A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.
An Irishman far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and begin farming, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.
Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance–and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder–Maggie’s father, aging, yet wily as ever, makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail–Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.
I love Tamera Alexander’s novels. She’s just an absolutely fantastic author. But lately I felt like her past three novels were quite similar. I was worried that this one would be equally so. It was not and I fell just a little bit more in love with her books. Here’s why:
What I liked:
She’s stays true to the times. All of her characters are characters of their time and places. This often makes Maggie, (her heroine) slightly frustrating, but you can’t get mad at her. She’s a result of the circumstances of her time.
Cullen. I loved him from the first page. He’s an Irish man living in a place and time where it’s quite unpopular to be so. And yet, he doesn’t let that dictate to him how he is going to live his life.
The romance. I loved it. I hope its not spoilery to say that this novel is a marriage of convenience novel, but one of the best ones I’ve ever read. I feel like you really got a good look at marriage and how they worked together to make things work and still fell in love. Things got a little steamy for the CBA market and I loved every minute of it.
Social issues. Ms. Alexander tackles the social issue of prejudice head on. And she does it in such a way that’s believable and understandable on both sides of the coin.
Spiritually, the novel wrestles serious topics: trusting a God that often allows bad things to happen, being bold in a time where boldness might get you punished, not allowing fear to dictate your future. Great themes.
What I didn’t like:
I’m not terribly fond of people who hold secrets and Maggie and Cullen both hold secrets, but I will say that lack of communication does not end up really being a problem in this book.
Romantic scale: 9.5
Overall, I loved this book. Quite honestly, I want to pick it up and read it again.