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.
Book Summary: A 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.
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.