To Wager Her Heart (Belle Meade Plantation #3) by Tamera Alexander

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? 

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.

To Wager Her Heart (Belle Meade Plantation #3) by Tamera Alexander
Published August 8, 2017 by Zondervan
Christian Fiction / Historical Fiction / Romance
Format: e-book from Netgalley for review; 384 pages
Also By This Author: To Whisper Her NameTo Win Her Favor
GoodreadsAuthor’s Website

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts:

I’ve been a faithful fan of Tamera Alexander’s Belle Meade Plantation series since I read the first installment in early 2013. The first two novels, To Whisper Her Name and To Win Her Favor, were very enjoyable and captivating reads for me. I remember loving the romances in both of them, and the storylines were suspenseful and conjured up empathy in me for the prejudices and racial tensions of post-Civil War America.

To Wager Her Heart, the third and, I’m assuming, final novel in the Belle Meade Plantation series was a disappointing read for me. My expectations were high after thoroughly enjoying and appreciating the first two novels. In To Wager Her Heart, I felt that the emotion Tamera Alexander’s writing normally invokes was watered down and not as intense as I remember it being in To Whisper Her Name and To Win Her Favor.

The beginning of this novel pulled me in right away. There is a fair amount of tension and uncertainty with regards to our two main characters’ journeys, but by the middle of the novel the story starts to lag. One thing in particular that threw me off about the middle act of the novel is that the conflict our hero, Sy Rutledge, faces is glossed over and practically wrapped up entirely too quickly.

The novel’s ending was somewhat satisfying, with a realistic amount of loose ends remaining, but overall the book lacks a crucial amount of suspense. I didn’t feel particularly connected to Sy or our heroine, Alexandra, and I even felt that their romance, which began as a promising conflict in the story, blossomed unrealistically too quick and therefore didn’t feel as deep or anchored as the romances in the earlier novels.

I must say that a major reason why I admire Tamera Alexander as an author is because of the amount of research she does. Apart from this series, I haven’t read any of her other books, but Belle Meade and many of characters we meet in these books are real. At the end of each book she gives a brief history of the plantation, the family and workers who lived on it, and the surrounding town. As an aspiring historical fiction writer myself, I appreciate how she crafts her own story around real people and real events.

Read This Book If…

…you’ve read and enjoyed To Whisper Her Name of To Win Her Favor (although these books can be read as standalones, some minor characters are present throughout the entire series).
…you are a fan of historical fiction.
…you love Christian fiction novels.
…you are looking for an inspirational romance.

“Some memories, they never leave a person. But that don’t mean you gotta stay stuck back there with ’em.”

Final Musings:

I feel like I’ve been overly critical of this novel, but believe me, if I had really not liked it, I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. To Wager Her Heart managed to keep my attention until the end, while many other books I’ve reviewed have not. I must credit Tamera Alexander’s writing style and the setting of this novel, because, as I’ve already mentioned at least once, I was really intrigued by the true life historical aspects of Belle Meade Plantation and Nashville in the late 1800s. I still look forward to reading more of Tamera Alexander’s novels in the future, and I know that will also include rereads of To Whisper Her Name and To Win Her Favor.

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Ross Poldark (The Poldark Saga #1) by Winston Graham

Ross Poldark

Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his family and his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers that his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth, having believed Ross dead, is now engaged to his cousin. Ross must start over, building a completely new path for his life, one that takes him in exciting and unexpected directions.

Thus begins an intricately plotted story spanning loves, lives, and generations. The Poldark series is the masterwork of Winston Graham, who evoked the period and people like only he could, and created a world of rich and poor, loss and love, that readers will not soon forget.

Ross Poldark (The Poldark Saga #1) by Winston Graham
Published 1945
Format: paperback; 314 pages
Classics/Historical Fiction/Romance
Also By This Author: Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2)Jeremy Poldark (The Poldark Saga #3), MarnieThe Walking Stick
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Very rarely do I invest myself into epic family sagas. I usually lose interest or grow tired of the drama along the way. There have been exceptions, however (e.g. The Anne of Green Gables series), and Poldark has the potential to be one of them.

Needing a new period drama to watch now that Downton Abbey has finished, I stumbled upon BBC’s adaptation of Poldark and FELL IN LOVE! I hadn’t even watched half of the first episode before I was recommending the show to friends. In two days I binge watched all 8 episodes of season 1 (thanks, Amazon Prime!) and immediately picked up the first book from my local library and devoured it in a few days.

Ross Poldark begins with a war veteran returning home to discover that everyone believed him to be dead, his father has died and his inheritance is in near ruins, and the woman he loves is engaged to his cousin. Ross essentially has to start his life over from scratch, but with his determination, his wit, and through the help of two extraordinary women, his cousin, Verity, and his kitchen maid, Demelza, he beings to find hope and happiness again.

I love that this series begins with a protagonist who has already lost everything. It’s a welcomed change from the typical novel that starts off with everything going well for the main character for a chapter or two. I appreciated Winston Graham’s ability to skip over that unnecessary suspense and immerse the reader immediately into Ross Poldark’s despair. It makes the novel so much more intriguing.

