The best books on pagans, saints, and love

Why am I passionate about this?

I just looked this up. The word is Hibernophile. I love all things Irish even though I'm American, and distantly, Irish American. My inspiration for the Brigid of Ireland trilogy met at the intersection of genealogy research and discovering druids. The novel Druids by Morgan Llywelyn which I read soon after The Mists of Avalon impacted so much of my future writing I love research, too. Finding my family roots—immigrants to the New York marble quarries during the Famine—was the impetus for tying these two things together. This—researching Catholicism in Ireland—led me to Patrick and Brigid. I live, teach, and write in the mountains of Virginia.

I wrote...

Fiery Arrow

By Sheila R. Lamb,

Book cover of Fiery Arrow

What is my book about?

When Patrick, a high-born British Roman, is kidnapped by Irish raiders, his life is forever changed. After his attempts to escape slavery fail, Patrick falls under the watchful eye of a local druid who teaches the Christian-raised Patrick about pagan beliefs. On the other side of Ireland, Brigid has been marked as a gifted mage since birth. However, her chief druid suspects her talents run deeper than anyone knows and he forces her into the dangerous Test of the Ancients. Fearful for her life, Brigid runs away, determined to continue her druid training elsewhere.

Brigid and Patrick must decide whether to follow separate paths or join together to restore Ireland to her past glory. They will uncover the stories of their lives and find a connection that transcends time.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Druids

Sheila R. Lamb Why did I love this book?

This was the first book that made me realize druids had been real, and that entire belief system was nearly—in historical chronologystamped out by the Roman Empire. The story focuses on a young druid, Ainvar, who befriends Vercingetorix, the Celtic warrior who was brought to Rome in chains by Julius Caesar. While the setting is in Gaul, I began to understand the beliefs of the druid life that was very nearly lost. Where Rome’s war with the druids of Gaul was bloody and decisive, the Irish conversion took a different path. I wanted to find out why the two histories, the change from druid to Christian, was so dramatically different.

By Morgan Llywelyn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Druids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The tale of one man who has the vision and genius to save his Celtic people from destruction at the hands of Julius Caesar, this fantasy novel tells the story of the General's invasion of Gaul from the unusual point of view of the invaded.

Book cover of The Mists of Avalon

Sheila R. Lamb Why did I love this book?

Magic is real. I fell in love with the way Zimmer-Bradley took the King Arthur legend and wove a full and beautiful story, richly told, with varied and complex characters. Told from Morgaine’s (Morgan Le Fey) point of view, the reader gets a different take from the usual Arthur stories. Arthur and Lancelet are not necessarily heroes, nor is Gwenhwyfar the immaculate, benevolent queen. I love Morgaine as the narrator and main character. She gains my sympathy, my ire on her behalf. The thread which binds my recommendations are the pagan vs. Christian elements, the everyday struggle between the two. This again touched on my curiosity about Ireland’s transition and their myths and legends.

By Marion Zimmer Bradley,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Mists of Avalon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is the tragic tale of the rise and fall of Camelot - but seen through the eyes of Camelot's women: The devout Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's Queen; Vivane, High priestess of Avalon and the Lady of the Lake; above all, Morgaine, possessor of the sight, the wise, the wise-woman fated to bring ruin on them all...

Book cover of Confessions of a Pagan Nun: A Novel

Sheila R. Lamb Why did I love this book?

Kate Horsely’s writing is exquisite. Every word, every detail is carefully chosen and her language has a beauty all its own. The novel is about an Irish nun, Gwynneve, who was raised pagan. She sought refuge in Saint Brigit’s and is welcomed because of her literacy. She is to transcribe the words of St. Augustine and St. Patrick. She observes the crossroads of paganism and Christianity and witnesses the positive and negative of both sides. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but Gwynneve becomes caught up in the conflict as she records her diary of observations and pays the price for honesty. Again, I’m fascinated by the two belief systems, pagan and Christian, side by side, and searched for how that transition occurred.

