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Islander Marty Ambrose's latest is the beginning of a trilogy

August 29, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Marty Ambrose, author of five Mango Bay Mysteries, has turned her attention from local murder mystery to historical fiction with her newest release, "Claire's Last Secret." This new novel is the first book in a trilogy.

Ambrose describes the book as a "Historical Mystery about Claire Clairmont - The Last Survivor of the Byron/Shelley 'Haunted Summer.'" The books central character, Claire Clairmont, is the rebellious step-sister of Mary Shelley, author of the gothic novel "Frankenstein."

During the summer of 1816, the four central characters of the book gather at Villa Diodati in Geneva, Switzerland. Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley, Mary's husband Percy Shelley - one of the premier poets of the 19th century, and the flamboyant and notorious Lord Byron, the premier poet of the 19th century. Claire is expecting Byron's baby.

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At the time, Geneva was under a heavy cloud of ash from the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora. The previous year the volcano erupted creating a cloud of ash that disbursed around the world. By the summer of 1816, the cloud had reached Geneva and produced unusually cold temperatures with severe thunderstorms and heavy rains.

The book opens in 1873 with Claire as a 75-year-old woman, the only survivor of that 1816 summer. Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and even Claire's baby daughter, Allegra, have all died leaving her alone in the world except for her niece, Paula.

Claire is living out her final years with her niece in Florence, Italy, when she receives a letter with an intriguing proposition. A British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, is interested in purchasing Claire's personal letters from Lord Byron and Percy Shelley for a book he's writing. Nearly destitute, Claire considers the offer.

A visit from Rossetti produces a series of events linked to the summer of 1816 and Claire and Lord Byron's now deceased daughter. Following Rossetti's visit, Claire finds a mysterious note stating, "Your daughter lives."

Claire visits her parish priest and dearest friend Father Gianni to confide the secrets of her illicit affair with Lord Byron, her lost daughter and the note stating "your daughter lives." The next day the priest is murdered.

This wonderfully researched historical novel is also a mystery who-done-it. Is Claire's daughter still alive 50+ years later? Is the visit from Rossetti and the appearance of the note coincidence, or is Rossetti part of a plot? And, who murdered the priest and why was he murdered?

"Claire's Last Secret" is a departure from Ambrose' previous murder mysteries. The inspiration for the book began with a back injury that left Ambrose housebound "with nothing to do but watch the History channel and read new books, old books, any book."

"I happened to pick up Daisy Hay's biography, 'The Young Romantics,' and learned that she had found a fragment of Claire Clairmont's (Mary Shelley's stepsister) journal saying that the famous Byron/Shelley summer of "free love" in 1816 had created a 'perfect hell' for her," Ambrose said. "As I delved into Claire's life, pieces came together in my thoughts"

Ambrose displays extraordinary writing skills in this first of three books about Claire Claremont. "Claire's Last Secret" crafts history and mystery together with Claire's life of risks, tragedy, and consequences and was a great read.

Ambrose retired from teaching English and creative writing at Florida Southwestern State College. She has been a writer for most of her life and over the last 15 years has created and published her own fiction in five Mango Bay Mysteries.

"Claire's Last Secret "is published by Severn House. The book was released in the U.K. on May 31, 2018, and will be released in the United States and Canada on Sept. 1, 2018.

"Claire's Last Secret" is available at



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