Mélanie and Charles Fraser


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

12.18.13TracyMelHope everyone is having a warm and wonderful midwinter holiday season. As we step into the new year, here is a glimpse of the Fraser/Rannoch holiday in 1817, after The Paris Affair, in the form of a letter from Mélanie/Suzanne to Dorothée. I’ll later archive this letter to the Fraser Correspondence.

Happy New Year!

Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
30 December 1815

Dearest Doro,

Paris does seem empty without you, especially at the holidays. Colin can’t understand why Oncle Tally didn’t have a tree at the Hôtel de Talleyrand. I tried to explain that it was your custom, not Talleyrand’s, and that perhaps Talleyrand was missing you as well and didn’t want to be reminded. I think Colin understood. Better than one would expect, as so often seems to be the case, which is quite wonderful and sometimes a bit terrifying.

We missed you but had a quite lovely Christmas, a mix of traditions. At Colin’s insistence we put up a tree. In the salon as we knew we couldn’t equal the majesty of yours in the French embassy hall, but it filled the house with same wonderful pine fragrance. Even Charles quite got into the spirit of making garlands for it. I think he liked starting a holiday tradition that’s quite separate from childhood memories. We  also had marrons glacé and  spiced wine and Russian and Austrian pastries and of course champagne.

I looked round our Christmas dinner table and thought it was a good way to measure the events of the past year, both in terms of those who’s been with us in past years and the new faces. Harry and Cordelia and Livia are in the later category, though a new Davenport was present if not precisely visible yet. Cordelia is expecting a baby in the autumn. She’s very excited, but it’s Harry who keeps looking at her with utter wonder. And yes, it does make me wonder about adding to our own family, though I haven’t even spoken of it with Charles yet. I want to be absolutely sure.

Willie was with us as well, of course. She looked quite splendid and seemed in good spirits. Perhaps better spirits without Stewart, though I know the end of the affair was difficult.

And then there were the new faces. The Cartuhers/Lacloses–Rupert. Bertrand, Gabrielle, Gui, young Stephen. Heartening to see them all on so comfortable in each other’s presence. I never thought to see such now on Rupert’s face. I caught a few wistful moments from Gabrielle but her affection for Bertrand is obvious and she seems easier with Rupert. I hope she finds someone of her own. Gui seems easier as well. Difficult to connect the man romping on the floor with the children with man ready to turn his back on his family a few months before. We had a lovely letter from Paul and Juliette, who seem to be settling in well in London. Lady Frances and David and Simon have been very kind to them. Paul is going to paint sets for a new Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Tavistock. Simon has also engaged Manon Caret who will play Titania, and I suspect will take London by storm.

We go to Harry and Cordelia’s for New Year’s Eve and will stay the night. I hope the New Year brings you much joy and that we get to see you in the course of 1817.

All my love,
Mélanie

p.s.

Charles gave me the most beautiful pair of silver quatrefoil earrings for Christmas. I knew you would ask!

walk3Lately, I’ve been struck by the way smells and sights and sounds bring feelings from the past welling to the surface, even before my mind consciously frames the memory. The whiff of jet fuel as Mélanie and I walked to the gate on our recent trip to New York brought the anticipation of childhood travel. The sight of autumn leaves clustering on trees and lying in drifts on the ground while bare branches make a tracery against the rose gold sky (in Ashland, in New York, at home) evokes thoughts of pumpkin lattes, crisp days at football games, evenings by the fire, and a whiff of anticipation of the holidays, along with the more grown up reminder that there’s a lot to get done before the end of December. Lately, whenever I walked downstairs in the morning, the cool air combined with the heat rising from the ground floor instantly conjures up the wonder of Christmas morning.

I try to weave in all of the five senses when I write. Sometimes I even make lists of what sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells I can use in a particular scene (I did this a lot years ago when I was consciously making an effort to do more with the five senses to evoke my settings). But I don’t know that I think enough about how the five senses can evoke memories from my characters’ pasts. Without consciously trying to, I did use a scene in the theatre in my forthcoming The Berkeley Square Affair to bring up Suzanne’s childhood memories:

Even an almost empty theatre had its own smell. Sawdust, the oil of rehearsal lamps, drying paint, the sweat of active bodies that could never quite be banished. After all these years, it still sent an indefinable thrill of magic through Suzanne. Jessica seemed to sense it from her mother, for she gave a crow of delight in Suzanne’s arms and waved her hands.

I’m going to try to do more of this, evoking memories specific to different characters’ pasts. The autumn leaf image could translate to many historical settings. So could the cold air and warmth of a banked fire. What would evoke the excitement of travel? The jangle of bridles? The smell of carriage leather or horses? The thud of portmanteaux being loaded?

What specific sense memories evoke the past for you? What conjures up thoughts of autumn and the holidays? Writers, do you try to use the five sense to evoke your character’s pasts?

5.21.13TracyMelHappy end of summer and holiday weekend to those in the states! I’m emerging from a whirl of turning in The Berkeley Square Affair, writing The Paris Plot (the novella about Jessica’s birth), revising The Berkeley Square Affair, and doing copy edits on The Paris Plot, not to mention the general fun and chaos of raising a toddler and some summer fun (there are Mélanie and I above in Ashland at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) to try to get back to more regular blogging.

Here is the cover art for The Berkeley Square Affair, which I really love, and a brief teaser in the form of the Prologue. Several of you have asked about the Fraser Correspondence, and I will try to post a new letter soon and also get back on a regular posting schedule.

