St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays. Not just because it's an excuse for everyone to find a pub, drink Irish coffees and Shamrock-tinis, and sing along to Young Dubliners songs very, very loudly (though that is a definite plus!). It always reminds me of when I was a kid, and my grandparents would have the biggest St. Patrick's Day party in the neighborhood. (You know the bit in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the parents have a gigantic Greek flag on their garage door while they roast a lamb and dance around in the front yard? Like that, only with an Irish flag . . .)
My grandparents both came to the U.S. from Ireland when they were children, probably too young to remember what it was like on the Auld Sod, but they never forgot their heritage. On St. Patrick's Day there was shepherd's pie, soda bread, copious amounts of Guinness, music and fun. I would run around with my cousins and listen to thrilling stories of Irish myth (lots of blood and gore and sex!). It made me so proud to know all that was part of me as well, especially as I got older and studied more of the real history of Ireland. My parents say that is where I get my stubbornness as well as my blue eyes.
I always wanted to write an Irish romance novel, but it took me a while to find just the right characters and setting. As I started to develop the “Daughters of Erin” series, I came to the startling revelation that there just aren't that many Irish-set romances out there. Scotland, sure. There are more kilts and claymores than you can say “Och, lassie” at, and enough Regency dukes to populate a thousand ballrooms. And they're great. But I love Ireland too.
So here, IMHO, is why there should be more Irish romances:
- The accents, of course! I am such a fool for a guy with an accent—French, Greek, Spanish, whatever. But there is nothing quite like an Irish accent coming out of a handsome guy's mouth—yum. (I watch Bend It Like Beckham over and over just to listen to Jonathan Rhys Myers talk . . .)
- The history. I am a total history geek, there is nothing I love better than researching a historical setting for a new story, and Ireland's is such a wonderful, complex cornucopia of fascinating events. There are so many heroic figures, battles, romances, it makes it hard to settle on just one time period there. Author Kris Kennedy agrees with me: “I think the scarred history is inherently romantic, in often sad ways. But people unwilling to be subsumed is pretty dramatic, and makes for a rich store of romantic themes a storyteller can draw on. And when it comes to heroes, there's nothing more potent than a man on a mission, where the underlying motivation is something larger than himself.”
- The landscape. I've never seen anything more heart-stoppingly beautiful than the rugged Irish countryside, the old castles and gorgeous estates, the cliffs above the sea. And Dublin is packed full of elegant Georgian buildings where there were once scores of wild parties and dramatic scenes. (Lots of excellent pubs there, too!). It's a wild sort of beauty, the perfect backdrop for passionate scenes.
- The people. It sounds like such a cliché, but there really is a poetry in the distinct Irish character, a sharp wit and a love of art and beauty, a sense of fun and mischief, that goes along with the passion and devotion. It's perfect for a romance hero or heroine whose emotions and loves are bigger than life! Author Michelle Willingham adds: “The old adage 'A stranger is only a friend you've never met' seems to hold very true in Ireland! They have a generous spirit, and every time I visit I feel like I'm coming home again. I can't think of a better setting for writing books.”
Kris Kennedy says, “The people who come to conquer get seduced by Ireland itself, becoming Ireland . . . I think that's what Ireland does. It seduces by its very nature.”
So, go ahead. Let yourself be seduced by an Irish romance this St. Patrick's Day. You'll be very glad you did (just remember those accents!)
Here is a short list of titles to get you started:
My own books, natch: Countess of Scandal, Duchess of Sin, and (coming soon) Lady of Seduction from Grand Central Publishing (look for more Irish info and excerpts on my website, http://laurelmckee.net)
Kris Kennedy, The Irish Warrior
Michelle Willingham, Surrender to an Irish Warrior
Donna Fletcher, Irish Devil
Emma Jensen, The Irish Rogue
Margaret Evans Porter, Irish Autumn
Kathleen Givens, Kilgannon
Megan McKinney, The Ground She Walks Upon (Kris Kennedy and I both discovered this was one of our very first historical romance reads! I haven't read it in ages, but I have fond memories of it).
Green beer image courtesy of Misserion via Flickr
Laurel McKee writes historical romance for Grand Central Publishing, writes as Amanda McCabe for Harlequin Historical, and can be found at the Risky Regencies every Tuesday, and on Twitter as @amandalaurel1 whenever she’s procrastinating.