Sunday, December 27, 2015
'A Worthy Heart' by Susan Anne Mason
Maggie Montgomery's long-held wish to see America is finally coming true. She'll visit her beloved brother Rylan and his wife, Colleen, and at the same time, escape Neill Fitzgerald's unwanted attention. In addition, Maggie has a secret! She plans to remain in America to seek her fortune and to hopefully find love. While visiting Irish Meadows, she meets an intriguing man whom she thinks is a stable hand. Only when Rylan demands she stay away from Adam O'Leary does she realize he's Colleen's brother, recently released from prison. Nonetheless, Maggie can't seem to make her heart conform to her brother's request.
Adam O'Leary has never felt worthy of his place in the family. Spending time in jail only reinforces his belief. Now that he's free, Adam hopes to make amends and earn back his family's trust. Falling in love with Maggie Montgomery, however, was never in his plans.
Despite everyone's effort to keep them apart, the two develop a bond nothing can break--but has Adam truly changed, or will the sins of his past prove too much for Maggie to overcome?
I looked forward to this book and it lived up to my expectations.
After three years in prison, Adam O'Leary returns home in the spirit of the Prodigal Son, but anyone who's read Irish Meadows can predict that James O'Leary won't be anything like the father in the parable. Quite the opposite, in fact. Poor Adam has learned firsthand that when you let resentment control your actions, it ends up rebounding back on you, rather than the people you aim it at.
I love series in which former bad boys and rebels become heroes of their own stories. In the first book, we get to see what everyone else sees, which is just enough of Adam to get the impression that he's a pain in the neck with a major chip on his shoulder, whose uptight presence casts a pall whenever he appears. But in this book, his heart and feelings get a chance to shine.
People's attitudes toward ex-jailbirds appear to have mellowed over the years, which I'm glad to see. Gross over-reactions seem to have been the norm in 1914. Just being seen with Adam would have been enough to tarnish Maggie's reputation forever. Come on, turn of the century people, get a grip! James' deplorable attitude is predictable at least, but at times, I even felt like shaking the charming Montgomery brothers for the judgmental stances they chose to take. Of course they were products of their time who were concerned for their sister.
I was all set for Adam to perform some heroics from the start. His reception was so frosty, I knew the bar would be set high for him to win back people's esteem. It was greatly satisfying to see him do it, yet on the other hand, how sad that he had to. It was a shame certain other characters couldn't have embraced him without him needing him to step up in crisis situations, but that's what makes an excellent story.
The best part is that, with Maggie, he doesn't have to prove himself worthy. I love her as well as Adam. She's been told about his sordid past and the scandals surrounding him, but chooses to trust her own intuition and personal experiences with Adam, and not care about all that hearsay. (Not to mention the chemistry between them is very well-written). She's also bold, sweet and kind. And she has her own problems, which add a lot of tension and a feeling of impending trouble.
I loved the instant attraction appeal for a change. My shelf is full of books with antagonists who hate each other on sight, but eventually fall in love. Much as I enjoy them, it's refreshing to come across a story where the attraction is immediate. Maggie and Adam have no problems figuring out how they feel about each other. It's other people's problems with their relationship which causes hassles for them.
Overall, it's another fantastic read with the help of some shocking back-story plus a very nasty villain.
I was cheering so hard for Adam and Maggie by the end, and the secondary romantic plot, with Gabe and Aurora, was pretty good too. (Remember Aurora from Irish Meadows, as the girl Gilbert almost got hitched to?) I believe this will be a trilogy, and I can't wait for the third.
Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for my review copy.