Susan Anne Mason. Irish Meadows. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015.
It’s always exciting to receive a brand-new book from a publisher, especially when it’s a new author, too! While Susan Anne Mason has written other novels for the Christian market, Irish Meadows is her debut into historical fiction and the first novel in her Courage to Dream series.
Irish Meadows follows the O’Leary sisters, who grew up on their father’s horse farm on Long Island. Although they grew up together, Colleen and Brianna are very different. Colleen believes her beauty and charm will get her far in life, while Brianna has always dreamed of going to college. However, their greedy and manipulative father hopes to use them to ensure the prosperity of the farm and horses of Irish Meadows. When Gilbert Whelen, a surrogate brother of the O’Leary family, and Rylan Montgomery, a distant relative from Ireland, arrive at Irish Meadows, they further complicate the O’Leary family’s situation. With the farm’s ruin around the corner, the O’Leary sisters find themselves having to choose between pleasing their father and ensuring the farm’s success or taking a chance on a new life that they never imagined.
Fans of Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller will particularly enjoy Ms. Mason’s debut into the world of Christian historical fiction. Focusing on Irish Americans during the early 20th century, she offers a unique look into the first-generation Americans following the wave of Irish immigrants to the United States. Additionally, readers who enjoy books on the topic of horse breeding and racing may also enjoy Irish Meadows. In comparison to some recent novels on the topic (Tamara Alexander’s To Win Her Favor and Becky Wade’s A Love Like Ours, for example), Irish Meadows felt somewhat light on the details in regards to the horse farm. Instead, the novel more closely follows the relationships between the O’Leary family members, rather than serving as an in-depth look at a historical time period or location.
Overall, I thought that Irish Meadows was a strong debut for Ms. Mason into the historical fiction genre. She shares a similar style, pacing, and characters to those found in the novels of Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller, especially as found in their Lights of Lowell series. In general, the novel exemplifies what many readers expect as the stereotypical Christian historical novel, with a moderate to slightly slow pace, some historical detail, and periodic Christian/faith references. Ms. Mason concentrates her efforts around building an intriguing character-based storyline, which many readers will greatly enjoy. Personally, I am eager to see Ms. Mason’s growth as a writer, especially in terms of integrating further historical research and details that will bring her books to life within her chosen time period.
The second book of Ms. Mason’s Courage of Dreams series, A Worthy Heart, arrives in January 2016!
Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Irish Meadows!