My mother and I share a love for reading, and our tastes in books are extremely similar, so we often pass books back and forth. My mom requested Irish Meadows by Susan Ann Mason from Bethany House, but then she didn’t have time to read it, so she passed it to me, thinking I would read it and write a review on it more quickly than she could. I read it soon after, and I wrote one sentence of a review back in November, but that was as far as I got. I have only really struggled this much to write a review one other time, and the two books are similar in how they affected me and in how lovely I thought the stories were. I will (once again) attempt to put into words my feelings about the characters and plot in Irish Meadows.
This historical fiction novel is set in 1911 in New York and revolves around the O’Leary family, who owns a horse farm on Long Island. Gilbert Whelan grew up on the farm where his widowed mother worked as the O’Leary’s housekeeper until her early death, which left him to be raised with the O’Leary children. Gil is ambitious, hard-working, handsome, and a gentleman, which makes him the perfect leading man and hero. However, his position in the family but not of the family creates a desperate situation when he and one of the O’Leary girls share a mutual attraction. Gil’s efforts to resist temptation and honor the O’Leary family are admirable and noble.
Many of the problems in this novel stem from James O’Leary, the father of Brianna and Colleen and the owner of Irish Meadows farm, who has high expectations and an unyielding temperament. James is an Irish immigrant who has worked hard to build his horse farm into a thriving business, but business has been poor lately, and James begins to look for ways to form alliances with families who have wealth as a means of saving his farm. Nothing good can come from placing financial gain ahead of family members and their feelings.
The O’Leary daughters are old enough to marry, but Colleen is extremely selective about whom she will tie herself, but she has no qualms about flirting with any handsome and wealthy bachelor. Brianna, in contrast, flirts with no one and only has eyes for one man. These two strong-willed women are forced to make decisions that will affect their family and their future.
Setting this novel on a horse farm provided ample opportunities for the characters to exhibit their true personalities. The descriptions of strong and beautiful horses only added to the appeal of the lovely setting.
The focus of this book is the struggle within each character to do what is right or to follow their heart’s desire. What seems like the right thing to do is often not what is best for a person, rather it is what is expected of that person by their parents, society, or others. There are also instances when what would have been the right thing to do must change because the circumstances have changed. This book is beautifully and thoughtfully written, alternating point of view from each of the main characters, so that the reader has insight into each character’s inner struggle.
My mom and I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I hope I have done the book justice, and I apologize to the author and publisher for taking so long to write a review. The second book in Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series has already been released, and the third is available for pre-order. I am looking forward to reading A Worthy Heart (book 2) and Love’s Faithful Promise (book 3).