Thursday, May 7, 2015

Author Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Tamera Alexander


I wasn't very far into To Win Her Favor before realizing that it would become one of my all-time favorite novels, because it has that perfect blend of historical detail, well-drawn characters, captivating storyline, and a love story that touched me with its tenderness, passion, and honesty. Please click on the title, To Win Her Favor, to see my review. But even better than that was meeting Tamera Alexander online, one of the most gracious authors I've ever met.

Tamera and Litfuse Publicity put together a wonderful interview in which you will learn more about this story as Tamera shares from her heart. Also, my sincere thanks goes to Litfuse for providing a copy of To Win Her Favor to one of this blog's readers. Tamera's interview will be in two parts, and you can leave a comment on both posts for a double entry. Click here for Part 2 of Tamera's interview.


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Litfuse Interview with Tamera Alexander


Against the backdrop of one of the most turbulent times in American history, the post-Civil War era, one woman struggles against prejudice, injustice and suffocating conventions of the 19th century to pursue her dream. Tamera Alexander’s To Win Her Favor  (Zondervan/May 12, 2015/ISBN: 9780310291077/$15.99), the second stand-alone novel in the Belle Meade Plantation series, is already receiving high praise. According to Library Journal, “Strong characters, a sense of the times and the themes of love, friendship and the importance of loyalty and determination make To Win Her Favor a triumph.”

Maggie Linden lost nearly everything in the Civil War — including most of her family. She’s about to lose her stables and land at Linden Downs, and her racing hopes as well. A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie is determined that her mare, Bourbon Belle, will become a champion. Indeed, her only hope of saving Linden Downs is if the horse takes the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. To give his daughter a chance, Maggie’s wily father makes a barter. But 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.


Q: What made you choose to set your new novel, To Win Her Favor, during the tumultuous years following the Civil War?

Born and raised in the South (Atlanta, GA), I’ve long held a strong connection with Southern history. And what historical event defines the South as much as the War Between the States? Family homes became headquarters for troops, churches and schoolrooms became hospitals for the wounded, and the hills thick with pine and the meadows lush with grass became hallowed ground with the blood of the dead and dying. The years of Reconstruction forged a steel in the hearts of surviving men and women for a new life, a new country. I find myself fascinated by what they accomplished in the face of overwhelming odds. And remember, ultimately, so much good came from this time of suffering in our history too. So many advances in medicine, botany, mental health and social justice, to name a few.



Q: What is the central message of To Win Her Favor?

That through hope and determination even the greatest obstacles can be overcome. The story explores questions of race, faith and loyalty and offers perspective on how Reconstruction affected racial relations, social status and economic fortunes in the post-war South — and a passionate love story is at its very heart.


Q. Many Kentucky Derby winners today trace their lineage back to thoroughbreds at Belle Meade Plantation in the 1860s and 70s. Describe the horse racing culture of the 19th century and what part it plays in your story.

Through three generations of the Harding/Jackson family at Belle Meade, Belle Meade Plantation became the preeminent stud farm and nursery for the horse racing industry. Belle Meade’s thoroughbred legacy is at the center of the history of American horse racing and owes its heritage to a line of successful studs, starting with Epsilon in 1844, then following in the 1860s with Jack Malone, Vandal, Bonnie Scotland, Great Tom, Enquirer and Luke Blackburn. You’re familiar with the 1973 Triple Crown Winner Secretariat and perhaps the 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another. These modern-day winners and so many more trace their lineage back to Belle Meade. Horse racing in the 19th century was the king of sports, but it was an industry dominated by males. White men owned the blood horses, and young slave boys were the ones who jockeyed the magnificent thoroughbreds. Women and girls weren’t allowed — at least, not until Margaret Linden in To Win Her Favor.


Q: What was it like for African Americans in the south during this era? Were they the only ones who faced racial discrimination in this country?

