The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey

Following her highly praised debut novel, The Yellow House, comes Patricia Falvey’s second work of historical fiction, The Linen Queen. Falvey, who grew up in Northern Ireland, uses her knowledge of history and the area to tell the story of Sheila McGee, a young woman who dreams of escaping her small-town life as a mill worker in County Armagh.

Initially, I found it difficult to like Sheila. Her self-centered personality comes though strongly as she makes it her goal to get the attention she believes she deserves. For a while, the beautiful girl receives that attention as she is crowned the town’s Linen Queen, the face and spokeswoman of the millworkers. After receiving prize money for this honor, Sheila is ready to make her escape to a new life in England, but her plans change as the world is turned upside down by the events of World War II.

Ever focused on her goal, Sheila sees potential in the arrival of the American troops. She attracts Joel Solomon, a Jewish-American army officer, who she plans to use as her way out. Instead, she finds herself falling for him. Sheila starts to see the world through different perspectives as she gets to know Joel and a young, troubled Belfast evacuee named Grainne. The Linen Queen takes the reader through an emotional ride as World War II transforms the lives of those in Northern Ireland and Sheila McGee possibly learns to leave her old ways behind.

-Katie McFadden (320 pages / Hachette Books / $21.99)