My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Book Description: From the USA Today bestselling author of To Whisper Her Name and A Lasting Impression comes a moving historical novel about a bold young woman drawn to a group of people forgotten by Nashville society--and to the one man with whom she has no business falling in love.
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.
My thoughts: Sometimes a book touches you in many ways. Trying to figure out how to start the review is tough. Usually I only give 5 stars to books that I could not put down, I had to continue to keep reading, even if my house were falling down around me. This wasn't the case with this book, I could put it down and function as a wife and mother. While I was continuing in the activities of my life, this book stayed with me. It was almost as if I were ravenously reading.
The book is about a young, never been married, woman. She is approaching her 30th birthday in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Eleanor's life is crumbling around her. Her father has dementia. This led to the sale of their home and institutionalization for her father. She is taken in by her wealthy and influential aunt, Adelicai Acklen Cheatham.
Eleanor has a plan for her life. She has it figured out. Unfortunately, her plans do not go hand in hand with the plans of the people around her, or with the plan the Lord has for her. One of the themes that I found in the book is that need to be flexible. To take the rocks thrown at you and make something useful and lasting from them. Sometimes the path we end up taking in life has more value than the plan that we had carefully plot for ourselves.
Another theme that I found is the willingness to help others. Eleanor found herself in a situation to do good for the widows and children around her. She made a difference in their lives. She gave succor and enriched them in ways that made a lasting impact. She saw a need and filled the need. The Lord worked through her to help his children. It reminds me that God is always mindful of his children and their needs. Sometimes he inspires others to step up and be His hands.
The mentally ill are a large theme of the book. Two of the main characters, Eleanor and Marcus, are dealing with the aftermath of loved ones who suffer. I am sure that most of us have witnessed the effects of mental illness on friends or family. It can either make or break a person, in this book it made the characters stronger.
The last theme that I want to address is beauty. To look upon Eleanor, most people didn't find her true beauty. The saw the outer layer and didn't bother to look in and see the beauty inside. She was considered plain, but she had such a majesty of character that made her shine.
This book is a gem. It is well written and delivers several powerful messages. There is romance, but I didn't find it the center of the book. It is a great asset to the book. I was pleased with the pacing of the romance. The characters didn't instantly fall in love. It was a process that developed from friendship.
This book has many levels to ponder. I give it a high recommendation. This is the first book of Tamera Alexander's that I have had the pleasure to read. It won't be the last. I will be looking for the opportunity to read her books in the future.
I have the privilege of being involved in a promotional group for this book. There have been a few fun posts in the last couple of weeks. In case you missed them, check them out, one is a yummy recipe from the book! The links to the post are below.
There will be more posts coming for the book. Be sure to watch for them and discover more about the book.