Fraser Correspondence

photo: Raphael Coffey

photo: Raphael Coffey

Happy Valentine’s weekend! As a Valentine’s treat, here are some snippets of letters between the characters. They’re from Valentine’s Day 1818, before The Mayfair Affair (to skip ahead to Valentine’s Day 1819 would spoil about the next three books).  Malcolm is responding to Suzanne’s letter that I posted last year.

What’s your favorite romantic line from the series?

Hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Harry Davenport to Cordelia Davenport

One of the areas in which I’ve never doubted myself is my ability to put pen to paper. At least when it comes to translating the words of others. Or writing my own commentary on them. Or drafting field notes, in or out of code. But when it comes to you I’ve never been very good at putting things into words, on paper or in person. Suffice it to say, only you could make me take seriously a day I have so long sneered at. Happy Valentine’s Day, Cordy, with all my heart.

Lady Frances Dacre-Hammond to an undisclosed correspondent

I can’t remember when I last wrote to anyone on St. Valentine’s Day. Or acknowledged the holiday at all come to think of it. I’ve received some rather dull overblown verses on 14 February through the years, but actually writing myself? I rather feel I should fight against this traitorous impulse. And yet I feel the most absurd compulsion to pick up my pen and write Happy Valentine’s Day, darling. You see what you’ve brought me to?

Bertrand Laclos to Rupert Caruthers

It’s only a day after all. I know that’s why you’d say. And a day we never could acknowledge very much. And what does a day matter now we’re together most days. And yet— When I got the news from France my first thought was “But it’s Valentine’s Day.” Rather absurd, given what we’ve been through, but it’s not Valentine’s Day so much as Valentine’s Day with you. Which of course shouldn’t stand against helping those in need, which I also know you’d say. Which is one of the many reasons I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day, beloved. I’ll be back as soon as I can.

Aline Blackwell to Geoffrey Blackwell

I never used to understand why Judith got so excited about Valentine’s Day, long before she was old enough to have a Valentine of her own. All the fuss about trinkets and ruffles and quoting (often bad) poetry. I still don’t carry about all of that. But I do quite like spending Valentine’s Day with you. No different in a way than any other day of the year, and yet— Happy Valentine’s Day, Geoff.
Lord Carfax to Lady Carfax

How many years is it? And how many 14 Februarys have I spent in meetings or buried in my study or been gone for entirely? You understand, of course, Amelia. You always understand. No man could have a better wife.

Simon Tanner to David Worsley

The problem with being a writer is that one expected to come up with clever things on occasions that involve the written word. Particularly hard on an occasion that drips in sentimentality. An occasion I’d once have been inclined to mock but now find I have no desire toYou mean the world to me, David. I hope tonight you’ll give me the chance to show you just how much.

Malcolm Rannoch to Suzanne Rannoch

Tears welling up in one’s eyes while in the midst of discussing political strategy has a most interesting affect on a group of M.P.s gathered at Brooks’s. I wish you could have seen it. You’re letter meant an incalculable amount to me, sweetheart. I’ll be home soon. Happy Valentine’s Day.


Mélanie’s fourth birthday photo: Bonnie Glaser

Hope everyone’s holiday season is fun and not too hectic. It’s a busy time for us with Mélanie’s birthday on 13 December and lots of fun celebrations with family and friends. It’s also a busy time for the Rannochs/Frasers. I realized that a holiday letter for 1818 would contain spoilers for where the series is going. Last year I posted a letter from Suzanne to Blanca at Christmas 1817. Here are excerpts from a few other letters and notes written by the characters over that holiday season.

Happy holidays!!


