After a long summer drought, Noraholics like myself have a fall feast -- no fewer than three new releases: Jewels of the Sun, Loyalty in Death (Roberts writing as J.D. Robb) and Enchanted (SIM #961) - as well as the re-release of the Donovan Legacy trilogy. Jewels of the Sun is the first book of a new trilogy focusing on the Gallagher siblings -- two boys and one girl -- in a small Irish town. I must admit that I read at least 100 pages of the novel before I was hooked. It is not as immediately impressive as the Sea Swept trilogy that preceded it. However, in its own subtle way, it is another strong effort from an author who
Jude Murray arrives in Ireland not quite sure if she is having a nervous breakdown or taking the first step towards saving her sanity. She has forsaken her safe, comfortable life in Chicago as a psychology professor to spend three months in a distant relative's cottage, researching Irish folklore. This shy, reserved, self-confessed "neurotic tight-ass" doesn't know what to make of the friendly response of the locals and the sad female ghost who inhabits her cottage. By the time she embarks on an affair with Aidan Gallagher, owner of the local pub, and meets a faerie prince, she has begun a remarkable transformation
that opens new worlds for her.
This trilogy appears to be Nora Roberts' valentine to her favorite setting, Ireland. Unlike the often dark, brutal events in the Sea Swept trilogy, there is nary a villain to be found in Jewels of the Sun, and the only violence consists of good-natured brawls between friends or relatives. All of the natives are immediately friendly and welcoming to Jude. The charm and Irish humor flow freely, along with a touch of lyrical
mysticism as Aidan and others spin myths and legends, including the story of Carrick, the Faerie Prince and Gwen, the lady who benignly haunts Jude's cottage.
The novel started to impress me as it explored Jude's path towards self-actualization, as she changes from a scared, repressed woman into one who is self-confident and ready to take risks. The fact that this journey is only partially facilitated by Aidan's love is a powerful feminist statement to me. The romance shares equal billing with Jude's discovery of her hidden creative talents and the development of strong friendships
with Aidan's sister Darcy and her neighbor Brenna O'Toole. As always, Roberts excels at portraying the joys and power of female bonding.
I have one curmudgeonly comment. Where would romance novels be without the ubiquitous friend/distant relative who provides the hero/heroine with a cottage/summer home/cabin to start a new life? I'm ready to see a little less of this plot device. And I wish real life provided such welcome escape clauses!
The next novel in the trilogy, Tears of the Moon, promises to be a more spicy combination of Shawn Gallagher and the capable, feisty Brenna, who has loved him from afar for years. The final installment will provide romance for Darcy Gallagher. In the course of the series, I hope that the story of Lady Gwen and Prince Carrick will be explored further and take more of a central role. So far, this isn't my favorite Nora
Roberts trilogy but the jury is still out. And you can bet I'll read the other two novels as soon as they're available.