Tamera Alexander continues her Belle Meade Plantation series with “To Wager Her Heart,” a delightful historical fiction novel with just enough history, just enough fiction, and just enough romance.
Twenty-five-year-old Alexandra Jamison hails from one of Nashville’s founding families. With that comes certain expectations — like marrying a much older man whom she doesn’t love. But she wants her life to have more meaning than a socially acceptable arranged marriage.
A year ago Alexandra faced a devastating loss — she was on a deadly train crash that claimed the life of her beloved fiance David, a university professor who strived to help the freedmen advance their lives now that the Civil War is over. Inspired by David, and after hearing a performance by Fisk University’s Jubilee Singers, Alexandra decides to teach for the freedmen’s university — a decision that alienates her from her family.
Sylas Rutledge, a small railroad owner from Colorado, is in town to bid on a Belle Meade railway project. But he is also in town because of the deadly train crash from a year ago — his stepfather was the train engineer blamed for the accident. Sy hopes to clear his father’s name and find the true story behind the train crash.
As Alexandra’s and Sy’s paths continue to bring them together, they begin to develop stronger feelings toward each other. But they also grow deeper in their relationships with their own selves, as well as with God.
“To Wager Her Heart” is a tremendous story of sticking with one’s beliefs, no matter the cost to one’s self — to stand up and fight for what one believes in. It’s a story about pursuing dreams, finding answers and following God’s leading; overcoming fear and the power that we have over it; and having a thirst of knowledge because education means freedom, no matter your station in life. It also reminds us that we each have a purpose and we should strive to fulfill that purpose.
A major theme that runs throughout “To Wager Her Heart” is our dependence on Jesus, and how God provides for our needs. While Alexandra is at Fisk, she becomes close to the group of singers who ultimately become the Jubilee Singers and tour throughout the country. Many times during the story, they sing “Give Me Jesus,” an old Negro spiritual song, reminding us of our need for Jesus at all times: “In the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.” Alexandra learns this message again and again, including when she’s asked to travel with the singers — thus having to get over her fear and ride a train once again.
Even though “To Wager Her Heart” is part of a series, it can easily be read as a standalone novel. Alexander’s latest novel is a great fictional story that circles around real places and real events and real people. For more information on what’s real and what’s not, check out her Web site at www.TameraAlexander.com.
A final amazing quote to wrap up — as a Fisk official says to Alexandra: “There will always be someone who has suffered more — or less — than you. To think the person who has suffered more, in your estimation, is somehow more worthy is just as prideful in nature as thinking that the person who has suffered less, in your estimation, is not quite as holy as you are. … God alone sees our lives from start to finish and ordains what your suffering and mine will be. For he alone sees what we each must endure to become more like his Son and to be made ready for eternity. For though we are all his, we are not all the same.”
Five stars out of five.
Thomas Nelson provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
“To Wager Her Heart” (Belle Meade Plantation series) by Tamera Alexander