Between the Pages: Tamera Alexander’s “A Beauty So Rare”
Since I jumped into the writing world, experts have drilled into our heads that it is just as important for a writer to read as it is for them to write. Well, here’s a look at what I’ve been reading. Let me begin by saying that I am not so self-important that I consider myself an excessively clever person; however, I’m not so dense as to ignore the corn beneath the crepe so to speak. That being said – bravo Madame Alexander. I find myself used to being the one in the movie theater who leans over to tell her companion, “that guy right there, he did it.” I can honestly say, Madame Alexander kept me guessing, and – dare I say it? – surprised me.
I will say that the first of the Belmont Mansion novels, A Lasting Impression, set the stage for the sequel. After falling in love with Sutton and Claire Monroe, I knew a love like theirs would be a tough act to follow. The plot is quite a universal concept – a young woman coming of age, (or coming to an age rather), who has given up on love in a time when marriage was one of the main life achievements for women. Alexander’s heroine, Eleanor Braddock, fits the bill as a strangely familiar combination of Lizzie Bennet and Elinor , who’s practicality and wit are a marriage in the utmost realm of entertainment. It comes as a fresh surprise to see Eleanor going against the grain of post-Civil War Nashville. Upon Eleanor’s arrival in Nashville, she finds that society is much more concerned with frocks and frill as opposed to soup kitchens and equality. Much to her Aunt’s dismay, Eleanor quickly finds a hole in Nashville’s standard of living and seeks to fill it in with her own time and money. In doing so, she endures scathing remarks from the Nashville Women’s League, gains an unwanted suitor, and takes an interest in . . . botany.
Botany? Plants? Yes, dear friends. What a meet cute that makes.
When Eleanor arrives at Belmont, she meets Marcus Geoffrey by mistake. Thinking he is her aunt’s under-gardener, she quickly learns that Marcus is a jack-of-all-trades in that, as we learn later, Marcus Geoffrey is far more than an under-gardener. Both Marcus and Eleanor have secrets that they fight to keep hidden, and know the pain of loss; thus building a foundation for a love that surprises them both.
From a writer’s perspective, my resounding bravo is built on the original descriptions Madame Alexander comes up with. The best of which include Eleanor’s, “smoky brown eyes,” and Marcus’ eyes as, “pieces of blue glass with the sun behind them.” I must say, for a writer, that is the stuff of dreams.
Through the trials put before them both, Marcus and Eleanor both learn to put their faith and trust in the Lord, even when it seems easier or normal to do something different. That universal truth transcends the pages and sticks in my mind. No matter what, we need to remember that everything that happens is all a part of the Lord’s plan. Sometimes we will run into a crossroad with a difficult decision. Don’t forget, he knows what is best for us, and what true happiness looks like for us.
For some, happiness can be reading, and for others happiness can be writing. Tamera Alexander definitely sets the bar for Christian Romance writers everywhere. Madame Alexander, thank you for sharing your work with us again, and may the ink richly flow thereon.
– A. R. Conti Fulwell ><>