Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review of "A Beauty So Rare"

Rating: 4 Stars
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Review:  Since her first novel "Rekindled" was published in 2006, Tamera Alexander has established herself as a talented author who consistently writes novels with engaging plots that are seamlessly woven with historical details and compelling characters.   From the opening pages of her latest novel, "A Beauty So Rare" readers step into the hospital tent of a Civil War battlefield as Eleanor Braddock, a volunteer, attempts to offer a measure of comfort and peace to a dying soldier.   Though brief, their interactions are moving and bittersweet.  Eleanor's promise to the dying soldier is one that lingers in her mind, as well as the minds of the readers, as a few years pass, and she tries to reestablish her life after much loss in post-Civil War Nashville.  

Eleanor's interactions with her ailing father and tender concern for his well-being demonstrate an inner beauty that surpasses her physical appearance, which most of society views as plain and ordinary.  As the niece of Adelicia Acklen, she is invited to stay at Belmont Mansion and is surrounded by opulence and outward beauty.   The details of the home, grounds, and greenhouse are vivid,  and  Eleanor's first encounter with Marcus Gottfried leads to a mistaken identity and a relationship highlighted with teasing banter.  Although Marcus is hiding his royal heritage, he cannot easily conceal the confidence that remains a part of him, even as he faces adversity when trying to pursue his own dreams in architecture and botany.   

While Marcus is outwardly handsome and has been admired based on his looks and social standing, he longs to be valued as an ordinary man.   Eleanor's inner beauty of selflessness and concern for others is valued, but often overlooked by some individuals.   The friendship that develops between Marcus and Eleanor evolves in a natural way and is built on trust and mutual respect, but the secret that they both carry threatens to tear it apart.   Together, they can discover "a beauty so rare," but outside influences and their own choices must be reconciled.  

From the opulent Belmont Estate to an asylum and the poor city streets of Nashville,  "A Beauty So Rare"  introduces readers to many aspects of life after the Civil War.  The supporting characters, which include children, widows, small business owners, add moving sub-plots and allow readers to step into a post-Civil War city.  Like the blooms in the greenhouse,  "A Beauty So Rare" is a finely-cultivated story that blossoms with each turn of the page.    

I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Bethany House through Net Galley. 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.

Summary from Bethany House: Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war--and still had one to fight.

Plain, practical Eleanor Braddock knows she will never marry, but with a dying soldier's last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America--and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path--building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows' and children's home run contrary to Eleanor's wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground--and a love neither of them expects. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.

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