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.