London Gambit


photo: Bonnie Glaser

Hope everyone is having a great summer! Mine continues busy (lots of Merola Opera events and another birthday celebration above), but I am working hard on the next novella and full novel and really excited about the progress I’m making on both.Meanwhile, here are a few more outtakes from London Gambit. Not full scenes as in my last post but snippets that ended up not fitting with the flow of the narrative.

Originally, Malcolm had a brief conversation with Harry before Malcolm, Suzanne, and Raoul left the Waterloo banquet to observe the secret meeting in Hyde Park.
Malcolm  touched Harry on the shoulder. “If we aren’t back when the party breaks up, can you see Laura back to Berkeley Square? And wait there until we return?”
Harry’s gaze skimmed over Malcolm’s face. “Certainly. Are you sure there’s nothing else I can do?”
“Cover if anyone asks questions. But I promise–“
“Don’t say you’ll explain fully. You know better than to make promises you may not be able to deliver on.”
“Have I said you’re a good friend, Harry?”
“Don’t waste time, Rannoch.”

Raoul also talked to Laura before they left in my first draft. I really like this exchange, but in the end it didn’t make sense that they’d have time alone together before he left.

Raoul’s hand closed on Laura’s arm. She cast quick look at him, but made no comment as he steered her into an antechamber. Being a spy seemed to have given him an unerring instincts for quiet spaces. At least she assumed it was that and not romantic dalliance.
His hands closed on her arms, but he didn’t pull her in for the kiss she more than half expected. “I need to leave for a bit with Malcolm and Suzanne. We have wind of a meeting Germont and his confederate have with someone tonight.”
“Of course. I’ll do my best to cover.”
“Practical as ever, , sweetheart. It’s not far from here, but  don’t worry if we aren’t back before the party ends. The Davenports can see you back to Berkeley Square.”
She nodded, subduing myriad questions. She was about to say she was perfectly capable of getting herself home, but given Julien St. Juste’s arrival this was probably sensible.
Raoul’s hands tightened on her arms. He pulled her closer and put his mouth to hers.
“How dangerous is this?” she asked, emerging from a hungry embrace embrace.
He grinned. “Just can’t resist the excuse to kiss you.”
Laura returned the smile. But the fierceness in kiss put a lie to his words.

Also in my first draft, Suzanne had this conversation with the Comte de Flahaut after the supposed Phoenix plot unraveled. In the end it didn’t fit with the unraveling of the other events of the denouement.
“You didn’t tell me you recognized the man who called on you asking about the Phoenix plot.”
Flahaut cast a quick glance round the park. “That’s because I didn’t recognize him.”
“Flahaut.’ Suzanne put a hand on his arm. “Julien St. Juste is a master of disguise, but you’re no fool. You’d have recognized him.”
Flahaut’s mouth tensed. “Do you imagine I could have seen Julien St. Juste and not told you—‘
“Yes. But I’m wondering about why.”
Flahaut dragged his gaze away. “What makes you think St. Juste is anywhere near England?”
“I’ve seen him. Go on.”
Flahaut drew a harsh breath. “I didn’t recognize him. Not at first. But the more he talked— how could I forget someone I met at a time like that?”
“And then?” Suzanne asked,
Flahuat’s bootheels crunched over the gravel. “There was something— the turn of his head. A note in his voice. I knew. He must have seen it in my eyes, He didn’t try to deny it.”
“Had he already tried to engage you in the Phoenix Plot?”
Flahaut swallowed. “Yes.’
“When you realized who he was did it change anything?”
“He said he wouldn’t push. But he said— He said you’d probably come along asking questions And he asked me not to say anything to you.”
“And you agreed?”
“I couldn’t say no, Suzanne. You must see that. Not given what he knows.”

Finally, I wrote a brief exchange between Suzanne and Betrand about Julien that I couldn’t find a place for.

Unlike Julien St. Juste.”
Suzanne stiffened. “You know St. Juste?”
“I heard quite a bit when I was first in Paris. And even after I became the Kestrel I wasn’t precisely out of the game.”
“On the contrary.”
Bertrand leaned forwards. “St. Juste is in London. You know?”
“I do. Now. Do you know why he’s here?”

JagdeMorarsheventHappy weekend! I’m in the midst of the fun craziness of the Merola Opera Program. There I I am above with Mélanie, off to an event tonight. But in an around I’m still finding time to write – both the new novella and new novel are moving forwards in some interesting directions.

Someone asked me recently if I end up cutting a lot from my books, and I don’t actually. I edit and prune, but it’s a bit surprising how most scenes end up staying in the book. But there are some that fall by the wayside here and there. I cut one scene from London Gambit, a not-quite-finished scene in which Suzanne goes to visit Sancho, a former comrade and fellow spy, about the Phoenix plot. In the end, Sancho is only alluded to in the book. I like him as a character and may return to him in a later book, but the scene itself didn’t do enough to drive the story forwards. Still, it’s fun to have a glimpse of Suzanne with one of her associates.

