Hi, Maggi here,
I have a new release! DIARY OF A PAINTED LADY is available now for pre-order. Released 1st July.
In Victorian England, two powerful men desire the beautiful artist’s model, Giovanna Russo. One is enchanted by her and wants to make her his mistress. The other plans her death.
Over a century later, when Gina’s diary is found in a bookshop, it reveals the secret of her step-father, renowned pre-Raphaelite artist, Milo Russo’s untimely death, struck down at the height of his fame, and chronicles Gina’s remarkable life.
When actors, Dylan Shaw and Astrid LeClair make the movie, Painted Lady based on the diary, they discover through Gina’s story, the meaning of true love.
Available on UNLIMITED
Enjoy an excerpt:
Gina tucked the single yellow rose she’d bought—roses were so expensive, into her hair. She pushed back her heavy, waist-length tresses and settled into her pose for the new work, a swag of burnished silk wrapped around her that would soon be fashioned into a new gown.
A knock came at the door.
“Who can that be? She abandoned her pose. “Are you expecting any of your friends?”
Milo shrugged and continued to work violet shadows into the folds of painted cloth.
The knock came again.
Clutching the fabric around her, Gina opened the door a crack. “Who is it?”
An elegant stranger stood outside. Tall and broad-shouldered, he was dressed in a dark blue coat, dove-grey silk waistcoat and grey trousers. He removed his bowler hat. His hair curled over his neck, black as soot. A smile of recognition lit his blue eyes, as if he knew her. “Blair Dunleavy. I believe Milo Russo lives here. I recently bought his painting, Aphrodite.”
“If you’ll please wait, I’ll fetch him for you.”
Gina shut the door and leaned against it. She placed her hand on her breast, feeling the rapid beating of her heart beneath her fingers. She’d never seen the like! He was so handsome! She gathered her wits and rushed into Milo’s studio. “There’s a man come to see you. He says he purchased Aphrodite.”
Milo grabbed a cloth and wiped his hands. “Perhaps he wants to purchase another painting. Where is he? Didn’t you invite him in?”
She scowled at him. Really, was Milo ever on this earth? “You let him in. I’m not about to do so dressed like this.”
She ran to her bedroom and shut the door. The smartest among her sad array of dresses was the apple-green satin she’d trimmed with tartan. She struggled into her stays and pulled on petticoats and red stockings, thankful that her dress fastened in front. As she buttoned her leather shoes, she heard Milo conversing with the stranger. The man’s voice had a pleasing lilt to it. Irish. She twisted her hair into a bun and secured it with the deft placing of her mother’s tortoiseshell hair combs. Pinching her cheeks, she bit her lips and opened the door.
The Irishman perched on a stool, admiring the canvases Milo had pulled out for him to inspect. He stood as she entered, and smoothed a hand over his dark hair. Her attention focused on the unruly lock that sprang from a widow’s peak, slightly off-center. It made him look a little less ordered, more appealing somehow.
He studied her intently while Milo fussed among his canvasses.
“May I get you coffee?” she asked, pleased she could offer it. Coffee was the first thing she had bought with Milo’s money. A luxury she couldn’t resist.
Black lashes fringed his smiling blue eyes. “I’m sorry, I’m at a disadvantage. I don’t know your name.”
“Where are my manners?” Milo straightened up still holding a canvas in his hand. “Mr. Dunleavy, my step-daughter, Giovanna.”
“So, the lady in the painting,” Mr. Dunleavy said in his attractive lilt. He held out his hand.
A jolt passed through her body at the touch of his fingers. As if her entire skin from top to toe had come alive. She turned away, afraid he would read her thoughts. “Or tea. Everyone here seems to prefer tea.”
“Coffee will be fine, thank you. When did you leave Italy?”
“Eight years ago. I was thirteen.” She bit her lip realizing she’d given away her age. Her mother said a lady never revealed her age. Her cheeks burned. “I’ll get the coffee.”
At the door she turned. Mr. Dunleavy had dropped one of his grey gloves and bent to pick it up.
As he straightened, his eyes sought hers across the room.
Her hands shook and a pulse beat in her throat as she piled the cups and saucers, milk jug and coffee pot onto a tray. She carried it carefully into the studio. He was studying the painting of a woodland scene, one of Milo’s recent works. Milo had captured her in oils sitting beside a stream where wildflowers floated in the water. She wore a filmy white slip which clung to her body, and her hair hung about her waist garlanded with flowers.
“Shakespeare’s Ophelia,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “This is beautifully done, Mr. Russo. More reminiscent of Hughes than Millais. You have made Giovanna a wood nymph.” He smiled at her. “I’ve won a bet I made with a friend…” he paused, and something in his gaze made her body heavy and warm, “…that I’d discover the model of the painting to be more beautiful in the flesh.”
Milo chuckled. “How much was the bet?”
“One hundred pounds,” he said with surprising coolness.
“One hundred pounds?” Gina echoed, aghast at the waste of money.
He smiled. “I should have made a larger bet.”
“I think you gentlemen have more money than sense.” She set her hands on her hips. And, a lack of propriety. If he began to utter empty compliments laden with insinuation, like so many others, she would throw the coffee in his face. Even if he was a customer.
“I’m afraid you may be right, Miss Giovanna,” he said seriously, but his eyes danced.
“Gina is beautiful, is she not?” Milo interrupted, turning from his easel where he’d picked up a brush.
“Not in any way to devalue your work, Mr. Russo, but even more so in real life,” he said gravely. “It is difficult to capture a goddess. But you have, superbly.” He reached into his coat pocket and drew out his wallet. “I should like to buy the wood nymph, if I may. What is the price?”
“I place a higher price on my work now,” Milo said. “It’s a smaller painting than Aphrodite though, so, let’s say…three hundred pounds.”
“A bargain.” Blair peeled off some notes and handed them to Milo.
Was he hinting at buying her services too? The thought made Gina’s stomach churn with an excitement she quickly tried to suppress. “I don’t believe it is like me,” she said with a quick frown. “But it is a good painting.” She didn’t want to deter him from buying it.
Mr. Dunleavy studied her and then looked back at the painting. “It is an excellent work. It captures your essence.”
She tucked a stray wisp of hair back behind her ear with nervous fingers. “My essence?”
“Your soul or spirit. I’ll take the painting with me, if I may.”
“Of course. Wrap it, Gina.” As if they’d wasted enough of his time, Milo turned back to his easel.
“I’ve interrupted you long enough,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “Please don’t worry about wrapping it. I have a cab waiting.”
“It will take but a minute.” She hurried from the room.
“May I call again?” he asked, when Gina returned with the wrapped canvas.
“Come anytime and welcome,” Milo called from the studio.
“Goodbye, Mr. Dunleavy,” Gina said.
As she began to close the door, he put his hand up to forestall her. “I would like to see you again.” His eyes were as blue as a Tuscan summer sky. Their intense expression made her quiver.
She hesitated. It would be unwise, but how beguiling he was.
“I don’t believe I put that well.” He captured her eyes with his. “I must see you again.”
“You may come anytime to view my father’s paintings, Mr. Dunleavy.”
He nodded. “I look forward to that, Giovanna.”
More information at my website:
#Historical Romance, #Victorian Romance, #Maggi Andersen, #Contemporary #Love story, #Art, #Painting, #Pre-Raphaelite Artists, #Pears Soap, #Artist Model #Irish hero.