Tamera Alexander has done it again – spun history, romance, and characters into a story so rich you might be tempted to stick it in a vault for safekeeping. Except read it first. And then don’t stick it in a vault because it’s just a book and people might think you’re crazy.
Her perspective on the history of the time period is captivating and vivid, at times shocking in its reality, but ever full of reminders that for all the evil and heartbreak present in mankind at any given moment there are always remnants of God’s good to shine in the darkness. The romance swirling around this marriage of convenience is at once breathless for both its joys and its sorrows, and the protagonists are as perfectly matched as a wink and a grin. Even if they themselves would argue that point with me a time or two throughout their journey. To Win Her Favor overflows with characters who are too full of life to be held captive to the pages of a story; they weave their way into your heart by the end of the book and feel like dear friends.
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 could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.
An Irishman 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 begin farming, 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 inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever 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.
To Win Her Favor may be my favorite book yet by Tamera Alexander! Yes, because of all the reasons I already mentioned (history, romance, characters) but all of her books have those elements to perfection. She’s such a gifted author that you really can never go wrong with one of her books. What sets To Win Her Favor apart in my opinion is something I’m (happily) starting to see tentatively making its way into the Christian fiction market – reality.
The stark truth of what life looked like post-Civil War for blacks and immigrants in the South.
The sweet truth of what a marriage can be like when two people love each other, desire each other and love God.
In neither of these cases does Ms. Alexander write more than is needed. She tells us just enough about the blatant discrimination and horrific persecution suffered to break our hearts and rile our anger. We see glimpses of Cullen and Maggie as husband and wife but we always zoom away from their bedroom before things get too intimate.
Why is this reality important? I heard author Victoria Bylin say on facebook recently, “If we as Christians don’t address current issues, who will?” Now, granted, she was talking about why she writes contemporary novels but the point remains the same. For too long, Christian authors have shied away from these things to the disservice of their readers, in my opinion. The book world is saturated with romance and any young woman (or not so young) can pick up any given mainstream novel and be inundated with scenes that should make us all blush – scenes that are set in situations outside of a loving marriage relationship centered around God. If we as Christians don’t redeem romance and show young women what it was meant to be like, who will? Tamera Alexander has done this in To Win Her Favor, and she has done it sweetly and brilliantly – and she has preserved the sanctity of marriage and the purity of our minds in the process.
Ok. Off that soapbox 🙂 On to other things! Another reason To Win Her Favor is my favorite book of Tamera Alexander’s is the vivid characters! Especially Kizzie! I can just see her with her hand on her tiny hip, all that sass and spirit set loose in a pint-sized bundle of cute. Mr. Linden stole my heart as well, though the capturing took a bit longer than it did with Kizzy. My heart melted that last little bit over Maggie’s father right about the time Cullen started reading the handwritten notes in Mr. Linden’s Bible. Speaking of Cullen… (you knew this was coming, right?) *dreamy sigh*. That accent. That wink. That flirtatious mischievous side to him. That soft tender side to him. All-in-all, pretty much everything you could possibly want in a romantic hero. And Maggie – I really identified with Maggie. (Except for the horse thing – I’ve never really developed a fondness for them, despite living in horse country for all of my adult life to date.) She’s a daddy’s girl with a fiercely determined nature, firm opinions, and a surprisingly sensitive heart. And while those firm opinions can keep her grounded, they can also do more harm than good at times. This is a lesson I have had to learn as well over time – and it’s one of the main reasons I identified so strongly with Maggie’s character. As Cullen says to her at one point, “…when the world you’re born in is all the world you’ve ever seen, it’s hard to see it for what it really is.” I echo his next sentiment – “Believe me, I know.”
I also loved seeing old friends from previous books as they made cameos in this one. Nods like this from the author to her long-time readers make me smile deep in my heart! Speaking of deep-hearted smiles, I am thrilled to learn that one of the characters whose story touched me most in To Win Her Favor (Savannah Darby) will have her own story in a novella included in Among the Fair Magnolias. This collection of Southern love stories written by best-selling historical authors Tamera Alexander, Shelley Gray, Dorothy Love, and Elizabeth Musser (are you squealing with fangirl excitement yet? or was that sound I heard just me?) is due to be released in July. You can preorder it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD, etc.
Finally, To Win Her Favor touched a chord in me because it takes place during a period in American history that isn’t pretty, and Ms. Alexander does not hesitate to show the raw reality of life for immigrants and blacks after the Civil War. They were called horrible names, they were beaten, they were driven from their homes, they were refused service – all because of their nationality or the color of their skin. This is particularly close to my heart because of my work with people in my city’s international community. Sadly, this kind of treatment toward immigrants still occurs on some levels – and one only has to turn on the news to see that racial unrest is also still alive and well. To Win Her Favor is so timely for our modern lives, despite being written about a period over 100 years in our country’s history.
I give To Win Her Favor 5 out of 5 stars and a place on my favorites list!
Thank you, Netgalley, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
You can read a 3-chapter excerpt from To Win Her Favor here, and you can order your own copy at all the usual places. 🙂
Tamera Alexander is the USA Today bestselling author of numerous books, including A Lasting Impression, A Beauty So Rare, To Whisper Her Name, and From a Distance. Her richly drawn characters and thought-provoking plots have earned her devoted readers worldwide, as well as multiple industry awards.
These awards include two Christy Awards for Excellence in Christian fiction (and seven finalists), two RITA awards for Best Inspirational Romance, three Gayle Wilson Awards of Excellence, two Bookseller’s Best Awards, and being listed among Library Journal’s Top Christian Fiction, among others.
After living in Colorado for seventeen years, Tamera has returned to her Southern roots. She and her husband now make their home in Nashville where they enjoy life with their two adult children who live nearby, and Jack, a precious—and precocious—silky terrier.