A Novella that features the Irish potato famine. Noelle reviews The Winds Of Morning by @AuthorGMacShane

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Noelle has been reading The Winds Of Morning by Gifford MacShane


This is a novella, written as a prequel Donovan Family Saga by this author. I purchased this book for review.

The author is a gifted writer, with an excellent talent for creating the historical scene of 1848, when the potato crop failed in Ireland. What happened after that is made clear: The Protestant landlords abscond back to Britain, leaving the Catholic peasants to fend for themselves. Rather than providing food to their citizens, the government allows the export of tens of thousands of tons of Irish food daily. There follows a period of mass starvation and disease, leading to the deaths of over a million people.

When her father and mother die of starvation, Molly O’Brien has no choice but to take her father’s place on a road gang, swinging a mallet to break rocks for a road running from her tiny village to the nearby river, in order to feed her family. There is no other work available, and even sixteen hours of labor does not pay enough to feed her younger brothers, who are dying of starvation as well.

One day, quietly facing the river, she decides that despite her deep-sown Catholic tenets, she will sell her body to the first man she encounters who will give her the price of a loaf of bread. The first man to see her, John Patrick Donovan, at first thinks she is going to throw herself in the river, but when she asks him for a loaf a bread up front, he realizes she’s decided to prostitute herself.  In Donovan, the author has created a gentle, caring, and thoughtful older man who does his best to save Molly and her brothers. His efforts extend to her small village, where the grain he was sent to buy was locked away by the landlord, who had fled: he opens the granary to the villagers, despite what that will cost his family.

When John Patrick takes her to the local church, where the priest informs her she will be married, she nearly faints at the miracle. She and her brothers are saved. John Patrick has fallen in love with her at first sight and knows this is the only way he can protect her honor until she grows stronger and accepts him.

Will his family accept Molly? What will they think of the money their son spent on saving her and her brothers and also in the village? How are his parents, who are well-off because the father runs a chandlery, dealing with the famine? Will Molly come to accept Donovan as her husband?

While this book was a lovely read, part historical and part romance, as are the author’s other books, two things jarred me somewhat. The first was the age difference between John Patrick and Molly. I had to remind myself that this was a different time, when girls married young and older husbands were often the norm. The other was, with few exceptions, the overwhelming ‘niceness’ of all the various characters. I would have preferred a little more grit. 

I recommend this lyrically and beautifully rendered novella to readers – despite the grim subject – to discover what happens to Molly and to understand the basis for the Donovan Saga.

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1848: the third year the potato crop failed in Ireland. The Protestant landlords have absconded back to Britain, leaving the Catholic peasants to fend for themselves, while the English government allowed the export of tens of thousands of tons of Irish food daily.

With two younger brothers to feed, Molly O’Brien took her father’s place on the road gang, building a road that runs from her tiny village to the river and no farther. Yet sixteen hours of labor a day would not garner enough wages to buy food for her family.

She was beyond despair. Beyond prayer. And so far beyond the tenets of her childhood, she’d decided to offer her body to the first man with the price of a loaf of bread. At that moment, a voice behind her spoke…

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‘Set during the tragedy that was the Great Potato Famine in early nineteenth century Ireland’. @SueBavey reviews #HistoricalFiction The Winds of Morning by @AuthorGMacShane

Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here https://suelbavey.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sue has been reading The Winds of Morning by Gifford MacShane


Set during the tragedy that was the Great Potato Famine in early nineteenth century Ireland, this short novella is gripping and difficult to put down and I read it over the course of one day. It follows the fortunes of Molly, a young woman who has lost her Da and her Ma to starvation and a broken heart respectively. Her two brothers are both very sick when we meet her and she has come to the conclusion that in order to feed them she will have to turn to prostitution since her job breaking rocks for a road to be built is not earning enough money for the three of them.

Luckily for her and her youngest brother, Johnny, she is spotted by the hero of the tale, John Patrick Donovan. A well-off businessman with a kindly heart, he decides there and then to marry her and save both her and Johnny’s lives in the process. Unfortunately it is too late for her other brother, William.
Johnny was my favourite character in the story with his wit and charming smile. John Patrick is certain his nieces will have their heads turned by Johnny when they all return to Wexford together.

The plight of Ireland during this time is well described by the author and easily imagined, as is the fate of Molly and her brother, had John Patrick not chanced upon her:

“The old men had died first, and only a half-dozen of the fathers were still alive. The boys who could were working on the road gang. The women were weak—so weak they were unable to bear more children. The younger among them were confined to the workhouse. The old women were gone, too, except for Mother O’Fagan, a white witch said to live on the air she breathed. The chickens and pigs had been eaten these past two years or more. Even the benches were gone, except for the one that ringed the tree in the square. Father Boylan had arranged for them to be sold this past spring, and had spent the proceeds on corn meal and salt cod to feed the most needy of his flock. The food had not gone far, and most of those who had partaken were gone now, too.”

The Winds of Morning was a most enjoyable read full of historical detail and engaging storytelling. I highly recommend it.

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1848: the third year the potato crop failed in Ireland. The Protestant landlords have absconded back to Britain, leaving the Catholic peasants to fend for themselves, while the English government allowed the export of tens of thousands of tons of Irish food daily.

With two younger brothers to feed, Molly O’Brien took her father’s place on the road gang, building a road that runs from her tiny village to the river and no farther. Yet sixteen hours of labor a day would not garner enough wages to buy food for her family.

She was beyond despair. Beyond prayer. And so far beyond the tenets of her childhood, she’d decided to offer her body to the first man with the price of a loaf of bread. At that moment, a voice behind her spoke…

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‘Magic, Romance And Irish Life.’ Rosie’s #Bookreview of Jewels Of The Sun by Nora Roberts

Jewels of the Sun (Gallaghers of Ardmore, #1)Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts

5 stars

Jewels Of The Sun is book one of  the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy which is set in Ireland. This is a romance with a paranormal sub-theme.

Jude has left her job and her home in Chicago and has made her way to a small coastal village in Southern Ireland to a pretty cottage that sits on a faerie hill. Leaving her academic job behind, she plans to research Irish myths and legends.

She’s welcomed into the community by the local families, but she also encounters a ghost and a faerie prince. Jude blossoms in her surroundings as spring turns to summer, and falls in love with Aiden Gallagher, who owns the local pub. The handsome Irishman can tell a tale with real feeling, but has trouble when it comes to expressing his own emotions.

Stories set in Ireland are some of my favourites and Nora Roberts writes them so well that you feel as if you can reach out and touch the characters. I already have the next book in this series and I am looking forward to reading it. The mix of magic, romance and Irish life whisked me away for some very enjoyable escapism reading.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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Jude Murray isn’t given to dramatic decisions. So she’s as surprised as anyone when she quits her job in Chicago and takes refuge in the picturesque village of Ardmore. Surrounded by the beautiful Irish scenery and refreshed by a more relaxed lifestyle, Jude becomes fascinated by the local folklore.

Aidan Gallagher happens to be an expert in Ireland’s haunting myths. After years of travelling, he’s returned home to devote himself to the family business. But as he shares his country’s legends with Jude, Aidan can’t help wondering if they could create a passionate history of their own…

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Ya #Fantasy The Mother We Share by Jennifer Soucy @bansheetales

Today’s team review is from Karen. She blogs here https://mytrainofthoughtson.wordpress.com

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Karen has been reading The Mother We Share by Jennifer Soucy

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This book introduces you to Evie Bonaventura who meets her dead(?!) twin sister; her friends believe her, her father wants her to see a therapist.

With “The Mother We Share”, Jennifer Soucy has created an intriguing story about a young woman stalked by her dead twin sister. She begins a journey to find out the truth and save the ones she loves. Most characters are complex, all are realistic with all virtues and flaws. The story comprises a variety of craftily elaborated characters with sufficient depth and interesting interactions until the last page. Jennifer Soucy introduces each character in a way that the reader automatically wants to read on – to get to know them better. I had a great time reading “The Mother We Share” – it is an intriguing read that led me right back to the country and places I truly miss. I was immediately drawn into the story, soon keeping my fingers crossed for two very special characters. For me, “The Mother We Share” is contemporary fiction told through the eyes and mind of a young American woman who is suddenly confronted with stuff that fairytales are made of; this viewpoint – not yet twenty, American with Irish ancestry – makes for a charming read. It is a story to read again.

This is for you if you like contemporary fiction with Irish mythology, a young determined heroine, food for thought, and if you are interested in seeing more myth than modern-day visitors normally see on a trip to Ireland.

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She yearned for the mother she never knew, wishing for a whole family. Something heard and replied…

Evie Bonaventura is terrified when a strange girl breaks into her room, a creature with her dead mother’s eyes. Dad confesses Evie had a twin, but she died along with their mother who was unable to survive the devastating childbirth. Mom swore on her deathbed that her baby was kidnapped by fairies—a changeling, but that was impossible. Myths aren’t real.

Yet the otherworldly girl continues to stalk Evie before attacking their father and others. Beltane approaches, their 18th birthday and the night when fairy powers peak. Evie’s determined to protect her family, confident because heroes always win—don’t they?

