Mélanie and Charles Fraser


Just got the cover for London Interlude, the novella about Malcolm and Suzanne’s first visit to Britain, which will be out later this month or the start of April (release date soon). I’m really excited about the cover and about the novella. I learned new things about Malcolm and Suzanne writing it and hope you do reading it.

Have a great weekend!!

Tracy

London Interlude 2

The Mayfair Affair

Happy Academy Awards weekend! I’m looking forward to a day of wearing an evening gown while sitting in front of the television with friends eating yummy snacks and sipping champagne. But today I’m focused on writing. Above again is the final cover for The Mayfair Affair. I think Natanya Wheeler, the designer, did a brilliant job of giving the gown a more Regency silhouette while not losing the atmosphere. The Mayfair Affair is now up for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The pre-orders are for the ebooks. The print books will be available by publication date (May 15) but not for pre-order. There’s also a cool new feature on Amazon that allows you to follow my author page, which is a great way to make sure you get updates from Amazon about my books.

Valentine's dinner last weekend. Photo: Bonnie Glaser

Valentine’s dinner last weekend. Photo: Bonnie Glaser

Meanwhile, I’m putting finishing touches on the novella about Malcolm and Suzanne’s first visit to Britain. It now has a title, London Interlude, and will have a publication date shortly (probably late March or early April).

Enjoy the awards if you’re watching!

Tracy

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!

Tracy

14 February 1818

Berkeley Square

Darling,

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

photo: Raphael Coffey

photo: Raphael Coffey

Happy Friday! We just finalized the copy for The Mayfair Affair this week, so I thought I would share it. There’s also a sneak peek of the cover in progress (it is finalized yet I should have the cover in another week or so. The book will be out mid-May (it should be available for pre-sale in a couple of weeks).

Have a great weekend!!

The Mayfair Affair 1,jpg

In the elegant environs of Mayfair, Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch live a seemingly charmed life. Malcolm, a former diplomatic attache and intelligence agent, is a rising Member of Parliament. Suzanne is fast becoming one of London’s most sought hostesses. But even their closest friends don’t know that the Rannochs’ marriage is still reeling from the revelation that Suzanne was a French spy when she met British agent Malcolm and that she married him to gather information on British plans. Malcolm and Suzanne are hoping for private time to repair their marriage. But their peace is shattered by a late night visit from a Bow Street runner. The powerful Duke of Trenchard has been found murdered in the study of his St. James’s Square house. And Laura Dudley, governess to the Rannoch children, was standing over the dying duke.

Malcolm and Suzanne are convinced the woman they trusted with their children is not a killer.To prove Laura’s innocence, they are drawn into an investigation that will test their wits and the fragile truce between them. But whether or not she murdered the Duke of Trenchard, Laura Dudley is certainly not what she seemed. Revelations about her identity cut dangerously close to Suzanne’s own past. Malcolm and Suzanne realize more is at stake than Laura’s life and libertty. The investigation into the Duke of Trenchard’s murder will either prove the resilience of their bond–or snap it in two.

photo: Bonnie Glaser

photo: Bonnie Glaser

Happy weekend! After spending last weekend hosting our annual New Year party (now also a celebration of Mélanie’s birthday) I’m in the midst of copy edits of The Mayfair Affair but emerging briefly to post a teaser from my novella-in-progress about Suzanne and Malcolm’s first visit to London. It’s from the first draft without much revising so far!

