Author: Jennifer Deibel
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: February 2, 2021
All her life, Boston-born Moira Doherty has relished her mother's descriptions of the Emerald Isle. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira is compelled to fulfill her dying wish--that she become the teacher in Ballymann, the beloved village in Donegal, Ireland, she's heard so much about.
After an arduous voyage, Moira begins a challenging new job in an unfamiliar and ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira's mother are unspoken in her presence but threaten to derail everything she's journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends--and the strength of Sean, an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced--as she seeks to navigate a life she'd never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.
Reviewer: Adriann Harris
“When someone seems bent on making your life miserable, heap coals of kindness on their head.” Oh how I wish this motto rang true throughout throughout the story of A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel.
Deibel transported me back in time to a quaint little village called Ballymann in 1920 Donegal Ireland. I enjoyed smelling the peat fires, hearing the ocean waves crashing on the rocks, seeing the sheep grazing on the hillsides, walking through the countryside, and visiting with the townsfolk as they went about their daily lives. As a reader I could tell this author had lived in Ireland and loved it as it resonated throughout the story. If I could rate this book solely on my virtual trip to Ballymann through Deibel’s prose it would be a hands down 5 star review no questions asked. Unfortunately A Dance in Donegal is not a travel book.
Thus I have to consider my connection with the characters. Regrettably this didn’t happen for me at all with the two main characters Moira Doherty and Sean McFadden, who the entire story revolves around. My heart weeped for Aedach and how he was treated by the townsfolk. I was flabbergasted how they could ever think so little about another in need, which all but a handful of townsfolk in Ballymann did about Aedach. For me Moira and Aedach’s rapport was more heartfelt and believable than Moira and Sean’s. Colm Sweeny’s knack for always knowing the right thing to say no matter the situation saved this story for me. My favorite was the conversation between Colm and Sean about what one does for a living. The conversation was very touching and full of wisdom. “Ya see, lad, it doesna matter a lick if ye’re a priest, a barkeep, or a thatcher by trade. When ya seek to love the Laird wit’ all yer heart, soul, an’ mind, and then seek ta love others selflessly, ye’re a man who will make a difference in this world one pairson at a time.” This brought tears to my eyes reminding me of my Dad, who was a dairy farmer, and a lot like Colm Sweeny. Honorable mention goes to Colm’s wife Peg, and her friend Brid. For me the supporting characters well outshined Moira and Sean.
Last but not least, the finale leaped from scene to scene making my head spin rushing to end. This sudden change of pace made me question if I was reading the same author. Waiting weeks to write this review I personally do not remember the ending at all. Plus for me it would have been better to have the glossary of Irish terms and phrases at the beginning of the book instead of the end to help understand the language better.
I sincerely wrestled with this one as I never felt moved or totally immersed with characters Moira and Sean and their relationship, or the feeling that I could not put A Dance in Donegal down. Sadly my rating is 3 out of 5 stars for this debut. I enjoyed it, but it fell a bit short in character development for me. If you enjoy reading Historical Christian Fiction, please, please, do give Jennifer Deibel’s debut a look, as many others really enjoyed A Dance in Donegal’s magical trip.
I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews and NetGalley. Plus I was a participating member of the author’s private launch team on Facebook.
Reviewer: Trixi Oberembt
“Smack in the middle of what God is askin' is the best place for any of us to be.”
It seems God has led Moira Doherty to Ireland to not only fulfill her mother's dying wish, but to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. Many thoughts fill her mind on how things will be for her, but she finds that sometimes dreams shift and become more than she ever thought they'd be.
I loved Moira, she didn't succumb to the veiled whispers behind her back or the furrowed brows of some of the townsfolk as she walked past. Instead, she constantly reminded herself of God's promises and turned to scripture for comfort. My other two favorite characters were Peg and Colm who were foundational to the story (at least in my opinion). They were strong in faith, in character, were loved by everyone, and two of Moira's biggest supporters. Sean is our hero, he will surely draw you in with his lilting speech and clever wit. It's quite entertaining to see the banter between Moira and him.
With lyrical prose, Jennifer Deibel drew me in to this richly layered story. Ballymann is steeped in Irish traditions and superstitions and I savored learning about them. The lavishly drawn scenery painted vivid pictures in my mind as I walked in Moira's shoes. Each character was brought to life as the author introduced them. A truly mind-blowing debut by an author to keep an eye on. In conclusion, this novel is a feast for the senses!
Two more favorite passages:
“I remember when it first dawned on me what God was truly sayin'”, Peg continued. “It doensna matter what the world says I am. It doesna matter even what I believe myself to be—and I have some dark thoughts when it comes to me own heart, to be sure. If I believe in the Laird Jesus Christ, and what He did fer me, I canna be condemned.”
