After Niall Doherty’s father loses the family fortune, Niall is forced to rely on his professor’s generosity to finish his studies, and his reduced circumstances compel him to take a post as a tutor to two mischievous young lads at an estate in Ireland. On his way there, a mysterious matchmaker promises that he will meet his true love on the bridge o’er the River Liffey. At his new post, Niall is in the awkward position of being neither servant nor gentleman. But when a house party thrown by his employers ends up having an odd number of ladies and gentlemen, his presence is required at dinner to make up the number. There he comes face to face with the beautiful Caroline Fulton, an heiress who shares his love for Irish lore. Unfortunately, however, Miss Fulton has only been included in the house party because the eldest son of the house has matrimonial designs on her and her fortune. Is it presumption on Niall’s part to think that she could ever care for him? And if he did not meet her on the bridge o’er the River Liffey, is it possible that she could be his one true love?
Niall Doherty was a charming hero in this slow-moving tale. I empathized with his awkward position as a young man shut out of a world he used to occupy because of his impoverishment. His impish charges, and his feeble attempts to make them behave, were amusing, and the Irish tales he told to keep the fine ladies entertained were enough to make the reader fall in love with him as well.
The heroine, Caroline Fulton, was less endearing, and one could quite understand why her father would be annoyed with her for her fickleness. I confess that it took me nearly halfway through the book before I began to enjoy her–during which time I wondered whether her friend Fiona was the true heroine just waiting in the wings to capture Niall’s attention! She did grow on me by the end, however, and seeing her interact with Niall’s pupils raised her character in my estimation.
O’er the River Liffey is a novel with a hero more nuanced and complex than the usual Regency buck and a novel that showcases the wonder-filled folklore of the emerald green isle of Ireland.