landing a Lord. Comment and you can win one of these books.

She lives for passion

Bold, impulsive, and a magnet for trouble, Juliana Fiori is no simpering English miss. She refuses to play by society’s rules: she speaks her mind, cares nothing for the approval of the ton, and can throw a punch with remarkable accuracy. Her scandalous nature makes her a favorite subject of London’s most practiced gossips…and precisely the kind of woman the Duke of Leighton wants far far away from him.

He swears by reputation.

Scandal is the last thing Simon Pearson has room for in his well-ordered world. The Duke of Disdain is too focused on keeping his title untainted and his secrets unknown. But when he discovers Juliana hiding in his carriage late one evening–risking everything he holds dear–he swears to teach the reckless beauty a lesson in propriety.

She has other plans, however; she wants two weeks to prove that even an unflappable duke is not above passion.


(And yes, I did copy and paste the book description from Sarah Maclean's website: Incidentally Sarah does a great blog about the Royal Wedding!! And yes, Sarah, Prince Harry is total romance hero material!)


2nd Chance said...

GD! I had a whole comment all done. Damn you, captain Catcha!

Anyway! I read while I write. I write while I write...taking breaks from the larger work to spend time on a shorter work.

And I never water imaginary plants. Though I do serve imaginary drinks.

But that's not the same, right?

What scandal would I write? Well, I had this great one involving a widowed duchess who takes over her husband's pirate ship in order to save their son from a ship of cross-dressing...

I forgot. But it was good!

Quantum said...

Afraid I haven't read MacLean, but I do remember her on the EJ/JQ BB. Your description makes her books sound very tempting Helli!

I think that my scandalous heroine would be a 'career woman' trespassing on male terrain. As a woman scientist making a great discovery she would be unable to get anyone to take her seriously.Consequently she disguises herself as a man from a part of the world little known for scientific prowess and appears at a Royal Society meeting in London to present her results.

After her lecture is applauded with enthusiasm and she is proclaimed a genius second only to Newton, her disguise slips and she is revealed as a woman.

The scandal splits the scientific world until the eminent scientist who sponsored her lecture after admiring her work, believing her to be a man, takes her on as his assistant and ...... you guessed it! *grin*

Actually,I cannot pinch another's plot. Amanda Quick has a couple of stories that run along similar lines so I blame her for this scandal. :lol:

Marnee said...

I think I need to pick up one of MacLean's books. This sounds great. :) I was considering her RITA nominee. But now I'm wondering.

I think the thing most intriguing about this is the emotional depth you mention and the character growth. I've missed that in a lot of my romances lately. I think that's something I'd like to investigate more.

Great review, Hells.

Hellion said...

And I never water imaginary plants. Though I do serve imaginary drinks.

But that’s not the same, right?

Not at all the same. *LOL* Liquor always trumps vegetables that most of us don't eat anyway.

That IS a great scandal, but what if the widow discovers her son ENJOYS cross-dressing? Is she going to prevent her son from his true happiness just because she doesn't agree with it? *tsk, tsk*

Hellion said...

After her lecture is applauded with enthusiasm and she is proclaimed a genius second only to Newton, her disguise slips and she is revealed as a woman.

Q, I love these kinds of stories! I love that trope--the cross-dressing female who stuns the male world--and relieves the hero who wonders why he was so attracted to his young male assistant. *LOL*

You should definitely give her a whirl! :) I think you would enjoy her.

Bosun said...

I'm one of those not reading, though I'm getting back to it beta reading for a friend. It's a historical and I'm loving it so far. How did I not realize Ms. MacLean was on the EJ BB? I must have really faded off there at the end.

Great review. Gives just enough information to make me want to know what happens without giving anything away. Nifty trick there.

I'm sure my scandal would be to never marry. *gasp* The horror!

Hellion said...

Marn, was the RITA nominee the last one? *LOL* That was the one I thought of as the Hepburn-Grant screwball comedy. The heroine was very Hepburn.

I don't think you could go wrong with either, but I enjoyed this last one the best. It was a bit darker in the conflict for me--that whole acceptance thing.

Hellion said...

How did I not realize Ms. MacLean was on the EJ BB? I must have really faded off there at the end.

