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.
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.
Sylas Rutledge, new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this new 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 through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. But he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra’s fiancé and shattered her world.
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 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?
Sy is willing to risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.
I love historical novels that mix fiction with real people and events. I haven’t read the complete Belle Meade series, but I received this book from the Fiction Guild based on my set preferences.
It’s 1871. The Civil War is over and Nashville is slowly rebuilding. Railroads are becoming big business and competition is fierce. It is into this environment that Tamera Alexander has written a wonderful story that tugs at the heartstrings. Here is a tale of wealthy plantation owners and former slaves, and of new ideas and old ways that refuse to die. Alexandra initially meets Sy through her lawyer father, but their paths keep crossing and the inevitable (for this is an historical romance novel) soon happens.
This is a story where fiction meets fact. General Harding was a known Confederate who had a railroad line brought out to his plantation. Fisk University was founded in 1866 and housed in former military barracks, and they did have a group of singers who embarked on a tour to raise funds for the school. One of the more well-known singers, Ella Sheppard, becomes Alexandra’s room-mate in the book. Alexandra does take a few liberties in her writing: the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster mentioned in the book (which has a local connection to where I live in New York) actually took place in 1876, which means she cuts short the life of one famous person featured by some five years. What struck me most about the novel was the racism the singers endured on their tour. While we might expect problems to arise in the south, one scene describes how a hotel in Ohio refused to honor their reservation. It wasn’t the only one to do so and more than one night was passed on a railroad station platform.
To Wager Her Heart is a book that held my attention from start to finish. I loved the simple faith that many of the characters had, “Give me Jesus,” which came from one of the songs the choir sang. Give me Jesus and everything will be all right for He’s all I need.
Thank you to Zondervan and Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of To Wager Her Heart, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read To Wager Her Heart? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Truth or Fiction
Publisher: Zondervan (a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Publication Date: 08 August 2017
Page Count: 384
Read more on: Zondervan’s Website Tamera Alexander’s Website Belle Meade Plantation
Purchase on: Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-a-million Christianbook.com