Irish Meadows (Courage to Dream #1)
by Susan Anne Mason (Goodreads Author)Irish immigrant James O’Leary has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his daughters to marry prosperous men–ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.
Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry–as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?
My Review: 7/10
I always get so excited about new authors- I'm always hoping to stumble on a new favorite.
This was a good debut novel in this genre. I enjoyed the characters and their struggles were mostly believable. I love, love, love when heroes make mistakes. Even better is when they don't sweep it under the rug but have to face it.
One of my favorite parts was a fight between Gil and Bri when she called him on his current lack of integrity and honor. His choices were understandable but still wrong and I loved that the author allowed him to make them.
Ironically the biggest problems I had were the Christian elements. While a lot of messages in the Bible are debated, the one, most important fact is clear: no one measures up. No matter how minor we think our sins are, they are offensive to God and unacceptable to Him. Jesus did for us what we can never do for ourselves, by paying the price for our innumerable wrongs, so that we may have salvation through Him. This message not only was omitted but I felt that the opposite was taught:
"You're a girl becoming a woman, and you've likely made a few mistakes along the way. You've not done anything so terrible that God wouldn't forgive."
Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. This sends the message of, hey whatever you've done, it's not that bad. I would have preferred colleen to have made and revealed some intentional mistakes but even with her history as given, this is still wrong. *spoiler* Though she was blameless in what she had somehow been convinced she was responsible for, she, herself, was not perfect. She was still a sinful human being in need of grace and mercy.
There were a couple other instances when the characters lamented on someone's worthiness instead of their need for Christ.
I liked what Bri said at the end about putting her trust in God, I just wished I had seen some instances when she exercised that by seeking God's will first.
I loved Brianna's growth and the strength she found. Her situation wasn't easy. While I couldn't relate to some of her priorities (I would have felt like my future husband would have been more important than school or a career), I liked that she stayed true to character; the things most important to her remained most important even when she got other things she'd wanted.
I felt like the strained relationships did a 180 at the end to make the book wrap up nicely, which is something I don't swallow well. Those are aspects of reality that I usually wish carried over into fiction because those of us who can relate to that benefit more from knowing that others go through it too and that we can change how it affects us if the people themselves cannot or will not change, rather than a neatly tied Disney-esque package of an ending.
All in all, I'd recommend this to fans of this genre, especially to book clubs. Though I disagreed with some of the messages, it can be counteracted with open conversations, I think. I look forward to reading more from this new author.