>Today’s guest if Teresa Grant who writes historical fiction for Kensington. Her current book is set in what I believe is the most romantic city in all of Europe. Vienna. And can I say I love the elegance and splendor of her cover! Please welcome Teresa for today’s Pleasure Me With Romance guest post.
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I find one of the most frequent questions I’m asked as a writer is “where do you get your ideas?” The answer is from myriad sources. Sometimes there’s a character from a piorb book I want to follow up on. Sometimes a movie or play or opera has a plot situation or emotional dilemma that starts me thinking “what if…” and sparks the idea for a story. Sometimes research sparks my imagination.
That was the case with my upcoming release Vienna Waltz, set in 1814 at the Congress of Vienna. I think I first heard of the Congress of Vienna in Georgette Heyer books (I know there are mentions of Sophy and her father being there in The Grand Sophy). I remember being fascinated by a lecture about it my freshman year at Stanford. I’ve referenced the Congress as part of the backstory in several books. I’ve wanted to set a book at it for ages. It offers such rich scope for a novelist.
Nothing is fair in love
and war. . .
Europe’s elite have gathered at the glittering Congress of Vienna–princes, ambassadors, the Russian tsar–all negotiating the fate of the continent by day and pursuing pleasure by night. Until Princess Tatiana, the most beautiful and talked about woman in Vienna, is found murdered during an ill-timed rendezvous with three of her most powerful conquests. . .
Suzanne Rannoch has tried to ignore rumors that her new husband, Malcolm, has also been tempted by Tatiana. As a protégé of France’s Prince Talleyrand and attaché for Britain’s Lord Castlereagh, Malcolm sets out to investigate the murder and must enlist Suzanne’s special skills and knowledge if he is to succeed. As a complex dance between husband and wife in the search for the truth ensues, no one’s secrets are safe, and the future of Europe may hang in the balance. . .
After Napoleon was exiled to Elba, representatives of countries across Europe gathered in Vienna to redraw the Continental map. There was a great deal of intriguing, both political and romantic. In the autumn of 1814, the Congress of Vienna was *the* place to be. Imagine a combination of a modern international political conference and the Cannes Film Festival. Some claimed the delegates spent as much time waltzing as negotiating. The Festivals Committee, appointed by Austrian Emperor Francis I, felt it their duty to keep the foreign delegations entertained with events each more lavish than the last. There were masquerade balls, balloon ascensions, sleigh rides, a recreation of a medieval tournament, nights at the theater and the opera.
Viennese society was filled with music. Beethoven, at the height of his fame, gave a concert. Salieri, Vienna’s Hofkapellmeister, organized many musical events (including a concert with a a hundred pianos). There were already rumors at the time that he had poisoned Mozart (the rumors that became the basis of the play and film Amadeus) though no evidence to support these rumors. Salieri had taken an interest in the young Schubert. Schubert, who is a character in Vienna Waltz, was seventeen at the time of the Congress and already having works performed(his first Mass premiered in October, 1814).
One could scarcely turn round without stumbling over a spy for one power or another. The Austrians tried to slip agents into the foreign delegations as scullery maids and bootboys. British Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh frustrated these efforts by hiring his own servants. Everyone was combing through diplomatic wastebaskets looking for coded papers. Scores of illicit love affairs took place in this frenetic atmosphere. Many of the delegates had come to Vienna without their spouses, expecting the Congress to only last a few weeks rather than months. Along with the official delegates, a number of powerful, glamorous women took up residence in Vienna and opened salons. French Foreign Minister Prince Talleyrand (who adroitly managed to maneuver himself into the heart of the negotiations despite France being the defeated power) brought his beautiful young niece-by-marriage, Dorothée, as his hostess and fell in love with her himself, despite being thirty-nine years her senior (and despite the fact that her mother had recently been his mistress).
“A perfect blend of history, mystery, romance, and suspense.”
“Meticulous, delightful, and full of surprises.”
“Glittering balls, deadly intrigue, sexual scandals. . .the next best thing to actually being there!”
“Absolutely gripping. . .historical intrigue at its finest.”
Lovely, unhappy Tsarina Elisabeth of Russia found herself reunited with Adam Czartoryski, the charismatic Polish patriot who was probably the love of her life (and had also been her husband’s best friend). Meanwhile her husband, Tsar Alexander, and Austrian Foreign Minister Prince Metternich, fierce rivals at the negotiating table, also were entangled with two of the same women, Princess Catherine Bagration (“the naked angel”) and the brilliant Wilhelmine, Duchess of Sagan (Dorothée’s elder sister).
When I described this to my friend and fellow writer Penelope Williamson she said, “surely in all Vienna they could find different women to pursue?” I said, “I think that was rather the point.” The Tsar and Metternich carried their rivalry into the boudoir. The plot of Vienna Waltz centers on a third, fictional woman, also involved with both Metternich and the tsar, who is found murdered on the night she has summoned Metternich, Tsar Alexander, the hero (an English attaché who is possibly her lover) and his wife to her rooms, all at the same time. So in this case both the setting and the plot premise of Vienna Waltz came directly from my research.
What historical events have you always wanted to read or write a book about? Writers, where do you get your ideas for historical fiction?
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Teresa 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. Teresa is currently at work on her next novel chronicling the adventures of Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch.