Courtship of Izzy McCree


Briana by Ruth Langan
(Harl. Historical #480, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29080-2
Briana starts out with a bang but things quickly deteriorate, and a fast paced resolution could not redeem the weak central core of this book.

At age fifteen, an uncontrollable Briana O’Neill is banished to the Abbey of St. Claire after single-handedly attempting to attack a group of English soldiers prowling her Irish village. Her father, the lord of Ballinarin, hopes a year in the cloister will teach Briana to be docile and respectful. Naturally, she is far too feisty to quickly settle down, and is not summoned home for three years. While returning to Ballinarin, the traveling party is set upon by marauding English soldiers and Briana is left for dead.

Keane O’Mara finds the badly wounded Briana and takes her to his home, determined to save her life. He remains at her side throughout her lengthy recovery and it’s at this point the story begins to lag. This is not a good sign. Especially in a character driven romance, where the interplay between the main characters should be the strength of the book, not the weakness.

Once Briana recovers, the attraction between the two begins to develop. But before things can really get going, she is thrown from her horse and winds up back on her deathbed with Keane again at her side. Because Briana is such a headstrong, impetuous character, having her spend so much time unconscious and bedridden seriously slows the pace of the story.

The character of Keane is not as richly drawn. Due to his sordid past, Keane feels unworthy of the lovely Briana. His less than savory history is alluded to throughout the course of the story, but too little information is revealed to whet my interest. When his secrets are finally divulged near the end of the book, I was not engaged enough to care.

There were several irritating things that jumped out at me while reading. In order to illustrate their mutual attraction, there is a spark every time Keane and Briana touch. This device used once or twice during the course of a book may be acceptable. But used repeatedly, as done in this instance, just made me think the manor had a major problem with static electricity.

In addition, I had difficulty connecting with the time and place. I found myself referring to the date at the start of the book more than once to refresh my memory as to the time period. Also, most of the characters are Irish, but they seem much like modern Americans. Perhaps the addition of a bit of the lyrical cadence with which the Irish speak would have helped cement the location.

Briana is the final tale in Ruth Langan’s O’Neill Saga. The adventures of Briana’s brothers Rory and Conor were told earlier. Since both brothers make an appearance in this story, readers of the previous books may enjoy this wrap up of the family’s trilogy.

--Karen Lynch

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