When I was working on the Imperial Scandal revisions, I mentioned that there was a scene my editor asked me to consider changing. It’s a scene after Waterloo, where Mélanie/Suzanne goes to see Raoul. My editor thought that Mel/Suzette’s actions in the scene might destroy reader sympathy for her. On reflection I agreed, and I like the way the scene ended up in the revision process. But I’m glad I got to write it the original way to see how that played out. I thought it would be interesting to post both versions along with a third version I wrote in the revision process. I’m keeping the Mélanie & Charles names in these because that’s how I wrote it originally.

Let me know what you think. Which version do you prefer? Would the original version have damaged your sympathy for Suzanne/Mélanie? How would your image of the characters and response to the book have changed if I’d included one of the alternate versions? Would a different scene have changed the impact of the book or the trajectory of the series? Which would do you think is truest to the characters?

In keeping with the theme, this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter from Raoul to Mélanie.

This is the original scene:

He pushed himself to his feet at her entrance but made no move to come toward her. The light slanting through the high windows showed her that apparently he had received no further hurt. She stared at the familiar bones of his face and felt the breath rush from her lungs. In his eyes, she saw the desolation and shattered hopes that were the twin of her own. She closed the distance between them, took his face between her hands, and kissed him full on the lips for the first time since her marriage.
For a moment he went still as ice beneath her touch. Then he closed his arms hard round her.
Sensation took over, driving out the demons of the past seventy-two hours. The past two and a half years. She curled her fingers behind his neck, seeking oblivion with the desperation of one on the edge of madness.
His lips slid to her cheek, the line of her jaw. She tugged at the folds of his cravat.
Air rushed between them. One moment his arms were round her, his mouth against the hollow of her jaw. The next he was he was holding her by the shoulders, his gaze opaque. “Think, querida.”
“No.” Thinking was the one thing she didn’t want. She dragged him back to her, fumbling with the buttons on his waistcoat.
She felt the breath shudder through him. Then he crushed her to him and his mouth was against her own again, urgent and desperate. She stumbled to the narrow bed and pulled him down beside her, keeping her mouth against his so he couldn’t utter any more foolish protests. She pushed his waistcoat from his shoulders, and then she had to pull back enough to tug his shirt over his head. By that time he’d found the strings on her gown. They fell back against the scratchy blanket in a tangle of half-removed clothes and urgent, clumsy fingers.
Coherent thought mercifully fled. She lost herself in the scrape of fabric, the brush of skin against skin, the pressure of his hands, the force of his lips.
When thought inevitably forced its way back, she was lying on his chest, her head pillowed on his collarbone, his fingers twining in her hair.
She stayed still for a moment, memorizing the scent of his skin, the sound of his heartbeat beneath her ear, the solidity of his arm round her. Then she pushed herself up on one elbow and looked down at him. “I’m through.”
He folded his arms behind his head. His gaze showed not surprise but something else that might have been sadness. “I thought as much.”
“You couldn’t possibly–”
“What did what just passed between us mean if not goodbye?”
“This isn’t another attack of conscience. I’m done. I’m getting out. I’m not your agent anymore.”
“Clearly stated.”
She sat up and folded her arms across her chest. She mistrusted that mild tone. “It’s over.” Her voice shook, beyond her control. “We lost.”
“It’s never entirely over. But we were certainly dealt a decisive blow. Not only has the game changed, it will be played on an entirely different board.”
“Damn it, Raoul.” She reached down and grabbed his shoulders. “It’s not a game.”
“Of course it is.” He caught her wrists in a gentle grip. “A game with life and death stakes and people’s future and liberty hanging in the balance.”
“I’ll still fight for the things I believe in,” she said, perhaps a little too firmly, because she couldn’t bear for there to be any doubt on this score. “But I’ll only act openly as Charles’s wife.”
He nodded. “I think you’ve made a wise choice.”
“For God’s sake, Raoul.” She pulled free of his grip and grabbed her mantilla from the pile of clothing on the floor. “What game are you playing? You’re never so magnanimous without an ulterior purpose.”
“We’ve never been in circumstances like these.”
“I mean it.” She tugged the mantilla round her shoulders. Her nail snagged on the lace. “I won’t work as your agent anymore.”
“I know. I’ll miss you.”
