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January 26th, 2011
In Love and War by Suzanne Barrett

Today Suzanne Barrett is visiting to give us a taste of her recent release, In Love and War.

Timnagh, County Waterford, 1993

Irish dairy farmer, Meaghann Power, struggling to make ends meet, rents her converted castle keep to an embittered war correspondent wounded in Bosnia.

Quinn Lawlor has come to his ancestral homeland to heal and to be left alone. However, pragmatic Meaghann discovers much more than just her attractive-but-surly tenant’s body is in need of healing. What begins as indifference turns to fascination, and later, desire. But can their passion survive Meaghann’s own dark secrets?

‘But where can we draw water,’
said Pearse to Connolly,
‘When all the wells are parched away?’
‘O plain as plain can be
There’s nothing but our own red blood
Can make a right Rose tree.’
William Butler Yeats

Love and War“Well, my girl, you’ve done it, now!” Brid O’Donnell’s efficient voice sliced through the stillness inside the cheese barn, sharp as a knife through curd.

Meaghann Power straightened, wiped milk-spattered palms on her white apron, and turned toward her aunt. No secret remained long in the village, but the speed with which this particular news had traveled surprised even her. “What have I done, Aunt Brid?” she began.

Arms akimbo, the stout middle-aged woman loomed in the open doorway in a dripping yellow mackintosh. She smoothed wisps of rain-dampened hair from her eyes as moisture pooled beneath her on the barn’s concrete floor. Aunt Brid’s usually set features tightened into a disapproving frown. Outside the barn door, Ireland’s continual rain misted the hillside and ran in rivulets, forming a lake in the driveway.

Meaghann plunged her hands into the sink’s soapy water and groped for the wooden paddle floating on the surface. Please God, not another lecture. She drained the suds and refilled the sink, staring at her work-roughened hands. A paraffin heater in the corner hissed as a drop of water landed on its black enameled surface. Above her a string of incandescent bulbs cast a golden glow over the paint-peeled ivory walls.

“Done?” the older woman snapped. “You invite a single man to live with you, then act as if it’s nothing!” Brid’s voice rose several decibels. “The decent people of the parish won’t be seeing it that way, and neither do I. It’s not seemly for a single woman and a strange man to be livin’ together,” Brid clucked. “This sort of carry-on may happen in Dublin, but not in Timnagh. And not in my own family.” She punctuated her remark with an irate shake of her head.

Caught by a gust of wind, the door behind Brid creaked on its hinges, and Meaghann stepped to the threshold and wrenched it closed. Only then did she face her aunt. “We won’t be ‘living together’. He’s renting the keep. And he’s not a stranger. The Lawlors came from the village.”

Brid gave a humph, then moved to the dusty corner where the heater glowed. “Hardly! They left thirty-five years ago. Besides, you know nothing about him. If you’d come to your senses and take Seamus, you’d not be struggling to run this farm by yourself.”

Meaghann stiffened her jaw. Didn’t she have the Devil’s own troubles trying to keep the place from falling to bits around her without her aunt determined to foist onto her every available man under seventy? With a sigh, she lifted the washed utensils from the sink onto a towel. “Aunt Brid, the truth of the matter is, I don’t want to marry Seamus. I­ ” She paused, not waiting to give thought to her reluctance, then plunged on. “I…don’t want to marry anyone­least of all Seamus.” She’d wanted to marry once, but that was a long time ago. Then she could afford to dream, now…. Her jaw tightened and she picked up another utensil. Now there was just today, and an endless stream of work, which never quite got done.

Brid’s heavy arms criss-crossed her ample bosom. Ginger brows furrowed as she spoke. “The way I see it, you’ve little choice. I hate to remind you, but you’re growin’ no younger. Seamus is a good man, and a fine farmer.”

Meaghann whirled around, her hand wielding a three-foot paddle like a sword.
“Seamus McHenry is fifty-seven years old!”

Brid snorted. “Don’t see as how you can afford to be choosey, girl. You’re goin’ on for forty yourself.”

How well she knew. Noisily, Meaghann expelled her breath, at this point not caring if her frustration carried over in her voice. “You’ve been at this for the last three years. Give it up. Seamus doesn’t want a wife­he wants a mother for that brood of his. Five young ones and little Cara not out of nappies.”

Meaghann turned her back on her aunt and plunged the still-damp wooden paddle into the milk curd. She gave the curds another swirl, then, satisfied the culture was working, set the paddle on a plate. “I’m managing just fine, Aunt Brid. I don’t need a husband to help me run my farm.”

Bold words, she thought as she pushed the ribbed cuffs of her cardigan up her forearms. Fact was, she needed help in the worst way.

Jack Power’s daughter wasn’t one to crumble under a little adversity when keeping her farm meant everything­security, a sense of place­of continuity. She’d grown up here in Timnagh, seeing the cycle of life repeat itself again and again. She loved the welcoming acceptance a small, close-knit community offered, as well as the chance to grow old with those you loved.

But there were times when the load she carried threatened to crush her.

Purchase In Love and War

Suzanne Barrett spent part of a winter in Ireland researching In Love and War. She has published four books with Kensington. In Love and War, twice a Golden Heart finalist, is her second book for Turquoise Morning Press with four more releases scheduled for 2011.

4 comments to “In Love and War by Suzanne Barrett”

  1. The name of the book has the same name as one of my fave movies. I will be checking out this book for sure. I enjoyed the excerpt a lot.

  2. Thank you, Savannah. The title suited the story so well I had to use it.

  3. I agree. It’s an excellent excerpt and you can really feel the emotion in it.

  4. Thanks, Shelley. It’s an emotional story with many such scenes. I had a hard time deciding which to use.