SPOILER ALERT: This post contains significant spoilers for Sarah MacLean’s Rule of Scoundrels series.
Sure, we’re excited to spend Thanksgiving with our families this week — but we’re also pretty thrilled because Sarah MacLean’s series ender, Never Judge a Lady by her Cover, finally hits shelves tomorrow! This much-anticipated title tells the story of Chase, the mastermind behind the gaming hell MacLean’s chronicled for three previous books in her Rule of Scoundrels series. At the end of the third book, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, released last year, MacLean revealed that the mysterious Chase was a woman. Readers soon discovered we’d actually met Chase before, in MacLean’s Love by the Numbers series. To find out how it all happened, we got Sarah to reveal the clues she’s been leaving for her most attentive of readers.
Fallen angels make for excellent gossip, seventeen-year-old Lady Georgiana Pearson says to her future sister-in-law near the end of Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart. It was a simple line, but one that lay the groundwork for four years of writing and an entire series of romance novels.
By the time I wrote that line, I’d already proposed the Rules of Scoundrels series to my editor with a simple two-page document that would lay the brickwork for the quartet about four fallen aristocrats who rule the London underworld and, through love, return to society. There are a number of things about that proposal that didn’t work: the first book in the series, A Rogue By Any Other Name, was titled The Method to My Marquess; Cross was not an opium addict and his heroine was not a doctor (though she was a scientist); and Duncan West was never supposed to become a hero (a truth proven by the fact that, had I intended him to have his own book, I would have known his name; he’s Donovan West, in A Rogue By Any Other Name – oops!). But, one thing was set from the beginning.
Chase was a woman. And she was a woman long-time readers knew.
“Georgiana,” Simon, the Duke of Leighton and hero of Eleven Scandals, says to his ruined baby sister at the end of his book, just before his happily ever after, “Whatever you want. Whatever you decide. It is yours. You and Caroline—I shall stand beside you.”
“Are you certain you wish to tempt fate in such a manner?” she asks, adding, “Because the sentiment may be tested sooner rather than later.”
It is Autumn of 1823, and Georgiana is virtually a child—the sister and daughter of a duke, left pregnant by a man she will not name. It doesn’t matter who he is, she says at one point, as he’s gone. And why think on him? Georgiana is left with an infant daughter and a future in ruin.
Except, she has plans. Plans readers were hoping to read about, if the contents of my inbox were any indication. I suppose this is the place where I should apologize, because I’ve lied to a lot of readers over the years. Every time someone asked if Georgiana would get her story, I lied and said I wasn’t sure…that she was terribly ruined, didn’t they think…that I didn’t have any ideas for her.
I lied, because Georgiana has been running the show for all those years.
In the Spring of 2012, readers were introduced to the men I affectionately refer to as “my Scoundrels.” They met Bourne, first, cold and calculating and wicked. Bourne grew up in the country with a girl who had always loved him, Penelope Marbury, daughter of a very wealthy double marquess who’d been tossed over by a duke eight years earlier. A duke readers knew, because they’d read his story in Eleven Scandals. There it was, the first clue that Love by Numbers wasn’t really finished.
Then in One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, Cross gets a dose of Chase’s meddlesome treatment — Chase likes to meddle, after all, but her relationship with Cross takes a turn toward the understanding when Cross’s conflicted relationship with his sister becomes central to the book.
Chase was quiet for a long moment, considering the situation. “Sisters are difficult. They do not always respond well to the dictates of older brothers.”
“You would know that better than anyone.”
Only eleven people know the truth about Chase — that she is Georgiana in disguise — and Cross is one of them. But he also knows her past, her relationship with her own older brother, and the frustration that Leighton had when she would not give up the name of her ruiner — instead vowing to rule society, ruined or no.
And then came Temple’s book, and I knew the last lines would reveal part of her truth—namely, that he was a she—so I got a little bolder, and I was sure it would be clear once Chase meddled and revealed that she not only knew Mara, the woman Temple was to have murdered, but she also knew where Mara had been in the ensuing years:
Chase sighed. “Temple—”
“Don’t you dare attempt to placate me.” Temple advanced, hand fisting, itching to wipe the smug expression from Chase’s face. “You have played your games with us for too long.”
Chase’s eyes flashed. “I saved your ass from a dozen men out for blood.”
Temple’s gaze narrowed. “And you’ve lorded it over me for years. Bourne and Cross as well. Playing guardian and confessor and fucking mother to every one of us. And now you think to own my vengeance? You knew her. You knew my name rested on her existence.”
Mara, it turned out, had spent the years after her escape from hers and Temple’s father in Yorkshire, at a house designed to protect women who wish to escape the dangers that faced women at the time. A house run by a woman named Isabel, now Lady Nicholas St. John, the heroine of Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord. A house where Georgiana herself had run all those years—and all those books—ago.
So, you see, it was really there the whole time. And I am so so happy that Chase has finally met her match…and that readers finally have a chance to meet her hero, a man who loves her very very well.
Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover hits stores tomorrow, and you can pick up a print or digital copy before heading out for the holiday! In the meantime, why not visit our Everything Romance page?