The Velvet Ribbon by Nadine Dorries: Expect family feuds, strong community bonds, Irish folklore, romance, high drama, and difficult themes tackled with compassion - book review -

The Velvet Ribbon
The Velvet Ribbon

Welcome to the final, heartbreaking novel in Nadine Dorries’ enthralling Tarabeg trilogy, which has gripped readers with its emotional account of a young woman’s rollercoaster journey through love, loss and disaster.

A terrible tragedy will force Mary Kate Malone to leave Liverpool and return to her home on the remote west coast of Ireland but instead of solace, she will find only bitterness and division.

Welcome to the final, heartbreaking novel in Nadine Dorries’ enthralling Tarabeg trilogy, which includes Shadows in Heaven and Mary Kate, and has gripped readers with its emotional account of a young woman’s rollercoaster journey through love, loss and disaster.

Born and raised on a council estate in Liverpool in the 1950s and 60s, politician Dorries is fulfilling a childhood dream in her ‘second’ career as a successful novelist.

The MP for Mid-Bedfordshire now combines her high-profile job with writing nostalgic sagas set amongst Liverpool’s tight-knit communities in the city where she grew up and trained as a nurse before founding a successful childcare business, Company Kids, and entering politics.

This last book in an immensely popular series, set during a time of change in the 1960s, sees Dorries at her storytelling best as she explores the contrast between the busy, vibrant, metropolitan atmosphere of Liverpool with the rural, and very traditional, way of life in a small Irish community.

Mary Kate Malone came to Liverpool from Ireland three years ago to escape unhappiness at home and to seek her fortune, but from the very beginning things have gone wrong.

Now she is living secretly in the city with her great love, Dr Nicholas Marcus, a GP who is still married to his bitter wife Lavinia who refuses to grant him a divorce even though she was the first to break up their marriage, and has a lover of her own.

Lavinia allows Nicholas little contact with their two sons and is plotting her revenge on Mary Kate, the girl who she wilfully and mistakenly blames for destroying her marriage.

When disaster strikes unexpectedly, Mary Kate must return to the only people she can trust, in the only place she feels safe – her Irish family and friends in the west coast village of Tarabeg – even though she knows that her adulterous relationship with Nicholas would scandalise the priest and the locals.

But back in Ireland, everything has changed. Home help Peggy has taken over Mary Kate’s old bedroom above her father Michael’s shop and her grandparents Seamus and Nola, who live up at the big farm, seem to be in thrall to a distant, wealthy American relative called Joe Malone.

Mary Kate hates Joe on sight and when he reveals plans to turn Seamus and Nola’s old manor house into a hotel, she decides to fight him. But the village, where she once felt so loved, has bitterly divided loyalties in a battle which can only have one winner.

To add to her problems, Dr Gaskell and Matron from St Angelus Hospital in Liverpool, where Nicholas was a visiting doctor, have come to Tarabeg to recruit nurses… and Mary Kate’s past life is about to come back to haunt her with a vengeance.

Love, laughter, tears and heartbreak are never far away in Dorries’ sagas and she certainly ratchets up the tension as Mary Kate encounters both triumph and disaster on either side of the Irish Sea.

Written with the author’s natural warmth, charm and insight, The Velvet Ribbon introduces readers to a beautifully drawn cast of characters – including new and familiar names – and several unexpected twists and turns as the kind-hearted but determined Mary Kate encounters hatred, despair, love and friendship.

Expect family feuds, strong community bonds, Irish folklore, romance, high drama, and difficult themes tackled with compassion, as we say a final fond farewell to a memorable ensemble and a captivating series.

(Head of Zeus, hardback, £18.99)