West Clare Coast. Worth saving?

Sea off the coast of County Clare, Ireland. The setting of my new novel, Selkie's Song

Sea off the coast of County Clare, Ireland. The setting of my new novel, Selkie’s Song

An excerpt from my new release, Selkie’s Song:

Muireann rolled to a sitting position and sat cross legged. “Are you ready?”
“Always,” he said. “What, exactly, did you have in mind?” His suggestive tone only added to her curiosity about him.
“Something I want to show you.” Muireann offered her hand. “Ready for a bit of cliff rambling?”
She took a step back. “Let me show you something.”
They walked the short distance to where they had left the car. Ty tossed the picnic paraphernalia in the boot, grabbed his mandolin case and looped the strap over his shoulder.
They strolled, hand in hand, back toward the cliffs.
“I can’t remember a time I didn’t know this headland.” She stopped perilously close to the edge of the drop. “I’ve even dreamed I was born here, under the sky, rocked to sleep by the music of the sea.”
She tugged on his hand to draw him close. Ty hesitated.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
Ty blew out a breath, cleared his throat, and gripped tight on her hand. “I’m not all that crazy about precipitous drops onto sharp rocks.”
Ah, the brave and gallant Celt has an Achilles’ heel.
“Here,” she encouraged him as she lowered to the turf. “Get down on your stomach.”
He set the mando down, knelt beside her and then stretched out on his stomach with his chin resting on his hands. “You may as well know I’m not fond of frigid water either.”
“Are you saying you don’t swim?”
“I swim…like a rock.” Ty’s smile turned strained.
Ty swallowed his trepidation. If hanging off this feckin’ rock meant he was gettin’ lucky tonight, it was well worth the risk.
Whomp. A virtual slap to the side of his head would have knocked him flat had he not already been prone. He’d rekindled his acquaintance with Muireann less than twenty-four hours ago. He’d either lied to himself or to her about why he was here. A lie by omission, but still not the entire truth.
Ty had promised himself he wouldn’t deviate from his master plan. That plan, initially, did not include a woman—in his bed or his heart.
“What am I looking at?” he asked, trying to distract his carnal thoughts.
“You have to be patient. Watch the water, there, just beyond that solitary rock.” She nodded in the direction of a shallow pool.
Ty tried not to think of the churning blue water and the three hundred foot drop. He gamely pushed back the memory of being caught in the tide and dragged out to sea, the struggle, and then the giving up. Twenty years had passed, and he still remembered clearly his battle for the surface of the water.
“There. Do you see her?” Muireann whispered and pulled him back to the present.
Against the dark water, Tynan’s vision focused on a silvery streak. Just when he thought he had made out a form, it disappeared. Then there were two and in a moment a third silken and sleek creature appeared. “Seals?”
“Cool, huh? It’s a family.” Her voice caught. “I watched that pup being born right here on this strand. This is home to them. Harbor seals live in the same place all their lives.”
Muireann’s face softened and her lips turned up ever so slightly as she spoke of these animals. She reminded him of American girls’ reaction to puppies and newborn babies. The female need to nurture inspired an instinctual fear in the gut of most men, himself not included. When the time was right, Tynan would be more than ready for a nurturing female in his life.
She turned on her side, propped up on one elbow. Her expression hardened. “Seals follow the sound of fishing boats. So many seals are hurt or killed each year by careless fishing methods. Locals know this and take care.”
The two adults and the pup hauled out and readied for a nap in the sunshine. “This bunch seems to feel safe here.”
“Yeah,” she sighed and continued. “That’s why I want to keep big business interests out.”
“I don’t understand,” Ty admitted. “Seals have lived for centuries alongside fishing boats. What’s changed?”
“The economy or perhaps simply greed.” She looked straight in his eyes. “If industrial fisheries are allowed in here, this family will be gone. I won’t be able to protect them. The large nets will trap and strangle them, the food supply will dwindle…They’ll starve.”
Ty questioned that thinking. “Aren’t there plenty of fish to go around?”
Muireann’s jaw clenched. “Industrial fisheries overfish sand eels for animal feed and fertilizer. Greenpeace calls the practice ‘Hoover fishing’…a clean sweep.”
“Sand eels?”
“Right. And these little fish are the main food source for harbor seals, and seabirds as well. Everything’s tied up in the ecosystem of the sea. It’s a domino effect. The most profitable fish are also the ones the seals need to survive. Without sand eels, this cove, this strand, it’ll be empty.”
Ty loved her passion for this crusade but couldn’t see how things could change. “What can one person do?” This was the adult Muireann. The girl had become a woman with serious interests. She took some getting used to.
She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I want this to be designated a marine protected area.”
“Seems that’s going to be a hard sell with Ireland’s economy tanking and high unemployment,” Ty suggested. “Is there some sort of compromise?”
Muireann sat up and hung her long legs off the rock edge. She turned to him. “I’m not an impetuous child anymore, Tynan. If you knew me, you would realize I’m not inclined to compromise when it’s a matter of saving something or someone I love.”
Tynan could indeed sense her instinct to fight to the death for justice…or love.
“I stopped a whole damn oil company from setting up a rig offshore right there.” She pointed toward the horizon, then turned and gave him an ebullient smile. “Me and my mates. We camped out here and made the oil company’s lives a living hell until we got enough attention in the media.”
“You amaze me.” Truly she did. When she talked about saving seals, her love for the sea, when he saw her passion in the pottery she created, Muireann had that same charisma he had admired last night in O’Malley’s when she sang.

