It's 1969 in Northern Ireland, and sectarian violence is on the rise as long-simmering tensions between Catholics and Protestants come to the boiling point. In the Ulster village of Ballybucklebo, the two sides have generally been able to get along, but the villagers--and the members of Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly's medical practice--are dealing with their own problems. An Irish Country Welcome, the 15th installment in Patrick Taylor's warmhearted series (An Irish Country Family, A Dublin Student Doctor), gives readers a glimpse into the tense days of that summer, as O'Reilly and his colleagues manage staffing problems, a difficult pregnancy and the usual rounds of illnesses and injuries.
Dr. Barry Laverty, O'Reilly's young colleague, and his wife, Sue, are expecting their first child, but complications arise midway through Sue's pregnancy. (Taylor takes the opportunity to provide readers with a wealth of information about childbirth and the accepted medical methods of the day.) Meanwhile, a local contractor may be trying to cheat an inexperienced foreman; Sebastian, the newest hire at O'Reilly's medical practice, is mysteriously eager to rush off after work; and there's fierce competition for the best plum cake at the local harvest festival. Most poignantly, Barry's dear friend and colleague Jack Mills longs to gain his father's support for his upcoming marriage to a young Catholic woman and fellow doctor. While Ballybucklebo does have its share of trials, Taylor steers his characters and readers through rocky waters with a steady hand. This visit to Taylor's Ireland is, like its predecessors, a delight. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams