S1 E4 (Part 2): Nautical BJs and Climbing Men Like Trees (Feat. Sarah MacLean)

What does it take to write one of the most exquisite blow job scenes in historical romance history (according to F2L's co-hosts, of course)? Mackenzie and Lily continue their conversation with bestselling author Sarah MacLean, discuss which romance writer always has a wall fucking moment, give BBBC member recommendations for books with Empowering Blow Jobs™, and offer a brief glimpse into what else they're reading. This is the second part of a two-part episode. The first segment was published on October 5th, and you should definitely listen to that episode before diving into this one. Spoiler timestamp: This episode contains spoilers from 15:03-24:50. Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00) Questions About How Sarah Creates Her Series (1:35), Question About How Sarah Create Her Couples (5:16), Question About How Sarah Write Scenes of Intimacy in Her Books (11:37), SPOILER: Question About How Sarah Wrote the Blow Job Scene in Brazen and the Beast (15:03), The Difference Between Sarah MacLean and Tessa Dare (24:50), Sarah's Recommendations for New Historical Romance Readers (28:38), Discussion of Tessa Dare Books (29:04), Discussion of The Virgin and the Rogue by Sophie Jordan (29:23), Discussion of Uptown Girls series by Joanna Shupe (33:47), Discussion of Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas (34:28), Teaser for Sarah MacLean's Upcoming Series Hell's Belles (37:14), Teaser for Sarah's Upcoming Short Story in Anthology Naughty Bits (41:23), Introduction to Bad Bitch Book Club Member Recommendations (43:13), Discussion of The Rebel King by Kennedy Ryan (44:55), Discussion of The Player Next Door by KA Tucker (45:55), Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (46:53), Introduction to What Else We've Been Reading (48:21), Discussion of Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz (48:29), Discussion of Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon (50:26), Conclusion (53:24). You can get full show notes and episode transcriptions on the Bad Bitch Book Club website: Give us a five-star rating wherever you get your podcasts, and say hi to us at @F2LPodcast on Twitter and Instagram. You can also join the private F2L Facebook group:

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Episode Transcript

Introduction (0:00)

Lily Herman: Hey, y'all welcome back to Friends, to Lovers, a podcast where we use books as a jumping off point to talk about sex, relationships, dating, love, romance, and more. Friends, to Lovers is part of the Bad Bitch Book Club network, and you can learn more at So I am your co-host Lily Herman, and you also know my fellow co-host Mackenzie Newcomb. This is part two of our two-part episode on Empowering Blow Jobs™. We left off on Monday talking to bestselling, incredibly amazing author Sarah MacLean, so we're going to dive right back into our chat with her in about 30 seconds. But as a reminder, you can find all of the notes to every episode, including every book we talk about You can also join our conversation on the Friends to Lovers Podcast Facebook group and give us your thoughts as well on Twitter and Instagram at @F2LPodcast. And that's two as in the number 2. So again, show notes, transcriptions, everything is online, and let us know your thoughts. So without further ado, let's go back to hearing from Sarah.

Questions About How Sarah Creates Her Series (1:35)

Lily Herman: Actually, so we had a bunch of questions from people, and these are three kind of connected questions, one about kind of series arcs versus romantic arcs versus sex scenes. That's kind of where people sort of fell on this. So we can kind of use Bareknuckle Bastards as a series to use as an example. Frst and foremost, how do you go about plotting a series going into a book? So, Bareknuckle Bastards, for instance, features three different books, but it's a very interconnected series where, I think sometimes in romance, some books in a "series" will maybe feature a character from a previous book, but they can kind of almost act as standalones. Whereas Bareknuckle Bastards is more connected. Things are kind of weaved together between the books. Where do you gain inspiration for a series and then how do you just go about crafting that series overall?

Sarah MacLean: I sell all my books as series; a lot of writers, historical specifically, often don't do series. They do what are called standalones. And often they're connected as like, well, it's a family, right? It's like five siblings. And so each one will get their book. My books don't—I don't think that way as a writer, I think in series. So for my books, like the Bareknuckle Bastards, it's an overarching three-book arc and then each book hopefully stands alone in its own, you know, as a book, if you just sort of enter the story there, but usually by the time you get to the end, it's helpful if you read the first few and that's certainly the case here. If you've never read a book by me, don't start with Daring and the Duke, start with Wicked and the Wallflower.

Lily Herman: Confusing for anyone who tries to start with Daring and the Duke.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, it's riddled with inside jokes that you'd only get if you read the first two books.

Sarah MacLean: Yeah. So I think that for me, the plotting is very much about the end of the book. I know I don't plot, but I can't start a book until I know what happens at the end of the book. And what I mean by that is I know a lot of your listeners are romance readers, but I have to know what that dark moment at the end of the book is, that sort of climactic scene in every great romance novel; there is a scene at the end of the book where the reader and the characters and probably the author too all thought to themselves, "Oh shit, how is this ever going to work out?" And that scene, I need to know what that scene is before I even start writing. So I do a lot of cooking, like without touching a pen or my keyboard. And then once I know that scene, then I can start the book and I write toward it. So, and then in the case of series, I write toward that scene in the final book. So for example, there's a very climactic scene in the final book of the series in Daring and the Duke. I knew that that is the scene that would have to happen for almost four years. I knew it when I pitched the series, like back in, I don't know, way before the times, and now I'm writing a new series called Hell's Belles, and I know what I'm writing toward, and that's a four-book series. So you all won't see that like the end game of Hell's Belles for four and a half or five years, but I know now what the end game is. So the value of that is of course that I know where I'm going. Tricky part of that is not backing myself into a corner before I get there.

Question About How Sarah Create Her Couples (5:16)

Lily Herman: And so once you've plotted out what a series is going to look like, you're looking at these individual books, how do you come up with the romantic arcs for each book, what any sort of tropes or anything else you're incorporating is going to look like? What does that process look like for you?

