Mélanie and Charles Fraser


7.19.14TracyMelIt’s a busy opera month for us! Above are Mélanie and me at Merola’s outdoor Schwabacher Summer Concert this weekend. This month’s teaser combines my WIP with my work for the Merola Opera Program. The talk I recently gave at Book Passage about Merola’s 2014 productions stirred some thoughts about Don Giovanni that made it into a scene I just wrote. It seemed a good time to post it. But please note, this is a first draft!

“I wonder if Don Giovanni would be so infernally attractive if Mozart hadn’t given him such ravishing melodies to sing.” Cordelia rested a gloved hand on the gilded paneling against which Gui Laclos was lounging. “The man doesn’t show a scrap of affection or concern for any of his conquests. Of course I used to pride myself on not taking my love affairs seriously.”
“There’s a difference between being light-hearted and callous, Cordy.” Gui gave a twisted smile. “You couldn’t be callous if you tried.”
It was good to see him smile, but his eyes were still shadowed and his face gaunt. “You may be seeing me through rose-colored glasses, my sweet.”
“No. You I think I’ve always seen clearly, Cordy.” For a moment, she thought he was going to confide in her, but instead he said, “Poor bastard, Don Ottavio. He tells Donna Anna his peace depends on her own and she doesn’t seem particularly interested.”
“And really, what more could a woman want than a man who put one’s happiness first. Unless of course he didn’t seem to understand one’s happiness.” Cordelia unfurled her fan and ran her fingers over the ebony and lace. “Donna Anna says when Don Giovanni broke into her room at first she thought it was Ottavio. I’ve always wondered if things progressed a bit before she realized it wasn’t. And if a part of her doesn’t wish Ottavio were a bit more like Giovanni. And so of course she’s wracked by guilt.”
“That makes  Ottavio’s situation even worse. How the devil is one supposed to know what a woman wants?”
It wasn’t like the usually cheerful Gui to take a love affair so seriously or bitterly. Cordelia turned against the paneling so she was facing him. “Is that the problem, Gui? A woman?”
He gave a bitter laugh. “You’re becoming as much of an investigator as your husband, Cordy.”
“I just hate to see you unhappy.”
“The devilish compassion of those who’ve found happiness who can’t understand why others can’t be as happy as they are. Not everyone can find perfection, Cordy.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Cordelia glimpsed her husband, face set in the sardonic lines that were his habitual company expression. Her heart warmed, in that ridiculous way it did when she looked at him the most seemingly trivial moments. ‘I wouldn’t call it perfection. But I know I’ve been far more fortunate than I have any righ to be. I thought perhaps something had happened with your family.”:
“No, Gabby and Rupert couldn’t be kinder. Unlike—“ He drew a breath, one of those moments that teeter between defense and confidence. “See here, Cordy. You’re a woman.”
“I was always under the impression that you thought so.”
Gui gave an abashed grin. “Sorry. I just need a woman’s perspective. I’m trying to understand— why would a woman suddenly lose interest in a fellow after months of seeming quite the opposite?”
Cordelia considered and as quickly abandoned numerous flippant responses that sprang to her lips. There had always been something endearing about Gui, something quite apart from the brief, diverting, light-hearted passion between them. Something that had endured beyond the end of that passion. “My dear— I’m sorry. But sometimes one does—grow past these things as it were.”
“But this wasn’t a casual fling like the one we had. It—“ Gui broke off and stared at her, eyes suddenly wide and oddly like those a schoolboy. “Oh, damn it,  I’m sorry, Cordy. I didn’t mean it that way.”
“It’s all right, dearest.” She touched his hand. “I think we were always admirably clear about what we meant to each other and what we didn’t mean. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to stay friends, which  I wouldn’t give up for anything.” She wondered sometimes why she hadn’t let it become anything deeper. Was it because she’d been afraid of the dangers of falling in love again? Or because a part of her had still been in love with Harry, though at the time she wouldn’t have admitted she’d ever loved her husband?
Gui squeezed her hand. “Nor would I. You’re the best, Cordy. I think I always knew you couldn’t be more than a friend.”
“Because of Harry? At the time I wouldn’t have admitted he’d ever been more than a husband of convenience.”
