History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

01 April 2013

Malcolm and Suzanne's Parisian Affair

Paris is a city for lovers. When Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch move to the British embassy in Paris after the Battle of Waterloo, in my recently released The Paris Affair, one would think they might have time to indulge in a romantic interlude. Napoleon is exiled again, and the mystery Malcolm and Suzanne investigated at the time of Waterloo has been resolved. But as those who have followed Malcolm and Suzanne's adventures know, conventional romance is hardly in their line. Their marriage began as one of convenience, with deception on both sides. Their feelings for each other are deep, but are more likely to be expressed through Shakespeare quotes than their own romantic utterances. Their gazes are more apt to meet in understanding over a mutually discovered clue than on a moonlit balcony (unless that balcony contains a dead body or they have just climbed it to evade pursuit).

Besides, the city to which they have removed is hardly a scene of idyllic tranquility. Waterloo may have ended the major fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, but it was far from bringing an end to the simmering tensions that go back to the French Revolution. The White Terror is in full swing, with the Ultra Royalists, led by Louis XVIII’s brother the Comte d’Artois, seeking vengeance on those who went over to Napoleon during the Hundred Days (and really vengeance for everything since the Revolution). Royalist gangs have attacked Bonapartists in the south. Allied soldiers – British, Prussian, Dutch-Belgian, Bavarian – throng the boulevards and quais of Paris and are encamped in the Bois de Boulogne, leading to frequent tension with the French populace. Royalist émigrés, many of whom fled France two decades ago, have returned seeking to have their estates restored. Two men who have managed to hold on to power since the Revolution, Talleyrand and Fouché, negotiate with the victorious powers - Britain's Wellington and Castlereagh, Austria's Prince Metternich, the unpredictable Tsar Alexander of Russia.

Suzanne's friends, the sisters Dorothée Talleyrand and Wilhelmine of Sagan, are engaged in uneasy love affairs of their own. Dorothée has returned to Paris from Vienna but is living with Priucne Talleyrand, her husband's uncle, rather than with her husband. Handsome Count Karl Clam-Martinitz, who became her lover at the Congress of Vienna, is also in Paris, but Dorothée's husband Edmond is not as sanguine as one would think a man might be who has ignored his wife for most of their marriage. And then Talleyrand's feelings for Dorothée - and hers for him - are decidedly complex. Meanwhile, the twice-divorced Wilhelmine has entered into a love affair with Castlereagh's hot-tempered half-brother, Lord Stewart, and is actually contemplating a third attempt at matrimony.

Suzanne listens to her friends' laments, but the intrigues she is caught up in herself are more political. For Malcolm and her, an evening out is not a moonlit stroll along the Seine or champagne in a candlelit café but a visit in disguise to a dockside tavern. To meet a contact. Naturally. But as Suzanne says, "An evening without diplomatic small talk. Bliss."

I love writing about London, and I've had a lot of fun with Vienna and Brussels in my last two books. But writing about Paris had its own sort of magic. What are your favorite books set in the City of Light? And what other couples can you think of whose expressions of their feelings for each other are decidedly understated?

photo: Raphael Coffey

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Blogger Helena said...

The first ones which come to mind (apart from The Three Musketeers!) are the Pink Carnation books by Lauren Willig, which are set in 1803-1805 i.e. more than 10 years before The Paris Affair. Napolean is at the height of his power, and Paris is very different.

Joanna Bourne's books range from 1794 to 1811, but the parts set in Paris are mainly 1794 (Forbidden Rose and Black Hawk) and 1802 (Spymaster's Lady), I believe.

All three of you are so meticulous in your research that I think I have a good idea of what Paris was like before, during, and after the Revolution! And then there's The Scarlet Pimpernel, of course...

2:28 AM  
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4:28 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Lovely to be in the company of all the authors and books you mention, Helena, which all beautifully evoke Paris. I love Lauren's and Joanna Bourne's writing and The Three Musketeers and even more so The Scarlet Pimpernel books were a bit influence on the Malcolm & Suzanne series. In fact there's a plot thread in The Paris Affair with a character called the Kestrel who helped Royalists escape Paris under Napoleon but is now helping proscribed Bonapartists escape the White Terror which is a very conscious homage to the Scarlet Pimpernel.

1:29 PM  

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