It’s difficult to know what to say about this book. Other than an unusually high degree of overall implausibility, it’s generally inoffensive and unmemorable.
Eamon Riordon thought he’d seen the last of the young gypsy girl who knocked him out and stole his horse. The daughter of a recently deceased Romany man and an Irish mother who died shortly after she was born, Maura was running away from the gypsy band she’s lived with all her life after narrowly avoiding rape at the hands of the band’s new chief, Pietro.
Seven years later, however, Maura returns from living among the “Gajo” in Dublin and one of the first people she stumbles across is Eamon. Relieved that he doesn’t immediately recognize the cleaned-up, grown-up her, Maura dashes off, only to find that her old gypsy family has not prospered under Pietro’s leadership. When he threatens her loved ones if she does not submit to him, she realizes she is still not equipped to handle his vile attentions. Sadly, and she believes for the last time, she bids the troupe farewell.
Walking through the woods, and rather regretting her ill-prepared flight, Maura comes across a young boy out exploring. Ultan is the oldest son of Cormac Riordon, Eamon’s older brother. Ultan artlessly confesses what a bad boy he’s generally thought to be and Maura decides to walk him home to ensure he gets there safely.
When they arrive, Ultan’s mother sees how taken the boy is with Maura and immediately offers her a job as her children’s tutor (the incorrigible Ultan having driven off all the others). Since Maura needs a place to stay, she figures she’ll take the job until someone realizes she’s no teacher and boots her out.
Imagine Eamon’s surprise when he returns from a journey to find Maura, whom he has since realized is the young horse thief, firmly ensconced in the bosom of his family. On reflection, however, he thinks that having the lovely Maura close at hand might not be such a terrible thing.
This is a very slow moving book, in part because little happens and in part because even the most improbable situations are simply waved off by the author. I mean, how likely is it, really, that an unknown young woman, found wandering with no money or belongings in the woods, would be instantly welcomed into a wealthy family’s home and put in charge of the children? Or that their uncle, who knows the woman to be a liar and a thief, wouldn’t mention any of this to his beloved brother?
Compounding this unlikely scenario, the author does nothing to explain how a young woman, who was raised in the woods by gypsies and lived in Dublin as a tavern wench, came by the vocabulary, accent and refinement to pass herself off as an impoverished gentlewoman. Eamon discovers that Maura is totally illiterate and offers to teach her. My eyes nearly rolled back in my head when, just two weeks after her very first reading lesson, this apparent linguistic genius is translating Ovid from the Latin. Naturally Ultan, the devil child, turns into an angel in her presence.
Much is made of the physical attraction between Maura and Eamon (something else everyone else is astonishingly sanguine about), but there were very few indications of anything else in their relationship. To me, this made the whole thing smack uncomfortably of a randy nobleman taking advantage of an innocent but smitten dependent, which I didn’t find very romantic.
Ms. Seymour avoided all the opportunities for contrived conflict, which I applaud, but then forgot to add anything that might have made the first 200 pages of the book compelling. Having let so many valid opportunities for conflict go by, when a fortune in gold is stolen and everyone remembers that they really don’t know much about Maura, the suspicion feels really contrived. Then all of them act like complete idiots for 50 pages and then there’s a happily ever after.
I haven’t read the first two books in this series; if you did, you might enjoy this as well. Starting with this one, however, won’t likely inspire you to seek the others out.