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An Act of Kindness Can Save Millions - an Editorial Review of "Catherine's Mercy"

Book Blurb:

Based on a true story. In 1824, Catherine, a Catholic spinster of 44, unexpectantly inherits millions. However, she doesn’t use it to climb the social ladder or snare a husband; she uses it to fulfill a lifelong dream of building a refuge for the poor and sick of Dublin, Ireland. That an unmarried woman would dare propose such a thing is so scandalous, even her own brother calls it “Kitty’s Folly.” Society turns against her. The Church tries to take over. Catherine must defend her choices or lose not only her inheritance, but her reputation and life’s calling.

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Author Bio:

Nicole Evelina is a USA Today bestselling author and biographer who writes historical fiction, non-fiction, and women’s fiction. Her books have won more than 50 awards, including four Book of the Year designations. Nicole is now a hybrid author but was named Missouri’s Top Independent Author by Library Journal and Biblioboard as the winner of the Missouri Indie Author Project in 2018 and has been awarded the North Street Book Prize and the Sarton Women’s Book Award. One of her novels, Madame Presidentess, was previously optioned for film.

She is represented by Amy Collins of Talcott Notch Literary. You can find her online at

Editorial Review:

Comfort comes soon after a well-received trial.” The words of the priest’s homily from last Sunday came to me unbidden as I stepped out of the carriage, ready to meet my new employers and explore my new home. Those words certainly fit my situation. After years of uncertainty, of depending on the generosity of others, and of constantly uprooting my life as I relocated from one dwelling to another, I finally had a home—and steady employment.

"Catherine's Mercy," penned by Nicole Evelina, is a compelling historical fiction narrative rooted in the true story of Catherine McAuley. Set in 1824 Dublin, Ireland, this novel intricately weaves the tale of a 44-year-old Catholic spinster who unexpectedly inherits a fortune.

Rather than pursuing conventional paths of societal elevation or marriage, Catherine chooses a path of compassion and defiance, using her wealth to establish a refuge for Dublin's impoverished and ailing. This audacious move, scandalously dubbed as “Kitty’s Folly” by her own brother, sets the stage for a gripping story of determination and social rebellion.

Evelina excels in drawing in the reader from the outset. The opening lines are captivating, setting the tone for a story filled with depth, conflict, and determination. The initial paragraphs promise a journey through a lesser-known historical saga, piquing the reader's curiosity.

I swallowed, trying to remember how I had rehearsed this answer with Mrs. Witcombe. All of it was true, but it was important that I portray myself in the best possible light. “I began my training caring for my younger brothers and sisters and taking care of my family. I learned to cook basic meals and tend our household while my mam took in laundry and other odd jobs. I had some education while I cleaned the houses of the other farmers outside Howth. I am good at needlework and can read and do basic sums.” I smiled, unable to keep the pride from my voice. That was much more than most other country maids could say. “When I finished school, I was taken in by a merchant family who lives in the city. They had me as a maid of all work, so I can do anything you need me to. I can light fires, clean floors, work in the kitchen, polish plate, and I know how to turn a house in spring and for the winter.”

Mrs. Gallagher’s expression was dubious, a deep v forming between her brows. “But you have never worked on a large estate?” I dropped my gaze to my hands, which were fluttering in my lap, and laced my fingers together. “No, ma’am.”

Evelina's narrative shines with its compelling and emotionally charged storyline. The author successfully transports readers to early 19th-century Dublin, skillfully juxtaposing the opulence of wealth against the desolation of poverty. Catherine's audacious dream and the societal backlash it incurs are portrayed with a gripping intensity, making the reader deeply invested in her journey.

The book is well-edited and formatted, ensuring a seamless reading experience. The text is free of distractions, allowing the focus to remain on the rich narrative and well-developed characters. It’s written like a series of letters from the main characters, specifically Catherine, but we also see letters written to her.

Catherine McAuley's character is intricately developed, portraying her as a complex, intelligent, and fiercely independent woman. Her resilience in the face of societal and familial disapproval is admirably captured. It is easy to admire her, even if you don’t agree with all the choices she makes, because she is so brave and bold in being who she is, especially in the time and place in which she lives.

The secondary characters are equally well-crafted, adding depth to the narrative and effectively highlighting the societal norms and challenges of the era.

I have heard such horrible things about convents,” I confided. Memories of the stories my Protestant relatives had told me as child and those the Callaghans had repeated played in my mind. “Their customs are so strange,” I mumbled. “The idea of kneeling before a superior seems so medieval and so wrong. Should I not only kneel before Christ and king? Then there is the requirement to admit my sins publicly every day before the whole order and submit to punishment for them. I thought forgiveness and justice were between a soul and God, through the medium of a priest. Why should I allow another nun to humiliate me and administer whatever torture she sees fit?”

Not all orders are so harsh, my dear. You will be able to set out exactly what your order will and won’t do.”

I nodded, still half lost in my imaginings. I shook myself to rid my mind of them. “Father, if nothing else, I am a fifty-two-year-old woman. I am set in my ways. Religious life requires learning a whole new way of life, does it not? I’m not sure I have it in me anymore.”

The Archbishop chuckled. “You live more like a nun than you realize. Your critics are right about that. You already live on a regimented schedule with time devoted to prayer, work, and recreation; your black dresses are not far off from a religious habit; and you live in common, dedicated to the same cause. It won’t be as big of an adjustment as you think.”

The story maintains a consistent pace and continuity, with each event logically leading to the next. Evelina's attention to historical detail anchors the plot firmly in its period, lending authenticity to the unfolding events.

Without revealing specifics, the novel concludes in a manner that is both satisfying and thought-provoking. The ending resonates with the themes of perseverance and the pursuit of one’s calling, regardless of societal constraints.

"Catherine's Mercy" stands out for its unique focus on a historical figure not widely known in popular culture. The blend of historical accuracy with fictional liberty creates a novel that is both educational and deeply engaging.

Evelina’s writing is eloquent and evocative, adeptly capturing the essence of the period and the complexities of her characters. Her narrative style is immersive, rich in detail, and emotionally resonant, making the story come alive for the reader.

The story arc is well-constructed, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The challenges Catherine faces and overcomes are strategically placed to keep the reader engaged, and the narrative arc effectively supports the thematic elements of the story.

To sum it up, "Catherine's Mercy" by Nicole Evelina is a masterful blend of historical richness, character depth, and compelling storytelling. It is a significant addition to the genres of religious historical fiction and Irish historical fiction, offering readers a glimpse into a remarkable chapter of history through the eyes of a formidable woman who dared to defy the norms of her time.


“Catherine's Mercy” by Nicole Evelina receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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