March is Irish historical romance month when we feature all those stories with Irish heroes and heroines and stories set in Ireland. I’m starting with a good one. A keeper!
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, who are quick to judge. 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, 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!