Book Description: "The characters are memorable, the suspense is visceral and the swashbuckling set pieces are as compelling and well described as the quieter moments of inner conflict and moral dilemma." (Publishers Weekly) --This text refers to the manuscript reviewed as a part of the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.
Set in 1790, A Cruel Harvest tells the epic tale of Orlaith and Brannon, young lovers whose futures are jeopardized when Moorish pirates raid their Irish fishing village. Orlaith and her infant son manage to escape the savage attack, but Brannon is captured. Thrown into the hold of the pirates’ ship, the young farmer is spirited away to the harsh confines of North Africa. There he is sold into slavery and forced to serve in the army of the sadistic Sultan of Morocco. Back in Ireland, a heartbroken Orlaith faces certain ruin unless she agrees to marry wealthy landowner Randall Whitely. But Whitely is a cruel man, and life with him quickly becomes a waking nightmare. Though separated by thousands of miles, Orlaith and Brannon draw on their great love to challenge the oppression of the tyrants keeping them apart. Stretching from the windswept coast of Ireland to the sun-baked hills of Morocco, A Cruel Harvest is a thrilling novel of adventure, survival, and once-in-a-lifetime love.
Amazon Exclusive: Maeve Binchy Reviews A Cruel Harvest Maeve Binchy is the author of numerous bestselling books, including The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club, Heart and Soul, Nights of Rain and Stars, Quentins, Scarlet Feather, Circle of Friends, and Tara Road, which was an Oprah's Book Club® selection. She has written for Gourmet, O, The Oprah Magazine, Modern Maturity, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. She and her husband, Gordon Snell, live in Dalkey, Ireland, and London. Read her exclusive guest review of Paul Reid's A Cruel Harvest:
They don’t come more swashbuckling than this. Eyes flashing, swords glinting, heads falling... and ships landing in the South of Ireland in 1790 to scoop up strong, lusty Irish lads for the slave trade. None lustier and braver than young farmer Brannbron Ryan, who is swept off to Morocco one dark night and away from the love of his life, Orlaith Downey, a virtuous and beautiful young widow with a small son to support.
These were hard times to be poor in Ireland; it was fifty years before the Great Famine but the harvests were scant and the living was far from easy.
Orlaith was finding it harder and harder to pay the rent, the man she loved had been swept away to the hot burning sands of Morocco, so the inevitable happens. Orlaith is beautiful and virtuous, and the wicked landlord thinks of a way that she can pay the rent. And it involves her becoming his wife.
So, with a heavy heart, Orlaith becomes Mrs. Randall Whitely, and she and her son go to live in the Big House. Where, as you might expect, they don’t know a moment’s happiness. All the time she holds a little hope that the brave Brannon may still be alive and well and planning to come back to Ireland and find her. But as time goes by this becomes more and more unlikely.
Meanwhile we follow Brannon’s terrifying life in North Africa, where he is sold into slavery, then forced to become a soldier of the sultan of Morocco, his days filled with the sounds and smells of war and violence.
The book alternates between the two worlds: Brannon fighting his way through more and more disasters, Orlaith afraid she will wither in the unloving home of the husband whom she can never love.
The tension is very well maintained and the pace alternates between the clock ticking slowness of Orlaith’s life with its ever increasing unhappiness in Ireland, and the violent, dangerous escapades of Brannon Ryan as he tries to negotiate for the freedom to go back and find the woman he loves.
The enemies of Orlaith and Brannon become our enemies as the book goes on. We yearn for a way they can get together, but it seems fraught with problems.
They asked for so little compared to all the people they have had to be embroiled with. They didn’t want big castle estates in Ireland nor tribal dominance in Africa. Surely these brave people must find each other again?
Readers will stay to the very last page of the story to know how it works out.
An impressive first novel by Paul Reid that will keep the reader's attention from start to finish. --Maeve Binchy
A Q&A with Author Paul Reid Question:
Tell us about your inspiration for writing A Cruel Harvest
--where does one get the idea for Moroccan pirates to invade a quiet Irish port town? Is there real history behind the storyline?
Paul Reid: This story found me rather than the other way round. Some years back I was staying in the coastal village of Baltimore in West Cork, and I came across a pub called the Algiers Inn, which is a rather unusual name for a pub in rural Ireland to say the least. So I made inquiries and discovered an extraordinary historical incident, where over a hundred villagers had been kidnapped by pirates in the year 1631, literally seized from their beds. They were taken to Algeria and sold as slaves, most of them never to be heard of again. I was stunned to learn that such a thing had happened in my own county. Further research unearthed many incidences of Irish and British peoples being taken as slaves for the North African market. It was from there that I started to formulate the idea for a novel, which eventually became A Cruel Harvest. It is set much later, in 1790, and the Sultan of Morocco at the time had an Irish mother. Moroccans describe him through history as the "Mad Sultan," for he was a very violent and unpredictable man. It was useful to work him into the story.
Question: How did you create the characters of Brannon and Orlaith? Did you base them on people in your own life? Which of the two is your favorite?
Paul Reid: The characters are entirely fictional, even though the story of the slave raid itself was based on truth. Brannon came to me early on, and it was through him that I wanted to relay the whole experience of being taken captive and sold into a foreign country. But I also had an urge to keep some of the story in Ireland, and thus Orlaith introduced herself. The idea of a romance between the two quickly took root. I admit Orlaith would be my favourite of the pair. She has to face her own battles, different to Brannon's but just as horrendous. She also has the added turmoil of trying to protect her son from the gathering threats around them, yet she keeps strong and keeps fighting and I admire her for that.
Question: You were born and raised in Cork in Ireland and live there to this day. What are some of your favorite haunts in and around your hometown?
Paul Reid: I am an outdoors-y kind of person and I'm lucky enough to live on the coast. The sea has always inspired me. It seems to have a haunting, solemn wisdom, as if to say it knows far more than we do. The harbour passage beside my house is where the Titantic made its final stop to take on passengers, and there are many other places of historical interest within Cork. My fiancee Rhona and I will often take a drive at random and find ourselves exploring some ruined castle or braving a stretch of wild cliffs. The county is rich that way, and the famous scenery of West Cork in particular always draws us, where we spend a lot of time in the summers. Outside of that I love to visit the area around Skeenarinky in Tipperary, where my mother's family hail from. It's a place of green glens and mountain lakes and beautiful wooded hillsides. I do a lot of writing there.
Question: You haven’t always lived in Ireland, though for awhile you worked as a ranch hand in the Australian Outback. What was that like and how did you end up there?
Paul Reid: It was hot and sweaty! I took a job on a farm in Queensland after I had been living in Sydney for some months, where I had pretty much blown all my money and was facing starvation, eviction, etc., unless I got my act together. The farm was quite an experience. I had never ridden a horse before in my life, but yet by the second day I was mustering cattle on horseback like a regular cowboy. Half of the cattle are probably still lost, of course. It was gruelling work. But great fun.
Question: What’s next from you?
Paul Reid: I'm currently working on another historical novel, this time set in Dublin and London during the Anglo/Irish War 1919-1921. It's something of a challenge, given the burdened history between Ireland and England, but I'm not a writer with an agenda so I aim to just let the characters speak their own minds.