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by Sandra Ardoin

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.

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Can you ever go wrong with a novel by Tamera Alexander? Did I just hear a resounding “No!”? Well, in my opinion, you’re right. Ms. Alexander has the ability to sweep the reader up and drop her smack-dab in the middle of a compelling and both heart-wrenching and heartwarming story.

In this novel about a determined Irishman and a well-bred southern woman threatened with poverty, the underlying theme of To Win Her Favor is a timely topic—the evils of prejudice, not just against color, but nationality.

Fleeing possible prosecution for a crime committed by his brother, Cullen McGrath loses his wife and daughter on a voyage to America. Over time, he seeks a new life in Tennessee, but faces opposition toward Irish immigrants. Then he meets the down-and-out owner of Linden Downs.

Margaret Linden is on the verge of losing everything after the Civil War devastated southern land owners—her dying father, her homestead, their livelihood, and the incomparable thoroughbred Maggie raised and trained for racing.

Cullen is a totally sigh-worthy hero—strong, protective, loyal, vulnerable at times, and somewhat arrogant. Maggie isn’t the typical southern belle. She’d rather be riding her mare than dancing at a cotillion, is single-minded when it comes to racing the horse, and can generally stand toe-to-toe with Cullen. 

If he thought paying her family’s debt and signing that piece of paper gave him the right to own not only Linden Downs but to dictate her future, she knew a certain Irishman who was going to be very disappointed.

Because she would race Bourbon Belle in the Peyton Stakes come fall. And she would win. She just didn’t yet know quite how.

They fight to keep the farm afloat and their workers safe from hooded maniacs. They also fight one another: Maggie for control over her dream and Cullen to keep her from learning why she can’t have it. (The latter was a bit disappointing for me. It was a big build-up for what came of it.)

I’ll admit, I was taken aback by some of the romantic scenes. The author isn’t one to shy away from serious subjects and treating them in a realistic manner, but the physical details were stronger than normal. So, if you like your novels flavored with romantic spice—on the edge in some instances, but still within the bounds of “clean” fiction—this one should appeal. 

To Win Her Favor is a beautiful story of learning to trust that God listens and has our best interests at heart, that prejudice is practiced in many forms, and that love can catch us by surprise. Bottom line: this is another winner from Tamera Alexander. 

How “spicy” is too spicy for you in Christian fiction? Have you read any that qualify?

Disclosure of Material Connection: This book came to me free from  the publisher, Zondervan, with the hope that I would mention it on this blog. There was no requirement for me to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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