In February, 1760, sixteen year-old Eileen O’Connell is preparing to depart her home at Derrynane, in remote County, Kerry, Ireland, to enter into a marriage arranged primarily to advance her family’s commercial interests. Having just learned that a small party is arriving to escort the girl to her new home, her mother, Maire, speaks with her one final time:
“My darling, you are packed and as ready to depart as possible. . . .” Her voice trailed off and she drew her chair closer to her daughter. “We have spoken much these weeks, but I must say some things to you, my darling girl. You must listen carefully. I shall say what I must only once, so you must keep it all in your heart and mind.” She paused and looked into Eileen’s deep blue eyes.
The girl nodded.
“You must never forget who it is you are: the daughter of Donal Mór Ó Conaill . . .”
“. . . and of Maire ní Dhuibh, of the ‘Fighting O’Donoughues of Glenflesk,’ proud denizens of Robbers Glen,” Eileen, her husky voice strong, certain, nodded in her mother’s direction, her expression warm.
Maire smiled back and very gently nodded. “Very well, then, two strong bloodlines you have.” Pausing, she continued. “But ’tis the O’Connells from whom you come, to whom we both belong and of whom we both are—and ’tis the O’Connells who will protect you, as they have protected me these many years, daughter.
“Should you find yourself in peril, we shall protect you – and if by God’s will ’tis ever necessary, so too shall we avenge you – in both, even to the taking of life.”
Eileen’s eyes grew wide, and her full lips parted ever so slightly.
Maire paused, then asked, “Do you understand, Eileen?”
Her eyes still wide and her lips parted, the girl nodded ever so slightly.
Reaching beneath her chair, Maire retrieved a leather bag that had been hidden by her skirts. Sitting back up, she said, “I have waited until the moment of your departure to give you this, my beloved child.” She passed the satchel to Eileen, who, receiving it gently, sat back in her chair as Maire said in barely a whisper, “Open it, girl.”
Holding the soft glove-leather bag on her lap, Eileen slid open the gleaming brass catch and removed a deep blue velvet sack. Maire gestured, and from the velvet Eileen withdrew what was neither a small nor a large pistol but one quite sufficient to kill a man, and placed it in her left hand, looking at it.
“’Tis beautiful, is it not?” her mother asked.
Without looking up or immediately answering, Eileen studied the weapon. The barrel was a deep, dull gunmetal grey, delicately filigreed, as were the sideplate and the hammer itself, the gleaming walnut stock strikingly gold inlaid. Eileen’s long, elegantly thin fingers rubbed it slowly, almost reverently. She turned it in her hand and rested it in her lap.
“’Tis beautiful indeed.”
“This,” Maire gestured, “is in the event that we are unable to reach you in any peril, so as to permit you to protect yourself.”
Eileen silently nodded.
“This is why you and all the girls have been taught how to use a pistol – and a rifle.” Eileen nodded again. “In these sad and troubled times,” her mother added. Maire passed an ample sack of ammunition and powder from her lap to Eileen’s . . .
. . . She reached over and covered her daughter’s hands, Eileen still holding the pistol in her own.“May you never have to use this, my darling, but if you do, shoot to kill.”
Eileen suddenly nodded her head in the affirmative, tossing her hair softly. In a suddenly steely voice, and a tone Maire had never heard used by her daughter, and looking directly at her mother, she said firmly, “My darling Mama, please rest assured as you rise each morning and retire each night that I know precisely who I am. You and Papa have taught me well from an early age. I know what I must do and, perhaps even more importantly, what I may have to do.”
She patted the weapon. “And, yes, I believe I do possess the wisdom to know when to use this and, if ever necessary, the courage to kill with it . . . so, should the time come, kill I shall . . . of that you may be assured as well.” She sighed deeply and tears welled up in her eyes yet again did not fall. “I am indeed as ready as I can be to go, so let them arrive and let me be gone with them . . . .”
Publication Date: July 7, 2016
eBook & Paperback; 348 Pages
Series: The Derrynane Saga, Volume 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Wed in an arranged marriage to a man nearly fifty years her senior, sixteen-year-old Eileen O’Connell goes from being one of five unmarried sisters to become the mistress of Ballyhar, the great estate of John O’Connor, one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Ireland.
When O’Connor dies suddenly seven months into their marriage, Eileen must decide whether she will fulfill her brother’s strategic goals for her family by marrying her late husband’s son.
Headstrong and outspoken, Eileen frustrates her brother’s wishes, as, through the auspices of her uncle, General Moritz O’Connell of the Imperial Austrian Army, she, along with her ebullient elder sister, Abigail, spend the ensuing richly-dramatic and eventful years at the court of the Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna.The sisters learn to navigate the complex and frequently contradictory ways of the court–making a place for themselves in a world far different from remote Derrynane. Together with the general, they experience a complex life at the pinnacle of the Hapsburg Empire.
Beyond Derrynane – and the three books to follow in The Derrynane Saga – will present 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” (of which the O’Connells were counted as being amongst its few basically still-intact families) at the courts of Catholic Europe, as well as relating their complex, at times dangerous, lives at home in Protestant Ascendancy-ruled Ireland.
In addition to Eileen’s, the books trace the largely-fictional lives of several other O’Connells of Derrynane, it is the tantalisingly few facts that are historically documented about them which provide the basic threads around which the tale itself is woven, into which strategic additions of numerous historical and fictional personalities and events intertwine seamlessly.
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About the Author
Kevin O’Connell is a native of New York City and a descendant of a young officer of what had—
He is a graduate of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre.
For more than four decades, O’Connell has practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia (principally China), Europe, and the Middle East.
Mr. O’Connell has been a serious student of selected (especially the Eighteenth Century) periods of the history of Ireland for virtually all of his life; one significant aspect of this has been a continuing scholarly as well as personal interest in the extended O’Connell family at Derrynane, many even distant and long-ago members of which, especially the characters about whom he writes, he has “known” intimately since childhood.
The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland.
Beyond Derrynane Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, January 16
Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, January 17
Review at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, January 18
Review at Books, Dreams, Life
Friday, January 20
Review at The Book Junkie Reads
Sunday, January 22
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Monday, January 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Tuesday, January 24
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Wednesday, January 25
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Tuesday, January 31
Review at Book Nerd