The third book in the Fadó Trilogy, Selkie’s Song, is now available at Amazon.com

For more information about my books go to http://www.clareaustin.com

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Angel’s Share reviewed in The Celtic Connection

BOOKKEEPING by Mary McWay Seaman
ANGEL’S SHARE by Clare Austin

This novel, the centerpiece of a trilogy, easily stands alone as an immigration saga, mystery and romantic drama. The title alludes to the measure of Irish whiskey that vanishes after triple-distillation: the “Angel’s Share” is an offering dispersed like incense wafting toward Heaven. There is plenty of other wafting and dispersion playing out in the book as well. Irish immigrant Kerry Sloane, newly arrived in Boston, works as a traditional Irish musician, and a new recording promises some long-sought financial security. Kerry’s old flame from the Falls Road area of Belfast, with whom she shares a hidden tragedy, is a physician who had been embroiled in the Ulster Troubles. Aidan Kennedy had been doing medical charity work in Darfur before he shows up unexpectedly in Boston with dueling goals. He learns that his brother’s killer is in the city and is determined to administer some justice to the criminal; he also wishes to reconnect with Kerry. (In 1985, the brother was gunned down in Belfast after having been involved in hijacking a shipment of cash headed to a Derry bank; the money was never found.)

The innumerable bloodlines and cultural ties that fasten Belfast (and the rest of Ireland) to Boston are expertly embroidered throughout the novel, and Austin skillfully draws differing views of Ulster’s Troubles through Belfast-born Aidan and Galway-born Kerry. Aidan’s father, “a hopeless drunk, lived in a fantasy world of his own making.” Aidan himself “lived by a standard Kerry had only understood from the heroic tales of Ireland’s past. He did what he needed to do to make his family’s life more tolerable. If there was money to be made or justice to be served in his Falls Road neighborhood, legal or not – he made no apologies.” Straight-arrow Kerry is leery of his erratic lifestyle. She is tired of Aidan’s obsession and tells him “I’ve heard it all before. It’s for Finn, it’s for the Republic, it’s for every poor Catholic Irishman who suffered under British rule.” At times, the indignant lass gets enough of everyone’s expectations: “All my life I’ve done what was expected. I’ve been the good daughter, the perfect sister. I’ve carried the prescribed amount of Catholic guilt around with me like a stone chained to my heart.”
Aidan was picked up by Homeland Security when he landed at Logan, and the FBI knows that he is after the mobster Patrick Nolan, who “came and went like noxious fumes from a sewer.” Nolan runs a plumbing business that acts as a front for an extortion racket, and he is ready to sic his goons on anyone standing in his way. The Bureau had been after Nolan for years, and officials were happy for Aidan to act as “a goat to tempt the monster.” FBI agents Jack Tripp and Carolyn Campbell are assigned to the case, and they are delightfully depicted as decent and dedicated defenders (there’s a story here too). Austin meticulously weaves another villain back and forth along the city streets: Jason Mallory, a low cur with explosives experience and connections to the Belfast robbery, is getting to know Boston well. Readers are too!

Kerry also has a perfect suitor in Matthew Kincade – sensible, steady, hardworking, handsome and a good earner. Matthew “hasn’t got an agenda that embraces violence.” Unlike Aidan, “He won’t be running around the world looking to stir up trouble and he hasn’t got people out there trying to kill him.” Jealousies, fumbles, clashes, and chases are dizzily constructed through interlocking relationships and shocking secrets that result in a violent, dramatic dénouement – in church, no less.

The frictions between justice and revenge, love and duty, family and business, security and risk – even adventure and stability – crown Austin’s solid storytelling. High-speed, dialog-driven narrative and snappy repartee probe the power of families to lift up or to deform their members. Although the discipline of poverty has had its enthusiasts from time immemorial, want and worry roar throughout the book as the most sinister monsters among us.

Buy a signed copy of Angle’s Share