“Being an Englishwoman agrees with you.”
“I’ll never be an Englishwoman, though I am married to a British man.”
“You always played the great lady well.”
“Who is she?” the dark-haired woman demanded.
“Mélanie Lescaut. Juana Murez. The Marchese Monreal. And now Mrs. Something or other Rannoch. One of the best agents it’s ever been my privilege to work with.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere, Sancho.”
The dark-haired woman was staring at Suzanne. “You’re an agent who married an English lord?”
“He doesn’t have a title and he’s actually Scots, but yes.”
“Didn’t think it would last when you married him,” Sancho said.
“Nor did I.”
“What the bloody hell are you doing in Seven Dials?” the dark-haired woman asked.
“Calling on an old friend.”
The dark-haired woman shot a look at Sancho. “You knew her well.”
“Oh, yes.” Sancho grinned. Then, when the dark-haired woman’s eyes narrowed, he took pit on her. “It’s all right, she wasn’t mine, she was O’Roarke’s.”
“I wasn’t any man’s,” Suzanne said. “But I was Raoul’s lover. Now I have a husband.”
“Just a husband?” Sancho raised his brows. “Sounds a bit dull,”
“You wouldn’t say so if you’d met Malcolm.”
Sancho inclined his head towards the dark-haired woman. “Meg Simpkins. She’s been very helpful to me in learning the lay of the land.”
“I’m glad you’ve landed on your feet.”
He shrugged. “We make do. I could say the same to you.”
Suzanne’s fingers tightened on the steel chain on her reticule. Even dressed in her plainest clothes, she was out of place in Seven Dials. “I’ve been more fortunate than most.”
“No sense in feeling guilty about it. Given the risks you’ve run I’d say you deserve it.” Sancho turned to Meg. “I need to talk to Mélanie in private for a bit, love.”
Meg opened her mouth to protest.
“Work, Meggie. You’re best out of it.”
“I don’t want to be out of it.”
“That I know full well. But some things need to remain secret.”
Meg flounced off, with a look over her shoulder at Suzanne.
“Minx,” Sancho muttered.
“I understand,” Suzanne said. “She only half believed your denials about our relationship, and now you’ve given her ammunition.”
“Can’t be helped. For her own sake the less she knows about it the better.”
“You remind me of my husband. It doesn’t go over at all well when he tries to protect me from things,”
“And does he know you’re here?”
“A palpable hit.”
“Meg’s got a kid. Four-year-old girl. Trying to keep her out of the business as much as possible.” Sancho pulled a chair over for Suzanne and regarded her for a moment. “Since you’ve taken the risk of coming here, I suspect you’ve seen Manon. Or someone else?”
“Manon. After an émigré agent who was shot on his way of France muttered something in delirium about the Phoenix.”
Sancho hook his foot round a stool to pull it closer and dropped down on it. “I read about you in the papers. O’Roarke says you’re happy. You look happy. You don’t want to be anywhere near this.”
“I don’t think I have much choice.”
Sancho grimaced. “One gets used to things. Not dodging sniper fire all the time. The demand was higher in the Peninsula. Easier to do business. But I confess there’s a lot in London I’ve come to quite like.”

Happy weekend!



I had a wonderful time last  weekend celebrating London Gambit with a launch party, talk, and signing at the wonderful Book Passage. Book Passage is such a fabulous store for readers and writers. As always, their welcome was warm and wonderful to me and to Mélanie.

First Mélanie and I both got our hair done at Benvenuto Salon, where I’ve been going since my 8th grade graduation, though Mélanie slept through having her hair styled.



Mélanie was wonderful help setting up books when we got to Book Passage.



Our Book Passage host Johanna was fabulous and super organized, as she has been in the past.


Mélanie was fascinated by the stage and wanted to talk into the microphone.





I talked a bit about how current events can resonate even with historical fiction and about how I was writing the early scene between Malcolm and David about David and Simon’s  relationship when  the marriage equality decision came down. Then I read from where Malcolm brings Teddy home through that scene. Mélanie (and her new Ariel doll) sat through the whole thing!




Afterwards we sipped wine, nibbled on cheese and crackers and strawberries, and I signed books (including some readers had ordered from across the country, very cool!) and got to chat with old and new friends.

With the wonderful Eve Lynch, who copy-edited London Gambit (and The Mayfair Affair and the two recent novellas) and her husband Niall.


With my friend Marlene, a fellow Dorothy Dunnett reader.


With new friend Cathy who is a friend of a friend but had discovered my books on her own (always cool to hear!).


With Mélanie’s Auntie Bonnie, my friend from high school.



Mélanie loved helping sign books.



Afterwards we celebrated at a lovely dinner at Brick & Bottle, right next door to Book Passage and one of our favorites.






 London Gambit is out in the world now. Always exciting and a bit scary to launch a child :-). This Saturday, June 4, at 4:00 pm, I’ll be celebrating the books release with a launch party and reading at the wonderful Book Passage in Corte Madera, California. If you happen to be in the area and can stop by, it would be great to see friendly faces in the audience! If you can’t make it but would like a signed copy of London Gambit, you can order one, and I will personalize it at the signing.

