"None of us knows what we're fully capable of doing until God leads us to a place where we realize our strength is nothing compared to his. He says to take a step, yet you look out and see nothing but thin air in your path. Yet, he calls you on. And only when you finally trust him and take that step into nothingness do you discover you're standing on solid ground." - Ella Sheppard
(I know it's a long quote, but I love it!)
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.
Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded and nominated for numerous industry-leading honors, including the Christy Award (two-time winner, seven-time finalist), the RITA Award (two-time winner, four-time finalist), the Carol Award, the Maggie Award, the Booksellers Best Award, and Library Journal's top distinction, among others. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband now reside in Nashville, Tennessee, where they live a short distance from Belmont Mansion and Belle Meade Plantation, the setting of Tamera’s two USA Today bestselling Southern series.
My Review: 4.5 stars
I have so many thoughts regarding this book. I almost cried a time or two, and it definitely left me with many things to ponder. It’s one of those stories that has stuck with me, and weeks later, I’m still noticing the impact on my thoughts and reactions. I love that! I so enjoy reading books that challenge my preconceived notions and cause me to stop and think and this one does exactly that.
I always enjoy and appreciate the depth of historical detail in Ms. Alexander’s books. Her writing pulls me in until it seems I’m right there with them, on the road to Belle Meade Plantation, or in the classroom with Alexandra, or riding the train. The story in set in the years following the Civil War and much of it focuses on the discord in the South regarding the teaching of Freedmen and overcoming biases. It’s a very controversial topic, but I thought the author handled it with grace. I may have picked this book up expecting an entertaining story, but I found so much more than that and turned the last page with a challenge set before me. I also appreciated how the story ended. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is so realistic and I liked that it wasn’t an unrealistic “everything works out perfectly” ending. It was real, but also hope-filled.
I so enjoyed getting to know Alexandra and Sylas! Alexandra is kind and caring, determined and brave. Desiring to follow her dreams, she stepped into the unknown and maybe stumbled a few times, but got back up and kept fighting for what she believed in. I loved seeing her character grow and change throughout the story as she learned to look past the color of a person’s skin and see them for who they are. Sylas is also a great character and one that suited Alexandra perfectly. He’s a bit rougher around the edges, but with an integrity that runs deep. I appreciated how he stood for what he valued and didn’t back down, regardless of the cost. He also loves to ruffles Alexandra’s oh, so proper feathers and defy society’s expectations. Both of these people became dear friends over the course of their journey and I was cheering for them as I turned the last page.
The only person I truly disliked was actually George White. I’m not sure whether he’s one of the historical figures found in this story or not, but I found myself frustrated with him often. I realize he’s described as abrupt and determined and he truly wanted what was best for the students, but I personally found him to be overbearing and rather rude. His appearances I could’ve done without, though he definitely didn’t ruin the story.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and stories that leave you with a “hangover” for a few days.
Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by! I hope you enjoyed my review (or at least the quote at the top)! If you'd like to learn more about this book, as always, links are below!
Have a beautiful day!