Tragedy strikes, forcing Evie to act. She embarks on an adventurous rescue mission from Boston to Ireland, aided by an unlikely band of brave friends, legendary creatures, and a colorful coven of witches. Evie has a choice: destroy her twin sister or save her, in honor of the mother they once shared.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction BURKE IN IRELAND by @TomCW99

Today’s team review is from Frank. He blogs here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Burke In Ireland by Tom Williams.

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4 stars.

It is 1793. In Ireland Wolf Tone and the United Irishmen are producing pamphlets and speeches advocating for the extension of the franchise. They are also in close touch with groups prepared to do more than advocate: to organise armed insurrection and encourage a French invasion.

A young James Burke is sent by the British government to infiltrate the organisation and report back on the details of their plans.

Another book by Tom Williams dealing with real events from British history, something which he does so well, this is the fifth in the series featuring James Burke. In the chronology of James’s career it is his second adventure.

The atmosphere of late eighteenth century Dublin is superbly evoked; both the physical and the social. The squalor of the slum districts is set against the plush interiors of the homes of the wealthy.

This differentiation between the masses and the privileged extends to the prison where a lawyer friend of the campaigners is allocated relatively comfortable accommodation.

The story progresses at a good pace as James inveigles his way into the organisation and is welcomed into the home of a wealthy man at the centre of a network of safe houses and secret arms caches.

He quickly learns that all is not as it seems in this household. He accompanies the man’s daughter as she brings food to starving citizens but danger lurks in her apparent affection for him.

The working out of the central conspiracy, to assist the escape of a prisoner, is gripping. It does not go precisely as intended and the possibility of James’s true identity being revealed is ever present.

The style makes it an easy read. It is not over-long. The history and the political background are infiltrated almost unnoticed into the story.

I have read many books dealing with Irish history since I made my home in Ireland. Most present an Irish perspective, often overtly anti-British. It should come as no surprise that a British writer does not follow that trend. Nor, however, does he present a viewpoint biased towards the British. As when dealing with British-Indian history in “Cawnpore”, he shows us both sides.

James, consorting with the Irish conspirators, learns some of the injustices they are seeking to correct. But he is, first and foremost, a soldier loyal to the crown and sees, too, the way in which different branches of government pursue their own often conflicting, agendas.

Read this book for the pleasure of watching a conspiracy unravel and discover how the campaign for Irish home rule drew on, and was a part of, the fight for human rights across Europe and America.

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James Burke’s first mission!
1793 and James Burke is under cover in Ireland, spying on Irish Nationalists. His objective: to discover any plots to conspire with the French to bring down English rule in Dublin.
Dublin is full of plotters. Finding them is easy. Staying alive is not as straightforward.
A tale of spying, love and death against the background of the early struggle for Irish independence.

It’s real history but not how you learned it at school.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Family Drama SEASON OF SECOND CHANCES by @aimeealexbooks @denisedeegan

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Season Of Second Chances by Aimiee Alexander

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This is another great find by Rosie and although I wasn’t familiar with the author (who also publishes under her real name, Denise Deegan), I’m convinced this won’t be the last time I read one of her books.

The description of the book does a good job of highlighting the main aspects of the plot: we have Grace, a woman escaping a difficult and dangerous marriage, with her teenage children, Jack and Holly, hopeful that returning back to the village where she grew up will offer them all a second chance. There awaits her father, Des, who is going through a major change in his life (he’s a recently retired family doctor suffering from early stages of Parkinson’s disease) and doesn’t know the ins and outs of Grace’s decision. Moving from Dublin to a small and sleepy village comes as a shock to Grace’s children, and she finds it difficult to confront the gossip and the expectations of having to step into her father’s shoes. But, this novel about second chances builds up slowly and we see that although not everything is ideal and there are misunderstandings and difficulties to be ironed out, Killrowan, the place and its community, is a place worth sticking with.

The novel touches on a variety of themes: abusive marriages and family relationships (and how difficult it is to walk out); starting over in a different place, picking up friendships and relationships, and rebuilding one’s life; the struggles of dealing with a chronic and debilitating illness; how much one’s self-identity can be enmeshed with our profession and our job; the differences between a big city and a small village; being a family doctor in a rural/village location; how teenagers feel when they have to move and be uprooted from school, friends…; the role animals play in helping us fit in a place and feel rooted; small community life, with hits highs and lows; and even a hint of possible romance(s). There are funny moments, plenty of heart-warming episodes, some scary and nasty shocks as well, some sad and touching stories, and even medical emergencies and action scenes thrown in. In her acknowledgements, the author highlights the process of her creation and her research and having read the novel, I can confirm that it has paid off. She manages to weave all the topics into a novel that brings the characters and the village to life, and I was delighted to read that she is thinking about a sequel. I’d love to go back to Killrowan and revisit the places and the characters that have also become my friends.

