Memories of Wild Rose Bay
"Beautiful… I was pulled into the setting… A light hearted feel-good novel but also a strangely powerful story of staying true to yourself."LoopyLouLaura
A feel-good love story about taking chances and finding yourself, set under the endless, twinkling stars of the Wild Atlantic Way.
When Kate O’Rourke takes up a temporary position as a doctor in Sandy Cove, she hopes spending time in the place where her father was from will help her find herself again. Ever since his passing she has felt lost, but she imagines the calming sound of the sea on the Irish coast will allow her to heal.
Kate immediately feels at home in the old surgery, and as she takes walks beside the camellia bushes along Wild Rose Bay and meets every resident in the tiny village, she feels like this is where she’s meant to be. And when she’s told about local healer Cormac O’Shea, she’s excited to learn even more about the history of the area, and meet the man who every woman in town says is so charming.
But Kate quickly realises that she and Cormac have different ideas about how their patients should be treated. Kate is efficient and well-organised, whilst Cormac is wild and spontaneous, passionate about his ancestors’ reliance on Irish healing. And their differences cause more sparks than Kate is prepared to admit.
Just as Kate and Cormac begin to understand one another, Kate’s old life threatens to call her away from Sandy Cove forever. And she is finally forced to decide what life she wants to lead, and what kind of person she wants to be…
A beautiful story about finding love in Ireland, Memories of Wild Rose Bay is a gorgeously uplifting read.
Fans of Debbie Macomber, Sheila O’Flanagan and Mary Alice Monroe won’t stop turning the pages.
What readers are saying about Memories of Wild Rose Bay :
" A sweet escape… Trust Susanne O’Leary to give me a book which was JUST PERFECT on a lazy rainy afternoon. Took me two hours to read. What a bliss to escape into the delightful locales of Sandy Cove." Shalini’s Book Reviews, 5 stars
" A book you won't want to put down… Absolutely exquisite… Can make you laugh and cry. A brilliant feel-good story that I really needed." Beyond the Books, 5 stars
Breathtaking… A feel-good story of taking chances, learning acceptance, and finding where your heart belongs." Gia Scribes
Release date: August 6, 2020
Print pages: 274
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Memories of Wild Rose Bay
The Victorian house, a former rectory, stood in the middle of the village like a monument. It was a reminder to everyone of the old times and traditions that the village was built on. Covered in ivy, it had sash windows and turrets at either end, and was now the surgery and doctor’s residence.
Kate stood at the ornate front door and examined the brass plaque that said ‘Pat O’Dwyer, GP’. She had heard that Dr O’Dwyer was respected and loved in the community. He had been there ‘since forever’, or ‘about forty years’, depending on who you were talking to.
Being away from the rush and stress of an A&E department in one of Dublin’s largest hospitals already felt good to Kate. She was relieved to be in Sandy Cove, to begin her training as an assistant GP. A sleepy little village on the edge of the west coast might feel like a bit of a holiday, and she thought it would be interesting, too. A break away from the pressure she had been under lately, both professionally and personally.
Kate had applied for the post on an impulse after a particularly stressful time in the hospital. A time during which she had even come to doubt her choice of medicine as a career. After everything that had happened, she had found herself so shaken that she had asked for some time off, but one of her superiors at the hospital had suggested additional training instead. ‘Get out of Dublin,’ he had said. ‘Try to find some small hospital in the country that doesn’t have this kind of pressure.’ So here she was, in this small village that she had once planned to visit under different circumstances.
She looked up at the imposing facade of the house and felt a dart of excitement at the thought of living and working here for a while. The house had an old-world charm, but what about the people in it? The doctor she was going to work with and his family who no doubt lived here, too, what would they think of her?
Kate took a deep breath and pressed the doorbell, hearing it chime inside. As she waited for the door to open, she looked down the street at the end of which she could glimpse a beach and the blue glint of the ocean still visible as dusk fell. The air was fresh and clean and full of the plaintive cries of seagulls gliding above her in the sky. Such a maritime feel, Kate thought, and rang the doorbell again, checking the time on her watch.
