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 American history when both were tenuous and hard-won.
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 the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.
Sylas Rutledge, new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this new 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 through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. But he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra’s fiancé and shattered her world.
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 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?
Sy is willing to risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.
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Final novel in A Belle Meade Plantation series!
To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander is the latest A Belle Meade Plantation Novel. It is August of 1871 in Nashville, Tennessee. Alexandra Jamison is still grieving the loss of her fiancé, David Thompson who died one year prior in a train accident at Dutchman’s curve. Alexandra blames the train engineer, Harrison Kennedy for the incident. Barrett Jamison, Alexandra’s father, is pushing her to marry Horace Buford. Alexandra, though, wishes to do something meaningful with her life. After a disagreement with her father, Alexandra is out walking when she hears singing. It is the Fisk University Jubilee singers giving a concert and after the program there is an appeal for teachers. Alexandra has found what she wants to do, but is she ready for what it will cost her.
Sylas Rutledge has arrived in Nashville to bid on the Belle Meade railroad project and to clear his stepfather, Harrison Kennedy’s name. Sylas is unprepared for Southern society after living in Colorado. He needs someone to help him navigate Nashville society. Sylas feels that Alexandra will be the perfect tutor, but Alexandra is less than willing to pair up with him. But after her father casts her out of his house when she refuses to marry Mr. Buford, Sylas’ offer to pay for her tutoring is answer to her prayers. Over time, Alexandrea grows to respect and start to care for Sylas. Their bond will be tested and Sylas could lose everything.
To Wager Her Heart is nicely written and has a beautiful setting. The romance portion is light and subtle which I appreciated (it was predictable though). The main focus of the book is on Fisk University and the Jubilee singers (the hardship they endured on their journey). Ms. Alexander did a superb job with her research and incorporating it into her story. I like how she incorporated historical figures and events into her narrative. It was interesting to learn about the college as well as the struggles faced by the university, the faculty, and the students. It is a shame this historical tidbit was never included in school curriculum. The author did a remarkable job at capturing the time-period and locale. I did find the pace of the novel to be a little slower than I would have liked, but I have discovered that it is normal in novels rich in historical detail. The Christian element was just heavier than I would have liked (I prefer a lighter touch), but I liked the themes which included the power of prayer and trusting in God. My rating for To Wager Her Heart is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). While To Wager Her Heart is part of a series, it can be a stand-alone novel. It is nice, though, to catch up on the characters from the other books in the series especially Uncle Bob. I am glad that I read To Wager Her Heart. It encouraged me to find out more about the Jubilee singers and Belle Meade.