photo: Raphael Coffey

Happy Friday! To those celebrating U.S.Thanksgiving this week, I hope you have a great holiday! I’m hard at work on the closing chapters of London Gambit, so it seemed a good time to post another teaser. This scene between Malcolm and Suzanne follows directly on the excerpt at the end of Incident in Berkeley Square.

Have a great weekend!

Suzanne went down the passage to her own bedchamber. A lamp was lit on the pier table. The glow caught the white of the covers in the cradle over Jessica, her seventeen-month old daughter. The deep even sound of Jessica’s breathing confirmed that she slept. The room was empty otherwise, but the black evening coat Malcolm had been wearing when he went out was flung over the black of the frayed green velvet chair. A sliver of light showed through the gap where the door to the night nursery was ajar.
Suzanne crossed the room and pushed the door further open. Her husband was between the two iron beds where their five-year old son Colin and Laura’s four-year old daughter Emily slept. Malcolm was on the edge of Colin’s bed, smoothing their son’s hair. Suzanne stayed still. Tenderness washed over her, as it did at unexpected times. Perhaps it was the angle of his head or the way his hair fell over his forehead, but Malcolm looked unexpectedly vulnerable.  Her throat tightened the way it did when she looked at the children and willed time to stop, trying to commit the moment to memory. It was these unexpected moments that had so very nearly been her undoing a hundred times or more in the years of her deception.The preciousness of life sneaked up on one, not so much in times of danger, when one would expect it, but in seemingly trivial moments. The sort of moments that went to make up a life and a marriage and a family.
Malcolm turned, as though aware of her regard. A smile crossed his face as he met her gaze. He  touched his fingers to Colin’s hair one last time, then to Emily’s, got to his feet with his usual catlike grace and crossed the room to her. He took her hand, lifted it to his lips, and drew her into the bedchamber. He closed the door with his free hand and instead of releasing her pulled her into his arms and kissed her with unexpected urgency.
It was a relief to lose herself in his kiss and then to slide her arms round him and bury her face in the starch and lavender smell of his cravat. He rested his chin on her hair for a long moment, then at last drew back enough to look down at her. “How was the Grandisons’ rout?”
“As dull as I feared. Fortunately I had distraction. I received a message from Marthe. Bertrand needed my help settling someone.” Nothing odd in that. It wasn’t the first time it had happened. Better, Raoul had taught her, to stick as close to the truth as possible. She kept her voice level and her heartbeat even. If she hadn’t learned to control it long since Malcolm would have suspected her years earlier.
Malcolm twined one of her side curls round his finger. “Someone you knew?”
“No, but he’d been wounded on the way to meet Bertrand in Calais. I helped with bandaging.”
Malcolm nodded. He now knew the location of a number of former Bonapartist agents who were settled in London. In fact he had helped her settle several of them. He took helping them and keeping their secrets without question. A sign of how far he had come since their marriage. Of how far they had come. Mostly she thought it was a good thing. But every so often she felt a faint twinge. Was she encouraging him to compromise so much that one day he would look back and hate where he had ended up? Hate the wife who had helped him get there?
“My evening was interrupted by a summons as well,” Malcolm said. He drew her over to the green velvet chair and sank into it, holding her against him as he proceeded to recount the message he’d received from Jeremy Roth and finding Teddy Craven at the Whateley & Company Warehouse.
“That’s why you were sitting with the children,” Suzanne said, lifting her head from her husband’s shoulder to look into his eyes.
Malcolm nodded. “One tries so damnably hard to protect them. Sometimes I look round and the world seems full of traps. Growing up is challenging enough for children who are protected and nurtured. For those with added challenges—“
“We both faced a lot of challenges, and we managed to muddle through more or less,” Suzanne said.
He slid his fingers into her hair. “You’re a marvel, my darling. What you went through—”
“But I had more love and security in my early years than you did. More perhaps than Teddy Craven did. I don’t think Louisa and Craven were the warmest of parents.”
“No.” His fingers stilled in her hair. “Simon and David can do a great deal for the Craven children.” A smile curved his mouth. “I never thought to see Simon an expert on putting a two-year-old down. Apparently he’s the only one who can get young Jamie to sleep.”
“I’m not surprised,” Suzanne said. “I remember how easily he held Colin when we first met him.”
“Yes, but it’s a bit more challenging when one can’t hand the child back.”
“If he still going back to the Albany every night?”
Malcolm nodded. “I saw him leave. David was franker than I’ve never heard him about the challenges of a relationship that has to remain secret. About his parents’ veiled disapproval. And the people who think worse.” His brows drew together. “I don’t think I properly appreciate how it is for them.”
“We’ve talked about the pressure on David to marry.” Suzanne was confidant David could withstand that pressure, but Malcolm, she knew, had doubts at times. He was less of a romantic, he said, though Suzanne vehemently denied she was a romantic. Perhaps it was that Malcolm was more clear eyed about just how strong the pressures of being born an aristocrat could be.
“Yes, I worry about what that could do to David. But they’re so comfortable with each other and we—not just the two of us, but Bel and Oliver, Harry and Cordy, Rupert and Bertrand, Crispin and Manon—are so used to seeing them as a couple that I think I forget sometimes that to the rest of the world they can’t be.” His free hand curved round the chair arm. “David reminded me that it’s a hanging offense. According to laws imposed by the Parliament I’m a part of.”