Suzanne to Lady Isobel Lydgate

The trouble with the holidays is that at the same time one is scrambling madly to get everything ready, there is a constant round of frivolity and one feels positively guilty for not enjoying it or for regretting that a party of pantomime or round of holiday calls takes one away from shopping or wrapping gifts or assembling baskets for the servants or the dozens of other things that need to be done. Not that I don’t enjoy it. I do, far more than I ever would have thought. But at times I feel as if I’m jugging ten plates at once. Lying in bed last night trying to remember if I still had one more parcel to pick up from the toymaker and if I had sent in the measurements for Jessica’s new frock, it occurred to me that Malcolm (who was sound asleep) doesn’t have the least idea quite much planning truly goes into the holiday. Or perhaps he appreciates the amount of work (he certainly says as much) but doesn’t know quite how frazzled I get. Because, of course, I’m at pains not to let him see…

Lady Frances to her sister Marjorie

I trust Father is settled in. I rather regret him not staying in London for the holiday, but I expect he will enjoy it more in the country. I confess to feeling rather more holiday-ish than I usually do. Perhaps it’s the children. Claudia keeps looking about her with wide eyes at the decorations. I don’t think she remembers Christmas last year so she’s delightfully free of expectations. But Chloe never stops peppering me with questions about her gifts. Archie Davenport is keeping the puppy until Christmas Eve, which is very kind of him. I can only imagine the chaos our household will be thrown into by a small dog, but I confess the creature is quite engaging. I went to see the puppy at Archie’s yesterday. Raoul O’Roarke was there as well, and Malcolm and Suzanne have invited him for Christmas. Rather nice to have him about again. We go to Malcolm and Suzanne’s Christmas night. She seems to be outdoing herself this year – the tree is magnificent, garlands wound round the bannister, burgundy ribbon everywhere. Malcolm, thankfully, seems to have the sense to appreciate her efforts. In fact he’s seems more than usually solicitous of her this year. I  almost wonder— But I won’t speculate.

Malcolm to David

I trust you are surviving Carfax Court. In truth, my memories of holidays with your family are some of my happiest until I married Suzanne. Not that I am not fully appreciative of the stresses. I’m glad Simon went with you,though of course we miss you both. I expect I shall particularly miss you Christmas Day when I put together Colin’s new castle. Do you remember the hours we spent arranging yours in the Carfax Court nursery? Have I said lately what your friendship means to me?

Cordelia to Suzanne

Did Livia leave Portia in Berkeley Square this afternoon? Underneath the console table in the drawing room? And what are you wearing tonight?

Malcolm to Suzanne (left on her pillow Christmas morning)

The holidays never really meant anything to me until you. That’s never been more true than this year. Happy Christmas, sweetheart.

photo: Lesley Grant

photo: Lesley Grant

Happy Valentine’s weekend! Mélanie and I spent the afternoon making Valentines and Valentine’s cookies with my sister (photo above). Yesterday we took Valentines and cookies to my co-workers at Merola. She’s really getting into the holiday this year – fun seeing it through her eyes.

Last year I posted a Valentine letter from Charles/Malcolm to Mélanie/Suzanne. This year I thought I would post one from Mel/Suzette to Charles/Malcolm. It’s written the Valentine’s Dan after The Berkeley Square Affair, just a few weeks before The Mayfair Affair.

Hope everyone’s Valentine’s Day is filled with treats and delights!


14 February 1818

Berkeley Square


I’m still not sure if I’ll send this. Dangerous to put feelings to paper in our line of work. Dear God it feels good to be able to say that to you and to know you’ll understand just what I mean. I’m so sorry you’ve been through all of this. But there are moments I fight off one of those waves of panic I’ve learned to live with since our marriage, draw a breath, and feel the tension rush from my lungs because the truth is between us.

I used to laugh at Valentine’s Day. The first year we were married. I was shocked that you remembered it. I knew by then that you took our marriage far more seriously than I had thought going into it, but I didn’t think you were the sort for sentiment. I hadn’t yet quite grasped the gulf between what you’ll say and what you feel. Or that perhaps you understood just how much it means to me sometimes to be fussed over. I don’t think I ever told you how much I grew to anticipate Valentine’s Day. The rose on my breakfast tray. The jewel box under my pillow. The morning I woke to you playing a new piece Schubert had sent you in the sitting room.

