Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review of "To Whisper Her Name" by Tamera Alexander

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Summary from Zondervan: Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a murdered carpetbagger, gratefully accepts an invitation from "Aunt" Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation and the dearest friend of Olivia's late mother. Expecting to be the Harding's housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned once again when she learns the real reason why Elizabeth's husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming. Caring for an ill Aunt Elizabeth, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a southern-born son who-unbeknownst to her and everyone else-fought for the Union.

Determined to learn "the gift" that Belle Meade's head horse trainer, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him while harboring secrets that threaten his life. As Ridley seeks to make peace within himself for "betraying" the South he loved, Olivia is determined to never be betrayed again...

Set within the remarkable history of Nashville's historic Belle Meade Plantation, comes a story about enslavement and freedom, arrogance and humility, and the power of love to heal even the deepest of wounds.

Review: Tamera Alexander takes the reader to postbellum Tennessee in her new release To Whisper Her Name.  Alexander never fails to create well-developed settings and interesting characters. I particularly loved the setting of this novel, Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville. It shines through the pages like a Southern Belle at her debut ball.  I visited Belle Meade several years ago, which gave me a personal connection with the novel.  Alexander's descriptions brought back the beauty of the area and the grandness of the estate, which had faded in my mind.  Her details paint the perfect scene for an equally interesting plot.  

To Whisper Her Name takes place just after the end of the Civil War when physical and emotional wounds are still fresh and former slaves are fighting for fair treatment. The tumultuous time gives the plot depth and excitement.  By introducing characters from all sides of the war, Alexander illustrates the aftermath of the war from various perspectives.  In their fight for their respective causes, both the North and the South had its share of failures and left the people in its path scarred. 

Ridley Cooper has his share of war scars.  As a Southern man dedicated to the Northern cause, he was considered a traitor by his family and spent time in the South's most notorious prison.  Ridley is an admirable hero, and the perfect match for Olivia, a stubborn woman devoted to the South and healing from a difficult marriage.  Their relationship lends some humorous moments to the plot as Ridley attempts to break though Olivia's walls, but it also adds depth.  Ridley and Olivia challenge each other to overcome their fears and grow emotionally and spiritually. Alexander finds the ideal balance between light-hearted romance and serious issues like justice, equality, grief, and betrayal

The plight of ex-slaves to gain equal treatment is especially poignant. I admire both Ridley and Olivia for risking their safety to treat former slaves as equals.  Alexander alludes to the violence and hatred that members of a race deemed "inferior" by some faced to find better lives for their families.  When undercurrents of violence flow into Belle Meade, the plot takes on a new level of tension.

Tamera Alexander has crafted another intriguing novel to keep her current readers captivated and draw in new readers. To Whisper Her Name is definitely a worthwhile read.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from NetGalley, courtesy of Zondervan.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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