Meanwhile, let me know what you think of the cover and the teaser and feel free to ask any questions about the book or the series.

Cheers,

Tracy

the berkeley square affair

Prologue

London

December 1817

The lamplight shone against the cobblestones, washing over the grime, adding a glow of warmth. Creating an illusion of beauty on a street that in the merciless light of day would show the scars and stains of countless carriage wheels, horse hooves, shoes, pattens, and boots. Much as stage lights could transform bare boards and canvas flats into a garden in Illyria or a castle in Denmark.

Simon Tanner turned up the collar of his greatcoat as a gust of wind, sharp with the bite of December, cut down the street, followed by a hail of raindrops. His hand went to his chest. Beneath his greatcoat, beneath the coat he wore under it, he could feel the solidity of the package he carried, carefully wrapped in oilskin. Were it not for that tangible reminder, it would be difficult to believe it was real.

He’d hardly had a settled life. He’d grown up in Paris during the fervor of the French Revolution and the madness of the Reign of Terror. Here in England, his plays had more than once been closed by the Government Censor. He’d flirted with arrest for Radical activities. He and his lover risked arrest or worse by the very nature of their relationship. But Simon had never thought to touch something of this calibre.

He held little sacred. But the package he carried brought out something in him as close to reverence as was possible for one who prided himself on his acerbic approach to life.

The scattered raindrops had turned into a steady downpour, slapping the cobblestones in front of him, dripping off the brim of his beaver hat and the wool of his greatcoat. He quickened his footsteps. For a number of reasons, he would feel better when he had reached Malcolm and Suzanne’s house in Berkeley Square. When he[TG3]  wasn’t alone with this discovery and the attendant questions it raised.

He started at a sound, then smiled ruefully as the creak was followed by the slosh of a chamber pot being dumped on the cobblestones–mercifully a dozen feet behind him. He was acting like a character in one of his plays. He might be on his way to see Malcolm Rannoch, retired (or not so retired) Intelligence Agent, but this was hardly an affair of espionage. In fact, the package Simon valued so highly would probably not be considered so important by others.

He turned down Little Ormond Street. He was on the outskirts of Mayfair now. Even in the rain-washed lamplight the cobblestones were cleaner, the pavements wider and neatly swept free of leaves and debris. The clean, bright glow of wax tapers glinted behind the curtains instead of the murky yellow light of tallow candles. Someone in the next street over called good night to a departing dinner guest. Carriage wheels rattled. Simon turned down the mews to cut over to South Audley Street and then Berkeley Square. Another creak made him pause, then smile at his own fancifulness. David would laugh at him when he returned home and shared his illusions of adventure.

He walked through the shadows of the mews, past whickering horses and the smells of dung and saddle soap and oiled leather. The rain-soaked cobblestones were slick beneath his shoes. A dog barked. A carriage clattered down South Audley Street at the end of the mews. It was probably just the need to share his discovery that made him so eager to reach Malcolm and Suzanne. If–

The shadows broke in front of him. Three men blocked the way, wavering blurs through the curtain of rain.

“Hand it over,” a rough voice said. “Quiet like, and this can be easy.”

Lessons from stage combat and boyhood fencing danced through Simon’s head. He pulled his purse from his greatcoat pocket and threw it on the cobblestones. He doubted that would end things, but it was worth a try.

One man started forwards. The man who had spoken gave a sharp shake of his head. “That isn’t what we want and you know it.”

Acting could be a great source of defense. Simon fell back on the role of the amiable fool. “Dear me,” he said, “I can’t imagine what else I have that you could want.”

The man groaned. “Going to make this hard, are you?”

Simon rushed them. He had no particular illusions that it would work. But he thought he had a shot.

Until he felt the knife cut through his greatcoat.


In their work as spies, Malcolm and Suzanne often make quick changes to their appearance to suit a new role. I’m used to writing such scenes for them. I’m less used to thinking about it in terms of myself. Until yesterday. It was the opening night of the Merola Opera Program’s wonderful production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. After spending the afternoon stuffing inserts into programs, I had a quick dinner with Mélanie and a couple of colleagues and then hurried back to the theatre to meet one of Mel’s wonderful babysitters. While quickly going over details with the babysitter, I pulled a hair of feels from the toy bag and exchanged them for the flats I was wearing, took off the cardigan I’d been wearing all day over my black cocktail dress, unwound the long linen scarf I had wrapped around my neck and thew it over my shoulders as a shawl.

It was only when I was hurrying  up the street to a pre-performance reception (combing my hair as I walked)  that I realized I had just made the sort of quick change Suzanne often makes (such as in Imperial Scandal when she transforms herself into a shopgirl to go into Le Paon d’Or). It was also just the sort of scene I might put in a book to dramatize a working mom balancing her multiple roles.

As  a multi-tasker, I’ve always been grateful for multi-tasking clothes. As a working mom, I’m more grateful for them than ever. Day-into-evening dresses (nothing like black to stand up to the dust of a theatre and the smears left by toddler hands), earrings one can sleep in, sweaters that can be easily stowed in a diaper bag, a bag that works as purse, diaper bag, and computer bag, scarves that double as shawls, a light weight trenchcoat the works over everything. I have a pair of black satin heels that basically live in the car or the toy bag.

Do clothes help you balance different parts of your life? Which pieces are particularly good multitaskers?  Writers, do you think about clothes to define different roles your characters play?

 

 

 

 

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