Friday, December 11, 2009

Guest Author -- Diane Gaston

Today we have Harlequin Historical author Diane Gaston dishing with us! Please help us welcome her to The Romance Dish!

My December release, Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, is the first book in my Soldiers Trilogy. I’d love to give away a signed copy of the book to one commenter chosen at random, so don't forget to comment or ask a question.

Three soldiers—an ensign, a lieutenant, and a captain—share a ghastly and distressing experience after the battle of Badajoz, an experience they agree to keep secret. It affects the rest of their lives.

The battlefields of Badajoz are nothing compared to the cutting tongues of polite society, but Jack Vernon has never been very “polite.” A canvas is this brooding artist’s preferred company and painting the portrait of the stunningly beautiful actress, Ariana Blane, is his biggest commission yet. Learning every curve of her body ignites feelings Jack thought destroyed in battle. But he’s not the only man who has Ariana in his sights....

Battle! Art! Theatre! Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady has them all.

Actually having an artist hero and an actress heroine was a logical pairing. Actors and actresses were often painted by the artists of the day, often depicting the characters they played on stage.

One such actor was Edmund Kean. Kean exploded onto the London stage in 1814 when he played Shylock at Drury Lane Theatre. Kean’s emotional, expressive style was much acclaimed. He went on to play other Shakespearean roles such as Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and his popularity helped rescue Drury Lane Theatre from the brink of financial ruin.

He also played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, but this romantic role was not one of his finest. William Hazlitt, foremost reviewer of his day, said, “His Romeo had nothing of the lover in it.”

Playing Juliet to Kean’s Romeo was a “Miss O’Neill” whose performance won Hazlitt’s praise. Miss O’Neill seems to have been a popular young actress; her name appears on many play bills of the period, but that is all I know about her. I do owe her an apology, though. I replaced her in Romeo and Juliet with Ariana Blane, the heroine of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady.

In Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady I have cast Ariana opposite Kean in a production of Antony and Cleopatra. This was a total contrivance. I found no evidence of Kean ever playing in Antony and Cleopatra.

Like many actors of our day, Kean’s personal life was a mess. He drank heavily and was vilified in the London press when he was named in a divorce after an affair with another man’s wife. In 1833 Kean collapsed onstage and died a few days later.

Kean’s female counterpart initially gained fame in the theatre before the Regency. She retired from the stage in 1812. She, too, excelled in dramatic roles. Like Kean, she worked for many years “on the road” before hitting it big at Drury Lane theatre.
William Reynolds, the famous 18th century portrait artist, painted Siddons as The Tragic Muse. Other artists painted her in her various roles, like Lady MacBeth or Ophelia and others.

My hero, Jack, had not yet achieved the renown to paint an actress of Siddons stature, but it made sense for him to paint a new talent, Ariana Blane.

If you were an artist, what actor or actress would you want to paint, and in what role?

Remember, I’ll give away one signed copy of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady to one lucky commenter chosen at random.

For more about Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, visit my website.


  1. Hi :)
    Thank you very much for taking the time to post here today Diane. I enjoyed reading it. If I were an artist, I'd paint Alex Skarsgard as Lymond of Crawford from Dorothy Dunnett's GAME OF KINGS (a book which is crying out for a movie).
    Happy Holidays
    and thank you again for sharing,

  2. Good morning! If I were an artist I would have wanted to paint Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. She had wonderful bone structure.

  3. Hi Diane,
    Thanks for coming by here today. I was at Lady Jane's Salon last June when you and Amanda McCabe read from your novellas in The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and thought the collaboration between you three authors was great. But I confess, I'd love to read about the Fitzmanning brothers, Stephen, Nicholas and Leo. Maybe someday y'all will write their stories?

    This was a really interesting blog post. Unfortunately, I have no artistic skills to speak of, so I wouldn't want to paint anybody. But if I could, I would want to paint Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca. Classic romantic movie, and Bergman was luminous.

  4. I'm sorry! I forgot to say that I'm looking forward to reading your new series-the permise is very intriguing. I'm already wondering about this big terrible secret!

  5. Hi, Diane! Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady is on my TBR stack. I look forward to reading it. I love the idea of an artist hero.

    If I were an artist (what a lovely thought), I think I'd paint Omar Sharif as Dr. Zhivago. More than forty years after seeing the movie, his image remains vivid in my memory.

  6. Hi Diane!

    Your book sounds just wonderful, I love a man in uniform! And glad to hear it will be as trilogy. And the cover is lovely!!

    If I were an artist, I think I would paint Clive Owen in his King Arthur regalia posing regally on his horse.
    If I could paint of course!

