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Friday, June 17, 2011

In Love and War by Suzanne Barrett

In Love and War by Suzanne Barrett
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (185 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rated: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Embittered war correspondent Quinn Lawlor returns to his ancestral home in Ireland where he finds solace in the arms of Waterford dairy farmer Meaghann Power.

Meaghann must separate her daytime life as farmer and daughter of Irish rebels from nights of blazing desire for the one man she shouldn't love.

Will their passion prove strong enough to overcome a decades-old bitter struggle?

In Love and War offers parallels to life and living, between individuals and society; because the struggles of nations – indeed even the eternal conflict, fall as mere tapestry to all that is heartfelt between one man and one woman. It sounds complex, but is more honestly described as compelling, from start to finish.

The setting is the very fascinating world of contemporary Ireland. This isn’t the quaint, packaged tourist Ireland folks like to imagine – it's far more real than that, but also, in the final analysis, also more enchanting. And, Ireland being Ireland, the past is never far away. The history, yesterday’s morals, today’s gossip, the danger inherent when people still really care, all contribute to a real and lively sense of place. When political events are shared, they aren’t distant and grand, but happening round tables down at the local pubs.

Ms. Barrett’s story is a study of people, both in a broad frame and in a narrow, intimate context. The main characters are outstandingly individual. It matters not if the intrigue on the grander scale is not of particular interest to the reader, because Quinn and Meaghann are continually of interest. Both are strong, self-possessed people, admirable for many traits. Quinn, especially, is all the more intriguing because of his personal struggles and demons. Some of the dialogue is simply a hoot: I adore it when people talk at cross-purposes, so believably.

There are certainly a few characters that don’t go much beyond a certain formula of a person. Brid, family matchmaker is quaint yes, but overdone and clich├ęd. I found her tiresome and perhaps more to the point, so did Meaghann. However, some of these secondary characters certainly seemed to exist merely to goad our heroine. Perhaps, this is merely an accurate reflection of many a small community. As Ms. Barrett tells us: “The problem with tiny Timnagh was that everyone was aware of its comings and goings.” Actually, this ‘problem’ is never-endingly engaging for readers, and so perhaps it’s not surprising if the odd person does fall into a stereotype. The ‘bad’ like Fergus Burke seem thoroughly bad, as plain as Aunt Brid’s good. Even the fence-sitters, like Declan come out a bit too predictable. This is hardly a complaint however, because Quinn and Meaghann themselves more than make up for some plastic secondary staff. Although we want and expect something between them, absolutely nothing there is simple and straightforward.

It is very fun to note that exactly the sort of things dear old Aunt Brid worries about start to happen. The attraction between the two of them is all the more impressive because neither of them are really expecting it. The political issues don’t just intrude. We discover, to our own surprise, that there is more to our Meaghann than we were given to understand at the outset. Her motivation is not as simple as it would seem. She is, in fact, a person with her own demons. To say more would be to give too much away

Word or language use occasionally gives us a subtle sense of some of the interplay of ironies going on here. That growing sense of risk – personal, even if driven by the political – guarantees that you will remain on the edge of your seat. Emotionally intense and intriguing, Ms. Barrett’s characters, their struggles, beliefs, but ultimately their loves, will keep readers turning these pages. Clever.

I strongly recommend you read In Love and War.