If there is one thing I love about authors, it's when they go back and mine previous works for some great characters. Nora Roberts' first book, Irish Thoroughbred introduced readers to Travis and Dee Grant, and the world of horse racing and breeding. This first book was re-released in a two-book volume called Irish Hearts, which also contained Irish Rose, the story of Dee's cousin Erin. Roberts sets Irish Rebel in the same place, featuring the oldest daughter of Travis and Dee, Keeley.
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::: Yet Another Irishman Crosses the Pond :::
When we last saw Keeley Grant, she was a little girl visiting her mother's relations in Ireland. Now, in Irish Rebel, she's all grown up, finished college, and is running her own riding school located on her parents' property. Enter Brian Donnelly, a trainer of renown in Ireland who has come to America to be considered for the trainer position Travis has opening now that his very successful trainer (and Dee's uncle), Paddy Cunnane, wants to retire and return to Ireland.
When Brian first meets Keeley at a country club dinner dance, he is staggered, but thinks of her as the daughter of the lord of the manor, and feels that as a trainer, he's hired help, and has no chance of even being acknowledged by Keeley. Of course, as in any good romance novel, miscommunication abounds, with Brian thinking Keeley is a snob and Keeley thinking Brian just needs a good swift kick. But as Brian comes to realize that Keeley's riding school isn't exactly as it seems, and Keeley realizes that Brian's reluctance has to do with his own insecurity, the ending pulls together just as it's supposed to.
::: Deja Vu :::
I always enjoy going back to familiar places and characters, and honestly, Irish Rebel was probably the story I enjoyed most of the three books in this series. Keeley and Brian seem more fully fleshed out than characters in the earlier novels, and their relationship seems to progress more logically than Dee's or Erin's did in the previous books.
However, anyone who has read the two novels contained in Irish Hearts is bound to notice more than one similarity between the earlier books and Irish Rebel, and I'm not talking about the Irish immigrant and the successful American. You'll find not only the classism, but also the attempted assault of the heroine, the desperate and money-hungry owner who causes trouble, and the struggle of the hero to deal with his feelings once he realizes he's in love with this woman he thinks he couldn't (or shouldn't) have.
Still, even with this constant sense of deja vu, Irish Rebel is an enjoyable read, and definitely one of Roberts' better books in the shorter format.
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