That Scoundrel Emile Dubois and the Sequel

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Émile Dubois: [lounging in his rich crimson dressing robe] Georges, I have news of the most tireesome. And by-the- by, mon ami, we are not alone. We are looked upon – even as we speak, so be discreet.

Georges: [clenching his fists] Merde! Do you mean, them Bow Street Runners has finally guessed who Monsieur Gilles and his Gentlemen of the Road really was and is spying on us? The sneaking bastards!  If not, never say that pig Kenrick is back yet again, and now he’s about it. [expresses himself even more coarsely].

Émile Dubois:   I have yet to learn of either of those two misfortunes. No, by news of the most tiresome, I mean that our biographer delays in recounting our adventures, in favour of one Lord Harley Venn thirty years hence.  We are watched in that we form part of  what is know as a ‘webblog post’. That is why we’re speaking English, with just a few French expressions thrown in.  That being so, mind your maledictions.

Georges: Merde! What’s maledictions?

Émile Dubois:  How you and I normally speak, when we are alone.

Georges [bristling]  What does this Viscount fellow have, that we ain’t?  And he lives in 1821? Le diable, by then we may well have gone to our final account. [uneasily] I hope Madame Sophie still prays for us every day?

Émile Dubois:  Every day, and twice on Sundays. It don’t seem to be doing a whole lot of good, though we try. After all, we haven’t ridden out to rob since we met les femmes.  This Viscount is a wicked fellow too, it seems, though highway robbery is out of fashion by his day.

highwayman_bodyGeorges: Do they have all them ebooks and weblogs in 1821?

Émile:   Non, pas tout à fait exact.  But this Viscount and his lady are new characters,        which we ain’t. I hear that there’s a generational curse, and a Hooded Spectre, and it all takes place in an isolated château.  Adventures most Gothic, enfin.

Georges:   Sad stuff compared to our fight with them green blooded monsters and both Kenrick and that Arhtur Williams coming back through that time displacement, and drawing in that pretty Éloise chit. So much for your talk, that she would only take her cross off for you.

Émile:  As for Éloise, I must take part of the blame. if I had not bitten her first, back when you and I were blood sucking monsters ourselves, she would never have agreed to be breakfast for Williams.

Georges: [strides indignantly about] It were a fine adventure, and it ain’t good enough, Monsieur Gilles. What it amounts to, is them blue stocking writer females can’t  be relied on.

Émile Dubois:  I was unaware that you ever placed an iota of faith in any blue stocking female, Georges. [solemnly] You could, come to think on it, start to pen those memoirs yourself.

Georges: [struts over to the mirror, and regards himself complacently as he rearranges his neckcloth]  I would write a fine tale, but I can’t write in that uncivilized tongue, l’Anglais.  But you can.

Émile Dubois:   Vraiment, but could my limited turn of phrase in  my second language do justice to your heroics in that adventure, Georges?

Georges: [much struck]. I think you speak true! You know, in that first history, I don’t think the female biographer spent enough time emphasizing quite how fine looking a man I am.

Émile Dubois: Perhaps she thought emphasis of your handsome looks might pain me, by contrast with my own.  Alors, you rascal, would you like to say more of that adventure, as we are speaking to your admirers?

Georges:  No. I am a modest man, and I do not care to seem boastful…

[A scratching at the door: Georges opens it. Sophie stands without, highly excited].

Sophie:  Émile, that baby is so clever. Only guess what he just said –Gaa-Gaa.

Émile:  A most profound observation, ma chère

 

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‘Child of the Erinyes’ – a Riveting Series by Rebecca Lochlann

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I first encountered Rebecca Lochlann on a Goodreads discussion, as I recall about the book ‘Ariadne’ by June Rachuy Brindel. That sadly neglected novel ‘Ariadne’ is, unsurprisingly, about Ariadne, the Cretan princess who takes Theseus as her lover and according to the legend, is separated from him at Naxos (legends vary as to the reason).

I thought that book brilliant, but in discussing it I was to come across some more books about Ancient Crete and the Minotaur legend which I consider even better.

During this discussion, Rebecca Lochlann mentioned that she was writing an epic series, the first three volumes of which are set during the 1600’s BC.. . The Bronze Age section of this far reaching tale would encompass the devastating earthquake which largely destroyed the ancient civilisation of Crete.

As the date for this earthquake is now known to pre-date the time at which Athens was an important power, though the main character Aridela was, like Ariadne, a Cretan princess, Theseus would not feature in the story as the love interest. Instead, two warring half brothers from Mycanae are rivals for her love as she becomes heir to the throne of Crete – which was then – unlike the mainland powers, a matriarchy.

The series is planned to extend from the Bronze Age to some time in the future, involving the same main characters, reincarnated as different individuals.