The day could never but remind me that I was a fraud though. If anyone had told me we’d ever celebrate it with the truth in the open between us, I’d have laughed in their faces. There were times when I thought you saw the real me, but those lovely, romantic gifts and gestures belonged to someone else. The woman who was half a creation of my acting ability, half of the generous filter through which you’ve always viewed me.

So this year is different. I don’t have a role to hide behind. Hard, with the masks stripped away, to know what to say. So perhaps I should fall back upon the truth. What a novel idea.

I love you, Charles, with all my heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

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

12.18.13TracyMelHope everyone is having a warm and wonderful midwinter holiday season. As we step into the new year, here is a glimpse of the Fraser/Rannoch holiday in 1817, after The Paris Affair, in the form of a letter from Mélanie/Suzanne to Dorothée. I’ll later archive this letter to the Fraser Correspondence.

Happy New Year!

Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
30 December 1815

Dearest Doro,

Paris does seem empty without you, especially at the holidays. Colin can’t understand why Oncle Tally didn’t have a tree at the Hôtel de Talleyrand. I tried to explain that it was your custom, not Talleyrand’s, and that perhaps Talleyrand was missing you as well and didn’t want to be reminded. I think Colin understood. Better than one would expect, as so often seems to be the case, which is quite wonderful and sometimes a bit terrifying.

We missed you but had a quite lovely Christmas, a mix of traditions. At Colin’s insistence we put up a tree. In the salon as we knew we couldn’t equal the majesty of yours in the French embassy hall, but it filled the house with same wonderful pine fragrance. Even Charles quite got into the spirit of making garlands for it. I think he liked starting a holiday tradition that’s quite separate from childhood memories. We  also had marrons glacé and  spiced wine and Russian and Austrian pastries and of course champagne.

I looked round our Christmas dinner table and thought it was a good way to measure the events of the past year, both in terms of those who’s been with us in past years and the new faces. Harry and Cordelia and Livia are in the later category, though a new Davenport was present if not precisely visible yet. Cordelia is expecting a baby in the autumn. She’s very excited, but it’s Harry who keeps looking at her with utter wonder. And yes, it does make me wonder about adding to our own family, though I haven’t even spoken of it with Charles yet. I want to be absolutely sure.

Willie was with us as well, of course. She looked quite splendid and seemed in good spirits. Perhaps better spirits without Stewart, though I know the end of the affair was difficult.

And then there were the new faces. The Cartuhers/Lacloses–Rupert. Bertrand, Gabrielle, Gui, young Stephen. Heartening to see them all on so comfortable in each other’s presence. I never thought to see such now on Rupert’s face. I caught a few wistful moments from Gabrielle but her affection for Bertrand is obvious and she seems easier with Rupert. I hope she finds someone of her own. Gui seems easier as well. Difficult to connect the man romping on the floor with the children with man ready to turn his back on his family a few months before. We had a lovely letter from Paul and Juliette, who seem to be settling in well in London. Lady Frances and David and Simon have been very kind to them. Paul is going to paint sets for a new Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Tavistock. Simon has also engaged Manon Caret who will play Titania, and I suspect will take London by storm.

We go to Harry and Cordelia’s for New Year’s Eve and will stay the night. I hope the New Year brings you much joy and that we get to see you in the course of 1817.

All my love,


Charles gave me the most beautiful pair of silver quatrefoil earrings for Christmas. I knew you would ask!

Congratulations to Jessica, who won last week’s drawing for a copy of Vienna Waltz. Jessica, watch for an email from me so I can get your mailing details and pop the book in the post.

It’s been an exciting few days leading up to an exciting week. The Mask of Night was released on Kindle last Thursday, and Vienna Waltz’s official release date is March 29, this coming Tuesday. To celebrate, this week I thought we’d have a virtual book party with an open discussion thread about both books. About The Mask of Night in particular, since it’s been out a few days, but I know Vienna Waltz has been trickling into stores already and some of you received advance copies. So feel free to comment on or ask questions about both books (questions welcome even if you haven’t read the books). We’ll have another Vienna Waltz thread next week as well.

