Book Review: “A Beauty So Rare” by Tamera Alexander

I’m so happy to be sharing my review of Tamera Alexander’s latest novel, A Beauty So Rare¸ today! It is a beautiful novel that shares the hearts of the characters – and the beauty of God’s provision for us. Rich in historical details, it is set at the beautiful Belmont Mansion in Nashville (still standing today). I am privileged to be a part of a special group of reviewers who have access to extras on the novel – you can find a savory custard recipe from the novel here, and a shortbread recipe soon to come!

1920413_447912455312236_675420752_nKind, plain, and practical, Eleanor Braddock has come to Nashville for a new life after the Civil War. Facing her father’s declining health and her family’s dwindling finances, she moves to the prestigious home of her Aunt Adelicia Acklen, the famous Belmont Mansion. Hoping to achieve her independence from the benevolence and good intentions of her feisty aunt, Eleanor plans to open a restaurant to support herself and her father. Aunt Adelicia, however, disapproves of Eleanor’s premature plans to tarnish her social standing by cooking. Adelicia has other plans for Eleanor, including a potential suitor who could secure Eleanor’s future. But at what cost to her happiness?

Marcus Geoffrey, the Archduke of Austria and second in line to the throne (complete with good looks and a dreamy accent), has come to Nashville seeking to make a name for himself based on his own merits, not those of his family name. Finding solace in a new country by concealing his true heritage, he dreams of using his architect design and botany skills to achieve a lasting accomplishment of beauty and utilization. While he works at the conservatory at Belmont, he meets Eleanor and begins a friendship. As their paths cross in unexpected ways, God begins to give them a new dream and purpose in helping those less fortunate in the aftermath of war.

Both Eleanor and Marcus are enduring new seasons in their lives. Eleanor is unsure of herself, feeling somewhat out of place now as the responsible adult of the family, with her father dependent on Eleanor’s decisions. She has to learn to trust and to have a different relationship with him now. Marcus is also on his own, enjoying a unique sense of freedom – but still sensing a foreboding and pending commitment to his family and the House of Habsburg. As their relationship grows from that of friendship and confidants to something more, both must find the courage and strength to face their futures – futures that likely don’t include each other.

I really loved how Tamera showed a different side of the aftermath of the Civil War. She did so through immigrants’ experiences, specifically widows and orphans, as they struggled in that era. I also enjoyed the themes of botany and cooking featured in the novel. At times I could almost smell the fragrant peonies and roses. And the food! Let’s just say my mouth WAS watering sometimes. Doughnuts, strudel, custards, soups, shortbread….are you hungry yet?

A Beauty So Rare is a delightful story of love, trials, purpose, family, and history. Both main characters find purpose in helping others. Though neither one’s path is what they first thought it would be, God proved faithful and showed them how He is able to take mere dreams and make them much better, even if it at first seemed hopeless. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history and romance. These characters are so dear and realistic, and the storyline perfectly complex, I feel like a simple review cannot do the story justice. You should just find a copy for yourself today – you won’t be disappointed!

 

For more fabulous book extras and information about Tamera’s other books, visit her website, her Facebook page, or find her on Twitter.

 

A huge THANK YOU to Tamera Alexander and Bethany House for the opportunity to participate in this group of blogger reviewers. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review – I was not required to write a positive review.

"A Beauty So Rare" by Tamera Alexander, Empty Shelf 12

“A Beauty So Rare” by Tamera Alexander, Empty Shelf 12

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Mini Review: “The Heiress of Winterwood” by Sarah Ladd (Empty Shelf #3)

My third read for 2014 was The Heiress of Winterwood (the first book in her Whispers on the Moors series) by Sarah Ladd.

Mini Review: "The Heiress of Winterwood" by Sarah Ladd (Empty Shelf #3)

Here’s a mini review:

Set in the lovely Regency Era in England, Amelia Barret and Captain Graham Sterling (don’t you just love that name!) find their paths intertwining over their mutual love of baby Lucy Sterling. Captain Sterling’s deceased wife, Katherine, relied on Amelia’s care as her dying wish evoked a promise from Amelia to always care for her daughter Lucy. As Amelia strives to find her way as the future heiress of the Winterwood Estate and to keep her promise to Katherine, her pending marriage to Mr. Littleton hangs in the balance as she encounters Captain Sterling on his return from the sea.

The story is a delightful tale with bits of mystery, conflict, and romance as the characters find themselves depending on God’s strength for their futures. I really enjoyed the way Sarah portrayed the strictures and propriety of the Regency Era – with a bit of glamour and nostalgia.

Find out more about Sarah and her newest release, The Headmistress of Rosemere (my next read) at her website.

Thank you to Amber at Seasons of Humility and Juju at Tales of Whimsy for the mini review idea!

Empty Shelf #2: The Sentinels of Andersonville

I finished my second read for the Empty Shelf Challenge over the weekend. It was an advance copy of “The Sentinels of Andersonville” by Tracy Groot. A captivating, fast-paced retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan, “The Sentinels of Andersonville” is in a league all its own set during the Civil War period. Saying “I loved it” is putting it mildly – I think it’s going to be one of my favorites of 2014!

It releases 2/1/14 ~ review to come soon!

Empty Shelf #2: The Sentinels of Andersonville