So Wild a Kiss
In Ireland in the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell’s army is spreading terror throughout the land. It makes no difference if you are a descendant of the Normans or are pure Irish, if you have an estate you stand a good chance of losing it to Cromwell’s profiteers. This possibility terrifies Eleanor Archebold.
Eleanor is the daughter of an Irish mother and a Norman father who has been executed. Her estate of Laragh means everything to her and she also feels a deep responsibilty to its inhabitants. She plans to sell some of her father’s treasured and valuable books to get money to bribe the English officials. Alas, she is offered a pittance for the books and in desperation decides to sell her body when she is mistaken for a prostitute.
Sir Garrett Neville is a baronet – he is handsome, he is very kind and he and Eleanor have one night of passion and love. Then she leaves, thinking never to see him again, but who should show up at Laragh, having brought up the estate’s debentures, but Sir Garrett – a coincidence I thought was forced, but I guess it was essential to the story.
Sir Garrett has not forgotten Eleanor. He sets about to win the tenants of Laragh and succeeds. He even charms old Biddie O’Fierghraie, the local healer who is gifted with the Sight. Biddie even sees a glow around him. Garrett proposes a marriage of convenience and Eleanor reluctantly agrees, but keeps her distance and rebuffs him long after a sensible woman would have seen just what a good man he is. Finally he performs a deed that pierces through Eleanor’s wall of protection and we have a happy ending, or at least as happy an ending as can be in Ireland at that time.
There was a lot to admire about So Wild a Kiss. This Irish setting was beautifully done and Richards-Akers does not flinch at showing the atrocities committed by Cromwell’s soldiers on the population and the reprisals the Irish took against the soldiers. There is a lot of Irish language in the book, but an Irish phrase is almost always followed by a translation. When the Irish characters speak English, the language they use has that lilt that gives the reader the flavor of an Irish accent without resorting to phonetic dialect which is very hard to read.
I did have a problem with Sir Garrett Neville. If not a Duke of Slut, he was a Baronet of Slut. He was introduced as a man who had cut a wide swathe among prostitutes. I found it hard to believe that a man who had had so much experience with prostitutes would fall and fall hard for Eleanor after only one night with her. And as for Eleanor, even after Garrett proved himself, she kept pushing him away for so long that she came perilously close to being Too Stupid To Live.
And on a minor note. Richards-Akers uses one of the most painful euphimisms for penis I have encountered – man-sword. The first time I saw the phrase, I giggled and then as I kept on seeing it, I kept on giggling. I’m afraid I laughed throughout the love scenes, which were otherwise fine.
All in all, So Wild a Kiss was a book that aroused my admiration for its excellent use of language and its Irish setting. Now if only the characters had been as well done as the setting and language, I would not only have admired it, but could truly recommend it.