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.”


Happy Friday! Last weekend I took my daughter Mélanie to The Magic Flute at San Francisco Opera, her first full “grown up” opera. She loved it, and has been singing the Queen of the Night’s music. It was extra special that Papageno was played by Efraín Solís, a Merola Opera Program alum who was also her very first babysitter, back in the days when he was a student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Efraín was wonderful and we got to see him afterwards.


Magic Flute is an opera Malcolm and Suzanne could introduce Colin and Jessica to. Perhaps they would play some of the music on a quiet evening, after the exciting events of Incident In Berkeley Square, enjoying an evening at home with the Davenports, Laura, Raoul, David, Simon, and everyone’s children.

Incident in Berkeley Square has been out for almost two weeks now. I thought it would be fun to do another survey, this one exclusively about it. As always, feel free to answer as few or many questions as you wish, with as much or little detail as you choose.

  1. Favorite scene
  2. Most romantic moment
  3. Most suspenseful moment
  4. Favorite ballgown
  5. New character you’d most like to see again
  6. Biggest surprise
  7. Biggest question about what happens in the next book

Have a wonderful weekend!!


photo: Elaine Hamlin

photo: Elaine Hamlin

Mélanie and I had a wonderful Halloween in Ashland, Oregon, taking part in the town parade, trick or treating in the lovely railroad distort, and wrapping the day up with dinner at Peerless, one of our favorite Ashland restaurants. Peerless’s excellent drinks list includes the Vesper, the cocktail named for James Bond’s tragic love interest in Casino Royale. I usually have a Vesper when I’m there, and it was extra special this time with Spectre about to open.

I’ve always loved James Bond films – the adventure, the humor, the style. My mom loved them too. My dad wasn’t quite as into them, but he enjoyed them as well and we’d watch as a family. But with Casino Royale, my interest increased. Here was the adventure and style with more substance, a harder-edged look at the spy game – and a wonderful love story. Of course it didn’t hurt that I could imagine Daniel Craig and Eva Green as Malcolm and Suzanne and that the love story with Bond and Vesper forced to work together and falling in love while she keeps secrets and betrays him, has some definite Malcolm and Suzanne parallels. I wrote the last Malcolm and Suzanne scene in Imperial Scandal after watching the scene in Casino where Vesper says goodbye to Bond (note the moment where Suzanne laces her hands behind Malcolm’s head and commits his features to memory).

interestingly, long before I heard of the Vesper (which is gin, vodka, and lillet blanc),  a friend and I invented a drink in honor of Suzanne/Mélanie that is equal parts vanilla vodka and lillet blanc (one of my favorite restaurants, Indigo, even knows how to make it for me).

I’ve enjoyed the subsequent films with Daniel Craig, while missing a love story on the level of Casino (on the other hand, the fact that Bond can’t love like that again is rather the point). Slkyfall in particular was great for exploring Bond’s past and the moral compromises of the spy game from what I’ve read Spectre promises to be rich in both story and character.

Who else is a Bond fan? Planning to see (or have you already seen) Spectre? If you’ve seen Casino, do you see parallels to Malcolm and Suzanne?

As you probably know if you follow this blog, Incident In Berkeley Square came out Monday. There’s a lively discussion going on the Google Group. Pop over and join in and/or share your thoughts here.

Have a great weekend!!


Incident in Berkeley Square will be out Monday, 2 November. I’m so excited to have it out in the world and be able to discuss it with readers. Last week I shared the pendant that was my inspiration for the pendant Malcolm gives Suzanne. Above are the earrings that were my inspiration for the blue topaz earrings Raoul sends to Laura before the book begins and that she wears to the ball (the earrings above are green quartz).

We had fun on the Google Group with readers guessing who some quotes from the book belonged to. Here are a few more to while away the time until 2 November. For any or all guess who is speaking, whom they are speaking to, and if you like speculate on the circumstances in which the quote is spoken.

  1. “Ten minutes, and you’ll never know anyone was here.”
  2. “Thank you. For being who you are.”
  3. “I think the only thing to do is seek refuge on the dance floor.”
  4. “No, I know, safer that way, for him and me. Doesn’t stop me from worrying. He’s not hurt?”
  5. “I think you’re doing both of you a disservice. Where do you think he got those ideals in the first place?”

Have a wonderful Halloween weekend! Here are Mélanie and me at the Jack-o-Lantern Jamboree at Children’s Fairyland last weekend.

Happy All Hallows’ Eve!


photo: Raphael Coffey

photo: Raphael Coffey


Incident in Berkeley Square will be out in just over a week, on November 2nd. So excited to have it out in the world! Above is a pendant of mine that is the inspiration for a pendant Malcolm gives Suzanne at the start of the novella, to celebrate the first ball they’ve hosted since he learned the truth about her past.

He flipped open the lid of the box. A garnet pendant glowed against the velvet, set in silver filigree with a narrow rim of gold and a finely wrought gold chain. Something in the delicate workmanship of the metal stirred memories of their time in Spain. “It’s beautiful.” She reached up to take off the pearls she was wearing.

“I think you can wear them together.” Malcolm picked up the necklace, undid the clasp, and set it round her throat.

“What’s the occasion?” she asked.

“We’re hosting a ball.” His fingers danced against her spine as he fastened the clasp. He hadn’t put on his gloves yet. Malcolm hated the trappings of a formal social occasion.

“It’s hardly the first time we’ve hosted a ball.”

“No.” He pressed a kiss against the nape of her neck. “But it’s the first time—”

“Since you learned I was a French agent?” Suzanne turned round and met her husband’s gaze.

Malcolm returned her gaze with a smile that was sweet and without artifice. And yet, at the same time acknowledged the challenges ahead.

Have a wonderful Halloween weekend! Here are Mélanie and me at a Halloween party last weekend in our costumes (our own version of Anna and Elsa when they aren’t in their traditional costumes; Mel wanted to be Anna in a pink dress).

TracyMelHalloweenHappy All Hallows’ Eve!


Mask of Night Image

Incident In Berkeley Square, the novella that takes place six weeks after The Mayfair Affair, will be out November 2nd, two weeks from next Monday. It takes place at a ball Suzanne and Malcolm are giving, their first since he learned the truth of her past. Here’s a twilight image of Berkeley Square as it might look when the guests are arriving for the ball. The house that is my image for the Rannochs’ is the in middle.

Be sure to check out the great discussions we’ve been having on the Google + Group. I’m learning more about my own characters from the the fascinating analysis!

And here, just for fun, are Mélanie and me in costume for Marin Theatre Company’s Cinderella last weekend.


Have a great weekend!!


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.”


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