Poetry, romance and murder combine in this novel about New England poet and writer Celia Thaxter (1835-1894). The intriguing windswept Isles of Shoals set the scene for Thaxter's stormy separation from her husband. Unfettered by the conventions of the time, Celia raises their backward son single-handedly, earns her living as a writer, and hosts a colony of artists at her island cottage.
Celebrated British novelist Charles Dickens dreams about her and best selling poet John Greenleaf Whittier shows more than a Platonic interest. Unchaperoned, they linger in her bedroom, dawdle at candlelit croquet and take long moonlit strolls on the beach.
A double axe murder at the Shoals and the hottest trial of the 19th century turn this charming story into a chilling who-done-it.
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Charles Dickens put down his wine glass. "On the Isles of Shoals, Mrs. Thaxter?"
"Yes, the Shoals," Celia whispered, a recent habit when she talked of the islands ten miles off the New Hampshire coast.
"Do I discern a note of homesickness?" Dickens asked, leaning toward her as if they had more in common than this brief dinner. "Tell me about them."
Celia described the nine islands, leaving hers until last. "Longfellow and Hawthorne have been there--and Harriet Beecher Stowe," she said with a sense of pride.
* * *
"Did you see the bodies, Mrs. Thaxter?" Ida asked.
"Of course not!" she answered sharply, looking at the servants huddled like vultures for the sordid details.
Ida sashayed forward. "I bet that Louis had his way with 'em first. I hear he was quite a lady's man."
The Island Queen is from a trilogy of novels that Julia Older is writing.