“Not laws you had anything to do with passing.”
“You could introduce a bill to repeal them. It won’t get anywhere, at least not now. But then neither will your capital punishment bill. And it would lay groundwork. Jeremy Bentham argued for repeal of the anti-buggery laws  thirty years ago. And others have more recently. Juliette Dubretton—-”
“Not to mention my wife.”
“That provoked more comments than some of my articles,” Suzanne said. She regularly contributed articles to the Political Register.  “But a parliamentary bill would cause more talk. You’d have to consider the position you’d be putting David in though.”
“You mean because there’d be talk if he supported it? There’d be talk about me as well. There already is. Has been since David and I were boys, though it took us both a while to understand it.”
Suzanne pressed a kiss against Malcolm’s throat. “Yes, dearest, but you aren’t at risk of getting caught. At least not unless there’s a great deal going on in your life that I’m not aware of.”
“Given my difficulties sharing myself with you, I really can’t imagine doing so with another person, sweetheart. Of either gender.” He turned his head and kissed her temple. “David would brave the talk. He has the courage of a soldier.” Malcolm’s fingers curled inward. “But I think what’s even worse for  David is that the world expects him to marry and produce an heir. Which would be solved if we simply got rid of inherited privilege, as my wife advocates.”
“You advocate it too. In writing. Very cogently.”
“And yet I’ve benefited. Though the man from whom I inherited all this”—he glanced round their room, where so many intimate moments in their life had taken place, in this exquisite house they had inherited from Alistair Rannoch—“has no biological connection to me. What a world we live in.” He laced his fingers through her own. “A bill is a good idea. But it won’t begin to do enough.” His gaze darkened. “I knew I couldn’t leave the intelligence game, not completely. And I had no illusions I be able to get very much done in Parliament. But I thought at least I’d be my own man.”
Suzanne lifted her head to look at her husband, so stubbornly idealistic for all he’d deny it. “And you are, darling.”
“To a degree. Better than in the diplomatic service, where I had to argue for policies that half the time I didn’t believe in. But the I’m still arguing within the terms of a debate set by someone else. And the damnable thing is sometimes I get so caught up in the debate I don’t see the parameters enclosing it.”
“Sometimes—“ She drew a breath. There were still things she tried not to burden him with.
“That’s how you feel as a Republican living as the wife of a duke’s grandson?”
He tightened his arm round her.  “Sometimes I think  Davenport has the right idea, living a life of scholarship.”
“I think Harry would go mad if he couldn’t help with your investigations.”
“There is that. It’s just hard not to feel tainted by the game. All the games.” Malcolm stared down at his arm, curved round her own. “I’ve never heard David talk with such anger as tonight. In truth, we’ve scarcely talked at all about—about how it is for him.” He was silent for a moment, one of those shifts when he talked of something he’d hitherto held close. “I remember one night the summer before we went up to Oxford. We’d gone to the theatre—As You Like It. And I glanced over and saw David watching the actor who played Orlando. Just watching him. But something about the look in his gaze—. I’d realized years before, sitting in a maths class, watching David have that same look in his eyes as he glanced at another boy. But this time David turned his head as though he realized I was watching him. I think he was embarrassed at first. But then he seemed to understand that I understood. And that was that.”
“You never talked about it?” Suzanne asked.
“Not in so many words. When he met Simon. Well, first I pretended I was deaf and blind and tried to give them as much time together as possible. But I remember telling David a few months later when it was pretty clear which quarter the wind sat in—not that it hadn’t been clear from the night they met—that I was happy for him. That he had something I never thought to have. David started to protest and then said ‘thank you.’ He complains sometimes about the pressure on him to marry, but even that he tends to avoid. I never heard him rail at a world that’s so savagely, insanely set against him. Even tonight he was telling me how much there is to honor in Britain. Christ.”
“Given everything he sacrifices for Britain, he probably has to believe that or he’d go mad.”
Malcolm looked at her for a moment. “Insightful as always, Suzette. Perhaps that’s it.”
“Simon talks a bit more.”
“To you in particular.”
“The outsiders banding together. But even Simon doesn’t complain. Nothing like as much as he has cause too.”
Malcolm frowned at a patch of shadow on the carpet. “I wish I could have found the right words to say to David tonight.”
“It’s not as though you can fix it, Malcolm.”
“No, but—“ He shook his head. “I couldn’t of course tell him that I have a whole new appreciation for the challenges he and Simon face keeping their relationship secret now I know my wife’s story.”
Not for the first time, Suzanne wished Malcolm could talk to David about her and the challenges of their marriage. It would be desperately good for him to have a confidant. But she knew he feared David’s reaction to the truth more than that of any of their other friends. David, Malcolm said, was an Englishman to the core, with very precise ideas about what that meant. She drew a breath. “David—“
“Believes theres much to honor in England. The country with laws on its books that would hang him and Simon. The country—“
“I betrayed.”
“You aren’t an Englishwoman. But I wouldn’t be surprised if David thought I’d betrayed it now if he knew the extent of my actions.”
Her qualms of earlier in the evening came flooding back. “Malcolm—“
“I’m not saying I regret anything, Mel. Quite the reverse in fact. You’ve opened my eyes to things I should have seen earlier. David and I have always seen the world in different ways.”
“The last thing I ever wanted was to come between the two of you.”
His arm tightened round her. “You haven’t, beloved.”

