Have you ever fallen in love with a portrait? I have. I’m flighty that way. After all, For the Love of a God was inspired by my obsession with a Greek statue.
Recently on Facebook, I shared some inspiration with my street team, Rosanna Leo’s Pride. Specifically, I told them the story behind my upcoming paranormal romance Night Lover. This story goes back years for me and I thought it might make an interesting blog post as well.
Back in 1986, when I was a teen, I visited London for the first time. On a tour of Kensington Palace, I encountered the small portrait of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex. He was one of King George III’s sons.
I remember being mesmerized by the portrait. And although it is of a child, I recall imagining him as a young man, fair and blue-eyed and beautiful. I read once the Duke of Sussex became rather overweight as an adult, but I love picturing him as a gorgeous youth.
As I walked away from the portrait, I felt haunted by it. It’s safe to say the Duke haunted my dreams for years.
Years later, Night Lover was born. My heroine Renata has this experience as well when she first sees a portrait of Hugh Dawlish, my incubus hero. Only her encounter with the portrait is far more unsettling.
Please enjoy this snippet from Night Lover, coming Nov. 9 from Hartwood Publishing.
When I saw the face in this painting, I gasped, feeling as if someone had punched me in the gut.
It was the portrait of a man, much in the style of a Gainsborough painting. Full-length, it displayed the man in Regency dress. Tall Hessian boots reached up over his pants, accentuating his height. A waistcoat peaked out from under his soft blue riding coat. I looked up to the face above the coat, clean-shaven and somehow boyish with its round features. His hair was the color of honey and quite curly, with long sideburns travelling down his cheeks. Although he bore a fashionably serious countenance, his blue eyes smiled.
The man from my recurring dream, the man from the theater mezzanine in Toronto. I blinked several times, not believing my eyes.
I couldn’t move. I returned the stare of the man in the portrait. A friendly face, it still managed to unnerve me. The artist must have been a master because its subject seemed to be looking right at me. His pale eyes bore into mine. As I continued to gaze at my dream man, other objects in the background began to blur. The portrait frame and the wallpaper behind him dissolved into nothingness. I could only make out the man, and his gaze seemed to issue me a challenge, daring me to look back at him. My head swam. My tongue grew thick. Pain shot through my stomach and I clutched it so I wouldn’t keel over.
Lizzy came out of nowhere and bounded up behind me. “What’s up? Ooh, he’s cute.” She, too, had noticed the portrait. She also saw how intently I stared. “Hey, are you okay?”
“No.” I couldn’t look away from him, couldn’t stop myself from raking my gaze over every painted inch. “It’s him. The man from my dream.”
“Yeah, right.” She frowned.
Finn walked up to us and put a hand on my back, oblivious to my shock. “So you’ve found the lord of the manor.”
“Hugh Dawlish, scion of Dawlish Manor. The women in the ensemble love this portrait because they think he’s, ah…easy on the eyes. So, shall we rehearse?”
I let him lead me away, but I couldn’t stop looking back at Hugh Dawlish’s portrait. He was real. Not a wraith from my imagination.
Real. And dead.
Lizzy elbowed me. “You look like you’re going to pass out.”
As we left the room, I looked back once more. The eyes of Hugh Dawlish followed me. I shivered.
A slight smile played on his lips.