David & Simon



Hope everyone is having  a wonderful midwinter, however you celebrate! It’s been a very busy couple of months for me, with the release of Mission for a Queen and working madly away at Gilded Deceit so it can go the copy editor in the New Year. As always seems to happen with a book, there are moments I despair and moments I think it’s working rather well. On my current draft I’m quite excited about how the Rannochs’ adventures on Lake Como are shaping up.

In the flurry of preparing for the holidays, I thought it might be fun to speculate on what Malcolm and Suzanne and their friends might give each other, either in 1818 or if they lived today. We don’t know where Christmas of 1818 will find them, but we could speculate as though they are still in Italy – or wherever you prefer.

I think Malcolm would give Suzanne a garnet pendant surrounded by diamonds (I know he gave her another garnet pendant but she’s fond of the stone and this is a very different design). It could work in 1818 or 2016.


In 1818, Suzanne might give Malcolm a first edition of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (one of the books William Caxton printed) as a reminder of Britain and something he could read with the children. In 2016 she might give him the same thing (though probably not a first edition!) or perhaps a new iPad, since he might not get that for himself as it’s not as practical as a phone or a computer. And he might keep insisting he was fine with the old one with the cracked screen :-).

Raoul might give Laura a blue topaz necklace in 1818 or 2016, to go with the earrings he sent her before the ball in Incident in Berkeley Square. Laura might give Raoul framed pictures of her and Emily to take with him when he travels – miniatures in 1818, photos in folding travel case in 2016.

David might give Simon a ring in 1818 or 2016, though in 2016 the ring would go with a formal proposal.

What do you think these characters and others might give each other, in 1818 or today?



Happy holidays!



Mélanie seeing me off to the Merola Grand Finale last weekend. A fabulous end to a great summer program!

Mélanie seeing me off to the Merola Grand Finale last weekend. A fabulous end to a great summer program!

Last week’s survey post yielded some fascinating discussion on the series and characters. One point that particularly intrigue me was the idea of how the various characters might be happy and if it’s even desirable for every major character in the series to have a “happy and settled life.” Of course, in a series, as in real life, there’s no such thing as a “happy ending.” As Cordelia says “there’s always an after.” Even characters with the most seemingly settled lives could find their lives upended, which I think is part of what makes a series interesting, both to read and to write. That, and the fact that characters can arrive at happy lives and loves (at least “happily for now”) over multiple books.

But posters also raised the question of if we even want every character in a series to have a happy and settled life. Is that too easy? Should it be more like real life, with some characters remaining alone, some relationships falling apart, some perhaps proving less ideal than they seemed at the start? How do you feel about this, both in this series and in other series you read?

And even if one ultimately wants the major characters to arrive at a happy and settled life, what does that look like? Right now in the series, Rupert and Bertrand are happier and have a more settled life than they ever expected. They’re together, they’ve worked out an amicable relationship with Rupert’s wife Gabrielle (who has her own lover) and sharing the care of Rupert and Gabrielle’s son. Rupert’s father is essentially out of the picture. But their relationship still has to remain secret from all but their closest friends. It’s still, in fact, a hanging offense. Rupert isn’t on speaking terms with his father. We haven’t really dealt with Bertrand’s parents, but they probably at best only acknowledge the relationship by deliberately turning a blind eye to it. Are Rupert and Bertrand settled and happy?

What about Simon and David? Their relationship in some ways is more stable than that that of most of the married couples in the series. They’ve been together for a decade. But David is under increasing pressure to marry and produce an heir, from his family and from his own sense of responsibility. And there are ongoing political tensions between David, the liberal Whig who is still an aristocrat, and Simon, the Radical reformer.

Laura and Raoul seemed to be tentatively beginning a relationship of sorts at the end of Mayfair Affair. But Raoul was leaving for Spain, where rebellion against the restored monarchy is brewing, and warned Laura that he couldn’t promise he’d survive. He also pointed out that he had very little to offer her, including marriage. He has an estranged wife in Ireland. If Laura and Raoul’s emotional bonds grow but he’s away much of the time and their love affair has to remain more or less secret (like Rupert and Bertrand and Simon and David in a sense) are they settled and happy? If they were somehow able to marry but Raoul still disappeared for long stretches of time running crazy risks would that be settled and happy?

