Secrets of a Lady

Secrets of a Lady

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by Tracy Grant

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In the glittering world of Regency London, where gossip is exchanged—and reputations ruined—with the tilt of a fan, Mélanie Fraser is the perfect wife. Devoted to her husband, Charles, the grandson of a duke, she is acknowledged as society's most charming hostess. But just as the elegant façade of Regency London hides a dark side, Mélanie


In the glittering world of Regency London, where gossip is exchanged—and reputations ruined—with the tilt of a fan, Mélanie Fraser is the perfect wife. Devoted to her husband, Charles, the grandson of a duke, she is acknowledged as society's most charming hostess. But just as the elegant façade of Regency London hides a dark side, Mélanie is not what she seems. She has a secret: one that could destroy her perfect jewel-box life forever . . . and the cost to keep it is an exquisite heirloom ring surrounded by legend and power. The search for it will pull Mélanie and Charles into a gritty underworld of gin-soaked brothels, elegant gaming hells, and debtors' prisons. In this maze of intrigue, deception is second nature and betrayal can come far too easily . . .

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Rannoch/Fraser Series , #1
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Secrets of a Lady

Chapter One

"All the world may be a stage, but sometimes the dialogue's too bloody ridiculous for any self-respecting playwright." Charles Fraser set down his candle and shrugged out of his evening coat, sparing a silent curse for the close-fitting fashions of the day. "What is it about diplomatic receptions that always brings on the most god-awful lapses in tact?"

"Don't tell me you expect diplomats to be diplomatic, darling." Mélanie unwound the voluminous cashmere folds of her shawl from her shoulders and began to peel off her gloves. "That would be much too logical."

Charles tossed his coat over a tapestry chair back, turned up the crystal Agrand lamp that had been left lit in readiness for them, and moved to the fireplace. They never had his valet and Mélanie's maid wait up, but a fire was laid in the grate. He picked up the poker and stirred the coals.

"What particularly appalling dialogue caught your attention tonight?" Mélanie asked.

Charles turned from the fire to look at his wife. She was sitting at her dressing table, her feet drawn up onto the striped damask chair so she could remove her evening slippers. Her glossy dark ringlets fell about her face, exposing the curve of her neck. The pearl-embroidered skirt of her gown was tucked up as she unwound the ivory satin ribbons that crisscrossed her silk-stockinged ankles. Strange, when he knew every inch of her, that his breath still caught at the sight. "Lady Bury told Ned Ellison that his wife looked charming dancing with Peter Grantham and hadn't they been dancing to the same waltz at the Cowpers' only two nights ago?"

Mélanie looked up, one slipper dangling by the ribbons from her fingers. "Oh, dear. That would seem glaringly obvious on any stage. Though if Ellison doesn't know his wife's sleeping with Peter Grantham, he's the last person in London not to be in on the secret."

Charles moved to the satinwood table that held his great-grandmother's Irish crystal decanter and glasses. "Poor bastard. One of those mad fools besotted with his own wife." He shot her a glance. "Not that I'd know anything about that."

She returned the glance, a glint in her eyes. "Of course not."

He took the stopper from the decanter. Ellison's gaze, as he watched his wife circle the floor with her lover, had stirred images of a past Charles would just as soon forget. He paused, the heavy cut-glass stopper in his hand, an uncomfortable weight in his memory.

Mélanie flexed her foot. "I rather think his adoration may be the problem. Too much can be smothering. Literally. Think of Othello."

Charles jerked himself out of the past. "Ellison doesn't strike me as the violent sort." He poured an inch of whisky into two glasses.

"He's a quiet brooder." She dropped her slippers to the floor and got to her feet. "They're the ones who snap."

Seven years of marriage and her perceptiveness about people could still surprise him. He set down the decanter and replaced the stopper. "Am I the sort who'd snap?"

She turned from lighting the tapers on her dressing table, laughter in her eyes. "Controlled, dispassionate Charles Fraser? Oh, no, darling. Anyone who's been to bed with you knows you aren't nearly as cold as you let on."

He walked over to her, carrying the glasses of whisky. "So I'm the perfect sort of husband to betray?"

"Not quite." Her gaze was appraising, but her lips trembled with humor. "You're much too intelligent, dearest. You'd be damnably difficult to deceive."

He put one of the glasses into her hand. "Sounds as though you've considered it."

She leaned against the dressing table and took a meditative sip of whisky. "Well, I might." Her eyes, a color between blue agate and the green of Iona marble, gleamed in her pale face. "Except that it would be quite impossible to find anyone who's your equal, my love."

He regarded her, aware of a smile playing about his mouth. "Good answer."

"Yes, I rather thought it was."

He lifted one hand and ran his fingers down the familiar line of her throat. The puffed gossamer that was an excuse for a sleeve slipped from her shoulder. His fingers molded to her skin. The scent of her perfume filled his senses, roses and vanilla and some other fragrance that still remained elusive after all these years.

A lump of coal fell from the grate and hissed against the fender. He swore, shrugged his shoulders, and went to pick up the poker.

"You warned me about it," Mélanie said from the dressing table. "The night you proposed."

