Tennessee

To Wager Her heart by Tamara Alexander



MY REVIEW:

I have enjoyed every book I’ve read by Tamara Alexander so I always look forward to her latest offering. If asked which is my favorite, I would probably say, “the one I just read”. That would be an absolutely true statement about “To Wager Her Heart”, the final Belle Meade Plantation novel.

As a fellow Tennessean, I love that this author has chosen to write about Nashville’s history. Although I am from west Tennessee, I have visited Nashville several times and find its history quite interesting. It is so gratifying to find myself in the middle of a engrossing novel only to realize how much true history is woven so seamlessly into its plot. I do love learning this way.

With strong primary characters who were easy to admire, an intriguing plot, a bit of mystery, a touch of romance, and a huge dose of Nashville history, this book keep me reading until the wee hours. I particularly liked reading about the history of Fisk University and its Jubilee Singers. A compelling message of faith is deftly incorporated throughout the story without being overbearing. It was encouraging to read about how prayers were answered even during the most seemingly hopeless situations.

I could go on but I fear I might reveal too much. Needless to say, I highly recommend “To Wager Her Heart” for all who love historical fiction. In my opinion, this is a must read.

I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book provided by Amazon Vine. A favorable review was not required. All views expressed are my own.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.

Seeking justice . . .

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. 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 broken her heart.

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.

Set against the real history of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in American history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mandy Whitley Photography

Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers in the historical fiction genre. She and her husband live in Nashville, Tennessee, not far from the Southern mansions that serve as the backdrop for six of her award-winning novels. For more about Tamera’s books, visit www.TameraAlexander.com

 

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What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis

What Happened on Beale Street



MY REVIEW:

As a lifelong Southern girl who enjoys romantic suspense, I am loving Mary Ellis’ Secrets of the South Mysteries. Even better is the fact that “What Happened on Beale Street” mostly takes place in Memphis, the city with which I am most familiar. I have visited many of the places in this book so it was an especially fun read for me.

I can say that Mary Ellis can definitely construct a mystery that is difficult for me to solve ahead of time. She can really drop some red herrings and take her readers through some convoluted twists and turns along the way. The story has just the right blend of suspense, romance, and humor with a subtle touch of faith. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments that helped to ease the tension at just the right times. I loved meeting new characters as well as catching up with those from earlier books in the series.

If you are a fan of Southern mysteries, or just a mystery fan, I can almost guarantee you will love “What Happened on Beale Street”. Be sure to pick up a copy soon.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

What Happened on Beale Street is an exciting addition to the Secrets of the South Mysteries from bestselling author Mary Ellis. These standalone, complex crime dramas follow a private investigator’s quest to make the world a better place…solving one case at a time.

A cryptic plea for help from a childhood friend sends cousins Nate and Nicki Price from New Orleans to Memphis, the home of scrumptious barbecue and soulful blues music. When they arrive at Danny Andre’s last known address, they discover signs of a struggle and a lifestyle not in keeping with the former choirboy they fondly remember.

Danny’s sister, Isabelle, reluctantly accepts their help. She and Nate aren’t on the best of terms due to a complicated past, yet they will have to get beyond that if they want to save Danny.

On top of Danny’s alarming disappearance and his troubled relationship with Isabelle, Nate also has to rein in his favorite cousin’s overzealousness as a new and eager PI. Confronted with a possible murder, mystery, and mayhem in the land of the Delta blues, Nate must rely on his faith and investigative experience to keep one or more of them from getting killed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mary EllisMary Ellis is the bestselling author of many books, including A Widow’s Hope, An Amish Family Reunion, and Living in Harmony. She and her husband live in central Ohio, where they try to live a simpler style of life.

www.maryellis.net

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To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

To Win Her Favor



MY REVIEW:

 Once again Tamera Alexander has captured my attention and my heart with her latest novel. Not only does she include rich historical detail but she makes that history come to life through her characters.

