His Spanish Bride


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.

photo: Julianne Havel8

Hope everyone celebrating U.S. Thanksgiving had a lovely holiday. There above are Mélanie and me at our family dinner at which she took three tiny steps from the hearth to me in my cousin’s living room – so naturally I almost didn’t realize they were her first steps until my uncle commented on it.

His Spanish Bride has only been out for a couple of days, but it’s short, so this seems a good time to start a discussion threat for it. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you think, if it changes your perceptions of Suzanne/Mélanie and Malcolm/Charles, if the circumstances of their marriage are what you’d imagined. If you haven’t read it, feel free to ask questions – but expect spoilers in the thread obviously.

I’ll give away another signed cover flat of The Paris Affair to a commenter.

And laying the back ground for The Paris Affair, I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from Lady Caroline Lamb to Cordelia.

Last Friday I saw an amazing Lohengrin at San Francisco Opera, including a truly fabulous vocal and dramatic performance by Brandon Jovanovich in the title role. With its story of a heroine who must swear never to ask her husband’s name and then begins to wonder who the man who married really is, the plot gave me a lot to think about in terms of the struggles I’m dramatizing for Suzanne and Malcolm. A key scene in the opera is Elsa and Lohengrin’s wedding night. Though it begins with the now iconic wedding march and includes some ravishing music, it is ultimately a confrontation that marks the end of a marriage rather than the consummation of one.

Watching it I thought about other memorable wedding night scenes. Peter and Harriet’s in Busman’s Honeymoon is probably my favorite for emotional resonance, but I was also thinking about stories in which the wedding night veers off from the expected and, as in Lohengrin, takes the couple in a different direction. One that immediately came to mind is Nicholas and Gelis’s wedding night in Scales of Gold in Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolo series. It contains what is known to Dunnett readers as The Wedding Night Surprise, a much analyzed and debated scene that changes the course of the marriage and the series. (As a side note, Saturday was Dorothy Dunnett Day, and I spent it at lunch with some wonderful Dunnett readers).

For my November teaser it seems appropriate to post a bit from Malcolm and Suzanne’s wedding night from His Spanish Bride (which will be released on November 23). What are some of your favorite wedding night scenes?

I just got some gorgeous coverflats for The Paris Affair, so I’ll give away a signed one to one of this week’s commenters. And check out this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition from Cordelia to Violet.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Malcolm drew a breath and rapped at the bedchamber door.
“Yes.” His wife’s—his wife’s—voice came from behind the polished panels. “That is, come in.”
He turned the handle. Never had he felt such trepidation at stepping into his own bedchamber.
Suzanne sat on the dressing table bench, wrapped in a dressing gown of seafoam silk. Her dark hair spilled loose over her shoulders, the cropped bits still curled round her face. Her bare feet peeped out from beneath the silk and muslin of her dressing gown and nightdress. He had seen her in dresses that exposed more skin, but something about the déshabille was at once more seductive and more vulnerable than any glimpse he’d had of her before. His throat closed. His mind clamped down on every impulse of his body.
“Do you have everything you need?” His voice sounded thin to his own ears.
“Yes.” Her own voice was like frayed silk. “Addison arranged things perfectly. Though I’m afraid I’ve quite taken over your dressing table.”
Enamel boxes and glass jars clustered on the dressing table top. He wasn’t sure what had become of his shaving kit until he saw it on the chest of drawers. He saw something else beside the chest of drawers. A silver cooler with a bottle of champagne.
“Addison left that for us,” Suzanne said. “A touch of romance I wouldn’t have expected.” She bit her lip as though she wasn’t sure about the word “romance.”
Two crystal glasses stood on the escritoire, sparkling in the light from the brace of candles. Malcolm wasn’t sure whether to thank his valet or groan. He picked up the champagne bottle and opened it, which at least gave him something to do with his hands. He splashed champagne on the dressing table but managed to hand Suzanne a glass without breaking it or spattering champagne on her. He picked up his own glass and touched it to hers. To say “to us” seemed presumptuous when there scarcely was an “us.” Instead he said, “To the future.”
She smiled and took a sip of champagne. He did as well, a rather deeper sip than he intended. “Suzanne—” He retreated to lean against the chest of drawers. “We needn’t— There needn’t be anything between us until after the baby’s born. Or even after that. Not until—not unless you’re ready.”
He more than half-expected her to look away. Instead she met his gaze. Her eyes looked very open. He realized it was because she’d removed the blacking she used to line them and darken her lashes. “You already made that very obliging offer. But we’re married, and I think we should begin as we mean to go on, as it were. “
He took another sip of champagne. His mouth was dry. “What I’m trying to say is you can define how we mean to go on.”
“And what I’m trying to say is that I’d welcome new memories to make the old go away.”