Sarah MacLean: A lot of it is, what tropes do I love? Like, what do I want to write right now? You know, what's the thing that I've sort of been cooking for a while or thinking about for a while. Sometimes it's a question of, I want to go back to this particular character, like it's time for this character to get their story. And then sometimes it's a matter of, you know, I really want to write a big girl who's got big dreams, right? So what does that look like? I want to write rivals to lovers. I want to write a women's pleasure house. I want it to be run by a woman. I want to write Jada Pinkett Smith's character from Magic Mike Double XL, a greatest feminist text of our time. What does that look like? And then sometimes, you know, I'm working on Hell's Belles right now, and I've written the proposal, which, who knows what that looks like at the end. Like, all I know now is who the four heroines are. Everything else could change, but I really want to write a Cyrano book. So one of them is a Cyrano. So there's that too; the point of the joys of romance is to be able to say, I've never written snowed in, I'm going to write snowed in; I've never written amnesia, I'm going to write amnesia. That's the kind of—I don't think I'm going to write amnesia, but I think it could work—but that's the joy, like one of the best things about writing romance is that romance readers, we're such a club that when I say to someone like, "Oh, I'm writing only one bed." People just know, and then they know if that's their catnip and they know what the promise of that premise is, like the scene where they're lying in the dark, just stressing about being next to each other in only one bed. Right? So I think a lot about the scenes that give me joy in the books that I read, and then I think, how do I do that? And I'm lucky, 'cause this is my job. I can do it.

Lily Herman: Yeah, Mackenzie and I next week, the episode that will be up after yours is actually all about Mackenzie's love for insta-love as a trope. I have issues with insta-love.

Sarah MacLean: Insta-love's real tough.

Lily Herman: That's my point. Yeah, it's turning into a little bit of a larger philosophical debate than we thought.

Mackenzie Newcomb: We're each coming with our separate dissertations.

Sarah MacLean: Are you a fated—you must be a fated mates fan then? Not the podcast, like fated—.

Mackenzie Newcomb: I have listened to your podcast first and foremost.

Sarah MacLean: I mean fated mates, the trope. Are you a paranormal reader?

Mackenzie Newcomb: No I'm not, but actually not at all, 'cause I'm not—I don't have a really large, expansive imagination, if I'm just being completely honest. But yeah, I love love at first sight. I fell in love at first sight with my fiance and I know it sounds insane, but I have diary entries to prove it. And so I think I like to see my own story reflected. And I also feel as though, and I'm going to get more into this next week on the podcast, but I'll tell you now since it's going to be well before it comes out—in my view, when people are zero to 100 in their relationship, they're more apt to work out because there's no room for them to make those mistakes in the point where you're unsure of where your relationship's going. So I find that there is less room for there to be turmoil, unless of course—and this is when I start to hate insta-love—people have the audacity to uproot the other person's life in a way that is toxic and bad. But I think when it's done correctly, I think that love at first sight and insta-love is the best kind of love. And I'm so like unbelievably biased.

Sarah MacLean: I mean, that's really, I mean, that's the perfect example, right? Like you romance—so not to keep harping on Tessa, but one of the things Tessa Bailey—my favorite thing that Tessa Bailey has ever said, we were on a panel together and she said the very best thing about romance, about being a romance reader, is that you can wake up in the morning and say, who do I want to be today? And you can find a book that's about that person and you can live their life vicariously in triumph. Right? And so I think that the joy of romance for so many of us is that we can see ourselves in it, right? Like we can see our story told over and over and over again in triumph, we never have to worry that we're going to fail, which is not a promise that the world is making us all right now. So I think that's so nice, but also it feels like you're really missing out if your favorite trope is insta-love and you are not a paranormal reader. So I highly recommend Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Immortals After Dark, I'll order it today. I didn't think I was a historical romance fan either. And then now I am because of you.

Sarah MacLean: Aw well yay. Full disclosure, I think Kresley is the best romance writer writing today in this generation. And this series is 18 books long. And the reason why Fated Mates exists is because the first season of Fated Mates was a deep dive of that series. But fated mates is basically insta-love with tons of conflict to keep the story going, you got to keep the story going.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, that's the other trouble with them—.

Sarah MacLean: And that's why I don't think I've ever written insta-love, because I mean, I guess Daring and the Duke is a little bit of insta-love, but it's not. And that's because like, yeah, Daring and the Duke is more like fated mates.

Lily Herman: Yeah I was going to say fated mates, and there's really some like young love sort of wrapped in there.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Actually, it was funny, I was listening to your Fated Mates podcast and you were talking about childhood romance and how there has to be something really horrible that makes the two people unable to be together and adulthood. And I think you really nailed that—fucking Bareknuckle Bastards attempted murder will really do it.

Sarah MacLean: One comes to murder is the other is a really good one.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. I like that. That's good.

Lily Herman: I'd say that puts a damper on things.

Question About How Sarah Write Scenes of Intimacy in Her Books (11:37)

Lily Herman: So before we—cause we want to get to Hattie, cause like I said, Mackenzie and I are obsessed with Hattie—but last of these kinds of like three related questions. Everyone wanted to know this one. How do you go about building scenes of intimacy, particularly physical intimacy? So whether that's two characters who are caught in this accidental embrace, which is very popular in romance, to a full-blown sex scene, how do you go about figuring out what that's gonna look like on the page?

