Hope Springs

Written by Sarah M. Eden
Review by Ruth Latta

Hope Springs, sequel to Longing for Home, disappoints because of shaky historical research and weak literary technique. Irish immigrant Katie Macauley, trying to put the sorrows of Famine Ireland behind her, lives in a Wyoming town racked by violence by American-born residents against Irish immigrant settlers. Katie and her suitors, a widowed landowner and a young Irishman, worried about surviving the winter, try to ameliorate the situation.

Outbreaks of anti-Irish violence in 19th century America were mostly pre-Civil War and in the East. An internet search reveals no such clash in Wyoming. Its “Johnson County War” (1892) between large and small ranchers was about land, not ethnicity.

Deeper research into the composition of the waves of Irish immigration would have improved this novel. First came Ulster Protestants who blended in. Refugees of the 1840s famine were mostly Gaelic-speaking Catholics who didn’t blend as easily. Katie and her community seem of the latter group, yet their clergyman is “Mr. Ford,” not “Father Ford.”

Specific details that lend authenticity, verisimilitude, and life are also lacking in Hope Springs. For instance, what exactly was the medicine Katie bought to heal a battered man? Laudanum? At the ceili, what folksongs were sung, and what food and drink were enjoyed?

The omniscient author, constantly telling us the characters’ thoughts, becomes tiresome.  The worst deficit in this historical romance is the lack of erotic tension. Jane Austen’s “proper” novels were not explicit, but subtly conveyed passion through description, setting and metaphor.