Title: Donal agus Jimmy
Author: P.D. Singer
Publisher: Rocky Ridge Books
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: historical m/m romance
Length: Novella (73 pdf pages, 20500 words)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: This beautifully written love story between two Irish shipyard workers transported me right into 1911 Belfast.
The Blurb: The best jobs in 1911 Belfast are in the shipyards, but Donal Gallagher’s pay packet at Harland and Wolff doesn’t stretch far enough. He needs to find someone to share his rented room; fellow ship-builder Jimmy Healy’s bright smile and need for lodgings inspire Donal to offer. But how will he sleep, lying scant feet away from Jimmy? It seems Jimmy’s a restless sleeper, too, lying so near to Donal…
In a volatile political climate, building marine boilers and armed insurrection are strangely connected. Jimmy faces an uneasy choice: flee to America or risk turning gunrunner for Home Rule activists. He thinks he’s found the perfect answer to keep himself and his Donal safe, but shoveling coal on a luxury liner is an invitation to fate.
The Review: It amazed me how much background and atmosphere were packed into the few pages of this story, all without taking away from the focus, the romance between Donal and Jimmy. The backdrop of the Belfast shipyards in the early 20th century, Mrs. Deegan’s boarding house,pub life, all were drawn in sparse words and yet so detailed I felt like was there. Donal and Jimmy are even better, right on the button. Everything about them, their mindset, their clothing, their work, their behaviour around family, friends and their landlady, and most of all the way they realize what they feel for each other and conduct their budding relationship makes them realistic children of their time. I can imagine how much research went into this one, but there’s never a hint of infodumping or such. Instead, the story is written light-handedly, with humor and wit and a real fondness for the characters that won them my heart.
For all that Donal and Jimmy were drawn so well, I found them rather alike. Sure Jimmy is the bolder one, the planner and doer, while Donal is more considerate and more likely to dot all his i’s, but their voices were very similar. Yet, since they were both adorable guys, this didn’t bother me overly much. From the secondary cast, I really, really loved Mrs. Deegan. If push comes to shove, I’d like to have someone like her in my field.
Both Donal and Jimmy are Northern Irish; they speak in dialectically tinted English interspersed with Gaelic words. The title alone set the tune for the tone of the narrative: according to my online Gaelic dictionary, “agus” means “and” or “together with”; it’s also a word game with a Gaelic love song mentioned in the story, “Donal Agus Morag”. I found the language charming; the smattering of Gaelic added to the atmospheric feel although it also caused one of my (very few) niggles with this story, since I don’t speak Gaelic. Some little explanatory notes would’ve been nice.
The story is built around a true and fairly well-known historical event, but I’ve never seen this incident approached from this particular angle of the blue-collar workers’ viewpoint. It was delightfully misleading as I must admit that for quite a while I really had no clue where this was going – the light only dawned on me with the actual revelation.
Following said revelation, though, the story lost part of its appeal to me. I’m sure this is only me, as there was “technically” nothing wrong with the tension arc during the last part of the story, but I guessed the end right then and found myself somewhat disappointed to see I’d been right. This was still only a minor disturbance in an otherwise smoothly flowing story with likeable characters and an incredibly strong sense of time and place. Warmly recommended.