Grainne O’Malley, the beautiful daughter of a powerful Irish chieftain and a conventional mother, cuts her hair at the age of eleven and sneaks aboard her father’s galley ship, determined to follow a life at sea and to seek the company of a handsome Scottish gallowglass, Bruce Donnel. Grainne proves herself a budding warrior when Spanish marauders invade her father’s vessel, but her parents have other plans for her. Though she proves an able sailor, Grainne is forced to marry Donal O’Flaherty, another powerful chieftain. Though enamored of Bruce Donnel, she nonetheless obeys her parents and proves an able helpmate to her violent and rash husband, continuing her own adventures at sea while raising children and supervising her husband’s home. Her heart, however, still belongs to a handsome Scot who she can never have.
Upon Donal’s death by ambush, Grainne continues her adventures along the Irish coast and Europe, secretly battling England’s growing power in her country. Alternately sleeping with the devil or manipulating the British authorities to her own ends, Grainne is determined to save her family and people from the tyranny imposed upon them by England. To make her family stronger, she weds Richard Bourke, one of the most powerful men in the region, but she can never forget Bruce Donnel and the passion he incited within her soul. Richard proves Grainne’s most stalwart supporter and she his, their minds and bodies unite in an almost mystical union. Together, they faced the English with no fear—with only audacity and boundless courage. Still, the shadow of a youthful gallowglass intrudes on Grainne’s peace.