I was intrigued. I didn’t get the time to read the first three books in this exciting projected series for some months, but when I did I was riveted. . The books are lively, excellently written, brilliantly researched and evocative. Ancient Crete comes to life and the dramatic confrontations between these vivid and believable, yet iconic, characters are played out against a vivid depiction of the Bronze Age Greek islands.

I would recommend them to anyone interested in ancient history, historical fantasy and mythical fiction. These first three novels in this epic series, which deal with the overthrow of matriarchy in Ancient Crete are real ‘page turners’, full of conflicted loyalties, passionate love and hatred, adventure and betrayals. Besides the enthralling depiction of the terrors of the volcanic eruption and the excitement of the rivalry between the King of Mycanae’s two sons for Aridela, there is war, invasion, murder,
diplomatic intrigue, and adventure in realms outside space and time.

It’s a wonderful story and on reading it I predicted that it would become a classic and am confident that in time I will be proved right. Rumour has it that it has already been chosen as a set book for a college course already.

The characters are, as I said, true to life. You’ll love some, dislike others and detest what many of them do. My favourite was the fearless, straightforward, blonde Amazon Selene. My least favourite was Aexiaire, devoted servant to the arrogant Mycanean Prince Chrysaleon, who would do just about anything to serve his interests, including – of course – murder.

Below is the review I wrote for the first book, ‘The Year God’s Daughter’.

The story of the main characters, their passions, loyalties and fates is set against the background of the concerted attack on matriarchy in Bronze Age Greece, as typified by the ambitions of Poisedon worshipping Mycenae on the wealth and sea power of Ancient Crete, the bastion of Goddess worship.

I was drawn into this from the first, and extremely impressed by the wealth of background knowledge of ancient Knossos and Mycenae.

R Lochlann is an unobtrusive narrator, but in depicting the defeat of matriarchy, doesn’t take refuge behind a stance of ‘authorial neutrality’ covertly to endorse the brutalities of invading patrirachy; without being a hectoring, authorial presence she nevertheless clearly shows the brutality of her mainland, Poiseden worshipping princes in their attitudes towards women, the shabbiness of their motives in their attack on Goddess worship (whatever they might say to themselves of ‘putting an end to a barbaric custom’ in ending the sacrifice of the King for a Year).

There is violence in this story, but it is never gratuitous; erotic intervals too, but they aren’t written just to excite the reader but an integral part of the plot. The writing is strong throughout, and the author doesn’t flinch in portraying the full bloodiness and violence of the death of The King for a Year any more than she flinches from showing the hostility towards a women that lies behind a culture that regards the routine rape of women taken in battle as acceptable.

The characters in this story are complicated, vivid and human, their motivation often realistically hidden from themselves. Intriguing symbols decorate the chapter headings, redolent of Ancient Crete. All the archetypical factors for a story of epic grandeur are here, conquest, ambition, conflicted loyalties, love, betrayal permeate the story.

Aridela, impulsive, recklessly brave, warm hearted, sensual, idealistic, impatient of the ‘wisdom of her elders’ is a lovable heroine.

Her first love, Menoetius is a truly tragic figure, as warped internally by his subjugation to his brutal half-brother as he is scarred externally by the attack from the lioness.

Chrysaleon, hateful in his arrogance and dishonesty, impelled my reluctant respect through the force of his courage, but I hope for his come uppance later in the story.

You can buy this first book or the Bronze Age section of the fascinating series, either in book or ebook form on various outlets. Here is the Amazon.com link:

Emile and Georges as Highwaymen

Swinley Forest – once a notorious danger spot for highway robbery.

So, skipping a bit now, I come to a slight career change on the part of those two assiduous rascals, Emile Dubois and his one-time valet Georges.

They’ve escaped to the UK, and Emile’s sister Charlotte -the only one he succeeded in rescuing on the night of the riot in Provence, when their family chateau was razed – has now succumbed to the decline from which the unfortunate girl had been suffering for years.

This is tragic for Emile, but it breaks off his last tie with the need to return to respectability; he can be a determined rogue now, and indulge his carelessness with his life as much as he wants; he’s got no surviving relative to consider.

He is hardly in a frame of mind himself to let the threat of a public hanging at Tyburn deter him; and high grounded moral scruples and fear are not things Georges understands, though his inherent sense of fairness means that he is happy to join Emile in his suggestion that they help to redistribute wealth in favour of the less wealthy a little – by acting out the part of a couple of late eighteenth century Robin Hoods, robbing wealthy travellers and giving a large part of their booty away to the poor.

