Mélanie's third birthday; photo: Raphael Coffey

Mélanie’s third birthday; photo: Raphael Coffey

Happy holidays! So sorry to have dropped out of sight for so long. I’ve been finishing my WIP, getting some of my old Regencies I wrote with my mom ready to go up as ebooks (more on that later), organizing celebrations for Mélanie’s third birthday on December 13, and then caught up in holiday chaos (above you see Mélanie and me on her birthday; below at The Nutcracker, on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and at the Houghton Hall Exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum). Here, as my holiday gifts to readers of this site, is a letter from Mélanie/Suzanne to Blanca about the Fraser/Rannoch holidays in 1817, just after the end of The Berkeley Square Affair.

Berkeley Square

27 December 1817

Dearest Blanca,

It seems odd to be writing to you at Christmas. Spending the holiday with you has been one of the few constant factors in my life for nearly a decade. I know, I’ve always said Christmas means little enough to me, which is true in the conventional sense of the holiday, but it’s a time of year to think of family and loved ones, And you’ve been my family longer than nearly anyone whose still with me. You and Raoul. I can see you frowning even as I write that, but while Raoul isn’t what he once was to me (don’t snort, Blanca), he will always be family. No one ever claimed family is uncomplicated.

Speaking of family, I hope you are having a wonderful holiday with Addison’s family. I know your qualms before you left, but from everything I have gleaned from Addison and Charles (and despite their reticence, one does glean something through the years) Mr. and Mrs. Addison sound like a sensible couple who love their son very much. And loving Addison, they can’t help but love you because you make him so very happy.

You are both sorely missed, but we had a singularly agreeable holiday. A phrase I would not have thought possible a month since. Indeed, I would not have thought Charles and I could be celebrating at all, except perhaps for the children. And yet— you know better than anyone how challenging it still is, but when Charles kissed me by the long case clock at midnight on Christmas Eve and said he couldn’t imagine life without me, I believed him. At least in that moment, and the moment if all we ever really have, isn’t it?

Colin was gleeful Christmas morning. He and Charles spent most of the day putting his new castle together. Jessica mostly played with the paper, though she seemed to quite like her stuffed rabbit.David and Simon were at Carfax Court, but Cordy and Harry and the girls came to dinner and Paul and Juliette and the children, Aline and Geoffrey and Claudia and Lady Frances. And Raoul. Don’t frown again, Blanca, it was Charles who invited him. In fact, he and Charles spent much of the evening trying to cap each other’s Shakespeare quotations and had to repair to the library to settle a dispute over an exchange between Falstaff and Prince Hal at one point. Laura Dudley actually had the correct answer, though with the discretion of a governess, she said she couldn’t be sure. Even Harry joined in the singing round the pianoforte after dinner, which Cordy said is something in the nature of a Christmas miracle (he has quite a nice voice).

Jessica’s is getting over a cold and wanted to cuddle and nurse much of the evening (which gave me a delightful excuse to sit and converse), but she was much better today. After we delivered Boxing Day baskets to Sophronia Neville, who holds an open house for families sorely in need of them, we took the children to the park. They ran and even rolled about on the grass and we bought them paper animals from a friendly street vendor that seemed to delight them as much as their more elaborate presents. We dined at Mivart’s with Cordy and Harry and Allie and Geoff and Frances and Raoul and all the children. In fact, Raoul hosted the dinner. He quite insisted on it when he heard we were all planning to dine out so our staffs’ could see their families. I asked Charles if he’d prefer to make other arrangements, but he said he thought it would be uncharitable not to go. If anyone ever claimed I’d be sitting down with Charles to a holiday dinner hosted by Raoul—

I feel ridiculously optimistic just now. I daresay I’ve fallen victim to holiday sentimentality, but it does give me hope for the future.

Do enjoy your holiday. We look forward to seeing you both in the New Year, and we have wedding plans to discuss when you return.

All my love,


I wore the sugar plum French gauze on Christmas, and the black net over champagne crêpe today. Mary Beth saw to it all the hooks and ties were properly done up and helped with my hair. And please assure Addison that Valentin is dong very well by  Charles. Not that either of you could possibly be replaced!

At San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker

At San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker

Christmas Eve lunch. photo: Raphael Coffey

Christmas Eve lunch. photo: Raphael Coffey

12.25.14TracyMelChristmas dinner. Photo: Cameron Bronstein
At the Houghton Hall Exhibit at the Legion of Honor

At the Houghton Hall Exhibit at the Legion of Honor