  7. Hi Diane!
    Seeing your post has made my day. I've had your book on my to-buy list since i've heard about it. One of my favorite genre's of romance is heroes coming back from a war since they always have a bit of tragedy in their lives.

    I found it really interesting that you put an historical figure in your novel. I'll admit i probably would have never known you did so if you didn't write this post. Have you ever done that in the past?

    I really enjoyed your history lesson. ^^ Regency actors and actresses is something World History often neglects to tell.


  8. Wow, this book sounds absolutely intriguing! I always love to read novels that aren't the norm.

    I am an artist and I'd very much like to paint Craig Horner as Richard from the TV series Legend of the Seeker. There's just somethin' sexy about a man in medieval clothes who can fight like the devil.

    Or Johnny Depp. And not because damn hot, but because he's got an interesting face I'd like to try capturing.

    As for women ... Anne Hathaway and Keira Knightly (when she has more meat on her bones) in their historical clothes would be really nice, I'm sure!

  9. What a delicious question : ) I would paint Sam Elliott (the love of my life) in all his Western Man glory. I love the American Old West, and Sam has no peers as a Western star. However, he would have to remain silent while I painted his portrait. If he spoke, with that voice of voices, I would have to put down my palette. That painting might never be finished...

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  10. Hi, Everyone! Wow. Old friends and new ones showing up here!
    Hi, RK! Alex Skarsgard is a great choice and thinking of books that should be movies is another great topic!

    Hi, hrdwrkdmom! I think Vivian Leigh is one of the most beautiful women of all time.

    Hi, L! I loved being at Lady Jane's Salon. And you will be glad to hear that Stephen, Nicholas and Leo each get their own book! You'll see the first in 2010 and the other two probably in 2011.

    Casablanca is a great idea for a painting!

    So is Omar Sharif, Janga!!!! (waving madly)

    Hi "Lady" Drew (I thought she was a he on another blog!) Clive Owen as King Arthur...he did look great in that role.

    Jedisakora, hi! The theatre manager of the Royal Opera House and the performers at Vauxhall in Innocence and Impropriety were
    historical figures. And Harriet Wilson in A Reputable Rake was a renowned courtesan during the Regency.

    LisaK, how wonderful that you are an artist. I had to look up Legend of the Seeker - how is it I had not heard of this series. It sounds great.

  11. Virginia C, Sam Elliot is an iconic figure, isn't he?

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  13. Good morning, Diane!
    My mother is a painter, but I didn't inherit any of her ability, unfortunately. I have some lovely landscape, bird, and flower paintings of hers.
    If I could paint, I would paint pastoral scenes of meadows, old barns, mountains, etc.; not sure which persons I would paint.
    I look forward to picking up and reading GOFL.

  14. Hi Diane,
    That was an interesting post and I enjoyed the pictures that went with it. If I were an artist there are a lot of interesting actors that I would choose but in the end I would go with Al Pacino from The Godfather.

  15. Hi, Diane, and welcome to The Romance Dish! We're so happy to have you join us today. :)

    Wow, what a great question...that I'm finding it hard to answer! LOL Hmmmmm, how about Richard Armitage from North & South? I'd love to capture all that broodiness (is that a word?) on canvas. Yum!

  16. Hi, Deb! I think Gainsborough would agree with your choice. I do love the landscapes of this time period in Art. How lovely to have work done by your mother.

    Maureen, Al Pacino is one of my favorites!

    Hi, Andrea! I think the Risky Regencies (my group blog) would agree with the choice of Richard Armitage.

    Doesn't anybody wonder who I would paint?

  17. Oooooh! Who would you paint, Diane??

  18. Hey Diane! Welcome to The Romance Dish!! It is wonderful to have you with us today.

    I have to say that the cover to your book is just beautiful.

    I'm not much of a painter though I enjoyed doing it in school.

  19. Hi, Diane! Sorry I'm so late commenting. I'm really looking forward to reading your book.

    I would love to paint Hugh Jackman as the Drover in AUSTRALIA. You know the scene where he's pouring water all over his bare chest. OMG! I just love that scene--makes me drool! LOL

  20. Buffie, this is fantasy, so you can paint...and dance and sing and pass a MENSA test....

    Cannon, you are close to what and who I'd paint...(here it comes, Andrea...)

    Gerard Butler in 300..or in Phantom of the Opera, or in Dear Frankie, Law Adiding Citizen....

  21. Diane, Gerard is an excellent choice!

    Thanks for blogging with us today!


  22. You know, I was wondering if someone was going to say Gerard!!! *g*

    Thanks for dishing with us, Diane! :)

  23. Thank you for the historical background on the careers you chose for your characters!

    I'd like to paint Clark Gable - Gone With The Wind in a sexy pose.... Sigh!