Miracles in Wild Rose Bay
"A totally captivating book from the first page, I laughed out loud at many parts and shed a few tears in others, a real hug in a book."Goodreads Reviewer
A truly unforgettable Irish romance set on the shores of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Arriving in Sandy Cove to views of the shimmering ocean, Tara O’Rourke is excited to get to work. She’s been sent from New York City to take photos of Ireland for a travel magazine, and she knows the perfect area to visit: the mysterious, picturesque Wild Rose Bay.
Staying in her sister Kate’s sweet little cottage, the long nights and beach strolls inspire Tara. But Kate isn’t pleased with Tara’s assignment: she doesn’t want the untouched beauty of the area spoiled by tourists. And when Tara ignores Kate and heads out on her own, she encounters more opposition from Kate’s handsome friend Mick O’Dwyer.
Despite their differences, Tara soon finds herself captivated by Mick, and as he helps her research the area, they uncover a tumbledown farmhouse that holds a secret about Tara’s family. Soon Tara is forced to make a choice: should she give up her story and the career she’s always wanted, or the man and the country she’s falling in love with?
The ultimate escape to beautiful Ireland. Totally captivating from the first page to the last, Miracles in Wild Rose Bay is perfect for fans of Sheila O’Flanagan, Debbie Macomber and Mary Alice Monroe.
What readers are saying about Susanne O’Leary:
" I couldn't put this down! Absolutely delightful!… Great read on a rainy day or a vacation read!!!! Loved this!" Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
"What a wonderful read this was!… The definition of feel-good – reading it felt like sunshine… The first ‘feel-good’ novel I’ve read this year that actually made me feel good… I just couldn’t put it away." Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
"Oh, this was a lovely story… A lovely vacation read with plenty of heart… lots of laughter and healing make this a book that is hard to put down and harder to forget… sure to put a smile on your face." I Am, Indeed
"Another enchanting read from Susanne O'Leary and I'm delighted to learn it is the start of a series. I can't wait to return to Sandy Cove." Rachel’s Random Reads, 5 stars
"I really enjoyed reading this book. I was hooked from the very first page to the very last. I recommend this book to others. You are going to enjoy it just as much as I did." Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
Release date: December 15, 2020
Print pages: 232
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Miracles in Wild Rose Bay
She smiled as she gazed at photos of birthday parties, first communions, confirmations, school concerts and, most importantly, those Irish dancing competitions that she and Kate had won so many times. She still had the medals in a velvet box. She laughed as she came to a big photo of herself and Kate dressed in their dancing costumes. Oh God, they’d been such a hoot. The judges hadn’t been able to tell them apart so they had given them the trophy to share. Tara peered at the photo, trying to remember which of the two tall, thin girls with dark hair and huge hazel eyes was her, and which one was Kate. Even she couldn’t tell them apart in the grainy images sometimes. They had been nine years old.
It was a whole lifetime ago, it seemed. Her childhood days in Dublin were long gone and she hadn’t been there since she’d left over three years ago. And here she was, in New York, pursuing a career in photography, while Kate was on the other side of the Atlantic, a country doctor in a small village in County Kerry. A beautiful place for sure, but so remote. Tara had been there only once last year, when Kate had organised a memorial for their father. Originally from Dublin, his ancestors had come from Sandy Cove and he had always wanted to go back there.
Kate had been so excited about the O’Rourke family history that went back to the eleventh century, but Tara hadn’t been able to connect to that at all. Not strange, considering Tara was on a flying visit and hadn’t immersed herself in the village and its history like Kate, who had been there for months and had got to know everyone by then. But as Tara gazed out over the heavy grey skies of New York, the image of that beautiful place popped into her mind: the rugged coastline, the shimmering ocean, the bays and inlets, but most of all, the white sands of Wild Rose Bay and the slopes leading down to it covered in a carpet of dark pink flowers. She had promised to go back, but then been so busy in that New York way, with jobs and parties and dating and going to the gym and a million other things big city life entailed.
Tara closed the album and walked to the window, staring out at the river, the skyscrapers and the green square of Washington Market Park below, where she would occasionally play tennis with Joe. Their relationship was of the kind that could easily be described as ‘complicated’. He had once been her boss, but it hadn’t taken them long to realise they couldn’t work together. Joe had never understood Tara’s way of working. Her technique was unusual – based on her feelings rather than what she saw. Instead of clicking away at her target, she would wait a minute or two until she felt emotionally involved with what was in front of her, using all her senses as she waited for the perfect moment to take the shot. It usually resulted in photos that had more depth and feeling than many of Joe’s shots, which was why her photos were often chosen over Joe’s technically perfect ones.
Once she had left his firm and was working freelance, their liaison had changed to something closer, more intimate. Despite their professional rivalry, they couldn’t deny their sexual tension. But even though they had been dating for six months, their relationship never seemed to develop into anything that would last. She never knew what he really thought of her or how much she meant to him. She suspected he liked keeping her guessing so he didn’t have to commit.
