A hero raised in Boston. A woman ready to love. Sarah MacLean, author of best-selling RI romance novels, drops her “Bombshell” this week
Sarah MacLean’s Regency Romance Novels transport readers to what some might call “Bridgerton-era England,” a world of the early 1800s in which rascals make high-stakes bets in London clubs and the ladies defy expectations through adventures that often bring them love.
Most of the author’s heroes, pursued by the strong heroines of MacLean, are die-hard Britons. Some are born with titles, while others make their way through the rocky streets.
But there is a star in its cast of characters, an American who has become a fan favorite.
He’s from Boston. His name is Caleb Calhoun. In a very fictional world, he is also the owner of Bell in Hand. He is the object of the desire of a fiery Sesily Talbot.
“Caleb has been in Boston since he was a teenager,” an excited MacLean explained in an interview in Boston in June. “He started to work, like a boy [in Boston], and by the time he’s a grown man, he owns eleven taverns between Baltimore and here, including the Bell in Hand, which is a slight … historical … [laughing] I took a little liberty.
Caleb and Sesily’s romance has been a slow burn in MacLean’s other books. A year ago, a frustrated GoodReads fan asked Sesily and Caleb, “Is there already a book about them that I missed or will there be?” Hope to hear about it soon, does anyone have any information? “
Tuesday, the wait is over. The London-based book is called “Bombshell”, and it launches MacLean’s latest series, “Hell’s Belles”.
This is the fifth series and the 15th comprehensive book for MacLean, a Lincoln, RI-bred, Smith College graduate. In the world of Regency romance, MacLean is a star like Julia Quinn of the “Bridgerton” celebrity (the two are also friends). But she’s also a fan of romance and an ambassador, who spurs other writers, co-hosts a romantic podcast, and has long been as happy to read as she is to write for a long time.
“I was a romance reader long before I was supposed to be a romance reader,” she said. “I have an older sister who is 10 years older than me, and when she went to college, under her bed… there were hundreds of romances there.”
MacLean’s fascination with romance novels continued with Smith.
“I lived at Lamont House and there was a collection of romance novels that was kept at the house,” she said. “And the coolest thing about this collection was… the marginalia of a group of Smith students. There was a real lens of feminism that took hold in these books… because the heroine – obviously I’m talking about cisgender, heterosexual romance – but the heroine is the hero of the story. She triumphs. She finds someone who wants fairness with her.
Later, after graduating in 2000 and moving to New York City, MacLean was working for a PR firm when a friend pitched the idea of writing his own book.
“’Twilight’ had just come out,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I could do that.’ One night away, a friend challenged her to try. “I had just drunk enough alcohol, but it seemed like a good idea. And I went home that night, and I wrote the first chapter of what would become ‘The Season’, a young adult book published by Scholastic.
But MacLean was missing something, despite his editorial success.
“I wanted to write the naughty pieces. I wanted to write the full gamut of romance. And that’s something that only comes when you start writing an adult romance. Because that was where my heart was from the start.
Her first adult love outing was “Nine Rules to Break in 2010 when it comes to romanticizing a rake”. MacLean’s sister Chiara Trabucchi – who works in finance and economics as a director at Industrial Economics in Cambridge – said it was still her favorite book.
“Maybe because it’s her first,” she said. “His the delivered.”
The following books, including those in MacLean’s recent series, “The Bareknuckle Bastards,” all focus on a woman seeking pleasure, often with disregard for standards, and a man who must allow himself to be vulnerable to love.
MacLean, who lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, has a theory about Regency romance writers and how they approach their happy endings.
“When I think of romance, and it’s probably deep in the weeds, it’s like a family tree, right? It’s as if DNA like some of us comes out of the [Jane] Austen branch, and some of us are from the Brontë branch. Many of us would sort of put on a branch of Austen – that sort of historic sparkling conversational ballroom. I think I’m probably from the Brontë branch.
That’s the kind of expertise she offers on her podcast, “Fated Mates,” which she hosts with Jen Prokop. MacLean and Prokop met on Twitter and bonded around a mutual love for “Immortals After Dark,” a paranormal romance series by Kresley Cole. Their podcast now highlights all kinds of romance novels. They even discussed Apple’s hit show “Ted Lasso” in a recent episode. Prokop said MacLean is a natural ambassador of an often “maligned” genre who has long deserved more respect.
Prokop also said that as people continue to find MacLean’s books (unsurprisingly, many Regency writers have experienced a ‘Bridgerton’ boost), she uses that voice to highlight new authors and voices. .
Adriana Herrera, author of the “Dreamer Series”, said she met MacLean while she was still looking for an agent. MacLean quickly became a friend and enthusiastic supporter.
“I am a black Latina. I write queer romance, and I’m not the only BIPOC author that Sarah really supports intentionally – as if on purpose, ”Herrera said. “I think it’s a real interest in the genre to grow and develop and be bigger and more inclusive. When you love something, you want it to make it better.
MacLean said she was honored to be a part of this growth and delighted that so many readers are taking time with her work.
Not too much time though.
“For me, romance is about joy. Romance has always been about being able to sit back and lose yourself for three hours. If it takes you more than six hours to read one of my books, I did something wrong.
BOMBSHELL: A hell of a novel
By Sarah MacLean
Avon, 400 pages, hardcover $ 27.99, paper $ 8.99
Meredith Goldstein writes the Love Letters advice column. She’s also a romance reader. She can be reached at [email protected].