Under the Emerald Sky
(The Irish Fortune Series, Book 1)
By Juliane Weber
Publication Date: 23rd October 2020
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 468 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
He’s come to Ireland to escape his past.
She’s trying to run from her future.
It's 1843 and the English nobleman Quinton Williams has come to Ireland to oversee the running of his father’s ailing estate and escape his painful past. Here he meets the alluring Alannah O’Neill, whose Irish family is one of few to have retained ownership of their land, the rest having been supplanted by the English over the course of the country's bloody history. Finding herself drawn to the handsome Englishman, Alannah offers to help Quin communicate with the estate’s Gaelic-speaking tenants, as much to assist him as to counter her own ennui. Aware of her controlling brother’s hostility towards the English, she keeps her growing relationship with Quin a secret – a secret that cannot, however, be kept for long from those who dream of ridding Ireland of her English oppressors.
Among the stark contrasts that separate the rich few from the plentiful poor, Under the Emerald Sky is a tale of love and betrayal in a land teetering on the brink of disaster - the Great Famine that would forever change the course of Ireland's history.
After a short and silent ride, we arrived at the edge of a small field that seemed to lie somewhat apart from the others. It was laid out in orderly rows of potato vines, at the base of which stood a tiny ramshackle cottage that appeared to have no adornments of any kind, including windows or a chimney. The whitewash on the walls did nothing to improve its dilapidated appearance, serving merely to prevent the washing away of a structure made entirely of mud.
In silent agreement, Quin and I dismounted and approached the cabin on foot, leading the horses. Our approach was met with the furious barking of a mangy looking dog that came rushing towards us from the far side of the cabin, followed by a number of wild-eyed children, who stopped in the dooryard and looked at us suspiciously, the chickens they had evidently been feeding pecking the ground at their feet in search of further nourishment.
At the racket, a woman dressed in drab homespun emerged from the cottage and eyed us warily. As we got closer, I could see that she was younger than I had thought, probably no more than a few years older than I. The trials of a hard life had etched themselves in her face, magnified by a hollowness in her cheeks that echoed the uncertainty of her family’s existence.
“Maidin mhaith, a bhean uasal,” I said to her in greeting, smiling warmly.
She narrowed her eyes at me at the formality, and I quickly introduced myself and explained that Quin was the newly arrived owner of the estate who had come to inspect his tenants. The look of suspicion abated somewhat at this, although it didn’t entirely disappear. Her husband must have told her of his meeting with Quin and his promises, I thought. Based on her expression, they had reservations that these promises would be met. Looking around the small plot of land on which they depended for their very existence, I couldn’t blame them.
I continued to smile at her and spoke to her encouragingly, finally coaxing her into introducing herself—“Mary Murphy,” she murmured shyly—and her children, who she lined up in front of the cabin. There were four of them, three girls and one boy, ranging in age from about two to six, all dressed in rags.
Next to me, Quin started rootling in one of the large saddlebags on his horse, finally coming up with a small canvas sack. This contained numerous glossy brown pebbles that I recognised as toffees, having tasted them once before when Mr Henderson had brought me some upon his return from a trip to England. Quin offered the beads to the eldest girl, who glanced at her mother before taking one and, having observed Quin’s gesture that it was to be eaten, cautiously placing it on her outstretched tongue. Her eyes popped open and she smiled in obvious delight, which encouraged her siblings and their mother to try one too.
I took a toffee myself, enjoying the sweet creamy taste, and relishing in the joy the treat elicited in Mrs Murphy and her children. I eyed the family inconspicuously while we ate. They were all very thin and Mrs Murphy looked older than she probably was, but the children had ruddy cheeks and brightly gleaming eyes, as well as a natural curiosity that emerged once their initial wariness had worn off. They were clearly very poor, but not starving.
Much of this, I knew, came down to the family’s dependence on potatoes. Originally cultivated as a garden crop, the potato had first made its way onto Irish fields as a rotational crop—a purpose for which it was still being widely used—only to become the staple food for the large population of labourers that worked the grain fields of Ireland to meet the demands of the British market.
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Juliane is actually a scientist. She holds degrees in physiology and zoology, including a PhD in physiology. During her studies she realised, however, that her passion lay not in conducting scientific research herself, but in writing about it. Thus began her career as a medical writer, where she took on all manner of writing and editing tasks, in the process honing her writing skills, until she finally plucked up the courage to write her first historical novel, Under the Emerald Sky. The book is the first in The Irish Fortune Series, which is set in 19th century Ireland around the time of the Great Famine.
Juliane lives with her husband and two sons in Hamelin, Germany, the town made famous by the story of the Pied Piper.
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