JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Political commentator Mary Trump is best known as an outspoken critic of her uncle, former President Donald Trump, and not so much as an author of love stories. But as NPR's Chloe Veltman reports, that might change now that she's coming out with "The Italian Lesson," her first romance novel.
CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: Mary Trump says she's never read a romance before, much less written one.
MARY TRUMP: I am coming at this without any preexisting notions of what the conventions are, which is partially, I think, why I drive E. Jean up a wall.
VELTMAN: E. Jean is famed advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who's been advising Mary Trump on her book. With nearly three decades of experience dispensing relationship advice in her regular column for Elle magazine, Carroll says she's well qualified to help the rookie romance author get hip to the rules of the genre.
E JEAN CARROLL: If Mary ever goes off the rails, I call her, horrified, and say, a heroine can't act like that. Yeah.
TRUMP: And then I'll ignore her, essentially.
VELTMAN: So far, Trump has only written a few chapters. She plans to self-publish new installments of the book twice a week over the coming year for paying subscribers on Substack. Despite Trump's lack of knowledge of the genre, her book's premise follows familiar romance patterns.
TRUMP: It's an American woman who goes to a hill town in Tuscany, opens a cafe, meets this hunk...
VELTMAN: Trump says her decision to pen a romance grew out of a conversation among friends she met through an online knitting group she joined in 2021. That group not only includes E. Jean Carroll, but also renowned legal scholar and nonfiction book author Jennifer Taub, who eventually signed on as Trump's editor for the project.
JENNIFER TAUB: Mary is an incredible world-builder, but the kind of things that she might leave out is - on the first date, she doesn't describe what the heroine is wearing.
VELTMAN: Trump, Carroll and Taub have all been under the spotlight in recent years for their strong words and actions, especially concerning Donald Trump. Carroll, of course, is known for having recently won a civil lawsuit against the former president for sexual abuse and defamation. And both Mary Trump's family memoir, "Too Much And Never Enough," and Taub's book about white-collar crime, "Big Dirty Money," are hypercritical of Donald Trump. As such, the fledgling romance novelist says she and her collaborators are relieved to have a project that is about pure escapism.
TRUMP: This is a politics-free zone.
VELTMAN: Sarah Wendell is the co-founder of trashybooks.com, one of the longest-running online romance communities. She says this is not the first time that someone with a famous name has written romance.
SARAH WENDELL: Is the fact that they're famous a selling point? Well, it gets attention, and that is the whole point of marketing a book.
VELTMAN: But the romance maven questions the notion that this book could ever be non-political.
WENDELL: Everything about this concept is political. From the names on the cover to the fact that it's a romance - because romance is political. Who gets to have a happy ending? Whose marriage is legally recognized? Who can be themselves safely?
VELTMAN: Mary Trump says she's received pushback against her foray into romance from members of her own circle. They worry it might undermine her reputation as a serious political commentator, but she brushes this off.
TRUMP: If the thing that's going to bring me down is writing a romance novel, so be it.
WENDELL: She says, romance isn't fluff. It can be transformational.
Chloe Veltman, NPR News.
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