Archaeologist, librarian, genealogist, EU official…now a writer. Still digging.
‘Love in the Time of Rebellion – a story of 1798.’
This is a romantic novel – based on real characters – set in a decidedly unromantic time.
In Dublin, Mary Moore is helping Lord Edward Fitzgerald organise the Rebellion. A sworn member of the Society of United Irishmen, she is betrothed to one of its leaders, William MacNeven. The arrests of the two men throw Mary’s plans – both political and personal – into chaos. Then John Mac Cready’s appearance on the scene creates even more confusion for her. Whose side is he on and how will they all come through the explosion of fighting about to engulf their country?
Light flowed in through the large glass windows of Stockdale’s in Abbey Street, banishing the gloom of the high shelves lining three walls. The shop was busy, with customers coming to seek the latest publications on the burning questions of the day. Stockdale did not shy away from controversy; indeed, it was good for business.
The Moore’s were long-time customers of his. Mary’s copies of Miss Wollstonecraft’s and Thomas Paine’s books on women’s and human rights were well-thumbed.
Stockdale looked up from his desk, squinted, and smiled a greeting. He shook their hands and offered them a warm port. ‘Ladies, with what can I beguile you today? We have the latest work of Ann Radcliffe, a fresh copy of Miss Wollstonecraft’s Scandinavian letters and, of course,’ he bowed his head towards Mary, ‘the latest reports from France.’ She laughed a little as she accepted the small, warm glass from him, and raised it in a salute. ‘Vive la France!’
‘Vive la France’, he and Sarah replied gallantly. Several heads turned towards this chorus of revolutionary zeal, smiled and returned to their reading.
With one exception. Mary’s glass halted on her lips as John Mac Cready approached.
‘Ladies,’ he said, tipping his head politely, ‘how are you today?’
‘Why, Mr Mac Cready,’ exclaimed Sarah, ‘We are very well! It’s such a long time since we have met. How are you?’
‘I’m well, thank you. Quite occupied, which perhaps explains my absence from The Lion for some time. It’s a fault which I must soon correct.’ He looked at Mary. ‘And you, Miss Moore, how are things with you?’ She found those dark eyes penetrating and his voice compelling her to answer him.
She looked down. ‘All is well, thank you.’ She refused to be drawn on anything more than a polite response.
‘Indeed,’ he said, and lingered just a moment too long before turning again to Stockdale and Sarah. Stockdale broke the moment’s silence.
‘May I fill your glass again, Mr Mac Cready?’
‘No, thank you, it’s very kind, but I must keep a clear head back at my desk, and I will shortly be going there.’
‘How well do you like your post?’ Sarah asked. Mary glared at her mother and almost snorted, as she knew Mac Cready was a clerk in the Military Accounts Office. Stockdale noticed that another customer required his assistance and excused himself. Sarah smiled at Mac Cready with all the appearance of genuine interest. At her question, he bent his head to one side and pursed his lips.
‘It is interesting and requires close attention to detail. We are quite a large office,’ he said, ‘so it is lively enough with so many others around. They are generally good fellows.’
So well might it be large, Mary thought, given how many English soldiers are garrisoned in our country. She could not resist asking, ‘I imagine your office manages a substantial budget?’ Her voice had an edge to it, and she noticed a slight lift of his brows as he turned towards her. Then, the irritating shadow of a smile, the corner of his mouth tilting up. Not to be provoked, then.
‘As I’m sure you are aware, Miss Moore, I’m not at liberty to discuss such matters.’ Now his eyes narrowed a little. He was not being polite, but then neither was her question. Annoyed at having left herself open to something akin to a rebuke, Mary straightened her shoulders a little and with a gracious bow of her head, said, ‘But of course, forgive such honest curiosity as to how our nation’s affairs are being handled.’
Mac Cready smiled at Mary’s reply. ‘It is indeed good that you are giving such weighty matters your consideration, Miss Moore. Perhaps you have some solutions in mind?’
Throwing her head back, she laughed. ‘Good heavens, Mr Mac Cready, I hope I am sufficiently modest to know my place in the grand scheme of things. I enjoy following the debates – you must admit they fascinate – but doubt I can present you with a solution, as you say.’ Relaxing, she was satisfied she had extricated herself reasonably well, even if at some cost to her pride.
Mac Cready regarded her steadily. ‘Such modesty is doubtless becoming. Certainly, in these troubled times, it pays to be aware of one’s limitations.’ He raised a hand towards the high bookshelves. ‘Thankfully, we have a wealth of wisdom to draw on here. Perhaps the history of Spartacus might provide some reflections on the consequences of actions taken in the past?’ Mary’s smile froze. Spartacus? She knew the story well, of course, but what was his intention in bringing it into the conversation now?
Not wishing to display her confusion, she said, ‘Ah, you know your history, sir.’
‘Yes, I do, Miss Moore, and there are events I would prefer not to see repeated. Much of it has been quite sanguine and I don’t wish to see my compatriots’ blood flowing in the streets of Dublin. Doubtless there are men whom you wish not to lose, too.’ There was now no hiding what his meaning was. Mary did not speak.
Sarah leapt into the fray. ‘Indeed, Mr Mac Cready, I am sure we all agree on that. However, we are come to find some more amusing things to read. If you would excuse us, we really must begin to make our purchases. I fear the weather may change, and we don’t want to fetch a soaking.’
‘Of course, forgive me. It was good to meet you here today. I hope we continue to find each other in good health.’ He nodded, put on his hat and walked to the door. Mary stared after him and flushed when, as he turned to pull the door closed, he caught her gaze. Again, she had a feeling he was looking into her soul.