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“Irish Meadows” by Susan Anne Mason
Book One in the Courage to Dream series
Review copy source: Litfuse
My rating: 2.5 stars
About the book:
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?
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the tale, on the other hand, there were quite a few things that filled me with concern.
One of those such issues was the amount of kissing. Seriously, there was a vast amount and it really, really disappointed and rather disturbed me. It gives the impression that kisses are no big deal – everyone kisses, so why not? But this is so wrong! A kiss is so special, sacred – something to save and cherish for our husbands -or wives in guys’ case. (I also want to make note that I’m not condemning those who have already given away their first kiss. But I do encourage you to dedicate any more of your kisses for your future husband/wife. God can create something beautiful if only we let Him!)
Another point of issue was how Brianna yearned for approval for her father for so long – and in the end, received it. The first part is believable – many children yearn for their father’s approval and love. But not all get it. Even so, I was hoping that, with this particular matter, it would be brought to light how important it is that we know we never need to seek God’s approval because He loves us unconditionally. No matter what. So I was hoping for that contrast, that lesson. It’s of course great that her father softened in the end, but it seemed as though her father’s approval was enough. And not everyone has that situation and it’s so critical to know that God is there even when our earthly father’s are not. We need to know that no matter what, God’s love is enough. In all circumstances.
The faith in this book was, in short, concerning. I felt like there were little moments of truth, but then they would be overshadowed by inconsistencies and untruth. I was troubled by the fact that in the book the characters sought absolution and forgiveness only from the priests – they didn’t go straight to God. My belief is we can go directly to God for forgiveness of our sins, or at least do both because I fear that otherwise God is left out of it all. Many people say we don’t hear from God anymore or that how do we know we are forgiven unless a person tells us, but if we have a repentant heart, ask for forgiveness in true humbleness, God does forgive us, plain and simple. And I know for a fact that He still speaks to us today! We need only listen with an open heart. I was also uncomfortable with the fact that often the priest was compared to God. There was an instance where one of the characters was confessing to the priest, and the priest said “You’ve confessed to God and asked for His forgiveness, now accept His forgiveness” – but the character never actually prayed that to God. He only talked to the priest. I wanted to see more of the interactive relationship between character and our Lord. Another unsettling point was the fact that the girls, Colleen and Brianna, compared God to their father at one point, trying to say that God was in control. He is, I whole-heartedly believe that. But they compared it to their father, who at that stage, was very angry, demeaning and controlling, while God is loving and gentle all the time. I know everyone has their own belief system and I am not trying to get into a debate with anyone! If you don’t agree, that is fine – we are all on our own journey and where we are at. (I am who I am by the grace of God. 1Cor)
I did like the romance story between Colleen and her beau and Brianna and hers, besides the kissing. I loved seeing Colleen’s character really grow and mature more. And the orphanage bits were really sweet too. As I said, there were things I enjoyed and things I didn’t care for. I liked the story and the writing style, I just wish there could’ve been some…alterations to the book. Brianna and Gilbert’s character was really strong in the beginning, which was nice. How they handled their relationship towards the end didn’t particularly sit well with me, but I won’t go into that.
My favourite character at first was Brianna, but it slowly changed to Colleen and Rylan, and also sweet little Delia. Their stories were sweet and I really like how they came together and ended. :)
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review which I have given.