The strange book title comes from the poem “Sailing to Byzantium” by WB Yeats. This historical fiction tale addresses the life of a young socialite. During WWI, Georgie Hyde-Lees breaks free from maternal control and arrives in London to nurse soldiers. Through her mother’s connections she meets WB Yeats, the famous poet many years her senior. Interested in the occult, Georgie enlists Yeats’ help in securing an invitation into the Order (The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn). The author’s descriptions of a young woman trapped by conventional society’s rules and expectations are well drawn. Georgie falls for Yeats, but the reader remains hard pressed to understand the attraction Georgie exhibits. Certainly, he treats her poorly throughout their relationship. At the time of their meeting, WB struggles with his professional writing career faltering.
Presented with the option of another suitor, an officer who is her contemporary and a suitable match, Georgie sends him packing. Regardless that her mother and friends warn her that Yeats still loves a woman from his past (Maud Gonne), headstrong Georgie doggedly pursues Yeats. Yeats strings her along through his reconnection with Maud and then Maud’s daughter, Isesult.
Georgie’s stubbornness eventually pays off. Turned down by everyone else, Yeats finally marries Georgie. Neither are happy in the marriage but to keep Yeats’ attention (at least for a while), Georgie takes up automatic writing. Very keen to engage in all things esoteric, Yeats focuses just enough on his wife. That satisfies Georgie even though she knows she’s perpetrating a fraud. Eventually, Yeats’ poems benefit from the pursuit of the greater unknown.
Having read the reviews on Amazon after reading the book, most people agree the writing is exceptional, although the pacing suffers in a few places. The depiction of the period and societal constraints are interesting and well done. My biggest gripe is that the book is basically a very sad, one-sided romance. I had hoped for a journey into a mystical world of secret societies where Georgie actually had some PSI ability. At least on that level, she might have shared a connection with the older poet. Apparently not, she duped her husband for years if this fiction reflects reality.
I wanted to read this book immediately after I read the premise.
Jac L’Etoile is a successful author and TV personality who hosts a show about myths. She comes from a long line of famous French perfumers, but she’s walked away from the business. It’s not until the business is in trouble and her brother goes missing in Paris that she returns to confront her past. Her mother’s suicide, a father suffering dementia, and troubling visions all connected with scent threaten to derail Jac from finding her brother.
Jac learns her brother has resurrected a family legend tied to an ancestor who discovered a scent created in Cleopatra’s time that could induce memories of past lives. Of course, Jac is highly skeptical of the idea, but as her own visions intensify bringing her closer to her dead mother, images of ancient Egypt and the French Revolution begin to emerge all calling her sanity into question. Evidence comes light that forces Jac to consider whether her brother may have been killed for Cleopatra’s secret scent. An esoteric society along with the Chinese government all have designs on the powerful perfume her brother was protecting. Interestingly, the brother’s only wish is to get the scent into the hands of the Dalai Lama who can use the memory tool as possible evidence for reincarnation.
I found the idea of scent as a possible device for unlocking past life memory original and irresistible. The visions/past life memory segments of the book were well done. The book reads like a thriller and that’s a plus for me. There is a romantic element woven in that’s kind of cliché but necessary for Jac to resolve her karmic past. I appreciate the author’s research into scent and the history of the perfume industry and did not find it distracted from the plot. I love that kind of detail! Unfortunately, two little details irked me. The Dalai Lama wears burgundy robes not saffron (saffron is worn by Southeast Asian Buddhists). There is also a lot made out of the Dalai Lama being inaccessible and unreachable by Jac’s brother which is not true. His Holiness travels and has a full calendar. He meets groups wherever he goes and he holds meetings in Dharamsala. I know people who have met the Dalai Lama so he is far from unreachable.
Overall, this is an interesting book that moves fast and keeps the reader’s attention while introducing a little known industry. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this book is part of a series on reincarnation by MJ Rose. Some of the reviews for this book indicate she’s hit her stride with this one.
Theresa and I are both members of the Visionary Fiction Alliance and that’s where I became aware of her work. A short blurb introducing her novel, called The Star Family, convinced me I had to read her book. Who could resist this?
