Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
M. J. Neary is visiting the blog today! She is the author of Martyrs & Traitors. To give you a brief glimpse, here’s the blurb for her book followed by M.J.’s guest post. Sit back and enjoy!
Dublin, Good Friday, 1916 Kidnapped and held at gunpoint by his former IRB comrades, Bulmer Hobson, the misunderstood antihero of 1916, denounces the ill-fated Easter Rising he had tried to prevent. While his captors joke about shooting him and dumping his body on the railroad tracks, his terrified fiancee roams the chaos-ravaged city in search of him. Fifteen years of political rivalry, international conspiracy, botched love affairs, and taunting promises of glory culminate in a bloody showdown. Once branded ‘the most dangerous man in Ireland’ by the police, Hobson is about to be deleted from history. Based on historical accounts, Martyrs and Traitors is an intimate glance into the conflicted and shattered heart of Ireland’s discredited patriot.
“I continue to cling to the hope that one day you’ll meet a nice suffragette girl in trousers, without a corset, with her hair cropped short and a cigarette in her teeth—for decoration only.”
With these words Mary Ann Hobson (1856-1947), the protagonist’s mother, summarizes her dream for her son when he comes home to Belfast, penniless and heartbroken. Given Mary Ann’s radical feminist persuasion, it is not shocking that her ideas of marital bliss would differ from those of more traditional women of Edwardian-era Ireland. While the storyline of Martyrs & Traitors revolves around the political and intimate travesties of Bulmer Hobson, a misunderstood patriot discarded by his former comrades for his attempt to prevent the Rising of 1916, the novel features a cast of female characters, real and fictitious, who were rebels on more than one front.
One cannot talk about the role of women in the Irish nationalistic movement without examining the role of women in society in general. Between the Victorian era and De Valera’s patriarchal, Vatican-oriented regime, there was that brief period of freedom and new opportunities for women. Esthetically and morally, Edwardian ideals were a rebellion against the repressive Victorian canons. Traditional 19th century upbringing was geared towards defying Nature and divorcing women from their “base instincts”, namely sexuality. A proper Victorian lady was a frigid creature with a ribcage deformed by a corset. In contrast, an Edwardian beauty was a spirited, spontaneous nymph with billowing tresses, barefooted, dressed in a free-flowing gown that worked with the natural contours of the body. Victorian girls were expected to swoon at the sight of blood, while Edwardian girls were taught first aid.
The women who fought for Ireland’s independence were products of both eras. Born in the last decades of Victoria’s reign, they entered the 20th century with pinched waists and high ambitions. They dreamed of a free country where women would have equal status with men. They wanted to march, shoot and climb barricades along side their brothers, lovers and husbands.
In Irish nationalistic epos there are several “golden couples”, with W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne topping the list. In Martyrs & Traitors I explore an apocryphal romance between the protagonist Bulmer Hobson (1883-1969) and Helena Molony (1884-1967), an Abbey Theatre actress and one of the most belligerent figures of her day. The lovers-turn-enemies emerged from different worlds: Bulmer was a Protestant businessman’s heir, while Helena was an orphan from a predominantly Catholic lower-middle class neighborhood. Bulmer preached abstinence from alcohol, while Helena would fall asleep hugging a whiskey bottle. Ultimately, it was not their religious or cultural difference that tore them apart but a bitter political conflict. In addition to being an account of the 1916 Rising, Martyrs & Traitors is a contemplation of Edwardian sexuality and ideological fanaticism.