Before the Fire is a radically different spin on the historic fiction novel. It is a true story, written in a narrative style, from the recollections of the protagonist, Southern belle and debutante, Miss Vivienne Marchand. Inspiration is taken from dreams, visions and other “near-miss”, déjà vu moments, experienced by the author, Maya Garcia.
Before the Fire traverses the South, as the reader follows Vivienne from her father’s plantation in Louisiana, to the Virginia estate of her beloved Benjamin Hollis, with whom she meets by chance for the first time whilst making her ‘debut’ in France, her parents’ homeland. During the day she leads a privileged life of soirees, teas and dances, with a hidden undercurrent of tension, as she conspires at night with Benjamin and others to facilitate one of the greatest secret human heists in history; the Underground Railroad.
Following closely behind, but by no means tagging along, are her younger sister, L’ilien, and Benjamin’s elder brother, Alfred, who have also entwined themselves in a love match.
The story begins with the growing love between Benjamin and Vivienne, as he pursues her in secret, testing the waters and overcoming his shyness before finally approaching the star of his dreams. There are obstacles along the way, and rivals for his affection, namely from a childhood friend, the malicious Clarissa Davidson, with whom his father, Jonathan, has arranged a match, unbeknownst to him. The love story between Benjamin and Vivienne is one for the ages, and it will inspire the reader to believe that anything is possible where true love is concerned; even overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles!
Before the Fire is a tale of life, love and fraternity, but it is also about the pursuit of justice in a wildly unjust time. As the winds of the Civil War swoop down upon the happy couples, their bonds are tested to the limit as families and communities are divided between North and South, slavery and anti-slavery sentiments. Mere business rivals become arch enemies as their mettle is tested. The animosity between rival shipping tycoons Benjamin Hollis and Henry Farnsworth reaches fever pitch as the war rages around them. What started out as shady business practices by Farnsworth escalates into an all-out, personal assault against the entire Hollis family, and all of Benjamin’s well-kept secrets are in danger of being exposed.
Benjamin, a staunch Abolitionist will fight to the death if necessary to keep his alliances a secret, if not his sentiments, if only to protect those for whom he is fighting, but Farnsworth has it in for him, as you will see in the ensuing text.