Tara exhaled and carried her mug to the kitchen part of the loft, where her flatmate, Patty, a stockbroker with a hectic social life, had left the remnants of her lunch in the sink. Tara quickly loaded the dirty plates and her mug into the dishwasher and switched it on, wondering how long she would be able to stand living with this woman. But the loft was spacious and comfortable, with two bedrooms, both en-suite, a large kitchen-diner and living room combined into a bright, airy space with nice views. The location was great, too and well worth the exorbitant rent. The fact that her flatmate was seldom at home made the situation bearable, even if Tara had to tidy up after her.
Tara knew she had fallen on her feet since she arrived in New York three years ago, both with her job and her accommodation. She often had to pinch herself when she thought of her success. It was all about being in the right place at the right time, getting exposure that created that word of mouth that was so important. And it had happened very fast. Despite her occasional homesickness, life in the fast lane suited Tara to a T.
The only problem was her love life, and she was finding it increasingly hard to cope with the on-off relationship she had with Joe. But maybe she was too eager; maybe so far she had been too ready to dance to his tune? It wasn’t in her nature to play hard to get, but right now, with Joe, it seemed like a very good option. As she stood there at the window, she suddenly realised: she’d have to be less available. From now on, she’d be more distant and try to be a little mysterious. She nodded as a little smile played on her lips. That was what she would do. Be cool for a while, which meant not answering his texts. Make him guess, wonder and maybe even worry…
But why had she thought so much of Ireland lately? And why was her head full of lilting music, soft air and the smell of flowers? It was probably the time of year, she thought, with the arrival of summer and the heat and humidity that made New Yorkers flee the city at weekends. But Tara had nowhere to flee to, and she was stuck here on a Saturday afternoon waiting for Joe to call, hoping he’d invite her to go to Connecticut where he had a small cottage by the sea. But he hadn’t called. Perhaps he had been invited to join someone else’s weekend party and had forgotten all about her. Maybe he was miffed that her feature on the old mansions on Fisher’s Island had been published in Harper’s Bazaar last week?
She had gone to this secluded, little-known island north of Long Island, where the old money families had been spending their summers for generations, to photograph the members of one of these families. It had been a surprise assignment commissioned by the magazine and she hadn’t even told Joe about it. He found out when the issue was published and demanded to know why she had kept it a secret. Maybe that was why he had disappeared. Tara sighed. She understood his wanting to be the one to shine, but she wished he could be happy for her too.
The call came early on Monday morning. Tara had just left the gym and was on her way to grab a coffee and a bagel at the coffee shop next door. She answered the call at the same time as she stepped inside, nodding to the girl at the counter and whispering, ‘The usual, please,’ before she sat down at a window seat. ‘Hi,’ she said. ‘Tara O’Rourke here.’
‘Hi, Tara,’ a woman’s voice said. ‘I’m Ellie, editor of The Wild Vagabond.’
‘Hi, Ellie,’ Tara said with a dart of excitement, smelling a good project coming her way. The Wild Vagabond was a high-profile magazine for the wealthy traveller who wanted to go somewhere different. ‘We’ve worked together before. Remember those photos I did for the feature about hiking in the Canadian Rockies?’
‘That’s right,’ Ellie replied. ‘And this time I’m calling you about a feature for our January issue. Something for readers who will be starting to think about their summer vacation trips.’
‘Sounds great,’ Tara said, trying to appear casual. She loved these kinds of assignments to faraway places. The excursion up the Amazon last year with Joe had been an incredible experience that had given her a taste for more of the same. Tahiti, Australia, she’d go anywhere. ‘So where do you want me to go?’ she asked.
Ellie said something that was drowned in the noise of a truck outside.
‘What?’ Tara shouted into the phone, only just hearing what Ellie said. ‘Iceland?’ she asked, excited at the thought. Wow. How fabulous. She had always wanted to go there. The landscape, the hot springs, the Icelandic ponies… She could imagine the fabulous shots she’d take. ‘I’d love to go to Iceland.’
‘No,’ Ellie shouted back. ‘I said Ireland.’
‘Oh,’ Tara said, her heart sinking. ‘Why Ireland?’ she asked. ‘I mean, hasn’t that been done to death already?’
‘Not the way we want to do it. We don’t want you to go to the well-known tourist spots there but somewhere along that route everyone’s talking about. The Wild – something.’
‘The Wild Atlantic Way,’ Tara said. ‘Is that what you meant? The route along the Atlantic coast?’
‘Yes, but we don’t want you to do the whole thing, just the southern part. Cork and Kerry.’
‘I’m not sure that’s exactly undiscovered,’ Tara remarked.
