Saturday, August 13, 2011

The O'Malley Legacy by Kate Sweeney

Publisher:               Intaglio Publications

What is the O'Malley legacy? To be a strong woman of Irish blood who honors her family, craves adventure and loves her woman passionately. As they ascend through the centuries, each one wrestles with the confines of her time, but those three characteristics never waver. 

Branna O'Malley knows that Reagan Shaunessy wants her to admit that they love each other, have loved each other since they were children, but she can't. Branna isn't sure she can deal with the life that she and Reagan would have or that she is prepared to make that commitment.   Kathleen Burke decides that it's time for Branna to hear the history of the women of her family. She weaves three tales: the original Branna O'Malley, a 14th century Irish warrior against the English who falls in love with an Englishwoman; Quinn Stoddard, an American sea captain who liberates a Frenchwoman from her father's control while opposing slavery in the early 1800s; and Kathleen's own love, Seana Riordan, who risked their love in World War II to carry out a secret mission against the Germans. 

As each story unfolds, the message is clear: O'Malley women aren't afraid of a challenge and they draw to them women who are as strong, and stubborn, as they are. They speak across the ages, calling to the modern Branna to accept her family heritage by taking her rightful place as the O'Malley and to set the course of her own future with courage.

Anyone with storytellers in her family will recognize the framework of this book. A ritual in many families is the passing along of legends and tales that tell about the family, the forces that shaped it, and how it has survived to be expressed in the lives of the current generation. In the telling, the past whispers to the present about what the important values are and how they should be maintained.
The O'Malley Legacy captures the feeling of those story-telling sessions well. The descriptions of the times and locations are rich in texture and the characters are appealing, so the reader can easily paint a detailed mental picture of what is happening.

Some of the stories could have been developed more to tie them up.
Kathleen and Seana's story, for instance, seems incomplete. Since they are in the relative present, it would have been nice to know what happened to Seana after the war. The episodes about Irish Branna and Quinn seem too liberated for women, although there are the true stories of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Calamity Jane from the same periods that certainly prove there were women who were able to live unconventional lives. 

One of the nice aspects is how the sexuality of the women is handled. This isn't a novel that exists so that the characters have a reason for having sex. This isn't erotica, so there aren't pages of explicit descriptions of what tongues and fingers are doing. These are women who are living real lives and share passion between them as one part of those lives. The stories drive the book, not the sex or their sexuality.

The O'Malley Legacy has strong women, adventure and passion. That should give it appeal for just about everyone.

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