“To Win Her Favor” is a touching and heart-wrenching story that takes place in Nashville, Tennessee following the Civil War. Slaves have been set free but life is no better and possibly worse for them and their former masters. Emotions are running high among the defeated southerners and prejudice against the former slaves and the Irish has developed into escalating violence. In the midst of this turmoil, Maggie Linden marries Irishman Cullen McGrath in one final act of desperation in order to save her family property.

Both the character and plot development were extremely well done and realistically portrayed. I loved the way primary characters were shown with all their spots and wrinkles and allowed to mature and change their outlook on different issues during the course of the book. I also liked the way the relationship between Maggie and Cullen developed naturally and did not seem to be at all rushed. Cullen was a great hero with his courage and compassion as well as his willingness to sacrifice for those he cared about. Maggie was just a bit irritating at the beginning but grew into a loving and compassionate person as well.

 With a conclusion that was both expected and surprising, I closed the covers with satisfaction. Although part of a series, “To Win Her Favor” easily stands on its own merit. I highly recommend it.

This book was provided for review by LitFuse Publicity.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

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.

Learn more and purchase a copy at Tamera’s site.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tamera AlexanderTamera Alexander is a best-selling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose resonate with readers. Having lived in Colorado for seventeen years, she and her husband now make their home in Nashville Tennessee, along with their two adult children who live near by. And don’t forget Jack, their precious–and precocious–silky terrier.

Find out more about Tamera at http://tameraalexander.com/.



Tamera Alexander’s To Win Her Favor Blog Tour and Kindle Giveaway

Can Maggie prove that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America? Find out in Tamera Alexander’s To Win Her Favor. 

To give her that chance—and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder—Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Celebrate the release of To Win Her Favor with a Kindle Fire and book giveaway!

to win her favor - 400

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
  • A copy of To Win Her Favor

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 10th. Winner will be announced May 11th on Tamera’s blog. Plus stay tuned for more opportunities to win after May 11 with a special Pinterest contest—more details coming soon! to win her favor - enterbanner

{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

Heart of Mercy by Sharlene MacLaren

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award winning romance author, Sharlene MacLaren has released 13 novels since embarking on a writing career in 2007. After a career teaching second grade “Shar” says she asked God for a new mission “that would bring her as great a sense of purpose” as she’d felt teaching and raising her children. She tried her hand at inspirational romance, releasing Through Every Storm to critical and popular acclaim in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. She quickly became the top selling fiction author for Whitaker House, has accumulated multiple awards, and endeared herself to readers who can’t get enough of her long, luscious and often quirky tales – both historical and contemporary. Her novels include the contemporary romances Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; and three historical series including Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma); The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann) and River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret).

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Mercy Evans has known a great deal of heartache and hardship in her 26 years. She lost her mother at a young age and was only 16 when her father was killed in a brawl sparked by a feud with the Connors family that spans several generations. When a house fire claims the lives of her two best friends, Mercy is devastated, but finds comfort in caring for their two sons, who survived thanks to a heroic rescue by Sam Connors, blacksmith in the small town of Paris, Tennessee. Yet the judge is determined to grant custody only if Mercy is married. Mercy loves the boys as her own, and she’ll go to any lengths to keep them—but what if that means marrying the son of the man who killed her father? Set in the 1880’s, Heart of Mercy is the first book in MacLaren’s new Tennessee Dreams series.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Series: Tennessee Dreams (Book 1)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749632
ISBN-13: 978-1603749633

