Colors of Truth by Tamera Alexander

Catriona O’Toole emigrates from Ireland with her sister Nora just days before the Battle of Franklin in 1866, looking for her younger brother, Ryan.  An operative in the United States Secret Service Agency, Wade Cunningham is searching for counterfeiters and the evidence is pointing to Catriona.  However, he has trouble believing the clues as he is drawn to Catriona.  Meanwhile, Catriona is focused on finding Ryan, worried that he may be among the mass grave of bodies in the field following on the deadliest battles of the Civil War.

I love how Tamera Alexander takes real history and real places (in this case, the Carnton home) and writes fictional characters that highlight the time period.  Her research is impeccable!  It is easy to be transported to the time period and to visualize the battlefields and smell the gunpowder.  Tamera Alexander brings honor and respect to the history in such a powerful way.  I found myself easily drawn to the characters and their growth throughout the story.  I loved Catriona and her spunky spirit and fierce independence.  I had no trouble connecting with her, her sister, and Wade and becoming invested in their story.  I have truly loved this series and greatly enjoyed this book.  I do not think the series has to be read in order, but the first two books have both been excellent.  I highly recommend this novel!

I received a complimentary ecopy of this book from Netgalley and Thomas Nelson publishing. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander

With This Pledge book cover

Elizabeth Clouston may live in Tennessee, but her loyalties lie with the North during the War Between the States.  However, when the Carnton home at which she lives becomes a Confederate field hospital, she finds herself working alongside a surgeon treating men fighting for the Southern Cause.  She makes a promise to wounded Captain Jones as she is caring for him, earning his respect and perhaps something more.  But Elizabeth is pledged to another and she soon finds her heart struggling to choose.

This novel, true to Tamera Alexander’s form, is rich and deep.  This particular story is interestingly based on real letters.  The characters are told so beautifully that as a reader you cannot help but fall in love with them and begin to feel their joys and their struggles.  It is easy to immerse yourself in the vividly detailed historical setting.  And the spiritual truths are interwoven, relatable, and meaningful.  I really did enjoy this story and cannot wait for more from this skilled storyteller!

I received an e-copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander


Rebekah Carrington has the talent and class of a master violinist but there is one problem—she is a female in 1871 Nashville, Tennessee, where women are considered far too delicate for the rigors of an orchestra. After a tense situation causes Rebekah to leave home, she attempts to audition for the Nashville Philharmonic to earn money, only to discover that the new conductor, Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb, agrees with the public’s opinion of female musicians. Meanwhile, Tate is focused on completing his symphony before a deadline, attempting to concentrate his attention on music despite his father’s health rapidly declining. He is initially frustrated by Rebekah’s tenacity, but then he finds himself drawn to her quiet strength. As Tate and Rebekah are forced to work together on a project, Tate tries to earn Rebekah’s trust despite her animosity towards his traditional views on orchestra players.

It is easy to fall in love with Tamera Alexander’s stories because she crafts such rich depth to her characters. I absolutely adored Rebekah in this novel. She is tenacious, she is resilient, she is strong, she has gumption—she has a quiet strength that allows her to pick up the pieces of her broken past and forge ahead, throwing her entire being into her passion for music despite society’s limitations. I could feel the emotions of the characters in the pages and almost hear the impact of the music among the storyline. I loved the surprising twists in the novel and the realistic hardships that the characters had to overcome. It is difficult to book the book down, as every part of the plot is engaging and fascinating. It is definitely a must read and I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

An Interview with Tamera Alexander about To Win Her Favor!

For those who have already seen my recent review of Tamera’s newest novel, To Win Her Favor (to be released on May 12th), you may already be familiar with her fantastic new release.  But here is a fun interview with the author herself on her ambition behind writing this newest novel.  Enjoy!

Q: To Win Her Favor is the second in your Belle Meade Plantation series. Can you tell us where the story picks up in the series? Is it directly connected to the first book?

Each of the Belle Meade Plantation novels are standalone novels, so each tells a complete story. However, you might just catch a glimpse <wink> of Ridley and Olivia from To Whisper Her Name in To Win Her Favor (releasing May 12, 2015). But Cullen and Maggie’s story definitely takes center stage in To Win Her Favor, the second of three novels in the Belle Meade Plantation series.

Coming in July is a Belle Meade Plantation novella—To Mend a Dream. To Mend a Dream continues the story of a secondary character we meet in To Win Her Favor, Savannah Darby. Savannah is Maggie’s closest friend and while we learn about Savannah’s struggles in To Win Her Favor, the culmination of her story is told in To Mend a Dream, a novella in a Southern novella collection entitled, Among the Fair Magnolias (written with authors Shelley Shepard Gray, Dorothy Love, and Elizabeth Musser).

You are a resident of Nashville, which is a city rich with culture and history. Is this why you chose to set your series there? 

I’ve always had a love of history. Southern history, specifically. Being from Atlanta, I grew up around antebellum homes, so when I was in Nashville on a business trip in 2004 with my daughter, we toured the Belmont Mansion, and I knew then I wanted to someday write about Belmont’s fascinating history (A Lasting Impression and A Beauty So Rare). Likewise, when I learned about Belle Meade’s thoroughbred legacy, the ideas started coming (for To Whisper Her Name and To Win Her Favor). I’m honored to write about these two Nashville estates and their real history. It never gets old for me.