Sarah MacLean: I wish I had a better answer than this because it feels like writers should, it feels like as a writer, I should understand how it works a little better. But intimacy for me, sex scenes for me, are very much about character work. The section beyond the page, if it's not moving the characters forward in some way or moving the plot forward—and all of this understanding that erotic romance does a different kind of work. So setting aside what we would call true one-handed reads, when we're talking about sex and intimacy on the page, in books like mine, which, you know, sometimes get one-handed, but aren't there to be such. I think what's important is that the characters have to be authentic in the scene. And this is why sometimes you write a hero who's a dirty talker and sometimes you don't, right? Or like sometimes you write a heroine who's instantly giving a guy a blow job and sometimes you don't like. There are acts that I think characters choose or don't choose. Sex is very weird in real life for the first time. Whether or not it's good weird or bad weird is a different question. But like, it definitely impacts your relationship right away. Like the second it's over, everything's different the first time you've had sex. And so these kinds of things like, is the character a virgin, what does that look like? No sex scenes should read the same because no two characters together should act in the same way. So for me, sex scenes actually take a ton of time. Like I can write a 20-page action scene or a 20-page dialogue scene in a day, but it might take me four or five days write 20 pages of sex. And that's because I ended up thinking so much about pacing and what everything means and what all the words that are being said actually mean. My characters do a lot of lying, but they don't lie during sex. So there's a question of who's saying what and what they're actually trying, how the whole book is changing in these 20 pages. And that, for me, because I don't plot, is often a massive turning point for me. Like what does the sex do to the story? And I mean, I love a hero who's super broken too. So usually sex absolutely shatters him in—the first sex scene shatters the Sarah MacLean hero.

Mackenzie Newcomb: We love to see it.

Lily Herman: It happens in the second book.

SPOILER: Question About How Sarah Wrote the Blow Job Scene in Brazen and the Beast (15:03)

Lily Herman: So I guess we're—just a heads up. We had let our audience know earlier in the episode that there's going to be some spoilers. So this is going to start, I guess, the little spoiler section. We'll have the exact timestamps in both the description for this episode and the show notes in case anyone's like, "I want it exact, you know, I want an exact time. I can't listen."

Sarah MacLean: "I want to skip right to spoilers!"

Lily Herman: Or skip right ahead to spoilers. There you go. So we'll do some spoilers. So if you're just listening and are too lazy to look up the time stamps, then you can skip ahead, whatever you want to do. Yeah. So Mackenzie and I are obsessed with Hattie. We think Hattie is like the greatest.

Mackenzie Newcomb: We would marry her.

Sarah MacLean: Thank you.

Lily Herman: I don't know why anyone else hadn't and how she got to 29 without being married because she's excellent.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Because she was so tall!

Sarah MacLean: Too much, she's just too much.

Lily Herman: Well to your point too, she's a curvy lady and talks about how she feels that has a lot of issues with body image and kind of struggles with feeling confident in herself and feeling desired in that sort of way. And I was just like, damn, Sarah is getting to the heart of this for so many women. Like it was just so well done.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, I felt that, I felt that. I want to talk about blow jays 'cause you love them. Blowjobs. Brazen and the Beast is not the first time you've written a blow job in your work, but how did you decide that it made sense for the character of Hattie? And how did you make sure that it felt like enthusiastically consensual and really something that was shared between her and Whit?

Sarah MacLean: Well, I mean, Hattie is all in, always for everything, right? I mean, she decides she's gonna make this year hers and she's going to take, so the premise of Brazen is that Hattie has just—it is her birthday. It begins on her birthday the year she decides that she is going to take this year and make it her own because she has clearly not, she's clearly not going to be the person who gets married and has a bunch of kids and lives the life that like women are supposed to live.

Lily Herman: So she does like a Shondaland Year of Yes. Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes. Like before Shonda Rhimes did it by like 200 years later. Hattie Year of Yes'd it.

Sarah MacLean: So she calls it the year of Hattie and she decides she's going to shore up a business and you know, her life, she's going to buy herself a house, she's gonna take—it's like that Sex and the City moment where Sarah Jessica Parker's character, Carrie Bradshaw, says like, "I'm gonna marry myself. Like, I'm registered in Louboutin." Right? And so this idea of Hattie just taking control of her future and taking control of her identity and taking control of her pleasure. Suddenly when pleasure is on the table, she's like, "Oh shit, this is great. Like, I want this to." Originally, she's just trying to get herself ruined. So to really just clear the decks, so to speak. Yeah. I mean, I think once she experienced this pleasure at the hands of somebody who's really great at making sure women have pleasure, she has a really great relationship to sex.

Lily Herman: This is true. And it starts—yeah, I loved how this book got going, like very quickly with their relationship and sort of the banter between the two of them. 'Cause it's literally the first page is when Hattie and Whit, who's known as Beast, end up meeting in this kind of precarious position. So really takes off from the get-go.

Sarah MacLean: And I think Hattie wants it. I think Hattie wants pleasure. I think that first scene in the bar, in the back room of the bar, I think really sets it up as like, "I want it." I actually really love an alpha submissive hero too. And I didn't—I never really thought, okay I'm going to go the full alpha submissive route. But I wanted a hero who was a worshiper. Like I wanted a hero who loved going down. Can I say that on this podcast?

Lily Herman: Yeah. I think we've already passed that point when we're talking about blow jobs in a title for this episode.

Sarah MacLean: So, I mean, I wanted hero who like was, I mean, all my heroes love going down. My favorite reviews I read is for a book that I wrote called The Rogue Not Taken. And it was a one-star review on Amazon and it said "One star, the hero's head was under the heroine's skirts the whole time." Very helpful. I mean, I really—look, I ascribe very, very clearly to the at least two-for-one rule in romance novels. And you will never find a book of mine that doesn't clearly—like, the woman wins on the scorecard of coming, but at the same time, I think that blow jobs can be really powerful. And I think that they can be really empowering toward women. I think the idea that men—I think porn has really ruined blow jobs for probably everyone, but definitely for women. And I think that, I mean, largely obviously some porn is great and, and you know, women-centered, but I think that what I really want when I get to a blow job is I want it to feel like it's a negotiating of power and a kind of—I want to see the hero giving it up to the heroine and letting her control. And so for me, my blow jobs are always about like heroines taking control and then the heroes being excited about that and not intimidated.

