TracyMelMGF2018

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.”

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buckeye

 

Hope everyone is having  a wonderful midwinter, however you celebrate! It’s been a very busy couple of months for me, with the release of Mission for a Queen and working madly away at Gilded Deceit so it can go the copy editor in the New Year. As always seems to happen with a book, there are moments I despair and moments I think it’s working rather well. On my current draft I’m quite excited about how the Rannochs’ adventures on Lake Como are shaping up.

In the flurry of preparing for the holidays, I thought it might be fun to speculate on what Malcolm and Suzanne and their friends might give each other, either in 1818 or if they lived today. We don’t know where Christmas of 1818 will find them, but we could speculate as though they are still in Italy – or wherever you prefer.

I think Malcolm would give Suzanne a garnet pendant surrounded by diamonds (I know he gave her another garnet pendant but she’s fond of the stone and this is a very different design). It could work in 1818 or 2016.

garnetpendant

In 1818, Suzanne might give Malcolm a first edition of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (one of the books William Caxton printed) as a reminder of Britain and something he could read with the children. In 2016 she might give him the same thing (though probably not a first edition!) or perhaps a new iPad, since he might not get that for himself as it’s not as practical as a phone or a computer. And he might keep insisting he was fine with the old one with the cracked screen :-).

Raoul might give Laura a blue topaz necklace in 1818 or 2016, to go with the earrings he sent her before the ball in Incident in Berkeley Square. Laura might give Raoul framed pictures of her and Emily to take with him when he travels – miniatures in 1818, photos in folding travel case in 2016.

David might give Simon a ring in 1818 or 2016, though in 2016 the ring would go with a formal proposal.

What do you think these characters and others might give each other, in 1818 or today?

sleigh

 

Happy holidays!

Tracy

 

earrings

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!

Tracy

photo: Raphael Coffey

photo: Raphael Coffey

8.22.15TracyMelMGF

Last autumn I had fun doing a fall fashion blog. This year I haven’t really done fall fashion shopping, mostly because I splurged a lot over the summer, notably on the dress above in three different colors (black, coral, ivory, all very much or sale). It’s a dress that goes anywhere, from picnics to the black tie and the lace is remarkably sturdy, a plus for the mum of a toddler. Fortunately, lace is still very much in for fall, so I’m still wearing the dresses a bunch with cardigans and sweaters.

But thinking about fall fashion prompted me to think about what designers Suzanne and Cordelia and Laura might wear if they lived today. I think Suzanne and Cordy would both wear a lot of my favorite designer (the source of my three lace dresses) Alice Temperley of Temperley London. Not just as a nod to the author, but because the fluid, elegant, romantic but not fussy look seems to suit them both.

I browsed for them both on the Temperley website (very fun because they would have a much more generous clothing budget than I do :-). I could see Suzanne wearing this dress to a tea or luncheon (or to work, because a modern day Suzanne would certainly work). This dress also is perfect for Suzanne day to dinner and time with the children. Cordy might wear this to a cocktail party. I could see Suzanne in this dress (one of my favorites of Temperley’s Autumn/Winter collection) at a dinner party or the theater. Or during the day with a cardigan and flats. They could make a dramatic entrance at a black tie event in matching evening gowns, Suzanne in red, Cordy in blue. 

Or for contrasting evening looks, I could see Suzanne in this and Cordelia in this.

Laura, on the other hand, I see as a bit more tailored. I could see her wearing a lot of L.K. Bennett, another favorite I haunt during sales. I could see Laura in this day dress, or this for dinner, or this for something more formal.

What sort of clothes do you think Suzanne, Cordelia, Laura, and others in the series would wear if they lived today? Designers, brands, styles? What present day celebrities have looks that might be similar to theirs?

We’re having a lot of fun on Google + Group – so glad more of you have joined! Do check it out if you haven’t.

Arrived in Ashland in the OSF Member Lounge

Arrived in Ashland in the OSF Member Lounge

Happy Friday! I’m very pleased to announce that the Teresa/Tracy Grant Google+ group is starting up again, thanks to the wonderful Betty Strohecker. If you’re a member, be sure to check it out. If you aren’t a member, do consider joining. There’s a icon to join on this site. i’ll be popping in myself, though it’s primarily a group for readers.

