An Interview with Diane Gaston

The Lady Behind the Masquerade

Diane Gaston and I are both long-term members of Washington Romance Writers and sister Regency addicts, so it’s a pleasure to welcome her to the Word Wenches!  Yesterday was the release of her newest book, The Lady Behind the Masquerade. Diane, will you tell us something about the story?

Diane Gaston:

The Lady Behind the Masquerade,  Book 2 in a two book series, A Family of Scandals, tells the story of Marcus Wolfdon, “Wolf,” who is the younger brother of Eliza, the heroine of Book 1, Secretly Bound to the Marquess.

When old enough, Wolf fled his parents’ drama and chaos that had permeated his whole childhood to dedicate himself to diplomatic life. After Napoleon’s final defeat, Wolf is posted to Paris where he meets a mysterious French woman in a gambling establishment and shares a profound, passionate encounter with her, only to have her run off with all his money.

Several months later he is called back to England when his father is near dying. His father recovers, though, and Wolf agrees to accompany his parents to Brighton as his father recuperates. Who should Wolf encounter in Brighton but the same woman who stole his money in Paris, only she is now introduced to him as Juliana Walsh, long-lost cousin of his best friend’s mother, Lady Ashcourt.

Juliana is only masquerading as Lady Ashcourt’s cousin, but she cannot let anyone know, especially Wolf, who could ruin her by exposing her as a thief and gambler. This masquerade is Juliana’s only chance for a decent life. The passion sparked between Wolf and Juliana in Paris only intensifies, though neither trusts the other. When Juliana’s late father’s nefarious partners return with a scheme that could ruin Lady Ashcourt’s family, Juliana cannot save them without exposing her own subterfuge.

Wolf has the same dilemma. How can he thwart the partner’s scheme without ruining Juliana? Or does she deserve to be ruined? 

MJP: Why does the heroine, Juliana, feel that she has to hide behind a mask, i.e. the masquerade?

DG: Juliana is a mere commoner impersonating a member of the aristocracy. She risks prison or transportation or, at the very least, banishment from respectable society. She is successful in her impersonation, because she had learned the ways of a lady when briefly at school. She’s also grown up around scam artists and thieves who often pretended to be what they weren’t. 

MJP: Your hero, Wolfdon, aka Wolf, is the son of a baronet but not really part of the peerage or the nobility. Is it a common thread in your novels for characters to be gentry rather than aristocrats?

DG: My books tend to focus on the darker side of the Regency so lend themselves better to lesser aristocrats or younger sons as the heroes. More than one of my heroes have unexpectedly inherited a title. 

Many of my heroes have been soldiers, as well, and title bearers or their heirs were rarely in the army or navy during that time period. They were too important to risk as “cannon fodder.” 

I have deliberately avoided duke heroes—not for any good reason, though. Merely because I fool myself into thinking that I’m being more historically accurate that way. There were fewer than 30 dukes during the Regency. I suspect Regency Romance gives us hundreds. Really, I like trying to be as historically accurate as possible.

Some of the fun of writing the books is fitting the real history into them. For example, the history of the submarine and diving bell was accurate. The places in Brighton where Juliana and Wolf go are real places. The Old Ship Hotel still exists. I’ve been there! Honestly, though, my Regency worlds are as fictional as anyone’s. Mine happen to not have dukes as heroes. Yet. 

If you want to read more about British titles, look here  https://www.chinet.com/~laura/html/titles12.html 

MJP: Tell us more about the submarines and diving bells during the time of the Napoleonic Wars! How well did they work?

DG:  Submarines and diving bells really did exist during the time of the Napoleonic wars. Or at least there was one submarine. America’s own Robert Fulton, best known in the US as the developer of the first commercially successful steamboat, also invented the submarine.

Fulton spent his early inventing career in England, then France, where in 1800, his submarine, the Nautilus, had its first successful test runs. Fulton tried to sell submarines to Napoleon without success. He then offered to build a second submarine for England but was again turned down. After that Fulton abandoned his submarine, returned to America and went on to his steamboat fame. 

Diving bells were first invented in the 1600s and by the 1800s were improved enough to be used for underwater salvage off the British Isles. Mr. Fisher’s salvage mentioned in the book was a real event. 

