It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s only natural that a romance reader’s fancy turns to thoughts of Ireland, specifically the spell the Emerald Isle casts on the romances set on its green shores. When I hear “Irish romance” without a doubt my thoughts go to the best Irish romance trilogy EVER, Nora Roberts‘ The Gallaghers of Ardmore.
Originally published in 1999 and 2000 (thus earning it the label of “classic romance” for this blog), this was one of Roberts’ forays into adding a paranormal element into her plot. I like recommending the book for people who are leery about paranormal, because it’s only a minor plot element, so it doesn’t put readers off, simply adding a tint of myth. The Irish setting (and so many books set in Ireland do describe the environment, especially of rural or small village life as “magical”) also helps suspend disbelief and the faerie king provides a good foil for our heroes and heroines, prodding them to action because of his personal agenda, and berating them when it looks like they are going to louse everything up. But I digress.
In Jewels of the Sun, American psychology professor Frances Jude Murray has left a painful divorce behind in Chicago, deciding to do a little research in the Irish cottage in the seaside town of Ardmore. She quickly discovers her grandmother’s cottage harbors a locally famous ghost, a sad, beautiful woman, Lady Gwen, who fell in love with Carrick, the Faerie prince. Desperate for her to run away with him, he attempted to bribe her on three occasions with diamonds, pearls, and sapphires, but each time she refused because he didn’t think to offer her his love. Gwen went on to marry and have children, but her soul still pines for him as he does for her. They are both trapped away from one another until three couples profess their true love to one another, accepting the gift they are being offered in the other person’s love and affection.
Aidan Gallagher runs his family’s tavern in Ardmore and while he did plenty of roaming (ahem) in his youth, he is content to provide food, drink and Irish music to his neighbors and the tourists of Ardmore. When this reserved beauty from America with family ties to the town enters his tavern, his body and mind go on full alert. Jude knows that she is not the type of woman to have a fling, but Aidan’s Irish charm and sexy body make this an ideal time to throw caution to the wind. They both enter into the relationship only to discover much more about themselves they thought possible, including the recognition that this passion for one another could indicate a deep and abiding love if they are willing to take the chance.
In a world of reformed man-whores, Aidan is a breath of fresh air. It’s not that he wasn’t a little wild in his youth, but he doesn’t take an intimate relationship lightly and it’s clear he cares for Jude from the start. Jude finds not only sexual satisfaction in Aidan but a warm friendship, friendship that extends to his brother Sean and sister Darcy and their family friends the O’Toole’s, particularly Darcy’s good friend, Brenna. The classic repressed good girl, Jude has been living her life for other people, and it takes a good deal of bravery to cast that habit aside and begin to live for herself and what she wants. The tavern scenes are particularly rich, and the hot scene of Jude modeling her new underwear set for Aidan at closing is quite a standout!
In Tears of the Moon, the redheaded tomboy spitfire Brenna O’Toole admits to herself that she has loved dreamy musician Shawn Gallagher from afar forever, but she’s never had the guts to show him. Confident in her sexuality, she nevertheless has some self-esteem issues in the idea that she’s not a girly girl type to attract the men in droves.
This combination makes the two of them a clash of personalities (the central focus of the plot) as Brenna often makes quick decisions based on what she thinks is right, rather than coaxing others into her way of thinking. Her family life is both poignant and laugh out loud funny, and the way she uses the family handiman business to constantly be in the haunted cottage (now occupied by Shawn) is adorable. Artistic Shawn needs a kick in the pants to stop hiding his talent and move past just being the cook in the Gallagher tavern and Brenna’s force of nature personality and gorgeous body have taken over his dreams, day or otherwise.
As in any good trilogy, not only do we have the window into Brenna and Shawn’s minds, but we get to see Aidan and Jude as a married couple providing secondary character depth and goodness. This book really is more about two very different people showing each other that they can have more than just a physical relationship, but that it’s not necessarily going to come easy while they figure out how to work with each other rather than accidentally hurt their partner. The standout scene has to be Brenna kissing Shawn for the first time “just to show him what he might be missing” in the front yard of the cottage.
But the curse for Carrick and Lady Gwen doesn’t get broken unless three couples are successful and the last Gallagher is going to be a tough nut to crack. Stunning Darcy brings men to their knees on a regular basis, a fact of which she is all too aware, but she struggles to find a man she can have an equal reaction to, particularly when she has convinced herself that she wants a rich man who can give her the travel and material goods she’s missed growing up in a working class household. In Heart of the Sea, the Gallagher family tavern has entered into a partnership with American developer Trevor Magee, whose family has painful ties to the town of Ardmore. Trevor and Darcy’s attraction is instant and should come with a “highly combustible” warning, but there are naturally complications.
Trevor doesn’t just look for thriving restaurant and taverns to purchase, his many companies also find musical acts and the Gallaghers, especially talented vocalist and musician Darcy, are solid gold. When they commence their relationship, Darcy and Trevor begin to wonder how much of it is business with a little something extra and how much of it is something more?
This is the hardest of the three books for me to warm up to, mostly because while Darcy is a good friend and great sister, I find her focus on finding a rich man distasteful. Trevor is a handsome, tortured character who saves the book for me, and it’s probably telling that the standout scene is not one between the couple, but rather the part of the book where Trevor is trapped with Jude during a storm and ends up helping her deliver her and Aidan’s daughter.
This trilogy lives in my ereader so I can have it wherever I go and it’s a rare year where I don’t reread the books a few times just to sigh over the Irish setting and enjoy the supernatural quality of love. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!