This post is part of the TLC Book Tour for To Wager Her Heart
~ About the Book ~
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 powerful love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in American history when both were tenuous and hard-won.
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.
Seeking justice . . .
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 fiancé–and has shattered her world.
Struggling to restore honor . . .
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?
Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.
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 the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.
Series: #3 Belle Meade Plantation (Can be read as a stand-alone)
Genre: Historical Romance
Release date: 8 August 2017
~ Excerpt ~
Her mother offered a weak smile. “The world is changing, my dear. I’m not blind. I see that. And you are changing along with it. And while I believe a time is coming when women will have vastly more opportunities open to them, we must all move within the confines of the world in which we currently reside. And you, my dearest, are caught in an . . . in-between time.”
Alexandra searched her mother’s expression and glimpsed a depth of understanding that both surprised and heartened her.
“Granted, you’re not living in my world,” her mother continued, “and yet the world you desire has not yet been fully birthed. I know you have dreams, that you and David had dreams. But the door on those dreams has closed, my dear. And heartbreaking as that is, you must accept it.”
“I do accept it, Mother. Truly. I know that the dreams David and I shared are in the past. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have my own version of those dreams. Women are doing so much more these days than they once did. The war brought so many changes. Women are working in offices and factories now.”
Her mother stared. “So you’re thinking of going to work in an office? Or a factory? And being what? A seamstress in a mill? Alexandra, you’re from one of the finest families in Nashville. As I said, we all must move within the confines of the world we’re in. And that, my dearest, is not your world.”
Alexandra started to object, then thought better of it. “It is well past time, Alexandra, for you to marry, to establish your own home, to have children. And with the war having taken so many of our men”—her mother’s chin trembled—”including our precious Jacob, your choices are greatly narrowed. Even you must agree with me on this . . . A woman can only choose among the options available to her. So consider your decision carefully, dearest. Because despite what happened this evening, Mr. Burford’s designs toward you remain unchanged.” She have Alexandra’s hand a tight squeeze. “And though I consider you the finest and loveliest daughter I could ever have requested from the Lord, none of us is guaranteed a second chance. You have been given one, my dear. Take it. While there’s still time.”
Her mother rose, pressed a kiss on the crown of Alexandra’s head, and closed the bedroom door behind her as she left.
Long into the night, Alexandra lay awake weighing her mother’s counsel against the urgings of her heart, all while asking for wisdom from above and listening for the slightest whisper in her heart from the Lord.
Or even . . . from David, if heaven allowed such things.
Sleeping little, she rose long before the sun with fresh conviction, knowing without question what she had to do. Gone were the years of acquiescence and blind obedience. The time had come for her to choose her own path. And she was going to do it.
No matter the cost.
~ Review ~
The thing that keeps drawing me back to Tamera Alexander’s novels is the way they effortlessly transport me to a different time and place. With some books, you’re on the edge of your seat or somehow compelled to read faster than you really want to (because you’re just enjoying it so much, but if you don’t slow down it’s going to be over too soon), but when I pick up one of Tamera Alexander’s novels, I feel like I have the luxury of settling in and enjoying a leisurely journey. Does that make sense to anyone else, or have I just made a complete and utter fool of myself by babbling a load of nonsense?!
Anyway, this final book in the Belle Meade Plantation series was no different, although in this case, the story centred much more around the railroad and Fisk University than it did horses and Belle Meade Plantation. There is quite a gradual development in the friendship between Alexandra and Sy—partly because Alexandra learns of Sy’s connection to the Dutchman’s Curve accident early on, and this sets her against him, and partly because Alexandra’s job at Fisk University plays a very prominent role in the story, and there is groundwork to be laid in the early stages of the story. I didn’t feel as though the story dragged, but I was conscious that Sy and Alexandra weren’t interacting a great deal in the earlier stages of the story. Although there are some great scenes when they do! And it is still a very satisfying romance. 🙂
One of my favourite aspects of the story was the part played by the Jubilee Singers—the choir at Fisk University. As a music lover myself, I shared Alexandra’s appreciation of their music, even though it was only experienced through the medium of words. The choir plays a prominent role in the latter half of the novel, and I marvelled again—and not in a good way—at the incomprehensibility of treating someone differently simply because of the colour of their skin.
Sy and Alexandra each have their own personal struggles to work through, as well. For Sy, it’s the determination to prove his father wasn’t responsible for the Dutchman’s Curve accident, and for Alexandra it’s following her dream to teach in spite of her parents’ extreme opposition. I loved the way Sy and Alexandra both grew through this struggle, and appreciated that the resolution they received wasn’t the proverbial neat little box tied with a bow.
Lovers of historical romance will enjoy the blend of history and fiction (and romance!) as they’re swept away to 1870s Nashville.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ Previous Books in the Series ~
~ About the Author ~
Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers in the historical fiction genre. She and her husband live in Nashville, Tennessee, not far from the Southern mansions that serve as the backdrop for six of her award-winning novels.