Tuesday, March 3, 2020

"A Shadowed Fate"

Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College, Southern New Hampshire University or creating her own fiction. Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels.

A few years ago, Ambrose had the opportunity to take a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets: historical fiction. Her first book in a trilogy, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth. Ambrose’s second novel, A Shadowed Fate, begins where the first novel ends with Claire on an “odyssey” through Italy to find the fate of her daughter, Allegra, whom she now believes might have survived; her narrative plays out with Byron’s memoir from 1821, and Allegra’s own story.

Ambrose applied the Page 69 Test to A Shadowed Fate and reported the following:
In my novel, A Shadowed Fate, page 69 is a pivotal point in the plot: it begins Chapter Four as my characters start their travels across Italy in 1873. This historical mystery is the second book in a trilogy that is narrated by the “almost famous” member of the Byron/Shelley circle: Claire Clairmont. As the chapter opens, Claire is in a carriage with her companions on a quest to find her long-lost daughter, Allegra; she proposes they take a detour to Bagni di Lucca. Claire’s great-niece is ailing, so she decides “taking the waters” in the tiny town’s hot springs will cure the child: “Having lived in Italy for many years, I believed the hot springs, which they called terme, could cure almost any ailment.” But she also wants to visit the remote spot, at the foot of the Apennine Mountains, because it was the setting for a halcyon summer she spent nearby with British poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley—her stepsister. As Claire muses, “Bagni di Lucca was ... a place to heal body and soul”. She came there after she gave up her daughter to Lord Byron—and bathed in the terme to restore her spirits. This scene is the beginning of Claire’s physical journey across Italy but also her inward journey into the past—both odysseys intersect at Bagni di Lucca and change Claire’s life forever.

I was stunned at how much of the novel’s themes and plot hinge on page 69. This is the beginning of the suspenseful pilgrimage across Italy: at this stage in the novel, Claire—the protagonist—is eager to start her travels to find her long-lost daughter yet longs to settle the past which haunts her. These two themes begin to intertwine on page 69 when Claire thinks, “Bagni di Lucca held lyrical memories for me as an ancient resort town ... which I had visited in my youth.” The rest of the novel’s plot will hinge on how each journey intensifies and clarifies the other, causing Claire to grow and develop as a character. In the coming chapters, we see how the unexpected twists and turns on the road take Claire and her companions into dangers that are connected with the past but are necessary for them to discover the truth of the present: Does Allegra live?
Visit Marty Ambrose's website.

--Marshal Zeringue