Harry Davenport


Melanie and I have seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie twice this weekend (there were are above at dinner after the second viewing, with some new B&B treasures). I haven’t felt such pure joy at a movie in a very long while (probably not since the Kenneth Branagh Much Ado About Nothing, a very different movie but the final images have a certain similarity and I left the theatre with a similar feeling).  It’s magical film, brilliant on multiple levels. It left me crying(to my daughter’s confusion), grinning with sheer joy, and and marveling at the craft. Mélanie loved it too (“I think this is my favorite Belle story.”).
It also left me feeling creatively inspired. I haven’t done much with a Beauty and the Beast story line I realize. Possibly Harry and Cordy – perhaps more than I realized. Harry might not call himself a beast, but he certainly has a caustic exterior and he tends to stay barricaded in his house with his books. Cordelia is certainly a beauty. Harry doesn’t keep her prisoner, but he does marry her knowing she loves another man and is desperate to escape her parents’  house (something he later regrets, not for his sake but for hers, because he wanted her so much he didn’t pay attention to what she wanted/needed). They bond partly over books and she has to leave him, know he will let her go, and then come back to him and have him almost die in her arms to realize she loves him. Harry’s transformation is less dramatic than Beast to Prince, but we do see him change from a bitter loner to a loving father and husband.
I’m gong to ponder more parallels. When Suzanne marries Malcolm she moves into a world almost as alien as the Beast’s castle and at times she feels trapped by her masquerade, but she goes into it willingly to spy on Malcolm. She is shocked to fall in love with him, but she knows he’s a good person from the first.
I will say Ewan McGregor as Lumière convinces me more than ever that he’s right for Bertrand in my fantasy casting and that Emma Watson is my image for Selena in Gilded Deceit.
Who else has seen Beauty & the Beast?

9.19.15TracyMelBenvenuto

Happy Thursday!Recently I was looking through Imperial Scandal and found myself thinking about the letter Harry writes to Cordelia, that he gives to Malcolm to give to her in the event of his death. Of course Malcolm never does give it to Cordelia, and the reader never sees it. I found myself wondering what Harry wrote. I thought I would try writing it and perhaps find a way to include it in my WIP. Not sure about that, but I thought I would at least share it here.

So glad some of you are rediscovering the Google + Group. To those who haven’t, please check it out. Betty is making it really fun! And be sure to check out the teaser for Incident In Berkeley Square that I posted.

Have a great weekend!

Tracy

Cordelia,
So much to say and so little. I told you the practicalities at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. You’re good at taking care of yourself and our daughter. I have no doubt you will continue to be so. Above all, I want you both to be happy.
Even in the time we lived together I don’t think I properly conveyed what you mean to me. I said I was fool enough to think having you on any terms was worth it. For your sake I regret it. I was willfully blind to who you were and what you needed for which I will never forgive myself. But for myself I have no regrets. Every moment we had together was worth it. Especially these last few days in Brussels.
Livia is remarkable. I have no doubt you’ll continue to raise her as ably as you’ve done for the past three and a half years. But I’ll be forever grateful that I had the chance to meet her. You might tell her that one day, that meeting her was one of the proudest moments of her father’s life.
I love you, Cordy. I will with my dying breath.
Yours with all my heart,
H.D.

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!

Tracy

Imperial Scandal

One of history’s most famous social engagements was two hundred years ago today. 15 June 1815. The ball given by the Duchess of Richmond in Brussels at which Wellington got word that Napoleon’s forces were on the move and Napoleon had “hoodwinked: him by attacking in a different direction from what he had anticipated. Officers rode to battle in ball dress (Waterloo was not the next day but 18 June, with the fighting at Quatre Bras in the interim).

In honor of the anniversary, here is an excerpt of how the scene plays out in Imperial Scandal.

When the meal came to an end, the spell that had held the company under some semblance of illusion that they were at an ordinary ball well and truly broke. Malcolm was claimed by Stuart, Davenport by Colonel Canning. Raoul met Suzanne’s gaze briefly across the supper room. It was, she knew, the only good-bye they would have.