At Crater Lake

At Crater Lake

8.31.jpgTracyMellunch

Lunch at the Crater Lake lodge

Earlier this month Mélanie and I had wonderful trip to Ashland, Oregon. We saw friends, ate some great meals, went shopping, took a great day trip to Crater Lake (Mélanie was fascinated by the model showing how it was formed by a volcano), and my friends and I saw some amazing theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As always those performances were a wonderful source of creative inspiration for my writing. Among the highlights was Sweat, the world premiere of a play by the wonderful Lynn Nottage. Set between 2000 and 2008 in Reading, Pennsylvania, a manufacturing town in which the factories are closing down, the play manages to at once offering a broad social commentary and create vivid, heartrending portraits of specific characters so real you feel you could step on the stage and into their world. A great example of examining complex ideas by showing not telling. It opens in 2008 and with two characters being released from prison and then moves back in a time to the events that got them there. This creates wonderful dramatic tension. I love playing with narrative and timelines and how it can affect how a story unfolds.

Shopping!

Shopping!

Après theatre in Ashland

Après theatre in Ashland

Another highlight was a brilliant Antony & Cleopatra directed by OSF artistic director Bill Rauch. The tension between personal relationships and the political stage could not be resonate for me with my own writing. Suzanne and Malcolm are minor characters in world events compared to Anthony and Cleopatra, but the tension between personal loyalties and desires and political loyalties (and sometimes sheer political expedience) is one they and many other characters in the series know well. Miriam Laube and Derrick Lee Weeden brought Cleopatra and Anthony to life in fabulous performances that made the two characters at once larger than life and very, very human. In the “One more gaudy night” scene, Anthony, who has just talked boldly about charging back to battle, has a moment the reveals his own qualms about success. A few moments later, Cleopatra’s concern for him flashes across her eyes when he isn’t looking. Anthony and Cleopatra are flawed characters who make flawed choices at times. They aren’t always loyal to each other. But in the end their love for each other survives the political maneuvering, even if they do not.

Dinner at Alchemy, one of our favorite restaurants

Dinner at Alchemy, one of our favorite restaurants

Après theatre

Après theatre

Family portrait

Family portrait

At intermission, a friend and I were discussing how wonderfully clear and exciting all the political intrigue felt. John Tufts as another stand out as Octavius. Cold, scheming, but not entirely without empathy. All in all a brilliant night of theatre on a trip filled with wonderful theatrical moments and wonderful writing inspiration.

Drinks on our terrace

Drinks on our terrace

Dinner at Amuse, another favorite

Dinner at Amuse, another favorite

In closing, a question inspired by blog discussions the past couple of weeks that perhaps is not unrelated to the love and politics themes of Anthony and Cleopatra. At the end of The Mayfair Affair Raoul tells Laura “I have no right to ask you to feel any sort of obligation. But I feel one.” When the novella opens six weeks later, Laura has been muling what this means. What do you think it means? What if Raoul offering/committing to?

Visiting our friends at Weisinger Winery

Visiting our friends at Weisinger Winery

Brunch at Brother's, a favorite haunt

Brunch at Brother’s, a favorite haunt

Après theatre in Ashland

Après theatre in Ashland

I’m still working on a post about the wonderful plays I saw at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and how they’ve inspired my writing But this week I’ve been busy getting the novella, A Night in Berkeley Square, off to the copy editor. It seems a good time to post a teaser, especially as it ties into to some of the past week’s discussion as it touches on Laura and Emily. Here’s the opening scene of A Night in Berkeley Square. Does Laura’s situation fit with what you envisioned after The Mayfair Affair?

Chapter 1

London,

April 1818

“It’s never going to work.”

The woman, who until six weeks ago had been known as Laura Dudley and who now could not say with certainty what name she claimed, stared at her reflection in the pier glass on the wall of her bedchamber. Or rather the bedchamber she occupied in the home of Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch. Until six weeks ago she had been employed as governess to their children. Now her position in the household was undefined. Like the rest of her life.

“Nonsense.” Suzanne Rannoch adjusted the puffed sleeves of Laura’s gown. “People aren’t in the habit of questioning Malcolm’s and my stories.”

“Most of your stories don’t involve amnesia.” Laura smiled at her friend in the mirror. “It’s all right. My situation was enough to tax even your abilities. I’m impressed that you could come up with anything at all. Impressed and grateful. But I can’t but think it might be best for me to avoid society.”

“You can’t avoid it when there’s a ball in our house.” Suzanne smoothed a fold of Laura’s overdress. “Besides it would be a crime for that dress not to be seen.”

