#1: Irish Meadows  -     By: Susan Anne Mason
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#1: Irish Meadows

Bethany House / 2015 / Paperback

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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?

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 384
Vendor: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2015
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0764217240
ISBN-13: 9780764217241
Series: Courage to Dream

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Author Bio

Susan Anne Mason's debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. A member of ACFW, as well, she lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children. She can be found online at www.susanannemason.com.

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Displaying items 1-5 of 59
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  1. Illinois
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Irish Meadows
    April 4, 2016
    jacquiR
    Illinois
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason is book two in the Courage to Dream series. From page one the well-crafted story, set in the 1900s, draws the reader in to the lives of the OLearys. The two daughters of James OLeary, an Irish immigrant father and owner of Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, well know that he expects them to marry successful men from wealthy families to ensure the stability of the farm. Yet, what he wants and what their hearts desire vastly differ.

    Gil Whelan, long-considered a part of the family, just returned from business school paid for by James OLeary, and visiting distant relative, Rylan Montgomery, in training for seminary, throw a wrench into James OLearys plans for arranged marriages that will save the future of Irish Meadows. The independent daughters have minds of their own and insist upon following their own dreams.

    As I finished this captivating story, I was glad that I had in hand book two of the series, A Worthy Heart, to continue the interesting saga of the OLearys. I highly recommend this novel which I received through TBCN in exchange for an honest review.
  2. Lancaster,Pa
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Great Book!
    February 11, 2016
    loriweller
    Lancaster,Pa
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Irish Meadows is the first book in the Courage to Dream Series. It is set in the early 1900's in New York on a horse farm. The story line is easy to follow and full of ups and downs. The characters are easy to relate to. Their family life is full of difficulty, anger, love, faith, heartbreaks, and forgiveness. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

    I received the book from the Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
  3. Clare, MI
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Challenges are all around us, within us
    February 10, 2016
    Gazpacho
    Clare, MI
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    The author, Susan Ann Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen's shadow, her father's favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father's eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

    But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O'Leary's housekeeper. When she died, James O'Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O'Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil's aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.

    One day a distant relative of mother 0'Leary's came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen's duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he "sentenced" her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And...she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen's world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.

    There's a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen's, Brianna's, Rylan's, and Gilbert's. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV's. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of action. That's excellent characterization.

    Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O'Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.

    Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character's conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam's story.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy (ARC) of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
  4. Phoenix, AZ
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Seeking God's Will
    January 17, 2016
    Jeanie
    Phoenix, AZ
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Irish Meadows is the dramatic first novel in Susan Anne Masons Courage to Dream series. A historical womens fiction drama set in a time period among the more socially elite, that Ive have not read many of; it exceeded my expectations and has me eagerly awaiting the second in series.

    Brianna and Colleen OLeary are the teenagers and first-generation Americans on Long Island, New York. Their father had come from Ireland, worked hard and eventually came to own his own horse farm and stable where horses were bred and potential racing champions made. In a time when it was all about showing financial prosperity to any and all, their father was having serious financial challenges and tried to save his farm partly through making excellent marriages for his daughters. Men of class and distinction. Men who could be helpful to his flagging property.

    At first I didnt like Colleen, the 1911 version of a party girl, all that well. She seemed too spoiled, too fussy. Brianna was the quieter of the two, the one who wanted to attend college as her friend Gilbert had, and it seemed to me she had the heart and endurance of a great racehorse. She had substance, while Colleen had fluff. When their father began to look for eligible, useful men to marry them off to, lesser young women would have caved.

    Gilbert, taken in by the OLearys as a lad, was happy to return to the horse farm for the short term, wanting to do something to put his new degree to work. As the girls protested their fathers desires for their marriage. Gilbert took a job he didnt want so he could make a good marriage with a young woman whose father had the right business connections for the OLearys. It is hard for me to imagine a world where daughters and adoptees were used as pawns to better the condition of their father in this case, save the floundering horse farm and stables.

    My favorite was Brianna, then her Aunt Fiona. They both had a depth of character that I liked, even though different for that era. While I liked Gilbert, I was disappointed that it looked as though he would marry for business sake. My opinion of Tessa did an about face when she, too, proved to have a depth that was borne of the leading of her mother, as well as a certain young man who she thought to be a priest. Their mother, a woman of faith and a wife of her times, was also a woman of depth and strength. Im not sure there is anyone I truly disliked, as even James OLeary showed himself to have become a weak man to be pitied, but was not too old to learn. Except, perhaps, for the frequently missing reckless brother who could do no wrongunless he was caught.

    What a story this author can weave! It was never dull; one chapter led into another as I felt compelled to continue reading. The plot twists and changes, some of which truly surprised me, continued to change the course of the outcome. The result was a satisfying story of faith, courage, and love that leaves the reader eager for more. I highly recommend Irish Meadows to all who appreciate Christian historical novels they can share with their teenage daughters, those who enjoy romance, strong women, and drama.

    With a grateful heart, I received a copy of this book through the For Readers Only group at The Book Club Network, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
  5. Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Sufficient but not excellent
    December 28, 2015
    bookwomanjoan
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 3
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 3
    The setting for this novel is 1911 Long Island and the O'Leary family. The O'Learys have a horse farm centered on breeding and boarding racing horses. James O'Leary is a stubborn and overbearing father who insists on arranging the future for his daughters as they come to the age of marrying. He insists they marry well, whether love is involved or not.

    This is a romance set in a time when women were beginning to explore their independence. Brianna is a young woman with a sharp mind who has aspirations of college. But her father insists she marry a young man who can provide well for her. Brianna's older sister Colleen is a bit of a wild one, generating a reputation among the men. Again, the father is directing who she will marry and it is not going well.

    Two men are added to the mix. One is, Rylan Montgomery, a distant cousin from Ireland who has come to America to study for the priesthood. The other is Gilbert Whelan. Gil's mother had worked for the O'Learys and when Gil's father died, Mr. O'Leary took him under his wing. Now Gil has returned with a business degree and is ready to make a name for himself. When the O'Leary farm faces financial difficulty, Mr. O'Leary insists Gil court the banker's daughter.

    Affections do not follow Mr. O'Leary's plans and before too long there are broken hearts and broken people. But that is exactly what God needs to put it all together the way He wants.

    The characters are well developed in this novel. There is good character transformation too. Several of the characters change in the course of the novel, having seen that their decisions and actions were not for the best.

    It was nearly torture to read of the daughters' inability to convince their father to let them marry for love. He was a very stubborn man and thought he was doing what was best for the family. I really didn't like the way he treated his daughters nor the way he had treated his sister decades ago. Mr. O'Leary's attitude was a good reminder of what women had to endure at that time

    Mason describes her novels as romance sprinkled with faith. She loves writing about forgiveness and redemption and we certainly see that in this novel.

    I did feel the novel was a bit long for the plot. Some of the misunderstandings between the couples seemed repeated a few too many times. For some reason, the writing did not grab me and I did not find this a compelling read. I felt the novel was sufficient but nothing toward excellence.
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