Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: Julie Doherty’s SCATTERED SEEDS – Worthy Scots-Irish Heroes Find Love in the New World!

Set in 1755, beginning in Donegal, Ireland, this is the story of Henry McConnell and his father, Edward, farmers who assume false names and escape debts and drought in Ireland to sail to the New World. Before they leave, Henry’s father gives him their most treasured possession, passed from one son to another: a gold torc from their ancestor, Somerled.

The night before the ship sails, Henry finds love in the arms of a widow named Sarah. On the ship, Henry reconnects with a childhood friend, Mary Patterson. Both men realize their love for but they are separated from them by distance (in the case of Sarah) and in the case of Mary, when a man purchases her indenture.

After a grueling ship journey (very well done by the author), Henry and his father travel deep into the frontier. That journey is also very well told. It’s an exciting one. I felt like I was trudging along with them with their one ox and their blistered feet. I could see the beauty of this new world and yet feared the obstacles they faced. Constant setbacks have them worried about their seed and their lives: Indian attacks, the threat of new forts, a bear stealing the food they laid up for the winter and many other hardships.

In this romance, the two heroes are separated from their ladyloves for much of the book. The women are still in their minds and hearts but not with them. When they finally get word of both Sarah and Mary, the men go after them, but a villain is stalking the precious torc.

Doherty’s research shines through as she brings America’s wilderness and this period in America’s history to life. Her descriptions are vivid and the historical era well presented. She captures the Scots-Irish longing for freedom and their commitment to the new land, notwithstanding the trials they must endure.

A uniquely told tale, it’s also a fast-paced, action-packed story that is a delight to read. I recommend it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Best Irish Historical Romances

Rock of Cashel Tipperary, Ireland

Initially, I developed this list for a friend of mine of Irish descent who loves Irish historical romances. But since then, I have updated this list each year as I have come to love these stories that feature Ireland, Irish heroes or heroines, and/or Irish immigrants. The books on this list cover all time periods. Some transcend typical historical romance as they bring to life heartrending tales of the wonderful Irish people who survived much hardship to help make great their adoptive countries.

If you’re looking for stories of the Emerald Isle or handsome Irish hunks, or worthy Irish heroines, you will find them here. All these have been rated 4 or 5 stars by me:

·      A Love by Any Measure by Killian McRae
·      Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes
·      Black Falcon’s Lady by Kimberly Cates (originally released as Nightwylde by Kimberleigh Caitlin)
·      Black Sword by Kathryn Le Veque
·      Briar’s Rose by Kimberly Cates
·      Bride of the Baja by Jane Toombs (original author name Jocelyn Wilde)
·      Broken Vows by Shirl Henke
·      Brotherly Love by Lorna Peel
·      Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare
·      Countess of Scandal, Duchess Of Sin and Lady of Seduction, the Daughters of Erin trilogy by Laurel McKee
·      Crown Of Mist by Kimberly Cates
·      Dark of the Moon by Karen Robards
·      Dark Torment by Karen Robards
·      Dream Lover by Virginia Henley
·      Embrace and Conquer by Jennifer Blake
·      Emerald Ecstasy by Emma Merritt
·      Emerald Prince by Brit Darby
·      Enticed by Virginia Henley (first published as The Irish Gypsy)
·      Forbidden Love by Karen Robards
·      Forbidden Passion by Theresa Scott
·      Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, the Viking/Irish trilogy by Heather Graham
·      Her Warrior Slave and Her Warrior King, from the MacEgan Brothers Series by Michelle Willingham
·      Lady of Conquest by Teresa Medeiros
·      Lily Fair by Kimberly Cates
·      Lions and Lace by Meagan McKinney
·      Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter
·      Maid of Killarney by Ana Seymour
·      Moonlit by Emma Jensen (3rd in her Regency spy series; the only one set in Ireland)
·      Maidensong by Diana Groe
·      Master of My Dreams by Danelle Harmon
·      No Gentle Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
·      Odin’s Shadow by Erin Riley
·      Passion’s Joy and the sequel Virgin’s Star by Jennifer Horsman
·      Raeliksen and Mac Liam (from the Emerald Isle trilogy) by Renee Vincent
·      Rose in the Mist and Irish Gypsy (from the Riordan trilogy) by Ana Seymour
·      Rose of the Mists, A Rose in Splendor and A Secret Rose, trilogy by Laura Parker
·      Scarlett: The Sequel to Gone With the Wind by Alexandra Ripley
·      Scattered Seeds by Julie Doherty
·      Sea Raven by Patricia McAllister
·      Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small
·      Stealing Heaven by Kimberly Cates
·      Stormfire by Christine Monson
·      Storm Maiden by Mary Gillgannon
·      Surrender the Stars by Cynthia Wright
·      Tears of Gold by Laurie McBain
·      The Black Angel by Cordia Byers
·      The Divided Heart by Beppie Harrison
·      The Game by Brenda Joyce
·      The Ground She Walks Upon by Meagan McKinney
·      The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley
·      The Heart and the Holly by Nancy Richards-Akers
·      The Highwayman by Anne Kelleher
·      The Irishman by Jennifer Roberson (first published as Royal Captive)
·      The Irish Devil by Donna Fletcher
·      The Irish Duke by Virginia Henley
·      The Irish Princess, The Irish Enchantress and The Irish Knight, trilogy by Amy Fetzer
·      The Irish Rogue by Emma Jensen
·      The Irish Rogue by Judith E. French
·      The Linnet by Elizabeth English
·      The Passions Of Emma by Penelope Williamson
·      The Prize by Brenda Joyce
·      The Rebel by Christine Dorsey
·      The Seventh Son by Ashley York
·      The Sword of the Banshee by Amanda Hughes
·      The Wayward One by Danelle Harmon
·      Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor
·      Wild Angel by Miriam Minger
·      Windsong by Judith E. French
·      Wolf’s Embrace by Gail Link

