From the back cover:
Plain, practical Eleanor Braddock knows she will never marry, but with a dying soldier’s last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America–and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path–building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.
Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows’ and children’s home run contrary to Eleanor’s wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expects. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.
Tamera Alexander is a powerhouse when it comes to writing inspirational historical fiction. Her attention to historical details, her vivid descriptions, and her heartfelt style of storytelling all cement her as one of my favorite authors. However, I do have to admit that when I received this one in the mail from Bethany House Publishers, my first thought was that it was a massive book I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through!
Eleanor Braddock is a heroine you can’t help but admire. She’s desperate for a purpose in her life, with a capital “P”–and marriage will never be it. She loves her father and wants to care for him, but when his condition deteriorates too much, she must make the difficult decision to put him in an asylum. Still reeling from the after effects of the civil war, Eleanor decides to take her passion for cooking and turn it into a business by opening a cafe, but her Aunt will not hear of it and refuses to invest in Eleanor’s idea. She must learn that sometimes the plans we have for ourselves are not the plans God has for us.
Archduke Marcus Gottfried is hiding from both his past and his future. His love of nature and architecture lead him to Nashville and there, he begins to make a life for himself. One that is not supposed to include Eleanor, but the woman gets under his skin in a way no one else has, and soon he finds himself falling for her. But if he is to have a future with Eleanor, he must reconcile the hurts from his past.
Although I found the first half of the book to be slow moving, once the plans for the widow’s and children’s home really start taking off, so does the story, and at that point, I couldn’t put it down. I loved the way Tamera Alexander pens the difficult, heart-wrenching relationship Eleanor had with her father, as well as the friendships Eleanor cultivates with the widows around town. I also felt Ms. Alexander did an amazing job with the romance between Marcus and Eleanor. Their love story is delicate and graceful and full of beautiful layers.
I’m happy to recommend A BEAUTY SO RARE to those of you who love richly detailed historical novels with heart, hope and faith.