Irish born Fiona Downey is still numb from the events of the last few weeks. Having worked hard for admittance to the same prestigious Massachusetts college where her beloved father taught, Fiona finds herself accepted on the same day her father tragically dies. Hard-pressed to earn a living to support herself and her frail Mum, Fiona accepts a teaching position in a town called Paradise Falls located in the Little Bavaria region of the cold mountains of Michigan. Sending Mum to live with her aunt in Chicago, Fiona makes her way alone to this rural area populated by few farms, and even fewer people.
Fiona's room and board, paid by the county, is provided by The Haydn family, local farmers. Fiona finds herself drawn in to the complex Haydn family and their strained relationships with each other. There is domineering Ma Rose Haydn, who has little tolerance for her oldest son and her frail husband, but dwells on her affection for her youngest son. Recent stroke victim, Papa Broderick, has been left crippled and virtually useless in the daily running of his farm, a task now left on the broad shoulders of oldest son, Gray. It is the two Haydn brothers that Fiona finds most disturbing. Fiona is drawn to elder brother, dark and brooding Grayson, but it is younger brother, strikingly handsome and charming Fleming that seems to be throwing curves every which way at Fiona. Having to earn the trust and acceptance of this tight-knit community of Bavarian immigrants wonít be easy for the Irish Fiona. The parents of the children she is to educate bump heads with her on her methods and the things she is trying to teach her young students. It is here in Paradise Falls that Fionaís real education is about to begin.
In the heart warming story-telling style reminiscent of LaVyrle Spencer or Nora Roberts, comes Ruth Ryan Langanís Paradise Falls. This is a wonderful period piece, demonstrative of an era in which women were not encouraged to pursue education or their dreams, and life was a daily struggle to survive. The Haydn family is written in depth and their conflicts are strong. I loved the Cain and Abel approach Ms. Langan uses in her depiction between the brothers. The love story between Fiona and Gray is very slow going, which is a bit frustrating for the reader, but understandable in the context of the story.