By the time Suzanne and Cordelia stepped back into the hall it was a scene of chaos. Soldiers calling for their horses, girls darting across the floor, tripping over their skirts, shouting the names of their beloveds, parents scanning the crowd for sons. The musicians had begun to play again in the ballroom, but the strains of the waltz vied with the call of bugles and the shrill song of fifes from outside. A broken champagne glass scrunched under Suzanne’s satin slipper. By the dining room door a young captain stood holding the hands of a girl in orange blossom crêpe. A little farther off a girl in pink muslin had sunk to the floor, weeping into her hands. Suzanne felt Cordelia go still beside her.

A man in a rifleman’s uniform brushed past them, a girl in white on his arm. Suzanne suppressed a start at the sight of those finely molded features. Then she forced her gaze away. The ghosts of her past seemed irrelevant in the chaos of the present.

“Suzanne.” Georgiana touched her arm. “I’m going to help March pack up his things.” She glanced toward the ballroom. “I can’t believe people are so heartless as to still be dancing.”

Cordelia drew a harsh breath. “I wouldn’t be too hard on them. It may be their last chance.”

***

“Malcolm. Glad I found you.” Stuart gripped Malcolm’s arm, his face uncharacteristically grim. He jerked his head toward the Duke of Richmond’s study. Malcolm followed the ambassador into the room to find Wellington and the Duke of Richmond already there, amid the ranks of books and the smell of old leather and dusty paper. Richmond was spreading a map out on the desk.

“Napoleon has humbugged me by God!” Wellington glanced at the door as Malcolm and Stuart stepped into the room. “He has gained twenty-four hours’ march on me. And separated us from the Prussians.”

“What do you intend doing?” the Duke of Richmond asked. He was a soldier himself, in command of the reserves in Brussels. Three of his sons were in the army, and Malcolm knew Richmond himself had been displeased not to receive an appointment on Wellington’s staff.

Wellington moved to the desk and stared down at the map. “I have ordered the army to concentrate at Quatre Bras, but we shan’t stop him there, and if so,” he said, pressing his thumb down on the map, “I must fight him here.”

Malcolm moved to the duke’s side to see what he was pointing at. Wellington’s thumbnail rested on a small village called Waterloo.

***

“Rannoch.” Davenport fell in beside Malcolm outside the door of the duke’s study. “What did Hookey have to say?”

“That Bonaparte has humbugged him. He’s gained a day’s march on us and separated us from the Prussians.”

Davenport grimaced. “Exile apparently hasn’t dulled Boney’s brilliance. It looks as though I’m back to being a staff officer. I’m off to Fleurus with a message. I don’t know if I’ll get back to Brussels before the fighting starts. Tony Chase–”

“I’ll talk to him.” Malcolm nearly said more, but he wasn’t quite ready to share the suspicions roiling in his head. “You need to find Lady Cordelia and make your farewells.”

Two cavalry officers pushed past them. A girl in blue ran up and seized one by the arm. Davenport glanced at them for a moment, then turned his gaze back to Malcolm. “Look, Rannoch.” His voice was clipped. “I know Cordelia. I’ve no illusions she’ll go home or even to Antwerp.”

“I shouldn’t think so. Suzanne wouldn’t, either.”

A smile of acknowledgment tugged at Davenport’s mouth. “And Wellington wouldn’t thank me for considering defeat. But I have a healthy respect for Napoleon Bonaparte. Should the unthinkable happen–”

Malcolm gripped his friend’s shoulder. He had many acquaintances but few friends. He realized Davenport had become one of them. “I’ll make sure Lady Cordelia and your daughter get to safety. My word on it.”

Davenport met his gaze, for once with no hint of mockery. “Thank you.”

Davenport strode off in search of his wife. Malcolm spared a brief thought for what it would be like to say farewell to Suzanne with such a nightmare of estrangement between them. Then he pushed the thought to where personal thoughts had to go at times like these and glanced round the chaos of the hall for Anthony Chase. Soldiers pushed past, white-gloved fingers clutched scarlet-coated arms, shouts for horses and calls to husbands, wives, sweethearts, children, parents cut the air. Malcolm saw a flash of green and a bright gold head near the front door and pushed his way through the crowd, only to find it was a lieutenant in the 95th rather than Chase.

