Today, award-winning author Diane Gaston, whose shelf includes both a Golden Heart and a RITA, joins us in the Lair. Diane has lots of irons in the fire this holiday season, and she's going to tell us about them. Welcome, Diane! We love Call stories around here. Would you like to share yours?
I love Call stories, too! Especially mine. For all of you who’ve entered the Golden Heart, pay attention. I entered the 2003 Golden Heart with a manuscript that had been a 2001 finalist. I figured, why not, even though I was really banking on my newest manuscript. To my surprise, that 2001 finalist made the finals again. It had already made the rounds of every publisher and agent I could think of, so there was really nothing I could do with it. But one day there was a message on my answering machine from a Mills and Boon editor. Mills and Boon? All I knew about them was that they were the UK branch of Harlequin and that they rarely acquired American authors. It never occurred to me to submit a manuscript to them.
I had to wait until 5 am the next morning to phone back the editor, Kate Paice, but that was my Call! She’d judged my Golden Heart entry and made me an offer.
That manuscript became The Mysterious Miss M...and it won the Golden Heart!
Seems like fate, doesn't it? You went on to win the RITA. What was that like?
What a thrill that was! A Reputable Rake was only the second book I entered in the RITAs. My favorite part of the memory was the Golden Heart/RITA reception before the award ceremony at the RWA conference. At that moment we were all winners and the positive energy in the room was amazing. At the awards ceremony, when my name was announced, I almost lost my pants. The button popped and the zipper was halfway down, but I caught it in time, while I was crawling over Lavinia Kent’s husband! Once at the podium I could see so many of my friends in the audience, it was wonderful. After the ceremony the Mills & Boon editors took me for champagne!
A Reputable Rake turned out to be the last RITA winner in the Regency Romance category. The RITA categories were revised after that.
Who are the hero and heroine of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, and what's the biggest obstacle they face?
The hero of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady is Jack Vernon. Jack and two other officers witness an event during the pillaging of Badajoz that affects the rest of their lives. Jack was born to be an artist not a soldier, so when Napoleon is exiled to Elba, Jack takes a chance at pursuing a career as a portrait artist. He wins a commission to paint London’s newest theatre sensation, Ariana Blane.
Ariana is the daughter of an actress more famous for her paramours than her stage roles, but Ariana is determined to be a success on stage because of talent, not for whatever aristocrat wants to bed her. A baron is pursuing her, but she is confident she can fend him off. When the baron arranges for her portrait to be painted for her next role as Cleopatra, the artist is Jack, the handsome brooding man she once met briefly and never forgot.
The barrier they face is the connection they each have with the baron. Because of him, pursuing the passion that erupts between them means certain ruin for the people they most care about.
Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady was chosen by Michelle Buonfiglio as one of her Fave 2009 Romance Books from Barnes & Noble’s Heart to Heart Blog.
How cool! Congratulations. Can we have a peek inside the book?
Here is an excerpt toward the beginning of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady. Jack thinks he is to paint Ariana’s mother and Ariana does not know that the artist is the handsome man she met:
An hour later Ariana stood at Mr. Vernon’s door, her heart thumping with anticipation. She looked down at herself, brushing off her cloak, pulling up her gloves, straightening her hat. She took a quick breath and knocked.
Almost immediately the door opened.
Framed in the doorway was the handsome gentleman she’d met in Somerset House, the one she’d thought she would never see again.
“You!” She gasped. “I—I have an appointment with Mr. Vernon.”
He looked equally surprised. It took him several seconds before he stepped aside.
As she brushed by him she felt a flurry of excitement. She’d found him, the man who’d so intrigued her at the Summer Exhibition. He was taller than she remembered, and his sheer physical presence seemed more powerful than it had been in the crowded exhibition hall. In the light pouring through the windows, his light brown eyes were even more enthralling and every bit as beset with private demons.
“Is Mr. Vernon here?” she asked.
He slowly closed the door behind her. “I am Vernon.”
