Monday, January 3, 2011

Leggend of Shannonderry by Carol Warburton

From the back:
Gwyneth Beddows, a young woman of nineteenth-century England, has often felt lonely and unloved by her father, who believes the rumors that his pretty daughter might not actually be his child. The one place the young woman can find consolation is in the saddle of her spirited stallion. The magnificent horse shows promise as a racehorse and has drawn the attention of Irish horse master Cormac D'Arcy, who is visiting England on business. The handsome young man also brings a life-changing message from Gwyneth's grandmother--a frail yet feisty Irish woman Gwyneth has never met. 
Events orchestrated by her father force Gwyneth to fell England, and with the help if D'Arcy, she arrives at Shannonderry, her maternal family's ancestral home, where Gwyneth learns of a legend that will have a profound impact on her life and the lives of those around her.
Touched by the promise of destiny, Gwyneth seeks to save the family estate from certain ruin. But with fierce rivals on the scene and her embittered father in the periphery, Gwyneth faces grave danger that may place her far beyond the reach of D'Arcy's rescuing hand--and she must call on the strength of her heart if the historic legend of Shannonderry will ever by fulfilled.

This story is a 19th century Cinderella story, except there is a father who isn't nice. Gwyneth is not treated well by her father thanks to a stupid rumor. Her stepmother also treats her poorly. When Gwyneth's grandmother, someone she hasn't met, sends for her, Gwyneth is overjoyed at the prospect of leaving home.
What she finds in Ireland shocks her. She is part of a legend. Can she live up to it? And will the Irish man who thinks English girls should stay in England love her? Or will her past rise up to ruin everything?
Carol does a fine job in making the reader feel they are in Ireland. Her characters grow and mature. I found myself wanting the two main characters to fall in love and make it work. And for the locals to like Gwyneth, even if she is part English.
I could also "see" the characters in my mind. I thought the main character had unusual coloring for being from Ireland and England. But set her apart.
Carol also did well in building tension between the two countries or between people. I enjoyed reading her tale from beginning to end.
There was a bit of convenience or unbelievability but Ireland is full of magic, right?

V: Bad guys
L: None
S: None.

Page 69 test:
"...but it was the mass platinum hair that held her gaze. "Who...who is she?"
"Her name is Gwyneth...Gwyneth O'Brien," Moira answered. A shiver of superstition ran up Moira's frail spine. Although she'd seen the resemblance between her granddaughter and the other Gwyneth as soon as the girl stepped through the sitting room door, she hadn't realized how alike they were until she saw their faces side by side.

Striving to compose herself, Moira went on. "She lived at Shannonderry during the Desmond uprising. While the men of her family were away fighting, she held off a troop of the queen's soldiers. When the officer in charge discovered that he'd been bested by a woman and a handful of servants, he was so impressed that he returned with reinforcements and set a guard around the castle to protect it from further attack. Afterward, he petitioned the queen on Gwyneth's behalf and saved Shannonderry from being planted with English."
A thrill ran along the flesh of Gwyneth's arms. "What a brave woman."
"One with brains and spirit too. After her father and brothers fled to France with the Desmonds, the queen decreed that neither he nor his male heirs cold ever inherit Shannonderry." Moira's face turned cynical. "Although Elizabeth might admire and reward another for courage, she knew our Gwyneth would someday have to marry. Since much of Munster was now planted with English, the queen assumed Gwyneth would have to marry an Englishman."
Moira paused and smiled up at the portrait. "She failed to reckon with Gwyneth's spirit. Rather than ally herself with the enemy, Gwyneth married a distant O'Brien cousin from up north to ensure that she and her children would still bear the O'Brien name."
"Gwyneth...the white and blessed one," Gwyneth whispered. The half-forgotten phrase came to her from across the years-words spoken by Kate and now reinforced by the tale told  by her grandmother.
"Yes," Moira clasped her hands together to keep them from trembling. Taking a steadying breath, she spoke. "There is a family story...a legend...that another Gwyneth with pale skin and light hair will again save Shannonderry."
Gwyneth's pulse quickened. "Me?" she wanted to ask. She pushed the thought away, too awestruck to think clearly. " believe the legend?"

Moira shrugged, but as she gazed into Gwyneth's aqua eyes, a feeling of calm settled over her. O'Brien--not English--eyes met and held hers. "I don't know," she answered. "But I begin to think someone more knowing than I...perhaps even God Himself...prompted me to send for you."

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