Laura turned her gaze back to the looking glass. A stranger stared back at her. For four years she had dressed as a governess in sober, high-necked gowns of gray and dark blue. In the past six weeks she had borrowed some gowns from Suzanne and ordered a few new ones of her own, but nothing like the gown she wore now, the gown that Suzanne had insisted on taking her to order from a French modiste. French blue gauze fastened down the front with pearl clasps over a slip of silver satin. The pearls round her throat were her own, a gift from her father in her long ago days as the colonel’s daughter in India.  Her aqua marine earrings were a far more recent gift which had arrived a fortnight since in a plain box not sent through the regular post, with a cream colored card tucked inside signed simply R.

The memory brought warmth to Laura’s cheeks. And a much needed jolt of confidence. Which was probably why he had sent them.

She wondered if Suzanne knew where the earrings had come from. She wondered if Suzanne knew any number of things.

“I used to envy your gowns when you came into the nursery before you went out for the evening,” she confessed. “I wouldn’t have thought I would miss pretty clothes so much, and yet— But I also got used to dressing like a governess. To wearing clothes that blended in to the background.”

“The armor of a role.” Suzanne spoke with the easy assurance of a trained agent used to playing roles. “But your role has changed now.”

That was undeniable. The question was what her new role entailed.

The connecting door to the night nursery opened to admit Suzanne’s friend Lady Cordelia Davenport, an impossibly beautiful, impossibly stylish woman who had been born at the heart of the English beau monde. “More of their supper is going in their mouths than on the floor,” Cordelia reported. “Just. They made me promise to send ices up. And they want to see Laura once her toilet is finished.”

Cordelia’s two daughters were spending the night in the Rannoch nursery along with Laura’s daughter Emily and the Rannoch children Colin and Jessica. Cordelia paused on the threshold, gaze on the looking glass. She had gone with Laura and Suzanne to the modiste’s. “I knew that color would look splendid on you, Laura, but I didn’t realize quite— You’re going to have the ballroom at your feet.”

Laura turned from the mirror with a laugh. Cordelia wore a robe of red crêpe over white satin which set off her pale gold hair and laughed in the face of the gossip about her past. She and the dark-haired Suzanne, in coral lace over a matching silk slip, were perfect foils for each other. “Doing it much too brown, Lady Cordelia. With you and Suzanne, not to mention half the beauties in London, and the latest crop of débutântes—”

“Have you looked in the glass?” Cordelia asked. “Besides, you have all the fascination of mystery.”

“You mean people will be gawking at me because the story of my last four years sounds like something out of a lending library novel.”

“Nonsense—”

“I lost my memory after the carriage accident in India that killed my husband. My infant daughter was spirited away and I became a governess, only to recover my memories when my employers brought me to London.”

“I know.” Suzanne bent down to pick up Berowne the cat who was winding about her ankles, heedless of the delicate fabric of her gown. “You coped wonderfully in appalling circumstances for the past four years and the story makes you look more like a long suffering heroine in need of rescue than a woman who can take care of herself. I wouldn’t like it either. But—”

“But even if people don’t believe it, they’ll never guess the truth,” Cordelia said.

That, Laura acknowledged, was a good point. “You’re quite right,” she said. “I daresay it’s my own qualms about London society talking.”

“London society is certainly worthy of a qualm or two,” Cordelia said. “But you’ve got all of us to support you.”

Cordelia had been born an earl’s daughter but had faced social disgrace when her marriage nearly fell apart. Suzanne, half French, half Spanish, had been viewed by many as a foreign adventuress who had snagged a duke’s grandson. Even though cards of invitation to her parties were now sought after, there were still rumors.  “Which is a bit like having an army at my back,” Laura said. “I shouldn’t be missish.”

Cordelia put an arm round her. “Let’s go see your daughter.”

The day nursery, which had once been the heart of Laura’s world and where she still spent a large portion of her time, was bright with lamplight and children’s laughter. Emily looked up from the table. Her eyes went wide. “You look like a princess, Mummy.”

Laura laughed and went to kiss her daughter. Two months ago Laura hadn’t been sure she would ever see her daughter again. Six weeks ago when she brought Emily to the Rannoch house she’d wondered how her daughter would settle in, if she’d ever accept Laura as her mother, if she’d blame Laura for not finding her sooner. But  looking at the five children gathered round the nursery table, one would never guess that, unlike the Rannoch and Davenport children who had been nurtured from the cradle, Emily had spent the first four years of her life in an orphanage.

Colin Rannoch set down his cup of milk. “I’m glad you can go to parties, Laura. I always thought it was unfair.”

Suzanne ruffled her son’s hair and set Berowne down next to him as she went to pick up her daughter.

“Can we have some cakes with the ices?” Livia Davenport asked her mother.

