The Widow’s Fire (Inanna Publications, 2017).
The Widow’s Fire explores the shadow side of Jane Austen’s final novel Persuasion, disrupting its happy ending and throwing moral certainties off balance. We join the action close to the moment when Austen draws away for the last time and discretely gives an overview of the oncoming marriage between heroine Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. This, it transpires in The Widow’s Fire, is merely the beginning of a journey. Soon dark undercurrents disturb the order and symmetry of Austen’s world. The gothic flavor of the period, usually satirized by Austen, begins to assert itself. Characters far below the notice of Anne, a baronet’s daughter, have agendas of their own. Before long, we enter into the realm of scandal and blackmail. Anne Elliot must come to recognize the subversive power of those who have been hitherto invisible to her — servants, maids and attendants — before she can defend her fiancé from an accusation too dreadful to be named. Captain Wentworth himself must learn the skills of living on land; the code of honour and secrecy which has protected him on deck no longer applies on the streets of Bath.
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Portland, Maine, 1910. An assembly gathers to listen to a fundraising lecture by the esteemed medical missionary Doctor Wilfred Grenfell. Grenfell has been working for eighteen years with trappers, fishermen, and their families on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula and in coastal Labrador. Thanks in part to the wild adventures recorded in his recent bestseller, Adrift on an Ice Pan, Grenfell is becoming ever more famous in North America. But tonight something is wrong. The man who appears before the audience as “the good doctor” suddenly receives a challenge from the floor. He neither looks, sounds, nor acts like the real Wilfred Grenfell. Thirty years later, during research for an article, journalist Judy Agar tracks down the Grenfell imposter living quietly in Massachusetts. It soon transpires that he and the real Grenfell share a common history which dates back to London in the 1880s. As medical students they shadowed each other through the corridors of a London hospital, the music halls, the evangelist missions, and the slums, each of them vying for the affections of a young nurse whose influence turned out to be decisive for them both.
“This novel is eloquent and mysterious in its turns of phrase and imagery. Paul Butler provides a deft framework wherein time shifts occur while at the same time providing continuous flow of characterization.” Historical Novels Review (U.S.) on The Good Doctor (2014)
In 1925, in a London restaurant, J. Bruce Ismay, former chairman of the White Star Line, has a quiet dinner with his daughter Evelyn. Through the extravagant foliage of the dining room, a young woman watches. Like Ismay, Miranda Grimsden was a passenger on board the ill-fated Titanic that terrible night in April 1912. Fuelled by simmering emotions, Ismay, Evelyn, and Miranda take a backwards journey through the thirteen intervening years to confront issues of cowardice, spite, and revenge, and to dare themselves to exorcise the spectre of the past.
“Titanic Ashes is a fast read filled with elegant expression and surprising emotion. Butler makes it easy to see inside the turmoil both sides felt when split second decisions made the difference between life or death. With surprising conclusions for all, this gem of a novel is sure to please those looking to expand on what came after.” Historical Novels Review (U.S.) on Titanic Ashes.
“Butler covers a lot of ground in a short space, and the flashbacks are vivid and well executed … the use of multiple perspectives creates an engaging puzzle that unfolds over the course of the story, associating the Titanic’s sinking with a breakdown of class and traditional moral values.” Quill and Quire on Titanic Ashes
In the fall of 1611, John Guy prepares to return from his colony in Cupers Cove, Newfoundland, to Bristol, England, where he plans to woo Eliza Egret, the daughter of one of the principal stockholders of the colonization venture. Guy must return, however, with a prisoner, a mysterious young man named Bartholomew, who is responsible for burning the colony’s stored grain. As the presence of a convict might cause the backers to question his leadership, Guy chooses a radical course — to use the silken-tongued Bartholomew as an ally. So Guy and his companion enter a tale of intrigue and danger reminiscent of the revenge tragedies of the Jacobean period.
Butler does a good job of bringing out that ‘unstated drama’ in Cupids, the drama unfolding in the first person voices of various characters — most notably John Guy and Bartholomew. Butler provides enough detail to give you a sense of life in the 1600s, but not so much that it weighs down the characters and the story they are telling. Another of his strengths as a writer is an ability to quickly create a picture of a character, one that stays with you.” Chronicle Herald
“Paul Butler’s novel Cupids has brilliant insight to the beginning of what was once known as Cupers Cove and John Guy’s adventures.” Current
“Reminds me of prose that might have been penned by my favourite dead English author, Thomas Hardy.” Southern Gazette
“A rich story filled with interesting characters and unpredictable plot twists.” Downhome
“Butler provides solid descriptions of both the coast of Newfoundland and Bristol, England; where he excels is in his depictions of the human psyche: the servant who rebels against her station, the aunt who never forgets past wrongs, the willful daughter of a rich man. He has created memorable characters who could all easily be historical figures rather than imaginative figments.” Historical Novels Review
“Butler’s writing is vivid, fluent, and filled with wonderful period detail, bringing these historical names and legends to life in a series of revealing snapshots.” Compulsive Overreader Blog
“A tale of both danger and intrigue . . . and an interesting read to boot.” The Compass
In a St. John’s hospital in 1945, Elsa Evans keeps a furtive vigil over the deathbed of Abram Kean, the renowned sealing captain. Remembering her first husband and her two brothers killed in the trenches thirty years before, and another young friend, Noah, frozen on the ice during the sealing disaster of 1914, Elsa contemplates a hideous revenge. The shock of her own bitterness forces her to retrace part of her life which is interwoven with those of her former employers, Simon and Sarah Jenson.
