Friday, July 31, 2015
My Review: Irish Meadows
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?
About the Author:
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.
My Review: 3 stars
Irish Meadows is the first book in Susan Anne Mason’s, The Courage to Dream series. This is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Mason, so I had no idea what to expect. What I found satisfied, but didn’t go beyond that, as I always hope a book will. I didn’t “hate” this book, but it won’t be finding a place on my keeper shelf.
Ms. Mason does an excellent job with the descriptions and historical details, but I actually found them overwhelming after a while. In her desire to bring the story to life and color it with words, it ended up leaving me with a sense of bombardment. While I really appreciated her descriptive wording and the imagery it provided, I found myself skimming over the seemingly unnecessary words toward the end. The historical detail is wonderfully done and I appreciated the research time Ms. Mason put into making the story historically accurate, even going so far as to include a letter at the end, noting her discrepancies and the literary license she’d taken.
I have mixed emotions regarding the characters. This was an odd book for me, because I started out preferring one sister and then about half way through the story, I noticed that my affections had changed and I liked the other one better. That being said, I never really disliked either one. Both are interesting and well-rounded characters, though I rarely felt I connected with them. The story does come from Brianna’s perspective a little more often, but I actually found more depth in Colleen’s and felt I knew her better. I really liked both of the heroes. While very different characters, they both have all of the marks of great heroes. I honestly did have a preference, though I won’t share which, lest I affect your opinion before you read the book.
I’m sorry to say that I found the spiritual side of the story rather lacking. Though prayer is touted often and God appears a key component, I didn’t see much change in Brianna or Gilbert. Colleen is definitely the redemptive story here and I loved watching her grow and change. That being said, we didn’t actually witness much of the transformation. It was almost like flipping a switch, the way her behavior changed. And though prayer is the often recommended method of working through problems, there was a lack of follow through. They may pray about an issue, but then they handle it themselves, without considering the consequences or God’s will until much later. Which, truth be told, is probably what we all do. I just wanted to see some instances of faith in action, rather than simply talking about it.
The romance was interesting and wasn’t overwhelming, what with so many other things going on, but toward the end it simply felt drawn out. One couple had everything worked out (for the most part), but the other was still being pulled apart by slight misunderstandings. I found the lack of communication annoying and it definitely altered my opinion of that particular heroine. She seemed more and more self-centered and I found her very irritating. It was realistic for a while, but after about the fifth disagreement, it just became frustrating. I wanted someone to sit them down and tell them to work it out. I really wanted to skip the last twenty or so pages, but I had come so far, I didn’t want to give up then.
If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that my biggest point of discord with this story is the fact that it reminded me of a series by one of my favorite authors and that comparison undoubtedly ruined me for loving the book. So, anything I comment on, please, take with a grain of salt. This story is actually very little like the others, but there were just enough similarities for it to catch my attention and bother me for most of the book. The authors have very different writing styles and even with the major differences, my mind kept going back and forth, making it very difficult for me to really get into the story. I’m not sure there’s anything Ms. Mason could’ve done differently so that I wouldn’t have had that problem, short of changing the entire book.
My parting opinion is this: I don’t regret the time I spent reading this book, though I am sorry I didn’t enjoy it more. I honestly doubt I will read the rest of this series, solely because of my comparison issue. I would recommend this book to those who love historical fiction and are looking for a unique read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read my review! I'm sorry it wasn't a positive one, as much as I hoped it would be. If you'd like to look into it further, perhaps read some other reviews (I know it has many 5 star reviews), here are a few links.
Barnes & Noble