“I know ye feel responsible for what happened, but ye canna live in defeat. Ye love the Laird, and ye follow hard after Him. Not a man on earth can condemn ye.”
I received a complimentary copy and was not obligated to leave a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"Yer mother's tale will come ta light sooner or later, peata. Then the whole of Ballyman'll know the truth about ye. . . . keep your eyes wide open".
With those kinds of ominous words still ringing in her ears, Moira Doherty could not, for the life of her, imagine what the old man was threatening to reveal, for her "mother was the most honorable, decent person (she'd) ever known." Wasn't she? But apparently the seeds of doubt had already been planted among members of her new Irish community, and Moira is beginning to seriously question why the Lord would send her so far away from Boston. . . . except that deep down in her heart Moira does know the answer to that question, her coming was to fulfill her mother's dying wish and to obey the voice of the Lord that she was certain had confirmed it.
Being an American trying to find her way into acceptance in a small Irish village wasn't easy, but Moira loved teaching and was glad the local teaching position provided her with a means of employment. But even that seemed to be fading away after she made a conscious decision to do the right thing instead of doing the easy thing. People began talking behind her back, her students weren't attending school and Moira even began to fear for her own safety. Thanks goodness for Sean McFadden, a handsome young thatcher, as well as Sean's employer Colm Sweeney, and his wife Peg. What would it feel like to have Sean constantly by her side, with his easy manner and honorable intentions? What would it feel like to have that "dance in Donegal" that her mother had always talked about?
Where this story seems a bit weak in development, it makes up for in inspiration. It's always refreshing to see the Word of God so liberally applied to real life circumstances, especially when multiple opportunities for forgiveness are essential to a character's well being. And the ending? There were so many unexpected scene changes that the reader may very well wonder if they are still reading the same book. An excellent finale is always a good thing; it's what the reader will remember with fondness.
I received a copy of this book from the Baker Publishing Group through Interviews & Reviews. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
Jennifer Deibels tells a wonderfully descriptive tale in her debut book, A Dance in Donegal. I feel like I've been to Ireland of old!
With the regular use of Irish Gaelic, the reader is immediately immersed in the setting and the story. Moira Doherty travels from Boston to Ballymann, a village in Donegal, Ireland, to fulfill her mother's dying wish, to become a teacher where she once lived. Once she arrives, she is eager to learn everything she can about the people and the area. Moira expected to be welcomed warmly because of her mother. She didn't expect rumours, innuendo and hostile people.
Fortunately, she is lucky to make a few close friends. One of them being Sean, who seems to appear when she needs him the most. I loved the growing romance between the two, especially the profound faith-based messages that ran throughout this story.
While I struggled with Gaelic and how to pronounce most of the words, I still enjoyed this story. I saw an early copy, so I hope there is a translation in the final product.
An excellent debut novel from an author I will definitely keep on my radar!
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Revell through NetGalley.
Reviewer: Susan Poll
So much wonderful detail in scenery, culture and the way of life of a beautiful country most of us haven’t visited. A book wins my appreciation when it sucks me in and makes me feel like one of the towns folk by the first half of the story. This author knows her cultural details and the way to weave a story that makes you want to fight for the heroine and cry with her.
Moira and Sean have to both come to terms with faults as they learn about each other. Moira has to fight against a past that she knows nothing about and nobody seems willing to inform her. Loved the tension and suspense. So much to learn from this (loving our enemies) and yet it was a beautiful read for enjoyment at the same time. I will absolutely look for more from this author!
I received this book courtesy of Baker Publishing Group/Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Linda Klager
The cover of the book shows a beautiful woman looking over Ireland's coast. She is mesmerized by the landscape.
I was glad that the author included a map of Ballymann, Ireland. It helped me to picture the events that happened in this book. I wished that the author would have included a glossary and pronunciation guide for all the Gaelic words.
The story centered on Moira Doherty and her mother. Before Moira's mother passed away, she made Moira promise that she would go back to Ireland. Moira's mother even secured a job for her as a school teacher.
There was a mystery surrounding Moira's Mothers life in Ballymann. Many people judged Moira because of what they thought happened years ago. This caused much pain and suffering to Moira. Through it all, Moira kept her faith In God.
I loved the relationships that Moira made with Sean, Brid, Peg, and Colm. Peg and Colm had such love for each other and with God. They loved all people unconditionally, like God would like for all of us to do. And Peg learned how to truly forgive when it was necessary to move on with her life.
There were many superstitions and traditions that the Irish people kept. It amazed me to know all that they held as truth. You will learn a lot about their life and customs.
I thank the author for a very well written book and a history lesson, too.
I received this book courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews.
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