Lily Herman: I think I literally went back through like the— I have a historical romance, Instagram DM, and so I read the Bareknuckle Bastards series first, everyone else read it cause I was yelling about it. And for everyone there's like this reaction everyone has, I think someone just said like, "Sarah MacLean! Her Mind!" Just that everyone was like, "HER MIND!" Like we just went back and forth and would be like, "Whoa, oh my God. "

Sarah MacLean: I too have gotten a lot of those messages from people who've read the book. And I mean, I think I probably have, I must have 80 emails that just, that are either the subject line or the first line of the email is "tie me to the mast. It always gives me joy. So if you want to send me emails—

Lily Herman: I love how all these different things, all converged on that scene. Like you have this Odysseus extended metaphor going on, the whole siren thing comes in. You have that Hattie is very good at knot tying comes into this scene.

Sarah MacLean: I mean, that's like Chekov's gun, right? I mean, if you put a character on the page who's an expert at knots on page one, literally at some point someone's getting tied up and not in a bad way.

Lily Herman: And then they have this nautical nautical theme going on. It's like, this is the greatest— and then what I also love about the way you write your sex scene, Sarah, is the fact that you take your time with it. 'Cause I think sometimes like, Bad Bitch Book Club has a romance subgroup called Bad Bitches in Love, and we've talked about this where it's like, you have certain authors where they have all this build-up, all this tension, and then the sex scene lasts like, a page and a half. And you're like, we just went through 200 pages of fuckery for like four paragraphs, really? So I love that you just like take your time letting this build naturally.

Sarah MacLean: But I mean that sex scene felt like full penetrative sex in Brazen. The first one where Whit doesn't come in her. He doesn't come at all. That scene is I think three chapters long. And I got to the beginning of the third chapter and I was like, motherfucker, this guy still has his pants on. What am I doing?! I mean, it was the longest three weeks of my life, the writing of that scene.

Mackenzie Newcomb: That is hysterical.

Lily Herman: I think I read it right after I read something where I was like, oh, the tension was good, but then yeah, like everything was over and like 0.2 seconds. And I was like, this doesn't match like the rest of the book. So I just love when I went into this one, this is exactly what I want is that they have all this tension building. Then it like becomes this whole ordeal for them to release said tension. And then, you know, everyone betrays everyone. Hattie feels betrayed and then there's this ship thing going on. And then they end up on the ship because she's just as clever as he is. I loved it. I was obsessed by the time I got to the empowering blow job scene.

Mackenzie Newcomb: The sex scenes in all three are fantastic, but I would say the ones in Brazen and the Beast were the most inspiring for myself. I think that my fiance owes you flowers on behalf of myself.

Sarah MacLean: I'm really glad, I'm happy to help.

Mackenzie Newcomb: So thank you for that.

The Difference Between Sarah MacLean and Tessa Dare (24:50)

Sarah MacLean: So I will tell you two things. I was thinking about this podcast this morning and I think this is a very funny story. So I'll tell it to you. So there's another romance novelist who many of you know her name is Tessa Dare and she's a good friend. Tessa and I always think of us as like, we're like two sides of a coin. Like Tessa's are bright, charming, you know, everyone's happy romances, and mine are like the darker kind of seedier ones.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh yeah. People are sketchy in your books.

Sarah MacLean: Somebody came up to me at an event and a reader and she said, "You know what the difference is between you and Tessa Dare?" And I was like, "I mean, I can think of a lot of differences between me and Tessa Dare. And she was like, "Tessa Dare writes balls and you don't."I was like, pardon me? I was like, I'm sorry, do you mean like dance balls? She's like, no, I mean like men's balls. And I was like, oh, and then I thought about it and I actually don't write balls very much.

Mackenzie Newcomb: You don't!

Sarah MacLean: I don't honestly, I don't know why, so I'm not sure. So then I was like, I feel like Brazen, there might be balls in Brazen. And if there are it's because this woman said that to me, and then it was just in my head and I was like, I got to put balls in this book.

Mackenzie Newcomb: The balls!

Lily Herman: You know, Cosmo is very into ball play. They're always talking about it in various Cosmo articles. So you're like now with the times, according to Cosmo.

Sarah MacLean: I mean, I guess? I don't know. But like, that's the difference. So if you're really into balls, like skip me.

Lily Herman: I'm almost done with Tessa Dare' backlist, like everything she's ever written. I can pick between, yeah, I would say your books and her books when I'm in a reading slump. I just need like something, it's always like one of you, I end up picking up one of your books; they're very similar and very different.

Sarah MacLean: Like, I find that we have a huge overlap of readers, but I am certain that we are not like—readers choose us in different moods.

Lily Herman: Yeah. I would say that I always jokingly say, Sarah's the dark and twisty backstory writer. I'm like, "Ooh, I want a seedy past!"

Sarah MacLean: Yeah, you have to sort of be prepared to immerse yourself in whatever the crazy story I'm about to tell is.

Lily Herman: I will also say, and we pre-recorded episodes, so I've mentioned this elsewhere in the podcast. I think actually in an upcoming episode, but Tessa Dare almost always has characters having sex against a wall or against a library shelf, like to the point where I always notice it and I always have to be like, this is a true Tessa Dare book.

Sarah MacLean: A Dare-ism!

Lily Herman: But I wrote about this on Goodreads and I think it's like, I love it. I go looking for it. I think I read one of her earlier books where there wasn't a wall sex thrown in. I was like, excuse me, these characters are not in fact a couple, they're not united yet, 'cause Tessa has not christened them a wall, I'm like very offended by the lack of wall action. But you know, it was 2010. I forgive her.

Sarah MacLean: She wasn't there yet. She hadn't hit our stride. Well, I mean, Tessa loves the library, so that makes sense.