She touched the face of her dad’s old Rolex and remembered how he had given it to her only a week before he’d died, telling her it was the best watch to use to check a patient’s pulse rate. A doctor too, her darling father had gone far too soon. He was missed by many, but especially by Kate. She’d always dreamed of walking in her father’s footsteps, and here she was, about to spend six months in the village where his side of the family came from. When this position came up, it felt like it had been written in the stars. Sandy Cove in County Kerry, where the O’Rourke clan had lived since time began – a place she had often heard her father talk about but never visited – was now going to become her home and her workplace for a while.
Kate gave a start as the door flew open in front of her, nearly hitting her, and she faced a large woman with a mass of reddish-blonde curls, pale blue eyes and pink cheeks.
‘Hello,’ the woman said. ‘Sorry I took a while to answer, but the doctor’s out on a call and I’m here on my own dealing with the phone. Fridays are always like a railway station around here. Everyone seems to suddenly come down with one thing or the other. And they want it to be cured by the weekend.’ She spoke without stopping even to take a breath, and Kate stood there stunned. ‘But thank God the new doctor is on his way,’ the woman continued without waiting for a reply. ‘It’ll be great to have someone young and fit to run this place when Dr Pat retires.’ She stopped for breath and peered at Kate. ‘But what can I do for you? Dr Pat will be God knows how long. He’s gone up the mountain to see to Mrs Dolan’s bad leg.’
‘Eh, uh…’ Kate blinked. ‘Well, I’m… I’m the new doctor.’ She held out her hand. ‘Kate O’Rourke, actually. You must be Bridget.’
The woman looked at her and then started to laugh. ‘Oh, that’s a hoot. The new doctor? Kate, you said? And we thought you’d be a man. It said K. O’Rourke on the letter from the HSE. Highly qualified, it said. Worked with that famous heart specialist in Dublin, didn’t you?’ She paused for breath. ‘But how rude I am.’ She shook Kate’s hand. ‘I’m Bridget, nurse and receptionist and mother superior and confessor and all kinds of things you have to be in a place like this.’ She backed inside. ‘But come in, willya? Let’s not stand on the doorstep like two auld women. We didn’t expect you until Monday. Maybe you’d like a cup of tea? And something to eat? You look like you could do with a bit of food.’
Kate laughed and grabbed her suitcase. ‘That would be lovely,’ she said. ‘I only managed a cup of tea and a bun in Adare on the way here from Dublin.’
‘Holy Mary, that’s not enough on such a long drive,’ Bridget exclaimed. ‘Come in, and I’ll see what I can get you.’
They stepped into a large hall, where a sign on one of the doors said ‘Surgery’ and a sign on the other one said ‘Private’.
‘Go in through that door,’ Bridget said and pointed at the ‘Private’ door. ‘Down the corridor, last door on the left is the kitchen. I’ll just put everything away and lock up the surgery and then I’ll be with you.’ Bridget disappeared through the surgery door, banging it shut behind her. ‘And don’t trip over the cat,’ she shouted.
Kate left her suitcase in the hall and walked down the corridor that smelled faintly of medicine and turf fires. She found a large kitchen at the end of it, where an ancient enamelled green Aga stove emitted a welcome warmth after the chill of the November day outside.
Kate sat down at the scrubbed pine table and looked around at the old kitchen cupboards, the flagstone floor and the window overlooking a small garden. This was a wonderful family kitchen and it seemed strange that she would be living in this old house for six months. Dr O’Dwyer intended to retire once he ‘broke her in’, as he had said in his introductory letter. She would stay until the spring and then a permanent GP would be appointed. Kate smiled as she remembered they had thought she was a man. Why did this still happen in this day and age? Why did people on hearing the title ‘doctor’ think of a man first? Sadly, medicine was still a man’s world, despite all the highly qualified women doctors. She had even made that mistake herself when she was younger.