 And I hope you’ll read my Regency novella, The Shamrock & The Rose, with an Irish hero!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Review: Bertrice Small’s SKYE O’MALLEY – Unusual Irish Love Story!

This story is classic Bertrice Small. Set in Ireland, Algiers and London in the mid 16th century, it is the first in the O’Malley series, and tells of the Irish noble families and the loves of an amazing heroine. Though her wealthy Irish sea captain father, famous for his merchant piracy, had 6 daughters, the O’Malley had only one like himself: Skye, strong and intelligent in business—and in her case, also beautiful.

When she is 15, though betrothed to another man (a man she hates), Skye falls in love with the dashing Niall Burke, heir to the MacWilliam, the O’Malley’s overlord. But their families deny them the marriage they want. Instead, Skye is wed to the brutal, lecherous man, and Niall is wed to a highborn woman who would prefer to be a nun. It will be years before they can get together.

You know, if you’ve read Bertrice Small before, her romances are…well, let’s just say, unusual. Perhaps they are more realistic of life in the times, but one should be aware. Typically, there is not just one couple nor is the heroine with just one “hero.” So, be prepared if you pick up this one. To be sure it’s a good story and will hold you captive as the scene moves from Ireland to Algiers and then to England; but what happens can be disconcerting at times. For example, using the vehicle of amnesia, at one point Small has the heroine adopting a lifestyle that is inconsistent with who she is and her life in Ireland. There were other instances where I lost my admiration for the heroine but in the end she triumphs, and so does Niall, though for a long while, he had one piece of bad luck after another. 

Original Cover
The whole thing, though a bit farfetched, was very well done. Small’s descriptions of people, places and even dress and food really put you in the scene and make you feel like you are there. And the real life characters of young Queen Elizabeth’s court, including Elizabeth herself, were very believable.

Should you want to read more in the series, here’s the list:

The O'Malley Saga:

Skye O’Malley
All The Sweet Tomorrows
A Love For All Time
This Heart of Mine
Lost Love Found
Wild Jasmine

Skye’s Legacy:

Darling Jasmine

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: Kimberly Cates’ HER MAGIC TOUCH- Irish Mythology Brought to Life!

The story begins in Ireland as 6-year-old Mary Fallon Delaney listens to her dying mother tell her the legend of Ciaran of the Mist, a mythical Celtic warrior who promised to appear at the hour of Ireland's greatest need. And her mother gives her a magical brooch that will summon Ciaran.