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1890
Paris, Tennessee
“Fire!”
The single word had the power to force a body to drop his knees and call out to his Maker for leniency. But most took time for neither, instead racing to the scene of terror with the bucket they kept stored close to the door, and joining the contingent of citizens determined to battle the flames of death and destruction. Such was the case tonight when, washing the dinner dishes in the kitchen sink, Mercy Evans heard the dreaded screams coming from all directions, even began to smell the sickening fumes of blazing timber seeping through her open windows. She ran through her house and burst through the screen door onto the front porch.
“Where’s the fire?” she shouted at the people running up Wood Street carrying buckets of water.
Without so much as a glance at her, one man hollered on the run, “Looks to be the Watson place over on Caldwell.”
Her heart thudded to a shattering halt. God, no! “Surely, you don’t mean Herb and Millie Watson!”
Mercy Evans and Millie Watson, formerly Gifford, had been fast friends at school and had stuck together like glue in the dimmest of circumstances, as well as the sweetest. Millie had walked with Mercy through the loss of both her parents, and Mercy had watched Millie fall wildly in love with Herb Watson in the twelfth grade. She’d been the maid of honor in their wedding the following summer.
But her voice was lost to the footsteps thundering past. Whirling on her heel, she ran back inside, hurried to extinguish all but one kerosene lamp, snatched her wrap from its hook by the door, and darted back outside and up the rutted street toward her best friends’ home, dodging horses and a stampede of citizens. “Lord, please don’t let it be,” she pleaded aloud.
“Oh, God, keep them safe. Jesus, Jesus….” But her cries vanished in the scramble of bodies crowding her off the street as several made the turn onto Caldwell in their quest to reach the flaming house, which already looked beyond saving.
Tongues of fire shot like dragons’ breath out windows and up through a hole in the roof. Like hungry serpents, flames lapped up the sides of the house, eating walls and shattering panes, while men heaved their pathetic little buckets of water at the volcanic monster.
“Back off, everybody. Step back!” ordered Sheriff Phil Marshall. He and a couple of deputies on horseback spread their arms wide at the crowd, trying to push them to safety.
Ignoring his orders, Mercy pressed through the gathering mob until the heat so overwhelmed her that she had no choice but to stop. Besides, a giant arm reached out and stopped her progress. She shook it off. “Where are they?” she gasped, breathless. “Where’s the family?”
The sheriff moved his bald head from side to side, his sad, defeated eyes telling the story. “Don’t know, Miss Evans. No one’s seen ’em yet. We been scourin’ the crowd”—he gave another shake of the head—“and it don’t appear anybody got out of that inferno.”
“That can’t be.” A sob caught at the back of her throat and choked her next words. “They were at my place earlier. I made supper.”
“Sorry, miss.”
“Someone’s comin’ out!” A man’s ear-splitting shout rose above the crowd.
Dense smoke enveloped a large figure emerging—staggering rather like a drunkard—from the open door and onto the porch, his arms full with two wriggling bundles wrapped in blankets and
screaming in terror. Mercy sucked in a cavernous breath and held it till weakness overtook her and she forced herself to let it out. Could it be? Had little John Roy and Joseph survived the fire thanks to this man?
“Who is it?” someone asked.
All stood in rapt silence as he passed through the cloud of smoke. “Looks to be Sam Connors, the blacksmith,” said the sheriff, scratching his head and stepping forward.
“Sure ’nough is,” someone confirmed.
Mercy stared in wonder as the man, looking dazed and almost ethereal, strode down the steps, then wavered and stumbled before falling flat on his face in a heap of dust and bringing the howling bundles with him.
Excited chatter erupted as Mercy and several others ran to their aid. Mercy yanked the blankets off the boys and heaved a sigh of relief to find them both alert and apparently unharmed, albeit still screeching louder than a couple of banshees. Through their avalanche of tears, they recognized her, and they hurled themselves into her arms, knocking her backward, so that she wound up on her back perpendicular to Mr. Connors, with both of the boys lying prone across her body. In all the chaos, she felt a hand grasp her arm and help her up to a sitting position.
“Come on, Miz. You bes’ git yo’self an’ them chillin’s out of the way o’ them flames fo’ you all gets burned.” She had the presence of mind to look up at Solomon Turner, a former slave now in the employ of Mrs. Iris Brockwell, a prominent Paris citizen who’d donated a good deal of money to the hospital fund.
Mercy took the man’s callused hand and allowed him to help her to a standing state. By the lines etched in his face from years of hard work in the sweltering sun, Mercy figured he had to be in his seventies, yet he lifted her with no apparent effort. “Thank you, Mr. Turner.”
Five-year-old John Roy stretched his arms upward, pleading with wet eyes to be held, while Joseph, six, took a fistful of her skirt and clung with all his might. “Come,” she said, hoisting John Roy up into her arms. “We best do as Mr. Turner says, honey. Follow me.”
“But…Mama and Papa….” Joseph turned and gave his perishing house a long perusal, tears still spilling down his face. John Roy buried his wrenching sobs in Mercy’s shoulder, and it was all she could do to keep from bolting into the house herself to search for Herb and Millie, even though she knew she’d never come out alive. If the fire and smoke didn’t kill her, the heat would. Besides, before her eyes, the flames had devoured the very sides of the house, leaving a skeletal frame with a staircase only somewhat intact and a freestanding brick fireplace looking like a graveyard monument. Her heart throbbed in her chest and thundered in her ears, and she wanted to scream, but the ever-thickening smoke and acrid fumes burned to the bottom of her lungs.
