To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander (Review)

To Wager Her Heart Tamera Alexander

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With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided that the truth doesn’t tear them apart first. 

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancee—and what has broken her heart. 

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both. Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor? 

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it. 

Set against the real history of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

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To Win her Favor by Tamera Alexander

To Win Her Favor cover

Maggie Linden loves her home, her father, and her horse but is about to lose them all. With her father’s failing health and the threat of losing their beloved home looming close on the horizon, Maggie’s only hope is for her thoroughbred, Bourbon Bell, to win some races. But when the horrors of the world strike, and her jockey and his family leave, Maggie has little hope.

When Cullen McGrath, an Irishman recently arrived from England, arrives in Nashville, he finds he’s as unwelcome as the recently freed slaves. No one will do business with him, give him a loan, or sell him their property. He visits Linden Downs and Maggie’s father makes him a generous offer—one he is hard pressed to refuse. Pay the back taxes on the property and marry his daughter and the land and everything on it is his.

This is my favorite book by Tamera Alexander yet. There are so many themes running throughout this book—a father’s love for his daughter, prejudice against people who are different, trusting a virtual stranger with your future and your dreams—and each and every one of them is handled well. Both Cullen and Maggie are likable characters despite their flaws (Maggie has been sheltered in her world and blind to the plight of others around, even to the point of prejudice only because of what she’s read and heard from other people. Cullen is bound and determined to leave his past behind, even if it means crushing his new wife’s talent and dreams). The supporting characters are given as much attention to character development as Cullen and Maggie which gives more depth to the story. And, as always, characters from Alexander’s other books make cameos—which I always enjoy.

I’ve been to Belle Meade once, when I first moved to Nashville. After reading To Win Her Favor, which brought the people and land to life, I’m ready for another visit.

Available everywhere May 12

****Zondervan Fiction provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.