If you are in the mood for a nice thick book with an intense story that keeps you absorbed for several days, this is the perfect book. Richards carefully draws her readers into her characters’ world and involves them so deeply they’ll not want to leave.
Niccolo Andreani and Megan Donaghue meet in the parking lot of her family business, Whiskey Island Saloon, after Niccolo stops to help two women being carjacked. The two women turn out to be Megan’s sisters Casey and Peggy and a quiet, mysterious little girl named Ashley. Niccolo and Megan are drawn into each other’s lives through family secrets and mutual attraction.
This book is about family more than anything else. The author weaves the story of the Donaghue ancestors, Lena and Terence, told through journal entries and scenes that take place in the 1880s, with the story of Megan and her sisters. Each sister is working through a turning point in her life. Casey’s turning point involves Ashley, the little girl she brought to town. This story is also the source of minor suspense in the novel as a whole – suspense that, thankfully, never overshadows the other sisters’ stories. Peggy has a personal crisis to sort out, and Megan must reevaluate her role as parent figure and caretaker to her sisters and deal with her attraction to Niccolo.
While we see each sister’s story from her point of view, it is Megan who serves as the main heroine. She is the oldest and became the parent figure after her mother died and her father disappeared. Megan is strong and emotionally distant, or so she would have everyone believe. During the course of the book, Megan is faced with situations that cause her to reevaluate herself, especially when she finds herself attracted to Niccolo and growing closer to him. Their relationship forces Megan to face who she really is. Her sisters also force her to realize the women they have become and change the way she relates to them. Most importantly, Megan has to face her family’s past.
When he becomes involved with Megan, Niccolo is going through a career change of sorts. While he trying to figure things out, he takes on a project for a local priest, Father Ignatius. Father Iggy asks Niccolo to transcribe an old journal that dates back to the late 1800’s. The story in the journal turns out to be about Megan’s ancestors, and it affects the present Donaghues and Niccolo as well.
The story of the ancestors, Lena and Terence Tierney is interesting, but along the way it sort of turns into an historical soap opera. It eventually begins to overshadow Megan and Niccolo’s story. And yet, I did enjoy the glimpses into the life of Irish immigrants in America; Richards’ descriptive powers made me feel as if I were there. The final twists and turns added drama and suspense.
A well-rounded secondary cast consisting of Casey’s love interest, a band of kids who adopt Niccolo, Father Iggy, and an old homeless man with an important tie to the story kept things interesting. The kids bloom under Niccolo’s attention, and Father Iggy always has a wise word.
The melding of the stories past and present worked fairly well because of the ties between them: the homeless man and a decades-old murder. Richards paces her novel well, and the story never drags. There’s a lot to enjoy here, and I don’t think I’ve said nearly enough about it. Give Whiskey Island a try, and you’ll get your money’s worth.