In 1808, Fallon, now grown, on Beltane eve, goes to a castle ruin where she hid the brooch years ago. When an English officer appears and threatens to destroy the castle ruins, Fallon waits for the moonlight and summons Ciaran and a naked stranger stumbles out of the mist.

The man (who accepts the name Ciaran) insists he is no Celtic warrior from the fairy realm, but he has no memory of who he is. He knows nothing of his life before he stumbled out of the mist, a gash on his head, and he has no intention of getting swept up in the clash between the Irish and the English. But Fallon, still lost in her fairy stories, has other ideas.

Captain Redmayne is looking for a smuggler call “Silver Hand” and thinks it just might be this guy named Ciaran. When Fallon claims he is her fiancé, the English officer forces them to wed, thinking the ruse will be up. But it isn’t and they marry, knowing nothing of each other.

This is historical romance ribboned with fantasy and Irish mythology. Cates writes in lovely, lyrical style that weaves the fairy tales Fallon believes in with the fictional characters. The heroine is very sheltered and naïve and does some unwise, if unlikely things, but inevitably manages to succeed. Even the hero comes to believe in her legends. There’s a twist at the end and a heartwarming Epilogue. Fans of Irish mythology will love this one.

The Celtic Rogues series (I've read them all and recommend them; the first is my favorite):
Black Falcon's Lady
Her Magic Touch
Briar Rose
Stealing Heaven
Lily Fair

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review: Jennifer Roberson’s THE IRISHMAN – Superbly Told Story of an Irish Chieftain’s Love for Ireland and a Highborn Sassenach

I knew when I read Lady of the Glen, Roberson’s poignant love story set in the time of the Glencoe Massacre in the Highlands of Scotland that her earlier work, The Irishman would be a treat. And it was. Oh, my.

Set in England in 1617, this is the story of Elizabeth Stafford, a baron’s daughter raised in Kent and, through her father’s wrangling, given an appointment in King James’ court as one of Queen Anne’s ladies. Before she ever gets to court, however, a carriage accident puts her in the clutches of Kieran O’Neill, last of the royal Irish family of the O’Neills, who has come to England on a secret mission he hopes will win his country’s freedom.

What can I say about a proud, dark Irish hero, descended from the Earls of Tyrone, who only wants to see Ireland free? And a high-spirited young Englishwoman, one of Queen Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, who rejects all her noble suitors for the love of such a man? The story is well written, wringing with emotion and angst, and steeped in the history of the times. This one will keep you turning pages, I promise.

Roberson has done much research for this story and understands the feelings of the Catholic Irish, persecuted and suppressed by a Protestant England. I applaud her for that. King James I is a character who would have Elizabeth for his mistress and we see the debauched lifestyle of his court as Elizabeth tries to preserve her virtue. Her dialog is often brilliant, her storytelling compelling. Her characters vividly portrayed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Lorna Peel’s BROTHERLY LOVE – Love Among Warring Families in a Small Irish Village

Set in Ireland in 1835, this is the story of Caitriona Brady, a widow of two years, who carries a torch for Michael Warner, brother of the local priest. Michael also wants her and soon, they acknowledge their love. However, not all in the village agree.

Caitriona’s husband was the best fighter among the Bradys who battle the Donnellans at regular intervals, typically after a religious event. Caitriona and Michael have declared their neutrality but no one seems to be listening.

The well-written story brings to light Ireland’s past when “Faction Fighting” occurred and “Ribbonmen” held sway. (I looked up the term “Ribbonmen”. They were Irish Catholics who worked to prevent landlords from evicting their tenants; the name came from the green ribbon they wore as a badge. But the author has since added a note explaining Ribbonmen and Faction Fighting.)

As if the villagers’ poverty was not enough of a challenge, they took out their hatred on each other, making their lives even more miserable, Caitriona and Michael’s among them. Even Michael's brother, the priest, opposes their love.

I admired Caitriona, first for her patience in enduring a loveless marriage and an unworthy mother in law, and then in trying to hold onto love when everyone seemed bent on tearing her and Michael apart. Michael is a noble hero but his failure to disclose his troubled past did not help.

If you want a slice of Ireland’s troubled past, this fast-paced tale is a good read. I recommend it.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Alexandra Ripley’s SCARLETT – If You Only Saw the Movie…you must read this sequel to Gone With The Wind. It’s a great love story!

