Teresa Grant


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.”

ViansaTMSunday Mélanie and  i spent the afternoon at Viansa, a lovely winery in the Sonoma Valley that always makes me think of Tuscany. Great inspiration for the new novel! I’m really delving into it, as the novella is in revisions.

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Here’s a sneak peek at the novella, the first scene between David and Simon that catches us up on where they are after London Gambit.

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I posted another scene (the reveals the identity of Lady Frances’s mysterious lover from the Valentine’s letters) on the Google+ Group. Do head over and take a look at it, and join the group if you haven’t already done so.

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Speaking of the Google Group, Betty is planning a group read of the Rannoch books starting in September if there’s enough interest. If you’d be interested in participating (even without reading all the books again, you could still chime in) do post, here or in the group.

David Mallinson, Viscount Worsley, looked across the library at the man with whom he had shared his life for the past decade. “I wasn’t sure you’d come here today.”

“I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome here today.” Simon Tanner leaned against the window ledge, hands braced on the sill, the light behind him, tension writ in the lines of his shoulders. “Malcolm and Suzanne have left Britain.”

Shock drained the blood from David’s head. “How long have you known?”

“Since last night.” Simon stayed still, his face hard-cut in the shadows, his voice even.

“You went to see them.” The reverberation of the door closing when Simon had left the house the previous night seemed to echo through the room. He hadn’t slammed the door, but the click had echoed with finality.

“I wanted to say goodbye.”

David swallowed. His mouth was dry with the ashes of the two most important relationships in his thirty years. “You knew they’d leave.”

Simon met his gaze without flinching. “I guessed.”

“That I’d drive them away.”

“That the truth being out would.”

Malcolm Rannoch’s face, in the sitting room at Brooks’s where David had confronted him yesterday—God, was it less than twenty-four hours?—hung in David’s memory. Close on that came a memory of Malcolm huddled beside him at Harrow beneath a blanket, giving him a cup of hot chocolate, both their noses bloody thanks to a trio of older boys devastating with fists and words. “I never wanted—”

“No. I didn’t think you did.”

This time it was Suzanne’s image that shot into David’s mind. Laughing up at Malcolm as they waltzed. Holding her children. Bending over the pallets of the wounded who filled her house during the battle of Waterloo. The woman his friend loved, against all expectation. The friend David had come to love as well. Who he now knew had been an agent for the Bonapartist French. Had married Malcolm to spy on him and his country. David’s country. Who had been giving information to the French even as she nursed the British wounded from Waterloo beside David. “Where have they gone?”

“I don’t know,” Simon said. “I didn’t want to know.”

David nodded. He was so used to seeing his friends nearly every day that he could still scarcely comprehend it. “I wouldn’t have—”

“For what it’s worth,” Simon said, “once he knew your father knew the truth about Suzanne, Malcolm was bound to leave the country, whatever your reaction.”

“I don’t think even Father would—”

“You know as well as I do there’s no telling what your father might do.”

David nodded. His father, Lord Carfax, was the unofficial head of British intelligence. Even David could still be surprised by his ruthlessness.

“David—” Simon drew a breath as though weighing words he wasn’t yet sure he should speak.

“Father told me about Suzanne to drive a wedge between us?”

Simon stared at him. Dust motes danced in a shaft of sunlight between them. “You worked that out.”

“Once the initial shock wore off.” During the long night, when he’d paced the floor, first of the library, then of his cold and empty bedchamber. “I may not be an agent like Malcolm, but I know something of the way my father’s mind works.” And Lord Carfax, above all, wanted David to marry and father an heir to the earldom.

“I expected he wanted Malcolm away from you as well,” Simon said. “Malcolm’s always had a way of encouraging you to move in the opposite direction from what your father wants.”

“Perhaps. One way or another, if it wasn’t for me, Malcolm and Suzanne wouldn’t have had to leave.”

“David.” Simon look a half step forwards, then checked himself. “Malcolm and Suzanne left because your father knows the truth about Suzanne, not because you do. Your father has known for some time.”

“And they’ve managed to go on comfortably in Britain despite it. I’m the cause of the crisis.”

“I expect Malcolm’s glad to know Carfax knows.” Simon watched David for a moment. Of all the things David had thought to see in his lover’s gaze today, compassion wasn’t one of them. “For what it’s worth, I think they’d have left whatever your reaction had been.”

David drew a breath, the angry words he had hurled at Malcolm in a sitting room at Brooks’s yesterday echoing in his head. There were too many things he wasn’t yet prepared to discuss with Simon. “Are you coming up to see the children?”

“Am I welcome to?” Simon asked.

“Do you really have to ask that?” It was only three months since David had moved into this house to raise his sister’s four orphaned children, but in that time they had come to seem like Simon’s as much as his own. “And whatever I said, would you let it stop you?”

A smile curved Simon’s mouth, the first David had seen on his face since their quarrel. “You know me too well.”

David moved to the door. “In some things.”

TracyMel50th

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!

Tracy

2016TracyMelbirthday

 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.

Cheers,

Tracy

LondonGambitCover

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.

Mermaid

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

dinner

Cheers,

Tracy

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MetLansdowne

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!
Tracy

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