I read the first book in the Derrynane Saga, Beyond Derrynane so when the author contacted me to review the second book in the series, Two Journeys Home, I accepted immediately. Mr. Kevin O’Connell sent me a copy at no charge and I share my thoughts below.
About Two Journeys Home:
It’s now the late-Summer of 1767. As the eagerly anticipated sequel to Beyond Derrynane opens, having spent almost six eventful years at the court of Maria Theresa, Eileen O’Connell has availed herself of a fortuitous opportunity to travel back to Ireland.
Her vivacious personality matched only by her arresting physical presence, Eileen returns to Derrynane this time not as a teenage widow but, rather, as one of the most recognised figures at the glittering Habsburg court. Before departing Ireland several months later she experiences a whirlwind romance, leading to a tumult of betrayal and conflict within the O’Connell clan. Once back in Vienna she unexpectedly finds her responsibilities as governess to the youngest Habsburg archduchess now linked to relations between France and Austria.
Abigail, rather than being eclipsed by her colourful younger sister, has instead ascended to the vaulted position of principal lady-in-waiting to Empress Maria Theresa. No longer “just a girl from deep in Kerry,” she is a beloved – and powerful – figure at court.
Hugh O’Connell, the youngest of the large family, leaves behind waning adolescence and a fleeting attraction to the youngest archduchess when he begins a military career in the Irish Brigade of the armies of Louis XV. But, perhaps as a foreshadowing of his adult life and career, more royal entanglement awaits him in France …
In the continuing saga, the O’Connells will confront intrigue, romance – even violence. Despite their innate wisdom, cunning and guile, what their futures hold remains to be seen.
With his uniquely-descriptive prose, Kevin O’Connell again deftly weaves threads of historical fact and fancy to create a colourful tapestry affording unique insights into the courts of eighteenth-century Catholic Europe as well as Protestant Ascendancy-ruled Ireland. Watch as the epic unfolds amongst the O’Connells, their friends and enemies, as the tumultuously-dangerous worlds in which they dwell continue to gradually – but inexorably – change.
Along with Beyond Derrynane, Two Journeys Home – and the two books to follow in The Derrynane Saga – comprise an enthralling series of historical novels, presenting a sweeping chronicle, set against the larger drama of Europe in the early stages of significant change, dramatising the roles, which have never before been treated in fiction, played by a small number of expatriate Irish Catholics of the fallen “Gaelic Aristocracy” at the courts of Catholic Europe, as well as relating their complex, at times dangerous, lives at home in an Ireland still controlled by the Sassenach.
In addition to Eileen’s, the books trace the largely-fictional lives of several other O’Connells of Derrynane, it is the tantalizingly few facts that are historically documented about them which provide the basic facts which give rise to the tale, into which strategic additions of numerous historical and fictional personalities and events mesh seamlessly.
About the Author:
Kevin O’Connell is a native of of New York City, descended from a young officer of what had – from 1690 to 1792 – been the Irish Brigade of the French army, believed to have arrived in French Canada sometime following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October, 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland; Mr. O’Connell’s own grandparents arrived in New York in the early Twentieth Century. He holds both Irish and American citizenship. Given this heritage, he has been a serious student of Eighteenth Century Irish and European history for virtually all his life; one significant aspect of this has been a continuing scholarly as well as personal interest in the extended O’Connell family.
As a result, in 2014, Mr. O’Connell began writing a series of historical fiction novels, now known as the Derrynane Saga. His first book, Beyond Derrynane: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe, was published by The Gortcullinane Press in July 2016, is in global circulation and has received a range of positive critical reviews, in the United States, the UK and in Europe. An alumnus of Don Bosco Preparatory School, he is a graduate of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre. For much of his forty-plus year long legal career, Mr. O’Connell has practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East O’Connell is married, has five children and ten grandchildren. He resides with his wife, Laurette, and their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland, USA.
This is the second book in the Derrynane series. I enjoyed the first book as Irish history does have a place in my heart being as my father’s family came from Ireland. The author has loosely based the story on his family’s history and I do enjoy novels that are based in real life however loosely.
The main protagonist is a very headstrong young woman named Eileen O’Connell. She is supported by a large family in Ireland and Vienna where a large number of the Irish have gone in the time period as the English have constrained their ability to advance. A basic knowledge of the English/Irish relationship is helpful but not necessary in understanding the underlying currents in the book.
But this is a novel driven by characters and I must admit that I did not enjoy this book as much as I did the first. This book seemed a bit more of a diary/travelogue than a fully fleshed novel to me. I will note that I did have an advanced reader’s copy and perhaps further edits will have been made before sale to the public. I just didn’t find myself as invested in the characters as I was in the first story. That does not mean I would not read a third should one be written.