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 future.
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 to distant to reach?
Irish Meadows is the first book in Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series, and is the first novel I have read by her. Although I didn’t know quite what to expect when I first picked it up, I quickly became immersed in Brianna and Colleen’s story. The tension and hard feelings that radiate between the two of them, and their father, gave for an interesting beginning to the novel, and the drama and confusion that quickly followed the arrival of Gilbert and Rylan captivated me in a heartbeat and had me hurrying to finally get to the resolution of the story. However, it was not an easy journey to the end, with tons of twists and turns I could not have anticipated, but once I got there, I knew that this was going to be a novel I would love.
Brianna and Colleen are about as different as night and day, which becomes extremely obvious within the first few chapters. Brianna, quiet and modest, dreams of the day when she will be able to further her education, all the while trying to convince her father that a marriage to the prosperous husband he has picked out for her is the last thing she wants to do. Colleen, while actually longing to marry, is reluctant to settle for anything less than the man of her dreams, and therefore desires to have a little fun as she waits for her father to find such a man. Then, Gil and Rylan arrive to throw their dreams and their father’s plans into an uproar of hilarious proportions.
I have to say, if I’m going to be honest with you, Colleen is my favorite of the sisters. While I understand that she made some pretty bad choices in the beginning of the novel that she later had to atone for, I also know that she experienced so much heartbreak in her past that may have helped cause her to turn out the way she was. Besides, it may be possible that she redeems herself before this book is over. And there’s just something about Brianna, while I love her dearly as well, that paints her to be a little bit of a goody-two-shoes, though she is also a passionate woman with trust issues. Her flaws help to make her lovable as well, but Colleen is just a little more lovable and interesting in my mind. As far as the men are concerned, I am terribly unhappy with James O’Leary for the majority of this novel, for various reasons all related to his hard-headedness when it comes to money and his children. Eventually, though, I came to love him as well, though I am not entirely sure if he fully redeems himself or not. With regards to Gil and Rylan, I fear it is almost too difficult for me to choose a favorite. Gil is so sweet and kind and forgiving, although a HUGE pushover, and Rylan has just the perfect amounts of wisdom and wit that make him perfectly hysterical while at the same time wonderfully intelligent. So let’s just say I love them both.
All in all, this was such a sweet, captivating novel that surprised me with its plotline while pleasing me with its characters, and it easily earns all five bookshelves. Susan Anne Mason created such a touching story amid Irish Meadow’s pages, and I cannot wait to read more of the O’Learys as she continues on the series with A Worthy Heart. I highly recommend this novel if you are looking for something new to read, and know that I will always remember this as a book that I absolutely loved.
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All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Susan Anne Mason and Bethany House Publishers.