Thursday, March 26, 2015

Best Irish Historical Romances!

I initially developed this list for a friend of Irish descent who loves Irish historical romances and asked me to recommend some. But since then, I have updated this list each year as I have come to love Irish romances that feature Ireland, Irish heroes or heroines, or Irish immigrants in America. 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 America (and Australia in one case) great.

This list contains only those I have rated 4 or 5 stars. If you’re looking for stories of the Emerald Isle or handsome Irish hunks, or worthy Irish heroines to inspire, you will find them here:

·       Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes
·       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
·       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
·       Nightwylde by Kimberleigh Caitlin
·       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
·       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 Rebel by Christine Dorsey
·       The Sword of the Banshee by Amanda Hughes
·       Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor
·       Wild Angel by Miriam Minger
·       Windsong by Judith E. French
·       Wolf’s Embrace by Gail Link

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Review: Deb Stover’s NO PLACE FOR A LADY – Mistaken Identities Based on Lies, Perfidy and More Lies Lead to Love in Colorado with an Irish heroine

The story begins in London in 1888 as Molly Riordan sets out with her mistress, Lady Elizabeth Summersby for America where Lady E is to wed the man who, in a one night encounter at a London masquerade ball, impregnated her with his child. In Colorado, Dirk Ballinger has a cattle ranch, and there he has promised to do the honorable thing.

On the way to the ranch, bandits called the Lovejoy Gang attack the coach Molly and Lady E are traveling in. In a bizarre coincidence, the father Molly is searching for is the driver. She is unaware, of course. As he is dying from a gunshot wound, her father tells the sheriff, who comes to their rescue with Dirk Ballinger, that the woman the bandits took off with (Lady E) is the maid and the woman left behind (Molly) is Lady E. Got that?

Ray Lovejoy, the head of the bandits and Dirk’s illegitimate half brother, has the same green eyes as Dirk so that Molly thinks they are the same man.

While Molly is still suffering a head wound, “semi-conscious and drugged with laudanum,” Dirk (thinking Molly is his betrothed) has a reverend perform a marriage ceremony. Molly is unaware. (That such could not be a valid marriage is never mentioned.) Then, concerned about the pregnancy, Dirk has a doctor examine her (Molly). The doctor just taps her stomach and never looks beyond that to see she has suffered a miscarriage or that she is a virgin. Instead, absent any blood in that region, the doctor tells Dirk she must have lost the baby in the attack by the bandits. The whole thing was a bit improbable.

It takes some time for Molly to tell Dirk the entire story and for Dirk to tell her about his half brother. And then he persuades her to let everyone believe she is Lady E and his wife as they set off to find Lady E (who all believe is “the maid”).

It seemed everyone was hiding a lie in this story as many secrets are revealed at the end. I had trouble thinking of Dirk as honorable because all the time he was planning on marrying Lady E, he was making moves on Molly. And Molly, who knows all this, is allowing herself to fall for Dirk. Ah, well, this is that kind of romance. Somehow, Stover managed to hold all the threads in her writer's hand. And did I mention that everyone seems related to everyone? So you see, this story has many twists and turns on the way to love. If you're looking for an unusual Western with an Irish heroine, you'll find this one entertaining.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Review: Beppie Harrison’s THE DIVIDED HEART –Unusual Regency set in Ireland

Set in 1810, this is the first in Harrison’s “Heart” trilogy of Regencies and tells the story of the English aristocracy in Ireland, beginning with Lady Anne Wadsworth, an earl’s daughter who lives with her sister and parents on their estate in Ireland. Anne is well aware of her English ancestors’ role in persecuting the Irish, in her words, “…they overlooked the displaced Irish folk with placid arrogance.”

Early in the story Anne encounters Diarmaid MacGuinness, a red-haired Irishman who is working for Ireland’s freedom and tells her of the Irish living reduced to being starving tenants living on land that was once theirs. Meanwhile, she has a new English neighbor, Hugh, Marquess of Ashbourne, whose mother is counseling him to take a wife. Though Anne has no affection for the marquess, and he admits he does not love her, she agrees to marry him to stay in Ireland and avoid a Season in London. A marriage of convenience soon becomes one of love.