Lily Herman: She loves the library. Now it's also given me this really unrealistic sense that like any love interest in my life will have a library, a small private library that's that's meant for not reading. So I'm very—I both admire and I'm also very offended that she has set up this unrealistic expectation.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Now I need to make myself a sexy library. Done and done.

Sarah's Recommendations for New Historical Romance Readers (28:38)

Mackenzie Newcomb: On the topic of other historical romance writers, so we have a lot of listeners who are newer to the genre,myself included, and it can be pretty intimidating to start figuring out where you should begin. I was wondering, aside from your books obviously—everyone read Sarah MacLean's books, they're the best—who are two or three other historical romance writers who you think are great for people who are just trying to get their feet wet?

Discussion of Tessa Dare Books (29:04)

Sarah MacLean: Well, I mean, I've already said, I think Tessa is great. I also think she's a great entry point, especially if you're coming off of, like, the rise in rom-coms right now. Like if you've started with rom-coms, Tessa is a great place to go next.

Discussion of The Virgin and the Rogue by Sophie Jordan (29:23)

Sarah MacLean: I think nobody writes sexy better than Sophie Jordan. And I highly recommend her most recent book, The Virgin and the Rogue, which great title, right? She came up with that title and I was like, come on! Why come up with that? Luckily we're friends, so it was fine. So it's an aphrodisiac book, which those of you who've read romances for a long time, know that in the like eighties and nineties, there was this real rise in these like wacky aphrodisiac books, like real wacky stories. In the late nineties or early two thousands a woman named Laura Lee who was hugely popular then wrote contemporaries, wrote this very famous romance novel where the hero was like black ops or something. And he was married. He was married at 21 to his high school sweetheart. But he's somehow, you know, whisked away to like be in the CIA or something. And he ended up in this prison in South America where he was shot full of this intense aphrodisiac and forced to do all this stuff. And then when he got back, years and years later, he'd like had a face-off situation where he no longer had the same face. And he went back to his wife who thought she was a widow and like seduced her again. I mean, this is like a romance novel to end all romance novels.

Lily Herman: There's a lot going on here.

Sarah MacLean: But the point is he still had the aphrodisiac in his system years later, which I mean like, so aphrodisiacs are like a whole thing of—a corner of romance. And so she wrote this magnificent, magnificent aphrodisiac book that is the perfect book for 2020.I couldn't figure it out how she would do it. But so the premise is that the heroine has cramps. She gets terrible cramps, which is, you know, very relatable. And she gets some before her period. And her sister is like a herbalist, like she makes tinctures and tonics. And she whips up this like tonic for her sister's terrible cramps, the heroine's terrible, terrible cramps. And she takes the tonic and it cures the cramps, but also is an aphrodisiac, it makes her absolutely climbing-the-walls horny, which is—she's a virgin. She doesn't identify it as horniness. She's like, I don't know what, there's something wrong with me. And she like leaves her room to basically be like, "I think I'm dying. Like that's clearly what's happening here. I've gone feral," and in the hallway is this guy who's visiting their house who's like a complete rake. And she just like, climbs him like a tree. And I was like, "Oh my God, what are we going to do about consent here?" And Sophie threads this needle perfectly, the consent is absolutely delicious. And like you guys, it's such a good book. The Virgin and the Rogue, it came out earlier this year.

Mackenzie Newcomb: The Virgin and the Rogue, I'm writing it down.

Lily Herman: Now we have an episode coming up later this season about kind of consent, contraception, and condoms—that was what we're calling it—in kind of romance or romance adjacent books and kind of sometimes the lack thereof. But then also how a lot, some authors have really done consent or contraception or protection talks really, really well.

Sarah MacLean: Well the history of consent in romance—We did a Fated Mates episode about the history, not consent of—we did a Fated Mates episode of the history of contraception in romance, which might be of interest to you.

Lily Herman: I was going to say, I think I listened to it a little while ago.

Sarah MacLean: It's all about bodily autonomy and how romance for many, many years—like the first, I feel like, the first time I ever sort of understood that abortion existed and that a pregnant person did not have to be pregnant was through romance novels, like through, again, tinctures and tonics. Like, I love those old historicals and how they thread the needle on contraception and on abortion. So anyway, so that's Sophie.

Discussion of Uptown Girls series by Joanna Shupe (33:47)

Sarah MacLean: And then Joanna Shupe I think is writing at the top of her game. And like, people are sleeping on her 'cause he doesn't write English-set. She writes American-set Gilded Age. Her most recent series is called The Uptown Girls. And it's basically like, imagine if for those of you who are Hamilton fans, like imagine if the Schuyler sisters were plopped down in Gilded Age New York. So like lots of big bustles, gas lamps, like tons of money everywhere.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, I love money.

Sarah MacLean: And then they're like uptown girls and they moonlight downtown where they end up like falling in love with criminals and it's bananas.

Discussion of Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas (34:28)

Sarah MacLean: And then—I'm sorry, I know you said three, but I'm giving you more.

Lily Herman: No, go for it.

Sarah MacLean: Sherry Thomas, who is right now writing mysteries but like for a long time wrote these lush delicious regencies. My favorite Sherry Thomas book is called Ravishing the Heiress. It's a marriage of convenience book, which means that the heroine is very young and very rich, and the hero is significantly older than her and in love with another woman, but he needs money. So he marries her and they decide that because she is so young and he is so in love with another woman, they will wait eight years. I can't remember why eight years is the number, but they will wait eight years. And then when they get to, and then after eight years, they'll part ways. They'll go their separate ways and live their separate lives. Over this eight years, she grows into like a fully formed human adult. Like, I mean, she's maybe 17 or 18 when they marry. And she grows into this adult and they are best friends. Like she is wildly in love with him. It is unrequited. And like, he just cares a lot about her. And at their eight-year mark, she's sort of prepared to kind of say like, I'm in love with you, I want this to be more than a marriage in name only, I want to live with you and love you. And the woman he loves returns and she is now a widow and free on the market again. And it is heartbreaking, but just perfect. So that's a good cross section of fun and sexy and heartbreaking. And that should, if any of those are interesting to you.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, beyond. I'm going to get The Uptown Girls by Joanna—what was her last name?

