Sunday, June 7, 2015

Review: "Irish Meadows" by Susan Anne Mason

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review: "Irish Meadows" is the first in the "Courage to Dream" series by Susan Anne Mason.  The series title is definitely more compelling than the rather generic book title, and is reflective of the novels theme's of strength and following one's heart. Brianna and Colleen O'Leary certainly need fortitude to forge their own paths and overcome their father's overbearing nature. Mr. O'Leary is insensitive, demanding, and completely exasperating. As unlikable as his character can be, he is a symbol of anything that holds us backs from pursuing our dreams.  I think that dreamers, like me, will take away encouragement from the pages of "Irish Meadows," and that makes the read worthwhile.

"Irish Meadows" is an enjoyable and quick read.  I like the overall message of the novel, but ultimately feel like I missed out on a true connection to the characters. Mason tells the stories of both Brianna and Colleen, switching perspectives between the two sisters and their suitors. The changes in scenes and perspectives keep the plot from dragging, but also makes the flow feel choppy.  When I started reading, I expected Colleen to be a secondary character whose story would continue in the second novel.  I soon learned that she would share the spotlight with Brianna. Colleen undergoes significant personality changes, but the transition is quite sudden. She and her suitor have backstories strong enough to fill the pages of their own book. Both Colleen's and Brianna's stories are significant and interesting, but perhaps would prove even stronger told separately.

Readers looking for just one love story will find two romances playing out with plenty of tension within the pages. Susan Ann Mason promises a revisit to the O'Leary clan in 2016, with the release of the second novel in the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House through Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Bethany House: 

1911, Long Island, New York 

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?

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