Teresa Grant


From dinner last night. My caption ” can’t tell you how scared I am really right now about the world grown ups are making for you, Melanie. All I can do is enjoy being with and say how proud I am of people who are working to make a difference and that I’m trying to do my own bit to help make things better.”

I was in the midst of working on copy edits for Gilded Deceit this weekend when the news about the ban on refugees and travel from some predominantly Muslim countries hit. As readers of the series know, revelations about Suzanne’s past have sent Malcolm and Suzanne into exile. Exile in many ways is the theme of Gilded Deceit, with the Rannochs and their friends encountering other expatriates, including Lord Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley. I looked up from fine tuning their longing for home and conflicted thoughts about a home they’ve been forced to leave to read, appalled, about what is happening today. To worry about friends like a young Canadian, Iranian-born singer who now can’t visit her family in Canada for fear she can’t return to the U.S. Or another friend whose father-in-law now can’t come here to visit his toddler grandchildren. Other friends, artists, students, academics  with young children, who now may not be able to travel to and from the country I call home. The plight of those one knows personally brings home the concrete reality, but far worse is the plight of refugees whose very lives are at stake. Many of those refugees have children my daughter’s age or younger. Yes, I tend to focus on the plight of children. Having a young child sends my thoughts in that direction.

Compared to these people, Malcolm and Suzanne and the other characters in Gilded Deceit are comparatively fortunate. They have a secure fortune, and Malcolm was careful in advance to move funds out of Britain. Malcolm even has a house (a very beautiful house) in Italy where they can seek refuge. They may have to look over their shoulder for Lord Carfax and the Elsinore League, but they have financial resources and their own skills as agents to fall back upon. That somehow drives home to me how bad the current situation is. We tend to think of progress. Of the world being a safer, saner, more just place now than it was two hundred years ago. As writers, we devise hair raising situations for our characters. Usually their plight is much worse than what one looks round and sees in the present day. Instead, I look at the news and at people I know personally and find myself thinking ‘“Malcolm and Suzanne are the lucky ones.”

Malcolm struggles a lot in Gilded Deceit with what it means to be British and what he’s done in Britain’s name. At one point he says, “Being loyal to a country doesn’t mean taking on the burdens of the men who run it.”

This weekend, I am having a similar struggle.

 

 

 

 

photo: Alexandra Elliott

photo: Alexandra Elliott

I’ve blogged before about the joys and challenges of being a writer and a mother and the “art of juggling.” I thought back to that blog yesterday. I had to give a presentation at meeting for my Merola Opera Program job, meet up with my daughter’s nanny to drop her off, and later that night finish going through copy edits for Gilded Deceit. It was raining. We were running late. I wasn’t sure I’d told the nanny the right place to meet. Finally, on the way into the meeting, I apologized to a colleague for running late, and she said not to worry and then added, “It must be hard being a mother.”

Later, sitting in the meeting (after I turned around the heel of my Wolford tights so a run wouldn’t show and fished out a blue crayon from my Longchamp tote to make notes because I couldn’t find a pen) I thought about that comment. Being a mother is exhausting at times. It’s rewarding. It can be challenging, especially when one tries to juggle the various parts of one’s life or simply get out the door with a sleepy five-year-old and all the things you need or both your days. But I don’t really think of it as hard. And more than anything else, I think I would call it fun.

Before I was a mother I didn’t play hide and seek tag, set up doll tea parties, or tell stories in the car. I didn’t get to share the wonder of seeing my daughter discover the world.

When I got to the copy edits, I thought about Suzanne and the way she juggles her life, which makes mine look simple. I think Suzanne would say the secret (along with “not minding if you fail”) is finding happiness in the moment. Which I’d agree with.

buckeye

 

Hope everyone is having  a wonderful midwinter, however you celebrate! It’s been a very busy couple of months for me, with the release of Mission for a Queen and working madly away at Gilded Deceit so it can go the copy editor in the New Year. As always seems to happen with a book, there are moments I despair and moments I think it’s working rather well. On my current draft I’m quite excited about how the Rannochs’ adventures on Lake Como are shaping up.

In the flurry of preparing for the holidays, I thought it might be fun to speculate on what Malcolm and Suzanne and their friends might give each other, either in 1818 or if they lived today. We don’t know where Christmas of 1818 will find them, but we could speculate as though they are still in Italy – or wherever you prefer.

I think Malcolm would give Suzanne a garnet pendant surrounded by diamonds (I know he gave her another garnet pendant but she’s fond of the stone and this is a very different design). It could work in 1818 or 2016.

garnetpendant

In 1818, Suzanne might give Malcolm a first edition of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (one of the books William Caxton printed) as a reminder of Britain and something he could read with the children. In 2016 she might give him the same thing (though probably not a first edition!) or perhaps a new iPad, since he might not get that for himself as it’s not as practical as a phone or a computer. And he might keep insisting he was fine with the old one with the cracked screen :-).

