Title:The Maid of Ballymacool
Genre:Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Co (February 21, 2023)
Length: (352) pages
Format: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, & eBook
Tour Dates: February 13 – 27, 2023
Brianna Kelly was abandoned at Ballymacool House and Boarding School as an infant. She has worked there since she was a wee girl and will likely die there. Despite a sense that she was made for something more, Brianna feels powerless to change her situation, so she consoles herself by exploring the Ballymacool grounds, looking for hidden treasures to add to the secret trove beneath the floorboards of her room.
When Michael Wray, the son of local gentry, is sent to Ballymacool to deal with his unruly cousin, he finds himself drawn to Brianna, immediately and inescapably. There is something about her that feels so . . . familiar. When Brianna finds a piece of silver in the woods, she commits to learning its origins, with the help of Michael. What they discover may change everything.
Fan favorite Jennifer Deibel invites you back to the Emerald Isle in the 1930s for this fresh take on the Cinderella story, complete with a tantalizing mystery, a budding romance, and a chance at redemption.
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This was absolutely lovely!
The Maid of Ballymacool had a slow start, but once I got into it I just didn’t want to put it down. It’s a Cinderella retelling of sorts, set in a boarding school in Ireland in the 1930s. The setting was lovely, and though I did appreciate the Gaelic words and phrases used throughout–they really helped to set the scene!–they also made reading a bit challenging because it wasn’t always obvious what was being said, especially when entire sentences were spoken. (There is a glossary at the end, so if you’re reading this review first, find it and bookmark it before you start to save yourself some head scratching!) I’m not at all familiar with the historical events that play into the plot here (the Irish War of Independence factors into Brianna’s history); the author explains a bit of it in her note at the end but I’d almost have liked to have had an explainer a little earlier.
Brianna and Michael are wonderful characters, and though the whole hey-thirteen-year-old-girl-we’re-bringing-your-older (adult)-male-cousin-to-your-boarding-school-to-make-you-behave part seems odd (is that really something they did then?) it’s hard to argue with the results, because of course that’s what brings our main characters together. Their entire courtship is very sweet (it is a Christian romance, after all) and takes its time, much like the eventual reveal of Brianna’s history.
Though at times the characters seem a bit *too* much–Brianna is amazingly sweet tempered, despite what her guardian puts her through; the guardian is over the top awful to her; Michael’s cousin Adeline acts like a miserable brat much of the time–the author balances them out somewhat by the end, making them seem more real. Brianna is (rightfully) angry when she finds out what was done to her, we find out (probably) why Adeline acts out (plus, she’s grown into a lovely person by the epilogue), and seeing some scenes from the headmistress’ POV helps us understand her motivation somewhat–though she has still made some pretty indefensible choices with her life in the end.
Knowing that this is billed as a Cinderella-inspired story makes it fun to look for the little touches throughout that might correspond to the original as you read. For those who might not read a lot of Christian romance, this one isn’t overly preachy and though the characters do talk about God’s presence in their lives and doing His will, it’s not on every single page.
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
About the author:
Jennifer Deibel is the author of A Dance in Donegal (winner of the Kipp Award for Historical Romance) and The Lady of Galway Manor (a Parable Group bestseller). Her work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and in other publications. 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 with her husband and their three children.
Thanks for sharing, Becky. It is intriguing that the story is sent in Ireland and inspired by the Cinderella fairytale.
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