It only took me a few chapters to fall in love with the characters. Ross is kind and compassionate, but like Heathcliff he has his demons that earn him sympathy from the reader. Verity is the selfless and loyal friend whom you can always depend upon, but she has her own heartbreaking past that she’s suffering from. Jud and Prudie offer some hilarious comic relief. And Demelza shows subtle courage in the face of adversity. She is the harbinger of hope and redemption for several of the other characters.

Read This Book If…

…you love investing yourself in long family sagas.
…you enjoy reading historical fiction that portrays the differences between different socioeconomic classes.
…you savor epic love stories.
…you’re a fan of Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Game of Thrones, or Outlander. Poldark has similar themes, characters, and motifs.

Final Musings

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 I discovered Poldark by watching the current BBC television adaptation. Season 1 premiered last year and it covers the first two books in the series: Ross Poldark and Demelza. Here’s a trailer!!

They just finished filming Season 2, and it’s supposed to premiere in the fall in the UK…which means us Americans will have to wait nearly a year to see it! I’m going to break a rule I generally always follow. I’m going to watch Season 2 before I read ahead in the books. Normally I’m a huge advocator for “Read the book first,” but I want to keep the suspense of the show and I also know that, as a book purist, if an adaptation doesn’t stay true to the original story, I’m less likely to enjoy it UNLESS I watch it before I read the book.

But this means I can read the next book because Season 1 of the show already covered those events :)

Who else is excited for Season 2 of Poldark?!

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner – Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Mademoiselle Chanel

“My hands reflect who I am. I see in them the struggle that has always existed between the humble girl I once was and the legend I deliberately created to hide my heart. Who is Coco Chanel?”

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner
Published March 17, 2015 by William-Morrow/HarperCollins
Historical Fiction
Format: paperback; 400 pages
Also From This Author: The Spymaster Chronicles, The Last Queen
Goodreads | Amazon | Website
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel-the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and became one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to an orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco–a seamstress and sometime torch singer–the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.

An enthralling novel of an extraordinary designer who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.

Thoughts

I dove into this novel having no previous knowledge about Coco Chanel, other than recognizing her status as the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century. I was quickly captivated by her story, which was so heartbreaking yet inspirational at the same time. Although Mademoiselle Chanel is a work of fiction, it follows the major events in Coco Chanel’s life, from growing up as an orphan in a convent to losing loved one after loved one, to risking her life in secret operations during World War II. It instills feelings of hope, love, fear, suspense, and guilt, and I was surprised at how easily it captivated me.

My favorite part about this novel was the character of Coco Chanel. The voice that Gortner created for her felt impressively real. It was effortless for me to imagine Coco spewing off her declarations to people who doubted her and also speaking words of love and encouragement to her closest friends and family members. When she felt betrayed, so did I. When she suffered loss and pain, I wanted to be the friend who comforted her. Even if you are like me and have no interest in fashion, that will not keep you from enjoying and connecting to this fictional retelling of Coco Chanel’s life.

Read This Book If…:

…you love historical fiction, especially involving romance and/or a WWII atmosphere.
…you’re inspired by strong female pioneers.
…you enjoy reading novels set in France.
…you’re looking for a main character who has a real voice and is unabashed in speaking her mind.

Final Musings

Mademoiselle Chanel banner

I’m reviewing Mademoiselle Chanel as part of a blog tour hosted by France Book Tours. Please click on the banner to see a list of other bloggers participating in the tour!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CW GortnerC.W. Gortner is the international bestselling author of six historical novels, translated in over twenty-five languages to date. His new novel, Mademoiselle Chanel, traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel. In 2016, Random House will publish his eighth novel, Vatican Princess, about Lucrezia Borgia. Raised in Spain and a long-time resident of the Bay Area, C.W. is also dedicated to companion animal rescue from overcrowded shelters.

Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to his newsletter

Buy the book: HarperCollins | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

GIVEAWAY

You can enter the giveaway here or on the book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Entry-Form

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

6 winners
Open to US only:
5 printed copies
+ 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet
inspired by Coco’s black-and-white signature colors
and camellia design

Mademoiselle Chanel bracelet

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, EXCERPTS, GUEST-POST AND INTERVIEW

Mademoiselle Chanel banner

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

amostinconvenientmarriage

“Sometimes the best gifts aren’t convenient at the time.”

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings
Published December 2, 2014 by Bethany House Publishers
Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction/Romance
Format: e-book; 337 pages
Also By This Author: A Match Made in Texas, Ladies of Caldwell County series
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Having fled a difficult home life, Civil War nurse Abigail Stuart feels like her only friend in the world is sweet but gravely wounded patient Jeremiah Calhoun. Fearing he won’t survive, the Confederate soldier’s last wish is that Abigail look after his sickly sister at home. Marry him, return to his horse farm, and it’ll be hers.