He pushed the coal into the grate. "Warned you about what?"

"That—in your words—you weren't a demonstrative man. That you'd thought you'd never marry, your parents had set a miserable example, and you weren't sure how good you'd be at it."

He looked at her over his shoulder. "I didn't really say that."

"You did." She curled up, catlike, on her dressing table chair. "You pointed out all the potential pitfalls with scrupulous care. It might have been a white paper you'd drawn up for the ambassador on the advantages and disadvantages of a treaty. You didn't even try to kiss me."

"I should think not. That might have risked biasing your judgment. One way or the other." He returned the poker to its stand. "Of course, if I had, perhaps you'd have given me an answer straightaway, instead of going off to think about it for the most uncomfortable three days I have ever spent."

"Charles, given what you've been through in your life, that has to be hyperbole."

He kept his gaze on her face. "Not necessarily."

She unfastened her pearl earrings without breaking eye contact. "Terrified I'd accept?"

"Mel, the most terrifying thing I can imagine is life without you."

Secrets of a Lady. Copyright © by Tracy Grant. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Tracy Grant studied British history at Stanford University and received the Firestone Award for Excellence in Research for her honors thesis. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is on the board of the Merola Opera Program, a training program for professional opera singers, coaches, and stage directors.

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Secrets of a Lady 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
EraCG More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story. I loved it.
JLdeBrux More than 1 year ago
This is the first book that I have read by Tracy Grant and I was pleasantly surprised, I usually don't like suspense novels, but this one was wonderful!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was also published as Daughter of the Game.
Amanda84 More than 1 year ago
I wasn't really that impressed with this book. In my opinion, it was way to long and for some reason, the two main characters Charles and Melanie, just didn't do anything for me. But this could just be me, I have also read Tracy Grant's other book, by her other author name: Teresa Grant, Vienna Waltz, and I had the same issue that I had with this one.
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MariaIK More than 1 year ago
Good fiction is something that has always inspired awe in me. Writing fiction - especially good one - is the ability I myself do not possess and, therefore, admire even more in others. Tracy Grant's "Secrets of a Lady" (the first novel in the Charles and Melanie Fraser series) is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of fiction. It is intelligent, painstakingly researched, and beautifully written. Not only does the book have a plot that keeps one turning the pages and not wanting to set it down until the very end, and the characters that are complex, three-dimensional and supremely alive, but also a kind of edge that is frequently missing from historic adventure novels written by female authors. While clearly fond of her characters, Tracy Grant is not afraid of being hard on them and of putting them in situations that leave emotional and physical scars that may not ever heal, even if the situations themselves eventually become resolved. She reminds that the good old England and, specifically, its capitol that we tend to romanticize so much based on Jane Austen novels, had a meaner, darker and grittier side to it. There were splendid mansions and elaborate gatherings, where the wealthy tried to outdo each other in showing their style and sophistication. But there were also rat-ridden slums, drunken brawls, prostitution, theft, rape and murder. As the story progresses, the author puts her heroes through every circle of hell that was early 19th century London, stripping away the layers built up in the course of their recent upper class life, and forcing them to resort to skills and habits acquired during their more distant and far more bloody and dangerous past. This last bit of information is intended specifically for the male readers of historic adventure fiction, who might overlook this book, mistaking it for yet another romance novel filled with corsets, heaving bosoms and not much else of substance. Having grown up reading Dumas, George Sand, Maupassant and other masters of historic fiction enhanced with vivid real-life details, I am glad to see that the genre is not only remembered, but very much alive and well in contemporary literature, Tracy Grant being one of its most staunch sentinels.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actually read the original printing of this book (Daughter of the Game). I loved how you think you know the characters and their relationship at the beginning, but continue to learn their secrets with many twists and turns throughout the book. I can't wait for more of Charles and Melanie's adventures!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is really good, however the writer often rushes events and occasionally it is hard to follow the diaologue. all and all it is a fun read! Great for something to keeping your mind from going numb this summer
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1819 London, members of the Ton think highly of Melanie and Charles Fraser, who seem to share a perfect scandal free relationship. Both dote on their six years old son Colin while the aristocracy assumes this is a love match and.----------- However, on a foggy November evening, tragedy strikes when Colin seemingly vanishes from their elegant home. The kidnapper demands a special ring that allegedly has mystical power. It is to be brought to the criminals immediately in exchange for their son. Melanie knows she is the cause as she has hidden her real past from Charles, the grandson of a duke, but he also has hidden some of his Napoleonic War dealings from her. As the couple begins a desperate search to save their son, Melanie escorts Charles into a different side of London where brothels and gaming halls rule and anyone including your mate might be the one to knife you in the back she is unaware that he knows his way around this seedy part of town.------------ SECRETS OF A LADY is a fascinating Regency amateur sleuth thriller with whimsical hints of the paranormal. Readers will feel they are accompanying the lead couple as the dark underbelly of early nineteenth century London comes to grim yet vivid life. Filled with twists and red herrings, deception even between Melanie and Charles is the norm. Tracy Grant provides a dark fresh take on Regency England with this tense character driven thriller.------------------ Harriet Klausner