How many times did you visit the actual Belle Meade Plantation while writing this book?

Oh gracious, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been out there (Belle Meade is only 25 minutes from my house). Just two weeks ago, I met a book club of about 30 women at Belle Meade. They were from Alabama, having a girl’s weekend out! After they toured the mansion, we walked down to the old Harding cabin, one of my favorite places at Belle Meade, and where Belle Meade all began. No visit to Belle Meade is complete for me without stopping by that cabin. It has such a presence about it.

I’m grateful to Belle Meade’s director, Alton Kelley (a descendant of the Harding family who owned Belle Meade in the 1800s) and to Jenny Lamb (Belle Meade Educational Director) for opening up the family files, letters, and artifacts to me. I couldn’t write these books with such historical detail about the house, the family members, and the servants without Belle Meade’s assistance.

How much of the novel is based on actual events and how much is from your imagination?

The backdrop of the novel—Nashville’s history, the Belle Meade mansion, outbuildings of the estate, the family members, and most of the servants at Belle Meade—are from history. I often take documented historical events—such as parties, horse races, or catastrophic occurrences—and weave them into the fabric of my stories. Then I intertwine a fictional story that follows the journey of a male and female protagonist within that story world. In To Win Her Favor, that’s Cullen McGrath and Maggie Linden.

The basis for Cullen’s character is founded in the history of Irishmen who came to Nashville in the 1850-70s, and who faced very real prejudice from Nashville residents. Likewise, Maggie’s character was inspired by accounts of women who were formerly landed gentry (from wealthy families who were major land owners) but who lost everything following the war and the changes that conflict brought. The rest of the details are filled in by asking myself the question writers constantly ask themselves, “What if…”

How was this book different from other projects you have worked on?

To Win Her Favor is definitely one of the more passionate stories I’ve written, and I don’t mean that solely in a romantic sense. From the start, this story was simply more evocative because it delves into the intimacies of a marriage of convenience, and also explores prejudice within a marriage—in addition to examining the prejudices between former slave owners and former slaves. Passions run high between the characters in To Win Her Favor. Everyone was learning how to be with each other in that time period, learning where the new boundaries were, where everyone fit.

As I read and researched for To Win Her Favor, I often found my own emotions stirred by real events that occurred in Nashville during Reconstruction. At times, the accounts were repugnant and heartbreaking. Yet at others, they were remarkably soul stirring with fresh whispers of hope.

View vignettes filmed on location at Belle Meade Plantation, the setting of To Whisper Her Name and To Win Her Favor, on the Belle Meade Plantation novels page on Tamera’s website.

To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

Maggie Linden has only one dream: to run her prize thoroughbred Bourbon Belle in a high stakes race, the winner being guaranteed a fat purse and notability among Nashville’s finest. However, financial strain has made horse racing difficult for her and her father, an ailing gentleman whose health is declining rapidly. Desperate to escape a horse racing scandal in England, Irish-born Cullen McGrath arrives in Nashville and desires to purchase a peaceful farm. But Southern prejudices against his people abound in the post-Civil War era, making his task nearly impossible. When he stumbles upon Linden Downs and meets Maggie’s father, however, he finds the kind man’s welcoming nature to be a sweet relief. But Mr. Linden’s daughter is much less receiving. As circumstances thrust them together, it may take all Cullen’s strength to win Maggie’s favor and fulfill their dreams in a country healing from a recent war.

Tamera Alexander is a long-time favorite author of mine because she is able to craft the most wonderful characters and create a truly fantastic depth to their personalities, struggles, and joys. I am able to get to know them and understand them on such a complex level. This novel is no exception! The romance in this particular story is unique as the characters are in a different situation than some of her other books, but this only added a richer dimension to the plot. I loved reading how the characters grew and changed throughout the book. In addition, there is lots of great Nashville history, a few cameo appearances from her other books, and a fantastic plot to round out this delightful book. A highly recommended novel!

I received a copy of this book from Zondervan Publishers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quotes from A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

Picking a favorite quote from a great novel is like choosing a favorite dessert — there are so many to pick from, so many delicious choices, that selecting just one is nearly impossible.  However, the following quote (no spoilers, I promise!) sums up a reoccurring theme from the wonderful novel A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander.

“[Eleanor] paused briefly to finger one of the flowers, and her focus slipped down the stem to the scar marking the place where Marcus had originally grafted the two flowers together.  She knew that, with time, and as the plant grew stronger, the slight imperfection would become less noticeable.  All of the grafted plants bore scars–evidence of the cutting, and also of the healing around it.  But what beauty had come from both.

If you have not picked up a copy of this historical novel yet, do so today!  You will not be disappointed!

Eleanor Braddock’s Savory Custard – right from the pages of A Beauty So Rare!

It’s a delight to share the savory custard (which was more of a quiche) Eleanor Braddock creates in A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander!ABSR2

Eleanor Braddocks Savory Custard

(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

Most people think quiche originated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as “savory custards” in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is “a cook with a dream.” But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or “receipt” as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit


1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)

1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)

8 large eggs

1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)

1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated


Sauté onion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown. QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.


  Eleanor Braddocks Old-Fashioned Pie Crust

(makes two large crusts)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust “freezes beautifully ” as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!


1 ½cups Crisco (or lard)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

5 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt


In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then “unfold” it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

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.