Left with few choices, Abigail takes him up on his offer and moves to Missouri after his death, but just as the family learns to accept her, the real Jeremiah Calhoun appears–puzzled to find a confounding woman posing as his wife. Jeremiah is determined to have his life back to how it was before the war, but his own wounds limit what he can do on his own. Still not fully convinced Abigail isn’t duping him, he’s left with no choice but to let the woman stay and help–not admitting to himself she may provide the healing his entire family needs.

Thoughts

I’ve mentioned this before, but I love reading Christian historical fiction novels during the wintertime. Maybe because they’re perfect for reading during Christmas break: quick reads with happy endings and heartfelt morals. A Most Inconvenient Marriage was a great choice for me to read last weekend. I was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel because sometimes this genre can be a bit cheesy and unrealistic. However, Regina Jennings does a fantastic job at making her characters very real. They are not perfect; they have tempers and make poor choices and have a hard time seeing what’s right in front of them. But they are also entertaining, and there were several scenes in this book that had me laughing out loud or covering my face out of embarrassment for the characters (like I said, they sometimes make poor, but funny choices).

This novel takes place at the end of the Civil War. Abigail was a nurse serving the Union Army, and her patient Jeremiah Calhoun, was a wounded Confederate Soldier, who was forced to join the war not to defend slavery but to protect his family and property. The central conflict in this novel occurs when Jeremiah suddenly shows up alive and slightly crippled, leaving a mystery surrounding the identity of Abigail’s deceased patient.

This novel deals with themes of prejudice and forgiveness, themes that can be applied to current events happening in our society today. One of my favorite values I took away from this novel is that, as a community, everybody relies on everybody else. Sometimes they don’t have a choice about being dependent on others, but everyone has a choice on how they treat their neighbors. The characters in A Most Inconvenient Marriage have to overcome their bitterness, their prejudices, and their pride in order to solve the conflicts that are assaulting their community. I love seeing characters overcome their faults as a collective community rather than autonomous individuals.

Read This Book If…:

…you enjoy historical fiction with religious references.
…you’re intrigued by issues of prejudices and civil unrest.
…you’re drawn to books about characters with real faults who make realistic mistakes.
…you’re a romantic at heart (let’s face it, this book is mainly a romance)!

Final Musings

I’ve previously only read a novella by Regina Jennings (An Unforeseen Match, one of four stories in A Match Made in Texas), but I really enjoyed this full length novel a lot more, perhaps because she was able to develop her characters more deeply. This novel takes place over a span of several months, so no one falls in love within a few days or weeks even, and the characters take a realistically long time to overcome their faults. As I’ve often felt with other historical romances, I expected this book to be filled with cheesy clichés, but it wasn’t.

If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming historical romance set in Post-Civil War America, I highly recommend A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed :)

 

The Messenger by Pamela DuMond

themessenger

“Madeline, I do not care where you are from–the future, the past, a star in the sky. I will love you here, now. I do not care what people think. I will love you in the past. I will love you in the future. I will love you, forever, Madeline.”

The Messenger by Pamela DuMond
Published April 20, 2012 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Young Adult/Fantasy/Historical Romance
Format: e-book; 257 pages
Also By This Author: The Story of You and Me, Annie Graceland Mystery series
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Madeline’s meant to fall in love with Samuel in every lifetime. But she meets him for the first time when she accidentally time travels into the past—hundreds years before she’s even born!

Their relationship is forbidden—Samuel’s half Native, Madeline’s white. Every rendezvous they share must be secret. Each moment they spend together tempts the odds that they’ll be discovered and brutally punished. But their love is fated—they musk risk all.

Danger intensifies when Madeline learns she’s in the past not only to fall in love, but also to claim her birth right as a Messenger—a soul who can slip through time’s fabric at will.

Deadly Hunters, dark-souled time travelers, crave Madeline’s powers and seek to seduce or kill her. Can Madeline find her way back to the future in time to save herself and Samuel?

 Thoughts

I really enjoy time traveling books! I just wish I read more of them. The Messenger combines my interest in time-travel with historical fiction, and I really love that combination because there is always that major predicament: is the main character going to stay in the past or will he/she chose to return to their present day? I will not spoil Madeline’s decision, but I will tell you that the book had me in total suspense until the very last paragraph.

The majority of Madeline’s time travelling adventure revolves around Samuel, a Native American with a soft heart and healer’s hands. As Madeline discovers more about her inexplicable trip to the past, she begins to feel a pull towards Samuel that even three hundred years of history cannot deter.

But Madeline’s time-traveling abilities open up so many questions regarding her past and her family. And Madeline isn’t the only one with these fantastical abilities–the longer she stays in Colonial America, the more she realizes that her abilities are so much greater than herself.

Read This Book If…:

…you love time-traveling stories!
…you have a guilty pleasure for historical romances.
…diverse stories involving race and racism resonate with you.
…you enjoy books that leave you hanging in suspense until the very last page.

Final Musings:

I thoroughly enjoyed The Messenger! There were several times when I could not put this book down. I was worried when I couldn’t find any announcements on a sequel, but I just found out that book 2, The Assassin, will be published early next year! Can’t wait :)