Book: The Emerald Dress, set in Dublin, 1719.

Emerald Dress

I’m delighted to announce that my debut historical fiction novel The Emerald Dress, set in Dublin in 1719, released on September 1st 2019, and is available for purchase in Irish bookstores and online worldwide here

Listen to my radio interview on the history and inspiration behind The Emerald Dress with Pat Kenny on The Pat Kenny Show on NewsTalk FM here.


Lucy Young travels to Dublin to search for her ancestor Hugh Gavin who emigrated from Dublin to Boston in 1720. She brings with her a 300- year-old diary written by the Duchess of Alden of Boden Castle, Dublin. When Lucy contacts Professor Patrick Ralley of Trinity College Dublin to donate the Alden diary to the university, she asks for his help to research Hugh Gavin’s life and her family’s possible connection to the castle. In their search they will uncover a secret that has lain hidden for three hundred years.

DUBLIN, 1719

Abigail Harton’s father is a medical doctor who has used the last of his family’s savings to fund a charitable hospital in the city. He has saved the lives of the wife and son of the Duke of Alden in childbirth and hopes that the Duke will provide an annuity to support his work.

Meanwhile Abigail and her mother must use their considerable talent at embroidery to provide for the household, and Abigail designs an emerald-silk damask cloth for weaver Hugh Gavin. She also accepts work from Hugh’s sister Mary to embroider a dress made from the cloth, which has been commissioned by Miss Elizabeth Goulding to be worn at the upcoming Duke of Alden’s Ball at Boden Castle.

But an event occurs at Boden Castle the night of the ball that will lie secret for the next three hundred years, until Lucy and the Professor uncover the secret of the emerald dress.


Flash fiction: A Quarter Pound of Tea

First published in the Fish Anthology 2016

I’ll never forget that nFish Anthology 2016ight Jack Devlin came into the shop. There were dark bruises on his face and neck, right down to where his shirt buttons opened. He was big for his age, but then his father was a big man too.

‘Hello Jack,’ I said.
‘Can I have a loaf of bread and a quarter pound of tea?’ he asked, and started to pick up imaginary crumbs from the counter. He was twelve years old, and in the year above me in school.
I measured out the tea leaves using the shop scale as he stood waiting.
‘That’ll be sixpence,’ I said and began to wrap the bread for him.
‘My Mam says that you’ll give us credit.’ His voice was quiet.
My mother had never given credit to the Devlins because she knew they never paid. But I couldn’t bear that if I called her down, she might start shouting at him. So I nodded my head, and handed him the tea and bread over the counter.
‘Molly, who is down there?’ Mammy asked from upstairs.
‘No-one Mam. I was just going to look out at the sky.’ I walked to the door and shuffled him outside.
‘You and that bloody sky,’ she said, ‘lock up now before any of those Devlin boys come down.’
‘Yes Mam,’ I said. I smiled at him then and locked the door behind me.

© Vivienne Kearns

Festival: Fish Anthology 2016 Launch at the West Cork Literary Festival

© Vivienne Kearns

Fish Anthology 2016

This year I entered the Fish Flash Fiction competition with ‘A Quarter Pound of Tea’ and was delighted to be selected as a finalist by flash fiction judge Nuala O’Connor.

With over 5,000 entries in the four Fish competition categories, my submission was one of 40 pieces published in this year’s Fish Anthology 2016, edited by Clem Cairns, which can be purchased here. The 40 pieces published in the anthology comprises the 10 finalists from each of the four Fish competition categories; short story, flash fiction, short memoir and poetry.

I was also invited to read ‘A Quarter Pound of Tea’ at the anthology’s official launch at the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry, Co. Cork on July 20th, made possible by Clem and the Fish team who publish the anthology each year.

Continue reading “Festival: Fish Anthology 2016 Launch at the West Cork Literary Festival”

Short Story: Gamine

© Vivienne Kearns

It’s early September and the plane touches down in Colombian heat. Humidity is high as Xavier walks down the small flight of steps, trying to cope with the midday sun as it blazes hard in the sky. The ground shimmers beneath.

His agent has telephoned ahead to let the media know that he is coming. Xavier thinks of his wife and daughter back home, wondering if he has done the right thing, spending this time away from them. He continues to sweat in the blissful AC coolness of the airport terminal building. His friend Miguel smiles. Miguel has travelled back with him, as support for this one last visit to Colombia before he retires. They peer into the brilliant light of the afternoon before heading out.

Two reporters show, one young, the other an old hack, his suit crumpled in the heat. Xavier attempts to walk past them. He does not want this scrutiny, but the young reporter coughs for attention.

Continue reading “Short Story: Gamine”

Short Story: Hidden

© Vivienne Kearns

I wander through the grounds, a rag doll swinging in my hand.  Her hair trails on the soft rolling slopes of the green lawn below.  There is nothing to do here in summer. My private tutor Magali has left, deserting me to my mother and grandmother. The low fog of daylight obscures the castle behind.

The giant round stone structure blocks my view of the sea.  I hear horses pulling their cargo on the highway, farmers travelling to trade their produce in the village, and families passing by with echoes of laughter on their way to the fair.  Continue reading “Short Story: Hidden”

Short Story: Escape

© Vivienne Kearns

I awake in his house. Ice melts and crackles on the inside pane as it slides down to a sill full of stagnant water. Fully clothed, I lift myself off the floor and walk stiffly to the bedroom window, hugging my arms for warmth. The sky holds snow.

I turn to watch my two sons sleeping on the bed at the other side of the room, not wanting to wake them, but we have to leave soon.  A sharp sound comes from outside and I see dogs nuzzling at the metal dustbins for food. I shake the boys awake. Ardan, the eldest, dresses hastily, but Liam turns slowly and I have to drag him from beneath the covers. When they are ready I open the bedroom door. The house is silent so we venture out and creep down the worn carpeted stairway and into the grey winter’s light. Continue reading “Short Story: Escape”

Review: Writing Historical Fiction

© Vivienne Kearns

If you are writing historical fiction, you may be interested in taking Dr. Séamus Ó Maitiú’s Dublin-based Lord Mayor’s Certificate in Local Studies course which runs from September to April on Tuesday evenings at Pearse Street Library. The course will give you a clear overview of the Irish resources and reference materials available to historical researchers. I completed the course in April 2014 and found it extremely useful for my own historical novel research.  Continue reading “Review: Writing Historical Fiction”