Incident in Berkeley Square 2_face
Incident in Berkeley Square, the new novella, will be out November 2, and should be available for pre-order shortly. Above is a peek at the cover, which I love (looks so like Suzanne in an early scene in the story). And below is another teaser which shows the start of the intrigue that threatens the peace of Suzanne and Malcolm’s ball. What challenges do you think this will pose for Malcolm and Suzanne and their friends?

Be sure to check out the great character analysis thread Betty has started on the Google + Group. Some fascinating comments on Malcolm, and we’ve just begun to discuss Suzanne. it would be great to have more people chime in.

Have a great weekend!

Malcolm exchanged greetings with Crispin and Manon Harleton, then stopped short at the sight of a familiar auburn head in the throng. “Bertrand.” Malcolm touched Bertrand Laclos on the arm. “Rupert said you wouldn’t be able to make it tonight.” He ran his gaze over his friend. Bertrand was always quietly elegant, and his dark coat and trousers blended in well—these days not all men wore knee breeches to balls, thank God—but Bertrand was not really dressed for the occasion. There appeared to be salt stains on his shoes and the cuffs of his trousers. “You didn’t come for the ball, did you?” Malcolm asked.

“Not for want of wishing to.” Bertrand cast a quick glance about. “I’m sorry, Malcolm,” he continued in a voice that managed to sound conversational to anyone passing but was also quick and focused. “I’m afraid we had a spot of trouble at the docks. I could have gone to our house, but Rupert’s sister’s Clarissa and her family are living with us while their house is painted—”

“No, you were right to come here.” Malcolm touched Bertrand’s shoulder. “Walk with me. I assume you brought friends. Where have you stashed them away?”

“Your study.”

