The Mayfair Affair: An Interview and Giveaway with Tracy Grant

Mayfair*Photo credit: www.raphaelcoffey.com

I first picked up one of Tracy Grant’s books at the Charlottesville “Festival of the Book” three years ago.  I was so excited to hear Lauren Willig and Deanna Raybourn speak that I got to the book store slightly (an hour and a half) early.  I passed the time by browsing for books, and I happened across a copy of Tracy’s Vienna Waltz.  I recognized Tracy’s name for the “If You Like” posts on Lauren’s website, and I read the first two chapters while I waited for Lauren’s event to begin.  I was hooked.

Tracy was kind enough to participate in an interview on my blog in September of last year, and I am so glad she is back today!  Her newest book, The Mayfair Affair, is now available in the wild, and so we’re going to chat a bit about it, her series, and writing in general.

The Mayfair Affair is your fifth book about Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch. Do you have a master plan for the series, or are you following your ideas wherever they take you?

I don’t have a master plan but there are certain plot points I know I want to hit. For instance I knew for a long time I’d do a book about Laura Dudley being accused of murder, I knew Laura was hiding things, I knew certain plot developments that occur in The Mayfair Affair. But I’m constantly surprised, in a good way, by how the characters and series evolve, so I keep it flexible. I’m having fun now delving into the next book, which goes in some directions I had in mind and some new ones.

One thing that I really enjoy about your books is the way that you shift perspective. Is there a character whose point of view is easier for you to write than the others?

Both Suzanne’s and Malcolm’s POVs come pretty easily to me and now I know them so well that starting a new books is like sitting down with old friends (though they can still surprise me, which is cool). Laura Dudley was fairly easy for me to write in this book as well. I started out mostly writing Raoul O’Roarke from other characters’ POVs, but I get into his head quite a bit in The Mayfair Affair, and I enjoyed writing from his perspective.

What kind of historical details do you most enjoy researching and writing about? Is it the clothes, the food, the social structure? Something else entirely?

I do enjoy the clothes! I love fashion, both historical and contemporary :-). I also love setting details – sights, sounds, smells, tastes. I love it when I can find a few details that bring a setting to life, like the tang of extinguished candles, the scratchy soot in the London air, the smell of the oranges being sold in the Covent Garden Theatre lobby. I also love writing about the political and diplomatic intrigue.

I play this game when I watch musicals (only that genre, weirdly enough) where I cast myself as one of the minor characters. For example, if I were in Rent, I’d be Mark’s mom. If you could cast yourself as one of the ensemble characters in your series, who would you be and why?

Before The Mayfair Affair I’d have said Laura Dudley, but in Mayfair she becomes a central character. Maybe Juliette Dubretton – she’s juggling being a writer and a mother like me, and she’s definitely one the ensemble characters I enjoy writing.

One of the great things about reading historical fiction is watching the way that authors write interactions between their original characters and historical figures. Your books are full of wonderful moments like this. Has there ever been a historical figure you were excited or nervous about including in a novel?

It’s always both exciting and nerve-wracking to try to put words in a real historical figure’s mouth I was particularly nervous and excited about Talleyrand, who plays a major role in Vienna Waltz and The Paris Affair, because he’s such a towering figure. But I actually found it quite easy to write his dialogue and even the moments I did from his POV. It’s always a bit of dilemma to involve real historical figures in fictional events. I try to only have real historical figures do things they might conceivably have done (for instance I wouldn’t involve someone known to be a faithful spouse in a fictional adulterous love affair). Talleyrand was a master schemer, and I debated how far I could have him go in my fictional schemes. I think I hit on a balance that was true to the complex man he is.

Your series has expanded to include three novellas now. Are there aspects of writing these shorter stories that you find particularly appealing?

I think in terms of complex plots and lots of characters so writing in a shorter form can be challenging for me. But I love writing novellas as part of a larger series. They are a great way to dramatize moments from the characters’ pasts, like Malcolm and Suzanne’s wedding in His Spanish Bride or Suzanne’s first visit to London in the recent London Interlude or to depict important developments that take place between books, like the birth of their daughter Jessica in The Paris Plot

I know that lots of readers like to imagine the perfect Hollywood cast as they read through a book. Do you think about who you would like to see on the big screen as Suzanne or Malcolm?

