Book Interview on September 2017
Interview by Laura
Hi Gina, welcome to The Romance Reviews, and let's talk about your recently published book UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER, the 2nd book in the Hearts Touched by Fire series.
Q: Where did you get your inspiration for the Hearts Touched by Fire series? How are the books tied together?
I have my BA & MA and 1/2 of my PhD in History, specialty is the American Civil War. I've worked as a museum educator and curator in Missouri, doing programs, events and exhibits on the War Between the States and am a Civil War reenactor so my interest in that period is big. These books are tied together as the tale of two families - the Silvers and the Fontaines and how they lived during the war. Book 1 is on Jack & Emma; book 2 is on Emma's brother Charles; book 3 on Jack's sister Cerisa and book 4 on Jack's brother Francois.
Q: In UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER, Sarah Lawrence is one of the best spies in the Union Army. What in her past shaped her to be the woman we meet?
Sarah was raised in a well to do Southern home in Mississippi, having all the privileges of the upper planter class until bushwhackers attacked the home in 1860, killing her father (her mother died in childbirth of Sarah). She ran north and stayed with Julia Dent, the wife of US Grant. It is that connection to Grant and her desire to find the culprits who killed her father and revenge his death that put her in the position of spy. Women made excellent spies as they could get information by using their charms and such to get the men to talk (plus men didn't think women understood politics nor paid much attention to it therefore what they said wouldn't be comprehensible nor repeated). There are plenty of examples of women spies - Rose O'Neal Greenhouse, Belle Boyd as examples for the Confederacy and Elizabeth Lew for the North. I drew upon those histories to help me on Sarah.
Q: How about Confederate Major Charles Silvers? Do tell us more about him.
Charles is Emma's brother. The first born son in the Silvers household, he was to inherit the family property. He went to West Point, graduated and entered the US Army until his home state Virginia proclaimed secession. He resigned the army and entered Confederate service, assigned to General Forrest in Tennessee. In this story, the affects of the war are taking a toll on him and he starts to show signs of what we call today PTSD, what they called melancholy and a host of other terms. He gets a 'reprieve' from the war to head into Mississippi to see General Pemberton at Vicksburg with a dispatch from his commander but sidetracks to check on his sister, who lives with Jack at his family's Louisiana estate. It is there he meets Sarah.
Q: What was their first meeting like?
Enjoy this excerpt!
Jack sat at the large desk in the room, his emerald green eyes lit with merriment. "Charles, what a pleasant surprise. How goes the war?"
Charles blinked hard. Good lord, was the man drunk?
"My oh my," a sweet southern drawl cooed, instantly drawing his attention. "I do so love soldiers. So gallant for the Cause. Don't you agree, Jack?" Her question was for his friend, but her gaze stayed on him, and she smiled at him.
Charles couldn't move. The petite beauty made every fiber inside him vibrate and heat coursed through his veins. Her honey-colored hair was swept up, tucked beneath stylish tortoiseshell combs. Porcelain skin, her angelic face beautiful and alluring. Those eyes were another matter. Depending on the light, they chose a color, almost like a mood. Amusement made them shine all the variations. Her nose was straight, and, well, adorable. And those rose-colored lips…. She had a graceful neck, made for kissing. The blue watered silk played off her eye color. He could've stared at her forever.
He shook his head and gazed back at Jack. "I see you've been handling the month's leave admirably well."
The lady's eyebrows shot up. "Why, Jack, you didn't tell me you're on leave."
Jack's lips tightened. "Sarah, why don't you go lie down for a bit? I'm sure your travels have left you fatigued."
"Heavens, I'm not the least bit tired." Her gaze was back to him.
"Yes, my dear, but Major Silvers no doubt has pressing matters." Jack stood and walked over. "The war and such," he prodded Charles. "Right?"
"Yes, of course," Charles stammered, crimping the hat in his hands tighter until he broke his gaze from her's. Had he been outside civilized company that long? Inside, he refocused and turned to Jack. "I have some information you might find most enlightening."
Jack smiled. "You do indeed? Outstanding." He glared at Sarah. "I'll have Tilly find you a room…"
She gave him a knowing look. "Oh, never mind with such bother. I know this house like the back of my hand. I'm sure I'll find a slave or two to help me. Good afternoon, Major Silvers." She extended her hand for him to kiss.
Charles took her fingertips lightly and bent to brush them with his lips. Did he hear a hiss behind him? From Jack?
"I hope to see you before I leave," he murmured, his lips at her knuckles but his eyes wandered up to hers.
She looked as if she might break into laughter but fought to contain herself. "It is my fervent wish also," she replied.
Her gaze tipped up to Jack, and her grin grew. She had dimples. Heavens, he was in love with a goddess…
"Good afternoon, gentlemen. I shall leave so you can discuss the tragedies men play on the field of battle and protect my ears from burning." In a swirl of silk, she was gone.
Charles had just caught a glimpse of her as she started down the hallway when his friend cleared his throat.
Q: What makes them perfect for each other?
She sees him at first as not only handsome but also a source for information, but in spending time with him, where he saves her life, makes her fall in love with him; For him, she is a vision of the past he wanted to return to, when life made sense and all was as it should be. She is what he and the Confederacy are fighting for, as the way he views it, plus she's beautiful that he falls heads over heels for her almost from the start.
Q: What for you is a romantic moment between them?