For some reason that was when her throat closed and tears prickled the back of her eyes. She turned her head to the side, unable to bear the pressure of his gaze. “All these years. The fighting, the lying, the compromising. Twisting ideals to meet necessity. And this is where it got us.”
“One can never see where it will take one. All one do is do the best one can in the moment.”
“Damn you, stop it with the platitudes. You have to feel it too. It’s over. Bourbons on the throne of France for good, reforms repealed, monarchs grabbing for power. Castlereagh and Metternich and their ilk trying to turn clock back on every shred of progress since the Revolution. Wasted years, wasted lives–”
Her chest ached from the lost purpose that had been wrenched from her at the news of the French defeat. The thing that had kept her going after the loss of her family, that had given her a focus, that had been the core of who she was. A sob tore through her.
Raoul’s arms closed round her again, in a very different way from earlier. She pushed against him, desperate to strike out at something. Then she drew a sharp breath and sobbed into his chest until the rage had drained from her, leaving her empty and winded.
“You can never let yourself think your work’s gone for naught,” he said, stroking her hair. “Or you’ll go mad. Believe me, I speak from experience.”
She drew back and looked up at him. “Ireland.” She’d spent many evenings hearing him talk about the failure of the United Irish Uprising in 1798, anger and regret sharp in his voice.
“And the Revolution.” Raoul had been a passionate supporter of the Revolution, but he’d found himself imprisoned in Les Carmes and had nearly gone to the guillotine. “One has to go on and do the best one can. Which I’m sure you’ll continue to do.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“Easy?” His voice cut with sudden force. “There’s nothing easy about it. Do you think I haven’t replayed every decision I’ve made a dozen times, haven’t asked myself–” He shook his head. “But believe me, believe me, querida, you’ll find a way to go on. Because there’s no other choice.”
“Are you saying this is what you want?”
“No.” The short word held layers of meaning. “But I think it’s what’s best you for you.” He pushed her hair behind her ear with a tenderness that was somehow in very different key from what had passed between them a short time ago.
“Since when does what’s best for any of us matter more than the cause?”
“My dear girl. I’m not nearly so single-minded or such a schemer as you make me out to be.” He hesitated a moment. “Philippe was killed.”
She bit her lip. Tears stung her eyes. “I have a letter for his sweetheart.”
“Do you want me to—“
“No. I know where to send it.” She reached down into the pile of clothes and found her drawers. “What will you do now?”
“I’ll manage.”
She swung her gaze back to him. “You don’t trust me any more.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” He picked up her chemise and handed it to her. “But our interests no longer neatly align. No sense in putting either of us in an awkward situation.”
She nodded. Practicality, that was what was called for, and a cool head. He pulled on his own clothes and helped her do up her laces and strings in silence. She turned to the cracked looking glass and tried to pin her hair into some semblance of order.
Raoul leaned against the wall. “In a few days or a few weeks you’re going to think back on the past hour and feel an intolerable burden of guilt. Try to remember that guilt is a singularly wasteful emotion.”
She met his gaze in the spotted looking glass. “Who says I’ll feel guilty?”
“My intuition. You won’t like the fact that you’ve betrayed your husband.”
She gave a rough laugh. “I’ve been betraying Charles from the day I married him. The day I met him if it comes to that.”
“For a cause. And there’s one way in which you managed to stay faithful.”
She jabbed a pin into her knot of hair, hitting her scalp. “I don’t believe in fidelity, remember?”
“You didn’t use to. I think you’ve changed.”
She stuck two more pins into her hair and draped her mantilla over her head. “I have so many sins on my conscience, I hardly think this one is going to rankle.”
“But it may.”
“What the devil makes you so certain?”
“Because I’m quite sure I’ll feel the same.”
She turned to look at the man who had always subsumed guilt to the needs of the moment.
He took a step away from the wall and moved toward her. “If it does, look on it as a moment’s madness.” His hands closed on her shoulders. “And for what’s worth and for my sins, it meant the world to me.”

This is the first alternate version:

He pushed himself to his feet at her entrance but made no move to come toward her. The light slanting through the high windows showed her that apparently he had received no further hurt. She stared at the familiar bones of his face and felt the breath rush from her lungs. In his eyes, she saw the desolation and shattered hopes that were the twin of her own. She closed the distance between them, took his face between her hands, and kissed him full on the lips for the first time since her marriage.
For a moment he went still as ice beneath her touch. Then he closed his arms hard round her.
