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A lovely Irishwoman immigrates to Kentucky in this debut historical novel.

Arrabella “Ella” McCarthy expects to marry her childhood friend and remain in Ireland with her loving family for the rest of her life. But there are limited prospects for a talented Irish woman in 1897, so when her American uncle proposes naming her his heir in exchange for moving to Kentucky and marrying a neighbor’s wealthy son, Ella can’t refuse. Her major consolation is that she’ll be able to bring four of her beloved horses to her new homeland. But to do so, she must survive a dangerous ocean crossing where unlucky circumstances make her a target for harassment and assault. If readers imagine that Ella disguises herself as a man in response, they will begin to understand the contours of this adventure. The first of several romantic options comes to her aid as well, and he soon admires her beauty, resilience, and humor. Landing in America presents Ella with two more dubious romantic choices in the form of the Brannock brothers, Padraig and Sean. The latter is Ella’s intended, and she soon realizes that as sons of a recently deceased hotel tycoon and landowner, they have a world of expectations on their shoulders. Sean copes by drinking and gambling, and Padraig locks his feelings away to better perform his many duties. Violence, passion, and easily avoidable miscommunications ensue before Ella can comfortably call herself the mistress of her new Kentucky estate. An early scene in Gentry’s romance where Ella’s Irish Catholic mother frankly discusses the pleasures of sex alerts readers that love and marriage will be framed in a contemporary, recognizable manner. Ella herself is a mix of a 21st-century woman and a historical creation; situations are crafted to display her bravery, brains, and compassion, but this unblemished perfection can read like a portrait of a saint. Despite these motley tones, this series opener presents a beautiful thesis: that true love shapes people to notice others’ needs before their own. Darker events near the end suggest an intriguing, if straightforward, continuation of the saga.       

A gentle, frothy take on classic romance set pieces.  

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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