Harrison writes well and has delivered a solid story that depicts the fate of the Irish in the early 20th century (before they gained their independence). There are some good action scenes when Anne makes some foolish decisions while trying to help them and the marquess rides to the rescue. (One could not help feeling sorry for Diarmaid who only wanted to see his country rid of the English. His tale was left unfinished so presumably it continues in the rest of the series.)

The trilogy:

The Divided Heart
The Broken Heart
The Rebellious Heart

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Review: Elizabeth English’s THE LINNET – Unusual Borderlands Romance with an Irish hero

This is book 3 in the trilogy about the Darnleys and the Kirallens. Set in the borderlands between Scotland and England in 1379, this is the story of Lady Maude Darnley, who when she was 14, suffered a horrible attack and ever since has suppressed the truth (even to herself) beneath a cold exterior. But at 21, she is barely holding herself together. Meanwhile, her father has been consumed with taking revenge on their enemies, the Kirallens, whose raid brought about the horrible event.

An Irishman named Ronan Fitzgerald, who is a taibhsear (a healer and a seer, and in his case, also a bard), is dispatched by his teacher (who is aware of the facts but is sworn to secrecy) to Lord Darnley to offer his services. Ronan carries his own baggage from the past and knows nothing of his mission, but soon realizes that Lady Maude needs his help. He is patient and as they enjoy their music, she slowly begins to reveal her past and the horrible event that changed everything. But can the horrible event of the past and the terrible revenge it produced be made to come right?

This is a very different historical romance. It is really the story of one woman’s struggle back from a horrible event to find love in the arms of her healer (a patient falling in love with her therapist, if you will). And Ronan, an insightful and gentle man, finds the woman who can hold his heart. Both are complex characters. It’s a well-told, intricately woven story, but likely not for everyone. The medieval stage is well set though there is not much history here, just the warring families on the border.

It can be read as a stand alone story though there are references to earlier happenings and other characters.

The Darnleys & Kirallens:

The Border Bride
Laird of the Mist
The Linnet

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New Review: Danelle Harmon’s MASTER OF MY DREAMS – Unusual 18th Century Seafaring Romance with an Irish Heroine

This is part of Harmon’s Heroes of the Sea series (and the first if you’re reading them in chronological order). It begins in Ireland in 1757, but then moves to the British colonies in America (Boston) on the eve of the Revolutionary War in 1775.

It’s the story of Deirdre O’Devir, who as a young girl in Ireland, witnessed an English lieutenant (our hero, Christian Lord) press her brother into service in the British Navy. She vowed to her dying mother that she would kill the lieutenant and bring her brother back to Ireland. Thirteen years later, on her way to Boston to enlist the aid of her cousin who is in the British Navy, she ends up on a ship captained by the same Christian Lord she has vowed to kill.

All that seemed a pretty straight historical setting until I encountered Lord’s crew on the “Hell-Ship.” Captain Lord has been sent out to straighten out a crew right out of McHale’s Navy, who are committed to driving all their captains mad. Among others, there’s a Scot who wears a kilt and plays the bagpipes, and a young woman from Boston, who is hidden away by his men and aspires to be a French whore. She calls herself Delight Foley (as in delight-fully) and her one goal in life is to become the woman of the “Irish Pirate.” In the meantime, she is servicing all the crew. There’s also a marine guard who habitually sleeps at his post, and a spaniel who is having puppies in the captain’s cabin. Not your average British naval warship and not your classic historical romance. But rollicking good fun!

With all that, there is some great action with a battle at sea. Eventually the story settles into a very well written historical romance that gives us a glimpse of the early days of the Revolutionary War in America with the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Minutemen. Throughout the story we experience the heroine’s love for her native Ireland. A multifaceted, worthy tale with a bit of fancy.

