Happy Saturday Everyone! I’m pleased to be today’s tour stop for Jennifer Deibel’s historical romance The Maid of Ballymacool.
Full disclosure: I have not finished this book, but I am glad to be able to share an excerpt with you all today! 🙂 This book has some romance, some mystery, some Cinderella vibes…all set in beautiful Ireland!
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.
If that doesn’t hook you, here’s an excerpt!
Brianna stretched her arms tall, matching the stance of the trembling Scots pine, poplar, birch, and hazel trees towering over her. Unbidden, a smile tipped her lips as the sunlight speckled her skin and the trees whispered their secrets in the morning breeze. Breakfast had unfolded blessedly without event, though her pendant never showed itself. She’d counted the minutes until she could partake of the weekly break Mistress Magee so magnanimously granted her. Seemingly endless hours yawned before her, though she knew she must return to campus midafternoon to begin working on the massive evening meal. Don’t think of that now, she told herself.
She closed her eyes, spun three circles, and went in the direction she was facing when she stopped. Her smile widened when she realized she was heading toward Finnuala’s home. It had been far too long since they’d visited with one another. Kicking off her shoes and tucking them at the base of a large poplar, she ignored the intense cold of the earth and continued toward the old woman’s house. She never really had minded the cold. It was all she had known in many ways. The feel of the grass on her skin, the dirt in her toes, and even the twigs that poked her soles, grounded her, as though connecting her with some unseen source of energy. Nae, life. She welcomed the connection to nature and its Creator. It both soothed and fueled her, stoking the fires of her spirit to continue another week. As she strolled, she stooped here and there to pluck some small wildflowers to bring to Finnuala, taking care to avoid the tiny white ones. While a lovely breed, Brianna couldn’t ignore the old wives’ tale she’d heard about them—about how they carried evil wishes with them if brought into the house. She’d never wish to bring death or ill will upon Finnuala’s house or anyone in it.
At a break in the trees, Brianna quickened her pace. Her friend’s home came into view and Brianna’s heart warmed at the sight of it. The humble cottage, with smoke curling from the chimney and the thatched roof glistening in the muted light, was both inviting and chaotic. The walls, which at one time had been whitewashed, were now chipped and aged, with the crumbled remains of the once-attached shed off to one side. A stack of turf sat drying in the traditional tented pile, and stones lined the base of the home all the way round. Though not untidy, everything about the scene seemed intentional, yet also haphazard—much like Finnuala herself. As though summoned by Brianna’s thoughts, the older woman rounded the corner. Hunched over, carrying a basket on her back piled high with more peat, Finnuala’s brown wool dress fell to just above her ankles, revealing tattered socks and worn shoes. Her hair was pulled back in her customary low bun, but unruly tendrils stood out in all directions around her face, which lit up at the sight of Brianna.
“Mo chailín!” She lowered the basket with shaky limbs before Brianna could get close enough to help. Then she stretched her arms out wide.
Brianna happily entered Finnuala’s embrace, and though much smaller than Brianna, the woman managed to encompass her in warmth, acceptance . . . belonging. Brianna fought back the tears that unexpectedly burned her eyes. “Hiya, Finnuala.”
The pair held the embrace for a long beat before Finnuala extended Brianna an arm’s length away. “I’ve not seen ya in a donkey’s years! C’mon an’ I’ll get you a cuppa.” She spun round quickly, but Brianna thought she saw a glisten in her eyes.
“I know ’tis been a long time,” Brianna said as she followed her into the small cottage. “I’ll try not ta let so much time go by before I get back next.”
Finnuala tsked and shuffled to the fire where a cast-iron kettle perpetually hung on a hook, ever ready to serve a guest. Though Brianna was fairly certain she was Finnuala’s only guest. Ever. “She works ya too hard, that Magee.”
Chapter 4, pages 40-42
From The Maid of Ballymacool © 2023, Jennifer Deibel, published by Fleming H. Revell Company
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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Thank you for sharing, Megan. It is intriguing that the story is set in Ireland and inspired by the Cinderella Fairytale.
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