In quick succession I received the cover art for His Spanish Bride and The Paris Affair. I’d love to hear what you think, particularly about The Paris Affair, which is a new look for the series which I’m really excited about. Covers are so tricky. You want to distill what’s exciting about the book down to one visual image that will evoke the story and draw the reader in

What covers have particularly drawn you in? What was it about them that caught your eye?

In this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition, Aline writes to Gisele about the events on the night Imperial Scandal begins

His Spanish Bride, the Malcolm & Suzanne wedding novella, is now available for pre-order on Kindle and Nook and should be on iBooks and other platforms ahortly. Here’s a glimpse of the “cover copy” – my editor had the wonderful idea of doing it in the form of a wedding invitation. To go with it, for the August teaser, here’s an excerpt of Suzanne’s thoughts just before the wedding.

What literary wedding would you most like to be invited to?

I’ve also just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter, a letter Raoul wrote to Mel/Suzette to be delivered in the event he didn’t survive Waterloo.

Kensington Publishing Corporation and Author Teresa Grant

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of

SUZANNE de SAINT-VALLIER

to

MALCOLM RANNOCH

the seventh of December 1812

British Embassy, Lisbon

*Intrigue and unforeseen occurrences expected*

The air in the embassy sitting room was close and heavy, thick with the heat of the fire in the grate. The English were accused of keeping their rooms drafty, but with the windows shut tight against the cold the thick heat and puffs of smoke choked the air. Outside the windows the sky was gray and drops of rain spattered against the glass. The looped-back curtains were red velvet, the furniture solid English oak. One noticed such details as one waited for the company to assemble, moments before taking one’s wedding vows.
“You make a very lovely bride, my dear.” Sir Charles Stuart, who was to give her away, came up beside her.
“You always know just what to say, sir.” Suzanne had chosen a gown of rose-colored sarcenet edged with white lace at neck and sleeves, part of the new wardrobe Malcolm had purchased for her when he brought her to Lisbon, to augment the few things she had been carrying in her supposed flight from the French. He had been remarkably patient waiting at the modiste’s, though he had seemed as out of place there was he was in this marriage. Suzanne had draped a white lace mantilla over her head and shoulders. The color of purity and innocence. An irony lost on this company. The pearl comb in her hair had in fact been her mother’s. Suzanne had hesitated to wear it, as though it would be somehow dignifying the wedding as more than it was, but at the last minute she had grabbed it and stuck it into her hair, aware of a shrewd look from Blanca.
“It’s a great pity your parents aren’t here to see this day,” Stuart murmured, his voice unwontedly serious. “I’m sure they would be very proud.”
Their images flashed into her mind, breaking through the wall she usually kept up against her memories. Maman, bending over the crib in a cloud of dark ringlets and spicy scent. At her dressing table mirror surrounded by candlelight. Viewed onstage from the wings. Waxy pale as she lay on her deathbed after the birth of Suzanne’s little sister. Frozen in death when they put her in her coffin. Papa, his face alight with laughter from below when he tossed her in the air. Features stamped with the grief at Maman’s graveside. Bending over a book with Suzanne on his lap. His concise voice giving her stage directions as Jessica or Juliet. Sprawled on a tiled floor, his head shattered by a bullet.
If they could see her now, would the even recognize the woman she’d become?
“Thank you,” she said. “It’s comforting to think so.” Though in truth she knew neither of her parents would approve of this marriage. But then neither of them could have conceived of this world she had entered into.
“I have no doubt of it.” Stuart’s smile was affectionate. For all his womanizing reputation, he was a kind man and remarkably thoughtful. The antithesis of Edward Linford.
She had to think of the present and future, not the past. That way lay madness. Why should the absence of her parents matter at a marriage that didn’t mean anything in any case? Yet part of the success of carrying off a role, as an agent as well as an actor, was finding the core of oneself in the part and incorporating details of one’s own life.
Malcolm was across the room speaking with the chaplain. He wore a light blue coat, biscuit-colored breeches, silver-buckled shoes. A typical English gentleman. He came from a world that represented everything she was fighting against. She should hang on to that.
His gaze met hers and his mouth lifted in a smile. She returned the smile. How absurd, with all the lies between them, to feel that they shared a secret the others in the room could not know.
Lord Wellington walked up and clapped Malcolm on the shoulder. For an instant, she glimpsed the raw tension in Malcolm’s face. A band clamped round her chest. Dear God, what she was doing to him—
Malcolm and Wellington crossed to join her and Stuart.
“Mrs. Gordon’s been saying it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding,” Wellington said. “Lot of superstitious nonsense. Glad you don’t pay heed to it.”
Malcolm took her hand. “No second thoughts?” he asked in a lowered voice.
“None.” That much was true. She’d made her decision for better or worse. “But I’d understand if you’re having them.”
“No.” The single word was more heartfelt reassurance than the most fulsome declaration.

