Daughter of Gold
It’s always pleasant to find a book that enchants you when you least expect it. When I picked up Daughter of Gold, I had no idea what I’d find because the cover made it seem as if the book could be historical, a fantasy, or perhaps a little of both. What I got was a thoroughly entertaining fairytale-like historical (ancient Ireland) that brightened the dreariness of one rainy afternoon.
Bryan of Cahir Cullen is a warrior of the Fianna determined to be named the tanist (heir/successor to the king) of his people even though his brutish cousin Ardal is also actively campaigning for this nomination. Both Bryan and Ardal travel, together with the rest of their kingdom, to the gathering of the Five Kingdoms at the annual Lughnasa Fair. There, both Bryan and Ardal will compete in numerous events to show off their warrior skills.
Along the way to fair, Bryan finds himself caring for an injured horse and, unable to keep pace with the rest, makes camp with a simple farming family on their way to the fair to trade animals. Bryan finds himself quite taken with the family’s daughter Niamh and their paths keep crossing even after they reach their destination. Enchanted by Niamh, Bryan asks her to become his Lughnasa Sister, a term meaning one’s lover for the duration of the fair. Niamh refuses him, saying that she has no wish to be a man’s lover for fourteen days and then allow him to ride off, never thinking of her again. She tells Bryan that a woman wants three things and that only a man who takes the time to learn what they are will ever win her.
Bryan never refuses a challenge, so he spends much of his free time with Niamh and her family, learning about her and enjoying her company, while also contending with a mysterious animal spirit called a puca. This puca invades the camp regularly, setting animals loose, and wreaking havoc. The fairgoers are terrified of the spirit, but Niamh is determined to learn what it wants and she calls on Bryan to help her.
The fact that Ms. O’Kerry can juggle Bryan and Niamh’s romance, the pursuit of the puca, and Bryan’s quest to become tanist without tangling up her plotlines shows a certain strength of writing. In fact, this story flowed very well and, while a touch too simplistic in places, it has a very pleasing quality to it. The story often reads like an old fairytale or legend, something that readers used to contemporary language patterns may find difficult to get used to and perhaps a bit too simple, but I thought for the most part that Ms. O’Kerry’s choice of words fits the story well.
My only major quibble with this book was with Bryan’s character. Sometimes he seemed just a little too dense. While it is obvious that he is quite taken with Niamh, he keeps asking her to be his Lughnasa Sister or to enter some other temporary arrangement with him. After a little while, this gets repetitive and I couldn’t stop thinking, “Can’t you see that this is just what she doesn’t want? You need to get cracking on those three things women want, buddy!” However, most of the time Bryan proves himself to be a good man and a basically likable one.
Niamh is a great heroine. Those who like kick-butt, “I am woman, hear me roar” heroines may not go for her, but I found her to be quite strong and likable. Though an uneducated farmer’s daughter, Niamh is wise and sensible. Most importantly, she demands to be respected by those around her. The fact that she is lowborn makes her fear getting involved with a nobleman because of the differences in their lifestyles, but she does not believe herself to be worth any less than the nobles. Indeed, her value for herself gives her the courage to do many things in this book (such as seeking out the puca) that even the noble characters will not do.
If you like a good fairytale romance or you are simply looking for a historical with a different setting from most of what is out there, Daughter of Gold is certainly worth trying. It is easily the best Janeen O’Kerry book I have tried, and even with a few bumpy spots, it was still one that had me going back to reread my favorite scenes.