‘I know,’ Ellie said with a laugh. ‘It’s been done before, but we want you to do the hidden parts. Places nobody knows much about. Not the fancy hotels, but the roads less travelled. You know, the little villages with bed and breakfast places in ruined castles. Trips in horse-drawn caravans and visiting interesting people who live in the old cottages. Places where you can get away from the glam and glitz and discover the real Ireland and the real people. Where you can go and find yourself and walk barefoot on the rocks and be alone. A Lonely Planet kind of thing.’ Ellie drew breath. ‘We understand from the bio on your website that you’re Irish, so we thought you’d know where to go.’
‘Hmm,’ Tara said while she thought. Okay, so it wasn’t a trip up Machu Picchu or a trek through the Mongolian desert, but it could be fun to do something in Ireland. She could combine it with a visit to Sandy Cove and Kate. It would give her the chance to take a break from her problems with Joe. Going to Ireland would give her a chance to look at it all from a distance. She might even forget about him. Never mind the fact that there was someone in Sandy Cove Kate had mentioned that she’d been desperate to meet. Someone she had had a crush on for a long time who just happened to live in that remote little village…
‘We think it’d be a huge hit with people who love Ireland already,’ Ellie said.
Tara nodded to herself, beginning to warm to the idea. ‘I think I know exactly where I’d get some fabulous shots,’ she said. ‘It’s a little place on the west coast that still has that old magic. Not glamorous at all. And the coast is spectacular.’
‘Perfect,’ Ellie said. ‘But we’d like it to be very in-depth and cover a lot of different activities: hiking, horseback riding, surfing, kayaking, even bird watching. Do you think you could do that?’
‘No problem at all,’ Tara replied.
‘Brilliant,’ Ellie gushed. ‘Of course that’ll mean you’ll be over there for most of the summer. I hope that won’t be a problem?’
‘Eh,’ Tara mumbled, trying to figure out if it was a good idea to be away so long from Joe. She wanted to be mysterious and play a little hard to get, but being away for so long might be overdoing it. But oh, to spend the summer with Kate, who Tara had missed so desperately! It had felt at times as if half of her was gone. Now they could be together for a whole summer and that suddenly felt wonderful. ‘We’ll cover your expenses including the flight in business class,’ Ellie said, cutting into Tara’s musings.
‘That’s great,’ Tara said.
‘So you accept this job? We were thinking of asking Joe Mancini, but he’s going to Alaska in two weeks. Some kind of assignment for National Geographic.’
Tara sat up. ‘He is? I mean, yeah, that’s right,’ she corrected herself, while her spirits sank. Joe hadn’t said anything about that to her when they’d had dinner together only three days ago. Why hadn’t he told her? And why had he disappeared just like that over the weekend? Was he showing her he wasn’t really committed to their potential relationship? Well, two could play at that game. ‘I’d be happy to go to Ireland,’ she announced. ‘Email me all the details and I’ll take it from there. I’ll book my flight straight away.’
‘Fabulous,’ Ellie said. ‘I know you’ll do a fantastic job. We love your work and that slightly different angle you always manage to get. I’ll email you the details and the budget for your expenses and your fee. You’ll have copyright for all your photos, of course.’
Tara thanked her and hung up with mixed feelings. On the one hand, she was excited and pleased to have been given such a big assignment by this high-profile magazine, but on the other, Joe’s obvious indifference to her was hard to take. She knew he had some kind of commitment phobia – he was known as ‘no-strings Joe’ in the Manhattan dating scene – but she had thought he felt differently about her. Ever since that trip up the Amazon, last year, when they had truly connected, she had felt they had something special. But now they were drifting apart and he was beginning to lose interest. Even though Tara loved New York and her life and work here, she suddenly felt a break away would be the best thing for her, whatever happened with Joe.
She needed to get home for a bit. Home to Kate and that little village in the west of Ireland for some peace and rest and a little Irish craic. She’d come back rested and strong. Maybe it would make Joe commit, but maybe it wouldn’t… She was just as unsure about her own feelings as his and the confusion was very stressful. This summer break was just what she needed, and she suddenly felt that the next few months would decide her future. She had to go back to her roots before she could go forward.
Everything fell into place smoothly; Tara spent the next few days finding a temporary tenant for her room in the loft. The woman was a newly qualified lawyer who would stay until Tara returned to New York and she was relieved to know that she wouldn’t lose her room and could move straight back in when she came back at the end of the summer. Tara found a flight with Aer Lingus and she quickly booked it and sent the invoice to the magazine. The only thing taking the gloss off her excitement was her conversation with Joe, who called her two days day before she was due to leave.
‘Hi, babes,’ he said. She usually found his gravelly voice so attractive, but now it grated slightly on her nerves as she already felt a distance between them. ‘How are things with you?’
