A Family for Carter Jones

Father for Keeps

Irish Gypsy

Jeb Hunter's Bride

Lady of Lyonsbridge

Lord of Lyonsbridge

Maid of Midnight

The Rogue

Rose in the Mist

Maid of Killarney
by Ana Seymour
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-13415-5
Do you ever get tired of extraneous subplots? Do you sigh when the hero and heroine run off to solve some mystery or another when all you really want to do is watch them fall in love? Are you sick of couples that do nothing but bicker then decide they can’t live without one another? If you said yes to any of these questions, Maid of Killarney is the book for you. It’s a simple, honest romance that sticks with what’s important - the relationship between the main couple.

John Black, a former doctor and Irish rebel, has returned home to Killarney for a little peace. On his way, he finds a young girl cruelly bound and thrown into a river. He rescues the crippled girl and brings her home. Rather than gratitude, he finds that the girl is more than a little nervous at the prospect of someone coming to her home. John discovers that the girl’s mother is a woman known to the townspeople as the Witch of Whistler’s woods.

Lily is no witch, however. In her former life, she was a high-born lady. All that changed when she became pregnant out of wedlock. Turned out of her home, Lily has had to make a life for herself and her daughter Daphne the best she can. She is understandably suspicious of the stranger who has saved her daughter. When John offers to try to repair Daphne’s clubfoot, Lily initially refuses. As the bond between John and her daughter grows, however, she begins to trust him.

There isn’t much action to the plot of Maid of Killarney. The reader is given the story of Lily and John in its simplicity and allowed to watch as their feelings bloom and grow. What is particularly appealing about them as a couple is they are not the average romance pair. Both of them are older, John being in his early forties and Lily in her thirties. They have both experienced life and are weary of it in their own way. Together, they discover that life may have more in store for them than they thought. There is a minor subplot involving Irish politics, but it is rightly kept very low key so as to not detract from the main purpose of the story.

Seymour also does a wonderful job keeping the clichés out of her story. Just when a reader thinks they found one, the author turns it on its ear. For example, Phillip Stratton, Daphne’s father and the man who abandoned Lily long ago. He easily could have been the typical lover, a one-dimensional cad. Seymour manages to give him depth and emotions enough to evoke sympathy from the reader.

Another thing the author does extremely well is the love scenes between John and Lily. Here is where having older, experienced characters really serves the story well. There is no false modesty, no hero “conquering” an inexperienced heroine. Both John and Lily come to each other willingly, and have a healthy passion for one another. The second love scene in the library is particularly appealing.

Maid of Killarney is not without its faults, however. A few missteps keep it from being truly exceptional, the main one being an inconsistency with Lily and Daphne’s isolation. The situation is played that Lily is shunned and abused by the townspeople, the whole “witches of whistling woods” moniker for example. In reality though, once Lily actually interacts with people, no one treats her badly at all. Really, the only ones who give her any trouble are the three boys who tossed Daphne in the pond. Also, Lily’s reaction following her and John’s first sexual encounter is extreme. She blows a certain fact completely out of proportion and it seems out of character. Still, both these things are relatively minor when compared to the rest of the book.

If a reader is looking for a lot of action, suspense and drama, Maid of Killarney may not appeal. Readers who enjoy a gentle, honest love story will be more than satisfied.

--Anne Bulin

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