Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason is the first book in the Courage to Dream series. This story grabbed and kept my attention until it was finished. I loved Brianna and Gil during the first half of the book, but as it went on I started to get really fed up with them. It was one of those times that I felt the author kept adding more drama and tension where it didn't need to be. When you thought they were finally good, another silly fight ensued.
Brianna O'Leary hasn't seen Gilbert for three years while he was away at college. Missing her best friend, she can't help but wonder if he feels differently about her after all this time. Will he finally declare that he loves her? Or will he move away to fulfill his dream?
Gilbert Whelan returns from college with one goal in mind; he wants to buy land, build his own horse farm, and fulfill his father's dream of his own spread. But seeing Brianna again after so many years only reignites his love for her. Then another problem arises. James O'Leary wants Gilbert to date the daughter of a banker so the O'Leary's can get their much needed loan to keep their place afloat. Can Gil put aside his affections for Brianna and do the one thing James has ever asked of him?
Colleen and Brianna have been antagonistic toward each other for years, but when Colleen tries to use Gil to expedite her own plans she hurts her sister and angers her father. Mr. O'Leary decides to make his daughter volunteer at an orphanage with their house guest, Rylan. While helping the children, Colleen begins to realize how bad her actions have been. Will she be able to rectify things with Brianna and Gil? And what about her budding feelings for Rylan?
This story was filled with dilemmas, distrust, and disillusions. I couldn't put it down once I started it. I loved the characters and was interested to see how the author was going to resolve all the conflict. But about halfway through the book or so, I started to get annoyed with Brianna. She started out so well, but then she turned a little whiny and different from how I thought her character was in the beginning of the book. And honestly, I was irritated about her choice at the end when at one point in the book it seemed like she wasn't wanting that anymore. But all that said, it was definitely a page turner. :-)
Maybe I'm interpreting this wrong, but there's one quote I didn't like from this book. "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." That quote made it sound like our sin is not that bad. Of course, God forgives. In the Bible it says that "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins", but a sin is a sin is a sin. You can't sugar coat it by saying it's just a mistake and what you've done isn't terrible. A sin IS terrible. We may not think it is, but to a faithful, perfect God it's us rebelling against His precepts. Also, some of the big problems for the characters seemed to be resolved too easily.
Overall I give the book three stars for an interesting story and engaging characters.
I was given this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.