Suzanne Rannoch’s first glimpse of London lived up to its reputation. Gray. Gray stone walls, gray cobblestones, seen through a curtain and gray mist and drizzle. England. The country of her husband Malcolm. The country she had spent the last five years fighting against.
“Does it ever stop raining here?” On the opposite seat, Blanca, Suzanne’s maid, also had her face pressed to the window.
“Oh, we’re sure to get at least a day or so of sun.” Addison, Malcolm’s valet, gave one of his dry smiles. “It’s summer.”
Colin, Suzanne’s one-year-old son, bounced on her lap, also intent on the window. “Russ, russ.”
“Yes, that’s a horse,” Suzanne said, though interpreting Colin’s pronouncements was still largely guesswork.
“There’s the Tower.” Malcolm spoke up, though he’d been more and more silent the closer they got to the city. “They have lions, Colin.”
“La.” Colin turned to his father with a grin.
“That was almost a word,” Suzanne said.
“Almost.” Malcolm caught his son as Colin launched himself across the carriage seat.
It seemed crowded, like all cities. But lacking the formality of Paris or the rambling quality of Lisbon where Suzanne had lived since her marriage to Malcolm a year and a half ago.
The streets widened slightly. “We’re in Mayfair,” Malcolm said. And then their hired carriage slowed to a stop. Malcolm handed Colin back to Suzanne and moved to open the door. “Aunt Frances’s.”
Holding her son, Suzanne stepped from the carriage to be confronted by a smooth facade of pale gray stone, shiny black area railings, and three polished steps leading to a doric portico topped by a fanlight. “Which floor is she on?” Blanca asked as Malcolm handed her down behind Suzanne.
“She has the whole house,” Malcolm said. “It’s actually crowded when all her children are in residence.”
Suzanne’s gaze moved up the building. Four stories. She forgot, dangerously often, just who he was, this man she had married. Oh, she’d always known he was a duke’s grandson, that his father was in parliament, that his best friend was the son an earl. But in Lisbon they had shared cramped lodgings. With her scent bottles crowding his shaving things off the dressing table, it was easy to forget the world he had come from. Dear God. The entire traveling theatre troop she had grown up with would have rattled about on one floor.
Two footmen hurried down the front steps, blue and gold livery, powdered wigs, gleaming buckles that looked to be real silver. As Malcolm took her arm to help her up the steps, a dark-haired young woman carrying a blonde child of about four. “You’re here, I’m so glad. We’ve been waiting for hours.”
“I’m honored you tore yourself away from your equations, Allie.” Malcolm leaned forward to kiss his cousin’s cheek.
“Stuff. You’re my cousin.”
“My cousin, Aline Dacre-Hammond,” Malcolm said to Suzanne. “And Chloe,” he added, ruffling the little girl’s hair.
Chloe was staring at Colin. “It’s nice not to be the baby.”
Aline Dacre-Hammond  had brown hair, wide brown eyes, and a smudge of ink on her nose. She was, Malcolm had told Suzanne, a quite brilliant mathematician.
“Do bring them in out of the rain, Aline,” a voice said from the doorway.
“My dear. We’re so glad to have meet you at last. You’re just as lovely as Malcolm wrote.”
Suzanne seriously doubted Charles had written anything of the sort.
Lady Frances Dacre-Hammond was far from the grand dame Suzanne had been expecting. She must be past forty, but the lines in her face were barely perceptible. Her gown of lilac sarcenet was cut in what Suzanne recognized as the latest Paris fashion, her buttery blonde hair was dressed with a careless abandon that was carefully created, her smile was careless but warm.
“You’re very kind, ma’am,” Suzanne said.
“I fear I’m not in the least kind, but I am excessively grateful to you for making my nephew happy. And to you, young chap.” Lady Frances touched her fingers to Colin’s hair. “Now do meet the rest of the family.”
She turned to the two girls who stood behind her. One, petite, with golden brown ringlets and a pretty face redeemed from the common place by a determined chin, folded her arms across her chest. “Welcome home, Malcolm. If you still consider this home anymore.”
“It’s good to see you too, Gelly,” Malcolm said.
So the girl was Gisèle, Malcolm’s fifteen-year-old sister, who had made her home with Lady Frances since their mother’s death.
“My sister Gisèle,” Malcolm said, turning to Suzanne. “And my cousin Judith, Aunt Frances’s second daughter,” he added, indicating the other girl, taller, with paler blonde hair, who was his cousin Judith.
“It’s lovely to meet you,”  Judith said, in the careful voice of a fourteen-year-old practicing her grown up manners. “I hope you realize we aren’t as odd as we seem.”
“Don’t you believe it for a moment,” Aline murmured under her breath.
“We’ve put you in the yellow bedroom,” Lady Frances said. “I trust you don’t mind sharing, we’re rather overflowing the house. And we’ve put a cradle in for young Colin. I thought you might prefer that to putting him in the nursery with Chloe. I hope you won’t be too crowded.”
“We’re used to sharing,”Suzanne said. “We don’t have a lot of space in our lodgings in Lisbon.” She and Malcolm had always shared a bedchamber, though she knew it was unusual for couples in the beau monde. It had been odd at first, for she was used to being solitary, but now the thought of being on her own brought on a wave of panic, particularly in this alien world.

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,
Mélanie

p.s.

