photo: Raphael Coffey

photo: Raphael Coffey

London Gambit is up for pre-order on Kindle and Nook and should be up on other platforms shortly. The release date is May 5, three months from now. The manuscript is into production (I’m going through the galleys this weekend). It’s always an exhausting, exhilarating, and unnerving process to finish a book, But I’m quite excited about it and really looking forwards to sharing it with readers. Meanwhile, in the flurry of finishing the book, I found time for an author photo shoot. Below if my new author photo (photo by the wonderful Raphael Coffey). Mélanie really wanted to be in the author photo this time, which is very fun, especially as she’s now really aware that Mummy writes books and is starting to make up stories of her own.



I’ll be running some fun contests later this month. Meanwhile, if you could ask me one question about London Gambit, what would it be?

Have a great weekend!

Happy Tuesday! Hope everyone had a great weekend, a holiday weekend for those of is the states celebrating Martin Luther King Day. Mélanie and I had a very fun weekend with a great live performance of Into the Woods Saturday night, time at our favorite bookstore Book Passage on Sunday, and dinner out on Monday, including reading a book we bought at Book Passage about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy of making the world a fairer place.

Today brought a wonderful treat in the form of my first look at the cover for London Gambit, which I think beautifully evokes the scene in the first scene with Suzanne in the teaser that follows Incident in Berkeley Square. What do you think? Which color scheme do you prefer?

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my blog last week on History Hoydens about Rules Restaurant.

And a note to those of you in the Google Group – we don’t always seem to be notifications of new posts and new comments, so it’s a good idea to check the group every so often for new activity.

Have a great week!



New Years Eve 2015/6 (photo: Bonnie Glaser)

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a great holiday season and that your New Year  is off to a good start. I just send London Gambit off to the copy editor. Here, for January’s teaser, is the second half of the Malcolm & Suzanne scene I posted in November.




Christmas 2015 (photo: Julianne Havel)

“What did you learn about the dead man in the warehouse?” Suzanne asked.

“He appeared to have broken in the steal something. There was a hidden compartment in the floorboards that had been pried open near where he was lying.”


Malcolm nodded. “It looks as though he had a confederate who turned on him and took what they had come to steal or a second person broke in in search of the same thing.”

“Something of Craven’s?”

“There’s no way to tell at this point.”

“Jeremy wants you to assist him with the investigation?”

Malcolm nodded with the abashed look of one who didn’t quite want to admit he was pleased. “Someone will have to talk to Carfax given that Craven was his son-in-law, not to mention one of his agents. It’s only sensible for me to do that. And I can probably help with Eustace and Cecilia Whateley.” He twisted his head round to meet her gaze. “That is we can, if you’re willing.”

Suzanne felt a genuine smile break across her face. “Unlike you, dearest, I’m not going to even pretend I’m not pleased to have another investigation.”

Paradoxically, some of their most intimate moments had come in the course of investigations. And, a small voice said inside her head, hopefully this investigation would distract Malcolm while she looked into the rumors about the Phoenix plot.

Malcolm smiled. “I own there’s something appealing about a puzzle. Though I could wish it didn’t involve Carfax, however tangentially.”

“Carfax is in the middle of too many things for that.”

Malcolm gave a wry smile and pulled her in for another kiss. “I told Roth I’d call on Eustace Whateley tomorrow. He was at Harrow a couple of years before David and me so I can use the old school tie.”

Suzanne drew back to look at her husband. “Was everyone even remotely on the fringes of the beau monde at school with you, darling?”

Malcolm gave an abashed grin. “Most boys whose parents want them to grow up to be gentlemen go to Harrow or Eton or Winchester. So if they’re remotely close to my age there’s a one in three chance. Whateley’s father was a banker who wanted his son to move up in the world, know the right people, speak with the right accent. Looking back, I’m afraid he suffered more ribbing from the other boys than I appreciated at the time.”

No wonder thinking among their set could be so uniform. “I don’t want Colin to go away to school, Malcolm.”

He kissed her forehead. “I know. I shocked David today by telling him as much. One of the ways he and I see the world somewhat differently.”

“I imagine Simon was all for it.”

“Mmm. Though careful to acknowledge the decision is David’s.”

She put her hands against his chest. “I suppose I’m afraid—”

“That I’ll change my mind?”

