From USA Today bestselling author Tamera Alexander 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.
Alright friends, I’ve given you teasers twice now regarding the novel A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander, once in the Savory Custard recipe straight from the novel character Eleanor Braddock’s own recipe book, as well as a behind the scenes glimpse at the making of the gorgeous pink dress on the cover.
Now, it’s time for my actual book review, and to be honest, I while I’ll do my best to to tell you exactly how wonderful this novel is, you’ll really want read it yourself and see.
Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war–and still had one to fight.
Plain, practical Eleanor Braddock knows she will never marry, but with a dying soldier’s last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America–and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path–building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.
Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows’ and children’s home run contrary to Eleanor’s wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expects. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.
*************** My Thoughts ***************
Being set in post-civil war Nashville in 1868, it already held a piece of my heart. This is the second in the Belmont series, the first being A Lasting Impression, but serves as a stand alone novel (although I do recommend reading A Lasting Impression, as two of your favorite characters in it make a few surprise appearances in this one).
I’ve had the privilege to tour the Belmont mansion, so I could easily picture the settings in the book. But even if I had not, Mrs. Alexander always crafts a story in which you could easily close your eyes and see the surroundings in your mind, smell the food, touch a rare flower in the Belmont conservatory. Your minds eye can see the hungry young children, and feel the plight of the widows Eleanor Braddock takes upon herself to help, and your heart breaks with her as she watches someone close to her heart slip farther and farther away from this life. You work along side Marcus, and feel his emotions as he strives to become a man that he is proud to be. You even get an idea of what it may have been like to be Adelicia Acklen, when society pressure and status are key in her world, yet still trying to care, love, and support your family and do what you feel is best for them.
Without giving away any spoilers for the novel, there is a certain point in the book that was one of my favorites. Marcus and Eleanor are both being torn with what their heads tell them is right and the direction that their hearts are leading them. Marcus wonders if the Heavenly Father concerns himself with small matters and day to day life, when surely He has bigger and more important things take care of. In a moment, Marcus has a revelation that, just as he is an architect and concerns himself with even the tiniest detail in his plan for a building, so must God concern Himself with every small detail of our lives, which are His beloved creation. With renewed strength and determination, Marcus is able to chose to trust and follow God’s will, even if it’s not what his own heart may be wanting.
I enjoyed the German dialect throughout, and could hear Archduke Marcus Gottfried speaking it with his quick wit and humor. A closer look into what life was like after the war for the women and children left behind after their men had been killed was something I’ve honestly not thought much about until now. The task Eleanor takes upon herself to help them seems daunting, not to mention the opposition she receives from “high society”. As a reader, you also take a look into the world of gardening. Those of us like myself who have a black thumb will be a bit envious of the conservatory at Belmont that Marcus works in, and the beautiful roses he is grafting.
Ah, I could truly go on and on about how lovely this book is. For me, I give it a full five stars! Please take my advice, get a copy of this book and read it. I will become a part of your keeper shelf, or your it’s-so-good-you-have-to-read-it book to loan to friends.
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