Focusing on the O'Leary family--Irish immigrants who have overcome poverty to reach genuine wealth in New York--Irish Meadows describes their fight to maintain that success. Breanna O'Leary wants to go to college, but even more she desperately wants to be valued by her family, instead always shoved into the background. Colleen, her older sister, simply wants to marry the man who can give her the most of everything, never mind who she hurts in the process. And Gilbert Whelan, the unofficially adopted son of the O'Leary family, desires to make a name for himself and his deceased father. But their desires don't necessarily line up with the plans of the O'Leary patriarch, and they must fight if they don't want to become pawns in his game to win back success.
A lot of times in books, people make pretty dumb choices (not that we EVER do in real life), but it really bothers me when the logic behind their choices is unsound. However, with this story, I always felt that the characters' reasoning made sense. They still do foolish things, and their motivations may or may not be pure, but given their options, I can understand why they do what they do. Take Gilbert--he has noble intentions, but he makes some idiotic choices out of love and loyalty to the family who basically adopted him. Colleen, a quite selfish and manipulative young woman at the beginning, is willing to take the surest route to success, no matter who gets hurt. Do I agree with her methods? No, but given her character, her actions totally make sense.
In spite of the fact Colleen starts out as a rather awful, mean-spirited flirt, I actually ended up liking her (and her predicament) the most, such that I wish little more time could have been spent on her and Rylan. And Rylan is such a dear.
The two girls and their forbidden romances strike a fine contrast throughout
the novel. Though technically Colleen's is the more impossible romance (forbidden by the church), in some ways it
is the simpler of the two; it develops first into friendship and then blossoms through mutual respect and caring. Brianna's, on the other hand, though they've been friends forever, becomes rife with insecurity as they are forced to confront emotional baggage that they both carry. Not that it goes easy for either of them!
I enjoyed this look at the American Dream, how an immigrant family was able to grasp success and now fight to hold on to it. I look forward to the next book!
you Bethany House and Netgalley for providing an e-copy for review; I was
not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.
Courage to Dream
1. Irish Meadows
2. A Worthy Heart