The Emancipation Proclamation (1863) granted freedom to slaves in the 10 states that were still in rebellion, but it didn’t outlaw slavery, nor did it grant citizenship to freedmen (ex-slaves). And that freedom, as we know, was ultimately hard won. But former slaves weren’t the only ones who suffered enormous abuse and ridicule. Irish immigrants ranked only slightly above that of freedmen in social status and were frequently scorned in both newspapers and society. NINA signs (“No Irish Need Apply”) really hung outside of many retail shops and businesses, as depicted in the story.


Q: In the book, Cullen McGrath is an Irishman trying to start a new life in Tennessee while overcoming not only discrimination but also a haunted past. Why is he so angry with God?

Cullen is angry with God because he believes God let him down, that God didn’t follow through on His end of the bargain. How often have we felt that way? We think, “If I do this for God, then of course God will do this for me.” That’s very dangerous theology and certainly not Biblical. Part of Cullen’s journey — just as it is each of ours — is to learn what it means to trust God . . . no matter our circumstances.


Q: Some of the scenarios in the book paint a gritty picture of this unsettled time. Why do you think it’s important we not gloss over this chapter in American history?

The old adage comes to mind, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Human history is filled with atrocities: race against race, religion against religion, and greed-lust that annihilates anyone in its path. No matter the era, be it the 19th century or the 21st, human nature hasn’t changed. We still struggle with the same sins and temptations, and we have a responsibility to remember our past. So many of the racial issues people dealt with following the Civil War are still prevalent in parts of our country (and world) today, and glossing over — or rewriting history — not only denies the truth, but it cheapens the price so many paid for the freedoms we do have.

To be continued . . .

To keep up with Tamera Alexander, visit www.tameraalexander.com, become a fan on Facebook (tamera.alexander) or follow her on Twitter (@tameraalexander) or Pinterest (tameraauthor).






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GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for To Win Her Favor, please leave a comment for Tamera or about something you read in her interview - and come back tomorrow for another entry! Click here for Part 2 of Tamera's interview.

BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing.

If you'd like to receive e-mail notifications of reviews, author interviews and giveaways, please subscribe to my blog in the upper right corner. "Likes" on my Facebook page, ThePowerofWordsBookReviews, are also greatly appreciated, as are followers on Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and this blog.

E-mail required for entry in the drawing. Contest ends at midnight PST on Sunday, May 17. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.

Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older

53 comments:

  1. I didn't realize the extent that the Irish were discriminated against. It makes me appreciate my Irish heritage even more. I am looking forward to reading your book Tamera. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway.
    momrain(AT)aol(DOT)com

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    1. Loraine, I've always loved everything about the Irish - music, folklore, dancing, even Celtic Thunder! You have a heritage to be proud of. While I realized these immigrants were discriminated against, I didn't realize how deep it went. Best wishes in the drawing, Loraine.

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    2. This book sounds so good. The more I read about this book the more I want to read it. Awesome interview, thank you so much.

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  2. Too bad discrimination will never go away.
    Thereadmaster(at)me(dot)com

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    1. Unfortunately, I'm afraid you're right, Virginia. I doubt the value of every individual will ever be appreciated in this life. Thanks for your interest in Tamera's interview.

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  3. I am so glad you put Cullen in your book and I can learn more about the Irish and his struggles also. It sound like such a good book, I like it when I learn about history in my Christian fiction books.

    pam1lunsford ( at ) gmail ( dot ) com

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    1. Pam, if I kept a list of favorite male leads, Cullen would certainly be on it - and close to the top! Maybe I should start that list . . .

      It's always good to see you here, Pam. Good luck in the drawing.

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  4. Awesome interview! Your interview makes me want to read the book even more. I didn't know the Irish were treated so bad. What I've read about the two main characters, they both are facing some big challenges.

