Reviewed by Emma Crowley
A promise is a promise...
Art historian, Rachel Ford has returned to the Irish village of Kilbrook intent on keeping her promise to take revenge on the school bullies who ruined her childhood and destroyed her family.
Australian actor Finn MacKenzie sets hearts fluttering when he turns up in sleepy Kilbrook to help his aunt with a school production. He seems to have a charmed life, yet his confident façade hides heartbreak and tragedy. Although Finn isn't looking for love, when he meets the mysterious Rachel, there's a definite spark between them.
Rachel is torn between her desire for revenge and this new love affair. She doesn't want to deceive Finn, but can she trust him to keep her real identity a secret? And will he understand why she must keep her promise, no matter the cost?
An Irish Promise is the second novel in the Emerald Isle Romance series from Choc Lit author Isabella Connor and I can easily say I loved it staying up late into the night eager to discover the ending. I had enjoyed their debut novel but this story just blew their previous offering out of the water. Despite being quite slow in the start with a lot of setting up to be done, once the action picked up it never stopped and the story held me firmly in its grip.
Isabella Connor is actually two people (Liv Thomas and Valerie Olteanu) writing as one but you would never guess this as the writing is superb and flows really well. It’s evident the authors have put a lot of time and effort into creating a strong plot with a varied cast of characters that will have you loving and hating them in equal measure. I often wonder how two people write as one – how do they spilt the workload and make the story read as if one person as written it?
This book opened with such a strong and impactful first page that I knew I was in for a roller-coaster of a read full of unexpected turns and plot twists. We are introduced to Rachel Ford as she travels to Kilbrook a small village in the west of Ireland. She is there under pretence to study frescos in the church and also work part-time in the local restaurant - The Fat Pheasant. But all is not as it seems as Rachel is really here to extract her revenge for the bullying she suffered at the hands of several residents of Kilbrook during the first few years in the local secondary school.
The novel is interspersed with extracts of her diary from her early teenage years and it gives detailed descriptions of the abuse and suffering she was dealt under the hands of four main bullies – Daniel (now the local priest), Jody (nobody seems to know where he disappeared to) and Mel and Jay (who are now married and a teacher and restaurant owner respectively). Reading the diary extracts really gave me an insight into how Rachel felt and why she now needs to come back so many years later and see the tables turned on her tormentors. Rachel bides her time and assimilates herself into the community waiting until a school reunion provides the perfect place for everything to come together and her bullies to receive what she feels has been coming to them.
Initially I thought the book would be all about Rachel and her quest but as the story progressed she turned out to be a totally different character than we had first read about. She seemed to nearly do a complete u-turn in her thoughts and opinions as she began to care for some of the people in Kilbrook and see that maybe everybody was not that bad in spite of the traumatic event that had occurred many years ago. There were numerous characters to get to grips with and with each character they had their own storyline – too many to mention here but at times these storylines overtook from the main plot and Rachel’s revenge. One or two side storylines could have been shorter and not have been explored throughout the book to the end but maybe in a chapter or two. Despite that minor gripe I found becoming familiar with the four main bullies and what they were up to now in Kilbrook was fascinating. Who could believe that Daniel would have ended up as the parish priest and I do have to say I don’t think any priest would have done half the things Daniel does in this book. I mean sneaking a kiss with Rachel and getting so drunk at a party - would this really happen in real life? Mel and Jay are still as nasty, evil and arrogant as ever and I loved their storyline as it highlighted that even later in life they were still the same bullies who had never changed and didn’t care whose lives they destroyed as long as they were happy and living their dream lifestyle.
There was some romance in this book but it is certainly not chick-lit as dealing with such a relevant topic of bullying and how its effects can have such far reaching consequences means that An Irish Promise takes itself into a totally different genre. Rachel does have some romantic encounters with Finn who was a great character having suffered a difficult past of his own he came across as such a kind, caring and supportive person to Rachel. There were two huge plot twists that I genuinely didn’t see coming and I literally gasped out loud. The author had done such a great job of setting the scene, developing the characters and the story and giving me false ideas about certain people that they deserve great credit for such dramatic but essential twists that only made the story even better.
I could go into much more detail about the various subplots but I think it’s best for you to read this book and make your own judgements and see how everything comes together. The issues and themes explored in this book are current and many people will connect with them. The author deserves great credit for daring to tackle some issues that often get swept under the carpet when they should be exposed and dealt with. I urge people to pick up this book as you won’t be left disappointed but instead will have a huge feeling of satisfaction by the last page. Isabella Connor has outdone herself and I am already looking forward to her next release.
I'd like to thank Liz at Choc Lit for sending us this eBook to review and Emma for her fantastic review.