Raoul might give Laura a blue topaz necklace in 1818 or 2016, to go with the earrings he sent her before the ball in Incident in Berkeley Square. Laura might give Raoul framed pictures of her and Emily to take with him when he travels – miniatures in 1818, photos in folding travel case in 2016.

David might give Simon a ring in 1818 or 2016, though in 2016 the ring would go with a formal proposal.

What do you think these characters and others might give each other, in 1818 or today?

sleigh

 

Happy holidays!

Tracy

 

Mission for a Queen 2

Mission for a Queen will be out November 3 and is up for pre-order. You can find it here on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo.

Excited to have it out in the world! Meanwhile, check out the teaser with Mélanie Suzanne and Hortense Bonaparte I just posted on History Hoydens.

Cheers,

Tracy

In the Merola offices with Mélanie the day she turned four and ten months

In the Merola offices with Mélanie the day she turned four and ten months

Happy Saturday from the delightfully gray and rainy Bay Area. I’ve been buried in the WIP (writing about sunny Italy), Mission for a Queen is up for pre-order on most platforms (I’ll post links early next week, but you should be able to search for it).

Meanwhile, for a quick break, a topic I’ve been wanting to explore. An interesting thread on the Google+ Group a couple of months ago got me to ponder the phrase “love of one’s life.” The term came up in regards to Raoul O’Roarke and Malcolm’s mother Arabella. i’m not sure it applies to them, but beyond that, I’m not sure what I think of the whole idea of a person having a single “love of their life.” Malcolm’s aunt Lady Frances says she’s never much cared for the phrase, and I’m inclined to agree with her. Or perhaps it’s that I think it’s less that a person meets the love of their life than that, ideally, two people grow into being the loves of each other’s lives, as they grow and change together over the course of a relationship. I think that has already happened to a degree with Suzanne and Malcolm – neither of them is quite the person they were when they married; each has influenced the other in ways that strengthen their bond. (I think that’s true of other couples in the series as well, but perhaps particularly of Malcolm and Suzanne).

I also think it’s hard to judge someone the love of someone’s life while that life is still unfolding. Right now in the series, Cordelia pretty clearly seems to be the love of Harry’s life – he fell hard for her when he first met her, wanted her under any circumstances, never got over her despite a painful betrayal, reconciled with her and is still desperately in love with her. She also seems to be the first and only woman he came close to loving (if he hadn’t met her, it seems he might have been a bachelor like his uncle Archie). But Harry is only 30. If Cordy died or ran off with another man, would Harry never love again to such a degree? Very possibly, but not I think inevitably. (Please note, I am only using Cordy dying or running off with another man as hypotheticals; they are not in any way intended to be spoilers).

In that sense, it’s probably somewhat easier to talk about Raoul’s place in Arabella’s life, since we can look back on her whole life, than Arabella’s place in Raoul’s life. We can look at what Arabella meant to him thus far, but even though he’s a couple of decades older than Malcolm or Harry, he could still have a longer relationship with Laura (or theoretically some other woman) than he had with Arabella.

What do you think of the phrase “love of one’s life”? And, turning my post on its head, given the limitations of the phrase do you think, up to this point in the series, the central couples (Malcolm and Suzanne, Harry and Cordy, David and Simon, Rupert and Bertrand, Raoul and Laura, any other couples you want to address) are the loves of each other’s lives? Why or why not?

Cheers,

Tracy

TracyMelMemberLounge

 

Greetings from Ashland, Oregon where Mélanie saw her first Oregon Shakespeare Festival play last night, a very fun production of The Wiz that she loved. Here we are afterwards, bathed in the green lights of the Emerald City.

TheWiz

Some friends and I also saw a fabulous matinee of Richard II yesterday. I was really struck by all the lines about exile in light of Malcolm and Suzanne’s current situation. It seems a good time to post this snippet from the next full novel, which is inspired by John of Gaunt’s “This England” speech.

Also, I just got my first look at a draft cover for the novella.

