AN UNEQUAL MARRIAGE

The story opens in 1916. The world is at war, Irish freedom fighters have just staged an armed rebellion in Dublin, and the three characters we first met in Her Secret Rose are deeply unsettled. The world famous poet, WB Yeats, “having come to 50 years” has decided it’s high time he was married and, by coincidence, the 1916 Rising has just made a widow of the love of his life, Maud Gonne. Maud’s thoughts are more political than personal. She is frantic to get to Ireland to join the freedom fighters there. While her daughter, Iseult, now 23 years old and as beautiful as her mother was at that age, longs for love, escape, and artistic achievement.

As three talented mavericks try to redeem their past against a background of escalating war and revolution, can they rise to what they truly need from each other? This novel is narrated by Rosy Cross, a working-class Irish woman, who’s spent her life investigating the involvement of these people in the infamous murder of her sister.

This is another snippet from my work in progress, Dancing in the Wind. If you’d like to receive a monthly extract, and contribute to the writing of this book, check out my Patreon Fiction Membership

Until next time, happy reading!

x Orna

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Maud and Willie lie, comfortable companions, on the sun-drenched terrace. They can see Delaney and Seán in the distance, down by the water. Iseult is still in her room.

A breeze tugs softly at Willie’s hair. It is so pleasant here, after London. He can smell the scent of the sand, the clean fragrance of water, the slight hint of Maud Gonne’s perfume, the bergamot and lavender scent she wears at her temples and pulse points. But poor Iseult, his new accomplice. He feels like he has deserted her.

Willie opens one eye. “It’s been more than twelve hours now, and without food. Should someone not go to her”?

“Certainly not.”

“My dear, she would not be human if she did not object to this lionising of MacBride”.

“This is our opportunity to put the sordid tragedy behind us. You of all people should understand, Willie.”.

“I understand that is how you view it.”

Maud is stung. Her irritation permeates the air. She pushes herself up onto one elbow to look him in the eye. He wonders what she sees. That he is no longer the shy boy who would have happily died if she had only loved him?

He is close enough to see her scalp through hair that has thinned, the hollow of her cheek, the crisscrossing lines around eyes and mouth, marking the passage of time.

Eyes no longer bright but the palest green, and in their depths such a weariness. She is no longer young and no-one knows better than he how she has suffered.

He softens. “My dear, I have no wish for a war of wits with you.”

Nervousness rears up in him. If he is to ask, now is the time. He’s conscious of his skin, a curious sensation of it pushing against his palm and fingers.


“I hardly think you an expert on childrearing, Willie! Iseult is my daughter and…”

“And-” he interrupts, nervousness making him brave on this point as he cowers from the other. “You have asked me for protection for her. And the boy. And not for the first time”.

“She is not the fey innocent you think her. Leave her to me. Let us discuss instead this poem of yours”.

“‘Easter 1916?’ It won’t be published for a long time”.

“Afraid to upset your English friends?”

” I have noted your thoughts. For now, I must concentrate on my memoirs. I may return to it.”

“Please don’t be swayed, and let Lady Gregory ruin this poem, Willie. It is so important, perhaps the most important you will ever write. The English executions have done in a moment what you and I could not achieve for all our work years ago. Now we must seize the softened moment”.

This passion of hers. He became aware of its silent vibration, dancing on his eardrum, on that mysterious organ, his heart, as it always has. She wants to go back, but it is impossible.

Progress. “You do know that if you go back to Dublin, Maud, you shall have no peace in your life?”

“I cannot be a coward, not with the bravery of our friends before us. And Seán must be brought up in Ireland. It is his destiny”.

“And Iseult”?

Maud, exasperated, “Oh, Iseult! Iseult is unhappy and bored wherever she is.”

Willie sits up, turns on his chair so one knee is bent, looks at her intently.

Maud, laughing uncomfortably, “And what is this”?

“Maud… I think, Maud, that we should marry. For the good of the children”.


He is in a state of agonizing suspense, but it is somehow a pleasurable tension.

“Please hear me, Maud. Working on my memoir has made it clear, brought back the best of us to me. When I look death in the face, when I clamber to the heights of sleep, when I grow excited with wine, it’s your face I meet. I wrote a poem on it”.

Tears have sprung to her eyes, she is moved despite herself. “I know. “A Deep-sworn Vow.” It frightened me”.

“Because you did not keep that deep-sworn vow, I have had other friends, yes, and I had thought…”

Maud, laughing, tries to break the tension, “‘Friends!’ Even now, you cannot bring yourself to say the word ‘lover'”.

Willie, ignoring this, “I had thought at 50 years, that I must endure a lonely life. But being here again, with you and your family…Do we not have a chance now, to put all to rights”?

Maud puts her head to one side. She is surprising herself by considering it.