#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.
Synopsis: Lady Annabeth De Lacy, daughter of Galway Parish’s newest landlord, is apprenticed out to the local jeweler, Seamus Jennings, upon arrival to satisfy her creative curiosities. However, her apprenticeship becomes much more as she becomes involved in the community...and involved with the heart of Seamus’ grouchy son Stephen.
We’re gonna be here a while, y’all. My notes on this book alone were three pages! I’ll try to keep things as concise as I can, but I make no promises.
First things first, I loved the setting. Of course, anything set in Ireland is bound to be delightful, but Deibel did a lovely job of highlighting Galway and its culture, making it seem so vibrant. Unfortunately, I feel like this story was so short and rushed, almost skimpy, so I didn’t get the time to fully experience and enjoy the beautiful setting.
While we’re talking about the setting...was it just me or did some thing seems very 1880s? Especially in the beginning, I noticed a lot of views and whatnot that stood out to me as Victorian rather than 1920s, so I had a hard time defining the era in some ways. (I needed flappers. There. I said it.) Fortunately, the technology fit the era, even if everyone’s outdated ideals didn’t.
Speaking of views, before we get into anything else, I must address the ageism. Deibel makes mention of ageism in her author’s note when she mentioned overcoming prejudice...but this book was chock-full of ageism! Our heroine Anna and her sister continually refer to Lord Corning (whose exact age is unknown, but he’s supposedly middle-aged or older) as a “prune” and a detestable old man. Now, I understand him not being the most swoon-worthy suitor in the girls’ minds, but they didn’t even respect him as a person in general because of how old he was. This is something I’ve noticed more and more in Christian fiction—young girls are engaged to old men, and the old men are presented as horrible humans even though they are never present or explored in the book (like Lord Corning). First of all, ageism in that respect wasn’t common in history, nor is it now. *looks at Katharine McPhee and Catherine Zeta-Jones *
I understand if the heroine doesn’t want to marry someone that much older than her, but please, please, authors, don’t portray all old men as villains and, if at all possible, quit employing this trope! If you have to give your heroine an unwanted suitor/engagement, give her a reason to not like the guy! I’ll feel sympathy for the girl if she’s being forced to marry someone abusive, unfaithful, or immoral, but not if she’s shunning a respectable man and disrespecting her parents all because “well, I don’t like him, he’s old and ugly, I want to marry a young, handsome fellow.” Or, I dunno, why can’t the girl find love with the man in spite of his shortcomings? Why does age have to be a shortcoming? Why does she have to find love with a young, handsome dude? Are men not valuable or suitable husbands unless they’re young and hot?
So, yes, rant aside, I was just about to really get into the story when I found out that Anna was struggling with an unwanted potential engagement. Why is it that every single story has to do with an unwanted engagement? Why? Please, I must know! This trope is so overdone it makes me sick! If you need drama, pick something different and actually interesting, not the same thing everyone else is doing.
I will say this...I have noticed that authors have begun including the perspective of the heroine’s father in these matters, giving them more depth and sympathy instead of making them out to be evil, cruel, cold-hearted manipulators. I appreciate that even as I realize it means all the cold-heartedness is attributed to the old fiance. Can’t win for losing, eh?
Now, I’m done with it. We are moving on, y’all.
Let’s talk about our other old man, Seamus Jennings. I loved this guy and his humor, but y’all. He seemed way too perfect. Like, he knew everything that was going on and exactly what to say in every situation. An admirable trait, yes, and typical of a perceptive father with a caring heart; however, Seamus took the place of God in his son’s life. By that, I mean that Stephen never prayed or read the Bible or sought Christ’s opinion in anything...mostly because his father already told him exactly what to do or say. Not something I recommend, in part because God is our foremost authority and because no human is as perfect as Seamus Jennings.
Fortunately, this was not so for Anna. There was a subtle faith theme woven into her side of the story, and the prayers she would whisper up were inspiring. I do wish that God had been more involved in Anna and Stephen’s relationship—perhaps then it wouldn’t have been so unnecessarily dramatic and flip-floppy.
(Don’t tell me I was the only one who didn’t like the constant on-again off-again toward the end there…)
Speaking of Stephen. Y’all, I wanted to like this dude...but he annoyed the heck out of me in the beginning with all his whining and grumbling. Broody, I like. Whiny baby, I do not. BUT THEN. Yes, but then. Toward the middle there, when Stephen started softening his heart to Anna, he began really growing on me and I could’ve sworn I liked him. But then. Yes, but then again. He got all whiny on me again and couldn’t stick with his decisions to save his life. I wanted so bad for him to fight for love, to stand firm in it, to be strong...but nope, he faltered and fell apart and acted like love was all about him. Well, it’s not.
Fortunately, he saw the light at the end, but by that point, it was too late for me to fall in love with him.
As for Anna, I could have liked her. She wasn’t annoying or obnoxious, but she wasn’t really anything else either. Had we gotten time to see her creating jewelry and working on designs or interacting with the community, her character would’ve been much deeper and more interesting. However, her interactions were limited to her family and the Jenningses and her character was limited to the plot and all the romance drama. Like, the scene with Paddy or when she helps clean up after the storm...she really shined in those scenes, and I wanted more moments like those. But nope.
Speaking of Paddy...he was my favorite. I loved him, his perspective, all of it. I wanted more of him!
Lastly, THERE WAS AN EPILOGUE. That made my heart sing. The epilogue alone is worth a whole star, if you ask me. And while we’re on the subject of the ending, the author’s note was spectacular! I loved learning that all of it—for the most part—was real! The Claddagh is a real ring, a real symbol, a real story—all of it! That was also worth a star in my book!
Long story short, this story just didn’t do it for me. There were elements that were amazing (the Claddagh), elements that were subpar (the characters), and elements that flat-out sickened me (the ageism). Unfortunately, that’s not a good balance. However, Deibel’s writing itself wasn’t half bad, so I just might give her another go...just this time with a story that holds a wee bit more promise than The Lady of Galway Manor.
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
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About the Author
Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher and freelance writer. Her work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic Magazine, and others. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona.
Debut novel, A Dance in Donegal, releases February 2, 2021 from Revell. Follow Moira Doherty to the wilds of rural Ireland in 1921. Available for preorder wherever books are sold.