Outstanding! Excellent! Those are the two words I would have to use to begin this review on Ms. Hughes' novel Beyond The Cliffs of Kerry.
My heart immediately became one with the main character of this novel , Darcy McBride. Losing all her family, except for her brother, in the famine of 1700's in the Country of Ireland, her pain and hopelessness weaved it's way into my heart. Struggling from her early childhood to survive, she has become a Beacon for the smuggling operation of her small village, as they trade wares with the French. The penalty from the British for this would be death!
These strong Catholic people, were not allowed to practice their faith, and one day they smuggled in a Jesuit Priest named Father Etienne, this man would change Darcy's life forever.
Befriending her, Father Etienne teaches Darcy to read, something not many at that time were privileged to learn. Unfortunately Darcy and her smuggling group were turned into the British by none other than her finance. How many blows can this poor woman endure?
Father Etienne and many others die and Darcey is sold into indentured service and is sent to the American Colonies. There she is bought by a Colonel Nathan Lawrence and becomes his mistress. It is here that Darcy meets and falls in love with a surveyor for the Crown, Jean Michael Lupe'. What you find out about this man will totally shock you! What a wonderful twist this added to the story. It gave me goose bumps, I loved it!
I thought my heart would burst when Darcy finally found true love, but again she is torn away from her hope of happiness. Will she ever be free to pursue her own life?
The author does an excellent job of drawing you into the very soul of her characters. I found myself being drawn back to reading this novel during my day, wondering what was the next step for Darcy and if she would ever be united with Jean Michael.
This is not just some simple love story, but one that takes this strong and courageous woman on one adventure to another as she struggles to maintain her identity. Imagine being stripped from all your privileges as a human being, being told what to say, what to do and being lead as an animal far away from all you know and love. Could you survive with as much dignity and strength as Darcy does?
This is one novel you do not want to miss reading. I promise you, you will remember this story long after you finish this book. It is one of those rare jewels that somehow inscribe their words on your heart.
Interview with Amanda Hughes:
I chose to interview Amanda because of the impact her outstanding novel had on me. It isn't often that I am so honored to read the work of such a talented writer. I wanted to know more about Amanda and was interested in what her future writing plans and dreams were.
Amanda's book is called: "Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry," by Amanda Hughes
Amanda, as I have stated I was very impressed with your outstanding novel. Please tell us what inspired you to write "Beyond The Cliffs of Kerry"
Amanda: At a young age I would light tapers, decorate the basement with my mother's pewter and act out elaborate adventures with my imaginary playmates. To this day the characters in my novels are shadows whispering their stories to me. Writing is just a grown-up documentation of my childhood fantasies.
SPJ: Your fantasies certainly created a wonderful novel!
Q: Were the characters in your novel fashioned after people you know?
Amanda: Most of my characters were not fashioned after people I know although I did find it helpful to "cast" certain Hollywood actors in the roles of my characters to help me with description. Darcy's love of literature and her tendency to dream are my traits as well as her desire for adventure. The kind and gentle Moses Tinker is based on my father and Bran Moynihan is a combination of several selfish, ambitious men I have known.
SPJ: I believe we have all known both types of men!
Q: What form of research did you have to do for this work? Amanda: My research has been life long. My passion for Ireland and Colonial America merged in "Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry". I have traveled throughout Ireland and New England seeking inspiration but by far the best, most satisfying research for me is done through books.
SPJ: How blessed you have been to have traveled to Ireland. I will say this, wherever you received your inspiration, it certainly was felt in your novel.
Q: May I ask how long it too you to complete this work?
Amanda: The novel took about five years to complete. The first year was spent walking in the woods of Northern Minnesota where I developed my storyline.
Q: Did you experience writers block at anytime while writing your novel? Is so what did you do to remedy this?
Amanda: Yes, but not often. I would walk in the woods and listen to soundtracks, particularly "Last of the Mohicans".
Q: Finding a publisher can be heartbreaking for new authors. How long did it take you to find a publisher?
Amanda: It took three painful years.
SPJ: I believe we all know the pain you are talking about Amanda!
Q: Is "Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry" your first published work?
Amanda: It is my first published novel. I published poetry many years ago.
