Tamera Alexander returns again to Belle Meade Plantation and the powerful racehorses of its stables. Cullen McGrath, an Irish immigrant, is not who Maggie Linden would have picked for a husband - not when everyone knows that the Irish are little better than the Negroes. But to save her family land and her champion Thoroughbred mare, Maggie's father asks her to marry Cullen. Women are not allowed to race, so her hopes are now pinned on a man who has been burned by a racing scandal in England - but how can she convince her new husband to race Bourbon Belle? And to top it off, the escalating violence of one of Nashville's "secret societies" has found its way to their door . . .
It's hard to take a character of decided prejudices and make her an appealing and sympathetic heroine, but the author manages it with Maggie. She is of Nashville's old, landed gentry, and her attitude reflects that status, even if her circumstances are much reduced. But those prejudices are not insurmountable - Maggie's heart does soften, even if it takes time. The author does a good job of gradually shifting her opinions in a believable manner.
I really liked Cullen, the hero. He isn't afraid to stand up for what is right, even if it means embarrassing Maggie in order to defend her. Given the cold shoulder he receives from her, he is remarkably patient and loving, even when she doesn't necessarily deserve it. I like how their relationship progresses - their marriage is definitely one of convenience, not a love match, and they have to work their way to an understanding. And it takes work, as all marriages do. And just because they reach the point of caring for each other doesn't mean they will not continue to have disagreements, as all marriages do.
Like in the author's other southern novels, To Win Her Favor is saturated in historical detail: of post-war Nashville, of horse racing, and of the era-ending changes to the lifestyle of the American South. It was fun to catch cameos of the main characters from her other related novels, brief though they are. I love how the presence of Maggie's father is carried throughout the story, how his love of the Lord is gradually also realized in his daughter and son-in-law. Alexander weaves a beautiful story of despair and the fulfillment of dreams, loss and triumph, and prejudice and brotherly love. 5 out of 5 stars!
Thank you Zondervan and NetGalley for providing an e-copy to review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
Belle Meade Plantation
1. To Whisper Her Name
2. To Win Her Favor
2.5 "To Mend a Dream" (part of the novella collection Among the Fair Magnolias)
3. To Wager Her Heart
Belmont Mansion (related to Belle Meade Plantation novels)
1. A Lasting Impression
2. A Beauty So Rare
3. A Note Yet Unsung