Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My Review: To Win Her Favor

I really like this cover.  It is different from the norm and captures the story quite well.  This book reminded me a little bit of the movie Secretariat, the horse racing side of it, I'm sure.  It was very well written and I really enjoyed it. 
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.

About the Author:
Tamera Alexander is the best-selling author of numerous books including A Lasting Impression and The Inheritance. Her richly-drawn characters and thought-provoking plots have earned her devoted readers worldwide. Tamera is a two-time Christy Award winner, two-time RITA winner, and a recipient of the prestigious Library Journal Award. Tamera and her husband recently returned to her Southern roots and now make their home in Nashville. Visit her website at www.tameraalexander.com Facebook: tamera.alexander Twitter: @tameraalexander

My Review: 3.5 stars
Enjoyable take on marriage of convenience. 
This is the second book in Tamera Alexander’s Belle Meade series and I have to confess, I’m quite unsure what to rate it. I’ve only read a few of Tamera’s books and it has been a while, so I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations for this one. I love marriage of convenience stories, so I had high hopes for that side of it, and I can happily say that it definitely met those. Though this is the second book, it does quite well as a standalone. There are a couple tie-ins, but I honestly only noticed them because I had read the first book and skimmed it again before picking up this one.
I think my favorite thing about this book is Tamera’s writing. It isn’t overly lyrical, but still has a few quote-worthy moments. Honestly, I’m not sure I can explain it other than to say that I was drawn in from the very first page. I would attempt to put the book down and would have to focus to pull myself out of the story and back to present day. That alone makes this a great book to me. There are few authors who can so fully absorb my attention.
The characters are another of this book’s strong points. Margaret and Cullen are very well drawn characters and very realistic. I could almost feel their pain, see the stubbornness reflected in their expressions, hear Cullen’s Irish brogue. I loved it! I quickly fell in love with them and really enjoyed following them through this difficult time period, when everything they thought they knew would have to be turned upside down and rearranged. I really enjoyed seeing Margaret learn to look beyond social status, skin color, and nationality to the real person.
Much of this story focuses on prejudice and the issues surrounding the end of the Civil War. It was definitely eye-opening for me. I knew about some of it, of course, but Tamera really brings it to life. She definitely made me stop and think. It broke my heart more than once, thinking about the hate they endured back then, and that some people still must deal with.

Part of the reason I’m struggling so much to choose a rating is because there was something I especially didn’t care for: the romantic or “intimate” side of it. Yes, they are married from practically the beginning, and yes, I did expect some closed door references, but there is a little too much detail for me to be comfortable recommending this to younger readers (under 17). What really surprised me though, when I read over parts of it again, is that there actually isn’t that much detail, but it’s more the wording and the way she wrote it. It feels more intimate, like we’re intruding on something extremely personal and shouldn’t be reading it, if that makes sense.

Ignoring that for a moment, I actually did enjoy the romance aspect. It was pretty believable and I liked the progression throughout the story. They didn’t just wake up one day and decide they were in love. They had to get to know each other and learn to trust one another, first. They also had several obstacles to work through and I appreciated that they had to work toward love, instead of it being portrayed as some ambiguous feeling that shifted like the wind.
Also, I was a bit disappointed in the spiritual side of the story. I found it to be very minor and almost added as an after thought. I would have enjoyed more of a discussion or maybe just answers to the questions the characters raised. As it is, I could definitely suggest this book to a unbeliever and not worry about them becoming offended. The characters pray a couple times and there are references to them reading the Bible. That’s it. More stock seems to be put in Mr. Linden’s opinion than God’s. That bothered me a bit, though Cullen does mention to someone that he’s trying to understand the faith that Mr. Linden so fully embraced.

Negative points aside, I do have to say that I really enjoyed this book. I loved being pulled into a story that challenges the norm and made me think. While I still wouldn’t suggest it for younger teens, if you go into it aware of the more intimate parts, I believe it would be okay. I think a lot of my problem is that I was blindsided by it. It’s definitely not what I had expected, but it doesn’t detract from the overall story that much.
Please note, my opinions are based on an advanced copy and may not be entirely relevant to the final published edition. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

This is one of the reviews with a slightly different style I commented on last week - what did you think?  Like it?  Didn't? Why or why not?  Feedback appreciated!

Thank you so much for reading my review!  I'm going to try to add some variety to what I'm posting on here right now, but it may take me a few weeks.  So until then, thanks for reading my reviews! :)

As this book hasn't released yet, I only have links if you're interested in pre-ordering it.  Sorry, but there aren't any reviews available yet.  It does release May 12th, in case you were wondering.


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