“Excellent.” Malcolm tightened his hand on Bertrand’s shoulder. “I’m taking you to sample a new whisky Andrew sent from Dunmykel.”

Bertrand moved with the ease of a guest at a ball, a languid gait that somehow made his plain coat and salt-stained trousers take on the look of evening wear. Malcolm, more than passingly good at disguise, recognized Bertrand as a master. For years, presumed dead thanks to the machinations of his lover’s father, he had lived a secret life in Paris while he donned a variety of disguises and smuggled both Royalists and Bonapartists out of the war-torn country. Three years ago he had returned to Britain and to Rupert Caruthers, whom he had loved all his life. But Malcolm knew Bertrand still slipped across the Channel to rescue those in need. He had an agent’s skills, but he wasn’t in the service of a country. He made his own choices and rescued those in need. A position Malcolm could envy.

“Do you want to find Rupert first?” Malcolm asked.

Bertrand hesitated a moment, then shook his head. “Not yet. No sense in taking the time. And it might be better if he can genuinely deny I’m here.”

Suzanne had come into the ballroom. She was by the open double doors, talking to the Hollands and Lord John Russell. Malcolm met her gaze and realized she was well aware of Bertrand at his side. He inclined his head slightly and saw the message received in her eyes. “You handle the guests, I’ll handle this.”

It was probably quite unfair. He’d rather handle a mission than a ball any day. Of course, Suzanne was much better at juggling matters in the ballroom than he was. And her absence would be noticed much more quickly.

They made their way out of the ballroom. A few people recognized Bertrand and nodded to him, but they managed to avoid stopping to talk. No sense in wasting time and no telling what might be overheard. Instead of going down the main staircase, still clogged with latecomers, Malcolm took Bertrand through the baize-covered door to the backstairs.

“Malcolm,” Bertrand murmured as they reached the study on the ground floor.

“Explanations inside,” Malcolm said, and pushed open the door.

A lamp flickered on his desk. Its muted glow caught the fair hair of a man lying on the sofa in front of the desk, booted feet sticking out over the green velvet. Another man was bent over the sofa. Dark hair, a lean form, and something unmistakable about the set of the shoulders. Malcolm pushed the study door to. He might have known.

“Good evening, O’Roarke. Kind of you to join us.”

Raoul O’Roarke straightened up and regarded Malcolm across the study. His eyes were a dark gray and even Malcolm could now recognize that they were the twin of his own. O’Roarke, Malcolm had learned the previous winter, was Malcolm’s biological father. He was also Suzanne’s former lover and spymaster. Nothing in Malcolm’s family, acknowledged or unacknowledged, was easy.

“I’m sorry, Malcolm,” O’Roarke said. “We didn’t want to impose on you. But we had limited options.”

“No, you were right to come here.” Malcolm advanced into the room. “How hurt is your friend?”

The fair-haired man on the sofa turned his head and gave a weak smile, and Malcolm saw that she wasn’t a man at all but a woman, a quite young woman, dressed in a coat and breeches.

“Malcolm, may I present Lisette Varon?” Bertrand said, in the same tone he’d use in the drawing room. “She found it necessary to leave the Continent abruptly. O’Roarke and I assisted her.”

“Mademoiselle Varon.” Malcolm inclined his head. “Welcome to England. My apologies for your difficult arrival. We are usually more welcoming to visitors.”

“Monsieur Rannoch.” Lisette Varon’s voice was low-pitched and educated. Its steadiness indicated her injuries were not grave. “I am sorry for disturbing you.”

“On the contrary,” Malcolm said. “I’m glad our friends knew where to bring you.”

“We came over on a smuggler’s boat,” Bertrand said. “Tim Leggett. He’s consistent. I’ve worked with him before. Honest dealing. Good at evading the authorities. It seemed safer and easier to take a smaller boat up the Thames with him than to wrangle transportation from Dover. But the Preventive Waterguard must be looking for someone to make an example of. They met us at the dock. Leggett had enough advance warning to fire off a volley of gunshots. The preventive men fired back. More excitement than one usually sees in London. We got caught in the crossfire. Lisette took a bullet. It seemed prudent to make ourselves scarce. One of our number didn’t have papers that would stand scrutiny and O’Roarke and I weren’t best placed to answer questions.”