With her free hand, she hugged Joseph close to her. “I know, sweetheart, and I’m so, so sorry.” Her words drowned in her own sobs as the truth slammed against her. Millie and Herb, her most loyal friends. Gone.
Sheriff Marshall and his deputies ordered the crowd to move away from the blazing house, so she forced herself to obey, dragging a reluctant Joseph with her. At the same time, she observed three men carrying a yet unconscious Sam Connors across the street to a grassy patch of ground. Several others gathered around, trying to decide what sort of care he needed. Of course, he required medical attention, but Mercy felt too weak and dizzy to tend to him. Best to let the men put him on a cart and drive him over to Doc Trumble’s. Besides, she highly doubted he’d welcome her help. He was a Connors, after all, and she an Evans—two families who had been fighting since as far back as anyone could remember.
She’d heard only bits and pieces of how the feud had started, with a dispute between Cornelius Evans, Mercy’s grandfather, and Eustace Connors over property lines and livestock grazing in the early 1830s. There had been numerous thefts of horses and cattle, and incidents of barn burnings, committed by both families, until a judge had stepped in and defined the property lines—in favor of Eustace Connors. Mercy’s grandfather had gotten so agitated over the matter that his heart had given out. Mercy’s grandmother, Margaret, had blamed the Connors family, fueling the feud by passing her hatred for the entire clan on to her own children, and so the next generation had carried the grudge, mostly forgetting its origins but not the bad blood. The animosity had reached a peak six years ago, when Ernest Connors had killed Oscar Evans—Mercy’s father.
“That man’s a angel,” Joseph mumbled into her skirts.
“What, honey?”
“John Roy was wailin’ real loud, ’cause he saw somethin’ orange comin’ from upstairs, so he got in bed with me, and after a while that angel man comed in and took us out of ar’ bed.”
She set John Roy on the ground, then got down on her knees to meet Joseph’s eyes straight on. His were still red, his cheeks blotchy. She thought very carefully about her next words. “Where were your parents?”
Joseph sniffed. “They tucked us in and went upstairs to their bedroom. John Roy an’ me talked a long time about scary monsters an’ stuff, but then, after a while, he went to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I got up t’ get a drink o’ water, and that’s when I heard a noise upstairs. I looked around the corner, and I seed a big round ball o’ orange up there, and smoke comin’ out of it, and I thought it was a dragon come to eat us up. I runned back and jumped in bed with Joseph and tol’ him a mean monster was comin’ t’ get us, and I started cryin’ real loud.”
John Roy picked up the story from there. “And so we waited and waited for the monster to come after us, but instead the angel saved us. I think Mama and Papa is prolly still sleepin’. Do you think they waked up yet?”
Mercy’s throat burned as powerfully as if she’d swallowed a tablespoonful of acid. Her own eyes begged to cut loose a river of tears, but she warded them off with a shake of her head while gathering both boys tightly to her. “No, darlings, I don’t believe they woke up in bed. I believe with all my heart they awoke in heaven and are right now asking Jesus to keep you safe.”
“And so Jesus tol’ that angel to come in the house and get us?” Joseph pointed a shaky finger at Sam Connors. The big fellow lay motionless on his back, with several men bent over him, calling his name and fanning his face.
Mercy smiled. “He’s not an angel, my sweet, but that’s not to say that God didn’t have something to do with sending him in to rescue you.”
“Is he gonna die, like Mama and Papa?” John Roy asked between frantic sobs.
“Oh, honey, I don’t know.”
She overheard Lyle Phelps suggest they take him over to Doc Trumble’s house, but then Harold Crew said he’d spotted the doctor about an hour ago, driving out to the DeLass farm to deliver baby number seven.
A few sets of eyes glanced around until they landed on Mercy. She knew what folks were thinking. She worked for Doc Trumble, she had more medical training and experience than the average person, and her house was closest to the scene. But their gazes also indicated they understood the awkwardness of the situation, considering the ongoing feud between the two families. Although the idea of caring for him didn’t appeal, she’d taken an oath to always do her best to preserve life. Besides, the Lord commanded her to love her neighbor as herself, making it a sin to walk away from someone in need, regardless of his family name.
She dropped her shoulders, even as the boys snuggled close. “Put him on a cart and take him to my place,” she stated.
As if relieved that his care would fall to someone other than themselves, several men hurried to pick him up and carried him to Harold Crew’s nearby buggy.
“What about us?” Joseph asked.
The sheriff stepped forward and made a quick study of each boy. “You can stay out at my sister’s farm. She won’t mind adding a couple o’ more young’uns to her brood.”
Joseph burst into loud howls upon the sheriff’s announcement. Mercy hugged him and John Roy possessively. “Their parents were my closest friends, Sheriff Marshall. I’d like to assume their care.”
He frowned and scratched the back of his head. “Don’t know as that’s the best solution, you bein’ unwed an’ all.”
“That should have no bearing whatever on where they go. Their parents were my closest friends. They’re coming home with me.” She took both boys by the hands, turned, and led them back down Caldwell Street, away from the still-smoldering house and the sheriff’s disapproving gaze. Overhead, black smoke filled the skies, obliterating any hope of the night’s first stars or the crescent moon making an appearance.