“I’ll see what we can do.” Cordelia knelt between her daughters. Seventeen-month-old Jessica Rannoch now in Suzanne’s arms, squirmed round to nurse, which was not the best thing for Suzanne’s evening gown, though she was certainly used to it. Suzanne turned to Blanca, her maid and companion, who was presiding over the nursery meal. “Are you sure—”

“I’ll be quite all right,” Blanca said. “Unlike some, I really do only feel queasy in the mornings.”

Blanca had married Addison, Malcolm Rannoch’s valet, three months ago, and was expecting their first child. Suzanne squeezed Blanca’s shoulder while holding Jessica one-handed. “We’ll send up ices and cakes. And lemonade. And we’ll come up to kiss you goodnight. It should be an easy evening as these things go.”

Blanca snorted. “You always say that.”

Suzanne gave one of the dazzling smiles with which she always faced down risk. “And sometimes I’m right.”

Mélanie seeing me off to the Merola Grand Finale last weekend. A fabulous end to a great summer program!

Mélanie seeing me off to the Merola Grand Finale last weekend. A fabulous end to a great summer program!

Last week’s survey post yielded some fascinating discussion on the series and characters. One point that particularly intrigue me was the idea of how the various characters might be happy and if it’s even desirable for every major character in the series to have a “happy and settled life.” Of course, in a series, as in real life, there’s no such thing as a “happy ending.” As Cordelia says “there’s always an after.” Even characters with the most seemingly settled lives could find their lives upended, which I think is part of what makes a series interesting, both to read and to write. That, and the fact that characters can arrive at happy lives and loves (at least “happily for now”) over multiple books.

But posters also raised the question of if we even want every character in a series to have a happy and settled life. Is that too easy? Should it be more like real life, with some characters remaining alone, some relationships falling apart, some perhaps proving less ideal than they seemed at the start? How do you feel about this, both in this series and in other series you read?

And even if one ultimately wants the major characters to arrive at a happy and settled life, what does that look like? Right now in the series, Rupert and Bertrand are happier and have a more settled life than they ever expected. They’re together, they’ve worked out an amicable relationship with Rupert’s wife Gabrielle (who has her own lover) and sharing the care of Rupert and Gabrielle’s son. Rupert’s father is essentially out of the picture. But their relationship still has to remain secret from all but their closest friends. It’s still, in fact, a hanging offense. Rupert isn’t on speaking terms with his father. We haven’t really dealt with Bertrand’s parents, but they probably at best only acknowledge the relationship by deliberately turning a blind eye to it. Are Rupert and Bertrand settled and happy?

What about Simon and David? Their relationship in some ways is more stable than that that of most of the married couples in the series. They’ve been together for a decade. But David is under increasing pressure to marry and produce an heir, from his family and from his own sense of responsibility. And there are ongoing political tensions between David, the liberal Whig who is still an aristocrat, and Simon, the Radical reformer.

Laura and Raoul seemed to be tentatively beginning a relationship of sorts at the end of Mayfair Affair. But Raoul was leaving for Spain, where rebellion against the restored monarchy is brewing, and warned Laura that he couldn’t promise he’d survive. He also pointed out that he had very little to offer her, including marriage. He has an estranged wife in Ireland. If Laura and Raoul’s emotional bonds grow but he’s away much of the time and their love affair has to remain more or less secret (like Rupert and Bertrand and Simon and David in a sense) are they settled and happy? If they were somehow able to marry but Raoul still disappeared for long stretches of time running crazy risks would that be settled and happy?

Though it hasn’t been discussed in the Rannoch universe, Bow Street Runner Jeremy Roth also has an estranged wife, who ran off years ago leaving him and their two sons, whom his sister is helping him raise. A number of readers have mentioned they’d like Roth to fall in love, but at present he’s in no position to marry. He too could have a secret relationship. Or, not being part of society, he might more easily be able to live with a lover without being married to her. Would that be settled and happy?

Of course even the couples who are married and more or less settled have tensions. Harry, I think, still wonders about Cordelia’s past, and Harry’s own past in the time they were apart may become an issue in the next book. Malcolm and Suzanne live with the threat of her past being exposed. Not to mention that they are still adjusting to the impact of Malcolm learning about her past (Suzanne says in Mayfair that she has more than she ever thought to have but it will never be the same), and their loyalties are almost bound to conflict at some point.

What do you think? Do you ultimately want settled and happy lives for the major characters? Do you at least want to feel they are moving towards them? Or do you prefer real world messiness? And if the former, how do you define settled and happy?

Have a great weekend!

Tracy