Memories shot through her mind. Malcolm and David laughing over a school memory with a schoolmate. The almost palpable connection one could feel in the air when one learned two men had attended the same school. The unthinking way Malcolm would refer to someone as a Harrovian. “It’s a tradition.”

“You keep expecting me to revert to type.”

“And you keep confounding my expectations. I’m sorry, darling. But—”

“Once a revolutionary always a revolutionary?”

“A palpable hit. So I’m the one who’s reverting to type?”

“We’re all perhaps partly a prisoner of our world. Though you have more flexibility than most. Look at how well you tolerate the world you married into because you were trying to change it.”

She choked. “Talk about flexible thinking, dearest. But you can’t deny it’s part of who you are. I wouldn’t want it not to be. It’s part of the man I love.”

“Fair enough. I won’t deny it. But I won’t send Colin away to school. Even if you decide you want him to go.”

“I wouldn’t—”

He kissed her nose. “My point precisely, beloved.”

Suzanne laughed and reached up to wrap her arms round his neck. “Fair enough. Unless his thinking is as flexible as yours, Eustace Whateley isn’t likely to talk more freely if I go with you.” She frowned, staring at her husband’s cravat. “Darling. I never told you, because I was trying to keep her out of it as much as possible. Last April when Bertrand and Raoul brought Lisette to us and Lisette lost the letter in the garden. It was Cecilia Whateley who accidentally picked it up.” The letter Lisette Varon had been transporting had been from Hortense Bonaparte, Josephine’s daughter, to her former lover the Comte de Flahaut. They had all had some anxious moments when it was missing.

Malcolm’s brows rose. “Interesting.”

“Apparently Cecilia was in the garden to speak with a man she’d loved before her marriage. Just to talk, she told me. I don’t think she even looked at the letter. At least that’s what she said, and I’ve been telling myself it must be true. I don’t know if it makes her more or less likely to confide in me now.”

“Difficult to tell,” Malcolm said. “Though it means you’re already beyond social formalities.”

“There is that. But it also may mean she’s wary of me. I’ll see if Cordy has any connections to Cecilia. Despite the lack of girls’ schools, Cordy’s connected to nearly as many people in the beau monde as you. It’s almost as if the two of you spent your lives preparing to run investigations into their numbers.”

Malcolm grinned. “One has to put the social tedium to use somehow.”


Mélanie’s fourth birthday photo: Bonnie Glaser

Hope everyone’s holiday season is fun and not too hectic. It’s a busy time for us with Mélanie’s birthday on 13 December and lots of fun celebrations with family and friends. It’s also a busy time for the Rannochs/Frasers. I realized that a holiday letter for 1818 would contain spoilers for where the series is going. Last year I posted a letter from Suzanne to Blanca at Christmas 1817. Here are excerpts from a few other letters and notes written by the characters over that holiday season.

Happy holidays!!


Suzanne to Lady Isobel Lydgate

The trouble with the holidays is that at the same time one is scrambling madly to get everything ready, there is a constant round of frivolity and one feels positively guilty for not enjoying it or for regretting that a party of pantomime or round of holiday calls takes one away from shopping or wrapping gifts or assembling baskets for the servants or the dozens of other things that need to be done. Not that I don’t enjoy it. I do, far more than I ever would have thought. But at times I feel as if I’m jugging ten plates at once. Lying in bed last night trying to remember if I still had one more parcel to pick up from the toymaker and if I had sent in the measurements for Jessica’s new frock, it occurred to me that Malcolm (who was sound asleep) doesn’t have the least idea quite much planning truly goes into the holiday. Or perhaps he appreciates the amount of work (he certainly says as much) but doesn’t know quite how frazzled I get. Because, of course, I’m at pains not to let him see…

Lady Frances to her sister Marjorie

I trust Father is settled in. I rather regret him not staying in London for the holiday, but I expect he will enjoy it more in the country. I confess to feeling rather more holiday-ish than I usually do. Perhaps it’s the children. Claudia keeps looking about her with wide eyes at the decorations. I don’t think she remembers Christmas last year so she’s delightfully free of expectations. But Chloe never stops peppering me with questions about her gifts. Archie Davenport is keeping the puppy until Christmas Eve, which is very kind of him. I can only imagine the chaos our household will be thrown into by a small dog, but I confess the creature is quite engaging. I went to see the puppy at Archie’s yesterday. Raoul O’Roarke was there as well, and Malcolm and Suzanne have invited him for Christmas. Rather nice to have him about again. We go to Malcolm and Suzanne’s Christmas night. She seems to be outdoing herself this year – the tree is magnificent, garlands wound round the bannister, burgundy ribbon everywhere. Malcolm, thankfully, seems to have the sense to appreciate her efforts. In fact he’s seems more than usually solicitous of her this year. I  almost wonder— But I won’t speculate.