MJP:  Diane, you’re celebrating 20 years with the same publisher, which is impressive!  Please tell us about that.

DG: It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since I received “the Call” from a Mills and Boon editor offering to buy my first book which became The Mysterious Miss M!  Mills and Boon is the UK branch of Harlequin, and, although the lines are merged now and edited out of the UK, in those days Mills and Boon Historical and Harlequin Historical were separate lines.

That year Mills and Boon judged that category of the Golden Heart contest, Romance Writers of America’s contest for unpublished manuscripts. I entered, they judged it, and it won! Otherwise I would never have submitted my manuscript to Mills and Boon. I mean, why would an American writer even try to sell a Regency romance set in England to the UK branch of Harlequin?

Turns out I have been consistently published by Mills and Boon/Harlequin ever since. For 20 years. 

All those years ago, I can remember asking the Universe (praying) to just let me keep publishing books. Too many of my friends had been dropped by single title publishers (Even me. I briefly wrote for then Warner Books shortly after I sold to Mills and Boon.) I’ve had my prayer come true. Every year since 2004 I’ve had at least one book released. The Lady Behind the Masquerade is my 30th book with Harlequin.

I know writing for Harlequin is not every writer’s dream. There’s no big money in it, no easy road to a best seller list, no control over marketing and things like that, but I have had wonderful editors throughout those years and every one of them has made my books better. I have absolutely no complaints. I’ve been very lucky. 

I must tell one more story about The Mysterious Miss M, though. More than 20 years ago, when I was first conceiving the story and entering the first chapter in writing contests,

I attended a Writers Retreat where Mary Jo casually asked me about my writing. I remember standing with Mary Jo and her editor in the lobby of the old hotel where the Retreat was held while she advised me to change the child in the story from a boy to a girl to avoid inheritance issues. It might seem like a little thing, but to me, a fledgling writer, to have Mary Jo Putney interested enough to discuss my writing and give advice meant the world to me! So, Mary Jo, you might very well be responsible for starting this 20 year career of mine! I owe it all to you!

MJP:  Not true!  It was clear then that you had the passion and the talent to be published, even though you had to go all the way to the UK to find a publisher that properly appreciated you and your work.  I remember the three of us talking and my editor also made some thoughtful comments about your story.  It was a very bold and rather scandalous plot–and you made it work! (And you’ve have won numerous other awards over the years.)

DG:  Thank you so very much for letting me hang out at Word Wenches! I’m very happy to be in your company. 

MJP: Thanks so much for joining us, Diane! 

DG: I am also happy to give away two copies of The Lady Behind the Masquerade, one Mills and Boon version, now released in Trade paperback size, and one Harlequin paperback.  Winners will be chosen from those who comment on the blog by midnight Friday.

Diane Gaston

https://www.dianegaston.com

The Lady Behind the Masquerade, July 2023

42 thoughts on “An Interview with Diane Gaston”

  1. I am a big fan of Diane Gaston’s work, ever since The Mysterious Miss M. I will admit that, back in the day, the heroine’s occupation in Miss M. took me aback somewhat; it was not what I expected – but the book itself was so intense that I went along for the ride. I still have a copy 🙂
    I’m looking at my copy of The Lady Behind the Masquerade right now – it came today from amazon – and looking forward to settling down with it. I know it’ll be a good read.

    Reply
  2. I am a big fan of Diane Gaston’s work, ever since The Mysterious Miss M. I will admit that, back in the day, the heroine’s occupation in Miss M. took me aback somewhat; it was not what I expected – but the book itself was so intense that I went along for the ride. I still have a copy 🙂
    I’m looking at my copy of The Lady Behind the Masquerade right now – it came today from amazon – and looking forward to settling down with it. I know it’ll be a good read.

    Reply
  3. Mary Jo-Thanks for this post. Regency is my favorite period in historical romance. It’s always fascinating to find out what’s lurking in the mind of one of my favorite authors-and the story behind the story. Can’t wait for Diane’s next book!

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  4. Mary Jo-Thanks for this post. Regency is my favorite period in historical romance. It’s always fascinating to find out what’s lurking in the mind of one of my favorite authors-and the story behind the story. Can’t wait for Diane’s next book!