A secret spiritual group. A recurring dream. A 400-year-old ritual that must be completed before it is too late. Jane Frey inherits a Gothic mansion filled with unexpected treasures. A prophecy claims it hides an important artifact – the key to an energy grid laid down by the Founding Fathers themselves. Whoever controls this grid controls the very centers of world power. Except Jane has no idea what they’re looking for.
I couldn’t resist. Immediately, I was drawn into the mystery. Jane Frey was raised in the Moravian tradition, one of the oldest Protestant denominations dating back to the 15th Century. But she knows precious little about their history or esoteric beliefs. I welcomed the opportunity to learn about this group right along with Jane. We also encountered Masons, sacred geometry, Tantric sex, and an exploration of Prague (medieval headquarters to all things alchemical). Yum! Theresa’s novel is original and fast moving. Join me as I delight in talking with her about her novel.
Welcome Theresa! Thanks for spending some time today talking about your book.
Can you talk a little about what inspired you to write this book? I know you have Moravian roots.
I was at the International New Age Trade Show with my partner Stephen Mehler, who was going to be videoed about his new book, and I saw a book called William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision. I love Blake and who wouldn’t pick up a title like that? On the first page it said that Blake’s mother had been a Moravian. On top of that, it said that she was a member during the 1740s when the group was teaching metaphysics and sacred sexuality. They were connected to the Rosicrucians. The Templars had a metal forge in the very alleyway they were located in. All my metaphysical sensor alarms went off. I was stunned. I was raised Moravian and had never heard of such a thing. I could just imagine my grandfather’s reaction! Why was I never told about all this? I had to research it further.
In what ways are you like your main character, Jane Frey? How are you different?
Jane and I were both raised Moravians in Winston-Salem, NC. I used my family tree to fill out names in the book, plus famous Moravians. She’s named after my grandmother and great grandmother. We both studied music, but ended up doing different things. We were both somewhat disillusioned older women. (I was warned not to have an older protagonist, but women in their 50s and 60s buy tons of books. We deserve a face in a book.) Jane and I both have a spiritual bent.
But Jane is good at math and went into finance. I became a meditation teacher, then ran out of money and got an advanced degree in literature. I now teach English at the college level and meditation occasionally. Jane fell in love with her high school sweetheart, a romance cliché I indulged in for the novel. She also moved back home. I still live in Colorado.
There are elements of the story that involve the idea of fate. How do you view fate operating (or not operating) in our lives?
I believe we come into each life with a purpose. We’re here to learn something, do something, and most importantly, embody full consciousness—as much as we can. The universe is alive and interacts with us constantly to give us feedback and help us stay on course. That is fate, messages sent to us from Universal Mind through the world around us and inside us, too—that small, quiet voice of our intuition. But if we get off course or don’t accomplish our mission, the universe doesn’t hold it against us. God, if you will, doesn’t judge. God is besotted with us and all of creation. Since we are not really separated from Universal Mind, there is really no problem. That’s hard to remember when we experience the difficulties of this world, but this is a spiritual training ground, like the Temperance card in Tarot.
I found the Moravian belief system fascinating. Could you briefly outline how their ideas differed from other Protestant groups?
The Moravians were the first Protestant group, one hundred years before Luther. We came from John Hus (1369-1415), a Catholic priest who criticized the corruption in the church of his day. He was against selling indulgences, denying the laity the ability to drink from the chalice during communion, among other things. He preached in Czech, not Latin, in Prague. After his martyrdom, a movement continued his teachings and that grew into the Moravian Church.
Comenius was a bishop of the church, and he went to college with Johann Valentin Andreae, who wrote the Rosicrucian manifestos of 1616. You can see I used Andreae’s name in the book. My master mystic is Valentin. So the Moravian Church was deeply connected to that metaphysical revival. This group tried to get the Holy Roman Emperor out of Prague and replace him with a Rosicrucian leader. This was the Frederick V from what is now Germany who married the King of England’s daughter, Elizabeth. They were going to found an ideal society, but he is called the Winter King because the Thirty Years War began immediately and he was overthrown.
