top of page

In the Footsteps of Irving and Shelley - an Editorial Review of "An Untimely Frost"

Author Bio:

Ted Morrissey is the author of the novels The Artist Spoke (2020), Mrs Saville (2018), Crowsong for the Stricken (2017), An Untimely Frost (2014), Men of Winter (2010, re-released 2013), the novelettes The Curvatures of Hurt and Figures in Blue, and the novella Weeping with an Ancient God (Twelve Winters). A new work in progress has been published as First Kings and Other Stories (Wordrunner). Mrs Saville won the Manhattan Book Award. Crowsong for the Stricken won the International Book Award in Literary Fiction from Book Fest, the American Fiction Award in Literary Fiction from American Book Fest, and it was a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of 2017. His short stories, novel excerpts, poems, essays and reviews have appeared in more than eighty journals. He is also the author of three scholarly books: A Concise Summary and Analysis of The Mueller Report (2019), Trauma Theory As a Method for Understanding Literary Texts (Mellen, 2016), and The Beowulf Poet and His Real Monsters (2013), which won Edwin Mellen’s D. Simon Evans Prize for Distinguished Scholarship. He holds a PhD in English studies and lives just north of Springfield, Illinois. A William H. Gass scholar, several of his presentations on Gass’s work are archived at his 12 Winters Blog.

Contact: jtedmorrissey (at) gmail (dot) com

Book Buy Link:

Editorial Review:

"Death lies on her, like an untimely frost Upon the sweetest flower of all the field." ~Shakespeare

Bravo, bravo, bravo... I am obsessed with this book. If you are a fan of old chilling historical classics in the manner of Mary Shelley or Hardy, then this is the book for you. From the very first line, I felt transported back in time, as if Mr Morrissey conjured the aura of literary classicists from long ago and spilled the words from his fingertips onto the page. I am reminded of another dark moody classic – “By Gaslight” by Steven Price, but even more succulent in the speech as the writer later tells us that in his research he delved into the letters of Washington Irving, the author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” to learn the style of Victorian writing and speaking. And, boy, did he succeed in a most resplendent way. This is a book I will read again and again.

Immediately the delicious smell of books old and new wafted over me. The musky scent of aged paper, the tartness of inks, the rich tanning of leather-bound tomes... I took in a robust breath as I gladly shut the door on the world-not-of-the-printed-word. Books filled the room, which had an arched ceiling, and they were all crisply arranged. Tall shelves lined the walls of the long and seemingly narrow room, and volumes of varying hues set touching one to the next with almost martial order. Either a very, very long table or several of the exact height set end to end ran through the center of the room, creating uniform aisles on either side, and these tables were covered with books as well, each precisely set. Daylight filtered in through a series of narrow windows running above the shelves and along the ceiling just before the walls began to curve in service of the arch. It was an impressive display, in quantity and arrangement – more so even than Manhattan's venerable Nightingale & Co.

See, what I mean?

As for the story line, if readers like tales about books within books, or struggles of other authors, then the main character has all the fleshed-out characteristics for a first-rate protagonist – someone the reader can truly connect with as you sink into the lush prose.

American writer, Jefferson Wheelwright begins his tour of Europe with the goal of meeting the famous authoress, Margaret Haeley, during his stay in London. After an unsuccessful first attempt, the writer is later embedded in the events surrounding Margaret, first and foremost in the woman's mind is the loss of her husband in a boating accident seventeen years previous. Now, her grip on reality is slipping, and soon after Jefferson struggles with not only finishing his own book, but with his love for Margaret.

To keep comparing this book to other legendary writers is the only way to truly let the reader know what a masterpiece this truly is as you are immersed in 1830s London, walking through lanes reminiscent of “Jekyll and Hyde” and you expect at any moment to arrive on the doorstep at 221B Baker Street. An Untimely Frost is based on the rumored courtship between Irving and Mary Shelley, and is so Victorian in every sense of the word. Full of literary quotes and homages to other great writers throughout the book – Byron, Shakespeare, etc. - it is obvious to the reader how much research and care Morrissey took with each and every chosen word and line throughout the narrative. This book grabbed hold of me and did not let go until the last page, the moment when I could finally catch my breath... not so much from the fast pace, as this is a very Victorian read (if you take my meaning – think 'Frankenstein' combined with 'The Shadow of the Wind') – but from holding my breath until I finished the last exquisite word. A cup of tea while snuggling up on the couch with the rain slashing against the windows is a perfect backdrop for reading this book straight through; and you will finish by holding the book against your chest as you sit amazed that this is actually a modern day writer who accomplished this eloquent feat.

Haunting. Beautiful. Captivating. Mr Morrissey gives us a lesson on how to write historical literary.

Before I closed the book I noticed a spot of something on the final page; then another appeared. They were teardrops. I was weeping, my salt tears mixing with the sea and the dead maiden, connecting the real and the unreal... and revealing it to be all the same anyway. I wiped my face with the sleeve of my dressing gown. Grief lay on my chest like a malignant goblin come to possess me. It was leaden there, suffocating me, forcing me down into despair. Yet I knew for all its emotional girth, it was but one word. A word I had promised to never say again as if never uttering it in the world would keep it from being a part of the world; it would reside in the past with all the pricking, piercing barbs, its crown-of-thorns-ness potential unrealized. (Done with the pretence of the glass, I drank directly from the bottle.) I fought to keep from uttering the word but my survival demanded it: it was the ponderous goblin crushing the life from me, and the only way to expel him and his malignancy was to say the terrible word. (The lamps in my room still glowed, I knew, but I was in a darker place. My eyes were insensible to the light.).....

And he says the word, which I will keep out of this review as this is a mere enticement for you to read this book forthwith. As for me, I am beginning it again this weekend to drink in the words and savor this “classic-in-the-making”.


“An Untimely Frost” by Ted Morrissey receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award from The Historical Fiction Company


bottom of page