cover image The Linen Queen

The Linen Queen

Patricia Falvey, Hachette/Center Street, $21.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59995-200-0

Maintaining the Northern Ireland setting and nationalistic themes of her debut novel, The Yellow House, Falvey jumps from WWI to WWII. The full scope of the war unfolds through the eyes of Sheila McGee, a mill girl who's grown up with a mercurial mother and an absent father. Now 18, Sheila is the loveliest girl at the mill, a shoo-in to win the annual Linen Queen beauty pageant. She plans to use her winnings to leave her small town, and her mother, forever, but the outbreak of war complicates her plans, as do the two men she finds herself torn between: Joel Solomon, a melancholy Jewish-American army officer, and the moody and possessive Gavin O'Rourke, her best friend. Sheila's pendulum swing from a mildly unlikable self-centered girl with a "beauty is power" guiding philosophy into an idealistic young woman driven into action by the plight of child war evacuees is less than convincing, and extreme characterizations and lapses into melodrama reduce the impact of a novel that otherwise deftly rides the line between a fervently romantic love story and a heartfelt love letter to Northern Ireland. (Mar.)