Though it hasn’t been discussed in the Rannoch universe, Bow Street Runner Jeremy Roth also has an estranged wife, who ran off years ago leaving him and their two sons, whom his sister is helping him raise. A number of readers have mentioned they’d like Roth to fall in love, but at present he’s in no position to marry. He too could have a secret relationship. Or, not being part of society, he might more easily be able to live with a lover without being married to her. Would that be settled and happy?

Of course even the couples who are married and more or less settled have tensions. Harry, I think, still wonders about Cordelia’s past, and Harry’s own past in the time they were apart may become an issue in the next book. Malcolm and Suzanne live with the threat of her past being exposed. Not to mention that they are still adjusting to the impact of Malcolm learning about her past (Suzanne says in Mayfair that she has more than she ever thought to have but it will never be the same), and their loyalties are almost bound to conflict at some point.

What do you think? Do you ultimately want settled and happy lives for the major characters? Do you at least want to feel they are moving towards them? Or do you prefer real world messiness? And if the former, how do you define settled and happy?

Have a great weekend!



Today was quite a day, from waking up to marriage equality news to walking past the rainbow lights on San Francisco’s City Hall and the War Memorial Opera House tonight and drinking in the full meaning of today’s events. There’s still so much in the world that needs changing, but it’s a very different landscape than in 1818. Particularly when it comes to marriage. I couldn’t but think of a scene I wrote recently in my WIP between David and Charles/Malcolm but focused on David and Simon and the challenges they face. David and Simon have such a stable relationship, that I sometimes don’t focus enough on the fact that not only can they not marry, their very relationship isn’t legal.


Minor spoilers in this for the very beginning of the next book. David and Simon are raising Louisa’s children. This is an early draft, so please forgive typos and editing errors!

Simon got to his feet. “I should be getting back to the Albany.”
David and Simon had shared rooms since their Oxford days, but after Louisa’s death, David had moved into the Craven house while Simon still at least nominally lived in the rooms they had once shared in the Albany. Simon, usually careless of appearances, was careful to preserve them for the children’s sake. The arrangement, Charles thought, couldn’t be comfortable for any of them.
Simon bent and gave David a quick hard kiss. There was a time when they’d have avoided such displays, even in front of Charles. It was almost as those the changed circumstances made it more important to establish the reality of their relationship. Whatever the reason, that at least, Charles thought, was progress.
“This can’t be easy on either of you,” Charles said when Simon had left the room.
David grimaced. “Simon’s a marvel. He’s the only one—including Bridget—who can get Jamie to sleep. We all nearly went mad one night when he had a late rehearsal.” He took a drink of whisky and stared into his glass. “It’s odd, I don’t think they saw Craven or even Louisa that much, but they sure as hell notice their absence.”
“There’s a difference between absence and knowing one will never see one’s parent again,” Charles said, remembering his own mother’s absences.
David tapped his fingers on the sofa arm. “Bel couldn’t have taken the children without neglecting her own. Mary’s got enough to deal with with her own husband’s death. Georgiana’s out of the country. Mother and Father— They found their own children challenging enough. And I told you what I think of Eustace and Lydia.”
“You don’t have to convince me,” Charles said. “I agree it was the best choice.” He leaned back in his chair. “I always thought you and Simon would make good parents.”
David shook his head. “I never thought— Simon didn’t ask for any of this.”
“I don’t see him complaining.”
“He’s being a saint. I hope— I keep thinking we’ll get back to something like normal.”
“I think every parent thinks that. Until they realize the new reality is normal.” Charles hesitated. “I don’t know that anyone would say anything if Simon stayed here. Rupert and Bertrand live together.”
“Rupert is married to Bertrand’s cousin. An uncomfortable situation for all of them but it has advantages.”
“True. But if Simon stayed here—“
“There’d be talk.” David drained his glass. “The children—“
“The children love you both. They’ll sort it out eventually.”
David shot a look at him. “Not everyone does.”
“I’m sorry,” Charles said. “I don’t mean to belittle the challenges.”
David got to his feet and refilled his glass. “A few of our friends accept us. Others—notably my parents—choose to be blind to what’s in front of them. Some others really are blind I suppose, or simply don’t have the imagination to see it.” He poured more whisky into Charles’s glass. “But still others are only too ready to gossip. And many to condemn.”
Charles looked at his friend, his chief confidante since they’d both been schoolboys Teddy’s age. He had shared things with David he hadn’t even shared with Suzanne. And yet— “You don’t talk this way often.”
David shrugged as he clunked down the decanter. “Nothing to be gained by dwelling. But it’s still a hanging offense.”
“My God.” Charles set his glass down hard on the chair arm. “We live in an appalling country.”
His wife would have said You only just discovered that? But David shook his head. “You don’t mean that. There are challenges, but they don’t outweigh all the things to honor and admire.”
“A country that condemns two of the finest people I know for loving each other has a lot to answer for.” And he was a member of that country’s government. As was David, though they both sat in the Opposition.
David sank down on the couch. He moved as though his bones ached. “It’s not as though every other country would welcome us with open arms. One grows used to living with secrets.”
Charles took a swallow of whisky that burned his throat. He knew a great deal about living with secrets since he’d learned his wife had been a Bonapartist agent. But for once he couldn’t confide in David.