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

11.8.14DunnettDayMélanie and I just got back from a wonderful lunch party celebrating the Scottish Historical Novelist Dorothy Dunnett. All around the world, Dunnett readers gather on International Dorothy Dunnett Day (the Saturday closest to November 9, the date of her death) to celebrate her work. At 1:00, we toast in her favorite Highland Park Whisky. The pictures above shows our group toasting and below you see Mel and me with our lovely hostess Olive DePonte.11.8.14TracyOliveMel

Dunnett has been a huge influence on me as a writer, and this seems a good time to repeat a post about her work and her influence on my writing that I first put up in 2007. First, because everyone has been so kind about entering into the discussion of Mélanie’s and my Halloween, a few pics of Halloween and our recent trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for closing weekend (I saw All the Way, Cocoanuts, and The Tempest for the second time – all were amazing).

Arrived in Ashland, a stop at the Member Lounge

Arrived in Ashland, a stop at the Member Lounge

A Halloween close up of our Elsa and Anna outfits while shopping at <a href=In our Elsa & Anna costumes shopping at Paddington Jewel Box

Ready for the Halloween Parade through the center of town

Ready for the Halloween Parade through the center of town

A visit to our friends at <a href=Visiting our friends at Weisinger’s of Ashland, our favorite winery

A magical dinner at <a href=A magical dinner at Alchemy Restaurant & Bar

A leisurely brunch at<a href=A leisurely brunch at Brothers’ before we headed home

I first discovered Dorothy Dunnett’s books the summer between high school and college. I picked up “The Game of Kings”, the first book in the Lymond Chronicles, and spent a couple of days curled up on the sofa, glued to the page. I promptly devoured the rest of the six volume series. I told my mother she had to read them. It took her a bit of time to get into “The Game of Kings”, but soon she was as hooked as I was.

For those who haven’t yet discovered the Lymond Chronicles, the series begins in 16th century Scotland (when Mary, Queen of Scots, is a young child) and ranges all over the Continent. At the heart of the series is Francis Crawford of Lymond, mercenary, scholar, musician. Brilliant, tortured, an enigma to the reader and to most of the other characters. A lot of the fun of the series is trying to find the key to the fascinating code of who Lymond is, both literally (his parentage is in question) and in psychological terms. There’s a wonderful supporting cast of characters, both real historical figures and fictional characters blended seamlessly together. There’s adventure, angst, political intrigue, witty dialogue, and poetic allusions. The writing is wonderfully rich (Dunnett was also a painter), the pacing breakneck.

After the Lymond Chronicles, my mom and I both read Dunnett’s stand alone novel “King Hereafter” and her contemporary mysteries. And then to our excitement, she began a new series, the House of Niccolò, set in the 15th century, beginning in Bruges but again ranging all over, this time as far as Timbucktu and Iceland. The hero of the new series was a young dyeworks apprentice named Nicholas, dismissed as a buffoon by many but with abilities which lead him to rise in the commercial world and pull him into political intrigue in more than one country. Again, fictional events are blended with real historical events and mysteries abound. Reading the Lymond Chronicles, I thought, “it would have been really hard to read these as they were written and have to wait for each book.” With the House of Niccolò we had to do just that, with two years or so between each book. With their complex characters, intricate plots, and cliffhanger endings, the Dunnett books cry out for discussion. My mom and I talked about them endlessly, but we didn’t know anyone else who read them. I was thrilled to meet fellow writer Penelope Williamson and discover she was also a Dunnett reader. Penny and I spent many long lunches analyzing Dunnett’s books and speculating about what would happen next in the Niccolò series.

Then, in the mid-nineties, Penny and I both got online. We discovered there were whole online groups devoted to discussing Dunnett’s novels. Suddenly we could analyze and speculate with people all over the world. Dunnett readers tend to be a wonderul group–warm, friendly, well-read. I’ve had a great time geting together with fellow Dunnett readers both in the Bay Area and while traveling. In 2000, Penny and I and a number of our other Dunnett-reading friends went to Scotland for a conference in honor of the publication of the last book in the House of Niccolò series. Even now the series is finished (and Dunnett sadly passed away a few years ago) we love to get together online and in person to discuss Dunnett books and other books (not to mention tv shows from “Deadwood” to “Spooks/MI-5″ to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (which seems to be a particular favorite with Dunnett readers) :-).

Dunnett talked about reading and being influenced by other writers I love–Sabatini, Orczy, Heyer (certainly you can see bits of Andre-Louis Moreau and Percy Blakeney in Lymond, no to mention a touch of Peter Wimsey). She’s been a huge influence on me. I can see a number of echoes of her books looking at “Secrets of a Lady”–the conflict between brothers, questions about parentage, the loss of a child. I still pull out her books and reread certain scenes when I have to tackle an action sequence or a sword fight (“The Game of Kings” has the best sword fight I’ve ever read).

Have you read Dunnett? Do you enjoy discussing her books? Are there other authors you discuss with friends, online or in person?

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