First of all, can we just agree that this is a gorgeous cover! This historical romance takes place in 1921 when Moira Doherty moves from Boston to her deceased mother’s hometown in County Donegal to take the job of village teacher. There is a secret about her mother that Moira doesn’t figure out until the end. The story explores the theme of trusting God in the face of adversity even when you’d rather run the other way. A strong concept worth exploring.
I liked this book. What I loved most was the depiction of Ireland. The author lived there for several years and described the dialect, the people, the landscape so much more accurately and vividly than many other books set in Ireland I’ve read.
I thought the romance between Moira and Sean was sweet and genuine and the ending satisfying. Midway through the story slowed down a bit for me and there were some plot aspects that either didn’t make sense to me or seemed somewhat forced. That being said, read A Dance in Donegal if you’re eager for a pleasant trip to Ireland, a sweet romance, and an inspiring and satisfying ending.
A note if you don’t normally read Christian fiction: This story has a lot of scripture, characters reading the Bible, and inter dialogue about trusting God. I’m fine with that, but if you’re sensitive to it you should understand that it’s meant for readers of Christian fiction.
Novel PASTimes received an Advanced Copy from the publisher for the purpose of an honest, unbiased review with no obligation.
Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.
Moira, you recently moved to Ireland after your mother passed away. Why did you move there?
Thanks for having me! I had always dreamed of seeing my mother’s home country of Ireland. She used to tell me all about the céilí dances they would have in the town hall. I loved to hear about all the crazy people from her village, and the antics they would get into. But, I never expected to go live there.
However, when Mother died, I started to sense God leading me there. Mother, in fact, had implored me to go just before she passed. I didn’t want to go so far away all by myself, but the more I fought it, the clearer it became that I was meant to go there.
There seems to be a theme of dance running through your story. Why is that?
I’ve always loved to dance. My favorites were the old style céilí dances our community used to do a few times a year back home in Boston. I used to imagine I was back in the halla of Mother’s village in Ireland as I swirled around the dance floor, and dream of one day visiting there. I had no idea just how much of her hometown I would end up getting to experience.
But, also, I find that a life of faith is much like a dance—with a rhythm and flow all its own. And we can fight the music so we can lead our own way…or we can listen to the One who created the dance—steps, music, and all—and let Him lead us in something more beautiful and joy-filled than we could ever do on our own.
Your mother put your name forward to replace the old school teacher. Why did you decide to go into teaching?
Oh, I just adore children. And I’m highly curious by nature, so education was a natural fit for me. Now that I think of it, Mother used to speak so highly of her childhood teacher in Ireland, Mrs. McGinley, I’m sure that influenced me as well.
You see, there’s truly nothing like that moment when everything falls into place for a student who has been struggling with a certain concept. When they’ve worked so hard, and fought for understanding, to see it all finally make sense is the most wonderful feeling in the world. There’s nothing like it!
So, you moved almost halfway around the world to a new country, a new job, a new culture. How did you combat the loneliness of being so far from home?
Oh goodness, that was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done! In truth, it was so painfully lonely at times that it almost brought physical pain! But, God, in His kindness, brought me good friends.
Bríd, who runs the Guest House where I stayed my first days in town, became one of my closest friends. Her companionship, cultural insight, and—let’s be honest, her tea—was a balm to my grieving, homesick heart. She understood the loss of my mother, and seemed to understand my cultural struggles before I did.
Then, you look at Colm and Peg, and…well…of course, Sean. With a group of friends around you like that, anyone would be hard-pressed to fail.
Yes, it seems Colm and Peg, you played a big role in the adventures Moira ends up taking. How did you meet Moira, and what possessed you to take her in the way you did?
Ah now, ‘tis easy to see Moira’s a lovely lass, so ‘twasn’t difficult to “take her in,” as ye say.
We met through Sean here, my apprentice. Our wee village was hit by a rather nasty gale, and poor Moira’s chalet took some damage. Sean brought me over to help him with the repairs. Moira had a spread o’ tea and cakes set when we arrived, and that was it. I was smitten.
To be fair, though, once the missus and me got to know Moira, we could see she was special. The Laird gave her some mighty tricky tasks, and we wanted to be there to help and support her in any way we could.
Well, she seems very lucky to have friends like you. Sean, you introduced the Colm and Peg to Moira. How did the two of you meet?
Me and Moira? Ah, well…we, ah, bumped into each other a few times afore we were properly introduced. But, I used to help auld Mrs. McGinley at the school, so I wanted to make sure the new teacher was up to the task.
The moment I clapped eyes on Moira in that schoolroom, I could tell she was where she was meant to be. She looked at that space as if ‘twas her own sanctuary. I was drawn to her respect for the profession, and her compassion for the wee ones. But that doesna mean I wasn’t goin’ to give her a bit o’ jest along the way.
Well, thank you all very much for joining us today! Moira, is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Just that Donegal is truly an enchanting place, boasting some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in all of Ireland—and home to the most boisterous, beautiful, artistic, warm and loving people on earth.
There truly is nothing and no place like Donegal.
Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!
Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and others. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children. You can find her online at www.thisgalsjourney.com.
Aileen Doherty is a young Irish girl who accompanies her father and brothers on a trip to work in Scotland picking tatties. She meets Jimmy Walsh who is there doing the same, and they fall in love. But a tragic accident pulls them apart. Stung by grief and abandoned by her mother, Aileen begins working on an abandoned garden. At the same time, disfigured by burns he suffered in the accident, Jimmy falls deeply into the underworld of London. Both have to work through their grief and find their way back home.
I enjoyed this book very much. The story was about healing and continuing on by creating beauty and love in the pieces of the characters’ lives they had left and also in new adventures they found. The author writes from the west of Ireland, and although the story is set just post WWII, the setting comes alive, as do the quirky characters. The style is different from what I usually read. The author writes from an omniscient point of view, so the reader gets to know what each character is thinking and feeling in every scene. She does this well, and once I got to used to it, I was totally emerged in the story. It felt like pure Irish storytelling.
For those of you who read strictly Christian fiction, this is not that genre. However, even the harsh world of prostitution and drug use was handled with care, and for me it was not at all offensive. There were several allegorical images, such as the ashes from the fire where loved ones perished growing a never-before species of flower. This gave the book an overall literary feel that reminded me of novels by Susanna Kearsley, a Canadian author. If you enjoy her novels, I think you’ll also like Kate Kerrigan’s. Visit her website here.
Thanks to the author from providing a free electronic copy of this book for review. I have given my honest opinion.