Thursday, July 15, 2010


When I was a child . . .

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 )


  1. Hi Nancy -

    Have you ever been to Newport, R.I.? This area might be a source of inspiration. The "cottages" were occupied by the rich and famous during the Gilded Age.

    The amazing thing: They spent only two weeks a year in this location.

    Susan :)

  2. This blog looks great, you guys! I'm excited to see the kinds of things you'll post!

  3. Hi Nancy:

    This is a wonderful idea for a blog. I enjoy the study of history so much that I took extra college courses in history to obtain a teaching minor in the subject. I never got to teach history but I have never stopped reading about it.

    I viewed all of the Sargent paintings and was surprised to see so many from Venice. I think the most creative painting was ‘A Street in Venice”! I also liked the portrait of Sally Fairchild, 1869 to 1960. Imagine all the changes that woman saw in her lifetime. What a biography her life could make.

    I watched your trailer three times and here’s my impression of the book. The maid marries the heir; the heiress falls on hard times and finds herself on the streets of NYC among the poor and wretched. I have a feeling she uses her elite education to become a reformer. This is the impression I got from the photos from the period. Is this the impression you wanted to project?

    While I like to visit cemeteries from the period I want to write about and hold coins in my hand that were in actual circulation at the time, I think looking at paintings painted during the period is also a very good idea. Seeing the actual paintings in a museum is even better.

    What I like in historical fiction.

    I like the story to be period-specific. That is, I like the story to only be able to have happened in its historical setting. If the same story could easily has happened a hundred years into the past or into the future, then I don’t see it as really historical. I see it as using history as wallpaper.

    I also like the story to read as if an author from that time period actually wrote the book. Modern writing techniques are fine but not modern characters.

    For example, I just read two historical fiction novels. In one the characters clearly had 21st century attitudes even though they were living in the 15th century. The other book made so many mentions of brand names and furniture items from the time period that it was obvious that the author was just putting ‘history’ into the story thinking it made the story more authentic. All it did was cause the reader to unduly notice what the author was doing. No contemporary author would have mentioned all those brand names and furniture styles.

    What do you think? What makes for great historical fiction?


    P.S. Your ‘to buy’ link did not work for me. You might check it.

  4. Susan, yes I've been to Newport and I love the "cottages". In fact, my next book is called "An Unlikely Suitor" and is set in Newport. It will be out next May. So good call on Newport being a great place for Gilded Age stories!

  5. Vince, yes, you got the right impression from the book trailer, though I won't tell you more. You'll have to read the book. I don't mind if historical stories can be set in other times because so many stories are universal. A love story in the 1400's or 1800's or 2400 can have the same theme, but be far different because of the setting. And great historical fiction transports me away, so I'm living and breathing and smelling and hearing another time. Actually that's my definition for any great fiction. Take me away and make me ignore the words on the page and SEE the story in my head. BTW, thanks for the heads up on the BUY link. I've fixed it. Glad to have your comments, Vince.

  6. Hiya, Deb. I appreciate your comments and presence here. Fellow readers, meet Deb Raney, a very talented novelist in her own right! Or is that "write"? :o)

  7. Hi Susan:

    I’m reading a book about the gilded age that takes place in Newport called “Love on a Dime” by Cara Lynn James. This is the first novel I’ve read set in Newport and I love the location and time period. I’d like to see more novels set there. I’d also like to visit there today!


  8. Hi Nancy;

    I think you can have both: ‘universality’ in that the story speaks to the human condition and ‘specificity’ in that the story could only have taken place in the novel’s historical setting.

    For example, in “No Other” the love theme could have happened in any age but the actual love story could only have happened after WWII in the United States. Reading about the little known German-American interments added a great deal of interest to the universal love theme.

    But if the story ‘sweeps the reader away’ into another time and place, that’s good writing.

    BTW: I found out your book is available on Kindle. This is very important for readers who need large type! I’ll have to read your book as I am very curious after what you said. When will the book be released for sale? I like instant gratification!


  9. "Masquerade" is available for pre-sale, which means they'll send it to anyone who's ordered it as soon as they get it. It's on it's way to stores now, so any day...

  10. Nancy,

    Love the inspiration and the premise of the story. How great to use Sargent's paintings! What an inspiration.

    Now all I need is a painter from the mid- to late-eighteenth century. Do you have any suggestions?