“To Win Her Favor” by Tamera Alexander

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.

I loved this story.  It has many fantastic elements that keep the plot advancing and deepen the relationships within the story.  It’s unfair to say that it’s simply about horse racing, because that’s just the exciting vehicle that Alexander uses to strengthen the lead characters.  This story is really about loving other people the way that Jesus loves us.  It’s about not seeing superficial things like color or class or station.  It’s about not being bound by society standards and about learning from your mistakes.  It’s about growing spiritually and emotionally as a person and not resting on tradition.  It’s about doing the right thing, even when it’s scary or hard.

And that’s why I liked it.  Maggie, and especially Cullen, are not spiritual lightweights – but they’re not missionaries, either.  They’re regular people who’ve faced battles, overcome them, and have more still coming.  They don’t give up when life is hard, which is often, and they keep their word.  I liked reading the story of their journeys.  I liked rooting for them when they were coming out on top and when they were fighting hard to break the surface of new troubles.  They’re the best kind of underdogs because they have right on their side.

The setting was spectacular.  The beauty of the Old South coupled with the destruction of the war makes for a vivid backdrop, and Alexander describes it in full technicolor – not just with scenic descriptions, but by bringing the attitude and atmosphere of that time to life.  It’s perfect for the story and lessons she wants to share.

If you have any interest at all in historical fiction, read this one.  It’s definitely a top book of the year so far.

I received a free copy of To Win Her Favor from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

What are your thoughts?

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