You may also have noticed that my website has a new look, thanks to my fabulous web designer and wonderful friend Gregory Paris. You’ll find detail pages now for both Vienna Waltz and Mask, with excerpts and historical notes. There’s also a new FAQ that answers some common questions about my books, in particular the order of the books. Do let me know how you like the site redesign and if you have more questions for the FAQ.

This week the Fraser Correspondence moves to November 18, just two days before the opening of Vienna Waltz, with a letter Mélanie/Suzanne writes to Raoul when Charles/Malcolm has disappeared unexpectedly during the night. I’ve decided to keep it the Fraser Correspondence (rather than Rannoch) and keep the Mélanie and Charles names. I hope this won’t be too confusing. If you’ve come to my books through Vienna Waltz, Mélanie and Charles Fraser are alter egos for Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch and the letters I’m posting now describe events just before and then during Vienna Waltz. If you scroll a ways down in the Correspondence, you’ll find more letters from a bit earlier in their time at the Congress, that I wrote while I was researching the book.

Following up on some suggestions from Sharon (thanks, Sharon!), this week’s update focuses on Charles’s mother, Lady Elizabeth Fraser (in Vienna Waltz, she’s Lady Arabella Rannoch). This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter Elizabeth writes to Raoul in January 1799 (shortly after he’s had to flee the country in the wake of the United Irish Uprising). I hadn’t written a letter from Elizabeth before, but I found her voice came to me surprisingly easily. Below is a teaser from Vienna Waltz, a brief flashback to Charles/Malcolm’s boyhood in which Elizabeth/Arabella appears. Oddly, it wasn’t until some comments AnnaT made on last week’s post that I realized Elizabeth’s problems carry an echo of Percy Blakeney’s mother. An echo that wasn’t consciously done but perhaps was somewhere in my subconscious.

Do you have any questions about Elizabeth or Charles’s family or the characters’ backstory in general? Ask away!


Charles’s first memories of Prince Talleyrand went back to the age of five. He and his brother had been riding in their mother’s barouche in Hyde Park, a rare treat. An elegant gentleman leaning on a walking stick stopped to speak with their mother. A cloud of powder rose from his hair as he bent in a courtly bow. Charles could still remember how the powder had tickled his nose (powder was becoming a rare sight in London by 1792). Talleyrand kissed their mother’s hand. When she introduced the two boys he nodded with a serious acknowledgement adults rarely afforded them.
“I know who you are,” Charles said, studying this interesting new acquaintance clad in the sort of full-skirted coat his grandfather wore. “You helped overthrow King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette.”
His mother drew a sharp breath, though a hint of laughter showed in her eyes. “Charles, that isn’t precisely–“
“On the contrary, Elizabeth. He is a perceptive boy. Just what I would expect from a son of yours.” Talleyrand inclined his head toward Charles. “You are quite right, Master Fraser. Though I fear matters have taken a sad turn in France just now. That is why I am enjoying the hospitality of your lovely country.”

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions for ways Lauren Willig’s characters and mine might meet up. Congratulations to Ammy Belle, who won the drawing for an advance copy of Lauren’s The Orchid Affair. Ammy Belle, watch for an email from me or if you see this first, email Lauren with your address so she can send the book on it’s way. And huge thanks to Lauren for sharing this early copy of her book!

This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter that Mélanie leaves with Raoul for Colin in the event he learns the truth about her, and she isn’t there to talk to him. It follows up on last week’s letter that Mel left for Charles in the same circumstances. This week’s post topic is an open thread on the Fraser Correspondence. What do you think of these letters from Mel to Charles and Colin? Which characters would you like to see letters from to which other character? What topics/incidents would you like to see discussed? Do the Fraser Correspondence letters add to your reading of the books? Do you have a favorite letter? Any anything else you’d like to ask or bring up!