* * * * *Blurb:
Seventeen-year old Brigid O'Flynn is an outcast. A chance encounter with the Faerie Queen left her tainted in the eyes of the villagers, who blame the Faerie for the village’s missing women and children. Desperate to win the village’s acceptance Brigid agrees to marry her childhood friend: Serious, hardworking, Connell Mackenna. But when Connell disappears before their wedding Brigid's hopes are shattered. Blamed for her fiancé’s death, Brigid fears she will suffer the same fate as the other village outcasts, the mysterious Willow Women. Lured into Liradon by their inhuman lovers, and cast out weak and broken, the Willow Women spend their lives searching for the way back into Faerie. When Connell suddenly reappears Brigid is overjoyed, but everything is not as it seems. Consumed by his desire for beauty and celebration, Connell abandons his responsibilities, and Brigid soon finds herself drawn into a passionate, dangerous world of two.
When Brigid discovers the truth behind Connell's transformation she’s forced to choose between two men and two worlds. Brigid’s struggle leads her into glittering, ruthless Liradon where she must rescue her true love from a terrible sacrifice or lose him forever.
Brigid left the comforting warmth of Cook’s kitchen and re-entered the great hall, transformed now into a huge sleeping chamber for the household staff. She stepped carefully over the small bodies of the pages huddled against one another for warmth on the straw-covered floor. Where had the children come from? She hoped they had not been abandoned and left to the care of Lord Osin. She could not imagine a worse fate for any child.
The smell of unwashed bodies combined with the lingering scent of grease from so many rich dishes hung unpleasantly in the air, and Brigid was glad when she was finally outside breathing in the night air, cool and sharp. She put her hands in the pocket of her gown, a sprig of St. John’s Wort brushing against her fingertips; more of her mother’s protections. But it was not the Fair Folk she feared. Lord Osin filled her thoughts. How long did he mean to stay at the manor? If it were only a short time, she might find ways to avoid him. And then, as if summoned by her fear, Lord Osin’s stocky figure stepped out from behind the gatehouse. He must have been waiting for her in the Porter’s lodge.
"My lord," Brigid said, the words tumbling over one another. Her legs trembled beneath her, making a curtsey impossible.
"Why so frightened, Brigid? I am not a stranger to you, and yet you cower as though I were a robber come upon you in the wood. Have I not always been kind to you?"
"Yes, my lord. You are very kind. I am just . . . surprised."
Lord Osin reached out his hand and let it rest against her cheek. The sensation should not have been unpleasant, the lord’s hands being soft, white, and unblemished, so different from Connell’s hands that were red and raw from hauling heavy sacks of grain. And yet the lord’s touch made the bile rise in her stomach. His hand was heavy on her cheek, his fingers too thick and fleshy. She longed to push him away, but feared making any movement that might spur him into further action.
Finally, the lord took his hand away. "Why do you not stay in the great hall with the rest of the servants? Surely your mother will not be expecting you so late."
"I don’t mind the walk," she said. "And my mother will not sleep until I am safely home, so with my lord’s leave, I really must—"
Lord Osin moved his hand to the cloth she wore around her head, his fingers searching for the fastening that held it in place. "Why do you wear your hair covered? You have such beautiful hair," he muttered. "I have never seen such brightness. Not even the ladies at court with their jewelled combs and pearl nets have such lovely hair."
Released from its covering, her hair spilled down her back. A hot fiery ball of panic exploded inside her chest, pushing out every other feeling, even the need for obedience that she had been born to.
She tried to pull away, but Lord Osin held her fast by the hair.
"Please, I must go," she said.
"You shall go when I say you shall go. And here I thought you were a clever girl. Do you not understand that you live and breathe at my pleasure? Have you not thought how I might help you?" He released his hold on her hair and spoke softly, almost gently. "Your mother receives a widow’s pension. If I am of a mind to make it so, there is no reason she might not be given more." He watched her face carefully. "Or less."
Brigid stared at Lord Osin. How could she have been foolish enough to think she was different? That she could find a way to refuse one for whom refusal was as impossible a notion as hunger?
Lord Osin pushed his face so close to hers she could smell the meat and wine on his breath. "I was right. You are very like a deer. The look in your eyes. . . it is the very same as that of the doe I took down this morning. As proof of my kindness and generosity, I shall give you leave to think on what I’ve said. Perhaps when we see each other again, there will be a new understanding between us?"
Lord Osin did not wait for a reply. In one swift movement, he swung open the manor gate and shoved her towards it. "Goodnight, Brigid."
* * * * *About Adrienne Clarke:
Adrienne has previously published short stories in The Storyteller, Beginnings Magazine, New Plains Review, and in the e-zines A Fly in Amber, Grim Graffiti, Les Bonnes Fees, The Altruist, The Devilfish Review, and Rose Red Review. Her short story, Falling was awarded second place in the 2008 Alice Munro short fiction contest. To Dance in Liradon is her first published novel.
An avid reader of fairy tales and other magical stories, a thread of the mysterious or unexpected runs through all of her work. When she’s not writing, Adrienne can be found searching for faeries along with her daughters Callista and Juliet.
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To Dance in Liradon / Available from