“So you ran,” Malcolm said. “Prudent.”

“We ran,” O’Roarke agreed. “Unfortunately, one of the preventive men gave chase. No reason to realize we weren’t some of the smugglers. We had the devil’s own time losing him. Did a dance through Covent Garden and finally shook him on the edge of Mayfair. I’m sorry to have come here, but—”

“We’re better equipped to deal with it than most,” Malcolm said. “No one’s likely to come in here, but you’d best keep the door locked, just to be safe. I’ll have some food sent in. And I’ll send my wife in to look at your wound, Mademoiselle Varon. She’s quite good at patching up people.”

“Thank you.” Lisette hesitated a moment, as though unsure whether or not to say more.

“You can trust him,” O’Roarke said. “My word on it. And he should know.”

Lisette cast a quick glance at O’Roarke, then looked back at Malcolm. “You’ve been very kind, Monsieur Rannoch. I’m sorry we imposed on you, as I said. But selfishly I’m glad we came here. I have a message for Madame Rannoch.”

Malcolm met Lisette’s gaze across his study carpet. The gaze of a former French agent. Who had a message for his wife, also a former French agent. Life had got unbelievably complicated four and a half months ago.

He could feel O’Roarke watching him, but he kept his gaze on Lisette and inclined his head. “Then all the more reason for me to send her in,” he said.

Malcolm moved to the door but paused, gripping the brass handle, to look back at his father. The last time Malcolm had seen him O’Roarke had been on his way to Spain to help the rebels against the restored Bourbon government. “O’Roarke.”

O’Roarke looked up at him.

“We’ve been worried about you,” Malcolm said. “It’s good to see you back in London in one piece.”


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!


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,


Happy Tuesday! As a special thank you to Betty for all her work restarting the Google + Group, I just shared another teaser from Incident in Berkeley Square on the group site. If you’re a  member, login and check it out. It directly follows the teaser I posted last week, and is the first scene between Malcolm and Suzanne


If you aren’t a member, you can join through a link on my website. If you have trouble joining, post here or message me through the About Tracy page.

Happy Reading!!


Après theatre in Ashland

Après theatre in Ashland

I’m still working on a post about the wonderful plays I saw at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and how they’ve inspired my writing But this week I’ve been busy getting the novella, A Night in Berkeley Square, off to the copy editor. It seems a good time to post a teaser, especially as it ties into to some of the past week’s discussion as it touches on Laura and Emily. Here’s the opening scene of A Night in Berkeley Square. Does Laura’s situation fit with what you envisioned after The Mayfair Affair?

Chapter 1


April 1818

“It’s never going to work.”

The woman, who until six weeks ago had been known as Laura Dudley and who now could not say with certainty what name she claimed, stared at her reflection in the pier glass on the wall of her bedchamber. Or rather the bedchamber she occupied in the home of Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch. Until six weeks ago she had been employed as governess to their children. Now her position in the household was undefined. Like the rest of her life.

“Nonsense.” Suzanne Rannoch adjusted the puffed sleeves of Laura’s gown. “People aren’t in the habit of questioning Malcolm’s and my stories.”

“Most of your stories don’t involve amnesia.” Laura smiled at her friend in the mirror. “It’s all right. My situation was enough to tax even your abilities. I’m impressed that you could come up with anything at all. Impressed and grateful. But I can’t but think it might be best for me to avoid society.”

“You can’t avoid it when there’s a ball in our house.” Suzanne smoothed a fold of Laura’s overdress. “Besides it would be a crime for that dress not to be seen.”

Laura turned her gaze back to the looking glass. A stranger stared back at her. For four years she had dressed as a governess in sober, high-necked gowns of gray and dark blue. In the past six weeks she had borrowed some gowns from Suzanne and ordered a few new ones of her own, but nothing like the gown she wore now, the gown that Suzanne had insisted on taking her to order from a French modiste. French blue gauze fastened down the front with pearl clasps over a slip of silver satin. The pearls round her throat were her own, a gift from her father in her long ago days as the colonel’s daughter in India.  Her aqua marine earrings were a far more recent gift which had arrived a fortnight since in a plain box not sent through the regular post, with a cream colored card tucked inside signed simply R.