He turned back toward the ballroom and saw a familiar face. “March. Are you off?”

“When I’ve seen my parents,” Lord March said. “Georgy helped me pack.”

“You haven’t seen Tony Chase by any chance, have you?”

“Not since supper, I think. Probably slipped off to say good-bye to his latest mistress.” March grimaced with distaste. “I’ve always thought Jane Chase deserved better.”

“I won’t argue with you there. Though one can’t deny Chase’s bravery at Truxhillo.”

“No, though if you ask me half of his success was the French being so bloody incompetent.”

“I was in Andalusia at the time,” Malcolm said. “I think the accounts I’ve heard were rather exaggerated.”

March frowned. “It’s odd. Tony Chase asked me about that.”

“About the accounts being exaggerated?”

“Where you were at the time, of all things. Seemed to think you were on a mission near Truxhillo.”

Malcolm felt his pulse quicken. “When was this?”

“Fortnight or so ago. Wellington’s ball for Blücher perhaps? One of the endless round of parties we’ve been attending. The days have a way of running together.”

Malcolm gripped the other man’s arm. “Thank you, March. Look after yourself.”

“Always do, old fellow.”

Malcolm scanned the hall for Tony Chase again. Finding him had suddenly become a matter of pressing urgency.

***

“Harry.” Cordelia skidded over fallen roses and shards of broken champagne glasses on the hall floor. “Thank God. I was afraid you’d left.”

“Cordy.” He was standing by the base of the stairs, drawing on his gloves. She thought, inconsequentially, that he must have had them off since supper. Absurd the way one’s mind worked at such moments. “You’re staying in Brussels?” he asked.

“Don’t try to argue me out of–”

He gave a faint smile. “I wouldn’t dream of it. This is no time to waste one’s breath. But in the event it becomes necessary, Rannoch can help you get back to England.”

She nodded, swallowing her surprise.

Harry continued pulling on his gloves. “Should I– In the event I don’t see you again, my man of business has all the necessary documents. Alford-Smith in St. Albans Lane. There’s a portion for you and everything else is in trust for Livia with you as trustee. Neither of you should want for anything.”

She stared at him. It was as though she was looking at a stranger, and yet she sensed he had never spoken so genuinely. “Harry– I didn’t expect–”

He tugged the second glove smooth. “What did you think I’d do? Support you and Livia in life and abandon you in death?”

“No, of course not. But I wish you wouldn’t talk about–”

“Merely taking precautions. I’ve lived through a tiresome number of battles, I daresay I shall live through this one.”

Beneath his easy tone and cool gaze something belied his words. She looked at him for a moment, every nerve stretched taut beneath her skin. This could be the last time she would ever see him. She reached up and curled her gloved fingers behind his neck.

He stiffened beneath her touch. “Cordy–”

“I have no right to ask you to come back to me, Harry. But for God’s sake, please come back.” She drew his head down and pressed her mouth to his.

For a moment he went completely still. Then his arms closed about her, as though he would meld her to him. His mouth tasted of wine. His hair was soft beneath her gloved fingers, his hands taut and urgent through the net and silk of her gown, his mouth desperate yet oddly tender against her own.

When he raised his head, his eyes were like dark glass. He stared down at her with the wonder and fear of a man who has stepped into an alien world. “I’m sorry. I didn’t–”

She put her hand against the side of his face. Her fingers trembled. “Thank you. That is, I didn’t mean to–”

He seized her hand and pressed it to his lips with a fervor equal to his kiss. “Tell Livia–”

“You can tell her yourself when you come back.”

He gave a twisted smile. “Look after yourself, Cordy.”

She swallowed. “That’s one thing I’ve always been good at.”

***

A few couples were still waltzing in the ballroom. Cordelia found Suzanne beside a gilded table that held a porcelain bowl of wilting roses and a brace of candles dripping wax onto the marble tabletop.

“Did you find Harry?” Suzanne asked.

