Quick Review: Love and Blarney (Ballybeg #2)

by Sunita

As I said at the end of my review of Keane’s first Ballybeg romance, I enjoyed myself so much that I went on and started reading the second book (one of the joys of boxed sets is that one novel just follows another on my ereader). It is a novella, so it wasn’t a huge time commitment and I didn’t have to feel guilty about not reading one of the many partly-done books in my stack.

Love and Blarney cover

The story features Ruairi McCarthy, whom we met in the first installment, and his estranged wife Jayme King. We knew that Ruairi gave up a lucrative and high-status job as a stockbroker in New York to come back and run his family’s pub, but we didn’t know why. At the very end of Love and Shenanigans we discovered, along with the rest of Ballybeg, that Ruairi had not only left his job but also his wife, whom he had married years ago without telling any of his family.

All this comes to light when Jayme shows up in Ballybeg, unannounced and unexpected. She decided to make the journey because the divorce is about to be finalized and she wants to make sure this is really what they both want to do. She wants Ruairi to talk to her face-to-face. Ruairi, as you can imagine, is gobsmacked to see her, and he gets into serious trouble with all the women in his life when his wife, mother, and sisters find out he never told his family in Ireland he was married. For what it’s worth, he didn’t tell Jayme why he suddenly had to return either. So we have the Big Mis and the Big Secrets.

After everyone simmers down, Jayme and Ruairi begin to talk about their marriage and the possibilities for the future. They have refreshingly adult conversations where both parties think about what they might have done differently rather than harping on what the other did. The resolution has to come pretty quickly since it’s a novella, and that truncated aspects of the story I would have liked to see developed better, but other than that everything is well handled.

I particularly appreciated the way Ruairi’s family is depicted. His father is genuinely horrible and abusive and one of his brothers takes after the old man. His mother and siblings aren’t presented as enabling or long-suffering in a stereotypical way, but it’s clear how social and cultural norms can make this kind of situation persist. I also liked seeing his sister Sharon again, whom we met in the first novel and who will be starring in her own installment. She’s a great character.

My one other criticism, aside from issues related to the brevity of the format, is that Jayme’s Big Secret, the reason she didn’t contact Ruairi sooner, was pregnancy-related. I would really like to see a heroine who hides a medical condition from the hero and have it been something Just Medical. The men in our lives care about us even when babies aren’t involved. I want romances that portray that.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this and am forcing myself not to glom the whole series so I don’t burn out. Thank you Zara Keane for writing fun, authentic-feeling small-town stories set in a place that all too often gets the Finian’s Rainbow treatment.