26 March 2015

Excerpt Thursday: NEVER BE AT PEACE by M.J. Neary

This week, we're welcoming author and Unusual Historicals contributor, M.J. Neary, whose latest title is NEVER BE AT PEACEJoin us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of Never Be At PeaceBe sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb. 

A pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom - and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices. In the words of Patrick Pearse, "Ireland unfree shall never be at peace". For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

**An Excerpt from Never Be At Peace**

Walking down the corridor of Belcamp Park, Bulmer spotted a trail of dark spots on the scratched wooden floor. The glistening substance looked like spilled paint. The countess had been working on one of her landscapes, and she was not known for her neatness. As Bulmer walked farther down, the spots became wider and more numerous, their trail leading to Helena’s bedroom.

            The wax from the shapeless candle stump was dripping over his hand, hardening around his knuckles. The door opened with a sinister creak. Bulmer did not make it far past the threshold. Five feet away from him Helena was lying curled up on the mattress where they had spent so many nights, a pillow clutched to her stomach and a bloodied towel between her legs. A washcloth drenched in vinegar was spread over her forehead. Shivering and delirious, she seemed unaware of his presence.

            A second later Bulmer felt fingernails digging into his arm and heard a menacing feline hiss. “Don’t dare coming near that girl.”

He turned around with a shudder and beheld the Lioness of Lissadell. “Wake her up and I’ll strangle you,” she said, dragging him out into the hall.

“What in the name of God …”

Constance tilted her artfully disheveled head. Her grey-streaked mane heaved as if it possessed a soul of its own. “Use your imagination, Hobson, or your knowledge of biology, if you possess any. Does this look like a case of migraine?”

“How long has she been like this? Has she been seen by a doctor?”

            “No worries, the doctor’s already done his part – as you’ve done yours.”

            “What’s that supposed to mean?”

            “You’re asking too many questions, Hobson. Just fetch your things and go to home to your Mama. Ask her why women resort to such measures. She has all the time in the world to educate you – I don’t. Helena needs me. If you’ve any decency left, you’ll let this poor girl be, after everything you’ve done to her.”

            The candle slipped out of Bulmer’s hand, setting the woven doormat on fire. Constance stamped out the flames swiftly with her slipper, shoved the speechless Quaker aside and she locked herself in Helena’s bedroom.

            Bulmer slid down to the floor and froze in an excruciatingly uncomfortable position across from the closed door, his gaze following the blood trail. The overwhelming sensory experiences of the past five minutes shocked his body into sleep, surprisingly deep and peaceful, devoid of nightmares, like a miniature death.   


            The smell of tobacco drove Bulmer out of his tepid oblivion. Wincing from the soreness in his limbs and neck, he stood. Helena’s door was left ajar, and the bedroom was empty. Leaning against the wall, he began limping his way down the hall towards the light coming from the kitchen.

The two women were smoking and gossiping. Helena looked alarmingly pale, though her mouth was tinted with cherry-red gloss. Her hair had been brushed back and adorned with rhinestone pins. She was wearing the same narrow tartan skirt she had on for the arrival of the scouts in early September.

            “It was horrid,” Bulmer heard her say. “Oh, Con, I know I should feel relief, but … What happens next? Is it a sort of thing a girl takes to a priest?”

            “You know it’s for the best,” the countess replied. “The Hobson boy is unreliable. You have your acting glory before you, and all the men in the world.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever look at another man for as long as I live.”

            “I felt the same way after Maeve’s birth. How I loathed that child and Casi! Women who tell you that being a mother is the greatest blessing are either liars or primitive breeding cows. No thinking woman can take pleasure in such things.”

            Bulmer started coughing – not to attract attention but because the cigarette smoke was irritating his lungs. The women turned their heads to look at him without changing their poses.  

            “Miss Molony,” he said with affected courtesy, “do you have any final words for me before I clear out? Though, your recent actions speak eloquently enough.” In his heart he had always known this affair would end. He just did not suspect it would end so soon and on such an ugly note.

            Helena blew a cloud of smoke in his face. “You have no say in matters concerning my body.”

            “Of course, I don’t. Your body is the property of the Abbey directors and the Fianna boys.”

Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels available now from Fireship Press.

About the author

Marina Julia Neary is an acclaimed historical novelist, award-winning essayist, multilingual journalist, dramatist and poet. Her areas of expertise include Neo-Victorianism, French Romanticism and Irish nationalism. Her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade, to the Easter Rising in Dublin, to the Chernobyl catastrophe. Neary declares that her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. Her debut novel Wynfield's Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums (Fireship Press) appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. Her subsequent novels include Wynfield's War (2010), Brendan Malone: the Last Fenian (2011), Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916 (2011), Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels (2014) and Saved by the Bang (2015).