THE MAID OF BALLYMACOOL by Jennifer Deibel
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romance
RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2023
Brianna Kelly was abandoned at Ballymacool House and Boarding School as an infant. She has worked there since she was a wee girl and will likely die there. Despite a sense that she was made for something more, Brianna feels powerless to change her situation, so she consoles herself by exploring the Ballymacool grounds, looking for hidden treasures to add to the secret trove beneath the floorboards of her room.
When Michael Wray, the son of local gentry, is sent to Ballymacool to deal with his unruly cousin, he finds himself drawn to Brianna, immediately and inescapably. There is something about her that feels so . . . familiar. When Brianna finds a piece of silver in the woods, she commits to learning its origins, with the help of Michael. What they discover may change everything.
Fan favorite Jennifer Deibel invites you back to the Emerald Isle in the 1930s for this fresh take on the Cinderella story, complete with a tantalizing mystery, a budding romance, and a chance at redemption.
“I don’t pretend to know why His plan for ya included this road you’ve been led down, but I do know He doesna waste a single tear.”
Until I opened The Maid of Ballymacool, I had – to my regret – yet to read anything by Jennifer Deibel. As I quickly became immersed in 1935 Donegal, I realized I had definitely been missing out on a fresh new talent. And you are too if you haven’t discovered her charming writing style and heartfelt characters until now. So… read this review quickly (skim if you need to lol) and go grab The Maid of Ballymacool and the other two Ireland-set novels on her backlist, post haste! Especially if you’re a fan of Laura Frantz or Roseanna White, because even though all three authors write in different time periods & different settings, the way they capture the lilt and cadence of history and breathe life into their characters is very comparable.
Speaking of characters… can I just swoon over Michael Wray for a moment? From the very beginning, he claimed a piece of my heart & refused to give it back – which worked out well because as I became more acquainted with his character I didn’t want that part of my heart back after all. What first endeared him to me, you may ask? This description:
But given his druthers, Michael would choose the quiet library – or a tree-canopied forst – and a familiar tome every time.
A bookish hero, y’all! Is there any better? And what kept me captivated by Michael Wray? Ohhhh where do I start? His gallant heart, his tender care of those he loves, his respect of people regardless of their class or appearance, and his championing of Brianna. Lines like this only served to strengthen my love of this gentle hero:
“…I will do everything in my power to show you that loyalty isn’t something that’s reserved for everyone else but you.”
Brianna is the Cinderellaesque heroine I’ve been searching for in my bookish wish list. Pure of heart and genuine of spirit, she navigates Maureen Magee’s hatred of her with more grace than I would have been able to muster on my own power. Magee, the headmistress of Ballymacool (and Brianna’s guardian), is chillingly convincing as the ‘wicked stepmother’ figure, and I adored Finnuala in the ‘fairy godmother’ role. Of course, these aren’t token caricatures of any of these three character types, but instead Deibel gives each woman the framework of the respective role and then fills in the outlines with layered brushstrokes of backstory. The end result is a story that holds up completely even without the Cinderella references but also made me (a collector of Cinderella stories) very bookishly happy.
Bottom Line: The Maid of Ballymacool by Jennifer Deibel had me at ‘fresh take on the Cinderella story’ and then drew me in to 1930s Ireland from word one. Vibrant characters and an equally vivid setting allow this slow-burn romance to unfold with delicious chemistry, and the dash of mystery around Brianna’s roots kept me turning the pages. And don’t get me started on how swoony & gallant Michael is! The faith thread is beautifully done, too. This is my first read by Jennifer Deibel but it definitely won’t be my last!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!
KissingBook Level: 3+ / will forget to breathe on occasion
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Jennifer Deibel is the author of A Dance in Donegal (winner of the Kipp Award for Historical Romance) and The Lady of Galway Manor (a Parable Group bestseller). Her work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and in other publications. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children.
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What about you? What makes you want to read The Maid of Ballymacool by Jennifer Deibel?
I saw Jennifer Jennifer Deibel discussing the book on an author chat about her book along with Sarah Sundin and Laur Frantz. Now I must read them all!
All 3 of those authors are fabulous!
There’s lots of good stuff here – treasure, mystery, maybe romance. It sounds like something I would enjoy reading.
Oh, this one sounds sigh-worthy!
I have yet to read anything by Jennifer, but have cedar been drawn to her lovely covers!
I would love to read this author.
This book sounds really good!
I lived this book review, Carrie. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Nice cover. I liked the blurb and excerpt. It sounds like a really interesting book. Thank you for sharing.
Cinderella + mystery!!! Im in 💌
Not only does this story line sound beautiful, but the book cover does too!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Carrie. It intrigues me that the story is set in Ireland and inspired by the Cinderella fairytale.
Well…I LOVE Laura Frantz and I LOVE Cinderella, so it’s a no brainer I need to read this book ASAP!!
Thanks for sharing, Would love to read this book.
I can travel to Ireland without leaving my house!