Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

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).

Silence in the Dark by Patricia Bradley

I only realized after reading this novel in its entirety that it is the fourth installment in Patricia Bradley’s Logan Point series.  Now I’m curious to know which characters were the focus of each of the previous books.  I could hazard a guess at two, but Silence in the Dark read like a stand-alone book and didn’t rehash each character’s background, so it could be any current or former resident of Logan Point. 

Bailey Adams is a strong-willed, independent woman who has run from her problems in Logan Point, Mississippi, to new troubles in Mexico.  She left behind a man who wanted to marry her while she pursued her calling to serve the rural people of Mexico through mission work.  A simple trip home and a favor to a friend turns into a nightmare as Bailey and one of her young students are pursued relentlessly. 

Danny Maxwell happened to be in the right place at the right time to help rescue Bailey, but she is just as resistant to his love as when she fled Logan Point two years prior.  Danny is determined to win her heart again, but he struggles simply to keep her safe.

I must confess that I was not “into” this book for the first two chapters.  (Perhaps the narrative would have held my attention better if I had read the previous books in the series and had already known the main characters. Or perhaps it was only my state of mind at the time.))  However, once I got past the beginning, the plot thickened and was full of twists, and the suspense kept me enthralled.  This book contains murder, mystery, romance, restoration, healing, searching, honesty, and finally peace.  

Silence in the Dark is an excellent work of fiction and took me into a country and culture in which I would not feel comfortable traveling but about which I enjoyed reading.  I find it fascinating to read about other cultures and the struggles they endure, and I would rather experience them vicariously through fictional characters than be subjected to fear and danger myself.  Until God calls me to serve him in one of these areas, I will continue to serve him in my home, my church, my school, etc.  

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review. 

A Powerful Secret by Dr. Kevin Leman & Jeff Nesbit


A Powerful Secret is Leman and Nesbit’s second installment in The Worthington Destiny series.  I have not read the first book–A Perfect Ambition–but it focuses on the oldest son of a very wealthy businessman whereas this book is centered around the second son in the Worthington family.  Dr. Leman also wrote The Birth Order Book many years ago, so he incorporates much of his research on the topic into this novel about a trio of siblings.  I have been fascinated by birth order tendencies since I read Leman’s book and have seen many of them play out in my own children.  I have never before read a novel that used a character’s birth order to define their personality in any way.  This was a very interesting approach, and I thought it created more fully-developed characters.

A Powerful Secret takes us deep into Washington politics and business dealings while trying to uncover corruption and murder.  The underpinnings of mystery and intrigue provide some mildly intense moments while the subtle romance keeps the story from being too masculine.  I believe this novel will be enjoyed by men and women alike.  This book would also appeal to teenagers who have an interest in politics or non-governmental organizations to provide aid to people in need.

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  These words and opinions are my own. 

The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson

  
The Red Door Inn is an intriguing story of courage, love, forgiveness, and tenacity set on an idyllic island.  Liz Johnson’s writing creates a yearning in me to visit Prince Edward Island and stay in a bed-and-breakfast.  The small-town atmosphere and hospitality in the novel keep the story moving and help the characters confront their personal problems and take action.  

Marie Carrington is broke and alone when she meets Jack Sloane, an older gentleman who sees her need and offers her a job and a place to stay at his bed-and-breakfast that is still under construction.  Marie is terrified of Jack’s nephew Seth, who is helping Jack restore the B and B.   Seth Sloane has just been jilted by his fiancé, who also robbed him of his own business and drained his bank accounts.

Johnson weaves together so many lives in this book that it’s no wonder this is only the beginning of a series she calls Prince Edward Island Dreams.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the next installment in this fascinating series. 

Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

 A couple of years ago, I wrote a review for Made to Last by Melissa Tagg and enjoyed the lighthearted romance immensely.  Then, I read Three Little Words, which is a free novella and our introduction to the Walker family from Tagg’s latest series.  While reading Three Little Words, I came across a familiar character from Made to Last, who was at a completely different stage of life, and I had no idea how he got there!  I realized I had missed a book in between the two novels, so I’ve had Here to Stay on my wish list for awhile but had too many other books waiting to be read to justify buying it.  I have finally gotten caught up and just happened to receive this book as a gift a few weeks ago.  Perfect timing!