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  5. I always learn so much about history when reading Tamera's books since I know she does a lot of research to get the details correct. I really appreciate authors taking the time to do that. I enjoyed the first book in this series and am looking forward to reading To Win Her Favor. The Belmont Mansion series is also very good; I'm currently reading A Beauty So Rare.
    pmkellogg56[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. Thanks for recommending Tamera's other books, Pam. This is the first book I've read with the exception of her very first series, so I've got a lot to look forward to. It's obvious she puts a lot of time into her research. Thanks for visiting, Pam, and best wishes in the drawing.

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  6. Even though I live very near Louisville and the home of the Ky. Derby - I was unaware of Belle Meade's connection with it. I'm wondering if Tamera took any research trips to Churchill Downs?? Love her writing and looking forward to reading "To Win Her Favor"- thanks for the interesting interview and the giveaway opportunity, Tamera and Carole!!

    bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com
    Shared post!!

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    1. You are so welcome, Miss Bonnie! I've never ridden a horse, but love to watch these beautiful creatures and found that aspect of Tamera's book particularly interesting. It's always good to see you here - and best wishes in the drawing!

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  7. I had no idea that Irish immigrants were treated almost the same as African Americans during that time period! How tragic, but glad our country is changing...
    Thanks for the giveaway...can't wait to read the book!
    Email- ellihl1[at]students[dot]fscj[dot]edu

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    1. Chance sure does come slowly, Hope! There's so much to enjoy about Tamera's book. Good luck in the drawing.

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  8. Carole, I have some Irish in my Ancestry, and I never knew about the discrimination against the Irish back them. I would love to win your book Tamera.. Carole, thanks for having Tamera here. > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

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    1. You are so welcome, Maxie. I wish I had some Irish in my ancestry...Maybe I should look further back! This book is one of my all-time favorites and I've thoroughly enjoyed all that Tamera has shared. Best wishes in the drawing, Maxie!

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  9. It is hard knowledge that discrimination and hatred of people crosses so many social economic lines and races. I am glad we have advanced somewhat, but have a ways to go still. At least, Black and Irish Americans have more freedom and opportunity. Thanks for sharing with us. marykatbpcsc45 at gmail dot com

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    1. Well said, Miss Mary. I've never understood discrimination, and you're certainly right that we have a good ways to go. Best wishes in the drawing, Mary.

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  10. Tamera, how many books will you write in this series?

    kathrynlvoss(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Kate, I don't think Tamera could ever write enough stories in this series to satisfy me! good luck in the drawing.

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  11. I have a huge amount of Irish as my grandfather was Irish. I think just about every group has experienced discrimination at some point. Unfortunately, we forget we are all Gods children. Ewe_r_merritt(at) yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Amen to that, R Merr! Discrimination has never made sense to me, not in any shape or form. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  12. I love history! I guess that's why I am a genealogist! sonja dot nishimoto at gmail dot com

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    1. I've never gotten into genealogy, but think it would be fascinating, Miss Sonja. Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. It seems strange that the Irish were so detested when so many of the original colonists in America came from Ireland (and yes, England). Granted, they were more often than not Scots-Irish/Ulster Scots, thus originally of Scottish ancestry--so is that the big difference? That the earlier Irish came from the North and the later (and hated) Irish from the South? Judging by my family history, they all claim to be Irish, even those with Scottish names, since that's where they came from.

    rachaeldalquist(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Good question for Tamera, Rachael. Discrimination makes absolutely no sense to me, not any kind. Thanks for your interest in Tamera's book and best wishes in the drawing.

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  14. I didn't realize the Irish were discriminated against as well. Wonder why that is never talked about?

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    1. Candice, I didn't realize the extent of the discrimination until reading Tamera's book. Thanks for visiting - and good luck in the drawing.

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  15. "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This statement is so true. We preach to students all the time about how important history is and the reason why we need to learn about all history. School teacher Sarah Harper. email: chriss1234us@yahoo.com

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    1. Sarah, it always amazes me how a country fighting for its own freedom could turn around and enslave/discriminate against other people. Will we ever really learn?! Thanks for your interest in Tamera's writing, Sarah.