Gui’s dark gaze grew surprisingly shrewd in that way it sometimes did. “Perhaps I saw some things you missed. In any case, this was different. Not just a fortnight at a house party.” He swallowed, the torment back in his gaze. “But it wasn’t just the time it lasted. It started out casually enough. Some lighthearted flirtation while waltzing, stolen moments in the garden after a bit too much champagne. Sorry, don’t mean to give you too many details. But it soon became clear that it meant more.”
“To you?”
“To me certainly. I’ve always rather made a point of treating love affairs lightly.” He flushed, looked away, looked back at her. “Given that my entire identity was a house of cards, I couldn’t afford to treat them as much else. I don’t know when I realized this was different. When I couldn’t stop thinking about her. When the smallest brush of fingertips was enough to feed me for days. When the thought of life without her was a gnawing void I couldn’t contemplate. When I realized I’d rather hold her hand in the rain than lie on silken sheets with any other woman.” He shook his head. “I sound like a bad novel.”
“You sound like a man in love. Rather more articulate about it than many.”
He turned his head and met her gaze, his own vulnerable as glass. “The thing is I’d swear her feelings were engaged as strongly. We talked round it. She was guarded, protecting her reputation, protecting herself. But I could see it in her eyes. That is, I would have sworn I could see it. Until a fortnight ago. When she told me it was over.”
“In those words?”
“She said it had been very agreeable, but that we’d both always known it had to end, that we’d let it go on too long as it was, and best to cry off as friends before we grew bored. The sort of thing I’ve said a dozen times myself. The sort of thing—“
“That we said to each other. Only we didn’t even really need to say it. We both knew.”
“Quite. But can you imagine Davenport talking to you that way?”
“Not now. Not ever. Harry would be far more caustic.”
“It was as though she’d transformed into another person.”
“Gui—I take it she’s married?”
He hesitated, looked way, drummed his fingers on the paneling behind him, looked back at her.
“It’s not a great leap,” Cordelia said. “I don’t think you’d trifle with an unmarried girl. So unless she’s a widow—“
“She’s married.”
“Could her husband suspect?”
“That’s what I feared. Not that he had any right to judge, given his own behavior. But if she’s in trouble, why won’t she talk to me?”
“My dear—“ Cordelia touched his arm. “It is possible her feelings weren’t as deeply engaged as your own. Or that her feelings have changed.”
“I know. Damnation—“
“But it also sounds as though she called it off very quickly. That makes me think it’s more likely she’s trying to protect you.”
Gui stared at her.
“My darling idiot, one doesn’t like the idea of exposing the man one loves to the wrath of a jealous husband.”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” Gui straightened his shoulders, as though about to charge off to defend his lady’s honor. “I could protect myself in a duel.”
“I daresay you could, but she’d be pardoned for not wanting to see you try.”
Gui scraped a hand through his hair. “All right, that makes a bit of sense. But— her husband’s rather out of the picture now. And she still won’t even see me when all I want to do is comfort her–”
Cordelia stared at him, mind racing. “Who—“
“No questions, Cordy, please.”
“Gui—“ Cordelia twisted her bracelet round her wrist, wondering how far she could venture. Her own past hung before her as she stared at the harlequin diamond links. A gift from Harry before their life had fallen apart. “There’s one danger a woman engaged in a love affair particularly fears. Is is possible she could be with child?”
Gui’s eyes went wide. “No. That is— we were careful—“
“One can’t be completely careful.”
He pushed himself away from the wall. “My God. I’m an idiot. How could I have left her alone in this? How could she not have told me? She must have known I’d protect her—“ He broke off. “I sound like an idiot. There’s little I could do.”
“If she’s pregnant could it be her husband’s?”
“No. Not the way she tells it. Not based on everything I know. Christ, I shouldn’t be glad about that. It makes her situation worse. But— I have to see her.”
“Gui, you can’t be sure any of this is true.”
“Putting together the clues and arriving at a theory. Isn’t that precisely what Charles and Mélanie do?”
“They’re careful before they voice the theory.”
“I need to know, Cordy.”

