Meghann McCarthy escaped the slums of Belfast to become a rich, successful attorney in London. Yet she can never quite banish Ireland from her heart, or forget Michael Devlin, the boy she once loved with a passion that nearly tore her apart. When Michael, a notorious Irish nationalist, becomes involved in a vicious court case, Meghann agrees to defend him. But even as she jeopardizes her hard-won success, she finds the true power and spirit of the Irish heritage she has too long denied...and the courage to face her love for Michael.
Meghann McCarthy is a high-powered London attorney. Meticulous in her career and in her life, she maintains a careful facade of cool glamour, poise, and polish, having buried her Irish working class roots on her way to success. Or so she thinks, until one phone call in the middle of the night changes everything. It's her foster mother Annie. The woman who took Meghann in after her parents were killed. The woman who loved her and raised her, and who also raised a family full of political criminals. Meghann hasn't spoken to her in years, and Annie wouldn't call unless something were very wrong. The popular candidate for prime minister has just been assassinated, and Annie's son and Meghann's first love, Michael Devlin, has been accused of the crime.
Going into this, I did not know much about the bloody civil war that has plagued Northern Ireland over the past century, and Ms. Baker does a fantastic job of bringing the horrors of the times to life through the eyes of three exceptional characters: Michael, the former combatant who has found that the pen is mightier than the sword; Annie, the mother who watches her family put their lives on the line in an unwinnable war; and Meghann, who wants nothing to do with any of it, but ultimately can't deny the bonds of family and heritage . . . and love. From these three perspectives, the bloody history of the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein is woven throughout the story: hunger strikes, riots, protests, the Diplock Courts specially designed to suppress Irish political prisoners, armed resistance, urban warfare, and murder.
Michael didn't kill the prime minister, but someone wants him to take the fall for the crime. Believing that Michael's life is in danger in prison, Meghann helps bust him out and gets him into hiding, and as the pair journey through the Irish countryside and set up life in a safehouse, Meghann starts having dreams about Nuala O'Donnell, a young woman living in sixteenth century Ireland, fighting for her homeland's freedom from England during the period in Ireland's history known as The Flight of the Earls. She becomes obsessed with Nuala's story, which is a heartbreaking one, full of love, betrayal, and sacrifice, and when Nuala starts appearing to her when she's awake, Meghann has to ask herself why Nuala is reaching out to her, and what she's supposed to do about it.
As Meghann searches desperately for evidence that will exonerate Michael, she's forced to go up against some powerful and dangerous people determined to stop her from thwarting their agenda, and she's forced to decide: What's more important--holding on to the carefully constructed, controlled, and emotionless life she's worked so hard for, or reconnecting with the life she ran away from all those years ago, far from perfect, but full of love and passion and a sense of home?
I really enjoyed this book and I could not put it down. The characters are phenomenal, the history of both time periods comes to life, and the story is dangerous and passionate and exciting. Two things keep me from rating this higher: One: though I loved both Meghann's and Nuala's stories, I couldn't really see what the common thread was between them. They did not seem to be very connected, so as I was reading I was thinking, this is great, I enjoy reading Nuala's story, but what's the point? Two: the whole story is leading up to this monumental court case with the eyes of both countries focused on it; it will make or break both Meghann and Michael, they've both risked their lives for it . . . and if you blinked you missed it. I think all of three pages were devoted to it and then it was all over. So it ended up being rather anti-climactic, and I felt a bit let down. But those quibbles don't keep me from recommending this to anyone who loves historical fiction entwined with romance, danger, and excitement. Irish Lady is a really gripping and emotional read, and I look forward to reading Ms. Baker's other novels.
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
*Please Note: This review references an advance digital copy received via NetGalley, and the finished copy may differ. Though I received this book for review, these are my unbiased opinions and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.