On the night of Charlotte’s funeral, Emile, whose unusually taciturn state worried even the less than sensitive Georges, begins to talk again. “My financial affairs are involved, Georges. A good thing my grandfather had the prescience to invest half his money in Britain, eh? I should go and rusticate at Dubois Court in Buckinghamshire, fending off creditors with my tongue. Frankly, the thought does not appeal. Recollect you our fellow ruffian’s mention of one Mr Kit, living in Brentford…”

They soon set up a business concern with Mr Kit, and are joined by a man called Tom, who tries to rival them in gallantry towards the ladies, of the sort ascribed to highwaymen so often in legend, though not unfortunately, so often true in real life.

Of course, they have to watch out for patrols, ever more frequent in the 1790’s, and turnpikes are the bane of their lives, but they manage to escape from serious trouble until one night when they are surprised by a group of soldiers, and Tom is killed being dragged from his bolting horse…

News from Citizen Gilles

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Georges’ piratical lieutenant isn’t able to make any money by letting Gilles Longlegs know where the blonde Englishwoman has gone. She seems to have vanished completely.

A couple of weeks later, Georges is in his room behind the workshop which serves as a necessary cover for his activities, entertaining two women once again (perhaps this time one of them won’t pass out).

People  might call them ‘Women of Easy Virtue’  or ‘Women of the Night’ but women have to make a living as best they can, particularly in times of social upheaval. Anyway, he sits with them perched one on each knee, and as the dark one of is a  strapping girl he is even more proud than usual of his strong legs, heavily muscled like the rest of him. He has a hand on the blonde girl’s knee and is surreptitiously pinching the dark girl’s bottom.

He’s interrupted by a small boy running in, and glances down slightly irritated. “Yes, boy?”

“Citizen Gilles said to give you this.”

“Oh, did he?” Georges huffs. “If he thinks that I am coming to terms so easy over the cooked meat shop…”

The girls are all admiration at the ease with which he scans the note, but can tell from his dilated eyes and quickened breathing that the news isn’t good.

“Is it heavy news?” The dark girl is caressing his chest. “You read?”

The note says, ‘The truffles were gone before I knew of it.”

Georges flashes his white teeth in a wide smile. “Reading ain’t good for you.” Certainly, after only reading one line, his mood has changed completely. He goes on, ” I must disappoint you girls – but not as much as myself.   I hope you will take a little gift from me..”

He tosses a coin too, to the gawping child. “I suppose I must talk with them others over this. Take me to Gilles”

One of the girls kisses him. “Do not be naughty and get into a dispute with him…” The other is too busy putting the money in her bosom.

Georges sees the girls out gallantly. So Emile’s parents have gone unexpectedly to the guillotine…

Southern Georges Revels in Excess ..

220px-1799-Verninac-DavidMeanwhile, Georges, Emile’s companion in roguishness and one time servant, is disporting himself – as usual in his time off from his warlord existence – in female company when he hears the news about Monsieur Gilles’ romantic misadventures from one of his lieutenants.

He’s eating onion soup, and a very voluptuous woman with Titian colouring is feeding him croutans. Another girl was with them, earlier, but having taken too much wine, she has retired to a chair in the corner to doze and giggle.

Georges finds this  bandit’s lifestyle  rather more to his taste than his life as servant in the Dubois family chateau in Provence; true, he worked for Emile – as democratic and easy going a master as he would be likely to find – but he was only a servant, reliant on his devastating profile, flashing dark eyes, curling dark hair and muscles to attract the women.

He knows that it is rumoured of him that he has bedded half the married and unmarried women in his area; of course, he hasn’t; but he swells with pride when he hears such stories.

Georges’ lieutenant  is sweaty – possibly with enthusiasm for a new project –  but more likely because it’s warm spring weather and he has no access to a bath,  and he likes to tie his head up in a scarf after the manner of a pirate, a style of headress that Georges finds ridiculous in a landsman.

“Southern, fun and games over with Gilles Long Legs’ lot; seems he was much taken with some little blonde bourgoise he took to one of them parties that that Marcel  Sly Boots keeps having, and she’s vanished.”

Georges’ eyebrows go up and he puts down his spoon. Something flickers in the depths of his eyes, perhaps, but his underling doesn’t see it and Georges returns his eyes to the girl sitting across from him, who has undone several fastenings on her dress.

“If I was him, I’d’ve kept in with that Lola. She was some woman! That bosom, that rump…”

The girl jerks her chin in annoyance, and Georges says hastily, “Nearly as good as this beauty, here…Don’t tell me you interrupted us to tell me about some minx running off from Gilles?”

“No, but he was looking for her all night, sent others out looking too. I heard all about it from My Source. Maybe he’d pay well lot to find her again.”

Georges has pulled up the woman’s skirts under the table, and is exploring underneath; she reaches across too and his voice comes out constrained. “Do him a favour, then, and see if you can find the wench…”