Under the Emerald Sky, Guest Post by Juliane Weber

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.

The Great Famine

The Great Famine, also called the Irish Famine or the Potato Famine, was a devastating time in Irish History. Repeated failure of the potato crop between 1845 and 1849 resulted in the death from starvation and disease of about a million people, with over a million more leaving Irish shores in the hope of making a better life for themselves elsewhere.

Did you know? President Joe Biden is the descendant of Irish emigrants, who fled to the USA from Ireland to escape the effects of the Great Famine. So, too, was President John F. Kennedy.

Why was the failure of a single crop so disastrous?

Originally cultivated as a garden crop, the potato soon became the staple food for the large population of labourers that worked the grain fields of Ireland to meet the demands of the British market. By the time the first potato harvest was decimated by blight in 1845, an estimated 1.5 million people were entirely dependent on potatoes for their sustenance, while three million more were largely reliant on the crop.

Potatoes were well suited to the farming conditions in Ireland, were relatively easy to grow, and provided a large yield on small plots of land. On average, an acre of land could produce about eight tons of potatoes, which was enough to feed a family of six for a year. This was why thousands upon thousands of people across Ireland took to farming potatoes almost exclusively, including tenants who rented tiny plots of farmland and labourers who relied on garden plots or conacre to grow their food.

Overreliance on potatoes spelled disaster  

While the potato crop thrived, so did the peasants, with Ireland having one of the highest population densities within Europe in the 1840s. But when it failed, the effect was devastating, especially so as the Irish peasants were wretchedly poor and often lived in appalling conditions. In 1845, about one-third of the potato crop was ruined, the worst loss for a century. That year, relief efforts were able to avert mass starvation; not so, though, during recurrent failure of the harvest over the following four years. The response by government and landowners fell far short of matching crop losses, and with nothing else to fall back on, the peasants suffered a horrific plight.   

This dark time in Ireland’s history is the setting of The Irish Fortune Series. Under the Emerald Sky, the first book in the series, begins a few years before the first failed potato harvest and the reader can expect to learn a little about the political, social and agrarian factors that contributed to the astonishing situation in Ireland before the Famine hit. The Famine itself begins in the second book, which I am working on now.  

Something to lighten the mood…

Choosing 19th century Ireland and the Potato Famine as the setting for my series of books does make for an interesting historical read but also has the potential to quickly turn a book into something rather morose! I knew from the start that I wanted to avoid this, although I didn’t want to downplay the horrors of the Great Famine itself. The books’ historical details are therefore offset with some more light-hearted content, including the love story between an Irishwoman and an Englishman, bits of Irish folklore scattered throughout, weddings and festivals to brighten the mood, and a good dose of adventure.

Topham, Francis Williams; Saturday Evening in Connemara, Ireland; Museums Sheffield

I hope thus to have written a book (and a series) that is both entertaining and enlightening, as I take readers on a journey through a devastating period in Irish history.

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08LSC6HN3
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Meet Juliane Weber

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.

Connect with Juliane

Website: https://www.julianeweber.com/
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Juliane-Weber/e/B08M3DYY22
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21207265.Juliane_Weber

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