Malcolm to David

I trust you are surviving Carfax Court. In truth, my memories of holidays with your family are some of my happiest until I married Suzanne. Not that I am not fully appreciative of the stresses. I’m glad Simon went with you,though of course we miss you both. I expect I shall particularly miss you Christmas Day when I put together Colin’s new castle. Do you remember the hours we spent arranging yours in the Carfax Court nursery? Have I said lately what your friendship means to me?

Cordelia to Suzanne

Did Livia leave Portia in Berkeley Square this afternoon? Underneath the console table in the drawing room? And what are you wearing tonight?

Malcolm to Suzanne (left on her pillow Christmas morning)

The holidays never really meant anything to me until you. That’s never been more true than this year. Happy Christmas, sweetheart.


Starting off the holiday season at U.S. Thanksgiving

I love this time of year, though it tends to mean constant, if fun, chaos (especially as lately I’ve ended up finishing a book in December). In the midst of dashing around holiday shopping, sipping peppermint mochas at Peet’s while working on revisions, and doing year-end activities for my job at Merola, I’ve been pondering how Suzanne and Malcolm and their friends and family would spend the holiday season. I can imagine Suzanne, Cordy, and Laura shopping in Bond Street. Malcolm and Harry visiting Asprey’s to select jewelry for their wives, holiday outings to take the children to a pantomime, holidays gatherings both formal and informal.

I thought a fun blog question would be what you see Suzanne, Malcolm, and the others giving each other for the holidays? Either in 1818 and/or if they lived today. Some gifts might be remarkably similar. I could see Malcolm and Harry buying their wives jewelry (from Aspey’s even) then or now. Cordy and Mel might give each other shawls or scarves in 1818 as well as today. In London Gambit, the children spend quite a bit of time playing with a wooden castle. My daughter Mélanie is going to get a wooden castle for her birthday this weekend (something I can write because she can’t quite read yet :-). Other gifts could be more time and place specific. I can see a modern Simon giving David a copy of Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism or Raoul giving Laura a watch that also sends encrypted communications.

Do share your ideas for gifts the characters might give each other, in 1818 or today, or both. Suggestions can be as simple or detailed as you prefer and include just one of two characters or a group of them. I’ll post some of my own thoughts in the comments later, but for now I thought I’d leave it open for discussion.

Happy holidays!






photo: Bonnie Glaser

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I finally got to see Spectre, thanks to my wonderful friend Bonnie who babysat (above are Mélanie and me at a very fun dinner with Bonnie afterwards – Bonnie is the photographer).

Over all I loved it, particularly how it wove in the last three movies. I never would have though so before, but after Spectre I can see Ralph Fiennes as Carfax (though I think his M has a stronger moral compass than Carfax as well).

The first scene between Bond and M really reminded me of scenes between Malcolm and Carfax, right down to the setting and body language.

Bond’s very spare London flat reminded me of the description of Malcolm’s lodgings in Lisbon pre-Suzanne in His Spanish Bride.

I thought there were lots of issues that parallel the Rannoch series – the moral choices in the spy game, following orders versus pursuing one’s own idea of what’s right, personal life conflicting with the spy game. The ending surprised me. I liked it, though I wish there’d been time to develop the love story as much as in Casino Royale.

On a fun side note, Rule’s restaurant where M is eating and Q and Monnypenny find him goes back to the early 1800s. I’ve eaten there myself and in London Gambit Crispin hosts a supper party there after Manon opens in a new play at the Tavistock. Here I am having dinner there on a research trip after see La Cenerentola at Covent Garden.


Who else has seen Spectre? What do you think? Of the film, of the spies, of any parallels or contrasts to the Rannoch series?


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.”


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