Mitchelstown Castle in County Cork, seat of the notorious Anglo-Irish Kingsborough family, fairly hums with intrigue. In 1786 the new young governess, Mary Wollstonecraft, witnesses a stabbing when she attends a pagan bonfire at which an illegitimate son of the nobility is killed. When the young Irishman Liam Donovan, who hated the aristocratic rogue for seducing his niece, becomes the prime suspect for his murder, Mary-ever a champion of the oppressed, and susceptible to Liam's charm-determines to prove him innocent. Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein) was celebrated, even a cause celebre in her day, as a notorious and free-thinking rebel. Her short life was highly unconventional, with the kidnap of her sister from an abusive husband, love affairs, an illegitimate child, religious dissent, a suicide attempt, participation in the French Revolution, and other eyebrow-raising episodes. Nancy Means Wright hopes that Midnight Fires, set during Mary's term as a governess in Ireland, will "present her to the world as the brilliant, yet wholly human, passionate, and conflicted woman that she was."Riiviting. . . . As Mary snoops around in search of the culprit, she is bound not to lose herself to the mystery, her job, or the charms of any man. Wright deftly illuminates 18th-century class tensions." Publishers Weekly (2/15/10)
At the start of this captivating historical set in 1786, Mary Wollstonecraft is on her way to Ireland to become a governess, "that most humiliating of occupations." At Mitchelstown Castle in County Cork, headstrong Mary, the future mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and future women's rights advocate, is determined to pen a novel and remain above the fray of castle politics while schooling Lord and Lady Kingsborough's daughters. Three suspicious deaths, however, compel Mary to seek justice for a poor young sailor, the family's troubled former governess, and even an aristocrat. It appears everyone from poet George Ogle, Lady K's new flirt, to a land tenant or two has a motive in one or more of these tangled deaths. As Mary snoops around in search of the culprit, she is bound not to lose herself to the mystery, her job, or the charms of any man. Wright (Mad Season and four other Ruth Wilmarth mysteries) deftly illuminates 18th-century class tensions.