photo: Raphael Coffey

Happy summer! Summer may not officially start for another ten days, but it already feels in a full swing. The Merola Opera Program, where I spend much of my life when I’m not writing, welcomed a new group of young artists last week. (There I am above with Mélanie when I got back from our Meet the Merolini event last Friday).

In around Merola events, I’m revising Malcolm and Suzanne’s next adventure. I haven’t blogged here in far too long, but i have been on History Hoydens talking about my trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and echoes of war in historical fiction.

ThatSummer

I’ve also found a bit of time to start summer reading. Last week, even though I really didn’t have time for it, I raced through my wonderful friend Lauren Willig’s wonderful new novel That Summer. Moving back and forth in time between 2009 and 1849, with pre-Raphelite painters and wonderful old English house full of secrets, it’s a fabulous treat for lovers of historical fiction and historical mysteries.

Hope everyone’s summer is off to a wonderful start and includes time for reading. What’s on your summer reading list?

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the weekend before last immersed in my Merola Opera Program life at our annual Spring Benefit Gala. This year’s theme was “A Night in New Orleans”, very festive and fun. It was a long day, beginning with setting up the silent auction and ending with packing up after the after party and getting to our hotel room just before two am. But though it was definitely not a writing day, this sort of event always makes me think about Suzanne/Mélanie and Malcolm/Charles’s world. From the, in Regency parlance, crush in the auction room to the formal dinner, the concert (a musicale) to the dancing after (all in a gown that grazed the floor) it was certainly more similar to their world than my typical Saturday night of a quiet dinner with friends.

Here, in pictures, is a summary of the day.

 

Upon arrival, Mel was very at home at our room at the Stanford Court.

Mélanie gave me a good excuse for a break while setting at the silent auction at the Fairmont Hotel.

Ready for the event to start

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

photo: Drew Altizer

At the after party.

Back at the hotel

Back at the hotel

TracyMelHotelClose

A relaxing brunch the next day.

TracyMel3.29.14Things are a little crazy right now, as we are getting ready for the Merola Opera Program’s annual benefit gala tomorrow night. Working out seating arrangements and alphabetizing place cards this week I felt quite like Suzanne/Mélanie in the tamer aspects of her life. I’ll post pictures after the event. Meanwhile, here’s a link to a mini interview with Stephanie Moore Hpokins about The Berkeley Square Affair and here you can see my talking about literary connection to Hamlet on History Hoydens.

Have a wonderful weekend and if you’re reading Berkeley Square let me know your thoughts!

Toasting The Berkeley Square Affair

Toasting The Berkeley Square Affair

Excited – and a bit nervous – to hear what everyone thinks! Even after multiple books the excitement and butterfly nerves of a new release remain. Meanwhile, head over to Deanna Raybourn’s blog to read some thoughts on fashion and plotting and what went into The Berkeley Square Affair.

Friday update: you can also head over to Catherine Delors’s blog to read about the connections between England and France that permeate The Berkeley Square Affair.

Happy Reading

photo: Raphael Coffey Photography

photo: Raphael Coffey Photography

Hard to believe The Berkeley Square Affair will be out in less than three weeks (March 25). I’ll be doing a number of guest blogs and giveaways

to promote it, including on Lauren Willig’s site on March 10th. My blog hosts have been wonderfully generous about letting me choose topics, and I could use your help. I’d love to hear suggestions of what you would like me to blog about – anything from history to writing to parenting to fashion or a combination of ideas.

As an incentive to come up with suggestions, I’ll be sending an ARC of The Berkeley Square Affair to commenter on this post. Contest closes March 14 at noon PST.

Happy weekend!

TracyAuthorPhoto5.16.13Exciting news! The wonderful Suzi Garrett Shoemake is starting a Google+ Group to discuss the Malcolm & Suzanne/Charles & Mélanie books. I’ll be popping in myself to answer questions, and there will be fun extras just as the Fraser Letters in chronological order. Here’s what Suzi wrote on Facebook:

Good morning to my “bookie” friends! I have been a fan of Tracy Grant and her other self, Teresa Grant for several years. Her books are in the time period of Regency England/Napoleonic Era in Europe. They have romance, mystery, spies, twists and turns that twist again. I usually read one the first time in a couple of sittings, then go back to see what I missed. I own all of her in print books, as well as all of her e-books.

I am helping start a discussion group of Google plus about her books. It is a closed group, but that just means the moderator approves you so spammers don’t get in. The nice thing about Google plus groups, is that you don’t have to have a Google account to be a member of the group. [Yahoo groups require a Yahoo account to be a member]

As the group is just being announced today, the actual first book discussion will begin with the first book in her current series, on Monday 3 February.

You can find the group by Googling Tracy/Teresa Grant Discussion Group
or from this link: https://plus.google.com/communities/116777214901773931098

 

photo: Raphael  Coffey

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