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A Passionate Girl (The Stapleton Novels) Hardcover – March 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Bess Fitzmaurice, the idealistic heroine of Fleming's historical melodrama, suffers no reticence in recounting her many sexual liaisons ("He took my hand and put his swelling manhood in it"). More seriously, through Bess's gushing first-person narrative, Fleming (When This Cruel War Is Over) portrays the Irish in postCivil War America without the usual romantic claptrap. In 1865, Bess flees Ireland for the New World with her brother and her Irish-American lover, Dan McCaffrey, an unscrupulous rogue somewhat in the Rhett Butler mold. Bess discovers that the cynical Irish she meets in New York City, the lying congressmen in Washington, D.C., and the murderous KKK in the defeated South are all interested only in money. Fleming excels at depicting the underside of New York. The festering downtown slums, packed with poor Irish immigrants, horrify Bess, as do the gambling parlors and brothels uptown, all feeding incestuously on crooked Irish politicians and their cronies. Bess eventually allies herself with the Fenian Brotherhood, helping to raise money for an invasion of Civil War Irish veterans into Canada that ends in a predictable fiasco. Bess is as resourceful as Scarlett O'Hara, but the Southern portion of this windy tale is unlikely to win over many fans of Margaret Mitchell's classic.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Best-selling author Fleming distinguishes himself again with a stirring portrait of an innocent Irish rebel let loose on the shores of post-Civil War America. Fleeing Ireland along with her brother and Dan McCaffrey, an American insurgent in search of a revolution, Bess Fitzmaurice gambles with her future when she joins the fledgling Fenian movement in the U.S. Eventually realizing that Dan is more interested in promoting himself than in either her or the cause of Irish freedom, she has difficulty extricating herself from their relationship and from her ill-fated association with the radical Fenians. After surviving the doomed Fenian invasion of Canada, she goes underground, seeking a respite from turmoil. She finds love in the arms of an embittered ex-Union general, but her newfound happiness is threatened by the reappearance of McCaffrey. Fleming does an adept job of interweaving fact and fiction in this explosive drama centered on a neglected episode in Irish American history. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Unlike "Loyalties," this book is set mostly in areas the author is well-familiar with, and it shows. The depictions of the settings are lush and vivid. The squalid immigrant underside of Boss-era New York City is told with gruesome realism. The premise is thoroughly interesting and the unfolding of the narrative is wholly plausible, as are the character backstories and actions.
The book falters on two accounts. First of all, it is told in the first person, from Bess's point of view. Fleming does not however convincingly write a woman: Bess appears to be recounting her political and social observations more than her personal experiences. Could a woman write about politics and society without getting more emotional? Absolutely. However, THIS women, given her background and beliefs, could never convincingly recount, so dryly, her own acts of fornication (more on this later) and murder. "A Passionate Girl" is wholly the wrong title for a hypothetic autobiography of a girl who tells and does not show of her regret for her misdeeds.
The dialogue, too, is emotionally pallid, and the characters, for all the fascinating color of their backstories, never actually come to life.
In the last analysis, Fleming's style is above all academic (although he lacks the credentials to write serious academic histories) and not at all suited to the penning of engaging novels. And if he absolutely MUST write them, he should definitely refrain from including sex scenes, since his, by comparison, are so gruesome they make the remainder of the narrative in question look positively erotic.