Tracy Grant

Charles and Mélanie Fraser - former intelligence agents, early 19th century London


"Daughter of the Game"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer JUL 8, 2003)

"Provided, of course, that she could keep Jack's temper in check. Their employer made it clear that violence might become unavoidable. Meg was prepared for it. But dead bodies could be a damned nuisance."

Daughter of the Game by Tracy GrantCharles and Mélanie Fraser have already been through a lot together. They met during the war with Napoleon, and she accompanied him on many adventures. Now, as the toast of society, they are well known for their deep love for each other, and their political views, which do not always sit well with his fellow members of Parliament. When their six-year-old son Colin is kidnapped, their lives are irrevocably destroyed. The kidnapping has been arranged by a man they both know...Carevalo, a Spanish noble who believes that the Frasers have his family ring. This ring, a lion's head with rubies for eyes, offers the promise of power to those who wear it. During the war, Charles was sent by his government to buy it from bandits and keep it out of French hands. Unfortunately the ring is lost...neither Charles, nor Mélanie, who he encountered lost in the wilderness on his way there, have any idea where it went. Mélanie finds herself faced with the most horrible task...she knows that to get their son back, she needs to tell Charles the truth...that she was not in the wilderness by accident, that she, in fact, was a spy for the very people he was fighting against.

This realization that the woman he loved, the woman he married, used him to get secrets for her government for years is the last thing he needs in light of the kidnapping...but they stay together, anyway, determined that they will pool their resources to discover where the ring is before the deadline.

When I first started reading this book, I liked it because it seemed to be a sequel of sorts. Years ago, maybe when I was fifteen, I went through a huge Regency romance fling, and you know all romances generally end with the people getting married or confessing their love for each other, which ever comes last. Here was something different...the people are already married, their love already confessed...now we get a nifty mystery book where we see what happens after happily ever after. But after reading a couple of chapters my impression changed entirely. This is a dark book, filled with tension and intricate plotting, both on the part of the author and her characters. Everything is tightly woven, and for every clue we get that leads us to the ring, we often get a shock as something else is discovered, some new realization or betrayal revealed. What makes this book so readable is that we truly like Charles and Mélanie...they both really love each other, but know that things are changed. Charles is totally ticked at his wife, even though he still treats her with respect, even compassion, but feels that he no longer knows her. Mélanie accepts his anger as her due, and is devastated because she knows she can't expect him to keep her as his wife now that he knows many of the shocking and often sorrowful secrets of her past. Because we can sympathize with both sides, it makes the twists and turns even more surprising, and the story even harder to put down as we truly hope that somehow these problems can be resolved and this couple be allowed to go on with their lives.

Grant makes the full gamut of our emotions her playground, moving us, horrifying us, angering us, and uplifting us. Spiced with lines from Shakespeare, woven through with incredible details of the time and strong action, you won't be satisfied until you've turned the last page.

And, if you're like me, until you've walked over to the shelf and at least started her next book, Beneath a Silent Moon.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 19 reviews
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"Beneath the Silent Moon"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer JUL 7, 2003)

Beneath a Silent Moon by Tracy GrantCharles and Mélanie have just returned from France, where Charles was serving as a diplomat and spy for the British. Now that the war is finally over, the couple are trying to find some sort of peace in their own lives. Mélanie is trying to find a way to become a perfect wife and hostess for her Charles's, whose political star seems to be on the rise. Mélanie feels even more lost when she meets the woman that everyone thought Charles would someday marry, Honoria Talbot...who shocks everyone when she announces that she will still marry a Fraser...Charles' father, Kenneth. This would be nothing to comment upon, but a mysterious meeting with an old friend from their more adventurous days introduces them to the Elsinore League, a corrupt organization that will, according to their friend, kill again. Apparently, the league is worried for...or about...a woman named Honoria. When Foreign Secretary Castlereagh basically warns him off the case, it only serves to prick Charles interest even more...especially when the path of murder follows him and his family to his father's estate, where Honoria Talbot is the first to die.

In Daughter of the Game we were introduced to Charles and Mélanie Fraser, a couple whose shared adventures during the Napoleonic war bound them together. This prequel to Daughter of the Game takes us deeper in to Charles's past, even as it explores the complicated relationship between them. Like Daughter of the Game, this book is a story of great depth and complexity. For Mélanie, who struggles both to find a place for herself, and to define her feelings for her husband (and, more importantly, her need for those feeling to be returned) the complicated puzzle of discovering Honoria's murderer and the secret of the Elsinore league is a welcome distraction. It gives her a chance to interact with the man she loves in a way that is familiar...it is easier to delve into the adventures of war than it is to explore one's place in the heart of a husband. Both feel affection for each other, but hide it...Charles because he has built a wall with which to contain his emotions, to keep himself calm and detached, Mélanie out of a feeling of guilt...she will never feel like she deserves to be happy, because of the reasons she agreed to marry him. There's also an interesting under theme about the morals of sexuality...several times there are parallels between baser sexuality...games and orgies and loose morals and the tragedies these things have created, and the sexuality of the marriage bed. As Charles struggles to frame exactly what kind of marriage he and Mélanie have, he often feels guilty, wondering where the line between the love and affection he shares with his wife in their chamber and animal lust is. It creates an intimate portrait of the times...a time where it was unusual for a man and wife to share a bed, where there were strict rules that made adultery a commonplace, accepted (if not quite acceptable) thing.

Whatever problems the Frasers have yet to solve in their marriage, they work together with precision when it comes to detective work. Mélanie is an incredibly brave woman...the two spies that knew them during the war have a healthy dose of respect, which says more than a description of her past actions as to how good she is. Charles does an admirable job of keeping his cool, even as the threads of everything he thought he knew about his family begin to unravel.

A question that you may be asking yourself is, which book to read first? Well, Grant doesn't use anything major from Daughter of the Game, not does she really seem to hint in that first book anything that would spoil this one. Each is a completely independent read, yet, I feel that there are enough nuances and subtle hints woven in that, by having read Daughter first, you understand a lot more about why Mélanie feels the way she does. I think that it is hard to go backward in your own chronology, yet Grant manages to write these two books with just enough shared threads as to make them flow very well together, yet not lose a reader who starts with one before the other. So the answer is, I'm not sure it makes a difference...each one will have things that will color the nuances of the next in different ways. I liked the way I happened to go about it because I think that the writer has her reasons for putting one in front of the other-- but then, I read the flyleaf of Beneath a Silent Moon while in the middle of Daughter of the Game as my way of "cheating" to see if they both survive the end of the book...so I was a bit surprised when I twigged onto the fact, while reading this book, that it takes place a couple of years earlier.

Gorgeously written and filled with as many twists and turns as an ornamental maze, Beneath the Silent Moon will have you turning pages quickly to get to the bottom of things, even as you're worrying over Charles and Mélanie.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 9 reviews


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About the Author:

Tracy GrantTracy Grant studied British history at Stanford University and graduated in 1988 with a B.A. She received the Firestone Award for Excellence in Research for her honors thesis on shifting conceptions of honor in late fifteenth century England. She formerly wrote with her late mother, Joan Grant, under the names Anthea Malcolm and Anna Grant. Tracy now writes historical romances under her own name.

She lives in northern California, where she is on the board of the Merola Opera Program, a training program for professional opera singers, coaches, and stage directors, and is managing director of h e l p : human elemental laboratory of performance.

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