Review: “To Win Her Favor” by Tamera Alexander

Today’s book I’m reviewing is from one of my favorite historical authors, Tamera Alexander. I have liked every book of hers I’ve read, especially A Beauty So Rare (and I’ve read almost all of them!). She never fails to deliver a fascinating story, full of historical details and endearing characters. Her latest novel, To Win Her Favor, is no exception. Set in Nashville in the tumultuous aftermath of the Civil War, this story explores many themes and subjects unique to that era.To Win Her Favor Banner

Book SummaryA gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.

An Irishman far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and begin farming, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance—and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder—Maggie’s father, aging, yet wily as ever, makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail—Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

I could talk about the many beautiful layers of this book for a long time. I will *try* to restrain myself, though, so you can finish my review then find a copy for yourself 🙂

The relationship between Cullen and Maggie was developed perfectly, with some very swoon-y moments. Tamera has taken a familiar plot concept, a “marriage of convenience”, and relayed it with unexpected variations and a few twists. One example of this is Maggie’s father — he gave his blessing for their marriage, and his support is a firm starting point for their relationship.To Win Her Favor

These characters quickly worked their way into my heart: Margaret, her father Gilbert Linden, Cullen, and several of the supporting characters. Margaret and Cullen both had bright personalities. Cullen was bold, straightforward, gentle with Maggie, and not afraid to stand for what was right. Maggie was sweet, considerate, and very capable of handling tough situations. It was great to see how the two of them strengthened and learned from each other. They were a beautiful example of the closeness God intends between a husband and wife.

This book is a great picture of the south in the aftermath of the Civil War. And, a new perspective on early thoroughbred breeding, training, and racing. I wouldn’t say that horsemanship was the central plot, though. “Life” was. Through the challenges Cullen faced as an immigrant and the ramifications of the Civil War, a secondary story was intertwined, dealing with prejudices of the time. I applaud Tamera for approaching this subject in such a way. At times, stereotypes are confronted in a manner both delicate and brutally realistic. It shows the cost and consequences of war – both for families of the south and for former slaves – from a fresh perspective. One character in particular really grows from the encouragement of another to open her eyes to the reality around her.

I believe the spiritual message of the book is this: sometimes God puts us through trials so we will seek Him. And sometimes He uses people and circumstances to teach us about our purposes or shed light on an opportunity right in front of us. He also guides us through times when we try to run from Him and make our own way.

Ok, maybe I ended up talking about this a little more than I planned. But it was so good! Please, if you haven’t read anything by Tamera Alexander, you should. Go to her website to see the her latest releases or to find other ways to connect with her through social media. For more info on To Win Her Favor (and to read an excerpt!), visit this page.

A sincere thank you to Tamera Alexander, Zondervan, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Favorite Quotes from “A Beauty So Rare”

You all already know how much I loved this bookAND you know about the fabulous recipe extras, a savory custard and buttery shortbread, I’ve shared from the book. This is all because I have participated in a special review program for the release from Bethany House Publishers (thank you, Bethany House, Amy, and Tamera!) And it’s been a blast!

Today, I’m sharing my two favorite quotes from Tamera Alexander’s A Beauty So Rare. Favorite Quote 1

This quote sums up the premise so well. Both characters are risking their livelihood and dreams for various reasons, and ultimately, risking their hearts and trusting their futures to God.

Favorite Quote 2

THIS quote just shows you how sweet and fabulous Marcus Geoffrey is. His care and concern for Eleanor is a beautiful part of the story.

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