I had no idea either. *LOL*

Thank you. I hope my review eventually encourages you to read her books. *LOL* Before she writes so many you skip her because you'll never catch up. *LOL*

I suspect that would be one of my scandals as well. And it would be the Horror! You would be considered unnatural not to want to be married. *LOL*

Marnee said...

The 9 Rules is the one that's up for the RITA. I thought I should read the RITA nominees this year, sort of a "See what's out there" kind of excursion. I read When Harry Met Molly and it was cute. So, I'm going to try another Regency and then I've been debating Sherry Thomas's historical or Joanne Bourne's. I don't know yet.

All while I'm trying to make a big push on my WIP. Ugh. Can we say, too big a bite?

On an unrelated but sort of writing related note.... After a very long and helpful conversation with Caroline, I've gone through my three drafts of my WIP and tried to pull together what I want to keep in the final copy and what I'm axing for now. I copied and pasted into one file and now I'm going to try to tweak as I go.

Bright side: there's 30K there.

Not-so-bright side: after about the halfway point, things get murkier for me. LOL!!

So, we'll see. My goal is to end this month at between 45 and 50K of usable material and then try to finish the first draft by mid July.

Donna said...

Good morning, pirates. The pollen is bitch slapping me again this morning, so my head feels like it weighs 200 lbs. Aaaugh.

I don't read as much when I'm writing. I don't want to be influenced by others, so I try to read something I don't write -- which usually ends up being romantic suspense. I do want to see what others are doing though, so when I take a break from all the things I'm working on right now, I'll add this to the mix. :)

No scandals here. Scorpios tell no tales. LOL

Bosun said...

Look at Marn being all goal oriented. You go, Gunner.

Marnee said...

Look at Marn being all goal oriented. You go, Gunner.

bwahahaha!! :)

Janga said...

Sarah MacLean did visit the EJ/JQ board. I won Nine Rules during that visit. I'd already read it, but I gave the copy I bought away and kept the signed copy. I love all her Romance by the Numbers books. I adore authors who can blend the light and the dark--and MacLean does it so well. I'm hoping she writes Benedick's book. I've been longing for his story since Nine Rules.

As for scandals, I love those where the heroine, or more rarely the hero, writes a scandalous book. I'd love to write a scandalous book--pseudonymously, of course.

Marn, don't try to choose between Sherry Thomas and Joanna Bourne. They're both geniuses. Aim for the comple backlist of both. :)

Marnee said...

:) Thanks Janga. I have to be judicious with my time right now. I'm trying to taste around, like a buffet. It's sleep or reading sometimes. Reading wins now and again, but my kids prefer mommy to be rested. LOL!!

Janga said...

I understand, Marn. The books will still be there when your boys are driving and you're lying awake, waiting to be sure they are safely home again. You'll have lots of reading time then.

Hellion said...

So, we’ll see. My goal is to end this month at between 45 and 50K of usable material and then try to finish the first draft by mid July.

You go, Gunner!! Here's to our writing pirates! :)

Hellion said...

Donna, I don't read a lot that is in my field--but I read some. I mostly read historicals, so I guess I don't worry about it. But I did read Kristan Higgins and I don't mind that we write "similar" venues. I don't think reading her stuff will color my stuff so much that everyone goes: "She sounds exactly like Higgins' last book!!!" *shrugs* Of course, might be nice if it did since I think the last few books Higgins has written have won RITAs. *LOL*

I agree: Scorpios are a secretive bunch.

Scorpio M. said...

I love your enthusiasm for Eleven Scandals! I am dying to read it. I agree, Sarah's writing is so effortless esp. her humororous bits, LOL.

If I were a romance heroine I would attempt to play sports but of course that is a big scandalous no-no. :)

Hellion said...

I adore authors who can blend the light and the dark–and MacLean does it so well. I’m hoping she writes Benedick’s book.

She does do it well!! (I love how Anne Gracie does it too! *le sigh*) And I hope Benedick's book comes soon too. That man NEEDS a Happy Ending. He's sweetheart beta material through and through.

Hellion said...

