Faced with an uncertain future, sometimes all you have left is the courage to dream.
Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he’s put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.
Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry—as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O’Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father’s machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?
Susan Anne Mason has hit it out of the ballpark with her debut novel Irish Meadows. The plot’s twists and turns will keep you guessing even as you fall in love with the O’Leary family, and though it’s labeled a historical romance, it’s so much more than a love story.
Brianna wants a relationship with Gilbert even though her father has forbidden it, but that’s not all that she wants: she wants to attend college, and that’s not a popular move among New York’s upper crust. Colleen wants a relationship but isn’t ready to be serious about anything but herself, which is a problem for her father, because he’s all about putting the family first. These complex relationships mix and collide and explode over and over again in the book, and Mason excels at pulling your heartstrings for each character in turn.
Not only are the O’Leary’s wanting to find love, but their quest for happiness takes them on spiritual journeys, as well. Although I expected Brianna and Gilbert to be the leading characters, in this realm Colleen shone brightly. Her secret past and romantic troubles create a strong desire for spiritual peace, and Mason plays out this plot line in an unusual yet suspenseful way.
While I loved this Irish history and rich setting, my favorite element of this story was the cast of characters. Because they shared the limelight and the strong plot lines, Mason’s characters shared in the drama and kept the emotional action high. I enjoyed reading about this likeable family, except for one character, who made only rare appearances in this book. That makes the sequel that much more exciting since it will tell his story – and I can’t wait to read it.
Susan Anne Mason’s debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. A member of ACFW, as well, she lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children. Find Susan online: website, Facebook, Twitter
I received a free copy of Irish Meadows from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.