The Berkeley Square Affair

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!


14 February 1818

Berkeley Square


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,

photo: Raphael Coffey

photo: Raphael Coffey

Hope everyone is enjoying the summer. I’m looking forward to the Merola Opera Program’s performances of Don Giovanni this week which have inspired a couple of recent posts. I’m also blogging on History Hoydens about nannies and the challenges of childcare and trust involved, today and historically. Do check it out, especially if you like me “writing mom” posts.

I’ve also been mulling over an email  I got from a reader. She was excited to have found Malcolm & Suzanne after having started with Charles & Mélanie and said some lovely things about The Berkeley Square Affair. She also said “Is it my imagination or does the story as told for Malcolm and Suzanne seem less dark than when it was Charles and Melanie’s? Malcolm seems more hopeful and less pessimistic than Charles, while Suzanne seems more pessimistic and less pragmatic than Melanie.”

This intrigued me. To me they are the same people, but I think inevitably characters develop and change a bit over the course of a series (so they’d probably have morphed a bit even if they were still called Charles and Mel). I definitely think Malcolm is more aware of being a spy and the compromises he himself has made than Charles was – that was actually starting to be the case for the Beneath a Silent Moon and The Mask of Night Charles. Charles is Daughter/Secrets didn’t even like to use the word spy. So Malcolm was going to have a more pragmatic reaction to Suzanne’s revelations and be more aware of his own deceptions and compromises. But I don’t know that I’d call him more hopeful. I don’t think of Suzanne as more pessimistic but perhaps since you’re seeing her in the midst of her deceptions she dwells on them and her guilt more? In any case, I’m always intrigued by how my characters appear to others, and I’d love to hear what readers of this blog think.

TracyMel3.29.14Things are a little crazy right now, as we are getting ready for the Merola Opera Program’s annual benefit gala tomorrow night. Working out seating arrangements and alphabetizing place cards this week I felt quite like Suzanne/Mélanie in the tamer aspects of her life. I’ll post pictures after the event. Meanwhile, here’s a link to a mini interview with Stephanie Moore Hpokins about The Berkeley Square Affair and here you can see my talking about literary connection to Hamlet on History Hoydens.

Have a wonderful weekend and if you’re reading Berkeley Square let me know your thoughts!

BerkeleyAshfordI was out and about yesterday checking for The Berkeley Square Affair in books stores and signing copies. It’s sometimes hard for a writer to believe her book is actually out in places she doesn’t see it :-). The wonderful Lauren Willig (whose marvelous The Ashford Affair I was excited to find next to Berkeley Square at Books Inc. in the Opera Plaza in San Francisco yesterday) encourages readers to post post pictures of her books “in the wild” on Facebook. In the spirit of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I encourage readers to do the same with Berkeley Square, here or on Facebook. If you happen to see it and have a camera, snap a pic and post it. If not, just leave a comment about where you saw it.

Love the comments so far about the book. Feel free to leave more in this thread as well.



Toasting The Berkeley Square Affair

Toasting The Berkeley Square Affair

Excited – and a bit nervous – to hear what everyone thinks! Even after multiple books the excitement and butterfly nerves of a new release remain. Meanwhile, head over to Deanna Raybourn’s blog to read some thoughts on fashion and plotting and what went into The Berkeley Square Affair.

Friday update: you can also head over to Catherine Delors’s blog to read about the connections between England and France that permeate The Berkeley Square Affair.

Happy Reading

photo: Raphael Coffey Photography

photo: Raphael Coffey Photography

Hard to believe The Berkeley Square Affair will be out in less than three weeks (March 25). I’ll be doing a number of guest blogs and giveaways

to promote it, including on Lauren Willig’s site on March 10th. My blog hosts have been wonderfully generous about letting me choose topics, and I could use your help. I’d love to hear suggestions of what you would like me to blog about – anything from history to writing to parenting to fashion or a combination of ideas.

As an incentive to come up with suggestions, I’ll be sending an ARC of The Berkeley Square Affair to commenter on this post. Contest closes March 14 at noon PST.

Happy weekend!

walk3Lately, I’ve been struck by the way smells and sights and sounds bring feelings from the past welling to the surface, even before my mind consciously frames the memory. The whiff of jet fuel as Mélanie and I walked to the gate on our recent trip to New York brought the anticipation of childhood travel. The sight of autumn leaves clustering on trees and lying in drifts on the ground while bare branches make a tracery against the rose gold sky (in Ashland, in New York, at home) evokes thoughts of pumpkin lattes, crisp days at football games, evenings by the fire, and a whiff of anticipation of the holidays, along with the more grown up reminder that there’s a lot to get done before the end of December. Lately, whenever I walked downstairs in the morning, the cool air combined with the heat rising from the ground floor instantly conjures up the wonder of Christmas morning.