Kate had always wanted to be a doctor like her father. When she was small she had played doctors with her dolls and forced her sister to be the patient, wrapping her in long strings of toilet paper and giving her ‘injections’ with the toy syringe from her doctor set. ‘Oh look, how sweet,’ her mother had said. ‘Kate wants to be a nurse when she grows up.’ To which Kate had scowled and declared that she wanted to be a doctor like her daddy. ‘A hard job for a girl,’ her mother had remarked, and that had certainly proven to be true.
After qualifying at the Royal College of Surgeons, Kate had worked on the teams of different consultants, the most interesting of which was heart surgery. Fascinated, she had watched as the surgeon cut into a patient’s chest and proceeded to operate on the human heart, which could help the patient live a longer and better life. Surgery seemed to draw Kate in, but as she spent more time on the wards, watching the consultants deal with patients, she felt there was something missing. There was something cold about the way the specialists treated the patients, as if they were simply numbers or interesting cases, not people with feelings and fears. The consultant never held a patient’s hand or asked them about their lives, never told them not to worry or assured them the planned surgery would be successful. They just breezed through the wards, the junior doctors on their teams following like adoring fans, nodding and smiling and sucking up to the consultant as if he were some kind of god. Then the male supremacy among even the junior doctors made it difficult for the few women junior doctors to get promoted even if they were far more talented than the men.
When Kate complained about the politics that went on in the hospitals, her father had shrugged and said that was the reason he had turned to general practice. ‘I became a doctor to meet people and make them better,’ he’d said. ‘In general practice you get to heal more than the body. In any case, I like the detective work of making the correct diagnosis.’ Kate had taken this to heart and switched to general practice, which she very quickly realised she was born to do, just like her father. She had worked at the Accident and Emergency department at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin for five years, before she registered for general practice. The work in A&E was exhausting but fascinating, and she quickly built up her diagnostic skills. She had sometimes worked as locum for her father when he wanted to get away for a break, until the day of the car accident.
Being back in a GP’s practice already reminded Kate so much of her father. Having lost their mother to cancer five years earlier, she and Tara had known exactly what to do to arrange the funeral, and in a way that had helped them cope with going back to their jobs – Kate to A&E and Tara to New York to pursue fashion photography. But the speed with which they had picked up their lives again had also made Kate feel more alone. Neither she nor Tara had been able to talk about their father’s death.
Bridget bustled into the kitchen, pulling Kate out of her daydream. She switched on the kettle and started to rummage around in the cupboards. ‘I think I saw a pot of jam here somewhere,’ she muttered. ‘And there’s fresh soda bread in the breadbin.’
‘I didn’t see your cat,’ Kate remarked.
Bridget laughed. ‘Oh, I don’t have a cat, technically, it’s just a stray that comes in from time to time. But he hasn’t been here since yesterday.’ She picked up a jar. ‘Ah, here it is. Plum jam that Mrs O’Dwyer bought in that fancy shop in Killarney.’
‘I hope she won’t mind me being here in her kitchen,’ Kate said.
‘Not at all,’ Bridget replied. ‘She doesn’t live here. She recently bought a house in Killarney and is setting it up, leaving Dr Pat to wind up here and break you in, so to speak. He’ll be moving into the new house by Christmas. You should be quite used to things by then.’
‘I hope so,’ Kate said, feeling a pang of nerves as she thought of running the practice on her own in less than two months.
Bridget put one of her large hands on Kate’s shoulder. ‘Don’t worry, girl. I’ll be here to help you out. Quite looking forward to running an all-female practice. It feels new and modern. Us women need to show the men we can do without them.’
‘Not completely though,’ Kate cut in, laughing. ‘A world without men wouldn’t be that great.’
