Iona Sheehan has always felt a powerful connection to Ireland. So when her beloved grandmother confesses an extraordinary family secret, she can’t resist visiting County Mayo to discover the truth for herself. Arriving at the atmospheric Castle Ashford, Iona is excited to meet her enigmatic cousins, Connor and Branna O’Dwyer. And when she lands a job at the local riding school she is soon drawn to its owner – the charismatic, fiercely independent Boyle McGrath. Perhaps she has found her true home at last…
But Iona’s arrival is no accident. The three cousins have each inherited a dangerous gift from an ancestor known as the Dark Witch. And they are about to discover that some old legends can return to haunt the present.
This is a book that ticked several different boxes for me. The magick and its legacy, the characters and the ties that bind them together and a wonderful romance woven around it.
The first two chapters focus on the past and the birth of the Dark Witch legacy and this was truly heartbreaking. Sorcha’s choices were limited and the ultimate desire to keep her children and their future bloodlines safe despite the cost to herself was heroic and made me tear up.
The rest of the book is in the present day and the main characters are descendants that resonate very strongly with the magick of the Dark Witch. The legacy means there must be three, one for each of the original children and together they can make up the power that Sorcha bestowed on the bloodline.
I loved the setting, rural Ireland, and the home of brother and sister Connor and Branna is very close to the site of the tragedy, so many centuries before. Iona is American but never felt as if she belonged there and gave up everything to come to live near her cousins. When the two became three and each bonded to an animal the same as the original children, events kicked off and the great evil that destroyed their ancestral mother is after them again, blind in his hatred for Sorcha’s line and greedy for their power.
Along with the cousins are Meara and Boyle – two non magickal characters but with a fierce bond like family to the three. Finally there is Fin, a descendant of the Crobhan, and a powerful Witch in his own right. He fights against his nature and the destiny chosen for him by his evil forefather and remains loyal to the three.
All the characters have their own charms and eccentricities that I came to love in very short order (including the horses) and this is one of Nora Roberts’ greatest talents. Her writing is nothing short of sublime and it’s so easy to read and so hard to put down.
The plot is intricate in the way the legacy works and I did get a little confused as to where Iona’s Nan fit (other than being one of the line) but it wasn’t a big issue, it was enough to know she was there and was the only person before Iona came to Ireland that truly loved her.
The romance between Iona and Boyle was extremely sweet, quite hot and often funny. She loves with all of her heart, has an endearing innocence and a tendency to jump in both feet first. Her habit of speaking before she thinks was again something that I liked about her and maybe as a character she resonated quite strongly with me. Boyle himself was her opposite, doesn’t say much and is wrong-footed by the strength of his attraction to Iona. As a couple they were believable and I loved them a lot.
The magick side I thought was very well done, very ‘traditional’ and the spells and abilities all grounded in history. Whether you believe in it personally or not, it works very well for the story.
The thing you can believe in, is that this is a wonderful story of love, family and legacy and a very engaging read.