Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander

Heidi Reads... To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked 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 that the truth doesn't tear them apart first.

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. 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 fiancee—and what has broken her heart.

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.

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 stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

My Review

This author's writing style is rich with history and a meandering pace that ensures that readers don't miss a thing. I haven't read many books set during Reconstruction so I appreciated the new perspective of the freedmen and those in the South seeking to help them. Much of the story revolves around the work and issues at Fisk University where Alexandra secures a job teaching men, women, and children. It is at the same time encouraging and daunting, with the endeavor receiving both support and opposition. There is an emphasis on the importance of education and the freedom that knowledge brings- for both Alexandra and her students. On the other end of the spectrum is the development of the railroad lines in the area and the politics and Southern etiquette that influences the business that Sy is pursuing. Although they have little in common, seemingly chance meetings give them the opportunity to help each other and an unlikely friendship develops between Alexandra and Sy. I loved how they interacted- Alexandra's propriety not able to mask her strength and spirit, while Sy is unable to keep from admiring her and bringing light and cheer to her life in small and big ways. The romantic moments they share are so heartfelt and wonderfully written. While the highs and lows of the plot didn't feel particularly compelling or pull strong emotions from me (like the previous book in the series, To Win Her Favor), I was glad that I read this book and would recommend it to fans of historical fiction.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

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