Gallant Lady, Diane Gaston!

Today, the Riskies are delighted to present an interview with one of our own, Diane Gaston. Her newest book Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady is out now. A random commenter on today’s post will win a copy of Diane’s new book!

Welcome, Diane! Tell us about Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady:

Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady is the first book in my Soldiers Trilogy. 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.
Battle-weary soldier turned brooding artist, Jack Vernon, is hired to paint London theatre’s newest sensation, Ariana Blane. As this stunningly beautiful actress ignites feelings Jack thought destroyed in battle, another man has Ariana in his sights.

You’ve got such a deft touch with your historical details; just how many research books do you have?
Omigosh, I’ve never counted them. I estimate I have about 700. I would love to catalogue them and organize them better. For Christmas I want this BOOKCOLLECTOR software!

What inspired the story?
When I was groping for story ideas my friend Julie suggested I watch the 1935 Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone movie, Lives of the Bengal Lancers, a story about three soldiers who go through hardships and adventures together in British India (Julie loves watching old movies!). What I took from the movie was the idea of three soldiers sharing an experience during the war, something that affects the rest of their lives. I also took from the film a tough Colonel (although I made him a General) who has a weak son under his command. This formed the basis of the trilogy.

What did your editor say when you said you wanted to write about two people, neither of whom had titles?
This is my niche at Harlequin Historical. They want me to write about the seamier side of the Regency, or, as they wrote on the back cover copy of my first book, The Mysterious Miss M, “The Regency Underworld- sex, scandal and redeeming love.”

How hard was it to be a virtuous actress at that time? How many actresses went on to get titles and make their way into Society?
I think it must have been very hard to be a virtuous actress during the Regency. I imagine women in the theatre would expect to become some man’s mistress. They’d hope to attract the attention of a wealthy man to supplement their income, so to speak.
One actress managed to marry a man with a title. Elizabeth Farren, who has a lovely portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Metropolitan Museum, married the Earl of Derby in 1797. Because she had the patronage of the Duke of York (one of the king’s sons), she managed some sort of acceptance in Society. There may have been other actresses who made good, but I can’t think of any at the moment.

It’s easy to really feel for what Jack went through; what true accounts, if any, did you read to get the feel of Badajoz and Jack’s subsequent PTSD?
I bought a book (to add to the 700), Badajoz 1812: Wellington’s Bloodiest Battle by Ian Fletcher, and pored through the brazillion Napoleonic War books I already own, as well as looking online. As for Jack’s PTSD, I just transferred what I knew about the diagnosis into how a soldier during the Regency would experience it.

What risks did you take with this book?
I thought the artist hero was a risk, because it was a challenge to keep him “hunky.” For the whole series, I think it is a risk to begin each book with the same scene. The challenge is to make the same scene different in each of the books.

Did you learn anything new?
I learned a lot about paint! (I bought a book about that, too – Techniques of the World’s Great Painters by Waldemar Januszczak). I learned to paint in oils while still in elementary school, but that was a long time ago. Not long enough to be similar to the Regency, so I had to learn about paint before it came in tubes. For example, I learned that Gainsborough used a pure white pigment called Cremora White. So Jack did, too.

Thanks, Diane! And congratulations on Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady‘s release. What questions do you have for Diane? And don’t forget to visit her website at DianeGaston.com.

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