Sensation took over, driving out the demons of the past seventy-two hours. The past two and a half years. She curled her fingers behind his neck, seeking oblivion with the desperation of one on the edge of madness.
Air rushed between them. One moment his arms were round her, his mouth against the hollow of her jaw. The next he was he was holding her by the shoulders, his gaze opaque. “Think, querida.”
“No.” Thinking was the one thing she didn’t want. She tried to drag him back to her, but his hands tightened on his shoulders.
“You don’t want this, Mélanie.”
“Damn you, you can’t know—“
“I know exactly. You want to lose yourself. You want to forget. You want to find solace. But a few moments of oblivion won’t take away the pain. And afterwards you’ll hate yourself.”
She wrenched herself out of his hold. The pain and anger she’d holding at bay since last night roiled through, clawing at her mind and senses. “ I don’t believe in fidelity, remember.”
“But Charles does. And you believe in him. Even if his side defeated ours.”
She stared at him, the word defeat echoing in her brain. Her chest ached from the lost purpose that had been wrenched from her at the news of the French defeat. The thing that had kept her going after the loss of her family, that had given her a focus, that had been the core of who she was. She pressed her hands to her face, but a sob tore through her.
Raoul’s arms closed round her. She pushed against him, desperate to strike out at something. Then she drew a sharp breath and sobbed into his chest until the rage had drained from her, leaving her empty and winded.
She stayed still in his arms for a moment, memorizing the scent of his skin, the sound of his heartbeat beneath her ear, the brush of his breath against her hair. Then drew back and looked into the eyes that knew her so well. “I’m through.”
“I thought as much.” His gaze showed not surprise but something else that might have been sadness.
“This isn’t another attack of conscience. I’m done. I’m getting out. I’m not your agent anymore.”
“Clearly stated.”
She sat down on the edge of the cot and dripped its metal frame. She mistrusted that mild tone. “It’s over.” Her voice shook, beyond her control. “We lost.”
“It’s never entirely over.” Raoul sat beside her, a few inches of gray blanket between then. “But we were certainly dealt a decisive blow. Not only has the game changed, it will be played on an entirely different board.”
“Damn it, Raoul.” She grabbed arm. “It’s not a game.”
“Of course it is.” He caught her wrist in a gentle grip. “A game with life and death stakes and people’s future and liberty hanging in the balance.”
“I’ll still fight for the things I believe in,” she said, perhaps a little too firmly, because she couldn’t bear for there to be any doubt on this score. “But I’ll only act openly as Charles’s wife.”
He nodded. “I think you’ve made a wise choice.”
“For God’s sake, Raoul.” She pulled free of his grip. “What game are you playing? You’re never so magnanimous without an ulterior purpose.”
“We’ve never been in circumstances like these.”
“I mean it. I won’t work as your agent anymore.”
“I know. I’ll miss you.”
Her throat closed and tears prickled the back of her eyes again. She turned her head to the side, unable to bear the pressure of his gaze. “All these years. The fighting, the lying, the compromising. Twisting ideals to meet necessity. And this is where it got us.”
“One can never see where it will take one. All one do hold onto what one believes in.”
“Damn you, stop it with the platitudes.” Her fingers dug into the coarse blanket. “You have to feel it too. It’s over. Bourbons on the throne of France for good, reforms repealed, monarchs grabbing for power. Castlereagh and Metternich and their ilk trying to turn clock back on every shred of progress since the Revolution. Wasted years, wasted lives–”
A gentle hand stroked her hair. “You can never let yourself think your work’s gone for naught,” Raoul said. “Or you’ll go mad. Believe me, I speak from experience.”
She turned to look at him. “Ireland.” She’d spent many evenings hearing him talk about the failure of the United Irish Uprising in 1798, anger and regret sharp in his voice.
“And the Revolution.” Raoul had been a passionate supporter of the Revolution, but he’d found himself imprisoned in Les Carmes and had nearly gone to the guillotine. “One has to go on and do the best one can. Which I’m sure you’ll continue to do.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“Easy?” His voice cut with sudden force. “There’s nothing easy about it. Do you think I haven’t replayed every decision I’ve made a dozen times, haven’t asked myself–” He shook his head. “But believe me, believe me, querida, you’ll find a way to go on. Because there’s no other choice.”
She stared at him, memories coming thick and fast. His hands tossing her into the saddle. His voice drilling her on court protocol. The steady trust in his eyes when he sent her on her first mission. “Are you saying this is what you want?”