When I first started writing the series they were a young David Duchovny (early X-Files) and Elizabeth Hurley (as she was in one of the Sharpe episodes). When I saw Casino Royale, I thought Daniel Craig and Eva Green would work well. If the books were filmed now (well, I can dream :-), you’d need somewhat younger actors. Maybe Emily Blunt and Benedict Cumberbatch? I love hearing readers’ casting suggestions – it’s a way of seeing my characters through someone else’s eyes.

Do you ever get a wild urge to write something from a complete different genre, like a fantasy novel or a modern thriller? If you do, what genre do you think you’d try?

Not really. I love writing mysteries with a strong historical background and romantic elements, and I love my characters and the writing in the world I’ve created for them.

Do you have a favorite “comfort book”?

Venetia by Georgette Heyer, Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, and The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King.

What is your favorite aspect of life as an author?

Making up stories and sharing them with readers. Sometimes playing dolls with my daughter I think “this is still what I get to do, only I write the stories down instead of acting them out with dolls.” How cool a job is that?

A very cool job for sure, Tracy! Thank you so much for spending the time with us today and answering all my questions. For more information on Tracy, The Mayfair Affair, and all of Tracy’s great work, you can visit her website at http://www.tracygrant.org/.

And now, dear readers, Tracy has a gift for you. She has agreed to give away an e-copy of her new release The Mayfair Affair to a commenter on today’s blog. If you are the lucky winner, you can let us know what e-book platform you prefer.

You can enter up to three times for this giveaway, and the contest will be open until midnight EST on May 21. Here’s how you can enter:

  1. Leave a comment below.
  2. Follow the blog! If you are already a follower, just mention that in your comment. There are links in the top right corner of this page to become a follower.
  3. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter. Again, you can just let me know in your comment that you’ve done this. I trust you.

On Friday, I will use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner. Good luck!

The Mayfair Affair

Mayfair

Those of you who have been following the blog for a while know that I am fiercely devoted to a handful of authors that I found through Lauren’s website and her “If You Like” posts. One of my absolute favorites is Tracy Grant, author of a historical mystery series set in Napoleonic France featuring the husband-and-wife spy team Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch. The first book Tracy published with Kensington for this series, Vienna Waltz, is fabulous. If you haven’t tried it, add it to your reading list! I promise you won’t regret it.

Today, Tracy is a guest on Lauren’s website with an “If You Like” post of her own. We just finished talking about governess books, thanks to our re-read of The Orchid Affair. Tracy’s latest novel in her series, The Mayfair Affair, has a governess at the heart of the action – Laura Dudley, caretaker of Malcolm and Suzanne’s children, who is found standing over the body of the murdered Duke of Trenchard. In her post on Lauren’s site today, Tracy talks a bit about her newest release and then recommends a few governess books that she enjoys. Head over to Lauren’s site and take a look! And if you follow Deanna Raybourn’s blog, be on the lookout for a post from Tracy there as well. That post will be live tomorrow.

I’m also very pleased to say that Tracy will be paying another visit to the Bubble Bath Reader next week – on May 18th, she will be stopping by to answer a few questions and to give away a copy of The Mayfair Affair to a lucky reader. Make sure you check in for a chance to win!

Pink 1 Week 4 in Review

Pink Card 1C

Happy Friday, everyone! We can start off today with the last of the beautiful Pink I cards that Sharlene created.  Also, congratulations to Paige, who is the winner of signed copy of Vienna Waltz by Tracy Grant. Paige, if you will email me your address at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, we will get your prize in the mail. Thanks again to Tracy for stopping by to chat with us and to all of you who entered. If you didn’t win, never fear – there are more giveaways in our future!

I finished reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation earlier this week. The funny thing is, I planned to pace myself for a month of reading each book in order to really take my time, read slowly, and make sure I gave myself a chance to appreciate all the detail and humor Lauren includes in her writing. Guess what? I read the last quarter of this book in one sitting. So much for pacing myself! But I think I enjoyed it just as much as I would have if I had made myself stretch it out.

Poor Amy. She was so indignant about Richard not trusting her with his secret identity and so furious that he would compare her with Deirdre, and then she cost him his spying career. She spends several miserable hours berating herself for being worse than Deirdre, because at least Deirdre was innocent of intentionally sabotaging anyone. She just said a few careless words to her maid, who happened to be a French agent. But I think that, in Richard’s mind, Amy’s actions can’t compare with Deirdre’s because Deirdre’s conversation with her maid cost Tony his life. Whatever disappointment Richard feels about having to retire as the Purple Gentian because of Amy, it can’t compare to how wretchedly responsible he feels for what happened to Tony.

