Under the Emerald Sky
An Irish 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.
We wandered along the river, which was wider and shallower here than up at the house. We took off our shoes and socks, and I hiked up my skirt, and we squelched through the soft mud along the water’s edge, laughing and exclaiming over the beauty of the landscape, the chirping birds that flitted through the oak’s branches and the insects that buzzed around us. The sun continued to shine down on us, unusually constant in its affections, the sky unmarred by even a wisp of cloud.
“I never imagined myself hiking through the mud on an Irish farm with an Irish maiden by my side,” Quin said, smiling at me as he pulled one long foot out of the muddy bank with a sucking sound. “Much less enjoying it!”
I laughed, realising that I too was enjoying myself, immensely so. I felt invigorated, more alive than I had in years, away from Kieran’s suffocating presence and in the company of a man who demanded nothing of me and yet made me want to give him everything I had to offer, without restraint.
“The Right Honourable The Lord Williams,” Quin was saying as we wandered along the streambank, carefully articulating each word. “The Baron Williams of Wadlow, third of that name.”
I nodded slowly, suitably impressed. “And what does that make you?” I asked after a moment, looking up at Quin with a smile.
He leaned towards me conspiratorially and raised his brows. “The son of a baron,” he pronounced with a straight face, before breaking into a wide grin that made me laugh. “I’m afraid I have no honorifics of my own with which to adorn my person,” he said with a shrug. “While my father’s title is an hereditary one that will eventually be passed down to me, my sole distinction currently lies in being my father’s only heir—a role which, I might add, can be exceedingly trying at the best of times.”
“Your father sounds like an interesting sort,” I remarked with some amusement.
“He is that,” Quin agreed grudgingly, a slight frown appearing on his forehead as he spoke.
“But tell me more about yourself,” I said quickly to distract him from his thoughts.
“Well,” he began after a moment, smoothing out his brow, “let’s see now.—I was eighteen when I bought my commission. My father was terribly pleased, of course, having fought under Wellington against the French himself.” He gave me a wry grin. “A retired major of the British Army wants nothing more than to see his son follow in his footsteps!” I smiled at him, although I sensed a tinge of resentment in his tone. “I was stationed with the 49th regiment,” he continued, “and so I ended up in India, only to be dispatched to China in 1840, to battle the Chinese and their outlandish views on diplomatic relations and trade.” He was silent for a moment, looking ahead. “I had wondered for years what it might be like in China and the other places I had read about in my mother’s books, and here I found myself in a position to find out.”
“Was it how you expected it to be?”
“I can’t really say. We were at war. There wasn’t much opportunity to appraise the local customs, much less to converse with the locals themselves…even if they had been able to understand us. And had we not been at war, we still would have been greatly restricted in what we would have been able to see.”
Quin paused, bending down for a drink of cool water from the stream. I followed suit, cupping my hands, and taking a few refreshing sips myself.
“You see, the Chinese weren’t particularly trusting of the Europeans when we started visiting their shores for trade. So, they set up a central trading post in Canton that dealt with all imports and exports—the only port that foreigners were allowed to visit. In peaceful times, I imagine that even this limited access to a world unknown would have been fascinating to behold. As it was, travelling between military encampments and battlegrounds along the coast, I saw only glimpses of what the rest of China must be like…tall multi-tiered buildings, as alien to me as the dress of the Chinese, in their flowing robes with intricate tracery and pointy hats, like the tops of the towers that rose high above the surrounding countryside.”
“And did you see much fighting yourself?”
“A good amount.” Quin smiled at me, a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “The 49th was involved in several battles during the campaign. As a newly commissioned lieutenant I’d been rather disgruntled by the lack of action I was likely to find within Europe’s reasonably peaceful borders. Unbeknownst to me, I was soon to experience my fair share of combat on foreign shores.” He compressed his lips for a moment and frowned. “Nonetheless, two years later the war was won, and I resigned my commission and came home,” he ended his account abruptly.
I looked at him, wanting to ask why he had resigned his commission, but not daring to ask. There was obviously more to the story, something he didn’t want to tell me.
“I wanted to become a farmer,” he said, laughing at my surprised expression at having read my thoughts, his good humour returning.
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.