Thursday, July 28, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: An Irish Country Christmas

I was in the mood for something that would be light, amusing, and gentle on the psyche. There’s too much craziness going on just now and I needed to escape into a fictional world that would soothe: just enough conflict to keep it interesting, but nothing to get worked up over, and something I could read with complete confidence that things would be all right in the end.

I knew just what to choose: the next book in Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series. Having read the first two books, An Irish Country Doctor and An Irish Country Village, I knew I could count on this author to deliver.

The fact that book three is An Irish Country Christmas made checking it out of the library feel a bit silly. Who reads a Christmas book on a 90-degree day in July? But I wasn’t about to read the series out of order. This novel could possibly be read as a standalone, but I recommend starting with book one.

It’s simple to slip back into the small Irish town of Ballybucklebo and catch up with the main characters, Dr. Fingal O’Reilly and Dr. Barry Laverty. The whole town is preparing for the annual Christmas pageant and traditional parties. It’s all so convivial–even the bad guys from previous novels are softer around the holidays–that Barry grows more and more enamored of the small Irish town, and readers will too.

There are a few wrinkles. First, there is a new physician in the town next door, who seems intent on poaching patients. O’Reilly knows the man from medical school days, and the two have never gotten along, but that’s no reason to go on the attack. The real concern is that he is luring patients away with bizarre cure-alls that both our heroes worry may be dangerous.

In addition, the two Ballybucklebo physicians are distracted by their love lives. O’Reilly, an older widower who never expected to fall in love again, is challenged by the reappearance of an old girlfriend, the confident, competent, beautiful nurse, Kitty O’Hallorhan. She makes her interest known and he has to decide if he’s ready to open his heart once more. As for Laverty, the love of his life, Patricia Spence, is away in the big city, beginning her engineering studies. Although the plan had been to come to Ballybucklebo for Christmas, Patricia keeps putting Barry off with excuses he isn’t quite buying. She assures him there is no other man in the picture, but he worries that if it’s not another man, it’s the allure of city living. If that’s what she wants, she won’t find it in Ballybucklebo. And Laverty, despite being a decent guy, is having a hard time keeping his eye from roving. If she isn’t going to come home, is it time for him to look elsewhere?

The villagers remain entertaining with their good hearts and eccentricities. O’Reilly still governs them all, and Laverty’s knowledge of the community continues to expand. The series has not lost its charm. I know the next time I need a feel-good read, book 4 will be waiting.