By Kate Horsley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Confessions of a Pagan Nun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A druid-turned-nun writes of faith, love, loss, and religion in this “beautifully written and thought-provoking book” set at the dawn of Ireland’s Christian era (Library Journal)

Cloistered in a stone cell at the monastery of Saint Brigit, a sixth-century Irish nun secretly records the memories of her Pagan youth, interrupting her assigned task of transcribing Augustine and Patrick. She revisits her past, piece by piece—her fiercely independent mother, whose skill with healing plants and inner strength she inherited; her druid teacher, the brusque and magnetic Giannon, who introduced her to the mysteries of the written language.
But disturbing events at…

Book cover of The Passion of Mary Magdalen

Sheila R. Lamb Why did I love this book?

Talk about sacrilege. Although my dad’s side of the family is Irish Catholic, he had nothing to do with the Church once he went to college, where he met my mom. Several years later, they split up. I was raised Southern Baptist by my mom, New Age/Buddhism/Unitarianism on alternating weekends from my dad, and rosary prayers and Virgin Mary sightings shared with me from my grandmother. The point is, to read a superb novel about Jesus having a relationship with Mary Magdalene, is something that would have shocked my Baptist Sunday School teacher. What does this have to do with Ireland? Cunningham describes Maeve aka Mary, as a woman raised by witches on a druid islewhere she first meets Jesus who was there for a bit of druid training—and is kidnapped and sold into Roman slavery. From there, she faces numerous challenges before finding the man she knew as a druid many years ago. 

By Elizabeth Cunningham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Passion of Mary Magdalen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Cunningham weaves Hebrew scripture, Celtic and Egyptian mythology, and early Christian legend into a nearly seamless whole, creating an unforgettable fifth gospel story in which the women most involved in Jesus’s ministry are given far more representation.”—Library Journal

“This year’s must-have summer reading.”—KINK Radio

“Lavish and lusty . . . Cunningham’s Celtic Magdalen is as hot in the mouth as Irish whiskey.”—Beliefnet (chosen as one of this year’s “heretical beach-books”)

“Explodes off the page with its tales of love, hope, power, and redemption—book clubs looking for a great discussion, take note.”—

Book cover of Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland

Sheila R. Lamb Why did I love this book?

I can read about Ireland’s past, druids, myths, and legends but here we are in the modern era. Ireland still grapples with a divide. It’s moved on from druids to Catholics and Protestants. And really, the divide isn’t religious as much as it is political. This comes to a head during “The Troubles” of the 1960s and 1970s into this century. Radden Keefe focuses on the tragic murder of Jean McConville in Belfast to then detail the dealings of the IRA, Gerry Adams, and the tenuous peace accords. 

By Patrick Radden Keefe,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Say Nothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER •From the author of Empire of Pain—a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions

"Masked intruders dragged Jean McConville, a 38-year-old widow and mother of 10, from her Belfast home in 1972. In this meticulously reported book—as finely paced as a novel—Keefe uses McConville's murder as a prism to tell the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Interviewing people on both sides of the conflict, he transforms the tragic damage and waste of the era into a searing, utterly gripping saga." —New York Times Book Review

Jean McConville's…

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By Katherine Grant,

Book cover of The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

Katherine Grant Author Of The Viscount Without Virtue

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist History nerd Amateur dancer Reader New Yorker

Katherine's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Enjoy this Persuasion-inspired historical romance!

Six years ago, Amy decided *not* to elope with Captain Nate Preston. Now, he is back in the neighborhood, and he is shocked to discover that Amy is unmarried. Even more surprising, she is clearly battling some unnamed illness. Thrown together by circumstances outside their control, Nate and Amy try to be friends. Soon, it becomes clear that their feelings for each other never died. Has anything changed, or are they destined for heartbreak once more?

The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

By Katherine Grant,

What is this book about?

Is love worth giving a second chance?

Six years ago, Amy Lamplugh decided not to elope with Nate Preston. Ever since, she has been working hard to convince herself she was right to choose her family over Nate.

Now, Nate is back. After an illustrious career as a naval captain, he faces a court martial for disobeying orders while fighting the slave trade. He accepts an invitation to await the trial at a country estate outside of Portsmouth - and discovers he is suddenly neighbors with Amy.

Nate is shocked to find that Amy didn’t end up marrying someone rich…

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