The Albany, where David and Simon have rooms

The Albany, where David and Simon have rooms

Above is The Albany, in Piccadilly, where David and Simon have lodgings, and where Malcolm lived before he went to the Peninsula. A number of famous gentlemen lodged in The Albany, including Lord Byron, Gladstone and the fictional Ernest/Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest. The Mayfair Affair includes scenes set in David and Simon’s rooms in The Albany. The Duke of Trenchard, who is murdered at the start of the book, is the husband of David’s eldest sister Mary, so David and Simon are caught up in the investigation. The involvement of the Mallinson family puts a lot of strain on Malcolm’s friendship with David.

Have a wonderful weekend!


11.17.12TracyMelHappy mid-winter holiday season! I’m starting to relax into the holiday season despite the seemingly ever-increasing To Do list – this year complicated by a certain one-year-old birthday party and having a new release out.

As I’ve been taking time to promote His Spanish Bride, it occurs to me that the story of Malcolm and Suzanne’s wedding combines two literary traditions – wedding stories and holiday stories. I have a fondness for both types of story, from wedding stories like The Philadelphia Story and Busman’s Honeymoon to holiday tales like Lauren Willig’s delightful The Mischief of the Mistletoe and Deanna Raybourn’s new novella Silent Night. I think what i like about both types of story is that they bring together friends and family with plentiful opportunity for conflicts, reunions, and revelry. Parents and children, sibling rivalry, ex-lovers home for the holidays or attending the same wedding–or perhaps one disrupting the wedding of another. Jane Austen recognized the benefit of such gatherings for bringing characters together. Emma opens with a wedding and includes a holiday party.

Both weddings and holidays involve certain traditions which give a frame to the story yet to which individual characters give their own unique spin. It’s fun seeing fictional characters, even historical ones, go through some of the same traditions we go through ourselves, and also fun to see the differences. Malcolm and Suzanne’s wedding takes place at the British embassy and is wrapped up in the investigation of a missing letter that could drive a wedge between Britain and her Spanish allies in the war against the French.They slip away from their betrothal party for a bit of skullduggery, and Suzanne arrives at the solution to the mystery on their wedding night. Both their motives for entering into the marriage are complicated, and perhaps they are even deceiving themselves about the true reasons. The story ends at an embassy Christmas party at which, again typically for them, Malcolm and Suzanne are wrapping up the investigation.

What are some of your favorite holiday and wedding stories?

