Today’s title is The Irish Cottage: Finding Elizabeth by Juliet Gauvin. This is the first book in The Irish Heart series (which sits at 3 books), and was published in December, 2014. I read this book in about 4 hours, and it sits at 371 pages in length.
Rating/Triggers: R (Explicit sex scenes, suggestions of sexual assault, suggestions of abuse, explicit violence, guns, cursing, drinking)
“Elizabeth Lara built a perfect life as San Francisco’s top divorce attorney, but when she loses her great-aunt Mags, the woman who raised her, she boards a plane and leaves it all behind.
The Irish shores welcome her as she learns a shocking truth, kept secret for thirty-five years. Devastated and now alone in the world, Beth tries to find peace in a beautiful cottage by Lough Rhiannon, but peace isn’t what fate had in mind. Almost as soon as she arrives, Beth’s solitary retreat into the magic wilds of Ireland is interrupted by Connor Bannon. A man with light brown hair, ice blue eyes and a secret of his own. He’s gorgeous, grieving, and completely unexpected.
With the help of Mags’ letters, the colorful townspeople of Dingle, and Connor, Elizabeth might just find a way back to the girl she lost long ago and become the woman she always wanted to be.
A Note From Jules:
Be forewarned you might not want to start this book late at night—several readers have reported “gobbling it up” and going on to the next book immediately. This book is literary women’s fiction, it is not a traditional romance, per se.”
Acquisition: I read this title as a Kindle ebook, which I “purchased” for free in December 2016 and just finally read this week. It was another Bookbub daily email suggestion. It is still available for free as of now, May 2017.
Spoilers May Exist Below!
Diversity: Harshly lacking. Nearly everybody is supermodel beautiful (and literally described as such), muscular, well-educated, and extremely wealthy. The romantic interest of the book, Connor, is literally a Lord who lives in a castle and is apparently embarrassed by this. 😒
Luckily, Elizabeth is not a stereotype in her emotional and mental choices/faculties. She is an extremely independent woman who has earned her own finances by being a brilliant divorce lawyer. She is strong-willed and physically defends herself, but also allows herself to hurt and mourn for her dear, recently departed great-aunt Mags who raised her.
There is also one character who is not heterosexual–one of Connor’s incredibly beautiful friends is described basically as a bisexual woman. This is mentioned when Elizabeth realizes that she is “eyeing” her, and then little other mention is made of it. In this way, the other character’s sexuality seems like a tool to reinforce Elizabeth’s attractiveness.
In the end, the characters never seem to have to work during the action of the novel, and only beautiful heterosexual love is really seen. I did not notice any differently-abled bodies, and one character, who is deemed “not right in the head,” even acts as a villain, trying to sexually assault Elizabeth and then threatening her with a gun after Connor goes to his father (see Feminist Perspective discussion below).
Originality & Plot: The major driver of this novels’ plot is that Elizabeth’s dear aunt has died, and so Elizabeth has taken a leave of absence from work (which she later decides to never return to) to rent an absurdly expensive home in Ireland in which to heal. She chooses Ireland because her aunt loved to travel and the two of them had been supposed to go there together, but Elizbeth was always “too busy.”
Mags left Elizabeth a series of letters (I believe it’s 17 total, and she only gets through I think 5 or 6 in this installment) in which she explains the truth about Elizabeth’s parents and how Mags thinks Elizabeth has lost herself and can find herself again. Some of these “letters” include photographs and/or sim cards with videos that the old woman has made of herself.
The love story of this book is not especially interesting. There are some half-decent sex scenes and luckily it is fairly reciprocal, but it also seems typical and can get boring (see more in Feminist Perspective discussion below). The characters are not especially original, with the exception of Mags, but the larger plot of healing, exploration, and self-acceptance seems fairly interesting if not quite new.
Editing Perspective: There are a few times when the author uses unnecessary all-caps. I understand that all-caps is equivalent to yelling, but in literature, you can achieve the desired effect with simple exclamation marks. There is no need to use both because it just seems harsh. I would love to know what you think, but I always cringe when I try to read anything in caps, especially entire sentences. 😒 Luckily, these only occurred at the beginning of the text.
There are, unfortunately, several times when the narrator seems messed up: they occasionally know things they shouldn’t as a third person limited narrator. Occasionally, they speak about things that Connor thinks, feels, or believes instead of Elizabeth. It is very confusing and really brings me out of the world of the book.
Feminist Perspective: This book has some definite problems, from a feminist view. The first is discussed above: the one non-hetero character is a bisexual woman whose bisexuality is only discussed or used to reinforce the attractiveness of the protagonist.
Another issue is that of the minor “villain” type character. He is, of course, set up as one of the few less-than-gorgeous people in the book. He is introduced when he makes a comment to his friends about wanting to sexually assault Elizabeth, which sends Connor into a rage, as discussed below. This character then pops up again at a dance when he tries to get a drunk Elizabeth to leave with him (she kicks his ass). After this, Connor secretly goes to the boy’s father to “tell on him” in a way, but it is alluded to that the father beats or otherwise abuses the boy. The boy then comes to Elizabeth’s house in the night with a gun, seemingly to kill her to get his revenge.
When Elizabeth gets herself out of the danger (by pretending to seduce him), she tells Connor not to be angry because the boy needs psychiatric help. I felt that his character was so confusing and strange and seemed to parallel Connor, like what Connor would be seen as if he weren’t so hot.
In fact, there are several times that Elizabeth specifically says that things Connor and his friends say or do would be really creepy if they weren’t so gorgeous. For some reason, though, this highly intelligent and independent woman excuses downright creepy and gross remarks because the men who say or do them are so attractive.
When they concede to their attraction, Connor suddenly finds himself easily enraged by jealousy and/or protectiveness (as above). He says that he has never felt that way or been violent, but “something about Elizabeth brings it out.” How many times do I have to use the side-eye emoji? She even says that it seems like a red flag, but she is just so hot for him that she is willing to ignore it, as long as sh believes he won’t hurt her.
I was pleased, however, that Elizabeth does prove herself an independent woman. She decides to follow her heart and “the Universe” as Mags’ letters have taught her to do. She decides to go on with the next stage of her journey to self-discovery by trying to help Mags with her final wishes. She leaves Connor and basically tells him, “Yeah, I love you and we helped each other heal, but I have my own adventure to go on. I’m not about to just follow you on yours.” I thought that was pretty sweet.
Final Review: In the end, I thought that this was a perfectly good quick vacation read, the kind of thing I would read on the beach if the beach didn’t sound like death by sunburn to me. I think that, as long as it is free, it is a read that wouldn’t hurt and could easily be worth your time if it sounds like something you might be interested in. I will be adding the next books in the series to my wishlist, ready and willing to review the rest of the series when I am able to do so.
It has its weaknesses, certainly, but I think that The Irish Cottage was interesting and made some good statements about self-reliance and living your own life as your adventure, owing yourself a great ride. (P.S. If you read the book, check out the Amazon page afterward and see how similar the protagonist is to the author. 😂)
Let me know if there are any specific books you would like me to review or if you have any questions/comments about this one.