An Irish Country Girl
by Patrick Taylor
Recommended Ages: 12+
It's Christmas 1965 and Maureen "Kinky" Kincaid is making a special dinner for Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly and his assistant, Dr. Barry Laverty, at No. 1 Main Street, Ballybucklebo, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Earth. She tells the first part of a Christmas-themed, faerie-haunted ghost story to a group of children, then reminisces about the rest to herself as she finishes cooking the meal.
It's the story of the St. Stephen's Day ghost, a man who dared to anger the Sidhe, or the little people, or the old ones, or if you prefer, the faeries. His bad luck turned deadly one snowy St. Stephen's Day and left a hole in the lives of the neighboring O'Hanlon family, in which young Kinky was then only a teenage girl.
The story then skips ahead a few years and finds Kinky, or rather Maureen O'Hanlon as she was called then, about to enter womanhood. Her ambition to be a teacher throws a spanner into her blossoming romance with a young fisherman named Padeen Kincaid. But when another St. Stephen's Day blizzard puts her Padeen in danger, all depends on the spirit of a man taken by faeries and a dead Ulsterman's last chance at redemption.
One of the lighter confections in an already light and sugary series full of roguish old-country charm, this installment has an extra layer of romantic nostalgia, a chilling touch of fate and a spun-sugar filigree of magic. Note to self: The correct follow-up to this pleasant entertainment is a draft of An Irish Country Courtship.