Don't get me started or I'll end up sounding like a Dickens' novel. But honestly, when I was a child I started writing a book about a maid and her mistress. I didn't get very far because I was obsessed with being able to use my mother's typewriter, and I couldn't stand having any typos so I ended up retyping a few pages over and over. Obviously, that was in the era (era? I have an era?) before computers. The point is that when I talk about my newest novel, Masquerade, I may be able to honestly state that the roots of the story go back to that decade long, long ago.
But unlike that earlier attempt, this time the story was completed. Thank God for editors and spell-check! Masquerade has been born and I am the proud mama of this, my first historical romance. I've often included romance in my novels, but this is the first time I've let it have free rein. So watch out!
Masquerade is the story of a rich English girl who’s supposed to marry a New York heir she’s never met. But the lure of starting over in America gives her the idea of getting her maid to assume her identity and take her place. Of course things don’t go smoothly (you’d be disappointed if they did), but in the end both girls end up discovering where God wants them to be. And isn’t that what we all search for? That place, that nook, that embrace, that makes us nod with contentment and gives us purpose.
That's the gist of the story, but in the coming weeks I'll share some juicy tidbits of behind-the-scenes in 1886 New York society—and the huge challenges of the immigrants flowing into New York expecting to find streets paved with gold. Here's a book trailer to whet your interest: "Masquerade" book trailer If you feel so inclined, leave a comment. Be kind. This was my first attempt at such a thing.
Next, let me introduce you to my characters—visually. I love portrait paintings. Put me in a museum and I'll gravitate away from the abstract and toward the paintings that are nearly photographic in their ability to capture a moment in time. My favorite portrait painter is John Singer Sargent who was the portraitist of the Gilded Age. Even though photography was available, the old guard still preferred to have their images eternalized on canvas, and Sargent was the one to do it. He was an expert at capturing more than an image; a moment, an attitude, a life.
And so I used his work as inspiration for my characters. Once I determined who Charlotte Gleason and Dora Connors were, I searched through Sargent's paintings and found two images that fit.
Here is Charlotte, the heiress.
And below is Dora, her maid:
In my story the two girls resemble each other—they have to in order for Dora to assume Charlotte's identity. And these two subjects of Sargent also share a resemblance. The only change I made in their appearance is that I made the girls blond to stand out among the other characters in the story. So visualize that if you please (hey, if I can do it, so can you.) The real subjects in the pictures are Lady Agnew and Elsie Wagg. How perfect is that? Actually, another of Sargent's paintings has spurred a new book I haven't even started yet so you'll see more of his work showcased on this blog in the future.
If you'd like to see all of Sargent's work go to Complete Works of John Singer Sargent. I encourage you to browse through his paintings and peer into the eyes of the people there. They were real, like you and me, and probably complained that the portrait made them look fat, or asked, "Could you please get rid of my double chin, Mr. Sargent?" I like spending time with them and letting them talk to me. Try it. Let the people in the paintings tell you about their lives, their hopes and dreams, and their loves.
It's the last that counts. I revel in the basic process of one person loving another. But it doesn’t surprise me. After all, the Bible makes it clear: “We love because he first loved us.” (John 4: 19)
If that isn’t romantic, I don’t know what is. // Nancy Moser
(To purchase the book go to: Buy Masquerade by Nancy Moser )