Title: Irish Meadows
Author: Susan Anne Mason
Publishing House/Publication Date: Bethany House/June, 2015
Genres: Christian Historical Romance
Time Period: 1911
Number of Pages: 375
Series: Book #1 in the ‘Courage to Dream’ series
You should read this book if you… Love drama. While not a particularly adventurous book, Irish Meadows is very dramatic when it comes to matters of the heart… or in this case, four different hearts! The poor characters journey through such heartache that we can feel their pain, and eventually begin to wonder if the agony will ever end! We are not disappointed however, for the ideal happy ending awaits us as we near the end, with one particularly happy surprise to provide the cherry on top.
Tone and Mood: Irish Meadows is not the feel-good storybook type of reading material, and most definitely does not shy away from portraying the pain that can be caused even by the ones we most love. In fact, most of the story revolves around the confusion and heartache that relationships can cause. At the same time, moments of happiness and peace are interspersed throughout, so it is not depressing, and gives readers a strong sense of hope, despite dismal circumstances.
Characters and Point of View: A unique aspect of Irish Meadows is that it centres not on two, but on four points of view. Brianna and Gilbert are the foremost heroine and hero, but Colleen and Rylan also take the leading roles in a sizeable portion of the story. I for one preferred Colleen’s and Rylan’s story, and am glad that they were given their share of the spotlight, for Colleen’s character development was absolutely beautiful to watch.
Storyline: Brianna and Colleen are two opposite sisters. Brianna, with her rather tomboyish personality, is quick with her mind and wishes to attend college, while Colleen’s entrancing beauty has her at no lack of attention. Their father, however, has the same goal for them both. Attempting to land them both with wealthy husbands, James O’Leary will let almost nothing stand against him and his pursuit of money… even his daughter’s happiness it would seem. Faced with the choice of either continuing to be controlled by their father, or taking a stand for themselves, each girl’s courage is tested, and faith strengthened in their pursuit of love and dreams. Gilbert also must choose to take a stand and learn that immorality is not the right way to pay off indebtedness, and Rylan, though not controlled by James as the others are, is faced with an agonizing choice concerning his life calling.
Themes and Morals: Courage to fight for yourself and others is the most prominent theme of Irish Meadows. Overcoming jealousy, respect for yourself and others, discerning your life calling, as well as forgiveness and integrity also play smaller roles, as does the realization of what is truly important in life. Also, in Colleen’s case, we are shown a clear picture that a person’s heart is not always what it seems from the outside, and her complete transformation was by far the most beautiful aspect of the book.
Inappropriate Content: Colleen is very beautiful. Often, she will use the beauty she has been gifted with in much less than godly ways. These scenes are treated as a flaw in Colleen’s character, and even after her change of heart, she continues to suffer the consequences of her actions when others misunderstand her intentions because of her bad reputation. Although portrayed in a negative light, as they ought to be, it should be noted that some scenes can be uncomfortable, sometimes even unnecessary. Furthermore, a horrible secret from Colleen’s past is revealed, and though the inappropriateness of this incident was not her fault (she was only a child at the time), the nature of this secret and the effect it had on her is awful, and though not discussed in detail, enough information is given for readers to put together a fairly clear picture of this horrendous incident. In addition to some questionable thoughts and conversations or comments, Colleen’s and Brianna’s aunt also holds some dark secrets from her past which are brought to light, and though they are barely dwelt upon at all, I feel that they were uncalled for.
Conclusion: From the title, one might presume Irish Meadows to be a frolicsome, lighthearted tale. Nothing could be further from the truth! Rarely have I read a book with such a serious tone. While the ending is satisfying , I have to say that by the end of the book, Brianna and Gilbert lost some of my respect – Gilbert for not taking a stand before he hurt many people, and Brianna with some rather immature moments. Although these problems were resolved by the end of the book, I found it difficult to like either of them as much as I had before. James however, became a better father than I ever dreamed he would be, though I do feel that his previous actions were taken a bit too lightly. At the same time, if you read the “Author’s Note” at the end, you will find some clarification as to James’s actions, which, though not at all excusable, are at least a bit more understandable. Finally, Colleen and Rylan by far have the most beautiful story in the book, and it is to them that the happy surprise comes. Certainly, Irish Meadows has some dark spots, and they should absolutely not be ignored or glossed over. Yet, when all is said and done it is truly a story of the three things that will last forever: faith, hope, and love.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.