Sarah MacLean: Joanna Shupe. S-H-U-P-E.

Mackenzie Newcomb: That sounds exactly what I need. 'Cause I just moved out of New York and I really miss it. And I love listening—I love reading about the setting.

Lily Herman: And you also have some glamour in there.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, glamour is very important to me.

Sarah MacLean: Regencies—people think regencies are glamorous, like with the money and the dukes and the balls, but like, wow. When you get to America Gilded Age, forget it. Everything is covered in gold. A lot of money over here.

Lily Herman: And many thoughts on that money and where it's coming from at this point.

Sarah MacLean: And that's the problem with historicals, right? Like you kind of have to Vaseline the lens on where all the money came from.

Lily Herman: Exactly.

Teaser for Sarah MacLean's Upcoming Series Hell's Belles (37:14)

Lily Herman: So because I know we've gone over time and you have graciously answered all of our questions, the last thing we wanted to ask you is—you've already teased it a little bit—this new four-book series called Hell's Belles that you are currently writing. And I think the first book comes out in August of 2021 if I am—.

Sarah MacLean: Oh, is that right? I don't know. I don't know.

Lily Herman: I looked it up on Goodreads. So anyway, I apparently know more information.

Sarah MacLean: Thanks for filling me in!

Lily Herman: Thanks, publisher, for letting a random woman on a podcast tell you about your book. So there's been announcements about what it's about vaguely and stuff, but do you want to tease a little bit more, what that is going to look like?

Sarah MacLean: It's a Victorian-era girl gang. I'm inspired by a real Victorian-era girl gang. I'm playing with female archetypes or women's archetypes during the time. So the architects are The Scandal is the first book, like the woman who has been sort of ostracized because she's a scandal. The Spinster, who, you know, just is old and hasn't married. The Bluestockings, so the quirky, knows too much, reads too much girl. And then the sort of one who rules them all. And it will straddle the line between Bareknuckle Bastards, which was set almost exclusively in Covent Garden and in the kind of criminal space of London and Mayfair where, you know, all the rich people live. And essentially the idea of the series is that these women, these are the four sort of pillars, but there's a larger gang around them. And all of these women work together. And if you are a woman who is in trouble or who has a problem that needs to be fixed, these women can fix it for you.

Lily Herman: So basically you have a book of four Elizabeth Warrens who have a plan for that.

Sarah MacLean: Exactly.

Lily Herman: They solve it.

Sarah MacLean: Exactly. And then just men who are smacked over the side of the head with how stupid they are and how they need women in their lives to be a real reflection of society.

Lily Herman: I'm like, damn, present day.

Sarah MacLean: No, I feel like they're actually pretty decent dudes, but like, you know, I like a hero who needs to be told, you're a big dummy and maybe you ought to accept that you have feelings in your chest and love and acknowledge them and also crawl through broken glass to get to what you need. You can't wait, I'm sorry. Just what I'm want to read.

Lily Herman: Oh my God, I'm obsessed already. I'm really excited.

Sarah MacLean: People are like, maybe Sarah should treat her heroes better. I'm like, yeah, maybe they all deserve worse.

Mackenzie Newcomb: I love the fact that—.

Lily Herman: I detect no lies.

Mackenzie Newcomb: I mean, I like the fact that you write in a time period where women are traditionally treated like shit. And then, so we treat the men like shit. I mean, someone had to rewrite history and it just happened to be you.

Sarah MacLean: I'm happy to help.

Lily Herman: Well, thanks Sarah. You were phenomenal. Oh my God. I'm so excited about this episode.

Sarah MacLean: I cannot wait for this podcast. I'm really, really excited.

Mackenzie Newcomb: It's going to be a really good and really chic.

Teaser for Sarah's Upcoming Short Story in Anthology Naughty Bits (41:23)

Lily Herman: So just a quick reminder to everyone: Sarah's latest series, The Bareknuckle Bastards is now completed as of this summer. So you can get Wicked and the Wallflower, Brazen and the Beast, and Daring and the Duke, wherever books are sold, but ideally from like an indie publisher or an indie bookstore to like support independent books. I'm trying to think—obviously listen to the Fated Mates podcast. It's incredible. I absolutely love it. Sarah, is there anything else that I'm missing amongst your kind of recent things that people can and should read or listen to?

Sarah MacLean: I don't think—oh, you know what I have, because we're recording head of time. I can tell you that probably right about now. I have a contemporary short story in an anthology with Sophie, Jordan, Sierra Simone and Louisa Edwards and Tessa Gratton called Naughty Brits.

Lily Herman: Oh my goodness.

Sarah MacLean: It's contemporary. There's a secret duke and an American photographer. It is my first and maybe only contemporary, who can say, but it was really fun and actually there's a blow job in it. I was edited— the editor of the anthology wrote me a kind of editorial note in the margins on an edit. And it said, "I'm thinking about this: In all the time they've had sex, has she never blown him before?" And I was like, oh my God, I like clutched my pearls. Like no historical copy editor has ever used the word "blown" with me, but here we are. And she had in fact blown him before. So it all worked out fine. But I did think of you. I looked at that note a couple days ago and I thought about this podcast. So yes, but that is called–that anthology is called Naughty Brits. And it should be out right now in digital, wherever books are.

Lily Herman: Amazing. I mean, oh my goodness. Well, thank you so much again, this was phenomenal. Oh my God. I'm actually really excited to edit this podcast too, because it's, it's going to be fun to listen back and hear all of your wisdom, your infinite wisdom while Mackenzie and I just go like, "oh my God, you're so smart" the entire time.

Sarah MacLean: Thanks so much for having me. I would love to come back anytime, anytime.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Thank you so much, Sarah.

