Maid of Killarney
John Black is a former doctor who gave up practicing medicine years ago and has since become a leader in the struggle against English rule. After years of fighting and negotiating, he’s decided to visit his friends Niall and Catronia Riordan (the protagonists of Seymour’s Rose in the Mist) for some much needed rest. But on the way to Killarney he comes across three boys attacking a young girl for being a witch and is forced to save her when the boys try to drown her.
The girl’s name is Daphne, and she and her mother live alone in the woods outside of the village. Daphne is reluctant to let John take her home, and while her mother Lily is thankful for John’s help, she is also wary of strangers. She has tried hard to build a life for herself and keep her daughter safe from the outside world. She has no intention of letting this man intrude.
John isn’t so easily dissuaded. He is concerned when he learns Daphne has a clubfoot, and despite his vow never to practice medicine again, he believes he can help her correct the problem. He is also intrigued by her mother, whose regal bearing doesn’t seem to fit with a woman hiding away from the world in the woods.
Maid of Killarney is a pleasant tale with charming characters who are good company for a few hours. It’s nothing earth-shattering; while not exactly predictable, there weren’t many surprises along the way (although I very much appreciated it when the author dodged one obvious cliché). The story merely unfolds at an easy pace, told with a great deal of warmth and empathy for the characters. This is my idea of a cozy read. The main focus remains on three characters: John, an older hero, weary from battle; Lily, a woman too burned by the world to trust easily; and Daphne, a child who is neither overly precious or a spoiled brat. While Daphne plays a large part in this story, she never felt intrusive, which says a lot coming from someone who tends to dislike children in romances more often than not.
The political machinations of the time do come up, but for the most part they are kept in the background. Similarly, there is a villainous character, but he lingers in the background and never becomes much of an antagonist. This is a nicely character-driven story, not big on action, but heavy on the slowly unfolding bonds between these three people.
Where the book disappoints somewhat is the ending, which is a little anticlimactic. I turned one page expecting to find the next chapter, only to discover the epilogue. Looking back, all the necessary plot elements were mostly resolved, with only the historical elements that obviously weren’t going to be wrapped up in this one book left open. But the subplots felt as if they were building to something bigger than where they ultimately lead. There were a number of final scenes I would have liked to see, and expected to, but they simply weren’t there. This isn’t one of those books where the author takes a few pages after the climax to wind the story down. The climax occurs, and then the story is over.
The fact that I cared enough to want more tipped this one over into the plus column. Seymour does a fine job giving her story a nice sense of place without having it overwhelm the story. For a nice, uncomplicated read with warm characters engaged in a slowly evolving romance, Maid of Killarney is a good choice.