A Turn-of-the-Century Romance About Finding the Courage to Dream
by Susan Anne Mason
Series: Courage To Dream (Book 1)
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
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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?
Irish Meadows is Susan Anne Mason’s first historical novel and also her first work published by Bethany House. On her website, Mason describes her work as “romance sprinkled with faith.” That’s an apt description.
Nestled within the framework of this early 20th century family drama are the intersecting stories of four people: Brianna O’Leary, her older sister Colleen, their family’s ward, Gilbert Whelan, and their distant cousin, Rylan Montgomery.
Despite the time in which she lives, Brianna is headstrong, fiercely independent, and driven. Her dreams — going to college and marrying for love — are at odds with the desires of her father who aims to see her well-matched to a man with status.
Gilbert, having just returned to Irish Meadows after three years away at college, is torn between loyalty to his surrogate father, James, and pursuing his dream of starting his own business. Especially as it seems impossible for him to follow his own heart without betraying James.
Colleen initially appears to be vapid, conceited, and coquettish, but as the story progresses, we find out that underneath her seemingly confident exterior lies a delicate pearl of a woman. The scene where she meets Rylan for the first time will have you laughing out loud and watching the pair’s interactions with close interest. Rylan, immediately charming and disarming, is the perfect foil to the “stuffy” Colleen.
As the relationships progress, circumstances appear increasingly insurmountable. The characters are faced with dilemmas and tough choices (and sometimes make the wrong ones) along the way. While some may chafe at perceived moral ambiguities in Mason’s characters, their flaws and missteps are what make them all the more real. These are young adults going through a transformative process of identity and maturation. Each undertakes his/her own personal journey — fraught with struggle and doubt — to realize his/her dreams, requiring not only patience, forgiveness, and humility but personal courage, bolstered by faith and love.
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. A Turn-of-the-Century Romance About Finding the Courage to Dream.
Irish Meadows was a joy and pleasure to read. Susan Anne Mason shows that it takes perseverance and courage to dream. Witnessing Brianna, Colleen, Gil, and Rylan navigate rough waters en route to love and happiness will inspire you to brave your own storm. (And spur you on to reading the next book in the series!)
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for providing me a free copy of this title. 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.”
Continue the Courage To Dream series with Book 2: A Worthy Heart