Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Tainted Dawn - a novel by B.N. Peacock

August 1789. The Rights of Man.
Liberty. Equality. Idealism. Patriotism.
A new age dawns.
And yet, old hostilities persist: England and Spain are on the brink of war. France, allied by treaty with Spain, readies her warships. Three youths – the son of an English carpenter, the son of a naval captain, and the son of a French court tailor – meet in London, a chance encounter that entwines their lives ever after. The English boys find themselves on the same frigate bound for the Caribbean. The Frenchman sails to Trinidad, where he meets an even more zealous Spanish revolutionary. As diplomats in Europe race to avoid conflict, war threatens to explode in the Caribbean, with the three youths pitted against each other.

Today I am pleased to welcome B.N. Peacock, a fellow Fireship Press author who is here to talk about her novel A Tainted Dawn, the first the Great War series.

Once upon a time all good things seemed possible. By 1789, after almost 2,000 years, democracy, government of the people, by the people, and for the people, was once again a reality. The successful American Revolution had made it so. Elsewhere, as in France, men of like minds yearned to create their own utopias. Kings would govern, if govern they still did, but by right not might. All men were created equal. All men were meant to be free. All men were meant to be brothers. Anything seemed possible. To paraphrase the poet Wordsworth, it was bliss to be alive then, ah, but to be young was very heaven.

The problem with utopias, though, is that civilizations, like nations, like individuals, carry a lot of existing baggage. A Tainted Dawn, the first book in my Great War series (as the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars were originally called) shows how that bright dawn of liberty and equality, not to mention fraternity, was compromised from the start. It follows the lives of three young men: Edward Deveare, an upper class Englishman, Jemmy Sweetman, a working class Englishman who later becomes an American, and Louis Saulnier, a middle class Frenchman.

Like the ideals of revolution, the story begins in the countries which birthed them, England and France. A for brotherhood, these two nations had been enemies for centuries, as are Edward and Louis. Temporarily at peace with England, France is tempted to come to the aid of her ally, Spain, when Spain contests English trading in the Pacific Northwest, her colonial territories. Because England, France, and Spain also have colonies in the Caribbean, hostilities carry over there as well. War hangs in the balance. As for the rest of Europe, several wars over who owned or should own certain lands play out per usual. Additionally, in France and England, people are at odds about the proposed reforms to the French government. Zero down for brotherhood.

Next we have liberty. From America and France, its heady perfume was spreading to the Spanish South American colonies. Revolution there will be some years in the making, but already the seed was being sown. Louis jumps at the chance to champion its cause there, notably with the Venezuelan character, Juan de Mendoza. Edward, of course, opposes Louis, despite his family’s Whig background. The Whigs were the English political party which championed American rights, such representation in Parliament. Many Whigs, like Charles James Fox, a family friend, supported the American colonies even during hostilities with England. Jemmy, having liberated himself from the British navy, has a difficult time understanding how these concepts apply to him. As to the liberties of slaves in all three nations, not to mention the newly formed United States, or the liberties of those who disagree with the prevailing political parties, or the liberties of nations soon to become European colonies, ah, well, we won’t go there.

Lastly, we have equality. For Edward, as for other Whigs, equality rested on class and property. Edward is a gentleman. His equals, therefore, are other gentlemen, not, God forbid, common seamen, even those who help him and saved his life. The framers of the U. S. constitution agreed with such sentiments, for they also were influenced by the Whig political thought. Frenchman Louis enthusiastically proclaims liberty’s virtues among Trinidadian slaves. That there will be a vicious backlash against the slaves who support him eludes Louis. Back in England, Jemmy watches as his family is destroyed by injustice, for which Edward’s family is partially responsible. As Jemmy flees England, he finally grasps the meaning of the things he’s heard, first from Louis, then from American sailors. Despite what others think, he’s just as good as anyone else, even Edward and his family. An empty gesture, given the circumstances, but perhaps equality is best perceived from the bottom up, and not the top down.

No one person, no one country, has a monopoly on ideals, much less utopia. That is the premise of my book. To find out more about Edward, Louis, Jemmy, and their world, read A Tainted Dawn.

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