Well-researched early nineteenth century history, engaging characters, and a touch of Irish magic make The Legend of Shannonderry by Carol Warburton a delightful read.
Gossip destroyed Englishman Maurice Beddow’s trust in his Irish wife. When she gave birth to a tiny fair-haired daughter and insisted with her dying breath that the child be called Gwyneth, Maurice doubted the child was his.
As Gwyneth grew up, she was never denied a place in his home, food, or other essentials, but she lacked his love. A stepmother eventually took her mother’s place and two brothers followed in short order. Sylvia, the stepmother, was never overtly cruel to Gwyneth, but she made no secret of her desire for her stepdaughter to marry and be gone.
Maurice allowed his daughter to claim a colt sired by a rogue stallion on the condition she could break it to saddle, a feat he didn’t believe she could master. To his surprise and the envy of horsemen all across the country, the stallion Toryn, became a highly sought-after racing champion.
He also became the motivating factor behind several marriage proposals, and when Maurice insisted that Gwyneth accept a proposal she found objectionable, she ran away with an Irish horse master who smuggled a note to her from her Irish grandmother, the mistress of Shannonderry.
Gwyneth falls in love with Shannonderry and is greatly concerned about its sad state of repair. She begins a campaign to win over her grandmother and is surprised to learn that her mother named her after a legendary former mistress of the estate who saved it from destruction or disbursement.
A legend is attached to the story of her ancestor that another Gwyneth will one day save the estate again, though she can’t believe she is the fulfillment of that legend. She also finds herself falling in love with Cormac D’Arcy, the man who helped her escape England and her father.
Finding herself cornered into accepting a challenge to a race, she disguises herself as a boy and rides astride. In winning the race, she garners the enmity of a powerful neighbor and his son. The generous purse she wins seems to be the beginning of restoring Shannonderry to its former glory, but a larger challenge awaits, placing her life and that of her horse in danger.
Warburton fulfilled a childhood dream in writing about the land of her ancestors. Her research was thorough, making the rolling green hills, crumbling castles, love of horses, distrust between the English and Irish, and the animosity between Catholics and Protestants, a realistic background for this romantic suspense novel. The suspense is set at a careful, building pace that holds the reader’s attention from start to finish. The love story falls in the category of classic romance with its attention to loyalty, sacrifice, selflessness, and trust.
Not only does the Irish countryside come alive for the reader in The Legend of Shannonderry, but the characters are multi-dimensional and seem real, as do their problems, emotions, thoughts, and reactions to other characters. The plot is evenly paced and riveting.
Carol Warburton’s historical novels have been set in the United States, Mexico, Australia, and now Ireland. She pays particular attention to historical accuracy and is a former librarian. She and her husband live in Salt Lake County.
Both adults and teens, male and female, will enjoy this book and it will particularly appeal to historical fans, horse lovers, and those who enjoy a love story coupled with suspense. All in all, I found it a highly satisfying novel.