Lily Fair
Grade : C+

I love nothing more than what people call a “hidden treasure” – a book, movie, singer, actor, what have you, that not many people know about but that I cherish. This author’s Gather the Stars, is one such book for me – one of those perfect, tortured love stories that makes me cheer at the happy ending. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Lily Fair, a story that weaves Irish lore, tormented mortals, and the prophecy which holds the key to each character’s destiny.

Chieftain Conn the Ever Truthful owes his glory to Fintan, a blind warrior who has the gift of making his spear hit its mark with unfailing accuracy. Imagine Conn’s horror, then, when a druid announces that Fintan’s unborn child will be responsible for Conn’s destruction. Fintan and his beloved wife, Grainne, cannot believe that the child they have waited for all their lives could cause the demise of their leader. With no other choice, they accept Conn’s decree that the child should be sent to live in a convent. Conn’s plans for the baby girl are far darker than anyone could imagine – let’s just say that “Ever Truthful” is the least appropriate nickname for this man.

Twenty years later, Caitlin of the Lilies leads a peaceful life with the nuns of St. Mary’s. Once a year, she travels to the spot where she was left as a newborn and finds a perfect lily there, a sign that whoever her family is, they are still watching over her. This time, however, Caitlin finds not the flower she expects, but a warrior who tells her he has come to the Abbey to fetch a wench by the name of Caitlin of the Lilies. After many tears and much grief in being separated from the only family she’s known, Caitlin leaves with the man, and they begin the journey toward Conn’s lands.

Niall of the Seven Betrayals is appalled by the menial task he has been given. By God, he’s a warrior! What’s he doing playing messenger and fetching wenches for Conn? In reality, his task is a grim one, but he only finds out after he’s been thoroughly captivated by Caitlin. His decision is to take Caitlin to his family home – where he hasn’t set foot in years – and where they are received by his mother and his young sister, who’d like nothing better than to bash Niall’s head against a rock.

The attraction between Caitlin and Niall grows despite – or maybe because of – the huge difference in their personalities. Their first interaction sets the tone for how I saw them throughout the book: Caitlin skips toward the sea she is seeing for the first time; Niall saves her when she nearly drowns, and then gruffly pushing her away so he won’t reveal how attracted he is to her.

Lily Fair has its share of problematic details. Caitlin can be precious and melodramatic at times, going from heartbreaking grief to innocent delight in a nanosecond, and by the fifth time I read about her “lily fair” skin, or some variation on that theme, I wanted to scream “Okay! The girl’s white, I got it!!!”
Niall, on the other hand, is a dark and tortured hero, but unwittingly naïve, given Cates’ treatment of Conn; it would have been much better had Conn not been so obviously evil from the very beginning. Niall is also confused – was his father a good man or not? Was Conn responsible for his family’s ruin or are his mother and sister lying? Unfortunately, the reader figures out the answers much, much earlier than Niall does.

This book is not for everyone, the writing is sometimes overtly lyrical and lush, and if this is not your style, you might not have the patience to stick with it. However, the story beneath the ornate gilt is an interesting one, and while Lily Fair does not match the quality of Gather the Stars, it is a read that will be sure to transport you to the pagan Ireland of long ago.

Reviewed by Claudia Terrones

Grade: C+

Book Type: Medieval Romance

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : November 4, 1999

Publication Date: 1999

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