Monday, May 18, 2015
To Win Her Favor - A Book Review
An Irish-born son 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 start a farm, 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 annual Drayton Stakes at Nashville’s racetrack––the richest race 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.
Prior to reading this book, I was unfamiliar with Tamera Alexander and any of the her past writings so this book turned out to be a great introduction to her writing style for me. I found this book to be a very immersive trip into 1869's Nashville, a time of hardship for the Southern Aristocracy who found themselves losing the life they had always known and where previous slaves fought to fit into a society who did not want them and refused to accept them as equals, much less human. It's also the story of the racism directed towards the Irish immigrants who risked their lives to come to this country, looking for a fresh start but finding a less then warm welcome once they were here.
Mrs Alexander weaves so many details into her writing that one cannot help but to live through the heartbreak and grief that these characters go through. The reader builds a close attachment to her characters and feels invested in their lives, even right down to the dog, Bucket. Cullen and Maggie are not your perfect characters, both have their faults which make them more believable. Together they face many difficult situations, from the hatred that Cullen faced due to his Irish heritage to racial tension from the world around them.
This is a story of loss, mistakes, redemption and being found on various levels. Mrs Alexander brilliantly guides the reader through the layers of each character's journey from loss to triumph. This is also a story of breaking through the walls of stereotypes and gender boundaries; where a woman can train a prize winning Thoroughbred mare and shatter misconceptions regarding the "lesser sex" in a man's world.
I did find some discomfort in the repetitive use of the word "n*gger" but I do understand that in the terms of the time frame this book takes place, these would have been words typically used and accepted in those days. It's a very harsh wake up call to the unfortunate realities of that time and serve to show how far we have come with today's society.
Some other reviews I have read in regards to this book mentions that this book is too intimate, that there are very descriptive bedroom scenes that take place. I did not find this to be true - there are moments of intimacy between the two characters (who are married) but there are no descriptions of sexual acts. The characters kiss, they hold hands, they occasional hold each other when they need support and they do look longing at each other from time to time, all things perfectly healthy and normal in any marriage. While yes, there are moments of intimacy between a husband and a wife far beyond what you would find in a children's book, I promise you that you will find much more detailed descriptions of intimacy in the Bible, such as in the Song of Solomon.
Overall I found this to be a wonderful book and I am glad I had the opportunity to read it.
*I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review, which I gave. My opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced in any way*