Hard to believe it’s already July. I’ve been busy revising The Paris Affair (formerly The Princess’s Secret), doing copy edits for His Spanish Bride, and plotting the next book. I also had new author photos taken by my good friend the very talented photographer Raphael Coffey. There’s my new official author photo above, and I’ll be adding some more to the site, including some of me with my daughter Mélanie.

For the July Teaser, here’s another excerpt from His Spanish Bride. Malcolm/Charles doesn’t share his feelings much, with the Suzanne/Mélanie, with himself, with the reader. Here, though, are his thoughts on his wedding night, waiting for his bride.

And this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is also a glimpse into Charles/Malcolm’s thoughts, this time ina letter to David.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

He only had one bedchamber in his lodgings. Somehow he hadn’t properly considered the implications until now, home—odd word, “home”—from the embassy, Suzanne’s bandboxes carried into his cramped lodgings. Suzanne behind the bedchamber door. By the time he could remember, his parents had slept at opposite ends of whichever of their houses they were occupying. Assuming they were even in the same house. Much of the time they contrived not to be. Couples on more intimate terms still had their own bedchambers and dressing rooms. Even if they ultimately spent the night together, they had somewhere separate to retire to to prepare for bed.

Which presumably was what happened on most wedding nights among his circle. The bride retired to her bedchamber to disrobe while the groom went to his bedchamber to do the same before discreetly tapping at her door. Instead, Suzanne was in the one bedchamber with Blanca, preparing for bed, while he cooled his heels in the sitting room. And no matter what happened between him and Suzanne tonight, they only had one bed.

He shouldn’t have played the piano. Music created a false sense of intimacy. And at the same time it could reveal far too much. He never felt so stripped of his defenses as when he sat at the keyboard.

His cravat bit into his neck. The whisky decanter on the table by the windows called to him, but he subdued the impulse. He needed all his wits about him. This was no time to let himself be ruled by impulse. Or desire. What mattered was Suzanne—his wife, good God—and what was best for her.

Which was probably to be left alone.

Mélanie and I just got back from a lovely few days in New York, including fun visits with my editor and agent. There we are above at the Nancy Yost Literary offices. I’m revising The Paris Affair, I just got copy edits for His Spanish Bride, the novella about Malcolm and Suzanne’s wedding, and I’m starting to plot the next Malcolm and Suzanne book, which is one of my favorite parts of the writing process.

I love talking about writing, so I thought it would be fun to start working some writing craft posts into the blog. I’ve always been the sort of writer who plots in advance. I used to write down plot elements and scene ideas on index cards and then lay them out on my dining room table, shuffle around the order, look for gaps in the plot. It’s a great way to build the story arc, though my cats have a tendency to walk over the cards and wreak havoc on my plot order.

Then, in the midst of writing Imperial Scandal, I discovered the writing software program Scrivener. I love Scrivener for numerous reasons, but one is that it has a corkboard built in. You can lay out scenes on index cards, switch to a writing review to draft a scene, then switch back to the corkboard. Because of this, with The Paris Affair, which is the first book I wrote completely in Scrivener, I found I could write as I was plotting. If knew a scene had to occur later in the narrative, I could jump ahead and write it while I was still working out plot details earlier in the story. I spend a lot of time mulling when I’m working out a plot, and this way I was able to write while I was mulling.

Any questions about plotting? What other parts of the writing process would you like to see posts about? Writers, what’s your plotting process? What tools have you found that help with it?

I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from Mel/Suzette to Simon.