MacLean’s Eleven Scandals

How do authors pick the perfect scene for a reading? Something sweet? Humorous? Sad? The tone of piece, the venue, and the audience all need to match, and there’s only a short window of time to give a tantalizing glimpse into an entire novel. Sarah MacLean shares selections from an antagonistic scene in Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart at New York City romance reading series Lady Jane’s Salon:

Transcript

Sarah MacLean, romance author, reading an excerpt at Lady Jane’s Salon

My editor tells me I’m not crazy, so I believe it. [laughs]

Lady Jane’s lets you kind of celebrate the romance part of romance which is not always favored in the rest of the world, so I’ve always read smooching scenes or scenes that a little naughty, but this book is a slow burn, and I didn’t want to spoil anything, so I hope I picked the right scene. My hero and my heroine are at odds through much of the beginning of this book, and I think I picked a scene that really showcases that.

[reading] Her fingers fumbled for the handle.

“I would not if I were you.”

The calm, cool words rankled as they cut through the darkness.

There had been a time when he had not been at all aloof with her. That was before she had vowed never to speak to him again.

She took a quick, stabilizing breath, refusing to allow him the upper hand. “While I thank you for the suggestion, Your Grace, you will forgive me if I do not follow it.”

She clasped the handle, and shifted her weight to release the latch. He moved like lightning, leaning across the coach and holding the door shut with little effort.

“It was not advice.”

He rapped the ceiling of the carriage twice, firmly and without hesitation. The vehicle moved instantly, as though his will alone steered its course, and Juliana cursed all well-trained coachmen as she fell backward, her foot catching in the skirt of her gown, further tearing the satin. She winced at the sound, all too loud in the heavy quiet, and ran one dirty palm wistfully down the lovely fabric.

“My dress is ruined.” She took pleasure in implying that he’d somehow had something to do with it. He did not need to know the gown had been ruined long before she’d landed herself in his carriage.

“Yes. Well, I can think of any number of ways you could have avoided such a tragedy this evening.” The words were void of contrition.

“I had little choice you know.” She immediately hated herself for saying it aloud. Especially to him.
He snapped his head toward her just as a lamppost in the street beyond cast a shaft of silver light through the carriage window, throwing him into stark relief.

She tried not to notice him. Tried not to notice how every inch of him bore the mark of his excellent breeding, of his aristocratic history—the long, straight patrician nose, the perfect square of his jaw, the high cheekbones that should have made him look feminine but seemed only to make him more handsome.

She gave a little huff of indignation.

The man had ridiculous cheekbones. [Crowd laughs.]

She’d never known anyone so handsome.

“Yes,” he fairly drawled, “I can imagine it is difficult attempting to live up to a reputation such as yours.”

The light disappeared, replaced by the sting of his words. She’d also never known anyone who was such a proper ass.

“Had I known this was your vehicle, I would have avoided it at all costs.”

“Amazing, then, that somehow you missed the large ducal seal on the outside of the door.”

The man was infuriating. “It is amazing, indeed, because I’m sure the seal on the outside of your carriage rivals your conceit in size! I assure you, Your Grace,”— she spit the honorific as if it were an epithet—“if I was after a husband, I would look for one who more to recommend him than a fancy title and a false sense of importance.” She heard the tremor in her voice but could not stop the flood of words pouring from her. “You are so impressed with your title and station, it is a miracle you do not have the word ‘Duke’ embroidered in silver thread on all of your topcoats.”

[Crowd applauds.]

Download a transcript.

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