Speaking of the holidays, with this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition, I’ve jumped to December 1815 with letter from Mel/Suzette to Simon.

Imperial Scandal has been out for over a week, and I know some people have read it, so I thought this would be a good time to start a discussion thread. All comments and questions welcome (even if you haven’t read the book). To get the discussion going, I thought I’d pose one of the questions from the Reading Group Guide, which I think goes to the heart of the

1. Suzanne, Cordelia, Julia, Jane, and Simon all betray (or in Simon’s case withhold information from) the men in their lives in different ways. How do the betrayals compare? Which do you think is the most devastating?

Speaking of betrayals, I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from Mel/Suzanne to Raoul just after her arrival in Brussels.

I’ve just posted a new letter to the Fraser Correspondence in which Charles/Malcolm writes to David about Eithne returning to England and Fitz going off to India. Various types of marriages are a theme that runs through my books, and Eithne and Fitz’s marriage, ideal on the surface, certainly holds it’s share of challenges. This seemed a good time to focus on another of the Vienna Waltz discussion questions.

Compare and contrast Suzanne and Malcolm’s marriage with Fitz and Eithne’s, from their reasons for marrying, to their secrets and betrayals.

I’ll give away another signed coverflat for Imperial Scandal to one of this week’s commenters.

In honor of The Mask of Night’s recent release on Nook, I thought this week I’d open the blog up to a Mask of Night discussion. I originally envisioned The Mask of Night as the study of three marriages – Charles and Mélanie, Isobel and Oliver, David and Simon. As the story evolved, it also deals with the marriages of the Pendarveses and the St. Iveses, as well as the long-term relationship between Hortense Bonaparte and the Comte de Flahaut.

All of these relationships are in crisis or experience crises in the course of the story. Which relationship would you say suffers the most damage in the course of the book? Which couple is back on the most stable footing by the end of the story? Which character do you think betrays his or her partner in the most unforgivable way?

In general, do you like stories about married couples? What are some of your favorite literary portraits of a marriage?

I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter in which Mélanie/Suzanne writes to Raoul with some distraction about Charles/Malcolm’s confessions about the attack on Acquera that supposedly killed her family. And I’ve added two new services to my Editorial and Marketing Services page, editing and drafting query letters.

David Mallinson and Simon Tanner are two of my favorite characters from the series. David is Charles’s best friend, the heir to an earldom, a burden he takes very seriously (his father is the wily spymaster Lord Carfax). Simon is David’s lover, friends with David and Charles from their Oxford days, now a playwright with pronounced radical views (which tend to push beyond the bounds of thinking of the liberal Whig David). It was a lot of fun to return to David and Simon in Imperial Scandal. This month’s teaser is a brief glimpse of the scene where they arrive in Brussels. It’s the day after the Duchess of Richmond’s ball, the day of the battle of Quatre Bras.


