Review: In the spirit of following my number one “rule” in reviewing, I have to admit that though expertly written, while reading this, boredom set in a handful of times. I have a theory for why this one didn’t appeal to my reading personality but we’ll go into that later. Our main protagonists are Olivia, a widow resulting indirectly (he wasn’t a causality of the fighting rather from his pacifist beliefs) from the war and Ridley Cooper, a former soldier who is protecting wounding secrets of his own. The both of them meet on a plantation owned by the husband of Olivia’s dear friend, Elizabeth. Herein is where that lack of interest figures in. Everything circles back to the “working parts” of Belle Meade being a stud farm and not being an animal person, I fought boredom during the conversations and dealings with the horses. Counteracting that, any fan of civil war era aficionados will be impressed by how “period-friendly” this book was. Everything “felt” very authentic and transports the reader back into the (post) Civil war era – even snippets of it reminded me, in visualizing it, of Gone with the Wind; I do think Tamera got a bit too caught up in the descriptions of the surroundings which stalled the story in places.
Tamera’s writing was very detailed and well stated, even poetic at times though the use of names in nearly every sentence of each conversation was tiring (I suspect this is authentic to the period…?). Further confounding those conversations was the similar names of characters, which presents a mild conversational stumbling block, examples being Lizzie, Elizabeth (which could also be problematic since I have a cousin named Elizabeth who uses nearly all of the shortened variations of the name); also the continuous use of character’s Christian names wore down the prose. Pleasantly surprising and sweet to read was the meeting between Olivia and Ridley which was “adorable”; as were many of their interactions full of passion, sassiness and fun.
(Perhaps this is being too particularly but one other thing I found a bit annoying was the overuse of the word “sneaked.” It seemed to ruin the “flow” of the book – it reads very “awkward.”)
Looking deeper and digging into the heart of the story, personally, I didn’t think this novel captured the essence of Christianity. It was interesting to have Ridley and Olivia attend the church with Uncle Bob and the rest of the house servants but it didn’t really make me “feel” their conversation. Everything leading up to the final reconciliation was all about its historical surroundings rather the spiritual needs of the characters. To my surprise, the character’s personalities – as I alluded to earlier, were developed well, it was just that this is one overlong novel that should have been able to bring more substance to the lives of these characters. Any historical lover will be in for an exquisitely written piece of historical fiction; when it comes down to it, I’d bet any aficionado of the period would be hard pressed to find a better prose!
Synopsis: Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a man shot as a traitor to the South, is shunned by proper society and gratefully accepts an invitation from “Aunt” Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation. Expecting to be the Harding’s head housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned when she learns the real reason Elizabeth’s husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming. Not finding the safe haven she expects, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a Southern man who seems anything but a Southern gentleman.
Branded a traitor by some, Ridley Cooper, a Southern son who chose to fight for the Union, is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him. Determined to learn “the gift” that Belle Meade’s head horse trainer and former slave, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley harbors secrets that threaten both their lives.
Coming Next from Tamera Alexander: Eleanor Braddock, a spinster at 30, has long since dismissed any hope of marriage. But when a dying soldier whispers his final words, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. But this compassionate deed takes a harsh turn, and Eleanor finds herself dependent upon the richest woman in America and the most despised woman in Nashville–her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, mistress of Belmont Mansion. A clandestine act of kindness leads Eleanor to an unlikely path for her life–building an orphanage, a place that will house widows and orphans from the Civil War. And while Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve.
Marcus von Quint, Archduke of the House of Habsburg and second in line to the Austrian throne, arrives in Nashville in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Collaborating with botanist Luther Burbank, Marcus seeks to combine his own passion for nature with his expertise in architecture. But his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the orphanage run contrary to the wishes of practical, frugal Eleanor, who sees his ideas as costly nonsense.
Yet as the construction project continues, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expected. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor to marry, and even if he were, someone who knows Marcus’s secrets is about to reveal them all.