‘Great,’ Tara replied, cringing at the word ‘babes’. The endearment he used so casually always irritated her. She had tried to tell him it was sexist and patronising and belonged in the last century but it had had no effect on him. She sometimes had a feeling he did it to annoy her. ‘How about you? How was last weekend?’
‘Pretty good,’ he replied with a touch of laughter in his voice. ‘I was on this photo shoot in the Hamptons and ended up at a party that went on until early Sunday afternoon. I was still a little hungover on Monday, to tell you the truth.’
‘Poor baby,’ Tara cooed. ‘But I’m sure it was worth it.’
‘It was fun, but I missed you.’
‘No, I mean it. But hey, why not do something about it? How about dinner in the Village tomorrow? There’s that new place—’
‘Sorry, but I can’t,’ Tara interrupted.
‘You can’t?’ Joe asked, sounding annoyed. ‘Why not?’
‘I’m going away the day after tomorrow. On a job.’
‘Ireland. I just heard from The Wild Vagabond. They want me to do a long feature there, which will take me away from New York for a while.’
‘Oh? Well, that’s funny, because I’m off on a job too next week. For two weeks. Maybe when I’m back, we can get together and go away somewhere.’
‘I’ll be gone a lot longer than that,’ Tara said.
‘Could be more like two months,’ Tara said, knowing he wouldn’t like it. ‘Very nice assignment that I couldn’t say no to.’
Joe was silent for a while. ‘And you didn’t feel like telling me about this?’ he finally asked, his voice cold.
‘I’m telling you now,’ Tara said, trying to stay cool. She knew she was taking a risk going away for so long, but she suddenly didn’t care. If he had any feelings for her, he’d accept it and be happy for her. If he didn’t, that was his loss. ‘You were gone all weekend and I only heard about this on Monday.’
‘Today is Friday.’
‘I know what day it is,’ Tara snapped, tiring of humouring him. ‘And how come I had to hear about your Alaska trip from someone else?’
He paused. ‘I forgot to tell you, but I was going to, of course.’
‘Of course,’ Tara said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
‘What is this?’ he asked angrily. ‘Have I done something to annoy you?’
‘Nothing in particular,’ Tara replied with a sad little sigh. ‘Just your usual thing of keeping your distance. It’s very frustrating.’
‘I don’t know what you mean, babes. Aren’t we good together? It sure works for me.’
‘For you, yeah,’ Tara said. ‘But… Oh, what’s the point?’ she muttered, exasperated. They had discussed this before, always with the same outcome. Joe would slide away whenever he felt cornered. ‘No need to get into this now,’ she said. ‘We’ll talk when I get back.’
‘Yes. And we’ll keep in touch,’ Joe said. ‘Or maybe you want to call it a day? Us, I mean.’
Tara’s heart sank. He always said things like this to make her feel unsure of their relationship. It was a ploy to get her to stop pushing for a commitment from him. ‘Is there really an “us”?’ Tara asked, her voice shaking. She thought her leaving would make him fight for their relationship; she didn’t think he’d suggest it ended already. ‘You don’t treat me like I’m important to you. It’s not like you’ve been planning for some kind of future?’
‘Maybe it’ll be a good thing for us to be apart,’ Joe replied. ‘Take a break and then see where we stand.’
Tara realised he was sliding away but still wanted to keep his options open. But what did she want? She was wildly attracted to him and they shared a sense of ambition. She had wanted for them to be closer and for him to make some kind of commitment. But she knew he wouldn’t stay loyal to her for the whole summer and that he would be flirting with other women whenever he had the chance. Wasn’t it better to break it off now and cut her losses? Of course it was. He was wasting her time. She was thirty-six and her biological clock was ticking away. Joe, with his commitment phobia, wasn’t the right man for her and she knew it. So why did she still feel she could get him around to her way of thinking? Was she in love with him? Or was it simply a strong physical attraction to a very handsome man? ‘I think you’re right,’ she heard herself say. ‘Let’s end things now, and see whether we want to get back together at the end of the summer.’
‘Oh,’ he said, sounding both surprised and disappointed, taken aback that she’d agreed with him. ‘Yeah, okay. Let’s do that. But we can still keep in touch, can’t we? Just to share our experiences job wise?’
‘No,’ Tara said, steeling herself for the misery she would feel. ‘Let’s not do that. We should say goodbye now and then meet up in September and see where we stand.’
‘September?’ he asked, sounding alarmed. ‘That’s more than two months away.’
‘I know,’ Tara replied. ‘And it’ll be a good way to test how we feel.’
‘Goodbye, Joe. Have a nice summer. See you in the fall.’
‘Good luck with the job. Ciao,’ Tara said and hung up, feeling an odd satisfaction at having shaken Joe even for a few minutes. It would have been a shock for him to have a woman say goodbye to him like this. Tara suddenly laughed out loud as she imagined his sheepish look at the other end. Then she. . .
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