Probably the moment they realize the walls both put up to protect them (her was her past and fear of intimacy from what she saw, and his was his reluctance to have romantic ties since he'd seen many of his comrades die, leaving widows and orphans grieving) stood no chance against the attraction they had for the other. It comes to life when they stay with the British ambassador and had proclaimed they were a married couple since a man and a woman traveling alone, unchaperoned, would give her a bad reputation as a soiled dove. But in stating they were married, their host puts them in the same bedroom for the night and they now had to face their own fears having their 'walls' fall down.
Q: Which character is the hardest to write? Why?
Charles was probably the hardest as I had to keep in the period and try to draw out his melancholy and yet keep him as a true Southern gentleman.
Q: What kind of research did you have to do to write this book? Please share an interesting fact or unique behind the scenes experience.
With my degrees, love the history and the Civil War, plus my jobs in the museum field, I've done a ton of research, have a huge library at home (which is a bite in a move, I discovered!!) and still feel like I don't have enough so I dig further. I've been and actually worked at Vicksburg National Military Park and learned of that siege on the actual grounds it was fought on. Fascinating!!
Q: What draws you to write historical romance?
I love history. It always takes me back to then!
Q: Please give us a sneak peek at book 3 in the series.
Here's a teaser for you. Enjoy!
New York City 1863
This was definitely the wrong night to be sober.
Pierce Abraham Duval sat on the green velvet covered settee, dressed in black trousers, white shirt, sapphire blue waistcoat with a black frock coat of fine wool. He pulled his pocket watch out of his waistcoat pocket for the fifth time in, as he snapped the lid open, last twenty minutes. With a sigh of disgust, he closed the watch and slid it back into the pocket. He scanned the parlor, decorated with wall hangings and arranged carpets with vases filled with flowers and whatnot, and nothing changed. His friends had dragged him out of his flat for a night.
You need to live again, Pierce. Margaret would have wanted you too, not spend each eternal night with a bottle of whiskey!
Edward Brooks meant well by his words but Pierce sincerely doubted Margaret's idea of living meant visiting a brothel.
For all that was holy, what he wouldn't give to be back on the battlefield and at least find peace in front of a barrage of gunfire…
"Monsieur," the slightly heavy, overly perfumed and gaudily dressed Madame Nikki said, appearing at his side without him seeing her. He nearly jumped, which only seemed to make her happier as her chubby grin widened. "Perhaps a glass of bourbon would help you relax."
The black boy, a young man just old enough to need introduction to a straight razor, suddenly was in view, handing him a glass filled with the amber liquor. Pierce eyed the boy but he wasn't looking at Pierce but the wall or window behind him, offering the glass.
He took the drink and before he tried it, he nodded to the Madame and took a sip. The honey-tasting alcohol slid a path down his throat, leaving a burning trail in its wake – a taste Pierce equated to bliss. At least it was a good quality stock. Inside, he shook his head. Why couldn't Edward just leave him home, with a body in hand as he drank Margaret's ghost to oblivion? Why?
"Mr. Brooks has found his match," Madame Nikki continued. "He told me to send in our finest for you to choose from." She clapped her hands and, from out of the woodwork or so it seemed, four women walked to the center of the room before him. All three were dressed in nothing other than their chemise, corset, split pantalets, stockings and heeled shoes. Their hair was mostly loose, combed but not dressed and it shouldn't be. They were to entertain in bed after all. Two of them had heavy facial paint on with rouged lips, which they pouted as they posed for his inspection.
The third one, the more modest of the three, still wearing a silk dressing robe that Madame pulled apart to show off her undergarments, appeared to have little to none of the face paints. If anything, her cheeks blushed red but there was a defiant gleam to her blue eyes that attracted him. Oh, the rest of her was desirable. She looked slimmer than the other two, her corset of white cotton, trimmed in white lace, was cleaner appearing and the swell of her breasts heaved, showing she was under a duress for this whole show. He'd guess she was new and while her hands rested on her hips, her lips were pale and not pursed like the other two.
Madame Nikki caught his attention and smiled as she waved the other two away. "Ahhh, wise choice for the even, monsieur. Cera is our more sultry dessert, one a man like you should enjoy delving into."
The girl glared at him. Openly glared. Only a glimpse of a smile hinted at her lips. He was enthralled. She stood about average height, probably up to his shoulders, he guessed. Blond hair fell in waves over her shoulders and down her back. Sparkling blue eyes, the color of sapphires, danced under the oiled lamps and candles that lit the room. Her skin was the prized porcelain white except she had a smattering of freckles on her nose – faint but noticeable. She was the very opposite of fiery Margaret, whose Irish upbringing had set his whole family into panic when he proposed to her. But this girl wasn't without spunk. She hadn't uttered a word but her gaze let him know she was new, probably untried, scared yet bold.
It was that instant he recognized her. What the hell was this misplaced Southern Belle doing in a New York City brothel?
Q: What's up next for you?
Book 3 in the series plus Book 4 is yelling for attention.
Sounds great! Looks like we've got lots of great books to look forward to. *grin* Thank you for your time, Gina!
Bio of author, Gina Danna:
A USAToday Bestselling author, Gina Danna was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers to achieve her undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, and then for museum programs and exhibits, she found the time to write her own historical romantic fiction novels.
Now, under the Texas sun and with the supervision of her three dogs, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream - her Arabian horse - with him, her muse can play.