“You are Vernon?” The breath left her lungs.
His frown deepened. “I—I did not know you would be coming.”
He did not seem happy to see her. In fact, his displeasure wounded her. “Forgive me. Tranville said I was expected at this hour.”
He stiffened. “Tranville.”
She began to unfasten her cloak, but stopped. Perhaps she would not be staying. “Did you desire him to accompany me?”
His eyes were singed with anger. “Not at all.”
He confused her with his vague answers. She straightened her spine and put her hands on her hips. “Mr. Vernon, if you do not wish me to be here, I will leave, but I beg you will simply tell me what you want.”
He ran a hand through his thick brown hair and his lovely lips formed a rueful smile. “Tranville told me to expect an actress. I did not know it would be you.”
His smile encouraged her. “Then we are both of us surprised.”
His shoulders seemed to relax a little.
He stepped forward to take her cloak, and coming so close she inhaled the scent of him, bergamot soap and linseed oil, turpentine and pure male.
He seemed unaware of her reaction and completely immune to her, which somehow made her want to weep. Only once before had she wanted to weep over a man. He took her cloak and hung it upon a peg by the door, moving with the same masculine elegance that had drawn her to him when she first caught sight of him. He had been the first man to ignite her senses in years, a fact that surprised and intoxicated her even now.
He faced her again, and she hid her interest in a quick glance around the studio, all bright and neat, except for where an easel stood by the windows, a paint-smeared shirt hanging from it. She removed her hat and gloves and placed them on a nearby chair.
He did not move.
So she must. She walked to him. “Let us start over.” She extended her hand. “I am Ariana Blane.”
He shook it, his grasp firm but still holding something back.
Her brows knit. “Why did you not tell me, that day, that you were the artist? That you were Jack Vernon?”
He averted his gaze. “I intended to, but the moment passed.”
“Come now.” She tried smiling and shaking her finger at him. “You allowed me to rattle on for quite a long time without telling me.”
He turned his intense brown eyes upon her. “I wanted your true opinion of my paintings. You would not have given it, had you known I painted them.”
She laughed. “Oh, yes, I would. I am never hesitant to say what I think.”
Indeed, she had half a mind to ask him why he scowled when looking at her. He made her senses sing with pleasure. She longed to feel the touch of his hand against her skin, but he seemed completely ill at ease with her.
There had been no unease between them in that first, fleeting, hopeful encounter.
You also have a release on eHarlequin. Tell us about it.
My Harlequin Historical Undone, The Unlacing of Miss Leigh. The Undones are sensual short stories, 10,000 to 15,000 words in length and the editors will acquire new authors, so it is a way to break in.
The Unlacing of Miss Leigh is my homage to the Phantom of the Opera and all Beauty and the Beast stories. Disfigured in battle, Captain Graham Veall has become a recluse, spending months alone, appearing masked in public. Yet he yearns for a woman’s companionshop and the pleasures of hertouch. In an impulsive moment he places an advertisement in the newspaper. A virginal vicar’s daughter answers his ad.
The Unlacing of Miss Leigh is the third most popular of all the Undones so far!
What's next for you?
The Unlacing of Miss Leigh will be released in print form, in an anthology with five other Undones in an anthology called Pleasurably Undone.
After that comes the second book in my Soldiers Trilogy, as yet unnamed and scheduled for late 2010. When Captain Allan Landon finds English lady Marian Pallant caught in the middle of the Battle of Waterloo, it soon becomes a toss-up of who rescues who. The dangers they encounter in Belgium forge a bond between them that is all but shredded by distance and deliberate deceit. When Allan and Marian meet again in London after the war, the passionate attraction between them is as strong as ever, but now they are on opposite sides of a new war, a social war, and neither intends to admit defeat.
Thank you so much for having me here. I love the Romance Bandits. I’m happy to give a signed copy of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady to one lucky commenter.
We're glad you could join us, Diane.
Do you have a favorite Napoleonic soldier? A favorite story of forbidden or socially shocking love?