‘Of course not,’ Bridget agreed. ‘I couldn’t manage without my darling husband. He’s my rock, really, but then he says I’m his. Been married over thirty years,’ she said proudly. ‘Four children, all away at university now. Thank God I have this job. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I had to stay at home all day and wash my husband’s socks. He’d love it, though. A woman at home at his beck and call would suit John fine.’ Bridget drew breath and put a mug of tea on the table. Then she put bread, butter and the jam beside it and pushed it all towards Kate. ‘There you go, girl. Have a bit of my soda bread while you wait for the doctor.’
‘Thank you, Bridget.’ Kate helped herself to bread and jam, which tasted wonderful after her long drive.
Bridget sat down opposite Kate with her own mug of tea. ‘Might as well take the weight off my feet for a bit. I’ll check the answering machine in a minute to make sure there isn’t anything that needs dealing with. I shouldn’t even do that. After hours they have to call South Doc in either Killarney or Kenmare, or go to A&E in the hospital in Killarney if it’s urgent.’
‘Are there a lot of after-hours calls?’
‘Fridays mostly. But only from people who are old and lonely. Dr Pat just phones them back and chats with them for a bit. That’s all that’s usually needed. Don’t worry, you won’t have to be on call all the time.’
‘That’s good to know. Are people generally quite healthy around here?’ Kate asked, having finished her first slice of bread and jam.
‘Go on, have another slice,’ Bridget urged. ‘Healthy?’ she said and shrugged. ‘It comes and goes. Depends on the weather and time of year and such things. No rhyme or reason about that at all. And some folks don’t go to the doctor until Cormac has had a go first. He sometimes fixes their ills, sometimes not. A real menace, that lad.’
‘Cormac?’ Kate asked, intrigued by the look in Bridget’s eyes.
‘Cormac O’Shea,’ Bridget said with a twist to her mouth. ‘A healer, he likes to call himself. Just because he happens to be the seventh son of the seventh son. You know that old folk tale, I’m sure.’
‘I’ve heard about it. The seventh son of a seventh son having healing hands or something. Didn’t know people still believed in it.’
‘I think it’s because they’re very rare these days, even in Ireland. I mean, how many women do you know with seven sons? Or even that many children. But Cormac’s mother did, the poor craythur. Had eight children, the last one a girl. Cormac was the seventh. And her husband was the seventh son in his family as well. Very strange. So of course all the old people around here immediately thought he had to have the gift. They started asking him to touch their wounds and sore limbs when he was just a small boy. Must have been traumatic for the poor little thing. But now he’s a strapping lad and works down in the Wellness Centre as a herbalist. He’s quite the pet of this village, what with his good looks and charm. But a bit full of himself, if you ask me.’
‘Wellness Centre?’ Kate asked, wondering if she’d be as charmed by this man as everyone else was. ‘Is that like a spa?’
‘Not really. It’s a place where you go for yoga and that Pilates stuff that I never got my head around. Is it for pilots? Or something biblical?’
Kate laughed. ‘No, it’s a kind of exercise based on yoga. Quite exhausting, actually.’
‘Oh.’ Bridget shrugged. ‘Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. I get my exercise from housework and gardening. Not glamorous, but then you get a clean house as well as strong legs and arms. Why doesn’t anyone talk about that?’
‘It’s not sexy,’ Kate replied with a laugh. ‘But of course you’re right. Any kind of physical activity is good for you. And housework is productive as well as being a good way to move. I must admit I like going to an exercise class all the same. And I adore hillwalking. Housework could never replace those.’
‘And then people are too tired to clean their houses after all the yoga and Pilates nonsense,’ Bridget continued. ‘So you have all these fit women with messy houses. Doesn’t make sense to me.’
‘That’s true.’ Kate felt as if she could sit in this cosy kitchen all day listening to Bridget’s take on what was going on in the world. ‘But tell me more about the village. My father’s family lived here a long time ago.’
‘You’re not related to Sally O’Rourke, then?’ Bridget asked. ‘She lives in that house on the hill just off the main street.’
