In the comments to last week’s post (and thanks, everyone, for the great discussion!), Cate mentioned that while she had come to have more of an affinity with Mélanie on rereads, “I’m still not sure I would trust her as a friend, but I probably wouldn’t have a choice. I’d find her too interesting not to spend time with her, if she would deign to allow me.”
My first reaction was to be surprised and think “that’s interesting, I’d certainly trust Mélanie as a friend.” Then I re-examined it, because truth to tell it’s a question I’d never really considered. Would I trust her? Probably, because she’s very charming, and I suspect I’d never know what was going on in her head or what she really up to :-). Would I be wise to trust her? More difficult to answer. Mélanie’s very loyal. But as Cate said “She’s loyal, but she, like everyone, has a hierarchy of loyalties and she’s not likely to be changed.” And she can be quite ruthless when she makes up her mind what she needs to do.
You don’t see much of Mélanie as a friend in Secrets of a Lady, though she does think some about her friends, particularly Isobel Lydgate, who also appears in the A+ letters. There’s a bit more of Mélanie the friend in Beneath a Silent Moon, as she interacts with Simon and David. The Mask of Night focuses a great deal on Mélanie and Charles and the two couples who are their closest friends, David and Simon and Oliver and Isobel Lydgate. Friendship can pose problems for a spy, as Mélanie and Raoul discuss in one exchange:
“No.” Her fingers dug into the towel. “Oliver’s one of Charles’s oldest friends. He’s my friend.”
Raoul raised his brows.
“I’ve got in the habit of trusting my friends in recent years.”
“That habit can be fatal, querida.”
“It’s not an easy thing, learning someone you care about has been duplicitous.”
“I’ve grown soft. As you said.”
“I said such reactions could be fatal. I didn’t say they were avoidable. I’ve had to face similar revelations and it’s not pretty. I don’t think I’d have born up as well as Charles has done if I’d ever had to face betrayal from you. You have my thanks for never putting me through that.”
“That you know of.”
While friendship may pose complications for spies, even the master spy Raoul recognizes that such complications can’t be avoided. The tricky question, is which side someone will combine down on when those complications arise. It’s a question I don’t think Mélanie could answer about herself until she confronted a given situation. In The Mask of Night she also interacts with friends from her days in espionage. As she tells Charles:
I owe these people my loyalty. It may not be a greater loyalty than what I owe to you, but it’s older. I can’t let them be hurt because of whatever’s going on between you and me.
Often with the focus in books on romantic relationships or family drama or political intrigue, one doesn’t see much of main characters interacting with their friends, but seeing a protagonist in the role of friend can shed new light on the character. Elizabeth Bennet has her sisters to interact with, but she also has her friendship with Charlotte Lucas, which adds wonderful texture to her character and thematic resonance to the book. One of the fun things in the Scarlet Pimpernel books is seeing Percy interact with his friends in the league (one of the things I missed in the 1990s series was not seeing more of the league’s members). Many of the current romance series with groups of friends–Mary Jo Putney’s Fallen Angels, Jo Beverley’s Company of Rogues, Candice Hern’s Merry Widows-also allow glimpses of the heroes and heroines interacting with their friends. The complicated friendships between the ongoing characters in Elizabeth George’s Lynley/Havers mysteries are one of the things that keeps me eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.
Are there particular literary friendships that stand out for you? Do you like seeing this side of a character? And if you happened to be friends with Mélanie Fraser would you trust her?
In keeping with the friendship theme, this week’s addition to the Fraser Correspondence is a letter Charles writes to his best friend David just after the Battle of Toulouse and Napoleon’s abdication in 1814. I love writing the letters between Charles and David, because Charles will say things to David, particularly at this point in his life, that he won’t reveal to anyone else.