Jean Harrington ’74, M.A.’76 Romance Novelist

Philippa Gregory be forewarned: There’s a new novelist on the literary scene, and she’s got her Irish up.

This year Jean Harrington saw the publication of her first historical romance novel, The Barefoot Queen, by Highland Press. The novel’s central character is Grace O’Malley, great-granddaughter and namesake of the legendary female Irish buccaneer.

The historical Grace O’Malley was a pirate, trader, and chieftain who once had an audience with England’s Queen Elizabeth I. Harrington’s Grace follows her great-grandmother’s example, with a Robin Hood-like twist. A poacher, Grace leaves game for her impoverished Irish countrymen. The red-haired beauty also attracts plenty of male attention.

“I always have had a fascination with Grace O’Malley,” Harrington said in a phone interview from her Naples, Fla., home. “And I thought, what if she had a descendant who has her fighting spirit?” And so a novel was born.

Harrington earned an undergraduate degree in English literature from URI in 1974 and a master’s degree in 1976. She was a teaching assistant in the URI writing program while pursuing her master’s degree. Following graduation, Harrington taught English literature, writing, composition and poetry at Becker Junior College in Worcester, Mass., for 17 years before retiring in 1993. She also lectured at Providence College.

Harrington credits her experiences in the University’s now-defunct Continuing Education for Women program with the success she enjoys in her professional life.

“CEW was a life-changing experience for me,” Harrington says. “It enhanced my appreciation of the English language and deepened my awareness of literature. The experience also propelled me into teaching.”

A sequel to The Barefoot Queen is planned for 2009. A third novel is also anticipated.

Harrington said her novel has been garnering praise among critics, both professional and familial. “I’m very proud of my love scenes,” she said. “They even embarrassed my granddaughters.”

The Barefoot Queen may be purchased on or ordered through local bookstores. For more information, go to

—Marybeth Reilly-McGreen