More things I had forgotten until this reread:

  • Richard and Amy are able to escape from France because Marston “allows” them to use his boat.
  • Stiles turns in an excellent performance as the ship’s captain.
  • Henrietta has to stay behind while her mother and Amy rescue Richard and while her father, Miles, Geoff, Jane and Gwen intercept the Swiss gold. What a disappointment for her!

I’m curious about those of you who came to Pink by starting with a later book in the series. Going back and reading about the creation of the Pink Carnation’s league, was it what you expected?  If this was your first time around, did you suspect that it would be Jane, not Amy, who would be the Pink Carnation?

The exciting news for next week is that Lauren has volunteered to do an “Ask the Author” Q&A for each of the Pink books as we read along. Since we’re starting Pink II next Wednesday, make sure you check back early next week to find out the details of where and when you can find Lauren to ask her your burning questions about Pink I!

Have a great weekend.

Falling in Love with Historical Fiction

We’ve talked a bit about genre and the Pink books in the past two weeks. One of the reasons I appreciate genre categories is because once you’ve found a book you love, knowing what genre it is can help you find hundreds of other similar books to try. Today, we have a guest post from Chanpreet, who will explain how reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation helped her to rediscover her love for the historical fiction genre.

I’ve always loved reading. My memories don’t go back to when I was three years old, the age my mother tells me I first learned how to read, but as long as I can remember I’ve been reading and loving it. The book that started my love for all things historical and romance was a novel titled The Love Stone by Deana James. I read it when I was in the 5th or 6th grade and carried it around with me everywhere. After that, I started actively looking for books like The Love Stone, and I started reading Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, and Karen Robards. I read historical romances exclusively until I stumbled upon contemporary romance authors like Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sandra Brown, and then that was all I read.

In 2004, there was an excerpt of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation that I read somewhere. It was a scene with Amy and Richard and featured them in the gondola and I remember thinking, “That’s hot! I want to read more!” I immediately looked up the publishing date and any information I could find on Lauren, which wasn’t much at the time. I started to look for more information about the book. When the book first came out, I was unable to afford buying the book in hardback but was ecstatic when my local library accepted my suggestion that they add the book to their lending selection. I remember checking it out and being so excited! I started reading it the moment I got home and finished it the same day, staying up late at night to finish it. I fell in love with the book. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and so much more. The book was funny, sweet, hot, and so very entertaining! I was so sad when it was over, because I wanted more. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the action and mystery angle. I wanted more Amy and Richard, Collin and Eloise, to find out how Miss Gwen and Jane were going to stop Napoleon, more intrigue, more drama, more of everything.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t get enough of historical novels again. My passion came back, but differently. I was still enchanted with bygone eras, but I was old enough to realize that what I had read as a teenager wasn’t always an accurate portrayal of the times. I also learned I wanted more to my stories than just romance.  I realized reading a book that was just as much a romance as it was a historical novel or an action/suspense novel was exhilarating and so much more fulfilling.  Since then, I’ve read countless historical novels.  I actively began to look for them when I would have passed over them before.   I own all of Lauren’s books in paperback and always look forward to reading her new books and re-reading and visiting with some of my favorite characters.  I look forward to news about her upcoming books, what she’s reading, and especially what she’s researching.  I’ve been introduced to many new authors and books through my daily stalkings of her website.  So much so, when I met her a few years ago at a singing she recognized my name and this year as well when I got to meet her for 15 minutes at RT.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was a game changer for me and I think for many others as well.  I noticed that her fans grew with each book. I always get that happy feeling knowing I was one of the lucky ones who found her at the beginning and thinking how lucky the new readers are to have an extensive back list waiting for them.  I’m always very excited to see her books on the shelves and on the table with other best sellers.  It takes someone extra special to be a writer, and I’m hoping Lauren will continue to bring me and other readers joy.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Chanpreet! I’ve found several great recommendations on Lauren’s website for historical fiction as well. Off the top of my head, I know I’ve read Forever Amber, The Far Pavilions, and Shadow of the Moon on Lauren’s recommendation. If you’d like to see a list of some of Lauren’s favorite books by category, she has one posted on her website. Tracy Grant’s novels are on Lauren’s list as favorite historical mysteries! If you’d like to give one a try, make sure to enter the giveaway for a signed copy of Vienna Waltz!

What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?

