The color pink, thirteen strudels, a worn handkerchief, and two stubborn individuals create a most delightful tale.
Eleanor Braddock knows she is plain and her practical sensibilities have convinced her that at age thirty, she will probably never marry. The Civil War has taken away more than eligible men, however, it has also robbed her of her home and her family. Destitute and feeling helpless, she travels to Nashville to stay with her aunt, the formidable Adelicia Acklen Cheatham. She is able to secure a place for her ailing father at a nearby asylum and struggles to find her place in her aunt’s lavish society. Her greatest desire is to open a restaurant, using her cooking talents to serve patrons and hopefully earn her independence. Aunt Adelicia, however, has different plans. She wishes to maintain a promise to Eleanor’s father and see Eleanor properly married, thus forbidding Eleanor from opening her business. A chance meeting and several months later, Eleanor finds herself caring and cooking for destitute widows and children, haunted by memories of the recent war. When the project escalates, she is able to procure assistance from her aunt’s wealthy friends and secure the services of one mysterious architect and botanist, Marcus Gottfried. A deepening friendship with Marcus, however, is not encouraged by Eleanor’s aunt, who intends for her to marry a dull but wealthy widower.
Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come from Austria to Nashville to pursue his own dreams, instead of following the restricting path his father and uncle have laid out for him. He is amused by Adelicia Cheatham’s request for a special pink rose, but the time spent grafting his plants on her estate allows him to develop a friendship with the intriguing Eleanor. Marcus keeps his royal heritage a secret in order to enjoy life as a working man and is thrilled to partner with Eleanor and combine his love of nature with his love of architecture to build a home for the widows and children. As they clash over designs for the new women’s and children’s home, however, he realizes he must make a choice about his impending responsibilities to the crown and his growing love for Eleanor. In addition, both he and Eleanor have secrets that could forever ruin their deepening affection. They must decide between following the demands of others, yielding to the fears that plague them, or freely giving in to their hearts’ desire.
A Beauty So Rare is another treasure by Tamera Alexander! This author does such a wonderful job of choosing the best words to create vivid scenes and dialogues that allow the reader to be transported back into history. Once again, Ms. Alexander researches the setting of this Nashville novel and the very real history of Adelicia Acklen Cheatham incredibly thoroughly. Both Eleanor and Marcus have realistic hardships and flaws but also possess such sweet, caring hearts that cause readers to fall in love with them. Eleanor’s father struggles with dementia, a horrible and very legitimate disease that readers are not only familiar with, but may have had first-hand experience caring for a family member riddled by the same sickness. There are even a few cameo appearances of favorite characters from Ms. Alexander’s previous novels, although this particular book can stand alone. This novel contains enough secrets and mysterious pasts to keep the reader guessing as to the final moments of the story and thus maintain interest in the detailed plot of Eleanor and Marcus. It is always such a joy to read Ms. Alexander’s novels, and this story is no exception, its length allowing the reader to enjoy a plot with significant depth. She has excellent writing style and does not rush the story to its conclusion. A most highly recommended novel and a new favorite!
I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.