A Band of Roses by Pat McDermott

A Band of Roses

Book Review
Title: A Band of Roses
Author: Pat McDermott
Publisher: Red Rose TM Publishing
Released: 2007
Pages: 667
ISBN – 978-1-60435-292-4
Stars: 3.0

A Band of Roses by Pat McDermott is an ambitious work of romance, adventure and intrigue set in a 21st Century forever changed by a fictionalized alternative history of the ancestors of Ireland’s King Brian Boru. In this story, Boru wins the Battle of Clontarf and goes on to found a dynasty that prevails in the present day.

The epic begins when the Irish crew of the Fancy Annie are gunned down 200 miles off the Donegal coast in the North Atlantic by an English gunboat manned by Captain Andrew Mayne of the HMS Coulter and the evil Prince Geoffrey Wessex, Regent of the Kingdom of England. They plan to annex the tiny island of Fargan and lay claim to it because they believe oil lies beneath it.

Heroine Taillte Rosaleen Boru will soon be the 4th Queen of Ireland. Talty, as she is known, is 20 years old and a member of the Irish navy and the Crown Princess. She does not like to think about the death of her father, Brian, who is only 50. Although he is still strong and healthy, she must prepare herself for her inevitable responsibility to the Kingdom of Eire.

King Brian’s younger brother, Prince Peadar, is the leader of the present-day Fianna, and it is Talty’s dream to become a Fian warrior and earn their distinguished gold pin. Peadar’s stepson Neil Boru is training Talty for this honour, and he takes his role as Talty’s “Shivail” (protector) very seriously.

Geoffrey Wessex will waive his claim to Fargan if Talty agrees to marry the developmentally challenged King Thomas Wessex, who has a pitiful reputation and is ailing from a neural disorder. Unfortunately, King Brian of Ireland agrees to this unholy union and marries off Talty to Thomas, who almost kills her on their wedding night. Realizing what he has done, Thomas is horrified and backs down, only to have his cousin Roger Wessex jump in and finish the dastardly deed himself.

The Boru clan let the Wessex men believe that Talty died from her injuries when, in fact, they hid her away in the Scottish highlands while she underwent numerous surgeries to repair the damage.

Meanwhile, Brian Boru hires Eric Yamada of Mamoru Services Ltd. in Ireland to provide telecommunications security for his estate, which is ever under the threat of a siege. However, after Eric is hired to establish a surveillance system in their home, another murder attempt is made on Talty’s life. For a second time, she is married off (to Eric, who is in love with his business manager, Kiyoshi Sasaki and therefore no real husband to Talty) and relocated to Japan to save her life. At the same time, the Borus seek vengeance against the Wessex clan.

The cast of characters in this novel is extensive and ever-changing. We follow the destiny of Talty Boru and her Band of Roses: cousin Neil Boru, brother Liam Boru, Aidan Dacey (Talty’s godfather’s high-spirited son) and cousin Kevin Boru (Neil’s half-brother). I read this book in PDF format, which was a challenge because of its length and the fact that I had to take notes to remember who everyone was and how they were related.

In Chapter 7, the narrative changes when Talty is moved to Japan, from the narrator’s voice to Talty’s. Eric soon recommends that she has further reconstructive cosmetic surgery to remove the scars on her face (but the ones on her body are mysteriously left alone), and she agrees. Talty quickly wins the respect and affection of Eric’s aunt Imi and his servants and settles into life in Japan. She begins samurai warrior training led by Eric and Kiyoshi and soon develops an entirely new identity, that of Christy McKenna, Major in the International Security Forces (ISF).

The setting frequently changes from Ireland to Japan to California and back to Ireland again. Talty is a heroine worth cheering for, and we lay in wait with the hope that she and Neil, who has been in love with her for quite some time but believes that he can’t marry his cousin, can finally declare their love for each other and live happily ever after.

Eric is killed in a random helicopter accident, and Talty finds herself in yet another subplot reminiscent of the book Timeline by Michael Creighton. Talty finds herself involved in the ISF’s Bioengineering Division’s top-secret Peregrine Project, enabling her and ISF “special agent” Colonel Richard Gale, formerly of MI6, to time travel back to 1014 Ireland to the Battle of Clontarf, where Talty’s Fianna warrior training serves her well. Unfortunately, the way this is physically achieved is not explained in much detail. Talty, giving her virginity to a “portal person” named Gayth MacDunlan, doesn’t ring true in this parallel world. Up to this point, Talty does not come across as a woman who would give her virginity to the first man she’s sexually attracted to after only having known him for a short time.

Chapter 17 doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the novel, and I don’t understand why it’s there. It’s another time travel experience for Talty, Richard, and Nick, and they end up somewhere in the Middle East, presumably in an unknown time and an unfamiliar country. Talty/Christy meets so many different people during her time travel that you can barely keep track of them all!

By the time we get to Chapter 31 and the climactic love scene between Talty and her cousin Neil, I would have expected a much more sensual and dramatic coupling between the two, but when Neil says to Talty, “I’m going to claim you, babe, are you sure you want it?”, I cringed.

“Neil ventured his claim, riding Talty with rugged domination and cuddling her with tenderness. He loved her again and again until they collapsed together in a contented tangle.”

If that’s not a disappointment to 549 pages of buildup, I don’t know what is. McDermott is a respectable writer, but she is not a strong writer of love scenes. However, she seems to thrive on the adventure and mystery of the story and does it very well.

Throughout the tale, we are occasionally brought back to Roger and Geoffrey Wessex and their evil plan to obliterate the Borus. However, for the main villains in this piece they’re not in it as much as they should be because there are so many more minor characters tossed in to try to pull off their dirty work. I would have liked to read more scenes with them, and there are times when McDermott ends up making statements like this that made me roll my eyes:

“Roger would gather the Borus and somehow annihilate them. Nothing personal. The triumphant lion must eliminate the cubs to establish dominion over his new pride.”

Overall, A Band of Roses kept me interested in what would happen next and was fun, if not romantically a bit disappointing. I would read more novels from Pat McDermott, and I already have a chance as she has since written another volume of romantic adventure set in Ireland entitled Fiery Roses. If you love stories set in Ireland as I do, you’ll enjoy these books.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Christine, You make this book sound like a really interesting read. As you know I have a great interest in Ireland and Scotland and books that take place in these settings. You just might make a reader out of me yet, when you keep making books sound so intriguing. Teresa

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.