An Interview and a Giveaway with Tracy Grant

Alright, Pink Crew, we have a very special guest with us today! Allow me to introduce Teresa (Tracy) Grant, author of eleven novels, who currently writes a series of historical mysteries published by Kensington Books.

tracyvienna

I stumbled across Tracy’s books on Lauren’s website a few years ago, and I’m so glad I did! They are set in the Napoleonic era, both in Great Britain and in Europe, and they feature a husband-and-wife spy team named Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch. Malcolm is a British aristocrat working as diplomat and spy, and Suzanne is his war bride with a shadowy past. Their first novel, Vienna Waltz, is set during the Congress of Vienna in 1814, and Malcolm and Suzanne are drawn into an investigation when Princess Tatiana is murdered.

Tracy has stopped by to chat and kindly answer a few questions about herself, her writing, and her current projects. So without further ado, I will give you Tracy in her own words.

Tracy, if I took a sneak peek into your writing space, what would I find?

A latte or a cup of tea. I do a lot of my writing in a Peet’s Coffee & Tea in an open air mall. But as the mother of a small child, I’ve learned to write wherever and whenever I get the chance. Yesterday I wrote in Peet’s, in the children’s department at Nordstrom’s, at the playground, in Pottery Barn Kids, and curled up in an armchair at home late in the evening.

What are five of your favorite things?

Hard to limit the list to five, but a sampling: The X-Files, the finale trio of Der Rosenkavalier, Alice Temperley dresses, my daughter’s rendition of “Let it Go”, Shakespeare’s history plays, pumpkin lattes.

If you stopped writing books (please don’t), what would you do for a living?

I don’t think I could stop writing books any more than I could stop breathing. But I also work part time as Director of Foundation, Corporate & Government Relations for the Merola Opera Program, and I spend a lot of time being a mommy to my two and nine-month old Mélanie.

When you walk into a book store, where do you go first?

To see if they have my books 🙂

If you were having a dinner party, and you could invite 6 characters (other than yours) to attend, who would you pick?

Harriet Vane & Lord Peter Wimsey, Elizabeth Bennet & Fitzwilliam Darcy, Lord Vaughn & Mary Alsworthy

What sparked your interest in the Napoleonic era?

Seeing the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier film of Pride and Prejudice when I was six and then asking my mom to read the book to me. Followed by the rest of Jane Austen and then Georgette Heyer starting when I was nine or ten. I was intrigued by the Congress of Vienna from the references to Sophy’s time there in The Grand Sophy, the first Heyer book my mom read to me. Heyer’s An Infamous Army got me fascinated with Waterloo and the Napoleonic Wars. It such a fascinating time period, on the cusp of change between the Enlightenment and French Revolution and the Victorian Industrial era.

What was your inspiration for Malcolm and Suzanne?

I think the first inspiration was watching the Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour film of The Scarlet Pimpernel and thinking during the wedding scene “what if she really was spying on him when they got married?” Not long after, my mom and I began co-writing Regency romances together as Anthea Malcolm. In our second book, which was never published, we had two secondary characters who almost ended up married. I remember thinking “if these two people did get married, it would be really interesting to see what happened to them in five years or so.” Years later, that sparked my three books about Charles & Mélanie Fraser. When I changed publishers and my new publisher wanted new names, I decide to write a sort of “parallel universe” changing their names to Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch and beginning with their history at the Congress of Vienna, which I really wanted to dramatize.

How important are the names of the characters in your books? Do you choose names based on their sound or meaning, or something else entirely?

I love naming characters! Sometimes a name just pops into my head and feels right. Other times I think about it and make lists. I try to think about who the characters’ parents are and what sort of name they might have chosen – aristocrats concerned with the family lineage which might pick the name of an ancestor; classical scholars might pick a name from classical history or mythology; a romantic might pick a name from a contemporary novel. I have The Oxford Book of English Christian Names which has origins and historical usage info on names, which is a big help. One of the challenges is that the British upper classes tend to use a fairly small number of names over and over, and there’s a limit to how many Georges, Williams, Carolines, and Henriettas one can have in a fictional world without hopelessly confusing the reader. With Harry and Cordelia, I actually posted possible names on my blog and on Facebook to get reader input. I decided on Cordelia when my friend writer Deborah Crombie said she’d always loved the name. I also ended up giving it to my daughter as her middle name as well.

What are you working on now?

A book set about three months after The Berkeley Square Affair. It begins with Laura Dudley, the nanny/governess of Malcolm and Suzanne’s children, being found holding a knife in the study of a duke who has just been stabbed to death. Malcolm and Suzanne believe she’s innocent, but Laura refuses to talk. And they quickly learn there is a great deal they don’t know about her. It’s a challenging investigation for Malcolm and Suzanne since it’s the first time they’ve been embroiled in a mystery since Malcolm learned the truth of Suzanne’s past.