“He’s just left. You’re staying in Brussels?”

“Of course.”

Cordelia smiled, more relieved than she would care to admit to know she would have her friend to rely upon in what was to come. “I knew you could be depended upon. Livia and I will be at the Hôtel d’Angleterre.”

“Lady Caroline’s leaving?”

“Along with half the expatriates in Brussels. I can’t quarrel with her. But I feel compelled to stay.”

“Of course. But not in an hôtel. You and Livia must come to us.”

Cordelia shook her head. “That isn’t why I told you–”

“I know that. But it’s the logical solution.”

“It’s not just Livia and me. I’ve told Johnny I’ll take Robbie and his nurse in.”

“Aline’s coming to us as well. We have plenty of room.” Suzanne touched Cordelia’s arm. “You’ll be doing me a great favor. Malcolm is bound to be off on an errand, and God knows when he’ll be back. I’ll be going mad with worry, and I suspect you will as well.”

Cordelia looked at her for a moment, a dozen polite denials trembling on her lips. Then she said simply, “Thank you.”

“Splendid. I daresay–” Suzanne broke off as a tall, fair-haired man in a colonel’s uniform brushed past them.

The colonel went stock-still, his gaze locked on Suzanne’s. “Suz– Mrs. Rannoch.”

“Colonel Radley.” Suzanne’s voice was as icy as Cordelia had ever heard it. She turned to Cordelia and performed a quick introduction.

Radley inclined his head. He had an elegantly boned face and a self-assured blue gaze that implied he was quite aware of how handsome he was. But that confident gaze shifted over Suzanne as though she was a cipher he could not solve. “I’m off to join my regiment. Are you staying in Brussels?”

“Of course,” Suzanne said. “My husband’s here.”

“Your devotion continues to be remarkable.” Radley regarded Suzanne a moment longer, half- speculative, half-challenging. Then he nodded and moved off.

Cordelia adjusted the folds of her Grecian scarf. Suzanne Rannoch was a surprising woman, but Cordelia had never thought to find her friend playing out the equivalent of her own scene with Peregrine Waterford.

“I knew Frederick Radley in the Peninsula,” Suzanne said. “Before I married I Malcolm.” She gave a faint smile and looked directly into Cordelia’s eyes. “You aren’t the only one with ghosts, Cordy.”

***

Suzanne studied Malcolm’s face. “You’re not going home to change?”

He shook his head. “There’s no time. Richmond’s lending me a horse. I need to find Anthony Chase or at the very least warn his commanding officer. It’s not precisely a message I can trust to someone else.”

Beside them, a dragoon was pulling a flower from a girl’s gold ringlets, while a fresh-faced young Foot Guard lifted a dark-haired girl’s hand to his lips. Suzanne’s hands closed on her husband’s arms. “Be careful.”

A smile pulled at his mouth, the familiar, maddening smile he employed when going into danger without her. “I’m only delivering a message.”

“You’re looking for a man who means to kill you.”

“He won’t try to do it himself.”

“You don’t know what he’ll attempt if he’s driven to desperation.”

His gripped her shoulders. “I’ll try to be back tomorrow. I think it will be a day or so before anything decisive occurs.”

She leaned into him and put her mouth to his. His arms closed round her with the force of everything he couldn’t put into words. Bugle calls sounded in the distance. The French had gained valuable time. Something sang within her at the knowledge, and yet at the same time her heart twisted at the danger her husband faced.

He drew back and set his hands on her shoulders. “Should the news not be good, you should have plenty of time to get to Antwerp. I’ll find you there. Or back in England if necessary.”

She gave a quick nod. “Cordelia is coming to stay with me. Allie as well.”

“Good.” He hesitated a moment, then added, “There are still papers in the compartment in the bottom of my dispatch box. Where I told you to look when we were in Vienna. Travel documents, letters for Aunt Frances and David. And for you and Colin.”

A chill shot through the gauze and satin of her gown. “Malcolm–”

“In our line of work, it’s always wise to be prepared.”

