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Aug 5, 2015

To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

To Win Her Favor (A Belle Meade Plantation Novel #2) by Tamera Alexander
Zondervan, May 12 2015
352 pages
Review copy provided in exchange for review at Historical Novels Review
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

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.

Tamera Alexander introduces us to new characters in the familiar setting of Belle Meade with To Win Her Favor, easily allowing the novel to be read as a stand alone. The main protagonists are Cullen McGrath and Maggie Linden who are strangers forced to work together to save Maggie's homestead of Linden Downs in Tennessee. It's not an easy life any longer for Maggie in 1869 with her ailing father when Irishman Cullen McGrath befriends her father. Although Cullen is considered an outsider as an Irish immigrant, Mr. Linden can see Cullen's potential when he solicits an intriguing contract with Cullen: "Marry my daughter and you can have Linden Downs."

Maggie has no wish to marry anyone, let alone a lazy Irishman, but she sees the wisdom in her father's wishes if she wants to save her home. With slavery still a painful product of the South's way of life and the racist attitudes, Linden Downs barely has a fighting chance to survive once the crooked leaders of the town set their sights on the property. Cullen already has a target on his back as an immigrant, and his new wife has ideas of horse racing that Cullen cannot sanction for very personal reasons.

The story evolves around the blooming relationship between the newly married couple and their slow to ignite romance due to their mistrust of each other, but romance readers will appreciate the building tension. The novel highlights the struggles for Cullen and Maggie to overcome the town's prejudices while suspense and intrigue accentuate the story.

Cullen stands out as an easy hero to like, though Maggie's sensitivity borders on selfishness as she focuses on entering her horse in Nashville's race. Quiet undertones of a Christian message of seeking redemption while keeping the faith and surrendering to God's will should easily satisfy Tamera Alexander's growing fanbase.

Read my review of the first Belle Meade Plantation Novel, To Whisper Her Name
Read my review of the first Belmont Mansion novel, A Lasting Impression
Read my review of Tamera Alexander's Belmont Mansion novel, A Beauty So Rare

In comparison with Tamera's other novels mentioned above, this novel has a bit more of a romantic feel to it where there were a few more "tinglings" than normally mentioned in Christian novels. This one was also a shorter novel than the others, where To Whisper Her Name was 480 pages and this one was 352 pages. I had always appreciated the longer length of the previously mentioned novels, and wonder why this was shortened. As a historical novel, longer novels seem to be norm, yet Christian romance novels seem to be shorter. I hope that Tamera's upcoming novels are allowed to be longer in length and that this was the exception.