“No.” The short word held layers of meaning. “But I think it’s what’s best you for you.” He pushed her hair behind her ear with a tenderness that was somehow in very different key from their kiss a short time ago.
“Since when does what’s best for any of us matter more than the cause?”
“My dear girl. I’m not nearly so single-minded or such a schemer as you make me out to be.” He hesitated a moment. “Philippe was killed.”
She bit her lip. Tears stung her eyes. “I have a letter for his sweetheart.”
“Do you want me to—“
“No. I know where to send it.” She got to her feet and picked up her mantilla. “What will you do now?” she asked, running the black lace through her fingers.
“I’ll manage.”
She swung her gaze back to him. “You don’t trust me any more.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” He got to his feet as well. “But our interests no longer neatly align. No sense in putting either of us in an awkward situation.”
She nodded. Practicality, that was what was called for, and a cool head. She turned to the cracked looking glass and tried to pin her hair into some semblance of order.
Raoul leaned against the wall. “In a few days or a few weeks you’re going to feel an intolerable burden of guilt. Try to remember that guilt is a singularly wasteful emotion.”
She met his gaze in the spotted looking glass. “Who says I’ll feel guilty?”
“My intuition. You won’t like the fact that you’ve betrayed your husband.”
She gave a rough laugh. “I’ve been betraying Charles from the day I married him. The day I met him if it comes to that.”
“But you could hide in the needs of the moment.”
She jabbed a pin into her knot of hair, hitting her scalp. “I’m used to living with sins on my conscience.”
”With peace you’ll find you have leisure to dwell on the past. To question past actions to replay past moments, to play the damnable game of what if.”
She pushed two more pins into her hair and draped the mantilla over her head. “What makes you so certain?”
“Because I’m quite sure I’ll be doing the same myself.”
She turned to look at the man who had always subsumed guilt to the needs of the moment. He returned her gaze. The scars in his eyes had never been plainer. “Raoul—“
He gave a faint smile. “Don’t worry. As I said I’ll manage. Somehow other one finds a way to go on.”
She crossed the room to him and put her hand against the side of his face. “Keep safe.”
He caught her hand in his own and kissed it. “Look after your family, querida.”

And this is the scene in the published book:

He pushed himself to his feet at her entrance but made no move to come toward her. The light slanting through the high windows showed her that apparently he had received no further hurt. She stared at the familiar bones of his face and felt the breath rush from her lungs. In his eyes, she saw desolation and shattered hopes that were the twin of her own. For a moment, she wanted to run and hide in his arms. Instead, she leaned against the closed door and said the words that most needed to be said. “I’m through.”
Something flared in his eyes. Not surprise but a flash of acknowledgement that might have been sadness. “I thought as much.”
She took two quick, determined steps into the room. Her mantilla slithered to the floor. “This isn’t another attack of conscience. I’m done. I’m getting out. I’m not your agent anymore.”
“Clearly stated.”
She dropped down on the edge of the cot and gripped its wooden frame. She mistrusted that mild tone. “It’s over.” Her voice shook, beyond her control. “We lost.”
“It’s never entirely over.” Raoul sat beside her, a few inches of gray blanket between then. “But we were certainly dealt a decisive blow. Not only has the game changed, it will be played on an entirely different board.”
“Damn it, Raoul.” She grabbed his arm. “It’s not a game.”
“Of course it is.” He caught her wrist in a gentle grip. “A game with life and death stakes and people’s future and liberty hanging in the balance.”
“I’ll still fight for the things I believe in,” she said, perhaps a little too firmly, because she couldn’t bear for there to be any doubt on this score. “But I’ll only act openly as Charles’s wife.”
He nodded. “Knowing you, not to mention Charles, I imagine you’ll be able to accomplish a great deal.”
“I mean it. I won’t dwindle into a wife.”
His mouth curved in a faint smile. “I don’t think you could if you tried.” He looked at her for a moment. She had the oddest sense he was memorizing her features. “I think you’ve made a wise choice.”
“For God’s sake, Raoul.” She pulled free of his grip. “What game are you playing? You’re never so magnanimous without an ulterior purpose.”
“We’ve never been in circumstances like these.”
“I’m serious. I won’t work as your agent anymore.”
“I know. I’ll miss you.”