Introduction to Bad Bitch Book Club Member Recommendations (43:13)

Lily Herman: Okay. And that was our interview with Sarah, who is the most amazing human to ever walk the earth.

Mackenzie Newcomb: I'm obsessed with her. I love her almost as much as I love Hattie.

Lily Herman: Almost, but, but no, close but no cigar, because Hattie is our hero.

Mackenzie Newcomb: She's my queen. I mean, like, I'm not going to betray her, but Sarah is a really close second.

Lily Herman: Close second also because she created Hattie, who is one of my—.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, she has to get credit for that.

Lily Herman: And I'm so glad she was willing to talk to us about her talent in writing this blow job scene. Like, I appreciate that she was humble, but also understood that she really created something like next level.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, absolutely.

Lily Herman: Oh yes. Love it. Um, let's see. Well, we have a couple of things here. One is we actually asked the Bad Bitch Book Club's Bad Bitches in Love romance subgroup to give us recommendations for books that had Empowering Blow Jobs™ in them. Interestingly, it was funny in that some members were like, "Holy shit. I don't think I've read a romance that's had a blow job in it."

Mackenzie Newcomb: That's how I felt when you told me about this episode.

Lily Herman: You were like, are there books that do that? And then there were other people who were like, "Oh shit, I've got you, girl. Here's 18 of them." And someone actually gave us, yeah, we'll get to in a second. Someone actually gave us one and they're like, I just read this book. Here's the page number of the Empowering Blow Job™. And I was like, the dedication.

Mackenzie Newcomb: That really is the dedication, isn't it? I love our book club members.

Discussion of The Rebel King by Kennedy Ryan (44:55)

Lily Herman: Truly next level. So, spotlighting these books. I'll just go quickly through them and give a little teaser of them. I think I've heard of all three, and all three are by authors that I've read other books from. So I'm interested to see when I get to them.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. You love Kennedy Ryan. She's a girl.

Lily Herman: So yes. We'll actually start with Kennedy Ryan 'cause I love her. So first is by Erica Quiroz or Quiroz, I'm not a hundred percent sure how to pronounce her last name, but Erica is a very, very active and just incredibly wise member of the Bad Bitches in Love subgroup. She knows like every book ever written that has any form of romance in it. And like just very good book opinions on everything. Great opinions on books. So love Erica. Anyway, Erica recommends The Rebel King by Kennedy Ryan. That's the second book in her All the King's Men duet which is about a hot and heavy romance between a rising politician and a political strategist. I will also say that for those who don't know her books, Kennedy Ryan can get steamy as fuck. And I know we've talked about her at other points in the podcast, but you've been warned is essentially what I'm getting at. Yeah. Kennedy, Ryan loves a boob. She just absolutely loves the boob. That's what I have to say about her.

Discussion of The Player Next Door by KA Tucker (45:55)

Lily Herman: Number two, Michelle Glynn recommended The Player Next Door by KA Tucker, which is KA Tucker's latest release as of this recording. The book is a second chance enemies-to-lovers story about a woman who moves back to her hometown, where she was sort of an outcast and she ends up being next door neighbors with her dirtbag cheating high school ex.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, that's interesting.

Lily Herman: I've heard mixed things about this book. I don't want to say mixed. I've heard some people who love KA Tucker, they'd said that was not their favorite of hers. KA Tucker though, if you're interested in her work, she also wrote the very well known booktube book The Simple Wild, like people on YouTube who talk about books are obsessed with The Simple Wild. So would recommend that, also enemies-to-lovers and it's adorable. Wild at Heart is the sequel. And she's coming out with a novella in December of 2020 about what happens to the two main characters in that series. So yes, but The Player Next Door by KA Tucker.

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (46:53)

Lily Herman: And then last week, Emma Brace sent over Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory. It's the fifth book in her series. And she's the one who told me the exact page number of the blow job. I don't want to spoil it for you all, but I'll just say, it seems to take place—I'll say it's in he first half of the book. So that's the big—.

Mackenzie Newcomb: That seems like a reasonable time for a blow job to occur.

Lily Herman: But anyway, the story follows a woman who moves back to LA after a period of time in New York and after a fun night of flirting with a stranger at a bar, soon realizes that he is a very well-known politician. So she's dealing with that. We have a lot of politics themes today, but I'm really excited to read that book.

Mackenzie Newcomb: To be honest, I have it, I already own it. I'm like really pumped. I just was hoping to read it immediately after our book on can Democrats and Republicans fall in love too, like as a nice, refreshing taste of politics incorporated in a book. We'll see.

Lily Herman: But yeah, I have two more to read. I just read The Wedding Party, her third book recently. So I still have her Royal—I think it's Royal Holiday is the fourth, if I remember that correctly, and then Party of two. So yeah, a little tiny, tiny spoiler that there's a good chance that we could be talking a lot about Jasmine Guillory's five books in the next season of the podcast. So all the more reason to keep listening, 'cause we will have definitely have opinions on it.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh yeah. Lots of them.

Introduction to What Else We've Been Reading (48:21)

Lily Herman: And then what else are we reading, Mack? What have you been reading that isn't necessarily, you know, romance blow job-related?

