Monday, February 21, 2022

Stark differences between haves and have-nots highlighted in this historical fiction novel


However Long the Day

by Justin Reed

Genre: Historical Fiction 

However Long the Day is the tale of two strangers—Niall Donovan, a poor immigrant from Ireland, and Frederick Philips, a rich ne'er-do-well from New York's Upper East Side—who discover they look so similar they could be twins. Frederick, desperate to avoid a lecture from his father, bribes Niall to switch places for the evening. Niall finds there's more to the story than Frederick let on, and is dragged through the turbulence created by World War I, the Spanish Flu, and social upheaval, and into the corrupt belly of Manhattan on the cusp of Prohibition.

As Niall and Frederick hurtle through the next twenty-four hours, will either get what they bargained for?

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Niall sprang from his stool and ran. He reached the door in the shadows in four strides, turned his body, and grabbed the knob with his bound hands. Mrs. Barneby didn’t move. Niall ripped the door open and bounded across the threshold.

Niall barreled into a man holding a club across his chest. The man bounced Niall back into the room and stepped into the doorway. Niall fell back with a grunt. He lay still for a moment, rolled on his side, and stood up. He bared his teeth to prove the blow hadn’t hurt him, like he did on the hurling pitch back home.

Come back, Mr. Philips. You are not going anywhere,” Mrs. Barneby said.

Niall glared at Barneby, then at the man with the club.

Mr. Philips, belligerence will cost you dearly. I advise you to struggle to your feet—oh! you’re already standing—I advise you to make your way back to your seat, before I ask my man to swing the bat,” Mrs. Barneby said.

The man tapped the tapered club against his hand, and grinned. Niall scowled, and trudged back to the stool.

Finally, an ounce of restraint!” Barneby said. “If only you had exercised such wisdom earlier today. There would be no need for our tête-à-tête—and at such an inconvenient moment. My enterprises are expanding, Mr. Philips, and you’ve provoked me on the eve of greatness. Your villainy cannot go unpunished, but I will not allow it to distract. Justice, therefore, must be swift.”

Mrs. Barneby picked up something next to her chair and stood. The object in her hand—a slender cane switch, with a handle on one end and menacing leather straps on the other—was a riding crop.

Do you know what this is, Mr. Philips? I can’t imagine you do. Your father so badly wants to join the club—something about furthering his ambitions—and he’s sought my sponsorship on more than one occasion, but I’ve been forced to reject his pleas for obvious reasons. How he manages to keep your family in that townhouse at all strains the imagination. And your mother! What a disgrace! Don’t blush, young man, you must know what’s said about her. She deliberately flaunts herself and her ridiculous ideals all over New York. And her destiny is to fail. If a woman wants power, she must seize it.”

Mrs. Barneby slammed the crop on the table. The vast room echoed with the threat. Niall swallowed. Barneby grinned and walked a lazy circle around him. When she disappeared behind him, Mrs. Barneby slapped the stool leg with the crop.

Now you know how a cornered animal feels. Now you have some idea how my Daisy felt when you captured her,” Mrs. Barneby said as she took several more steps.

Niall clenched his jaw, and his breaths came in heavy, enraged huffs through his nose. The bindings on Niall’s hands were so tight he could barely move his arms.

You, at the door, put down your bat and get over here—"

The man dropped the baseball bat and sprang forward. Barneby handed him the crop.

“—you have the honor of softening him up.”

Barneby glided in front of Niall with a wicked grin, and rough grit in her eyes.

The crop whistled, and Niall’s calf ignited like it had been branded with an iron. He growled into the gag and jerked his leg away from his torturer and the implement. The stool toppled, and Niall fell to the carpet. Barneby chuckled and stood over Niall as he curled on his side.

I’m not Frederick Philips,” he said, but Mrs. Barneby failed to understand.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” Mrs. Barneby said. “Do you believe that, boy?”

Niall glared at Wilhelmina Barneby.

Yes, so do I,” Barneby said. Niall's face relaxed, but Barneby chuckled.

Which is why,” Barneby said, “I also believe the inverse. Cursed are the merciless, for they shall forfeit mercy.”

Niall tensed every muscle in his body as a shadow raised up above him.

Justin Reed lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and four children. He was a software engineer and executive for fifteen years before he began his writing career. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, volunteering at his church, fly fishing, and agreeing to his wife’s requests to take selfies in front of libraries.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this! I can't wait to read this book! Love the cover art as well. :)