For some reason, that was when her throat closed and tears prickled the back of her eyes. She turned her head to the side, unable to bear the pressure of his gaze. “All these years. The fighting, the lying, the compromising. Twisting ideals to meet necessity. And this is where it got us.”
“One can never see where it will take one. All one do hold onto what one believes in.”
“Damn you, stop it with the platitudes.” Her fingers dug into the coarse blanket. “You have to feel it too. It’s over. Bourbons on the throne of France for good, reforms repealed, monarchs grabbing for power. Castlereagh and Metternich and their ilk trying to turn clock back on every shred of progress since the Revolution. Wasted years, wasted lives–“
Her chest ached from the lost purpose, wrenched from her at the news of the French defeat. The thing that had kept her going after the loss of her family, that had given her a focus, that had been the core of who she was. She couldn’t seem to stop shaking. A sob tore through her.
Raoul’s arms closed round her. She pushed against him, desperate to strike out at something. Then she drew a sharp breath and sobbed into his chest with raw desperation until the rage had drained from her, leaving her empty and winded.
“You can never let yourself think your work’s gone for naught,” he said, stroking her hair. “Or you’ll go mad. Believe me, I speak from experience.”
She drew back and looked up at him. “Ireland.” She’d spent many evenings hearing him talk about the failure of the United Irish Uprising in 1798, anger and regret sharp in his voice.
“And the Revolution.” Raoul had been a passionate supporter of the Revolution, but he’d found himself imprisoned in Les Carmes and had nearly gone to the guillotine. “One has to go on and do the best one can. Which I’m sure you’ll continue to do.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“Easy?” His voice cut with sudden force. “There’s nothing easy about it. Do you think I haven’t replayed every decision I’ve made a dozen times, haven’t asked myself–“ He shook his head. “But believe me, believe me, querida, you’ll find a way to go on. Because there’s no other choice.”
She stared at him, memories coming thick and fast. His hands tossing her into the saddle or showing her how to load a pistol. His voice drilling her on court protocol or correcting her accent. His arm secure round her as she drifted into sleep. The steady trust in his eyes when he sent her on her first mission. “Are you saying this is what you want?”
“No.” The short word held layers of meaning. “But I think it’s what’s best you for you.” He pushed her hair behind her ear with a tenderness that was somehow in very different key from the days when they’d been lovers.
“Since when does what’s best for any of us matter more than the cause?”
“My dear girl. I’m not nearly so single-minded or such a schemer as you make me out to be.” He hesitated a moment. “Philippe was killed.”
She bit her lip. Fresh tears stung her eyes. “I have a letter for his sweetheart.”
“Do you want me to–“
“No. I know where to send it.” She got to her feet and picked up her mantilla. “What will you do now?” she asked, running the black lace through her fingers.
“I’ll manage.”
She swung her gaze back to him. “You don’t trust me any more.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” He got to his feet as well. “But our interests no longer neatly align. No sense in putting either of us in an awkward situation.”
She nodded. Practicality, that was what was called for, and a cool head. She turned to the cracked looking glass and tried to pin her hair into some semblance of order.
Raoul leaned against the wall behind her. “In a few days or a few weeks you’re going to feel an intolerable burden of guilt. Try to remember that guilt is a singularly wasteful emotion.”
She met his gaze in the spotted looking glass. “Who says I’ll feel guilty?”
“My intuition. You won’t like the fact that you’ve betrayed your husband.”
She gave a rough laugh. “I’ve been betraying Charles from the day I married him. The day I met him if it comes to that.”
“But you could hide in the needs of the moment.”
She jabbed a pin into her knot of hair, hitting her scalp. “I’m used to living with sins on my conscience.”
”With peace you’ll find you have leisure to dwell on the past. To question actions, to replay decisions, to play the damnable game of what if.”
She pushed two more pins into her hair and draped the mantilla over her head. “What makes you so certain?”
“Because I’m quite sure I’ll be doing the same myself.”
She spun round to look at the man who had always subsumed guilt to the goal in front of him. He returned her gaze. The scars in his eyes had never been plainer. “Raoul–“
He gave a faint smile. “Don’t worry. It won’t be the first time I’ve pieced my life back together.”
She crossed the room to him, took his face between her hands, and kissed him on the lips for the first time since her marriage. For the last time. “Keep safe.”
He squeezed her shoulders for a moment, as though catching onto the past, then released her. “Look after your family, querida.”