Discussion of Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz (48:29)

Mackenzie Newcomb: So I have been reading Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz. It is a memoir of a woman who was born in Puerto Rico, raised on Miami Beach, and just was up to all sorts of trouble. I mean, she was in and out of juvie before she even made it to her freshman year of high school. Her mom is a schizophrenic and abusive. I mean, this woman had a really traumatic life that she, you know, spoiler alert: I mean, it's a memoir, she managed to turn it around. She managed to publish a memoir. But it's really good if you're into really sad memoirs because that's really the best thing about it. If you're into really, really sad memoirs from people who actually have business writing a memoir. I have this thing where I feel like a lot of people write memoirs that have no business writing them, which sounds kind of pretentious, but it's just the case. Jaquira has lived a very interesting life and has every business writing a memoir, and this one is highly entertaining,

Lily Herman: I'd argue like 70% of memoir writers don't need to be writing that memoir at that point in time.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes. I could not agree with you more. I think 70% is definitely that number and that would definitely put Jaquira in that 30%. And she's actually a fiction writer typically. I actually love when someone who typically writes fiction then goes and writes their own story. Allison Pataki, a lot of people, this book is a little bit polarizing, but she wrote this book Beauty and the Broken Places that is absolutely a memoir worth telling of her husband's health issues when she normally writes historical fiction about the monarchies. So yes, Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz. Sad shit. If you're into it, go ahead and read it. How about you?

Discussion of Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon (50:26)

Lily Herman: Oh goodness. Okay. I'm not sure how to pronounce this name, but the book is called either Zenni or Xeeni by Rebecca Weatherspoon. I just finished it this week and I wrote in my Goodreads review that Xeni—not sure how it's pronounced—is the "cozy frisky bi-affirming 30-somethings marriage of convenience romance. I didn't know I need."

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh god. Wow. What a discussion.

Lily Herman: There is just all the things going on that I loved. You've got two characters who were in their mid-thirties. So these are like older characters than the average, like 22-year-olds—.

Mackenzie Newcomb: That's like 75 and the romance genre.

Lily Herman: Basically they're both bisexual and it's a man and woman who are both bisexual, both very confident in themselves. And essentially what occurs—his is back cover of the book, so I'm not spoiling anything—essentially the main character, she comes back home because her aunt has died and finds out that not only was her aunt keeping the secret that she's like a bazillionaire, but our main character only gets to inherit that money and is like the sole inheritor of that money if she marries this random guy that her aunt knows for at least 30 days. So that's where the story kicks off.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay, I'm excited to read this.

Lily Herman: And I will say, okay, I just need—oh, and then you also like it, Mackenzie, because it has really good instant attraction and even some insta-love themes to it that I did not hate.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Okay. I'm in.

Lily Herman: Rebecca Weatherspoon out here, making me be like, okay, a couple with insta-love that I can actually get behind. 'Cause they are mature ass adults who are—but I will say it is a very steamy, very sexual book.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Excellent.

Lily Herman: I was told this in advance: It has pegging in it.

Mackenzie Newcomb: That's new for me.

Lily Herman: That'll be new for you. This is my second romance I've read recently that had pegging. It was like, okay. And it's just, it's all about consent and protection and contraception. Like that's all in there. And there is in fact though, I didn't mean it for it to go along with this episode, I just keep a list of what books I want to talk about at the end of these episodes. But it does have an Empowering Blow Job™ in it. So Rebecca Weatherspoon is giving us literally everything with this book, what more could we want? Love it. But yeah, but I will, if you're like someone who's blushing at like a Jasmine Guillory book, this book is going to scandalize you from like a sex writing perspective.

Mackenzie Newcomb: But if you like Sarah McLean, you might like—.

Lily Herman: Yes. I would say it's even steamier than Sarah MaclLan's book, but yes, the blow jobs in both are excellent. Both with our girl Hattie and with Xeni, Zeeni however you pronounce her name. Excellent. Love it. And Xeni, that's name is spelled X-E-N-i, hence why I'm like not exactly sure, but anyway, excellent book, fucking loved. I was surprised. I loved it. It's only like 260 pages. I almost wish it was a hundred pages longer cause I would a thousand percent fucking read another a hundred pages of this couple.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, I'm totally going read this.

Conclusion (53:24)

Lily Herman: Anyway, but that's what I got for today. So another gigantic, oh my God, tank you to Sarah MacLean for hanging out with us.

Mackenzie Newcomb: We love you, Sarah!

Lily Herman: I hope you all found her as interesting and incredible as we did. And then next week we're doing our first ever Trope Talk episode where we unpack a popular romance trope. Our inaugural episode in this ongoing series, it'll appear once a season, will be all about why Mackenzie loves the insta-love trope and why I think it's kind of bullshit from both the literary perspective and a larger cultural one. So be prepared. We've already started like scripting down the philosophical debates that are raging. Like I'm pulling out all this sociology fuckery on Mackenzie and she's—.

Mackenzie Newcomb: I was a sociology major, Lily! It's on!

Lily Herman: Oh girl, oh girl. I was going on to like Everyday Feminism and like throwing articles at you. And you're like, what is this? So that's next week. We're on yet diametrically opposed sides of this to a certain extent. So that'll be really, really fun.

Mackenzie Newcomb: But we hate the same stuff per always.

Lily Herman: Yeah. We hate certain things within the trope, but then yeah. Oh God. Oh yeah. I will also say that I already know in advance that that episode will have some very hot takes that some listeners will not agree with.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Luckily it's halfway through the season, so you already love us so much that you will still keep listening. So anyways, thank you all so much for joining us today. Please make sure to give us a five-star rating and subscribe to the podcast. If you're looking for more info on Bad Bitch Book Club or us, you can find us on Instagram at that @badbitch.bookclub And Twitter at @badbtchbookclub without the "I," or at In addition to these show notes and transcriptions, Bad Bitch Book Club has incredibly chic merch. You can also follow this podcast at @F2LPodcast on Instagram and Twitter and join our podcast Facebook group, which is just Friends to Lovers Podcast. And you can find me at @mackinstyle, and where can people find you, Lily?

Lily Herman: You can find me on Twitter at @lkherman and on Instagram at @lilykherman. And that's just Lily "K as in kangaroo" Herman.

Mackenzie Newcomb: Beautiful. All right, thanks. Great. Hanging out with you this morning.

Lily Herman: Of course. And thank you again to Sarah, you rock.

Mackenzie Newcomb: We love you so much, Sarah!

Lily Herman: See you guys next week.


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