Bethany House Publishers
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 his 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.
This is the second book of Tamera Alexander's that I've read-- the first being A Lasting Impression, the first book in the Belmont Mansion series. Actually, it was my sister who first read A Lasting Impression, and since she liked it I decided to read it too. I didn't really care for it, and I found it kind of slow and boring. The story didn't interest me either, and the romance really annoyed me. That's why I was a bit hesitant to request this book, but I decided to give it a chance. And plus, the cover is just so gorgeous I couldn't resist.
From the very beginning, I found A Beauty So Rare to be much the same as the first book in the series. It started out really slow for me, and I just wasn't drawn into the story. (I also found that the book descriptions I had read were somewhat misleading.) The plot in general reminded me a lot of A Lasting Impression, and in fact the it was altogether so much like it that I got the distinct impression that maybe Tamera Alexander has some sort of checklist she uses when writing her novels.
Eleanor, the heroine, is a likable character, although she didn't really strike a chord with me. She is very practical (with absolutely no nonsense about her), but she was just too practical for me to really identify with her. She doesn't care about flowers, people. However, I admired her compassion for the widows and children and her strength when it came to her father's deteriorating condition (which was also one aspect of the story that I thought was well done).
The romance-- and the relationship in general-- between Eleanor and Marcus is really what annoyed me the most. From what I've read (and from what I've been told), Tamera Alexander's couples are always so...so...playful. They're constantly teasing each other and trying to make the other laugh, which is alright, but the sarcasm and the never-ending persistence gets tiresome. And besides that, the relationship seems to always be the same: they meet, the sparks fly, they can't wait to see each other again. They're constantly thinking about each other, and thinking about how they shouldn't be thinking about each other, telling themselves how it's foolish to hope and they can never have each other. It's so predictable that it's boring. And not only that, but the author will never let us forget how handsome the man is. Every other page we need to be reminded in detail of how muscular his arms are, how his hair falls into his face all the time, how blue his eyes are, and how just downright "absurdly handsome" he is.
However, I didn't completely dislike this book. While it didn't really capture my interest, there were parts of it that I enjoyed, such as when Eleanor goes to the Nashville Women's League headquarters for the first time. I also liked the parts when Marcus went to visit Eleanor's father, and I thought it was very touching when he introduced Eleanor to her father as "Ellie". Okay, and the proposal scene on the roof of the Home was pretty romantic. But most of the romance was just so....sappy, for lack of a better word. Especially with repeated exclamations of "Oh, this woman..." and "Oh, this man...", the first of which was also verbatim from A Lasting Impression.
While I don't personally care for her writing, Tamera Alexander does write a good book. There wasn't a whole lot of historical detail in this book-- since it was mostly a romance-- but what there was seemed to be very well researched, and I was happy that Dorthea Dix made a little appearance. I think the main reason why I didn't care for this book was because it is solely a romance. I enjoy romance in novels, but I prefer when it isn't the sole focus of the story, because then it tends to be overdone and sometimes tiresome. Especially when it's thwarted love.
So in short, this is a well-written historical romance novel, it's just not my style. It's also very long and quite descriptive, so it can get rather boring at times-- especially if you don't have a lot of patience with thwarted love-- but I've also read some really rave reviews of it, so if you enjoy a good historical romance, you might like A Beauty So Rare.
My rating: 5 out of 10
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.