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The Forgotten Deverill

book | Fiction | 2000

Nantucket, Massachusetts, 1962: Faye and her brother Logan are surprised when their elderly mother, Arethusa Clayton, dies, leaving specific instructions in her will that her ashes be scattered on the hills above Castle Deverill in County Cork, Ireland. Neither sibling has ever heard of the castle, although they know their mother’s maiden name was Deverill and that she left Ireland as a young woman to escape poverty and seek a better life, as so many did. She never spoke of her past and as far as they are aware, she hated Ireland. However, that is not all. They are also unpleasantly surprised to discover that she has allocated a third of her wealth to an anonymous beneficiary whose identity will only be revealed after they have gone to Ireland. Lastly, she leaves Faye her diary, which is written in a code Faye does not understand. It is all very bewildering. But when at her funeral, Faye discovers that not a single relative of her mother’s is present, she realises that she knows nothing about her, or anyone connected to her. Why, she asks herself, when her mother turned her back on her homeland over sixty years before, does she want to return now in death? Faye defies her controlling husband Wyatt, and her brother who wants to contest the will, and sets off to Ballinakelly to find her mother’s roots. She does not realise that in unravelling the secrets of her mother’s past she will also find herself.

Castle Deverill, County Cork 1892: Seventeen-year-old Arethusa Deverill is beautiful, wild and louche. The youngest child of Hubert and Adeline Deverill, she has grown up at Castle Deverill with her two brothers, Bertie and Rupert. She does not care for her mother’s ghosts nor her father’s belief that girls are only good for marriage and childbirth and finds entertainment in the town where she flirts with the local boys and steals kisses with Dermot McLoughlin the blacksmith’s son. She is aware that portly and porcine Ronald Rowan-Hampton will shortly ask for her hand and persuades her father’s cousin, Augusta Deverill, to invite her to London to do the season. 

However, she cares not for the aristocratic men who court her and finds the idea of love laughable. Then the Duchess of Sutcliffe invites the banjo-playing Madison Brothers from New York to her ball to entertain her guests and Arethusa’s world is turned upside down.

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