A beautiful and touching debut with the right amount of humor and romance, Irish Meadows (Bethany House, July 2015) settles nicely into its own place on the bookshelves of this genre’s fans.
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?
Any time I pick up a book by a new-to-me author, I do so with a bit of trepidation. Especially lately… after receiving some real duds lol. After these bad experiences of late, Irish Meadows galloped in with a breath of fresh air. Poetic writing, compelling characters, and an emotionally-intense plot provided the backdrop to a couple of mighty fine kisses along the way. Because, you know, it’s really all about those kisses 😉
When I first began reading the book, I really thought that my favorite characters would be Gilbert and Brianna. I mean, after all, they’ve been best friends since childhood and now they’re all grown up. A perfect recipe for the perfect romance. Surprisingly – though Gilbert and Brianna’s stories indeed engaged me – my heart belonged solidly to Colleen and Rylan from the moment they met. And I didn’t even like Colleen at first. Seriously, not. at. all. Her character embodied everything I disdain in people in general – spoiled, self-absorbed, manipulative. But as Colleen’s story developed, she became more and more likable to me. In fact, she won me over nearly completely when she stood between a child and a rather domineering teacher and said, “Touch that child one more time…and you’ll be meeting Jesus a lot sooner than you expected.” And Rylan… well, you’ll see as you read that there’s really nothing NOT to like about Rylan! He’s flirty, he’s tender, he’s swoon-worthy, he’s a true gentleman in every sense of the word… and (hold on to your pearls, ladies) he has dimples!! Dimples, which according to him, are all Irish. Did I mention the swoon-worthy part?? The only problem with Rylan? He’s studying to be a priest, and that occupation tends to throw a bit of a snag into my grand romantic plans for him and Colleen. You’ll have to read the book for yourself to see how it all turns out…
The road to happiness isn’t easy for anyone in this story, thanks mostly to James O’Leary’s desperate schemes and manipulations. Mutual stubbornness and insecurities only contribute to the problems. In fact, one of the O’Leary daughters asked her aunt, “Is love always this hard?” Her aunt replied, “When the two people are both as stubborn as you, then yes.” Ms. Mason packs the story with gentle but firm lessons on the importance of forgiveness – sometimes daily – and doing what you know is right, regardless of what you’ve been ordered to do by people you love and respect.
Bottom Line: A solid first novel for the series, Irish Meadows wraps you up in the time period and instantly engages you in the story. I’m looking forward to reading Adam’s story (A Worthy Heart, due out in January 2016) and staying connected to the O’Leary family.
I give Irish Meadows 4 out of 5 stars!
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Litfuse in exchange for only my honest review.)
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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.