Mission for a Queen 2

 

“Darling.” Mélanie turned to look at her husband. The brace of candles cast flickering light over his face. The flexible mouth, the deepset eyes, dark now with concern and yet steady with confidence. “Has it occurred to you that when if they learn the truth, they may well see me as the woman who betrayed their country and their father.”
“I doubt it.” Malcolm’s tone was even and matter-of-fact. “Not given the way they both already question things. Besides, by the time they’re old enough for us to tell them, they may well not see Britain as their country anymore.”
She turned her head away. “Damn it, Malcolm—“
“There’s no particular reason they should,” he said. “Neither of them was born there. It’s not their mother’s country. Jessica won’t even remember it.”
Mélanie could keenly recall a moment on their first to Britain four years ago, after Napoleon’s first abdication. Colin had wanted one of the Royalist Bourbon flags vendors were selling in Hyde Park, and Lady Frances had bought one for him. The sight of it clutched in his small hand had cut her in two. So why did the thought of the children growing up alienated from Britain now tear at her with a physical wrench? “It’s still their father’s country.”
“Well, yes. And I suppose I want them to know that. Though at the moment I’m more aware that it’s the country I had to flee.”
“Because of your wife.”
“Because of my spymaster. Who claims to be working in its interests. I walked away once before.”
“Because of your family.”
“Mostly. I’d probably never have gone back if it wasn’t for you. So in a sense I’m where I might have been a year and a half ago anyway.”
“Malcolm—“
“I almost didn’t go back when I left the diplomatic corps, you know. We talked about where else we might go, and I came closer to considering it than I even admitted to you. A fresh start had an appeal. I wasn’t sure it was fair to inflict what I’d have to face in Britain on you. I was afraid of what it might do to us. Of the person I might become. The person I did become to a degree. At the same time, I had this absurd sense I had to face the past. And as much as I didn’t want to put you through that, I could never have done it without you.”
“Darling—“
He tightened his grip on her hand and carried it to his lips. “That’s the thing, sweetheart. For all we’ve been through, I’m not sorry we went back. If I never see Britain again, I won’t have to live with the questions I lived with before we returned. I’ll always be grateful to you for getting me through that.”
Tears stung her eyes. “I didn’t get you through anything you couldn’t have managed much better without me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, beloved. And why I can be happy now. I wonder how Thurston and the contessa’s children feel,” he added after a moment. “There’ve never seen Britain and likely never will.”
“And yet their father’s still an Englishman,” Suzanne said.
“More than I will be in fifteen years, I suspect. Being an agent comes in handy when one has to blend into a new country.”
“Being an agent has to do with the surface.”
“And changing the surface can change what’s underneath. You should know that better than anyone.”
“In a way. But it hasn’t changed who I was born, as you just pointed out.”
“No. But you always believed in your cause more than I did in mine. If it can even be called that.”
“Oh, Malcolm. You’ve always believed in it.”
“What? If you mean the Crown—”
“The scept’rd isle, the little eden, the demi-paradise—“
“I’m Scots.”
“It’s the same island, darling.”
“We’d have to ask Shakespeare what he meant.”
She shook her head. She knew on some level that being away from his country would always tear at him. And she knew with the same certainty that he’d never admit it.
“The children won’t have the same view,” he said. “They may not be particularly attached to any country, which isn’t a bad thing.”

Dinner at Balboa Café

Dinner at Balboa Café

 

Happy August! The novella will be off the to the copy editor shortly. I’m mulling possible titles – Continental Escape, Continental Interlude, and Mission for a Queen are among the options. What do you think? The queen in question is Hortense Bonaparte, Josephine’s daughter and Napoleon’s stepdaughter, who plays a major role in the novella. If you haven’t already seen it, I blogged about her on History Hoydens recently. The plans for the series reread on the Google+ Group are proceeding with a September start – do check it out. I’m really looking forward to new insights as we go along.

Mélanie and I had a fun break last night going out to dinner at the Balboa Café and seeing a great production of The Little Mermaid at 142 Throckmorton. But I’ve been writing a lot this weekend, and the new novel is really hitting it’s stride. I’m very excited about the new directions it takes the characters, and the new characters it brings into the series.

Meanwhile, here’s another teaser from the novella, the first scene between Malcolm and Suzanne (who, in a sign of how their lives are changing, is thinking of herself as Mélanie).

Mélanie Suzanne Rannoch tucked a blanket round her son, Colin, on a bench in the tiny cabin, while holding her sleeping eighteen-month-old daughter, Jessica, a boneless weight against her shoulder. She touched the fingers to the soft head of Berowne, their cat, curled up on the bench beside Colin, then dropped down on the opposite bench, Jessica in her lap, braced against the rocking of the boat that was carrying them across the Channel. Away from the life they had built carefully in the past year and a half. The life she had thought would be the foundation of her children’s future.

The boards creaked. She looked up to see her husband stoop his head as he stepped into the cabin. He gave her a quick smile, a gleam in the yellow light of the single lamp. He touched his fingers to Colin’s hair, then dropped down on the bench beside her and Jessica. He cupped his hand round Jessica’s head for a moment. “Oh, to be able to sleep anywhere.”

