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 Peyton 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.
To Win Her Favor (Belle Meade Plantation #2) by Tamera Alexander
Published May 12, 2015 by Zondervan
Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Format: e-book from Netgalley for review; 352 pages
Also By This Author: To Whisper Her Name, The Inheritance, From a Distance
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
[Disclaimer: To Win Her Favor is technically the sequel to To Whisper Her Name, but you can read it as a stand-alone. There are a few returning characters, but Tamera Alexander reintroduces them nicely.]
This book is intense. I was actually a little shocked at how intense it was. To Win Her Favor takes place in post-Civil War Tennessee, where racial tensions and prejudices towards outsiders are high. Within the first couple of chapters a hate crime (a murder, actually) is committed and it was really heart-wrenching and scary. It’s not the only attack in the book, so if you’re the type of reader who is easily upset by this type of violence, you may not enjoy this book. In my opinion, however, these depictions mirror real life events, even things that happen today, and it is pretty eye-opening to the hatred minorities are attacked with every day. I appreciated the darkness Tamera Alexander weaves into To Win Her Favor because it gave me a greater sympathy to the xenophobia and racism that’s sickeningly prevalent in our world today.
Another shocking aspect about this book is the romance. For a Christian historical fiction novel, I found it unusually racy. I read Alexander’s prequel to To Win Her Favor and I don’t remember it being this intimate, but Cullen and Maggie, the characters in this novel, are married, which is probably why the author elaborated as much as she did. I wasn’t particularly bothered by it, but if you read a lot of Christian fiction you might find Tamera Alexander’s descriptions too much.
Aside from the violence and the intimacy in this novel, the characters were really fun! Maggie is a spitfire–it must come with the name ;)–and Cullen is a stubborn Irishman, so there were plenty of smiles and laughs coming from me while reading their bantering. Also, Tamera Alexander’s descriptions are so vivid and it was easy for me to imagine the Linden Downs farm in my own imagination. I would love to visit Tennessee again someday and scout out the real life mansions and plantations Tamera Alexander based her books off of.
Read This Book If…
…you enjoy books about the post-Civil War South.
…you like horses and enjoy reading about horse training and racing (not gambling).
…you appreciate books that aren’t afraid to touch on sensitive subject matter, specifically violent hate crimes. (Side note: I don’t believe the author uses hate crimes for entertainment, but instead to discourage prejudice and racism)
…you’re looking for a book that will make you swoon.
“The time is coming, Mr. McGrath, and in fact is already upon us, when a man will have to boldly stand for what he believes, or everything he holds dear will be taken from him. And from those he loves.”
To Win Her Favor is an excellently written novel about post-Civil War Tennessee and what it means to overcome hatred, violence, and fear in the face of adversity. I really enjoyed reading about Maggie, Cullen, Kizzy and her parents and all of the other characters living at Linden Downs but I was especially impressed by how much this novel made me think and feel about those around me who are suffering in real life. This is definitely a book that will be sticking with me, mentally and emotionally, for a while.