Heroes of the Sea series:

Captain of My Heart
Master of My Dreams
My Lady Pirate
Taken By Storm
Wicked at Heart

Monday, March 16, 2015

New Review: Judith E. French’s WINDSONG –Wonderful Tale of the Irish in America, and an Adventure in the New World

I love French’s stories and was pleased to find this one set in America at the beginning of the French and Indian War. It was a time when many Irish left Ireland fleeing the English for a better life. Such was Rory Desmond, who in 1743, helped by a young girl, fled to the Maryland Colony to become a tobacco planter.

Ten years later, in 1753, the wife he loved is dead and with his debts piling up around him and a young baby, he decides to take a rich Irish wife who comes with a dowry. He returns to Connemara to wed Mary Aislinn, the daughter of a wealthy man. But Mary Aislinn wants to be a nun, so her illegitimate half sister, Linna O’Neill, who has the same name “Mary Aislinn,” devises a plan whereby she will take her sister’s place. Unbeknownst to Rory, she is the same young girl who helped him escape ten years earlier.

When Rory learns the truth, he spurns Linna as breaking his trust. He sends back the dowry and, hoping to make enough money to save his plantation, takes off to be a scout for the colonial soldiers in their battle against the French and their allied Indians. When Rory's troops are massacred and word reaches Linna that he is likely dead, she refuses to believe it and sets out into the wilderness to find him. And an exciting adventure begins…

Original cover
French was inspired to write this adventure story from her own family roots that began in Connemara, Ireland and led to the New World and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She has done much research into the history of Maryland and the Indian tribes like the Shawnee, and it all comes together here. If you enjoy early American history and marriage of convenience stories that come right in the end, you’ll love this one. Linna is brave and courageous, though sometimes impetuous, and Rory is a man whose strength is only tempered by his love for a certain red-haired lass.

French says, “The hardships that early settlers faced in crossing the Atlantic and settling on the frontier amid overwhelming obstacles leave me in awe of their courage and fortitude.” Very well said.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New Review: Penelope Williamson’s THE PASSIONS OF EMMA – Passionate, Heartbreaking Irish Immigrant Love Story

Get out the Kleenex for this great romance by Williamson! I knew I was in trouble when I was in tears by page 20. But I could not put it down, and neither will you.

This is one of the most moving historical romances I've read; the Romance Writers of America nominated it for the coveted RITA award. If you've ever loved a man who loved a woman before you, or if you've ever loved a man you know you can never have...this is the romance for you! And even if you are not one of those, you will love this story, I promise.

Set in 1890 in Bristol, Rhode Island, it's the story of Emma, daughter of the wild and wealthy Tremayne family. With her father gone to live his own life, her sister in a wheelchair and her brother dead, Emma is her mother's "last hope" for continuation of their line of respectability. And it seems Emma will do her duty when she agrees to wed the staid but prosperous Geoffrey Alcott who has loved her "forever."

But Emma's life is changed forever when a young Irish child dies in one of Geoffrey's mills. She becomes involved in the lives of an Irish family and befriends an Irish woman, Bria, who while pregnant and dying of consumption, is still full of life and love for her man, Shay McKenna, and her two young girls. What Emma sees in their lives inspires her to defy her powerful family to fight for what is right and to become the woman she was meant to be. What she sees in Shay will cause her much heartache.

It's a wonderful story of the friendship between two women from very different backgrounds who become so important to each other they complete each other's lives. It's the story of a young woman of artistic talent and a wild and passionate nature who is confined to a life of meaningless duty and ritual but is moved by love to make a different life. It's the story of two women who love one man—a man of great dreams and great passions who has had great troubles in his life both in Ireland and America. It's the story of men and women who take what life throws at them and still manage to live significant lives full of love. Finally, it's the story of the Irish immigrants who have made America great and the sacrifices they made to build lives here.

This one is a keeper!! Buy it on Amazon.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Review: Virginia Henley’s ENTICED – An Unusual Irish Victorian Romance

Originally published as THE IRISH GYPSY, 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 and covets her for himself.

Henley is a great storyteller so you are never bored. Shocked, perhaps, but not bored. Our modern sensibilities may find it have 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. 
Original title and cover
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.