In this debut novel, tragic circumstances inspire a woman to flee to Ireland in search of a fresh start.
Kate McMahon’s husband, Bryan, dies while swimming—it’s unclear if it’s an accident or a suicide—and while grieving, she discovers that he ran a financial Ponzi scheme that fleeced many out of their savings. Utterly disgraced in the news reports, she sells everything she owns, makes restitution to those Bryan defrauded, and leaves Minnesota for Glasnevin, Ireland. Kate spent a semester there while in college—she met Bryan there—and finds solace in familiar faces. She buys an old bed and breakfast, the McFadden Guesthouse; renames it The Cobblestones; and opens it for business. Still emotionally bruised from the death of her husband, Kate isn’t on the prowl for a new man, but she meets fellow American expatriate Luke O’Brien, a journalist who moved to Ireland from San Francisco after his wife died. Their budding romance, though, is not only frustrated by Kate’s hesitation, but also the interference from a computer repairman, Ultan Ferrian, who pines for her at first sight and tirelessly stalks her. Ultan, a sociopath, delights in torturing others with his Taser. He mercilessly terrorizes Michael Farley, Kate’s gardener and friend, who competes as a swimmer in the Special Olympics. Ultan becomes both increasingly frustrated and dangerous, and this love story takes a turn in a darker direction. MacDonald is the nom de plume of a mother-daughter writing team: Cecilia MacDonald and Kathryn Schneeman. Their writing is comically sharp and lively, and the novel’s pace is quick and energetic. Kate is surrounded by an eclectic ensemble cast of quirky characters, but she still shines through as the most fully developed—beleaguered but still hopeful. But the story splits into two jarringly incongruent parts: a lighthearted romantic comedy and a violent thriller that places Kate in the cross hairs of a deeply disturbed man. While both sections are skillfully sketched, the transition from the former to the latter is at the very least peculiar, and even clumsy. Nonetheless, the heart of the book—the cheerful story of Kate’s second chance—remains a companionable read that delivers easy entertainment without demanding much of the audience.
A breezily funny story of heartache and romantic opportunity.