After seeing the movie Gone With The Wind for the umpteenth time and once again being disappointed there was no happy ending (sorry you classic lovers, but the ending where Scarlett says she’ll find a way to win Rhett back just begs for the rest of the story!), I was glad there was a sequel. It was commissioned by Margaret Mitchell’s estate and the author selected in a competition.

Scarlett satisfies the romance lover’s need for the ending we crave. It tells us what happened to Scarlett and Rhett after he left her, when she declared her love for him and he told her he didn’t give a damn.

The story begins in 1873, as Melanie, Scarlett’s lifelong friend, is buried and the mourners standing around gossiping about Scarlett, saying she’s “all business, and no heart.” When Atlanta society shuns her, Scarlett is left very much alone. It’s the bane of a strong woman’s existence, that people think she doesn’t care and hate her for it when, in fact, she cares very much though she doesn’t allow herself to show it. Of course, in Gone With The Wind, Scarlett was selfish and spurned Rhett’s love when offered. And when she finally realized she loved him, it was too late. He believes she only wants him because he doesn’t want her. But stay tuned…Scarlett is about to grow up.

Where you wanted to slap Scarlett in the movie, now you will want to hug her as she triumphs over trials that would break any other woman on the way to learning how to love.

For much of the 823 pages, the story is told through Scarlett’s perspective. Though Scarlett shows great kindness to others and pursues Rhett because she genuinely loves him, her motives are often misunderstood and others, quick to judge, reject her. Society snubs her and Rhett is cold, even cruel. His only aim is to get out of the marriage, describing her as a drug that will destroy him. (It was easy to see Clark Gable saying those lines.)

The book is divided into four sections, each finding Scarlett in new place:

Lost in the Dark (Atlanta)
High Stakes (Charleston)
New Life (Savannah)
The Tower (Ireland)

Ripley paints a compelling picture of Ireland, its people and their struggles, with wonderful characters, rich dialog and emotional scenes. We mourn the lost history of the O’Hara family as Scarlett seeks to regain her family’s land. And we cheer Scarlett as her incredible intelligence and courage rebuild, at least in part, of what was lost.

If you are used to the pace of a normal historical romance, this story may seem a bit meandering. (There are whole chapters where Scarlett and Rhett never encounter each other.) Still, I found it a very satisfying love story and it kept me reading late into the night (two nights in a row!). When the “black moment “ came, it was the blackest I’ve ever experienced. But the ending is a sweet reward.

The book is a treasure, a keeper. I recommend it!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Virginia Henley's THE IRISH GYPSY - Great Storytelling in this Unusual Irish Victorian Romance

Originally published as The Irish Gypsy and then as Enticed and now back to its first title, this is the story of Kitty Rooney, born to Irish peasants but gifted with a glib tongue, an ability to weave tales and an understanding of people. Set in the Victorian era, it begins in Ireland where Kitty’s grandfather and brother eek out a living on the estate of the O’Reillys. When famine hits, the O’Reillys, at the urging of their business-wise son, Patrick, move their tenants to Lancashire, England where they have three mills.

The first time Kitty encounters Patrick, she is attracted to him, and he to her. Each has a plan for the other, Patrick to make Kitty his mistress, Kitty to become Patrick’s wife. But Patrick is a man of means and Kitty is a poor gypsy who is put to work as a maid in the O’Reillys’ home in Lancashire when Patrick’s father realizes what a beauty she is.

Henley is a great storyteller so you are never bored. Shocked, perhaps, but not bored. Our modern sensibilities may find it hard to believe that landed Irish gentry in Ireland would take advantage of a beautiful peasant girl, but it should not be surprising. I’m sure it happened all the time.

The book is well-written, fast paced and takes you from one tangle to another as Kitty’s story reminded me of the “perils of Pauline.” In the beginning, she is told that she will have three husbands, so you know what’s coming. Patrick wants Kitty and she wants him, but he is always off on some business venture that leaves Kitty without protection, particularly of the noble kind. But she does meet some wonderfully interesting characters on the way back to Patrick’s arms. Oh, yes, and there’s a bit of bodice ripping to Patrick’s first attempt to woo Kitty.

I recommend it for those who like the unusual.