What books do you recommend to readers who enjoy your work?

Lauren Willig, of course. Tasha Alexander, Deanna Raybourn, C.S. Harris, Deborah Crombie, and Laurie King. All write wonderful stories with strong mysteries and fascinating relationships among the characters. Also a wonderful book called Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull. It takes place in the Victorian era has an amazing mix of suspense, adventure, and history, and one of the best love stories I’ve ever read. And going back in time, I was strongly influenced by British “Golden Age” mystery writers, particularly Dorothy Sayers, and also Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. They write great mysteries that also have wonderfully rich ongoing love stories for the detectives.

If readers would like to learn more about you and your work, how would they do that?

My website is at http://www.tracygrant.org. You can follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tracygrant and on twitter at https://twitter.com/tracygrant.

In addition to answering all of my questions, Tracy has also agreed to autograph a copy of Vienna Waltz for a commenter on today’s blog post! Isn’t she wonderful? To enter yourself for this giveaway, just leave a comment below. You have until midnight EST on September 25 to enter. I will announce the winner on Friday.

Want to earn extra entries for this giveaway? You can enter up to three times. Here’s how:

  1. Leave a comment below.
  2. Follow the blog! If you are already a follower, just mention that in your comment. There are links in the top right corner of this page to become a follower.
  3. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter. Again, you can just let me know in your comment that you’ve done this. I trust you.

On Friday, I will use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner. Good luck! And thank you again, Tracy, for sharing your time with us today.

Top Five Friday: Historical Mystery Series

In the spirit of gearing up for Pink for All Seasons, I have been thinking a lot lately about my favorite historical mystery series. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that historical mysteries were a thing – but now, they make up a surprising percentage of my reading! So for today’s Top Five Friday, here are my favorite historical mystery series. You’ll never guess which series is number one…

 

 pink carnation 1. Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. I’ve talked endlessly about this series, so for now I won’t reiterate all the reasons why the books are great. If you haven’t tried this series yet, make sure to drop by in September, when we’ll start reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.
 vienna 2. Tracy Grant’s Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch series. The series begins with Vienna Waltz, and I have to tell you, I was hooked absolutely from the first line. I tore through that book and have snapped up each installment in the series as it was published. The first book is set in Vienna in 1814, just after Napoleon’s defeat, when major players from the dominant European countries are getting together to determine the fate of the Continent. It’s a fascinating time historically, so Tracy’s first murder mystery has an excellent backdrop. Suzanne and Malcolm are really wonderful, complex characters, and Tracy just keeps making them more interesting with each book.
 silent 3. Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series. How can you not love a story that begins like this: “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” The first book, Silent in the Grave, introduces us to Lady Julia Gray, a Victorian aristocrat whose eccentric family and unconventional interests make for really interesting reading.
 anatomist 4. Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series. This series caught my eye because I thought the premise for the first book was really unique. Kiera Darby is a widow whose ghastly late husband forced her to use her considerable artistic talent to illustrate his cadaver dissections for an anatomy textbook. After his death, she is considered a freak (or something even more sinister) by most of society, and she gets caught up in a murder investigation when her knowledge of human anatomy comes in handy. The first book is The Anatomist’s Wife, and there are now three books in the series.
 blue death 5. Charles Finch’s Lenox series. Finch’s books are set in Victorian London (no pattern to see here, folks), and they revolve around a private detective named Charles Lenox. In the first book, A Beautiful Blue Death, Lenox investigates a maid’s death in the household of his lifelong friend Lady Jane. The maid appears to have committed suicide, but Lenox discovers that the poison that killed her was rare and expensive – not something the maid would have easy access to. As Lenox tries to uncover a motive for murder, another dead body turns up in a ballroom at the height of the Season. This series is possibly “cozier” than the others (Finch describes Lenox as “an armchair explorer who likes nothing more than to relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book”), but it is still a great one.

 

I have to also give an honorable mention to C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries and Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series – I’ve read several of these as well, and they are excellent. C.S. Harris is particularly good if you’re looking for fewer ballrooms and more fistfights with Bow Street runners.

I know that this list is skewed towards female protagonists and stories set in Britain. Am I missing out on a great historical mystery series? If you’ve got a favorite that you don’t see listed, let me know!