“I’ve walked by this tree countless times, and never once have I stopped to think about what was beneath.” This quote from A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander describes Eleanor Braddock. She is a plain and ordinary woman but under the surface she has an abundance of character. Because of her father’s illness, Eleanor is forced to make some difficult decisions about his care. Destitute she goes to live with her aunt at Belmont Mansion. It is here that she discovers her calling in life and becomes friends with Marcus Gottfried, the archduke of Austria, who is hiding from a past he wants to forget. This book takes place in Nashville, Tennessee in 1868 when the country is still recovering from the effects of the Civil War. There are many likable characters in this book, for instance young Caleb with his mature wisdom and generous heart. Then on the opposite side of the spectrum, there are Mayor Adler and Miss Hightower who were not very endearing and add drama to the narrative.
Ms. Alexander does such a nice job of describing scenes and causing the reader to become emotionally involved in the story. For example, in one of the scenes where Eleanor was interacting with her father the scene was so tender I had tears in my eyes and when she was interacting with Marcus in another scene my pulse quickened along with Eleanor’s. The author also uses metaphors to enhance understanding and give the novel depth. As she did in the scene when Marcus and Eleanor are exploring the tunnel; “ ‘A fascinating thing about plants.” he said, ‘and nature in general, is what can be accomplished given time, and persistence… and I am reminded, yet again, of how strong nature really is.’” Although Marcus’s statement was written to describe the plant life they are observing, it also describes the personalities of Eleanor, Marcus, Naomi, and Caleb. Because although each of them faced significant challenges they persevered and endured in hope, becoming stronger individuals. I also thought the way the relationship between Marcus and Eleanor developed was sweet and entertaining.
As I was nearing the conclusion of the book, I became accepting of the fact that the mystery of the handkerchief might not get solved because I considered it a symbol of courage and a source of comfort for Eleanor. My only criticism of the book is toward the latter part of the novel when Eleanor responds to Marcus’s question. I thought her initial response was inconsistent with the portrayal of her character throughout the preceding section of the story.
I really enjoyed this delightful book and would definitely recommend it for anyone who fancies historical fiction.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.