Hazel Martyn Lavery may have been dubbed "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Midwest" in her boarding school days, but by the time she died in 1935 she had influenced some of Ireland's most important revolutionary leadersnotably Michael Collins and Kevin O'Higginsand thus the direction of the freedom movement itself. She also counted among her many friends people such as Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, and J.M. Barrie. McCoole ably traces this transformation from transplanted American to self-appointed Irish ambassador. Using previously unpublished documents and other sources, McCoole breaks new ground in her portrayal of a woman struggling to find her place in a world where women's roles were restricted (she suffered two nervous breakdowns). She takes us through Lady Lavery's unhappy first marriage, her second marriage to Lavery and her evolving role as vital social diplomat. At their London home she and Lavery hosted meetings between key British and Irish leaders and produced an artistic record of the Irish struggle via Lavery's paintings. An inveterate flirt, Lady Lavery was not just intellectually involved with her Irish friends. Although it is not absolutely certain she and Collins were lovers, McCoole leaves little doubt of their emotional passion. When he died she took up a similar relationship with O'Higgins, who was also assassinated.
Part love story, part sociological/historical analysis, this is a thorough mini-history of Ireland's fight for freedom and a tantalizing portrait of a woman who was at once determined and vulnerable, talented and yet unsure.