The Missing Sister (The Seven Sisters series) – by Lucinda Riley – independent book review – Historical Fiction (Ireland)

Despite what I and other fans might be expecting, this is NOT the final episode in Lucinda Riley’s series of historical novels, The Seven Sisters, even though it DOES focus on sister #7. Sorry to say that for me, this is the weakest of the series. Awarded three stars on Goodreads. Perhaps 3.5 stars is more accurate than three. But all the other novels I rated more highly, though I still remain a fan of the late author.

The strongest parts of the book are the stories related to the guerilla fight for an independent Ireland (where Riley was born) that chiefly takes place in the 1920s. Riley’s fabricated diary of Nuala Murphy was compelling in its entirety. The story of how the Irish war for independence played out in poor, rural West Cork is a fascinating David vs. Goliath story of poorly educated, unskilled, and impoverished farmers fighting to the death against all the power and might of the British Empire.

Nuala’s story touches on income inequality between Irish Catholics and British Protestants, on the limited educational and employment opportunities available to the Irish poor, on the important, often behind-the-scenes role women played in the independence movement, and on the limited health care available to poor women unable to practice any reliable form of birth control (and the toll repeated pregnancies take on their bodies).

A separate thread Riley creates is the story of an orphan foundling, literally left on a priest’s doorstep. In an effort to avoid the dreaded orphanage, the priest figures out a way to place the child in a loving home where the child (and the family) benefit from supplemented resources.

The weakest parts of the book for me were those taking place in contemporary times. For those who have been following the series, it’s 2008 and the six daughters of Pa Salt (from the previous six novels) are desperately trying to locate their seventh and “missing sister.” Unfortunately, these sections aren’t much more than a series of lengthy conversations where one sister poses questions to another and the second one says she doesn’t know the answer. Or one sister asks another to chase down some lead that we, as the readers, must follow, only to find it goes nowhere. It actually becomes quite tedious and totally unnecessary to advancing the plot. At the very least, I wish Riley’s editor would have pushed back on the length of these passages.

Lucinda Riley (1965-2021)

So, I WAS disappointed in this one. It didn’t seem nearly as polished, tight, or crisp as the others and it was not as skillfully self-contained as the earlier novels. In fact, it felt a bit like this one was more of an effort to keep a financially lucrative series viable for yet another book.

Still, I recommend The Missing Sister for fans of the The Seven Sisters series. And yes, I will go on to read the next book.

More about the author, Lucinda Riley.

You may be interested in my reviews of the other historical novels in The Seven Sisters series:

The Seven Sisters

The Storm Sister

The Shadow Sister

The Pearl Sister

The Moon Sister

The Sun Sister

I also have written reviews of other books by Lucinda Riley:

The Butterfly Room

The Royal Secret

The Italian Girl

The Lavender Garden

The Midnight Rose


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