Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review of "To Win Her Favor"

Rating: 5 Stars

Review: I love Tamera Alexander's novels for their historical detail and depth.  Her Belle Meade Plantation and Belmont Mansion series have both captured my interest because they are set in one of my favorite places, Nashville, Tennessee.  "To Win Her Favor" is Alexander's latest release in the Belle Meade Plantation series, and one of my favorite recent reads with its expertly layered plot.  For romance fans, there is a heartwarming and sometimes sizzling love story between the two main characters, Maggie and Cullen.  Below the surface of their attraction, is a powerful message of overcoming prejudice.   Love, courage, and forgiveness are common themes which make this novel undeniably meaningful. 

Alexander focuses on the less-than-idyllic side of the South's history, when prejudice ran rampant against not only African-Americans, but also those of different nationalities.  I didn't realize the discrimination faced by the Irish until reading "To Win Her Favor." From more passive actions, like social snubs, to physical violence, like lynchings, Alexander captures the harsh social climate of the post-Civil War south.  Her descriptions of physical violence are not graphic, but convey the cruelty and pain that hatred breeds.  Maggie and Cullen's perspectives provide two social views. Maggie is a native Tennessean, from a once prominent Nashville family, and Cullen is an Irishman with a painful past. Maggie really grows from a sheltered young woman into a compassionate and courageous woman as the story progresses and Cullen opens her eyes to society's injustices.

The supporting characters play integral roles in completing the plot. Among the most memorable are the former slaves and their families who work at Linden Downs. The injustices and cruelties that they suffer represent only a minuscule fraction of what was experienced in real life, but are thought-provoking nonetheless.  Alexander does a excellent job of portraying Maggie's growing love and respect for the Linden Down employees. Cullen helps her to grow into a stronger and more compassionate woman, while Cullen learns to find peace with his past through Maggie.  Their business-relationship marriage shows the blossoming of true love and an ideal partnership when two truly are better than one. 

Prejudice is a dark nemesis throughout the book, and the concluding chapters will leave readers tense, awaiting its defeat. There are moments that will break hearts and moments that will warm hearts. "To Win Her Favor" is the perfect combination of love, pain, and triumph to engage readers.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan through NetGalley. 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 Zondervan: 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 can help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing for good.

An Irish-born son 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 start a farm, 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 annual Drayton Stakes at Nashville’s racetrack––the richest race 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.  Cullen and Maggie need each other in order to achieve their dreams. But their stubborn, wounded hearts––and the escalating violence from a "secret society" responsible for lynchings and midnight raids––may prove too much for even two determined souls.

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