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 that the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.
Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this 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 his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancee—and what has broken her heart.
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 her 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? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?
Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.
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 history when both were tenuous and hard-won
There are many layers to this story to appreciate. Multifaceted, realistic characters that leap off the page and came to life in my imagination. Rich, historical details that are woven into the story so seamlessly that you may not even realize that you are getting a history lesson. And a beautiful reminder that God never leaves us, even when our fears loom large, He is always there.
Alexandra is a strong independent young woman, who is dealing with the tragic death of her fiance. She has a servant’s heart, and she desires to help educate the freedmen (and women) at Fisk University. Her traditional southern parents are in strong opposition to her dream to teach and insist on an arranged marriage. Following the call that God put on her heart, she leaves her family and embarks on a journey that will change her life. She soon becomes fast friends with Ella Sheppard a teacher at Fisk University and singer with the Jubilee Singing group. Will Alexandra be able to stand on her own without her family support and will she be able to face her greatest fear?
Sylas Rutledge, Sy to his friends is new to the railroad business and determined to build up his railroad and make a name for himself, and earn enough to purchase land in Colorado to start his own ranch. He is also searching out the truth behind the train accident that not only was ruled his father’s fault but took his father’s life.
When his path crosses that of Alexandra’s he finds himself charmed by her independent spirit, and he feels compelled to learn more about her. He doesn’t waste any time talking her into helping smooth out his rough western traits, into southern charm, and agrees to share with her what he finds out about the train accident that also took the life of her fiance.
One of the many interesting historical threads in this story is about Fisk University and the Jubilee Singers. I enjoyed learning about this school and these talented singers, who not only had a strong desire to see their school become successful but more importantly they had a strong faith in God.
In my search online I found a photo of one of the many flyers that announced performances and listed the songs to be performed. This is a flyer for a concert held in Cincinnati, OH in September 1881.
As I’m sure you can surmise from my review, ‘To Wager Her Heart’ is a history loving readers dream come true! Of course, I’m only giving you a small sampling of the wonderful things you will discover in this fantastic story. I do hope that you will rush out to your local book seller and pick up a copy for yourself to read! If you still aren’t sure because you didn’t read the other two books in the Belle Meade series, let me assure you that this is a stand alone novel, you won’t feel lost in the least. However, the other two books are fantastic also.
Visitors to Tamera’s webpage can read the first three chapters of ‘To Wager Her Heart’.
(I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)
“No matter where you are going, God is already there. There is nowhere we can go where He is not already there, holding us in the palm of his hand.”
Philip Bliss was a famous Christian song writer in History. Our hero, Sy meets him on a train and they become good friends. I was interested to know more about Philip Bliss and thus, I did a little searching. To learn more about Philip Bliss (click here)