Scorpio, she does make it look effortless. I'm torn between insane jealous and complete admiration!! :) And yes, sports would be a scandalous no-no!! (I did enjoy heroines playing sports in the Wallflower series. Although I will never recommend the 4th book, due to personal opinion, the scene where they're playing baseball/cricket is hilarious.)

2nd Chance said...

Oh, Hellie. My heroine would be so openminded, she'd embrace her son's otherness and choose to remain on the high seas and forget getting back to the balls...

No Freudian slip there! ;-)

I love the idea of the scientist... I know Emily Bryan wrote a book with a female science minded woman, more of archeologist if I recall and the fight she had to be accepted...

But I also think a sports minded woman would be a delightful scandal!

Great ideas, crew!

Bosun said...

Did they have locker rooms back in the 19th century? LOL! The woman pretending to be a boy athlete would be tough to keep quiet in that case.

I can't think of anything that would be truly scandalous in a contemporary. Everything flies these days.

Scapegoat said...

This post is goign to make me pull the 2 books of hers I have on my TBR pile out!

Great review :)

As for scandals - I love the whole heroine working in a job that is traditionally male - no matter the time period. Soemthing about the twist of attitude and personality the heroine must have to both want to do it, as well as to be good at it.

Back from vacation and just trying to get settled back in! Glad to be back pirates!

Bosun said...

Hope you had a fun vacation, Scape. I could use one of those.

I have a future heroine who is a boat mechanic. Her name is Sid, but she looks nothing like you'd expect a boat mechanic named Sid to look. LOL! But I never thought of that as scandalous. Hmmm....

Bosun said...

BTW, Scape, thanks for tweeting about that auction.

2nd Chance said...

I wondered where Scape had skittered off to. What a tease, off on vacation and didn't share any details with us!

Scapegoat said...

Sorry - 2 hour snoozefest of a meeting my first day back.

I'm here!!!!! Back from Curacao :) Lovely beaches, people, drinks and lots of gorgeous weather.

Hellion said...

As for scandals – I love the whole heroine working in a job that is traditionally male – no matter the time period. Soemthing about the twist of attitude and personality the heroine must have to both want to do it, as well as to be good at it.

Thank you! Mostly I enjoyed Bo'sun's expression...but I totally agree as well, it is fun to read stories with heroines in non-traditional roles, totally unexpected and completely thriving in it.

What two books of hers do you have on your pile?

wrywordwench said...

Had a fairly well-written message written in this space, but entered the wrong CAPTCHA code and poof--it was gone. To summarize in a more dramatic manner, my message told of being entwined in the arms of the horrible sea monster "Academia" where I was repeatedly choked by portfolio reviews, program reviews, and more forms than Medusa had strands of hair. Yes, that many! (I picture Academia as a gigantic land octopus--similar to a squidbilly, only with a mortarboard.) At any rate, after wrestling with paper and forms and computers all day, I need something as far removed from a treatise on core teaching strategies as I can find. I believe 11 Scandals might just be the antidote I seek, as it sound spicier than Sarah MacLean's earlier books, and I'm all for spicy. I'm also intrigued by the mention of conflict and black moments--every novel needs at least one heart-wrenching portion to heighten emotions and prepare us for what we hope will be better days. Please choose me and thus save me, at least briefly, from academic folderol!

Julie said...

Late I know … but yesterday was my youngest offspring’s birthday. I spent the day cooking her favorite foods. Lasagna, a fancy holiday salad, chocolate cake with fudge icing … and thirty raspberry scones … which were for her Spanish class. God only knows why she wanted something so British for Spanish. Maybe they were reenacting the Defeat of the Spanish Armada?

Speaking of food & war

What scandals would you make if you were a romance heroine?

I personally do nothing to creat a scandal... but on more than one formal occasions like weddings & ordinations, I have found myself in the midst of one. A food fight to be exact. Seriously. And seriously annoying when one of the missiles ends up missing its intended target and lands in a lady’s décolletage instead.
Even the most ladylike of ladys would be tempted to retaliate.

Julie said...

Not that I would ever do anything so ... Unladylike.

Mary M. said...

Love all the "scandals" so far. Mine would be a Regency lady who loved to sculpt and paint and cross-dressed as a male to get access to live nude male models and recognition by the Royal Gallery.