Alexander creates multi-dimensional characters easy to relate with. Grace doubts herself and is forever questioning her actions and doubting other people’s motive. Her self-confidence has suffered after years of being undermined and abused by her husband, and she feels guilty for uprooting her family, while at the same time experiencing the thrill of freedom. The novel is written in deep third person and allows us to see the action from different points of view. Grace’s point of view dominates the book, although we also see what her father, Des —another fantastic character who treads carefully and whose life suddenly regains a meaning when his daughter and grandchildren come to live with him— thinks and does, how both of Grace’s children, Jack and Holly, feel, faced with a completely different environment (Jack was the popular sporty type, while Holly had a hard time fitting in and had no friends other than her dog). We meet some fantastic characters in the community, like the scary (at least at first) receptionist at the doctor’s surgery; the butcher’s wife (a gossip with a big heart); Grace’s old pals, Alan (with some secrets of his own) and Ivonne; Benji, a wonderful dog that adopts the family; a handsome American writer; the wife of a local magnate (who reminds Grace of herself); Des’s old love; the local policeman; Grace’s partner at the doctor’s surgery and some of her patients, although not everybody is nice, don’t worry. We also get brief snippets of the events from some of the other character’s perspectives, not only the Sullivans, and that gives us access to privileged information at times. Although the different characters’ points of view aren’t separated by chapters, they are clearly differentiated, and I experienced no confusion while reading, quite the opposite. I enjoyed the opportunity to share in the bigger picture.

The writing style is fluid and flows well, without rushing us through the events, allowing us time to reflect upon events, enjoy the wonderful settings (the sea, the beach, the island, the pub…) and become acquainted with the location, the emotions, and the characters. The author knows well the area, and although Killrowan doesn’t exist (or, at least I couldn’t find it), it feels real (and some of the comments and attitudes Grace and her family experience reminded me of similar events I had witnessed in a small village I used to visit when I was younger) and it leaps from the pages. I confess to enjoying the style of the writing and feeling emotionally engaged with the story (I’d recommend having tissues handy). I’ve selected a couple of quotes to share, but as usual, readers might want to check a sample of the book to see if it suits their taste before purchasing it.

Here Grace is thinking about the family dog and how his death gave her the strength to finally leave her husband.

Benji was more than a dog. He was family. And her defender. Tiny little ball of fur rushing to the rescue. Or trying. Tiny little ball of fur that brought so much comfort to all three of them, Holly especially. Benji knew when they needed love and he gave it in spades.

Here Des is thinking about retirement.

What fool started the tradition of watches as retirement presents? Any thinking person would know that the last thing a man would want is to count all the time he now has on his hands.

Holly had just told her brother that their mother wanted to start over, and Grace realises her daughter is right.

Minutes ago, it had been to escape Simon, shake him off. But escaping Simon is still all about Simon. Grace sees that now. What she must do is start over. Because that is about Grace.

The ending is more than satisfying as well. Yes, not everything is settled and sorted in the end, but this is a book about new beginnings, and we leave the Sullivans and Killrowan to carry on merrily, getting to know each other and discovering what new changes and challenges life will bring. As I mentioned above, the author hints at a possible sequel, and I hope it comes to be.

This is a novel full of heart, friendship, a strong sense of community, and also heartache and personal growth. It is inspiring and comforting in these times when we have been obliged to live pretty enclosed lives. I agree with the TV series mentioned in the description (Call the Midwife one of my favourites), and I’m sure fans of any of those will enjoy this novel, which fits perfectly in the feel-good category, although that does not mean it hides from the most unsavoury aspects of life. There are menacing and dark moments, none too explicit, and I’d recommend it to anybody who enjoys stories with a heart, fond of Ireland and stories with an Irish background, and those who want a gentle read full of wonderful characters and a memorable community we’d all be happy to join.

Book description

When leaving is just the beginning… A novel of family, love, and learning to be kind to yourself by award-winning, bestselling Irish author, Aimee Alexander.

Grace Sullivan flees Dublin with her two teenage children, Jack and Holly, returning to the sleepy West Cork village where she grew up. No one in Killrowan knows what Grace is running from – or that she’s even running. She’d like to keep it that way.

Taking over from her father, Des, as the village doctor offers a real chance for Grace to begin again. But will she and the family adapt to life in a small rural community? Will the villagers accept an outsider as their GP? Will Grace live up to the doctor that her father was? And will she find the inner strength to face the past when it comes calling?

Season of Second Chances is a heart-warming story of friendship, love and finding the inner strength to face a future that may bring back the past.

Perfect for fans of Call The Midwives, The Durrells, Doc Martin and All Creatures Great and Small. The villagers of Killrowan will steal into your heart and make you want to stay with them forever.

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