Q: Amanda, how long have you been writing and how many hours a day do you write?
Amanda: I have written for the past seven years and manage to write only about an hour a day because I am raising three children. Reading, although, has been my lifelong obsession and, of course, indulging in, "Walter Mitty" like behavior.
SPJ: Your writing is excellent Amanda. I can only imagine what you will turn out once you have more time.
Q: What other works do you have in progress?
Amanda: I am currently working on another novel entitled, "The Pride of the King." It too is the adventure of a young woman in Colonial America. Lauren, the main character, is a somewhat more selfish and impulsive character than Darcy but nevertheless extremely engaging.
Q: Amanda, do you feel you will ever do a sequel to "Cliffs of Kerry?"
Amanda: No, other readers have asked me the same question. I believe Darcy and Jean Michel live happily ever after and the story is complete. I would rather follow some other character on her adventures and escapades, like Lauren DeBeauville, in "The Pride of the King".
SPJ: I like that, I want to believe Darcy and Jean Michel will forever be happy!
Q: Do you feel you will ever span out to writing in other genres, and if so, what might that be?
Amanda: No, I don't believe I would ever be happy writing in any other genres. I cannot pass abandoned homes without wondering what stories they hold, or study headstones without trying to guess what desires and dreams those buried there experienced. I feel so connected with the past that historical romances are the only kind of novel I care to ever write.
Q: Do you have a set form in your writing? What I mean by that is do you spend a certain amount of time before your computer each day, or is it when the mood strikes you?
Amanda: I wish that I had time to write each and every day. It seems to be that I write whenever I can fit it into my schedule and lately that has been seldom. I feel the pull to continue with my new novel though and my characters are growing impatient.
SPJ: As are your fans Amanda.
Q: What was the hardest part of your novel to write and why?
Amanda: I find transitions to be the hardest part to write in a novel. For example, in "Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry" I grew anxious to transport Darcy to the Colonies long before my words were complete. I find that I have to slow myself down because my story flies faster than my fingers. I also think that it is tedious to create clothing and landscapes for novels. When I write my next book I will employ my daughters to design the clothing and I will simply describe it.
Q: Who is your favorite character in your novel and why?
Amanda: Well of course I am secretly in love with Jean Michel but aside from that my favorite character is the dear, unassuming Raoul LaRoche. He was so incredibly pure of heart. He endeared himself to me when he chastised himself for keeping Darcy by his side until his death, knowing that she loved another.
Q: What advice would you give to other authors who are seeking publication and feel they never will achieve it?
Amanda: I understand how painful it is to be unpublished but keep in mind that a book should be read. Let everyone you know read your book. Keep your characters alive through the eyes of others. Even if the book in not on the Barnes and Noble bookshelves, it needs to be read by someone.
SPJ: Very good advice!
Q: Where would you like to see yourself in your writing career in the next 3 to 5 years and what are you doing to achieve this goal?
Amanda: I would love to be writing novels full time and doing research for my books. Right now though, I continue to work on my newest novel and find ways to creatively promote, "Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry."
Q: Do you feel writing this novel has changed you in anyway?
Amanda: I will never be the same. I am like Darcy when she was learning to read and Father Etienne said, "I fear that I have opened Pandora's box." There will always be the obsession to continue writing now that "Pandora's Box" is open and I can never fully divorce myself from my characters who have become old friends to me.
Q: Do you want your readers to just have pure enjoyment in reading "The Cliffs of Kerry", or is there more you would like them to take with them after reading this work?
Amanda: I hope that first and foremost my readers have fun reading my work. It is meant to be a fast paced romantic adventure and anytime a reader reports that they cannot put my book down, I feel that I have accomplished everything I set out to do. If along the way they happen to gain a deeper insight into the suffering endured by the Irish, then my job is completely done.
Q: Please use this space for anything else you would like to leave with our readers, about yourself, your works, or any publishing tips you may wish to pass along.
Thank you Amanda for a wonderful interview. Please see the review of Amanda's outstanding book, "Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry." in this column. I encourage you to get a copy and plunge into pure reading enjoyment. The best of luck to Amanda in the future in everything she does.