‘I might be, but not closely related,’ Kate said after a moment’s silence. ‘All the O’Rourkes around here must be from the same stock originally.’
‘Ah sure, this place was overrun by O’Rourkes in the old days. The O’Rourkes and McKennas were the two most important families back then. I mean hundreds of years ago, of course. The O’Rourkes lived in the old village by Wild Rose Bay, but not everyone was able to make a living. The sheep farmers and the fishermen and those who went into local politics stayed. Your lot must have been the ones who had to go and look for work somewhere else, who are scattered all over the country now.’
Kate laughed. ‘Yeah, that’s what I heard. My dad’s family came to Dublin over a hundred years ago. He often told us stories about the village and that little bay and the people who lived there before moving to Dublin. I think some of them worked on the quays and some became policemen. Then my grandfather became a doctor and my father, too. I’m the third O’Rourke who chose medicine.’
‘Your lot did well, then. So,’ Bridget remarked, getting up from the table, ‘I must go and check the answering machine. Then I’ll get the doctor’s tea ready.’
‘Tea?’ Kate asked before she realised Bridget meant supper. That old thing of calling the midday meal ‘dinner’ and supper ‘tea’ was obviously still alive here.
‘That’s right,’ Bridget said. ‘He likes sausages and mash for his tea. How about you?’
‘That’d be grand,’ Kate said, grateful that she didn’t have to cook something for herself the first night.
Bridget nodded. ‘I should have said – I organised the back bedroom for you. It has its own bathroom, so it’s quite private. You won’t be disturbed by the doctor or his son who comes in late.’
‘Yes. Mick O’Dwyer. He’s quite well known, actually. Ever heard of him?’
Kate stared at Bridget. ‘Mick O’Dwyer? The actor?’
Bridget nodded. ‘That’s the lad. He stays here when he’s on a break from the theatre.’
‘Here?’ Kate said in a near whisper, her heart beating. ‘In this house?’
‘That’s right. But nobody knows, so please don’t tell anyone.’
‘I won’t,’ Kate said, knowing she’d be on the phone to Tara in New York as soon as she could.
‘I’ll be back in a minute,’ Bridget said and walked out of the kitchen, leaving Kate staring at the door swinging shut, completely stunned by what she had just heard. Mick O’Dwyer, the award-winning actor who she had seen in numerous plays at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin was old Dr O’Dwyer’s son. And he was staying here, in this house.
Dr Pat, as everyone seemed to call him, appeared in time for the meal Bridget prepared for them both before she went home. Having installed herself in the small but cosy back bedroom, Kate went downstairs and found a tall man with thick salt-and-and pepper hair sitting at the table, tucking into his sausage and mash. He rose slowly as she entered, smiling and holding out his hand. ‘Hello there, Kate,’ he said and shook her hand. ‘Welcome.’
‘Hello, Dr O’Dwyer,’ Kate said, returning his smile and shaking his hand. His brown eyes had a kindly look behind his steel-rimmed glasses and Kate immediately liked him, imagining what a wonderful doctor he must be. ‘How was Mrs Dolan’s bad leg?’
He laughed. ‘Not that bad today. A case of varicose veins that had ulcerated. I dressed it and told her she has to have those veins done soon. She has finally agreed, so she’ll be going to Tralee to see the specialist in a few weeks. Should improve her life no end.’ He gestured at the Aga. ‘Bridget put your tea in the oven to keep warm. Do help yourself and sit down. I’m having a glass of wine as I’m off duty. Will you join me?’
‘Yes, please,’ Kate said and took the plate out of the oven after putting on an oven glove. She looked at the plate of sausages, mashed potatoes, a grilled tomato, fried mushrooms and buttered broad beans. ‘Goodness, what a lot of food. Sausage and mash, Bridget said, but there’s a lot more than that.’
‘She likes to give me a good feed on Friday night,’ the doctor said, pour. . .
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