The memory brought warmth to Laura’s cheeks. And a much needed jolt of confidence. Which was probably why he had sent them.

She wondered if Suzanne knew where the earrings had come from. She wondered if Suzanne knew any number of things.

“I used to envy your gowns when you came into the nursery before you went out for the evening,” she confessed. “I wouldn’t have thought I would miss pretty clothes so much, and yet— But I also got used to dressing like a governess. To wearing clothes that blended in to the background.”

“The armor of a role.” Suzanne spoke with the easy assurance of a trained agent used to playing roles. “But your role has changed now.”

That was undeniable. The question was what her new role entailed.

The connecting door to the night nursery opened to admit Suzanne’s friend Lady Cordelia Davenport, an impossibly beautiful, impossibly stylish woman who had been born at the heart of the English beau monde. “More of their supper is going in their mouths than on the floor,” Cordelia reported. “Just. They made me promise to send ices up. And they want to see Laura once her toilet is finished.”

Cordelia’s two daughters were spending the night in the Rannoch nursery along with Laura’s daughter Emily and the Rannoch children Colin and Jessica. Cordelia paused on the threshold, gaze on the looking glass. She had gone with Laura and Suzanne to the modiste’s. “I knew that color would look splendid on you, Laura, but I didn’t realize quite— You’re going to have the ballroom at your feet.”

Laura turned from the mirror with a laugh. Cordelia wore a robe of red crêpe over white satin which set off her pale gold hair and laughed in the face of the gossip about her past. She and the dark-haired Suzanne, in coral lace over a matching silk slip, were perfect foils for each other. “Doing it much too brown, Lady Cordelia. With you and Suzanne, not to mention half the beauties in London, and the latest crop of débutântes—”

“Have you looked in the glass?” Cordelia asked. “Besides, you have all the fascination of mystery.”

“You mean people will be gawking at me because the story of my last four years sounds like something out of a lending library novel.”


“I lost my memory after the carriage accident in India that killed my husband. My infant daughter was spirited away and I became a governess, only to recover my memories when my employers brought me to London.”

“I know.” Suzanne bent down to pick up Berowne the cat who was winding about her ankles, heedless of the delicate fabric of her gown. “You coped wonderfully in appalling circumstances for the past four years and the story makes you look more like a long suffering heroine in need of rescue than a woman who can take care of herself. I wouldn’t like it either. But—”

“But even if people don’t believe it, they’ll never guess the truth,” Cordelia said.

That, Laura acknowledged, was a good point. “You’re quite right,” she said. “I daresay it’s my own qualms about London society talking.”

“London society is certainly worthy of a qualm or two,” Cordelia said. “But you’ve got all of us to support you.”

Cordelia had been born an earl’s daughter but had faced social disgrace when her marriage nearly fell apart. Suzanne, half French, half Spanish, had been viewed by many as a foreign adventuress who had snagged a duke’s grandson. Even though cards of invitation to her parties were now sought after, there were still rumors.  “Which is a bit like having an army at my back,” Laura said. “I shouldn’t be missish.”

Cordelia put an arm round her. “Let’s go see your daughter.”

The day nursery, which had once been the heart of Laura’s world and where she still spent a large portion of her time, was bright with lamplight and children’s laughter. Emily looked up from the table. Her eyes went wide. “You look like a princess, Mummy.”

Laura laughed and went to kiss her daughter. Two months ago Laura hadn’t been sure she would ever see her daughter again. Six weeks ago when she brought Emily to the Rannoch house she’d wondered how her daughter would settle in, if she’d ever accept Laura as her mother, if she’d blame Laura for not finding her sooner. But  looking at the five children gathered round the nursery table, one would never guess that, unlike the Rannoch and Davenport children who had been nurtured from the cradle, Emily had spent the first four years of her life in an orphanage.

Colin Rannoch set down his cup of milk. “I’m glad you can go to parties, Laura. I always thought it was unfair.”

Suzanne ruffled her son’s hair and set Berowne down next to him as she went to pick up her daughter.

“Can we have some cakes with the ices?” Livia Davenport asked her mother.

