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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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. William, the son of Bram and Florence, is at first baffled by his mother’s discomfort, but he soon finds himself struggling with his own memories.
Mary, Florence’s free-spirited young Irish companion, is captivated by 1920s London and all its mysteries. She finds escape in her copy of Dracula and forms an unlikely, and to Florence’s mind a dangerous, bond of friendship with William.