IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why Mary Trump is writing a romance novel with E. Jean Carroll and Jennifer Taub

Known for making headlines, the friends decided to make "politics free zone" through an online, serialized romance novel. The result, they say, is "pure joy."
/ Source: TODAY

While attorneys for former President Donald Trump met with the Department of Justice Monday as a grand jury investigating his handling of classified documents was scheduled to meet again, his niece Mary Trump sat down to talk about an unpublished manuscript of her own: A romance novel.

"The Italian Lesson," co-authored by Mary Trump, E. Jean Carroll and Jennifer Taub, is an unlikely book and genre for the trio, who are well known for their political and social commentary, as well as their ties to the former president.

Courtesy James Lake

Mary Trump, 58, published her tell-all memoir, "Too Much and Never Enough," in 2020, which detailed Donald Trump's family history from the inside. More than a million copies of the book were sold in the first week after its release.

E. Jean Carroll published her own memoir, "What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal," a year earlier, in which she accused Donald Trump of raping her in a New York City department store in the 1990s.

Carroll, 79, later sued him, and last month a jury found he was liable for sexually abusing and defaming her, though jurors did not find him liable for rape. The jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages for battery and defamation claims in the civil trial.

Donald Trump has denied the allegations and called the verdict a "CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME" in a May post on his social media network Truth Social.

Jennifer Taub is a legal scholar and writer specializing in business corruption.

The trio tells how a virtual knitting group during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a romance novel and a lasting friendship.

Knitting group to Hallmark movie script

It all started with a Twitter DM in the spring of 2021, Trump tells

"This invitation came out of the blue if I wanted to join a Zoom knitting group. We were still we were like at the height of the third COVID wave. So everybody was still very much on lockdown," she says. "We just started Zooming together and doing very little knitting — that became irrelevant at some point. We all just hit it off."

The Zoom meetings quickly turned into group chats, phone calls and in-person visits.

"The first time (we went) out together, it felt like being in college again," Taub says. "I was like, 'Wow, I really missed this,' and I think that's when we all realized we didn't want to lose this once the world opened up again."

Carroll says she had a "tremendous impulse" to braid Trump and Taub's hair during the trip, overwhelmed by feelings of friendship. (She later revealed she has not yet braided either of their hair.)

As the three realized they wanted to stay in touch, one of them (they tell can't remember who) suggested they write a screenplay for a Hallmark movie.

"I think it was just as a way to do something creative together that would ensure that we stayed in more consistent touch, because we're all really busy and it's hard to find time," Trump says.

Nothing came of the screenplay, but Trump says she got the idea to do a romance novel instead, even though she had never read one.

"It turns out that E. Jean Carroll is a romance novel aficionado," Trump says. "She is our go-to romance novel expert, whom I often drive crazy by breaking all the conventions, because I don't know what they are."

Why romance?

The three women tell they're aware they are more well known for their forays into politics and breaking news at this point.

"Obviously we all have reputations for certain things, and to varying degrees, we’re all tied into politics in the day to day," Trump says. "We really wanted to do something that one honors the friendship, but also removed us entirely from what we have to grapple with every day."

"And we were very clear about this, we write about it on our Substack: This is a politics free-zone. Everybody is welcome as long as they’re respectful," she continues. "We all need a break and ... the whole reason for this is because of these incredible friendships I’ve made with these women."

Taub says that as a person who only writes narrative nonfiction, she's looking forward to escaping into the world Trump has built.

"To have our world be three dimensional — it’s not just the story, but I can actually make the cocktail Mary comes up with, and knit the sweater pattern that everyone’s gonna knit," Taub says. "So it’s like building community among more people around fictional relationships where we can control what happens next."

Carroll chimes in, "Oh, I love that, Jen. I love every word you just said. I wouldn’t edit one of them."

To Carroll, the question is, why not write a romance novel?

"In these very thrilling, but very dark times we're living through, it's romance and falling in love that is really holding the world together," Carroll says. "We as people thumb our noses at romance, but romance is the most important thing in our lives, isn't it? It's getting up in the morning and falling in love with your dog or seeing a beautiful flower.

"What we’re writing about, is actually very, very important."

E. Jean Carroll

"Everything about the next generation turns on us falling in love. if we didn't fall in love, there would be no next generation. So what we're writing about, it's actually very, very important," she continues. "As a matter of fact, it's more important than politics because the whole future of the world is at stake and Mary captures that in her brilliant novel."

And yes, they do address the elephant in the room: Do they think Donald Trump will read their book?

"He won’t, and it never occurred to me one way or the other," Trump says.

What's 'The Italian Lesson' about?

Trump tells the plot of "The Italian Lesson" came from the trio's original idea for the Hallmark movie. They envisioned an American woman moving to a small hill town in Tuscany and opening up a café. Then, "some stud walks in and turns out he's a prince," Trump says.

While Trump says they "did keep some of the conventions" of their idea for the screenplay, she says the novel "definitely has more intrigue."

"It's darker than 'Rebecca,' it's darker than 'Jane Eyre,'" Taub says, before describing the leading man. "I love 'Pride and Prejudice.' And she's made a character better than Mr. Darcy."

"I’m married and he’s lovely, but I started to kind of fall in love with the love interest."

Mary trump

"I mean, I'm married and he's lovely, but I started to kind of fall in love with the love interest," she adds, as Carroll starts screaming on the call.

"She's, really oddly, telling a very, very juicy story," Carroll dishes. "I find myself when I first read the first couple drafts, I actually was breathing hard I was so excited."

How to read 'The Italian Lesson'

The first portion of the book, which will be released in twice-weekly installments on online publishing platform Substack, starts with a flashback with the protagonist seemingly in the hospital, before launching back to when she first moves to Italy in the first chapter.

Their Substack, called Backstory Serial, will be free for the first three weeks, and then only available to subscribers for $60 per year or $6 per month. Subscribers will have access to the book, knitting patterns, cocktail recipes and commenting privileges.

The trio says nothing about the editing process has tested their friendship (so far), but Carroll revealed the one issue they are having with the book.

"We do have contretemps over one thing, one serious thing — and that is, Jen and I have a very difficult time getting Mary to sit down and do the next chapter."

Taub replies with an idea on how to get Trump to keep writing.

"E. Jean, we can call the building where she lives. I know the direct lines for management and get them to disconnect her wireless," Taub says, sending her pals into a fit of laughter.

The duo swears their editing process is all in good fun and, the three all agree it's been a great way to keep their friendship going.

"This is pure joy. This is friends and fun and fiction. You know, I started writing fiction when I was 12," Trump said. "And I get to hang out with you guys much more than we would have under normal circumstances, so it's incredible."