“I’ll see what we can do.” Cordelia knelt between her daughters. Seventeen-month-old Jessica Rannoch now in Suzanne’s arms, squirmed round to nurse, which was not the best thing for Suzanne’s evening gown, though she was certainly used to it. Suzanne turned to Blanca, her maid and companion, who was presiding over the nursery meal. “Are you sure—”

“I’ll be quite all right,” Blanca said. “Unlike some, I really do only feel queasy in the mornings.”

Blanca had married Addison, Malcolm Rannoch’s valet, three months ago, and was expecting their first child. Suzanne squeezed Blanca’s shoulder while holding Jessica one-handed. “We’ll send up ices and cakes. And lemonade. And we’ll come up to kiss you goodnight. It should be an easy evening as these things go.”

Blanca snorted. “You always say that.”

Suzanne gave one of the dazzling smiles with which she always faced down risk. “And sometimes I’m right.”


Happy Friday! The Merola summer is winding down. This week we had  our last public Master Class of the summer (the picture above if Mélanie and me when I got back) afterwards) with Antony Walker, who will conduct our Merola Grand Finale concert next weekend on August 22 (the culmination of the program and a wonderful chance to hear all the Merola vocalists sing on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House for anyone in the Bay Area).

I’ve taken a mini-break from my WIP to get started on novella that will be out this fall. I wanted to have a good start on the novel before I focused on the novella. Once I had the plot idea for  the novella it’s been falling into place with surprising ease (at least so far :-). It takes place during a ball Suzanne and Malcolm are giving in Berkeley Square. I realized I’ve never written a scene of them entertaining in a big way. Lots of great possibilities and fun to do the novella all on one night, with all the pressure of hosting a large event..It takes place about a month and a half after the end of The Mayfair Affair.

Here’s a teaser excerpt that takes place while Malcolm and Suzanne waltz. Early draft, so my apologies in advance for errors.

Have a great weekend!


Suzanne stepped into her husband’s arms and smiled up at him. “How bad is it?” she asked as the first strains sounded.
He swept her in front of him, their hands interlaced. “Nothing we can’t handle. Child’s play compared to six weeks ago or three months before that or—“
Suzanne spun beneath his arm  “It must be serious indeed if it’s driven you to seek refuge on the dance floor.”
“On the contrary. I’m well aware the dance floor provides good cover.” He pulled her back to him, chest to chest. At a distance Emily Cowper and the other patronesses of Almack’s would not approve, but there were advantages in being a married couple. “Bertrand de Lisles and O’Roarke are in the study. With a young woman they smuggled out of France. Not sure if she’s an agent or just a Bonapartist, but they had a run in with excisemen who were after the smuggler who got them into Britain.”
Suzanne drew a sharp breath. The movement of the dance had her spun out to the side so she couldn’t look into Malcolm’s eyes. “Is anyone injured?”
“The young Frenchwoman. It’s not dire, but you should take a look at her. Bertrand’s all right. So’s O’Roarke, and it doesn’t look as though he’s met with anything serious in Spain.”
Suzanne spun back towards her husband and saw a relief in his gaze that mirrored her own. Last winter she’d never have believed they could get to this point.  Where Charles knew the truth about her and about Raoul, and Raoul was a frequent guest in their house. But perhaps oddest of all was that these days their feelings about Raoul seemed remarkably similar. Largely involving worry about what he might be getting into in Spain. She gave her husband a bright smile, part distraction for anyone watching them, part defiance in the face of challenge. “Life never gets dull, does it?”
“Not for long.”
“Darling, you’re enjoying this.”
He twirled her again. “Of course not.”
“Really, Malcolm, I know you better than that. The distraction of a mission and an excuse to escape into the study during a ball. It’s the answer to your prayers.”
He gave an bashed grin and pulled her back into his arms. “Put that like that— I’m not glad anyone’s injured. But I can’t deny it’s livened up the evening.”
“And you accuse me of living dangerously.” She looked into her husband’s gray eyes, so familiar, but often so unreadable. There was a time, not so very long ago, when she’d never thought to again see trust or tenderness in them again. She was beyond fortunate to have both back, even if the shadows of the past still hung between them. Now that he had communicated the most urgent facts, it occurred to her that her husband, a former British agent (assuming one could ever be a former agent) was hiding a French agent in his study. She drew a breath. “Darling—”
“Remarkable how far we’ve come, isn’t it?” He smiled. A sweet smile intended to reassure but also to deflect further probing into whatever he was thinking. There were some things Malcolm still wasn’t prepared to share with her. “I’ll cover so you can go in and tend to the woman. And we should send some food in. The Frenchwoman’s name is  Lisette d’Armagnac. At least that’s what they told me. Do you know her?”
He paused slightly before that last question, and Suzanne realized he wasn’t entirely certain she’d tell him the truth. “No,” she said. “Truly. At least not by that name. Did she say she knows me?”
“Not precisely. But she says she has a message for you.”
A chill shot through Suzanne. Along with the dangerous thrill that a return to game could still bring. “About what?”
“I didn’t ask.” Malcolm spun her under his arm and pulled her against him, her back to his chest. “Once you’ve found out what it is you can decide whether you want to tell me.”
She couldn’t see into his eyes, but she could feel the trust in the steadiness of his voice and the strength of his arm round her. Trust was such a precious thing and a fragile burden. That could upend a marriage if it tipped the wrong way. “Darling—“
He spun her to the side, their arms crisscrossed overhead, then forwards to face him. “All things considered, it’s probably best I know the truth. Makes evenings like these much easier to navigate.”
How often in the past four and a half months had humor saved them? It was, as Malcolm said, sometimes the only possible response. And yet Suzanne suspected that for her husband it was also a defensive shield. A shield over feelings still too raw to share with her. Over feelings he perhaps feared to let himself express. A shield she had no right to breech, even assuming she could do so.
“Of course I’ll—“
Malcolm’s fingers tightened on her own. “Best not to make promises.”
She nodded. “Carfax—“
“I know.” His mouth tightened. “No reason to think he has a whiff of what’s going on, but we’d best tread warily. I’ll keep an eye on him.” He turned round, holding her against him. “As you say, life certainly stays interesting.”