“I thought they wouldn’t sleep at all for a while. So much excitement.” A day that had begun with a seemingly normal breakfast in their Berkeley Square house and ended with a midnight escape on a boat down the Thames. For some reason the image of the breakfast parlor, with the peach-colored walls she had chosen and her cream-and-rose breakfast china, brought a lump to her throat.  She’d bought that china on a shopping expedition with her friend Cordelia, while they carried their babies in their arms and Colin played in the china warehouse with Cordelia’s elder daughter. Mélanie rocked Jessica, willing her hands to be steady. “We’re going to have to talk about it at some point.”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Malcolm said.

“Darling!”

“We took an action we always knew we might have to take. If our house burned down, and we had to flee, there wouldn’t be anything to analyze after the fact.”

“There would if it was my fault it burned down.”

He lifted a loosened strand of hair from her neck and let it slide through his fingers. “If Carfax hadn’t wanted to drive a wedge between David and Simon, if David and Simon hadn’t been my friends, none of this would have happened.”

“If I hadn’t been a former Bonapartist spy, Carfax wouldn’t have been able to use my past against David and Simon.” Her fingers dug into the soft wool of Jessica’s blanket. Simon’s gaze, when he had visited them in Berkeley Square hours before they left London, hung in her memory. The compassion in his eyes still seared her. But she had escaped with her family intact, whereas his had been shaken to the core.

Malcolm turned sideways on the bench and gathered her against him. “We’re spies. We deal in information. Some people are going to be hurt when we use it. Some saved.”

“My God.” She swiveled her head round to look at him. “Don’t tell me you’re saying it’s all relative.”

“Of course not. But guilt is inevitable. We have to live with it. You’ve always been better at that than I am. You need to go on doing so. For the children’s sake.” His fingers moved to Jessica’s head again. “For your own sake. For my sake.”

“I won’t let you down, Malcolm. Or the children. And I’m too selfish to let myself down.”

“You’re one of the least selfish people I know, sweetheart.” He pulled her closer and dropped a kiss on her hair.

She let her head sink back against his shoulder. “I don’t deserve you.”

“That sounds like the sort of idiotic twaddle you despise, sweetheart.”

“Simon would be horrified. Not at all up to the dialogue in his plays.” She swallowed. Better not to talk about Simon just now. They needed to focus on the future. “Darling— Now we’re out of Britain, there’s no hurry necessarily in getting to Italy, is there?”

He drew back to look down at her. “You want to see Talleyrand and Dorothée? I’m not sure that’s wise. Talleyrand is fond of you, but he’s also in communication with Carfax.”

“Yes, I know. That is, I would like to see them, but I agree it’s not sensible, not now.” She looked up at her husband. “You see, I can be sensible sometimes, darling.”

“Sometimes,” he agreed.

She twisted one of his silver waistcoat buttons between her fingers. “I was wondering about stopping in Switzerland.”

His gaze told her he understood at once. “You want to see Queen Hortense? To warn her?”

A mere month and a half ago, Malcolm hadn’t known of her connection to Hortense Bonaparte, daughter of the late Empress Josephine, stepdaughter of the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte. But last April a letter from Hortense to her former lover, the Comte de Flahaut, had gone astray at a ball Mélanie and Malcolm were giving. Mélanie had trusted her husband with her friendship with Hortense and the story of how she had once helped Hortense conceal the birth of her secret illegitimate child by Flahaut. “That’s part of it,” she said. “Hortense should know Julien St. Juste was in England, that he’s been working for Carfax, that he was willing to move against Flahaut, for all he swore he’d never touch Hortense herself. And if Carfax knows about me, there’s a chance he knows about Hortense and her child. I don’t want to scare her, but we should put her on her guard. Also—” She hesitated, fumbling for words she wasn’t entirely sure of herself.

“You’ve been shaken from your moorings. It would be good see someone from your old life.”

“I suppose so. Yes.” She looked up at him. Six months after he’d learned the truth of her past, sharing that truth was still uncertain territory for them. “I took Colin to see her once. After Waterloo.”

“I’m glad.” Malcolm’s gaze was warm and steady on her face.

“Malcolm—”

“Truly. You lost a lot from your old life. Colin and Jessica are exposed to little enough of it. They should know your friends. But are you sure you want to take me to see Queen Hortense?”

“Malcolm, you can’t doubt I trust you now.”

“There are different degrees of trust.”

Mélanie settled back against her husband. “I told you when I told you about her baby with Flahaut. You wouldn’t hurt a woman and her child. Besides—” Incredibly she almost laughed.

“What?” he asked.

She titled her head back to look up at him. “I thought it would be impossible to escape him. But you really aren’t working for Carfax now, darling.”

“No.” Malcolm’s gaze went still. “I only wonder how much I’ll be working against him.”

Next Page »