Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Marty Ambrose's "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.

About A Shadowed Fate:
Florence. July, 1873. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the 'haunted summer of 1816' Byron/Shelley circle, is reeling from the series of events triggered by the arrival of Michael Rossetti two weeks before, which culminated in a brutal murder and a shocking revelation from her old friend, Edward Trelawny. Her calm life in Italy has been changed forever.

Stunned by her betrayal at the hands of those closest to her, Claire determines to travel to the convent at Bagnacavallo near Ravenna to learn the true fate of Allegra, her daughter by Lord Byron—a journey that would allow Claire to lay her tumultuous past to rest. But the valuable Cades sketch given to her by Rossetti is stolen, and Claire soon finds herself shadowed at every turn and in increasing danger as she embarks on her quest.

Is the theft linked to Allegra, and can Claire uncover what really happened in Ravenna so many years ago?
Here Ambrose dreamcasts an adaptation of A Shadowed Fate:
As a theatre minor in college, I always imagined how different actors might play the characters in my favorite books; and, needless to say, I’ve thought quite a bit about who might portray my major characters on the big screen. Although I write about mostly larger-than life actual literary figures from the nineteenth century, I still think there are actors who could play them with depth and complexity.

My heroine, Claire Clairmont is probably the most challenging because in my historical mysteries she is both a young woman of seventeen and an older woman in her early 70s. So, I always imagined her as being played by two actors. I would cast Jessica Brown Findlay as a young Claire. She is the British actress who played Sybil in Downton Abbey, and I think she captures the rebellious quality and the intense romantic longings that are so much a part of Claire as a young woman. The older Claire would have to be played by Helen Mirren, of course. A grande dame. She has that classy and worldly, yet spirited aspect that defines Claire in her later years. Still youthful in a timeless way, Mirren would be a perfect choice to show how age hasn’t dimmed Claire’s impulsivity or joie de vivre.

Lord Byron would also be a difficult casting choice. He is portrayed in my novel only during his exile years in his twenties and early thirties, so it would have to be an actor who can capture this stage in this brilliant poet’s life. I think Theo James would fit the bill perfectly. He looks quite a bit like the portraits of Byron—darkly handsome, but with a brooding quality. He is a classically-trained actor who has appeared as Sydney in Jane Austen’s Sanditon, a character who has a Byronic essence about him: romantic, mysterious, and compelling. I think James’s powerful physical presence could bring to life this time in Byron’s life when he was moving from a poet to a man of action during the Italian revolutionary movement but, also, he would be able to maintain a certain refined quality. I’d love to see him take on this role.

My third main character is Edward Trelawny—a dashing figure who has been a part of Claire’s life for decades. He was a soldier, a writer, and bon vivant. And he has loved Claire his entire life. I would like to see Jeremy Irons play this aging hero. The actor has a world-weary ethos, as well as wistful idealism about him. Trelawny is the one man who Claire can always depend on, and Irons could embody the qualities of a steadfast lover who has been loyal throughout his relationship with her. Irons just shines in historical drama with his elegant, British persona.

I can only hope that a casting director would like these choices ... and let me play a walk-on, so I could meet all of these amazing actors.
Visit Marty Ambrose's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Shadowed Fate.

--Marshal Zeringue