The setting for this novel is 1911 Long Island and the O'Leary family. The O'Learys have a horse farm centered on breeding and boarding racing horses. James O'Leary is a stubborn and overbearing father who insists on arranging the future for his daughters as they come to the age of marrying. He insists they marry well, whether love is involved or not.
This is a romance set in a time when women were beginning to explore their independence. Brianna is a young woman with a sharp mind who has aspirations of college. But her father insists she marry a young man who can provide well for her. Brianna's older sister Colleen is a bit of a wild one, generating a reputation among the men. Again, the father is directing who she will marry and it is not going well.
Two men are added to the mix. One is, Rylan Montgomery, a distant cousin from Ireland who has come to America to study for the priesthood. The other is Gilbert Whelan. Gil's mother had worked for the O'Learys and when Gil's father died, Mr. O'Leary took him under his wing. Now Gil has returned with a business degree and is ready to make a name for himself. When the O'Leary farm faces financial difficulty, Mr. O'Leary insists Gil court the banker's daughter.
Affections do not follow Mr. O'Leary's plans and before too long there are broken hearts and broken people. But that is exactly what God needs to put it all together the way He wants.
The characters are well developed in this novel. There is good character transformation too. Several of the characters change in the course of the novel, having seen that their decisions and actions were not for the best.
It was nearly torture to read of the daughters' inability to convince their father to let them marry for love. He was a very stubborn man and thought he was doing what was best for the family. I really didn't like the way he treated his daughters nor the way he had treated his sister decades ago. Mr. O'Leary's attitude was a good reminder of what women had to endure at that time.
Mason describes her novels as “romance sprinkled with faith.” She loves writing about forgiveness and redemption and we certainly see that in this novel.
I did feel the novel was a bit long for the plot. Some of the misunderstandings between the couples seemed repeated a few too many times. For some reason, the writing did not grab me and I did not find this a compelling read. I felt the novel was sufficient but nothing toward excellence.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
Susan Anne Mason lives outside of Toronto, Ontario. This is her first historical novel. It won the Fiction from the Heartland contest sponsored by the Mid-American Romance Authors chapter of RWA. Mason is married with two children. You can find out more at www.SusanAnneMason.com.
Bethany House, 384 pages.