 

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MY REVIEW:

As a lifelong Tennessean I was excited to read a historical novel about my part of the country. Although I live close to one hundred miles from Paris, I have been to the area on several occasions. Although I found few specific details about Paris and the fact that Heart of Mercy could probably have taken place in almost any small town during that time period, I nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the book.

With a plot centered around a long-standing family feud between the Connors and Evans families, the reader is reminded of both the Hatfields and McCoys and Romeo and Juliet. Fortunately Heart of Mercy does have a much more positive outcome. A marriage of convenience between Mercy Evans and Samuel Connors for the purpose of providing a home for two orphaned brothers stirs the flames of the feud once again. Samuel’s mother in particular is not at all happy and her actions contributed to the problems. Mercy and Samuel’s marriage has the potential to bring the warring families together but is it too late for that? Old secrets are revealed that shock both families. Only the Lord can make things right again.

Both Mercy and Samuel are strong characters who mature spiritually during the course of the book. Mercy truly lived up to her name and Samuel proved himself over and over. I loved how things turned out for Samuel’s mother who easily tied for the most unlikeable character in this story. Heart of Mercy is not only an enjoyable novel but it carries a strong message about mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. I eagerly look forward to the next book in this series.

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‘My Daughter’s Legacy’ Blog Tour, Author Chat Party, and Giveaway
My Daughter's Legacy Mindy Starns Clark Leslie Gould


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