On the morning of July 1916, officer Lt. Simon Jenson, severely shell-shocked and demoralized after a year and a half in the trenches, fails in leadership, hanging behind his men as they march through into no-man’s-land. When a figure emerges from the drifting smoke, he thrusts the blade of his bayonet forward not into the enemy but into the body of Charles Baxter, a comrade and the brother of his fiancée, Sarah. Surviving against the odds, and with his battlefield actions misinterpreted, Simon is feted as a hero. But when Simon returns from the war, Sarah finds him emotionally fragile and prone to violent rages- not even their young daughter Lucy can cheer him. Worse, their lives are soon overtaken by the shadow of blackmail, and Sarah and Elsa, Lucy’s governess, are forced to reconsider everything they once believed about loyalty, valour, and responsibility.
“[A] brilliant new novel . . . Butler uses imaginative, textured language to convey the emotional contradictions of his characters… Atlantic Books Today on Hero
In 1892, critically acclaimed novelist Paul Butler plunges the reader into 19th century St. John’s, its light and its shade . . .
An obscure servant, Kathleen, yearns for her home in Ireland. A mysterious scientist, Dr. Glenwood, believes he can be the first to bring a new photographic discovery to the world. A stable hand, Tommy Fitzpatrick, battles inner demons as he tries to win Kathleen’s heart.
These collective struggles will soon erupt to change the fate of an entire city.
“1892 combines both lyrical writing and telling detail. It is a novel written by a sure and confident writer in his prime.” The Chronicle-Herald
The legend of Sheila NaGeira looms large in the early history of the New World.
And it stretches back to Ireland in the 1500s and an ancient crone, Sheila Na Gig, whose form still haunts church doorways.
NaGeira tells two interlocking stories. The first is of eighty-year-old Sheila, a midwife and healer living apart from a settlement at the North American Bristol plantation in 1660. The second, a parallel tale, tracks Sheila’s early life in Dublin’s English Pale where she is caught in the crossfire of politics and tragedy. Even after she escapes persecution, leaving her enemies far behind, Sheila finds that forces can still resurface to conspire against her.
“A tour de force of the imagination…” Canadian Book Revue Annual on NaGeira
1640. After a long retirement in the south of France, former pirate Peter Easton has come home to London. Weary and bedridden, he finds himself plagued by heightened sensitivities. He is acutely aware of the suffering of all living things and longs to make amends for a lifetime of destruction. As he is nursed back to health by his devoted young servant, Gabrielle, and a mysterious apothecary, Fleet, Easton finds a focus for his returning energy. He becomes determined to search for the son and heir he left behind in Newfoundland. Against medical advice, he begins to organize one final voyage…
“…Butler builds solid suspense and healthy narrative momentum through a focus on fundamentals: efficient storytelling, keen attention to characterization and fealty to the mysteries of the past and their influence on the present…Easton’s Gold is…a compelling novel which often surprises and satisfies.” The Globe and Mail
“Easton’s Gold and its predecessor [Easton] are about as different as it’s possible for two novels featuring the same character to be. They’re both excellent, but in very different ways.” — Chronicle Herald
“Butler is an invigorating writer, keeping the reader in suspense, but moving the story along at an exhilarating pace. Furthermore, he provides a substantial background to his story, and is meticulous in his re-creation of time and place, especially of shipboard space.” — Canadian Book Review Annual
Having just escaped the King’s justice, notorious pirate Peter Easton arrives in St. John’s harbour with ten well-armed ships. Knowing he is too powerful to be refused, Easton confidently invites the King’s loyal fishing admiral, Richard Whitbourne, and his second-in-command, Captain Dawson, aboard his flagship The Happy Adventure. Insisting Whitbourne and Dawson are guests and not prisoners, Easton takes them by surprise, pulling anchor and setting sail with half his flotilla for the Caribbean.
Easton takes place in Newfoundland, the Caribbean, and England. The story reflects a time when Newfoundland was crucial to trade and power, and when there was a very thin line between loyalty and piracy—a line that could be crossed in either direction in the blink of an eye.
Stoker’s Shadow tells the story of the late Bram Stoker’s surviving family members in 1922 as they struggle to come to grips with the dark undercurrents in the novel Dracula. Florence, Bram’s widow, is shocked when a German company, Prana Films, pirates her late husband’s story for a film, Nosferatu.