Synopsis from goodreads.com
Eleanor Braddock, a spinster--plain, practical, no stunning Southern beauty--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 a home for destitute widows and children from the Civil War. And while Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve.
Gerhard Marcus Gottfried, Archduke of the House of Habsburg and fourth 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 widow's and children's home 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.
I adore this heroine! Eleanor has such compassion for others, and it is shown in several ways throughout the book. I really felt for her when she struggled with making difficult decisions and dealing with difficult people. Even while enduring trials she is a pleasure to read since she adapts well, has a sense of humor, and is just an all-around friendly person... unless annoyed by a certain under-gardener :)
Marcus is described as an Adonis, but that's not what endears his character- it's his integrity, passion for his work, and his ability to see the beauty in Eleanor. I love that their relationship has a foundation in friendship. They have wonderful rapport together as well as romantic chemistry.
Another vibrant element to the book is the setting. We meet Eleanor as she is serving as a volunteer in a surgical tent for the South during the Civil War. It gives us an instant understanding of her strength and compassion. The majority of the novel takes place after the war has ended, and the relationships Eleanor builds with the widows and children show a side to Reconstruction that is more personal. I've never read a book set in Nashville, but the author succeeded in sharing the historic feel and atmosphere of the Belmont mansion, its conservatory and grounds, as well as the less affluent parts of the city. Initially the meticulous descriptions slowed the pace of the novel, but with the environment well-established the world the characters interacted in was easier to imagine.
There are several different facets to the plot which weave together seamlessly as the story progresses and wrap together nicely in the end. I don't want to give anything away, but the story became so compelling in the second half of the book that I stayed up until 2 am to finish it! A very satisfying read.
(ARC provided via Netgalley for unbiased review)Extras
- Enter the giveaway for A Beauty So Rare!
- Check out the website for author Tamera Alexander
- The author's Pinterest board for A Beauty So Rare
- View the book trailer
- Read an excerpt from the book
- View the lovely interview with the author about the inspiration for the book
- The first book in the series is A Lasting Impression, and the characters make a few cameos in A Beauty So Rare :)