She had letters for him and Colin as well, but Raoul had them in safekeeping. One in case she died and took her secrets to the grave, one in case she died and Malcolm had already learned the truth of her work. Since she’d married and become a mother she feared death as never before, but even more she feared a future in which she was gone and her husband and son hated her.

She reached up and kissed Malcolm again, branding him with a memory meant to survive whatever was to come.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Excerpted from Imperial Scandal by TERESA GRANT Copyright © 2012 by Tracy Grant. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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,
Mélanie

p.s.

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

Happy March! Hard to believe the publication of The Paris Affair is just over two weeks away. We’ve updated the sidebar with some interviews and events I’ll be doing to promote the book. On March 15 I’ll be doing an interview (and ARC giveaway) on Deanna Raybourn’s blog. On March 25 (they day before the book’s publication) I’ll be on Susan Spann’s blog. On March 30 at 4:00 pm I’ll be talking about and reading from The Paris Affair at Book Passage in Corte Madera. If you can’t make the event but would like a signed, personalized copy, you can order one through the link. And then on April 5, Cara Elliott/Andrea Penrose will be interviewing me on Word Wenches.

Do check out the interviews, as I have lots more to share about the book and the series. And if you can make it to Book Passage, I would love to see you or love to sign a book if can’t make it but would like to order one. Meanwhile, here’s a new teaser featuring Malcolm and Harry Davenport. More soon!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Harry stared after him as the door closed and his footsteps retreated down the stairs. “Wellington gave you no clue?”
“None.”
“Interesting man, our duke. Do you think Rivère approached him about the Laclos affair himself?”
“Then why Rivère’s dramatic approach to me last night?”
“Cover?”
“They wouldn’t need the cover for the Laclos affair, since Rivère brought it up to me. But if he approached Wellington about something else—”
Harry met Malcolm’s gaze for a moment. “Wellington can be ruthless.” It was a flat statement about the man they had both served for years and risked their lives for. “We considered in Brussels that he might be capable of murder.”
“But in the end he wasn’t behind Julia Ashton’s death.”
“Which doesn’t mean he isn’t behind Rivère’s death. Julia was an English lady. Rivère was a French double agent who was trying to blackmail the British.” Harry kept his gaze on Malcolm. Uncompromising, yet oddly compassionate. “War isn’t played by gentlemen’s rules. You know that.”
“Neither are politics or diplomacy.”
“Go carefully, Malcolm. Wellington can be dangerous.”
“At least I know him.”
“That’s precisely what makes him dangerous.” Harry cast a glance round the room. “You take the boxes on the left. I’ll take the right.”

I’m in the midst of finishing up the wedding novella. Colin is not yet born in the novella, but he’s a very important part of the equation as Suzanne/Mélanie and Malcolm/Charles’s agree to marry. Suzette/Mel’s pregnancy is the reason Malcolm/Charles proposes and the implications of the marriage for the child she’s carrying are a major part of her considerations as she weighs whether or not to accept him. This seems a good time to post another of the Imperial Scandal discussion questions:

6. How does being parents affect Suzanne’s, Malcolm’s, Cordelia’s, and Harry’s actions in the course of the book? Do you think their lives and relationships as couples would have evolved differently if they didn’t have Colin and Livia?

Speaking of Cordelia, I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from her to Lady Caroline Lamb.

Dinner at Chateaulin in Ashland

Just got back from a fabulous few days at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As always, the plays provided lots of fodder for future books and the drive to and from Ashland gave me lots of time for plot mulling. So I thought for this week’s post I’d pose another of the Imperial Scandal discussion questions, which goes to issues that will arise in subsequent books:

Which couple do you think has the most difficult path ahead–Suzanne and Malcolm, Harry and Cordelia, Rachel and Henri, Violet and Johnny? Why?

I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts. I confess I’m not sure what I think myself on the subject, though the book I just finished, set in Paris two months after Imperial Scandal, deals quite a bit with Suzanne & Malcolm and Harry & Cordelia confronting the past and trying to forge a future. And those issues will continue to reverberate (and perhaps come to a head) in the book I’m beginning to plot.

