Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Review: Amanda Hughes’s THE SWORD OF THE BANSHEE – Absorbing Saga of An Irish Patriot who Joins the American Revolution and Her Long Path to Love

This is an epic saga of one woman’s journey from innocence as a member of the Irish Protestant Ascendancy, to an Irish insurgent fighting the British, to an American patriot—from contentment in an easy life to discontent for her people’s plight. As with Hughes’s other two novels, this is a crossover between historical fiction and historical romance and the first meeting between hero and heroine comes late in the story. There are no explicit love scenes, however there are realistic battle scenes and some intense scenes of cruelty consistent with the times.

The story begins in Ireland in 1764 on All Hallows Eve as India Allen, then a young girl, dons the clothes of a servant and sneaks out with her cousin to witness men dressed like pagan animals gathered around a bonfire. They are soon discovered and the men warn them not to tell what they’ve seen. India remembers one of the men, “the demon on the hill,” smelled of sandalwood. Three years later, at 16, India is introduced to Colm Fitzpatrick, who she recognizes by his sandalwood scent. When he sees her fear, he tells her what she saw that night was merely a gathering of Irish tenants out to destroy the British fencing on their lands. After she marries Colm, she learns is the head of an agrarian secret society rebelling against British rule. In five years’ time, Colm turns the innocent girl into a Catholic insurgent able to kill men and lead a rebellion. She is now famous as “Lady Fitzpatrick.”

Realizing the rebellion in Ireland will fail and urged on by her visions and a letter from Quinn Calleigh, one of their benefactors in America, India, now widowed, decides to leave for the Brandywine Valley in America. Little does she know the peace of that valley will be shattered four years later when the Colonists face British forces in the largest battle of the Revolutionary War. After that, India becomes a leader in the partisan intelligence movement and Quinn becomes the man who will remind her she is not just a patriot, but a woman.

Hughes is a great storyteller and weaves exciting episodes while also serving up a complicated love affair between two Irish American patriots caught in the war that will determine the fate of the young nation. It is well researched and the historical details are many. The action scenes are gripping. And the characters are well developed and many are quite endearing, like the boy Phineas who India adopts. 

I recommend it and it's going on my lists of Best Irish Historical Romances (posted on St. Patrick's Day) and Patriotic American Historical Romances (posted on July 4th).

As a side note, the Irish and the Scots (or the Scots-Irish as they were called) are thought to have made up one half of George Washington’s Continental Army. One Hessian officer is remembered as saying, “Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion, it is nothing more or less than a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian rebellion.” It makes me wonder what different history of the British Colonies might have been written had the English treated the Scots and the Irish better than they did in their own countries.

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