Castle on the Rise weaves three narratives from three different time frames together to give readers a glimpse into Ireland’s storied past and exciting present. It’s an Inspirational tale about facing life’s challenges with vigor, hope and faith.
This is the second book in the Lost Castle series, and the hero and heroine from the previous book play supporting roles in this novel. Their story is continued here, so while book two can easily be read without reading book one, you should be warned that Castle on the Rise contains spoilers for that first novel.
Laine Forrester is attending her best friend’s wedding when she meets Cormac Foley. Brother to the groom, Cormac is a handsome, kindly man who works in the family pub back in Dublin. But he didn’t attend the festivities just to celebrate his brother’s nuptials, he brings news from home. One of their regular patrons has recently died and left them a castle in her will. They must decide how to deal with the ruins of Castle Chryn in Bray, County Wicklow, and the house which sits on the land, Ashford Manor.
In 1916, the manor is home to Lady Isolde (Issy) Byrne and her brother Rory. Issy is an amateur photographer who dreams of making a difference in the world. Rory dreams of freedom for the Irish people, and to that end he has joined the Irish Citizens Army, along with his friends Sean and Levi O’Connell. Sean, who has long had a crush on Issy, serves as a vicar, ministering to the needs of the rebels. While Issy begins the tale uncertain of her politics, Sean and Rory slowly pull her into the ICA.
In 1797, Maeve Ashford is mistress of Ashford Manor. Although her family is English and protestant, she is sympathetic to the Irish people and considers herself one of them. When she finds an injured Eoin O’Byrne on her family’s land land, she hides him in a tower room and nurses him back to health. She quickly falls in love with the Irish Catholic dissident but not everyone wishes the couple happy.
In the present, Laine, whose family once owned an antique shop, helps Cormac explore and catalog the history of Ashford Manor while in another time, Issy photographs the true story of the ICA uprising. Yet further in the past, Maeve and Eoin forge a love story for the ages against a backdrop of rebellion.
Issy and Maeve’s portions of the story aren’t so much rich in history as exorbitant in it. I found that difficult since I am not very interested in Ireland’s past and the characters were so much informed by the politics of their era that I couldn’t become interested in them, either, and unfortunately, the modern day story suffers by giving so much page space to the historical tales. While Laine and Cormac struck me as both interesting individuals and an interesting potential couple, so much of the small page-time they were allotted was devoted to their interactions with their various family members and friends that we don’t really get to know them. We learn details about their individual histories but knowledge of them as a couple or that deeper knowledge of who they are, deep in their inner soul is lacking.
The faith portion of the story is light, making vague references to a generic God who could apply to any Christian denomination. Some of the people who speak of their faith own a bar and are as comfortable in that environ as in a church and the tale makes no effort to distinguish between Protestatism and Catholicism. Those two factors are a bit unusual in inspirationals, so I thought they merited a mention.
Castle on the Rise simply lacked the depth and detail to convey in full the ambitious story it attempted to tell. If the author had focused on any one of her stories, or even any two of them, she would have been better able to weave together a fascinating book. As it stands, good prose and provocative history keep the novel from being bad but lack the power to raise it above an average read.
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