Concert with friends

Concert with friends

Happy Friday! In the midst of a busy Merola Opera Program Summer Festival and work on my WIP, Mélanie and I are managing to squeeze in some summer fun, like a picnic and outdoor concert last night with friends and their kids.

I have some exciting news – all the Malcolm & Suzanne books and novellas are now available as ebooks in the UK. You can kind them on Kindle here and they should be available on all platforms by next week. They have gorgeous new covers – here is His Spanish Bride. I’ll have all of them posted on the site soon.

His Spanish Bride3

Though I edit my manuscripts a lot, I don’t often cut whole scenes. But writing in the wonderful program Scrivener, I find it easy to write scenes without always knowing precisely where they will fit in the finished book. Usually they fall nicely into place but I wrote a quarrel between Malcolm and Suzanne for The Mayfair Affair that, though it seemed to fit with where their relationship was, never found a place in the finished book. I thought I would share it here.

Have a great weekend!


“Malcolm, I think we should talk about this.”
“No.” His voice had the force of a sword cut. “I think that would prove fatal. Once words are spoken they can’t be taken back.”
“You’re afraid of what you’ll say to me?”
He turned to the drinks trolley, but tension was in the set of shoulders. “I don’t like myself very much just now, Suzette. There’s not much point in inflicting that on you.”
“I hate that I’ve done this to you.”
“Not everything is due to you, Suzette..”
She moved toward him and put her arms round him. “There are other things we could do than talk.”
He spun round and caught her wrists. “No.”
He was so close she could feel the warmth of his breath. “You don’t want—“
“To be manipulated.”
“You’ve been manipulating me since we met, Suzette. Perhaps in bed more than anywhere.”
“You can’t think I was pretending—“
“No.” He hesitated a moment. “Perhaps I’m a fool not to consider it, but no. But how many times have you got me into bed to end a difficult conversation? Or because you wanted me asleep so you could slip out of the house or ransack my dispatch box?”
The memories couldn’t but rush into her mind.
Malcolmreleased her wrists. “Precisely.”
“I know what we have, sweetheart. But even when we couldn’t talk of love, it was the one place I thought we had honesty.”

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