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  16. I didn't realize that the Irish were so discriminated against - just slightly above the Freemen in social status. I also like how the story line revolves around the horses of Belle Meade Plantation. It all makes for a very intriguing story :)

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    1. I knew the Irish were discriminated against, but I don't think I realized the extent of it until reading Tamera's book. There's so much to enjoy in this book. Good luck in the drawing!

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  17. Oops! I forgot to include my email: nj[dot]bossman[at]gmail[dot]com

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  18. This is such a fascinating period of history, and I agree so strongly with Tamera that if we don't learn from the past, we are destined to repeat it! Looking forward to reading this book! Thanks so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday this week!
    Tina

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read Tamera's interview, Miss Tina. It's always good to see you here. I wish it wasn't such a struggle for people to learn from the past!

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  19. I love books with messages about trusting God. It helps me so much to trust Him more in my own life. I would be very excited to win your book. grace_soo_amazing at yahoo dot com

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    1. That's exactly why I enjoy Christian fiction so much, Tonya. Thanks for your interest in Tamera's writing.

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  20. Every book I've read by Tamera has been wonderful! I look forward to reading this book! jarning67(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. I haven't had the pleasure of reading every book yet, but hope to soon. Good luck in the drawing, Joan!

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  21. I did not realize that so many of the famous horses can trace their lineage back to Belle Meade! I love learning new things when I read your books, Tamera - thanks also for the giveaway.
    bettimace at gmail dot com

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    1. I thought that little fact was very interesting also, Betti. My mom got to go to the Kentucky Derby once and loved it. Good luck in the drawing!

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  22. I am proud of my Irish heritage. It makes me sad to see how we used to discrmiinated against. I know Tameras book deals with this with class. I am excited at the thought of reading this book.

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    1. Deanne, I would be proud if I had an Irish heritage also because, as I've said earlier, I love all things Irish. And I just don't understand discrimination of any kind. Hope you get to read Tamera's book soon, and best wishes in the drawing.

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  23. Forgot my email it's
    Deanne
    Cnnamongirl(at)aol(dot)com

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  24. I am trying again to enter my comment on this post. I don't know why Google takes two times to accept this post ..but first of all, I hope to win this contest because I love reading about the South and I love historical fiction which teaches me so much about what the poeple might have been like and their struggles. I have had the pleasure of reading one of Tamera's books and would so love to win. Hoping...and thanks for the wonderful interview and this contest. Mary Lou K
    flowersmarylou85(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. You made it, Mary Lou! Sorry about the problems, though. I've heard that sometimes certain devices have a problem, but have no idea if that was a contributing factor. Anyway, it took this time!

      I'm with you on southern fiction because I live in Georgia and am always on the lookout for southern settings. I believe you will enjoy Tamera's book. Best wishes in the drawing, Mary Lou.

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  25. Can't wait to win this! Tamera is the greatest! jarning67(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  26. Great interview! I love Tamera's attention to historical detail!
    cyndilou83(at)gmail(dot)com

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  27. I enjoyed the interview and loved how your book is filled with history. Thanks for sharing about prejudice not only for the slaves but for the Irish as well. I didn't realize the Irish had felt the pain of rejection like the slaves did. Thanks for the opportunity to get your book that will be very much enjoyed.
    Deana
    Jhdwayne(at)peoplepc(dot)com

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  28. I haven't read any of Tamera's books. I love reading history of the Civil War time period. This book is definitely intriguing especially since I too live in the south now. Thanks for the opportunity to win and introducing me to a new author!

    As always... love your interviews and your talent for reviewing! keep up the good work

    amylsmithatbledsoedotnet

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  29. As a former history teacher, I did realize how much the Irish were discriminated against. I've been to Ireland and, like many Americans, have some Irish roots.

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    1. Sorry forgot my e-mail address... silhouettesinscale@yahoo.com

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  30. Love your storytelling and enjoy stories like this when one learns of the struggles and hardships families endured.

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