Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rebellion in Ulster by Angela Koenig

Publisher:                   Blue Feather Books

To those who say lesbian novels don’t deal with serious or topical issues, that they don’t present sophisticated or well developed characters or plots, that they’re basically erotica disguised as romances, the answer is, sure, some of them are.  The answer is also that, if you want something different, you’re not reading the right books.

Rebellion in Ulster by Angela Koenig is a very intense book from a different perspective.  Jeri O’Donnell is a Rhodes Scholar from the US who decides to use her time in Britain to meet her extended family in Ireland.  Unfortunately, Jeri’s cousin Fiona is a gun runner for the Provisional IRA and uses Jeri’s rental car for her work.  A shoot out with British soldiers ends with Fiona dead and Jeri in the infamous Armagh Women’s Prison.  While there Jeri transforms from an American who understands very little of “The Troubles” between Britain and Ireland into a loyal soldier for the IRA.

What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?  The answer usually depends on which side of an issue you stand on.  Koenig presents this story with a slight bias for the Irish, but there is some sympathy for the British standpoint also.  Jeri feels she owes her life to the Irish cause as a replacement for Fiona and she becomes an expert at what she does - killing, gun running and bombing.  Occasionally however she wonders if she is doing the right thing.  As the book progresses the reader is able to see her internal struggle with what she believes and what she questions.  Along the way she meets a host of friends and lovers who shape the person she becomes and a crisis at the end will force her to make an important evaluation of her life.

Rebellion in Ulster is about a lesbian, but not lesbianism.  Jeri could just have easily been straight.  That might turn some readers away from the book, but it shouldn’t because it’s a very strong story with a complex and interesting central character.  There is also a bonus to this book, unlike anything this reviewer has experienced.  Holding the book provides a sensual experience not usual with a paperback cover.  It almost feels like suede.  Holding that book awakens your fingertips before the words reach your eyes.  It's not only a good story, but will remind you of why you like to hold a book in your hands.

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