Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 5

By Joy Martin Ulick de Burgh, the 14th Earl of Clanricarde in County Galway, had a second title and, as Baron Somerhill, an automatic seat in the British House of Lords in the early 19th century.   His marriage to the Honourable Harriet Canning, daughter of the British Prime Minister, George Canning, added to his prestige, leading to his appointment as British Ambassador to Russia. Handsome and charming, Ulick de Burgh is rumoured to have sired several illegitimate children. ULICK’S DAUGHTER is a novel based on the story of one of them. Eva Dillon is a woman driven by the urge to fulfil what she perceives as her destiny – to be acknowledged as ULICK’S DAUGHTER. As she says of herself: ‘I am not like other people: my life was planned out before I was born.’ Her ambition leads her to abandon her true love and to ruthlessly claw her way […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 4

By Joy Martin In A WRONG TO SWEETEN and its sequel, A HERITAGE OF WRONG, the life of Milliora O’Brien is undermined by murder.   Yet she feels more threatened by the customs and beliefs of the countryside than by human fear and hatred. She is a woman from the town.   When nine figures wearing straw masks turn up at her wedding reception and whirl her into a dance, her reaction is to scream while everybody laughs at her.    The visitors are members of the Claghera, or ‘Straw Boys, and to the wedding guests and bridegroom they’re just part of the traditions which mark country life in Ireland, like the feasting at the meitheal, the all-important festival to celebrate the end of harvest, or the killing of ‘the barrow’, when the local slaughterer (the buisteir) plunged his knife into the heart of the fattest pig as the farmer and his family […]

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Richard Blake’s 5 Recommended Roman Historical Novels

Without sneering at it, I have no taste for military historical fiction. I will do battles in my own novels, but much prefer civilian intrigue. What I like above all, however, in historical fiction is a sense of moving in a different moral environment from our own. In all times and places, people have the same basic motivations. But the way these are manifested makes any competent recreation of the past a study in oddness. Fellini described his masterpiece Satyricon as “science fiction of the past.” That’s what I try to achieve when I write, and that’s what I like to read. Here is a listing of my five favourite Roman novels: 5. The Sword of Pleasure by Peter Green (1957) – Told in the first person by Sulla the Dictator, this shows you the rapid decay of the Roman Republic. You can smell the garlic and dirt of the […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love & Envy        

Ireland in the 1880s. It wasn’t all bad.   The slums of Dublin were the worst in Europe.   In the country, evicted tenants were living alongside the roads and sometimes even in the trees. But the fortunate few, some of whom were Catholics, were enjoying a similar lifestyle to their upper middle class contemporaries in England, living in attractive houses, employing servants and sending their children to private schools. Sometimes they faced other torments: family feuds, usually over land, hatred, envy, even murder… A WRONG TO SWEETEN and its sequel A HERITAGE OF WRONG deal with the theme of inherited evil.   When the lives of two Limerick schoolfriends, Milliora Fitzgibbon and Rosaleen O’Flynn, are entwined with the those of the well-to-do O’Brien brothers, feckless Tom and ambitious Dermot, they soon find that envy can turn to madness and that love and hatred, loyalty and betrayal, can breed side by side. It’s […]

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A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson

Julia Ibbotson discusses the themes and inspirations behind her new book, A Shape on the Air.  Why do we experience that feeling of ‘deja vu’? How come we sometimes feel that an old house still bears the imprints of past inhabitants? I’m not talking about ‘ghosts’ or anything specific or corporeal, but what I have called in my latest novel  ‘shapes on the air’. The idea for A Shape on the Air had been brewing in my mind for a long time. I had been reading about, and mulling over,  the notion of time slip and especially the concept of ‘worm-holes’ and the Einstein-Bridge theory of portals into other dimensions of time and space, in effect quantum mechanics. It sounds fanciful and Dr Who-ish, and oddly I’m not a great fan of fantasy, but I felt that this was in fact a more ‘logical’ (in some ways!) and scientific explanation of […]

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