Emilie Richards,
The Parting Glass
(Mira, 2003)

Emilie Richards has followed up her impressive work, Whiskey Island, with another story about the irresistible Donaghue sisters. In this one, youngest sister Peggy is featured, but we see plenty of sisters Megan and Casey as well. Combining historical and contemporary elements (present-day Cleveland and County Mayo, Ireland, with a story about the Donaghue ancestors in Cleveland in the 1920s), this book has something for everyone.

As the story opens Megan is dressing for her wedding to ex-priest Niccolo Andreani. But they are in for a surprise -- at the reception, held in the family-owned Whiskey Island Saloon, a fierce storm strikes and a tornado traps the revelers in the saloon. But the sisters' father, Rooney, remembers a tunnel used in the 1920s by bootleggers. Tragedy is averted but what is the strange image Niccolo sees on the tunnel wall?

Meanwhile, Peggy has left her medical school studies to care for her young son Kieran, who has been diagnosed as autistic. So she is off to Ireland to meet an elderly cousin, Irene, who contacted them via the Internet looking for information on her father, Liam Tierney, who disappeared in Cleveland in the '20s. While there, Peggy meets Finn O'Malley, who has abandoned his medical practice after a tragic accident took the lives of his wife and young sons two years previous, leaving him barely able to care for his surviving child, an 11-year-old daughter, Bridie, let alone care for patients. Peggy however has found friends not only in Irene, but also in young Bridie who is so good with Kieran.

Casey, having become the recent bride of high school friend Jon Kovats, is happy, but the young marriage of Megan and Niccolo is having its problems. It seems Niccolo has no idea how to be a husband and is seemingly more involved in a business venture providing help to at-risk youth than he is in keeping Megan happy. When a planned weekend away gets cancelled, Megan storms out of the house and decides to visit Peggy in Ireland. It isn't long before Casey joins them at Irene's cottage as well.

Irene eventually admits she knows more about her father -- and the connection between families -- than she first led the sisters to believe. It's a story of bootlegging and the first love of the sisters' grandfather, Glen Donaghue.

But there is romance in store for Peggy as well. She helps Finn come out of the depression and guilt he has felt for the past two years, but both know they have to take it one day at a time and fear they will never have a future together. It takes a near tragedy for them to finally find out what the future will hold.

I don't know how Richards does it. She so beautifully combines several storylines without confusing readers. Not any easy feat! I felt as if I was in County Mayo with Peggy (or was it just wishful thinking?) and could imagine the settings in Cleveland as well with Richard's deft hand at describing the settings. The characters are easy to connect with as well.

I was so glad I was able to read Whiskey Island and The Parting Glass back to back -- although it isn't necessary to read them together, I believe your reading experience will be enhanced if you do. The Parting Glass is an absolutely first-rate read, one I couldn't put down once I started. I can give no higher praise than to say I am going to now be reading all the Emilie Richards books I've missed.

- Rambles
written by Kyra Quinn
published 9 August 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.