While I was not expecting the plot to happen like this, What the Wind Knows was still a really good romance historical fiction novel! Set in Ireland in the 1920s during the Irish fight for independence, the well-researched, vivid historical setting is this novel’s strongest point. Also, it is about to come out, so show it some love!
Title: What the Wind Knows
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: historical fiction, romance, adult
Published on March 1, 2019 by Lake Union Publishing
Page count: 406
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (3.5 stars)
s y n o p s i s
Anne Gallagher grew up listening to her grandfather’s tales. When in 2001 he dies in New York City, Anne travels to Ireland with his ashes to be scattered on his favorite lake. As soon as she arrives at her grandpa’s hometown, she feels a pull to Ireland and its tumultuous past. Literally. Mysteriously, Anne Gallagher wakes up in 1921 Ireland, being mistaken for her great-grandmother who had supposedly died in the Easter Rising of 1916. As tensions rise, Anne is drawn to the conflicts and must make some hard decisions along the way…
When I saw this book was coming out in March, I jumped at the chance to review it. It’s no secret at all that I love historical fiction novels, and Ireland’s history is something I’ve always wanted to read about! The last time I visited Dublin, I took a free walking tour that covered the biggest events leading up to Irish independence. And BOY was I interested! So, as soon as I read the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
First of all, omg look at that cover!!! Isn’t it so beautiful?? I love how both the title and the cover are intimately connected with the novel. Even more so than most novels I have read! The wind is a recurring background character that shows up in What the Wind Knows and the passages that describe it are simply beautiful…
Given that I almost gave this book four stars, it’s obvious that I liked a lot of aspects about this novel. I want to start my review by pointing out some of the things that had me enchanted and hooked from the first page onward…
🍃 Brilliantly described setting…
This was, hands down, my favorite aspect of the novel. I love books set in Ireland, especially right before the revolution, and that is just what we get with What the Wind Knows. What’s more, is that the writer is really faithful to the locations. I remembered so vividly being in Ireland in December 2017 while reading the descriptions of Dublin.
On top of all that, I really liked the fact that we are immersed in Irish history. I’ve read some historical romances and they sometimes leave out important and interesting details pertaining to the time period. But Amy Harmon takes you on a tour of an Ireland close to war where tensions are high — and she doesn’t let you forget it.
🍃 A perfect mix of fictional and real characters
In this book, there are some real characters worked into the plot, among fictional ones. I loved that they weren’t just name dropping occasions. The author really worked them into the action and they had roles — granted that they weren’t major, but they were still relevant.
Because of this, you’re left with a great mix of reality and fiction. On one hand, Amy Harmon gives a voice and life to the real men and women who fought for Irish independence. On the other, she also creates relationships and well-fleshed-out characters who have never existed. It was so interesting seeing them all interact!
🍃 Interesting time-traveling plot device
The time travel is a pretty major part of the whole novel. It’s what sends Anne back to the past so she can be reunited with her late-grandfather when he was still just a little boy. But at the same time, we aren’t bogged down by explanations of how time-traveling works, nor do we know what works and what doesn’t when trying to rewrite the past. We’re given the information Anne knows, which isn’t a lot at all!
This could have gotten on my nerves (I love knowing how things work, and being given flimsy plot devices that make absolutely no sense drives me crazy). But for some reason, this one actually worked for me. I’m still a little surprised that I didn’t get mad, to be honest…
While it did get a little cliched at times, I still think the time-traveling worked out alright in the end.
🍃 Beautiful quotes at the beginning of each chapter
Being a book set in Ireland, I was thrilled to find excerpts from W.B. Yeats’s poetry preceding the start of each chapter. They didn’t always connect in obvious ways with the content of the chapter, but somehow they fit perfectly!
Anne is a writer, so it makes a lot of sense that her idea of Ireland was shaped not just by her grandfather’s memories, but also by the poetry of Yeats. He’s a terrific writer, and someone like Anne most definitely knows about him and his work.
I think including poetry by such a talented writer was a great decision. In my opinion, it throws the reader even more fiercely into the story they’re reading. It created a whole atmosphere around Ireland and, in particular, 1920s Ireland.
🍃 There are diary entries to situate us (yay!)
Diary entries are something I love finding in literature. It gives you a chance to see how someone else besides the narrator/focus of the narrator feels without boring you with double POVs. In this novel, we have access to the male love interest’s diary entries. In them, we can see how Thomas feels — not only for Anne, but for the young man who will one day become her grandfather and for the issue of independence for Ireland.
It’s also through these diary entries that we see what is happening in Ireland politically more clearly. Since Thomas goes to a lot of meetings where independence is discussed, he, of course, writes on his notebook what happens there.
But there were also some things I had issues with… These are the main reason why I’m giving What the Wind Knows between three and four stars. On one hand, it was entertaining, but not the best historical romance/fiction I’ve read.
☕️ I couldn’t connect with the characters
I think to love this book you really have to connect with the characters. You may not see yourself in them (who would, really??), but you have to at least care more than just a little ittle bit. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with Anne, especially. I think the reader is thrown into the story a little too fast to really care about her. Why should we want to know what happens to her and her love life? Why should we care that she is indecisive between staying in the past and returning to the present? As a reader, I want to care. Otherwise, the stakes aren’t that high anymore…
☕️ The romance wasn’t anything special…
This is such a shame! Believe me when I say I wanted Thomas and Anne to be together at all costs (I won’t tell you if they do or don’t!!!). But I… just couldn’t care about their relationship… The romance wasn’t sweet, nor did it made a lot of sense why Anne would be attracted to Thomas. Sure, he’s good-looking, but it surely must take more than that — right??!!?!
I’d say this is definitely the biggest reason why I couldn’t love this book more. When you’re reading a romance and you can’t give a hoot about the romance, what’s the point? I asked myself this sometimes while I was reading. But I will say, though, that Anne’s relationship with her grandfather was the most adorable part of the novel!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not had any influence on my judgement.
Have you ever read anything by Amy Harmon? I would love to hear your thoughts on her work and on your favorite historical fiction novels!