All Autumn Kingsley has ever wanted is to travel the world, but she is stuck in her small hometown of Whisper Shore, Michigan, running her family’s inn.  She has an opportunity to leave, but she feels guilty about leaving the inn and her faithful staff.  Then a completely unexpected and unwanted person returns to town and invades her space. 

Blake Hunziker is as close to a prodigal son as I have found in fiction.  There are a couple of differences though.  First, he left because he felt guilty, not because he wanted to squander his father’s money.  Secondly, he worked and provided for himself while he was away.   Nevertheless, he returns home ashamed of his current reputation and still harboring guilt over his brother’s death.  He has a long road ahead of him to mend relationships with those affected by his brother’s death.  

Kingsleys and Hunzikers are modern-day Capulets and Montagues, and Autumn and Blake only team up because they each need the other’s help.  Blake wants to earn the respect of the town but doesn’t know where to begin organizing an event he hasn’t attended in several years.  Autumn wants to impress an important guest who will be staying at her inn, and she could definitely use Blake’s help sprucing up the inn.   They agree to help each other for the good of the town and the inn, but somewhere along the way, walls begin to come down, and the reasons they hated each other aren’t quite so clear anymore.

This is a beautiful tale of redemption and forgiveness, but it’s also a story full of hopes and dreams and how those dreams often change as we go through life.  Romans 8:28 fits this book perfectly–“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  We suffer through many disappointments often to discover that God had something better in mind for us than what we had planned.  Other times, He allows us to experience pain or loss, so that He can bless us in a new and different way.  This also reminds me of Jeremiah 29:11–“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God is such a good father and wants what is best for us.  We only need to be open to accepting his will and trusting Him with our lives.  Easier said than done, I know.  Just remember that He knows so much more than we can imagine, and He will work out everything for our good.  How can you go wrong by putting your faith in Him?

Always Watching by Lynette Eason

  Always Watching is the first novel in Eason’s Elite Guardians series, which centers around an agency of mostly-female bodyguards and their clients.  This new romantic suspense novel is fast-paced and thrilling.  I stayed up far too late a few nights in a row because I had trouble putting this book down.  

Olivia Edwards is a former law enforcement officer and the owner of Elite Guardians.  Her agency is hired to protect a radio personality after he receives creepy gifts left on his doorstep and in his mailbox.  Olivia is forced to take a more active role in guarding Wade Savage after his original bodyguard is attacked by his stalker.

Wade and his family are Christians and rely upon God to get them through difficult circumstances even when the situation seems hopeless.  Olivia’s faith didn’t survive the difficulties in her childhood and young adulthood, but she lets down some of her walls as her relationship with Wade develops under extreme pressure.

Eason offers hope for those who have loved and lost and for those who have faltered in their faith because of trials.  Always Watching is a fantastic crime novel, and I’m looking forward to reading the future books in this series.  

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  

Thin Ice by Irene Hannon

  
Whew!  What a roller coaster ride that was!  I had so much trouble putting this book down the few nights it took to read it because of the suspense and fast-paced action.  Even after I closed the book and turned off the light, my mind was spinning with the plot twists and characters’ actions.  I haven’t read a book this suspenseful in months.

Lance McGregor is a rookie FBI agent, but he has plenty of experience as a Delta Force operator.  When he receives a call about a possible kidnapping, he jumps at the chance to get away from the old case files on his desk.

Christy Reed, a former champion figure skater, lost her sister two months ago in a house fire, but she just received a letter addressed in her sister’s handwriting from a kidnapper.  She isn’t supposed to involve law enforcement, but she covertly contacts the FBI and puts her trust in agent Lance McGregor.

As the case heats up, the chemistry between Lance and Christy ignites as well.  Lance’s self-control is put to the test as he refuses to mix business and pleasure.  If he doesn’t solve this case quickly, there may not be a chance for pleasure later because this kidnapper has a deadly intent.  

Thin Ice is the second book in Hannon’s Men of Valor series, which focuses on a trio of brothers.  I am planning to read Buried Secrets (the first in the series) and would recommend reading them in order because Mac’s story continues in Thin Ice. This series reminds me somewhat of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series, and I am looking forward to the next installment.  

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  These thoughts are my own.