About the Book
Book: A Dance in Donegal
Author: Jennifer Deibel
Release Date: February 2, 2021
All of her life, Irish-American Moira Doherty has relished her mother’s descriptions of Ireland. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira decides to fulfill her mother’s wish that she become the teacher in Ballymann, her home village in Donegal, Ireland.
After an arduous voyage, Moira arrives to a new home and a new job in an ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira’s mother are unspoken in her presence but threaten to derail everything she’s journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends–and the strength of Sean, an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced–as she seeks to navigate a life she’d never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.
Jennifer Deibel’s debut novel delights the senses, bringing to life the sights, sounds, smells, and language of a lush country and a colorful people. Historical romance fans will embrace her with open arms.
A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel is a story I both struggled with and enjoyed. First, I cannot believe this novel is a debut. The writing is spectacular. Deibel’s prose is beautiful and I adore how seamlessly she includes the melodic Irish language within her paragraphs and dialogue. It really lends to the authenticity of the story. My absolute number one favorite aspect though is the amazing, majestic sense of place that Deibel creates. It is magical! Deibel transports her readers to a tiny Irish village in 1920. I could smell the misty, salty ocean. I could hear the bleating of sheep grazing on the hillside. And, I could see the villagers as they walk about town to and fro running their errands and chatting with neighbors. I enjoyed so much the feeling like I was in Donegal with the characters. It really made my reading experience all the more memorable, and if I was a traveler, I would travel to Donegal immediately!
While I did enjoy the story, the setting, and the fantastic sense of place, I did unfortunately struggle with the characters and their actions. First, I do not appreciate how almost every single character treated Aedach after his illness is discovered. I don’t want to spoil anything because Aedach’s illness is a pretty big part of the narrative, but I do want to say that when a child is sick, no matter how “bad” we may deem that kid to be, we should NEVER hesitate to help. Like, this is pretty non-negotiable. If you know that a child is sick or hurt and you purposely don’t help because you don’t like the kid, you’re a pretty evil person. And this issue actually lends to the second thing I struggled with — the entire community of Ballymann. I don’t know if it’s a small-village thing or a 1920s mentality but the people of Ballymann are awful. They’re mean and cruel gossip-mongers. They talk so badly about others without any actual proof and then treat those they’re talking about as if they are the lowest of scum. Colm, Peg, and Brid are the exceptions in this story, but the rest of the characters are way too judgmental, harsh, and mean for my liking.
I know I am not perfect. I have many, many flaws and I’m a sinner, too. I promise I’m not trying to cast the first stone here. It’s just that I spent 300+ pages reading a story where people were perfectly OK letting a kid die because they didn’t like him, and they were fine treating someone cruelly just because of hearsay. These people gave cold shoulders, made mean accusations, crossed streets to get away from the “bad” person, and whispered just loud enough so their mean words could be heard — it was rough and I really struggled reading this. When I read fiction I want to escape the cruel world we live in. I want to feel hopeful that people are better than what I see on the news. But the actions and words of the characters in this story didn’t let me escape.
While I did struggle with the characters and their actions, I did LOVE the plotline, the setting, and the sense of place. It is for these reasons that I do recommend A Dance in Donegal.
I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Revell, via NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.