Harper Collins - £9.99

'Fire smoulders, it burns, it rages, it purges and purifies; it engenders great passion and it destroys. You were named for fire, Ellen…Rua.'

Widowed during the Great Irish Famine, Ellen 'Rua' O'Malley escapes to Boston to start her life again with her two surviving children and 'the silent one', a child she rescued from certain death. Ellen is desperate to shake off her Irish past, rejecting all that is Irish and insisting that her children never refer to her again as 'a mamaí'. With her lover, Lavelle, Ellen establishes a wine company to import French wines and sell them to the Boston elite. Boston in the 1850s is an unforgiving place and, with hordes of Irish arriving every day, the hardest thing to do is to survive. Ellen, haunted by the demons of her past, gambles all that she loves…

'The Element of Fire' tells a tale of life in Boston as an Irish refugee. The fact that it does so without overly glamorising the time period makes it a compelling read. However, Brendan Graham has an annoying trait of referring to events in Ellen's past that we have no knowledge of unless we have read his first book, 'The Whitest Flower'. 'The Element of Fire' is a good read, but it should have SEQUEL stamped on the front cover!

Charley Maine