Romance novel gives readers a taste of Ireland
Seeing Ireland in person has long been a dream of mine. Though I’m not a huge fan of its gray and rainy weather, you can’t beat the lush green and the charming accents. But after reading “Longing for Home” by Sarah M. Eden, I now realize that I don’t know much about Irish history.
In the 1800s, tenant farming (working but not owning the land) was more common than not. All the harvested crops went to other people or other countries with the profits going to fill the pockets of the land owners. This left the tenants with little more than a scrap of land left over to garden and feed their own families.
Then in 1840, a blight wiped out much of the potato crop, bringing the beginning of what is now called “The Famine.” Over a million people died of starvation and a million more fled the country in search of food and jobs. This led to a massive immigration to the United States, first in the east coast, and then to the open land of the west. This great western frontier is where our story takes place.
Katie Macauley has come to Hope Springs, Wyoming in search of a better life. Having left Ireland many years before, she hopes that her new job as a housekeeper to a wealthy businessman will finally give her the money she needs to travel back home.
She carries around with her a great weight of sadness because she feels responsible for her own sister’s death and the loss of her family’s land during “The Famine.” Her own father gave her away to be a servant at only 8 years old and that harsh and lonely life has been her reality ever since. En route to Hope Springs, she meets the impertinent and impossibly handsome Tavish O’Connor – and instantly dislikes him. Her fiery Irish nature and years of hardship break forth and sparks fly between the two, but not the good kind. Where she sees annoyance, he sees a challenge.
Then Katie arrives at the farm for her new job and meets Mr. Joseph Archer, who is as refined and softspoken as Tavish is bold and flirtatious. She relishes the new setting but she quickly learns that she was not aware of all the job requirements. Not only is she expected to keep house, but to take care of two little girls as well.
Her past with her sister rears its ugly head and she finds herself panicking at the mere thought of any child being under her care. She gets into a fight with a man for the second time that day. But as cooler heads prevail, Joseph is won over and a deal is struck. She can stay, and a neighbor will watch the girls, but he will send for a replacement right away and she must leave when the new housekeeper arrives.
This arrangement suits Katie fine; she has no intention of staying in Hope Springs. But little does she know that these two men will so endear her to them that suddenly she’s not sure which place feels more like home – Wyoming or Ireland.
What a delight this book was to read. I don’t venture into the “Romance” genre often, mostly because I disagree with its vulgar content. But the subtitle of the book says it all – “A Proper Romance.”
There is no instant love, no passionate bedroom scenes, no one night stands. Katie’s story is one not only of love for others, but of learning to love and forgive herself. It’s a beautifully wrought story that is filled with hope and chivalry and friendships of the best kind. Not only that, I feel like I have a little piece of Ireland with me now because the author described it so vividly and effectively.
Jill Cluff is a sometimes librarian who is married to one giant and mom to two boys. She loves all things book- and food-related – often at the same time.
Kids arts and crafts are one of the activities available at Mount Harmon’s Lotus Blossom Art & Nature Festival on Saturday.