At the 2018 Merola Grand Finale. Photo: Kristen Loken

Happy Fall! I’ve been busy writing, being a mom, working at Merola (there above are Mélanie and I at the Merola Grand Finale, photo by the amazing Kristen Loken), and haven’t been posting enough. But one result of that writing is the The Darlington Letters, a novella that continues the Rannoch series were The Duke’s Gambit left off, is now up for pre-order. It will be released November 14. It included a teaser for the next full length novel, The Glenister Papers, which will be out in May 2019.

I’m really excited to have a new story out in the world. Meanwhile here are a couple of out takes that didn’t make it into The Duke’s Gambit.

The first is a scene between Malcolm and Addison, which I didn’t include because getting Addison and Blanca back from Italy in the time allotted proved too complicated.

Addison shook out a black cashmere coat. “Your cravats are sadly in want of starching, but that’s easily done. Your coats are in reasonably decent order, but as long as we’re in London, we might as well order you a new one from Hobbs. Boots too.”
Malcolm studied his valet. “Addison, we won’t—”

“Be here long? All the more reason to attend to it while we can. We ordered from the Continent once or twice, but it much better when they can tailor them on you in person.”
“Addison, for God’s sake, we have—“
“More important things to think about? I won’t argue with that.” Addison folded the black coat. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have time for the coats.” He twitched a sleeve smooth. “I know the pressures you’re under. I’m concerned about Mrs. Thirle myself. I can scarcely imagine how difficult it must before for you. It won’t take much of your time. I can handle the rest.”
Malcolm got up and went to pour two glasses of whisky. “You should spend the time we have here with your family.”
“I will.” Addison met Malcolm’s gaze as he accepted a glass of whisky. “But you of all people should understand about the need to keep busy.”


The second I cut from a longer scene between Laura and Raoul. Part of what’s below remained in the published book, but I cut the last part because I think it can oversimplify to say that a current relationship, however strong, renders prior relationships less important. I’m curious about what other’s think.

Laura put her hands on his chest. “There’s something else to report about the League.” She kept her voice as conversational as possible. “One of their members approached me today.”

She told him about Sir Lucius Brandon, as succinctly and with as little drama as possible. Raoul listened without interruption, his gaze steady on her face, but his brows drew together.

“I got you into this.”

“Not this,” Laura said. “I got entangled with the League on my own. I’m rather insulted they know me so little they think there’s the least chance they could turn me against you. Or convince me they could or would protect you.”

“They’re desperate.”

“Which could be an advantage.”

“Or could make them more dangerous.”

“We’ve always known the League were a potential threat.”

“But they hadn’t verbalized it this directly.” He pulled her to him again, his chin on her hair. “I don’t think I could survive anything happening to you.”

“That’s nonsense,” Laura said, voice muffled by his cravat. “You know you could survive anything if you had to. And you’d have to, for the children.”

“There are different definitions of survive. I’d find a way to go on.”

Laura pulled her head back to look up at him. “And I hope you’d be happy again.”

He put his hand against the side of her face. “One doesn’t find this again, my darling.”

She looked into his gaze. The gaze of a man shaken, perhaps more than he had thought possible. Which in turn shook her.

“You’d like to fling my past in my face?” he said. “I don’t deny the other bonds I’ve formed. I don’t deny their strength. This is different, Laura. This, what we’ve built. We’ve been playing for keeps from the first. Even before we—I—admitted it.”

She slid her arms round him. “For me as well. And of course I also hope it never comes to pass. I feel the same way when you’re gone. I know I can’t completely deny the risks. I trust you’re taking every precaution. I trust you. I trust you trust me.”

“You know I do, sweetheart. It doesn’t make the terror go away.”

“It’s part of the lives we lead.”

He gave a bleak smile and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “That’s my Laura. Throwing my own words back at me.”



Mélanie and I had a great time at the Gilded Deceit Launch Party at Book Passage on Saturday! Thanks to everyone who came – for those who couldn’t make it, here’s a photo diary that captures some special moments from the day.


Mélanie and I started the day getting our hair done



Excited to find Mummy’s name!


Helping set up the reception


Note the beautiful flowers!


Mélanie helping me answer questions – she asked the first one!


With my high school English teacher and Bonnie (aka “Auntie Bonnie” to Mel) my friend since high school


With our wonderful friends Alex and Miriam


With our wonderful event host Johanna – she is fabulous and Book Passage is so great at welcoming authors!


Celebrating at dinner


Enjoying dinner with Mélanie


A late toast to close out a lovely day!

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Gilded Deceit is out, both as an ebook on all platforms and a trade paperback. So excited to have the Rannochs’ Lake Como adventures out in the world. Do share your impressions, either here or on the Google+ Group where we have a lively discussion going (and are very friendly to lurkers and new members!).

Gilded Deceit’s release coincided with my birthday, which I celebrated with Mélanie and friends in Oregon. I’ve been gleaning inspiration for the Rannochs’ next adventures at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – particularly fun to see a wonderful Henry IV Part I, which is the play in which Malcolm and David met Simon and Oliver in an Oxford production when they were undergraduates.





It’s finally here! Gilded Deceit will be out tomorrow, May 15! So excited for it to be in readers hands and to be able to discuss it.

Here’s another glimpse of a piece of furniture that could be in the Rannochs’ villa, a beautiful Venetian secretary desk c. 1730-35 from the Metropolitan Museum. It might be in Malcolm’s study –  a good place to lock away pieces on evidence or some of the much-sought after papers that feature in the story…




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.



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.


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.


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.”


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!


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