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.


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