Cordelia broke off at the sound of carriage wheels rattling to s stop directly below. She and Mélanie ran to the window to see that a post chaise had pulled up before the house.
“That must be the only carriage to come into Brussels today,” Cordelia said.
The door opened before the coachman had let down the steps. A tall man with strongly marked features and smooth dark uncovered hair sprang down, quickly followed by a slightly less tall man with pale skin and wavy brown hair showing beneath the curling brim of a beaver hat.
“Good heavens,” Mélanie said. She spun round, pausing to scoop up Colin who had run out of the nursery and was tugging at her skirts, and hurried down the stairs and across the hall to the front door. She pushed it open, ignoring Valentin, to find David Mallinson, Viscount Worsley, and Simon Tanner on the front steps.
“Melly.” A grin broke across Simon’s angular face. “You’re a sight for sore eyes. You see, David, I told you she wouldn’t have turned craven and fled to Antwerp.”
Mélanie nearly laughed from the sheer relief of seeing familiar, friendly faces. Still holding Colin, she leaned forward to hug first Simon, then David.
Colin surveyed them with a serious gaze.
“Good day, young chap,” Simon said. “I don’t suppose you remember us. It’s been nearly a year.”
“Your Uncle Simon and your Uncle David,” Mélanie said. “Two of Daddy’s best and oldest friends.”
Colin shook hands solemnly.
“David! Simon!” Aline came running down the hall like the schoolgirl she had been not so very long ago and hugged both men.
“Mrs. Blackwell.” David spun her round. “I haven’t seen you since you’ve been a married woman.”
“I’m precisely the same. Save that I’m going to have a baby.”
“And this is Lady Cordelia Davenport.” Mélanie turned to Cordelia who had followed her down the stairs. “She and her daughter are staying with us, as is Aline.”
“David and I’ve known each other since we were in the nursery,” Cordelia said, shaking David’s hand. “Mr. Tanner, we met once at Carfax Court years ago. I’ve enjoyed many of your plays.”
Simon grinned. “You’re a diplomat, Lady Cordelia.”
“And you and David are either exceedingly brave or exceedingly foolhardy to be traveling into Brussels today of all days.”
“As it happens my father sent us,” David said. “With messages for Charles.”
David’s father was Lord Carfax, unofficial head of British intelligence. It wasn’t unusual for him to send messages to Charles, but David was an unusual choice of messenger. “I’m afraid Charles is off on an errand,” Mélanie said.
“Leaving you alone?” David’s brows rose.
“Not for the first or last time. And it’s not as though there’s a great deal he could do if the French do come marching through.” A cannonade rumbled through the air to punctuate her words. “Miles off,” she said in a brisk voice. “Let’s get your bags unloaded and then come into the salon for some refreshment.”
“The line of carriages going out of Brussels was worse than the crush outside a Mayfair ball,” Simon said a quarter hour later, relaxing into a corner of one of the sofas with a glass of sherry. “Of course we galloped briskly through, even if we did get some odd looks at some of the posting houses. Not to mention stories to rival any fiction I could devise. According to some accounts the French were already in Brussels.”
David leaned forward, face drawn. “Have you had any news?”
“Not since last night.” Mélanie quickly brought the two men up to date on what they knew, with Cordelia and Aline filling in bits and pieces.
“Nothing to do but wait,” Aline concluded.
“Damnable.” Simon took a quick sip of sherry. “Whatever I thought of the war in the first place.”
Cordelia cast a quick glance at him.
“Some of us argued strenuously that there were other ways to deal with Bonaparte,” he said. “David did so quite eloquently in the House, to his father’s horror.”
David shook his head. “Even the Prime Minister had his doubts at first. But that’s all changed.”
“I rather think my husband might agree with you about there being other ways,” Cordelia said. “But nobody asked him, as he’d be quick to point out.”
“It’s done now,” David said. “We can but hope for victory.”
Mélanie took a sip of sherry.


Which characters from the series would you most like to see make a return appearance?

This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter from Mélanie/Suzanne to Raoul after Charles/Malcolm’s arrest.

Only a month until Vienna Waltz is published. I just received a lovely new box of ARCs from my publisher. So to celebrate and get through the nerve-wracking month until publication, every week from now until its March 29 publication date, I’ll give away another ARC to a commenter.

As I settle in front of the tv to enjoy movie clips and gorgeous gowns for Academy Awards Sunday, it seems appropriate to have a movie-themed contest. To be entered in this week drawing for an ARC, post your casting choices for Charles/Malcolm, Mélanie/Suzanne, and/or any of the other characters in any of the book in the series.

Or, say the characters were transplanted the present day, and Simon was nominated for Best Screenplay (probably adapted from one of his plays). Simon, David, and Charles would all be in classic tuxes. What would Mélanie wear? You can describe a dress, name a designer, or reference a gown from tonight’s awards show.

I’ll post the winner next week. If you’ve already received an ARC, do feel free to discuss the book, here or elsewhere, if you feel so inclined.

Following up on the Fraser Correspondence letters the last two weeks for Lady Elizabeth and Raoul, I’ve just posted one from a young Charles to Raoul at the same time.

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