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  5. I, too, am a great fan of Diane’s books, and I say Brava for her stand on dukes! I think merry old England would have sunk under the weight of all those imaginary dukes in romantic fiction had they all been real. I have A Family of Scandals on my nightstand (okay, there are A LOT of books on my nightstand), but I’ll have to read it quickly so I can get to The Lady Behind the Masquerade–especially since it sounds so good!

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  6. I, too, am a great fan of Diane’s books, and I say Brava for her stand on dukes! I think merry old England would have sunk under the weight of all those imaginary dukes in romantic fiction had they all been real. I have A Family of Scandals on my nightstand (okay, there are A LOT of books on my nightstand), but I’ll have to read it quickly so I can get to The Lady Behind the Masquerade–especially since it sounds so good!

    Reply
  7. Another fan of Diane here! The Mysterious Miss M still sticks in my mind, it was so angsty! I love your soldier heroes the best, especially the books set during and around Waterloo.
    I was very sad when Harlequin stopped selling print copies of their Historical line in stores in the U.S. I’ve followed several of their authors for years. The books are always well edited and the covers are so lovely, and more historically accurate than the average mass market paperback.

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  8. Another fan of Diane here! The Mysterious Miss M still sticks in my mind, it was so angsty! I love your soldier heroes the best, especially the books set during and around Waterloo.
    I was very sad when Harlequin stopped selling print copies of their Historical line in stores in the U.S. I’ve followed several of their authors for years. The books are always well edited and the covers are so lovely, and more historically accurate than the average mass market paperback.

    Reply
  9. I have read both Mary Jo’s and Diane’s work and like them both for different reasons. I especially like Diane’s The Vanishing Viscountess, & Scandalizng the Ton. However, my favorite is probably A Marriage of Notoriety.

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  10. I have read both Mary Jo’s and Diane’s work and like them both for different reasons. I especially like Diane’s The Vanishing Viscountess, & Scandalizng the Ton. However, my favorite is probably A Marriage of Notoriety.

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  11. Hi Diane! Thanks for joining us here on the blog – it’s great to “see” you again! Congrats on your twenty years, that’s wonderful and a great testament to your work. I love your Regencies and I know I’ll enjoy this story too – and what a beautiful cover! I’m off to order the book right now. 🙂

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  12. Hi Diane! Thanks for joining us here on the blog – it’s great to “see” you again! Congrats on your twenty years, that’s wonderful and a great testament to your work. I love your Regencies and I know I’ll enjoy this story too – and what a beautiful cover! I’m off to order the book right now. 🙂

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  13. I am delighted to be introduced to another Regency writer! Thank you to Mary Jo and Diane for this interview.

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  14. I am delighted to be introduced to another Regency writer! Thank you to Mary Jo and Diane for this interview.

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  15. Welcome, Diane, and thanks to you and Mary Jo for the interview. Congratulations on that milestone 30th book with Harlequin!

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  16. Welcome, Diane, and thanks to you and Mary Jo for the interview. Congratulations on that milestone 30th book with Harlequin!

    Reply
  17. Hi, Susan,
    It has been way too long since we’ve seen each other! You might not remember, but you critiqued one of my historical entries as the prize in one of the contests I entered. It might have been The Mysterious Miss M under the title “Unmasked.”

    Reply
  18. Hi, Susan,
    It has been way too long since we’ve seen each other! You might not remember, but you critiqued one of my historical entries as the prize in one of the contests I entered. It might have been The Mysterious Miss M under the title “Unmasked.”

    Reply
  19. After reading all these accolades about Diane’s work, I am going to start reading her books! Thanks for sharing!

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  20. After reading all these accolades about Diane’s work, I am going to start reading her books! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  21. Two of my favorites: the romance of Regency and the thrill of impersonation. I once tried to write a contemporary romance with, of course, Harlequin in mind. I learned quickly that it wasn’t my metier. I am in awe of 30 books in 20 years. I can’t wait to read this one.

    Reply
  22. Two of my favorites: the romance of Regency and the thrill of impersonation. I once tried to write a contemporary romance with, of course, Harlequin in mind. I learned quickly that it wasn’t my metier. I am in awe of 30 books in 20 years. I can’t wait to read this one.

    Reply

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