Abandoned by her father and neglected by her self-centered, unstable
mother, Sheila McGee cannot wait to escape the drudgery of her mill
village life in Northern Ireland. Her classic Irish beauty helps her win
the 1941 Linen Queen competition, and the prize money that goes with it
finally gives her the opportunity she's been dreaming of. But Sheila
does not count on the impact of the Belfast blitz which brings World War
II to her doorstep. Now even her good looks are useless in the face of
travel restrictions, and her earlier resolve is eroded by her ma's fear
of being left alone.
When American troops set up base in her village,
some see them as occupiers but Sheila sees them as saviors--one of them
may be her ticket out. Despite objections from her childhood friend,
Gavin O'Rourke, she sets her sights on an attractive Jewish-American
army officer named Joel Solomon, but her plans are interrupted by the
arrival of a street-wise young evacuee from Belfast.
Sheila fights to hold on to her dream but slowly her priorities change
as the people of Northern Ireland put old divisions aside and bond
together in a common purpose to fight the Germans. Sheila's affection
for Joel grows as she and Gavin are driven farther apart. As the war
moves steadily closer to those she has grown to love, Sheila confronts
more abandonment and loss, and finds true strength, compassion, and a
meaning for life outside of herself.
We are given young Sheila's story as World War II gets closer to her small village in Ireland. Sheila has big dreams of leaving her little town as soon as she gets enough funds together, but she doesn't expect the complications that will arise when she tries to leave now that the war is at her back door. I think I will start off by telling you that this book fell just a bit short for me.
Although Sheila finds it next to impossible to leave the village, once she wins the Linen Queen competition, certain things are a little easier for her and her family. She finds herself being invited to special events that many girls couldn't get past the front door. This allows her the opportunity to meet new people, including Joel, the young soldier from America who has taken a fancy towards her. As much as I wanted to like Sheila as the main character, I found she annoyed me half of the time. She did stand up for what she believed in and protected those that she loved, but her relationships with Gavin and Joel drove me nuts! I couldn't help but think, pick a man already!
Sheila did have a rough family life since her father left her and her mother behind. Her aunt and uncle were kind enough to take them in, and with the frustrations of the economy her mother was afraid to make any waves in the household in fear they would be on the streets. So often I couldn't help but think how mean and selfish her mother was, but when she needed help, Sheila was there to support her.
As much as I wanted to love this novel, I just found it dragging on and on for me. Until I reached at least the half-way point of the book, I just was never excited to get back to reading it. I also found some of the characters names confusing as a couple were quite similar. With themes of war, family, and love, you may find more enjoyment from this book than I did. Even though I didn't love it, I didn't hate it either. So I do recommend this book for those that love stories about Ireland and I also think it would make an interesting book club discussion.
My Rating: 3/5
Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.