James Bond


photo: Bonnie Glaser

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I finally got to see Spectre, thanks to my wonderful friend Bonnie who babysat (above are Mélanie and me at a very fun dinner with Bonnie afterwards – Bonnie is the photographer).

Over all I loved it, particularly how it wove in the last three movies. I never would have though so before, but after Spectre I can see Ralph Fiennes as Carfax (though I think his M has a stronger moral compass than Carfax as well).

The first scene between Bond and M really reminded me of scenes between Malcolm and Carfax, right down to the setting and body language.

Bond’s very spare London flat reminded me of the description of Malcolm’s lodgings in Lisbon pre-Suzanne in His Spanish Bride.

I thought there were lots of issues that parallel the Rannoch series – the moral choices in the spy game, following orders versus pursuing one’s own idea of what’s right, personal life conflicting with the spy game. The ending surprised me. I liked it, though I wish there’d been time to develop the love story as much as in Casino Royale.

On a fun side note, Rule’s restaurant where M is eating and Q and Monnypenny find him goes back to the early 1800s. I’ve eaten there myself and in London Gambit Crispin hosts a supper party there after Manon opens in a new play at the Tavistock. Here I am having dinner there on a research trip after see La Cenerentola at Covent Garden.


Who else has seen Spectre? What do you think? Of the film, of the spies, of any parallels or contrasts to the Rannoch series?

photo: Elaine Hamlin

photo: Elaine Hamlin

Mélanie and I had a wonderful Halloween in Ashland, Oregon, taking part in the town parade, trick or treating in the lovely railroad distort, and wrapping the day up with dinner at Peerless, one of our favorite Ashland restaurants. Peerless’s excellent drinks list includes the Vesper, the cocktail named for James Bond’s tragic love interest in Casino Royale. I usually have a Vesper when I’m there, and it was extra special this time with Spectre about to open.

I’ve always loved James Bond films – the adventure, the humor, the style. My mom loved them too. My dad wasn’t quite as into them, but he enjoyed them as well and we’d watch as a family. But with Casino Royale, my interest increased. Here was the adventure and style with more substance, a harder-edged look at the spy game – and a wonderful love story. Of course it didn’t hurt that I could imagine Daniel Craig and Eva Green as Malcolm and Suzanne and that the love story with Bond and Vesper forced to work together and falling in love while she keeps secrets and betrays him, has some definite Malcolm and Suzanne parallels. I wrote the last Malcolm and Suzanne scene in Imperial Scandal after watching the scene in Casino where Vesper says goodbye to Bond (note the moment where Suzanne laces her hands behind Malcolm’s head and commits his features to memory).

interestingly, long before I heard of the Vesper (which is gin, vodka, and lillet blanc),  a friend and I invented a drink in honor of Suzanne/Mélanie that is equal parts vanilla vodka and lillet blanc (one of my favorite restaurants, Indigo, even knows how to make it for me).

I’ve enjoyed the subsequent films with Daniel Craig, while missing a love story on the level of Casino (on the other hand, the fact that Bond can’t love like that again is rather the point). Slkyfall in particular was great for exploring Bond’s past and the moral compromises of the spy game from what I’ve read Spectre promises to be rich in both story and character.

Who else is a Bond fan? Planning to see (or have you already seen) Spectre? If you’ve seen Casino, do you see parallels to Malcolm and Suzanne?

As you probably know if you follow this blog, Incident In Berkeley Square came out Monday. There’s a lively discussion going on the Google Group. Pop over and join in and/or share your thoughts here.

Have a great weekend!!

photo: Raphael Coffey Photography

photo: Raphael Coffey Photography

One of the things I love about doing book release interviews (aside from the sheer delight of the chance to babble on about my own books) is how the questions can cause me to think about my own books in a fresh light. In the very fun interview about The Paris Affair that I did with her recently on Word Wenches, Cara Elliott/Andrea Penrose asked some wonderful questions, in particular about the themes of loyalty and betrayal that run through my books and why I chose the Napoleonic Wars as a setting for those stories. Meditating on those questions turned into a post on History Hoydens that I thought was worth reworking here.

I first gravitated to the Regency/Napoleonic era through my love of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. But I also love spy stories, both James Bond adventure and the sort of intricate chess games and moral dilemmas John le Carré dramatizes so brilliantly. The Napoleonic Wars offers are a wonderfully rich setting for both types of story. So many different sides, so many different factions within sides. The French under Napoleon had been bent on conquest, but they had also brought much-needed reforms to many countries. Some liberal Spaniards saw supporting the French in the Peninsular War as the quickest route to progressive reform. And after the Napoleonic Wars, a number of the victors wanted to turn the clock back to before the French Revolution  and saw any hint of reform as one step away from blood in the streets. Friends easily melt into enemies and back again. Napoleon’s longtime foreign minister Prince Talleyrand  later became prime minister under the Bourbon restoration. Joseph Fouché who had been ruthless in using terror against enemies of the Bonapartist government, was equally ruthless in going after Napoleon’s supporters who were proscribed from the amnesty after Waterloo. In the midst of breakneck adventure, a love affair can have political consequences, a tactical decision can shatter a friendship, it can come down to a question not of whether or not commit betrayal but only of who or what to betray.

I’ve always been fascinated by moral dilemmas. And I’m intrigued by how romantic fidelity and betrayal can parallel other types of fidelity and betrayal (whether between husbands and wives or in their relationship with other characters or with a country or cause). I like writing stories of intrigue set in tumultuous times, but I think in those sorts of times (probably always but then more than ever) choices don’t tend to come down to easy, clear-questions of right and wrong. It’s interesting to see how characters wrestle with those issues and how the personal and the political intertwine. The possibility that a loved one or friend isn’t who you thought they were is perhaps one of our deepest fears in a relationship. And yet most of us are somewhat different people in different aspects of our lives and have different loyalties – to spouses, children, lovers, friends, causes, countries, work. Sometimes it isn’t so much a question of betrayal as of deciding which loyalty comes first. It’s not so far from the seemingly lofty sentiment of “I could not love thee, dear, so much, Lov’d I not Honour more” to betraying a lover for a cause.

Or so Suzanne might argue. Malcolm might have more difficulty with the idea. He takes personal loyalties very seriously, though he was the one who went off to the field at Waterloo and risked himself (though he wasn’t a soldier) leaving his wife and son behind in Brussels. In the midst of the carnage, he wondered which loyalty he should have put first. While Suzanne, for different reasons, was wondering much the same thing. It’s a question that continues to haunt both of them in The Paris Affair and to fascinate me as a writer.

Which brings me to one of the discussion questions for The Paris Affair. Suzanne says, “Sometimes honesty can make things worse.” Malcolm replies, “Than living a lie? Difficult to imagine.” Would their situation improve if Suzanne told Malcolm the truth? Or would it make it impossible for them to go on living together

On another note, you may have noticed that the site has a new For Teachers section with information for teachers and anyone interested in a structured read of the Malcolm & Suzanne books with additional materials. It repeats the Historical Notes and Reading Group Discussion Questions found on the detail pages for each book and also includes new Quizzes for each book. These were a lot of fun to put togehter and are a fun way to test your knowledge of all things Malcolm & Suzanne – though be ware, they definitley contain spoilers.