I was in the midst of working on copy edits for Gilded Deceit this weekend when the news about the ban on refugees and travel from some predominantly Muslim countries hit. As readers of the series know, revelations about Suzanne’s past have sent Malcolm and Suzanne into exile. Exile in many ways is the theme of Gilded Deceit, with the Rannochs and their friends encountering other expatriates, including Lord Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley. I looked up from fine tuning their longing for home and conflicted thoughts about a home they’ve been forced to leave to read, appalled, about what is happening today. To worry about friends like a young Canadian, Iranian-born singer who now can’t visit her family in Canada for fear she can’t return to the U.S. Or another friend whose father-in-law now can’t come here to visit his toddler grandchildren. Other friends, artists, students, academics with young children, who now may not be able to travel to and from the country I call home. The plight of those one knows personally brings home the concrete reality, but far worse is the plight of refugees whose very lives are at stake. Many of those refugees have children my daughter’s age or younger. Yes, I tend to focus on the plight of children. Having a young child sends my thoughts in that direction.
Compared to these people, Malcolm and Suzanne and the other characters in Gilded Deceit are comparatively fortunate. They have a secure fortune, and Malcolm was careful in advance to move funds out of Britain. Malcolm even has a house (a very beautiful house) in Italy where they can seek refuge. They may have to look over their shoulder for Lord Carfax and the Elsinore League, but they have financial resources and their own skills as agents to fall back upon. That somehow drives home to me how bad the current situation is. We tend to think of progress. Of the world being a safer, saner, more just place now than it was two hundred years ago. As writers, we devise hair raising situations for our characters. Usually their plight is much worse than what one looks round and sees in the present day. Instead, I look at the news and at people I know personally and find myself thinking ‘“Malcolm and Suzanne are the lucky ones.”
Malcolm struggles a lot in Gilded Deceit with what it means to be British and what he’s done in Britain’s name. At one point he says, “Being loyal to a country doesn’t mean taking on the burdens of the men who run it.”
This weekend, I am having a similar struggle.