Happy belated Mother’s Day to all moms and honorary moms. In honor of Mother’s Day, this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter from Lady Frances to Mélanie/Suzanne about Aline’s pregnancy and the challenges of motherhood.

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.

Less than four weeks to go until the March 27 release of Imperial Scandal. I’ve blogged about the challenges of writing battle scenes. Here’s a glimpse of the scene before the battle. Once again I’ll be giving away an ARC to a commenter.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mist hung over the fields, mixed with smoke from the Allied cooking fires and those of the French on the opposite ridge. Steam rose from cheap tea brewed in iron kettles. The smell of clay pipes and officers’ cigars mingled with the stench of wool still sodden from the night’s rain. Shots split the air as soldiers fired their guns to clean them.
“Waste of ammunition,” Davenport said to Charles. “It’s going to be a long day.”
And it had yet to properly begin. A breeze gusted over what would be the battlefield, stirring the corn, cutting through the curtain of mist. Wellington had taken up a position before the small village of Mont-Saint-Jean. Fitzroy had said that the duke would have preferred the position across the field at the inn of La Belle Alliance, which Bonaparte occupied, but the Allied position had its advantages. Wellington had seen the ground when he was in Brussels the previous year. Charles remembered the duke mentioning the slope of the land to the north which would allow him to keep most of his troops out of sight of an enemy across the field.
To the left stood the fortified farm La Haye Sainte, with white-washed walls and a blue-tiled roof that gleamed where the sunlight broke the mist, and still farther to the left the twin farms of Papelotte and La Haye. To the right, in a small valley hidden by cornfields, was Hougoumont, a pretty, walled château surrounded by a wood and a hedged orchard. Both had been garrisoned with Allied soldiers.
The ground before them sloped down to a valley, through which the road to Charleroi ran, then rose to the ridge on which stood La Belle Alliance. On this ridge, the French army had begun to deploy. An elegant, masterful pageant. Malcolm lifted his spyglass. Lancers with white-plumed shapkas on their heads, chasseurs with plumes of scarlet and green, hussars, dragoons, cuirassiers, and carabiniers, and the imperial guard in their scarlet-faced blue coats. Gunners adjusted the position of their weapons. Pennants snapped in the breeze and gold eagles caught the sun as it battled the mist.
“Sweet Jesus,” Davenport murmured.
“Bonaparte understands the value of theatre,” Charles said.
“Unless he’s also a master of illusion, there are a bloody lot of them. I hope to God the Prussians get here.”
Charles cast a glance along the Allied lines. “We happy few.”
“Shakespeare was a genius, but he’d never been on a battlefield. Do you know what you’re in for, Fraser?”
“I’ve seen battles before,” Malcolm said, scenes from the Peninsula fresh in his mind. “But I don’t think any of us has seen anything like what’s about to unfold.”
Cheers went up among the French troops as a figure on a gray horse galloped into their midst.
“Boney,” Davenport said. “Odd to think I’ve never seen him before.”
“Nor have I.” Charles handed his spyglass to Davenport. Bonaparte wore the undress uniform of a colonel in the imperial guard and a bicorne hat without cockades. Wellington too wore casual dress for battle, though his buckskins and blue coat were more in the style of a gentleman out for a morning’s ride. He wore four cockades on his own bicorne, for Britain, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands.
Even without a spyglass, the cheers of the French troops for Bonaparte were evident. In response Wellington rode among his own troops, at a sedate trot rather than Bonaparte’s gallop. He was greeted with respectful nods but no cheering.
Alexander Gordon pulled up beside Charles and Davenport. “Uxbridge has ordered sherry for his staff so they can toast today’s fox.”
“Fox hunting always struck me as a bloody business,” Davenport said. “And a damned waste. My sympathies go to the fox.”
Gordon shot an amused glance at him and held out a paper. “Well, while you’re feeling sympathetic toward Boney, you can take this to Picton. Wellington’s orders.”
Davenport wheeled his horse round but turned back to Malcolm before he rode off. “I don’t say this often, but it’s been a pleasure working with you, Charles.”
Charles reached between the horses to clasp the other man’s hand. “Likewise, Harry.”

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