Comenius also advocated for universal education—boys and girls. He didn’t think memorization was a good way to learn and thought play was important. No harsh punishments of children.
These days, Moravians are ordinary Protestants for the most part. In the 1740s, Count Zinzendorf’s teachings had a much more metaphysical bent. What I found most fascinating was his teaching that the body has been redeemed, that there is no sexual shame, and that sex was not only for procreation, but could be used as a meditation almost. These sound so ordinary today, but I think we still suffer from body shame. Zinzendorf was a visionary. I realized that I could have had a thorough metaphysical education without leaving home if the church hadn’t repressed these teachings.
One thing that I really love is our motto: “In essentials unity. In nonessentials liberty. In all things love.” We don’t believe in forcing our beliefs on people, but in dialogue. That’s why the Moravians were the most successful missionaries, not that I really approve of missionaries. We were also pacifists up until the twentieth century.
All the history in The Star Family is based on fact. I have speculated, but from solid information. All of what happens in this novel is within the realm of possibilities. Except perhaps the ending, but even that—who can say?
What was the most fascinating part of the research you must have undertaken to produce the book? Did you travel to any of the locales Jane visits in the book?
The whole thing captured my heart and mind. I discovered that a Moravian minister had written his dissertation about this time period and Zinzendorf’s teachings. He has inspired others to research it and write about it. I was so nervous writing to a minister of our church. My memories of it were the 1950s when things were quite straight-laced. Earlier, my grandfather would pinch my father if he moved around too much in church. To discover we were so cool and ahead of our times really flipped my switch, so to speak.
Then Stephen and I traveled to Prague to view the Moravian roots, and then on to Herrnhut, Germany, where the church was reestablishing on Count Zinzendorf’s estate after the Thirty Years War scattered everyone to the four winds. To go to a place I’d heard about all my life, to walk through their God’s Acre, which is the graveyard, and see names I recognized from my family tree, was marvelous.
The idea of vibration, especially in the form of music, plays a crucial role in Jane’s story. To write those scenes, I imagined you had to have some musical training and a love for music. Is that the case?
The Moravians are quite musical, so I grew up with brass bands and the choir, plus lots of singing in church. Our hymns are unusual with lots of harmonies that I think create a vibratory field that creates peace and raises consciousness. The first time I transcended was listening to Bach. I sang in the children’s and adult choir. Every Easter Sunday, the brass band played at the street corner to wake up the Moravians to come to the Easter Sunrise Service. Brass bands play at many occasions. I was a music major for one semester, but theory was my downfall, so I switched majors. But I did go to college with a person who became a prominent sound healer.
Everything is vibration. Correct and purify the vibratory frequency, and you have harmony and healing. Sound is a good way to meditation. In my meditation training, the mantra was a sound, not a word with meaning. We followed the sound until it disappeared into the Transcendent.
As a writer of visionary fiction, what do you hope readers gain through your work?
A deeper understanding of spirituality and spiritual teachings. I hope that they see their own experience reflected on the page and they’ll go, “Yes, I know that. I’ve felt that. So it’s real.”
What’s you next project?
I’m working on two books right now. One continues the Power Places series and returns to Egypt. I based it on an event that happened a couple of years ago. Some people were digging for artifacts under their house that borders the Giza Plateau and their house collapsed on them. My main character is called to investigate, and of course gets into all kinds of trouble. The first book in the series was also set in Egypt—Under the Stone Paw. Anne Le Clair inherits a crystal that turns out to be one of six keys to the Hall of Records. In the second book, the same aunt has left her a house in Glastonbury that backs up to the Tor—a doorway to faeryland no less. This book is also set in Atlantis—the two story lines intertwine.
I’m also finishing a book I started long ago. This one is women’s fiction exploring three characters who face the challenges of being female and mixed-race in the South from the 1890s to the 1970s. The daughter gets exorcised because she can see spirits.
Thanks for asking me to join you. It’s been a pleasure.