A few weeks back I received the book Irish Meadows (Courage to Dream, Book I) by Susan Anne Mason from Bethany House Publishers to review. So bear with me – this is my first “official” book review!
The story takes place in 1911, centering on a horse farm (Irish Meadows) on Long Island, New York. Owned by James O’Leary, an Irish immigrant, the business is teetering too close to financial trouble. His older daughters, the beautiful Colleen and the intellectual Brianna, are expected to make good marriages to wealthy men to help Irish Meadows and the O’Leary family. While Colleen sets her sights on the most eligible bachelors in the county, Brianna readies herself for graduation and dreams of attending college in the fall. Unfortunately, James doesn’t see how furthering her education can be of any possible use to Brianna as a wife and mother, and neither does the young man who has been courting her and anxious to marry her. While Brianna deals not only with the realization that her dreams have been dashed, but also with the reappearance in her family’s life of Gilbert Whelan, a former stable hand – and a young man who turned Brianna’s head before he left for his business degree. The appearance of Rylan Montgomery, a distant cousin on Mrs. O’Leary’s side, winds up complicating Colleen’s life – and not with her discomfort at having a man studying for the priesthood under the same roof!
I don’t want to tell too much and give away good parts of the story. I have to say I really enjoyed reading this book. It moves along pretty well, the characters are interesting and engaging – though Colleen’s full attitude change seems too sudden to be realistic. It’s rarely obvious what’s going to happen from chapter to chapter, which is something I look for in a good book. As a history geek, I appreciated the research the author obviously did into the time period. (There’s nothing like an anachronistic bit of something to distract me in a story!)
Every so often the story seems to skid to a halt. There will be an emotional scene, one where I can feel the frustration or sorrow of the characters, grateful there is someone there to whom they can talk – and the comforter speaks, but what comes out is an out-of-step reminder of how you aren’t worthless to your Heavenly Father, or how if you accept Jesus Christ into your heart… see? While I understand this is a Christian romance book, the reminders like that feel almost as though they were placed there because this is a Christian book, and for no other reason. Almost like they were an afterthought, or something the author felt obligated to add. I just think there are more subtle ways of doing this.
All in all, I really, really liked this book. I found myself staying up late at night to just finish “one more chapter” quite a few times, and that doesn’t happen that often! If you are looking for a good period romance with a plethora of different characters, I’d recommend Irish Meadows. And I am looking forward to the second book in this series!
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for my fair and honest review.