I try to weave in all of the five senses when I write. Sometimes I even make lists of what sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells I can use in a particular scene (I did this a lot years ago when I was consciously making an effort to do more with the five senses to evoke my settings). But I don’t know that I think enough about how the five senses can evoke memories from my characters’ pasts. Without consciously trying to, I did use a scene in the theatre in my forthcoming The Berkeley Square Affair to bring up Suzanne’s childhood memories:

Even an almost empty theatre had its own smell. Sawdust, the oil of rehearsal lamps, drying paint, the sweat of active bodies that could never quite be banished. After all these years, it still sent an indefinable thrill of magic through Suzanne. Jessica seemed to sense it from her mother, for she gave a crow of delight in Suzanne’s arms and waved her hands.

I’m going to try to do more of this, evoking memories specific to different characters’ pasts. The autumn leaf image could translate to many historical settings. So could the cold air and warmth of a banked fire. What would evoke the excitement of travel? The jangle of bridles? The smell of carriage leather or horses? The thud of portmanteaux being loaded?

What specific sense memories evoke the past for you? What conjures up thoughts of autumn and the holidays? Writers, do you try to use the five sense to evoke your character’s pasts?

5.21.13TracyMelHappy end of summer and holiday weekend to those in the states! I’m emerging from a whirl of turning in The Berkeley Square Affair, writing The Paris Plot (the novella about Jessica’s birth), revising The Berkeley Square Affair, and doing copy edits on The Paris Plot, not to mention the general fun and chaos of raising a toddler and some summer fun (there are Mélanie and I above in Ashland at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) to try to get back to more regular blogging.

Here is the cover art for The Berkeley Square Affair, which I really love, and a brief teaser in the form of the Prologue. Several of you have asked about the Fraser Correspondence, and I will try to post a new letter soon and also get back on a regular posting schedule.

Meanwhile, let me know what you think of the cover and the teaser and feel free to ask any questions about the book or the series.



the berkeley square affair



December 1817

The lamplight shone against the cobblestones, washing over the grime, adding a glow of warmth. Creating an illusion of beauty on a street that in the merciless light of day would show the scars and stains of countless carriage wheels, horse hooves, shoes, pattens, and boots. Much as stage lights could transform bare boards and canvas flats into a garden in Illyria or a castle in Denmark.

Simon Tanner turned up the collar of his greatcoat as a gust of wind, sharp with the bite of December, cut down the street, followed by a hail of raindrops. His hand went to his chest. Beneath his greatcoat, beneath the coat he wore under it, he could feel the solidity of the package he carried, carefully wrapped in oilskin. Were it not for that tangible reminder, it would be difficult to believe it was real.

He’d hardly had a settled life. He’d grown up in Paris during the fervor of the French Revolution and the madness of the Reign of Terror. Here in England, his plays had more than once been closed by the Government Censor. He’d flirted with arrest for Radical activities. He and his lover risked arrest or worse by the very nature of their relationship. But Simon had never thought to touch something of this calibre.

He held little sacred. But the package he carried brought out something in him as close to reverence as was possible for one who prided himself on his acerbic approach to life.

The scattered raindrops had turned into a steady downpour, slapping the cobblestones in front of him, dripping off the brim of his beaver hat and the wool of his greatcoat. He quickened his footsteps. For a number of reasons, he would feel better when he had reached Malcolm and Suzanne’s house in Berkeley Square. When he[TG3]  wasn’t alone with this discovery and the attendant questions it raised.

He started at a sound, then smiled ruefully as the creak was followed by the slosh of a chamber pot being dumped on the cobblestones–mercifully a dozen feet behind him. He was acting like a character in one of his plays. He might be on his way to see Malcolm Rannoch, retired (or not so retired) Intelligence Agent, but this was hardly an affair of espionage. In fact, the package Simon valued so highly would probably not be considered so important by others.

He turned down Little Ormond Street. He was on the outskirts of Mayfair now. Even in the rain-washed lamplight the cobblestones were cleaner, the pavements wider and neatly swept free of leaves and debris. The clean, bright glow of wax tapers glinted behind the curtains instead of the murky yellow light of tallow candles. Someone in the next street over called good night to a departing dinner guest. Carriage wheels rattled. Simon turned down the mews to cut over to South Audley Street and then Berkeley Square. Another creak made him pause, then smile at his own fancifulness. David would laugh at him when he returned home and shared his illusions of adventure.

He walked through the shadows of the mews, past whickering horses and the smells of dung and saddle soap and oiled leather. The rain-soaked cobblestones were slick beneath his shoes. A dog barked. A carriage clattered down South Audley Street at the end of the mews. It was probably just the need to share his discovery that made him so eager to reach Malcolm and Suzanne. If–

The shadows broke in front of him. Three men blocked the way, wavering blurs through the curtain of rain.

“Hand it over,” a rough voice said. “Quiet like, and this can be easy.”

Lessons from stage combat and boyhood fencing danced through Simon’s head. He pulled his purse from his greatcoat pocket and threw it on the cobblestones. He doubted that would end things, but it was worth a try.

One man started forwards. The man who had spoken gave a sharp shake of his head. “That isn’t what we want and you know it.”

Acting could be a great source of defense. Simon fell back on the role of the amiable fool. “Dear me,” he said, “I can’t imagine what else I have that you could want.”

The man groaned. “Going to make this hard, are you?”

Simon rushed them. He had no particular illusions that it would work. But he thought he had a shot.

Until he felt the knife cut through his greatcoat.