I’m in the midst of writing the next novella, which begins immediately after the end of London Gambit and will be out next November. I’ve also started on the next full length novel, which begins a few weeks later and will be out next May. I’m taking a break right now to get ready for Saturday’s event – which means everything from writing a speech to choosing an excerpt to read to planning what to wear (probably the new dress I got for my recent 50th birthday, in the picture with Mélanie above).

We’re having some wonderful discussion of London Gambit on the Google+ Group – everything from the ending (which rather cries out for discussion!) to casting threads to themes and characters. Do stop by (if you aren’t a member already, it’s easy to join and I promise I’ll approve your membership quickly). Or share your thoughts on London Gambit here.




London Gambit is out in the world! So excited to hear what everyone thinks! If you haven’t already, do check out my guest blogs from last week, with History Hoydens, Lauren Willig, Jungle Red, and Number One London. Next Tuesday, 10 May, I’ll be on Deanna Raybourn’s blog and on 18 May I’ll be on Word Wenches. Saturday, 4 June, I’m doing a book launch event at Book Passage and even if you can’t be there you can order a signed copy.

I hope all moms and honorary moms have a great Mothers’ Day weekend! Méanie and I started off with a wonderful live performance of The Little Mermaid last night at the Spreckels Center.


And followed up with a post-theatre supper at Redwood Café.






Five days until London Gambit is out! Above is another of my favorite rooms at the Met ,the dining room from Lansdowne House. I didn’t precisely base Suzanne and Malcolm’s dining room in Berkeley Square on this room, but I’ve definitely used it as a point of reference for their dining room and other formal dining rooms in the series.

The trade paperback of London Gambit is now available for order on Amazon (because Create Space doesn’t do pre-orders it’s always a bit difficult to time the trade paperback and the ebook, but this way you should be able to order the trade paperback and have it by May 5 if you want hard copy). I’ll be doing a bunch of guest posts around London Gambit’s release. This Monday I’ll be doing a guest “If You Like” post on Lauren Willig’s site; Tuesday, I’ll be on Jungle Red Writers, talking about series game changers (which are definitely part of London Gambit); Wednesday  I’ll be talking about Wellington’s Waterloo banquets and his home, Apsley House, on Number One London; Tuesday the 10th I’ll be guesting on Deanna Raybourn’s blog; and I’ve just confirmed that Wednesday, May 18th I’ll be guesting on Word Wenches. Do stop by and check out the posts and leave a comment if you can.

Have a great Sunday!



London Gambit is out a week from Thursday! Hard to believe release day is almost here. The picture above is a room for the American Wing at the Met that was my inspiration for the breakfast parlor in Suzanne and Malcolm’s Berkeley Square house, where several key scenes in London Gambit take place. Malcolm thinks about Suzanne redoing the room and making the walls a soft peach, whereas they’d been ice blue in his mother’s day. Any predictions for the book you’d like to share? It’s definitely a story that shakes the series up a bit. A game changer, as one ARC reader said.

On another note, I’m giving away five copies of the Kindle edition of The Mayfair Affair on Amazon if anyone wants that edition and doesn’t have it yet.


A month to go until London Gambit! I’m running a giveaway for the next week on the Tracy Grant Google + Group. To enter the contest, join the group (or login if you’re already a member) and look for the contest thread, which should be at the top of the page.  The group is a huge amount of fun – if you haven’t already, do check it out!





Happy Sunday! London Gambit will be out in less than five weeks. Mélanie and I are in New York for a few days. Friday I had a great meeting with the fabulous team at Nancy Yost Literary Agency. There were are above with Natanya Wheeler, director of digital rights, who also creates my amazing covers; Sarah Younger (seated), who manages the print books and is superb at social media; my amazing agent Nancy Yost (standing center), who has been such a champion of the Rannoch/Fraser series from the beginning; and Amy Rosenbaum, the wonderful new rights manager. I talk to these people all the time by email, but it’s so energizing to sit down in the same room and strategize for the series.

I’ll post a full photo diary when we get home, but meanwhile here are a few more pics. Mélanie and me in our hotel room after a lovely dinner with friends



At Belvedere Castle in Central Park




And at the Metropolitan Museum in a period dining room that will almost certainly find it’s way into Malcolm and Suzanne’s world


If Suzanne and Malcolm and their friends lived in present-day New York, what do you think their lives might be like? Who would live where? Work where? What would be their favorite spots?


Happy Spring!  Six weeks until the release of London Gambit. I’m getting very excited, and I hope readers are too. As you’ll know if you’ve read the teaser, one of the opening scenes finds Suzanne visiting a fellow former agent who is also a dressmaker. Though a different sort of establishment, the shop front might look not unlike Truefitt & Hill in St. James’s pictured above. This barbershop goes back to 1805 , so Malcolm, Harry, David, Simon, Raoul, even Carfax could be patrons. imagine the secrets the staff might be privy to :-).

Hope everyone celebrating has a lovely Easter. Mélanie and I started out the weekend last night with dinner at our favorite microbrew pub, Marin Brewing Company (which also has excellent Shirley Temples), dyed eggs today, and are off to Children’s Fairyland for a picnic with friends tomorrow.






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