Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Review: Amanda Hughes’ BEYOND THE CLIFFS OF KERRY – Absorbing tale from old Ireland and the American Frontier -- an Irish Heroine to Admire and a Frontiersman to Love!

This was Hughes' debut novel and it is clear to me she has a great writing career ahead of her. Set in Ireland and America, beginning in 1755, this is a captivating tale of a beautiful young Irish girl, Darcy McBride, who has a thirst for knowledge and a spirit of adventure. She survived The Hunger in Ireland that claimed most of her family and when the story opens, she is keeping house for her embittered brother. To pay taxes and put food on the table, Darcy and the young men of County Kerry become smugglers, illegally trading their wool with the French for brandy. In one shipment, they also smuggle in a Jesuit priest who befriends Darcy and teaches her to read and write. When British soldiers discover the smuggling, Darcy is transported to the English Colonies for 7 years of indentured service, which for a beautiful young woman meant sexual servitude to her owner. One day at Fort Lawrence, Darcy meets Jean Michel Lupe, a surveyor for the Crown and an educated man, who will change her life.

This is a romance, to be sure, but quite unusual in that the hero isn't introduced until half way through the book. Much of what would be "back story" in other historical romances becomes an intense, well-told tale that at times is heart rending. We experience the brutality of cruel English soldiers and savage Indians on the American frontier. But there are many warm, charming moments and we see how times of great hardship affect people for both good and bad. There are some truly, desperately sad moments that will tear at your heart since both life in Ireland and on the frontier was hard. Darcy is a wonderful heroine with a strong heart, a giving nature and great courage. Hughes brings to life a cast of wonderful characters, including the wise and kind-hearted Father Etienne (a kind of hero). Darcy's story has great realism. I highly recommend it.

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