When I moved to Nashville 12 years ago, I lived just west of the city. My apartment was about 2 miles from the Belle Meade Plantation. I drove by this beautiful property everyday on my way downtown to work. I have always loved old homes so it was a special treat to see Belle Meade every day. I spent many afternoons walking the grounds just to enjoy the rich history of this 205 year old plantation.
So imagine my delight when I was told earlier this year that one of my favorite authors, Tamera Alexander, was going to begin a new series set at Belle Meade. I’m pretty sure a squeal of delight squeaked out during the meeting with my sales rep. Not very professional, huh?
To Whisper Her Name, the first book in the Belle Meade Plantation series, more than exceeded the lofty expectations I had placed on it. You are instantly transported to Nashville just after the end of the Civil War where you meet a young widow, Olivia Aberdeen. While she looks the part of the grieving widow dressed in mourning clothes, she definitely does not feel like it. Her husband, whom she was never fond of thanks to an arranged marriage by her father, was shot as a traitor to the South. Nashville society has turned their back on her, her husband’s family has shut her out, and she sees no hope for the future. But all of that changes when she receives a request from a dear family friend to come be the head housekeeper at the Belle Meade mansion. She is more than pleased to accept the invitation from Elizabeth Harding, the wife of General William Harding who is the owner of Belle Meade.
As Olivia is making her move across town to Belle Meade, a war veteran is making the same journey but with completely different purposes. Ridley Cooper is branded a traitor by many in the South because he chose to fight for the Union. Before being imprisoned by the Confederacy, he had a brief encounter with Bob Greene, the head horse trainer at Belle Meade which was renowned for their thoroughbreds. This short meeting stuck with Ridley through the long years of imprisonment and he vowed to find this man who had a gift with horses if he survived the war.
Ridley and Olivia arrive at the plantation at the same time. Neither of them could know at that moment how much their lives will intersect in the months to come. Each will challenge the other to open themselves up to new experiences, face life-long fears, and seek restoration from past betrayals that will allow them to move into the futures that God has planned for them.
Tamera has a love of history so researching the unique history of the plantation was more fun than work for her. This can really be seen in her character of Bob Green, who is called Uncle Bob. You can feel Tamera’s high regard for this man in the way she writes about him. He was an actual slave that lived and worked at Belle Meade. He worked alongside General Harding and quickly became an expert in handling thoroughbreds. Uncle Bob remained at the plantation after the Civil War and later became the highest paid worker on the farm thanks to his skill.
In To Whisper Her Name, Ridley lives and works alongside Uncle Bob to learn how to raise and train horses. Their days are long with work and their nights are spent sitting on the porch enjoying friendly conversation. I found myself wishing I could share the porch with Uncle Bob and seek his wise counsel on life much like Ridley. Tamera’s writing made me fall in love with Uncle Bob as well! She recently shared a bit more about Uncle Bob with us here at A Novel Bookshelf. Check it out here.
I am a very fast reader but I realized halfway through the book that I was reading at a much slower pace. I noticed that I was savoring each page and each turn in the story in order to make it last longer. I knew early on that this was a story that I didn’t want to reach the end of. That to me is a sign of a novel that will soon be among my favorites.
To learn more about the Belle Meade Plantation, visit their website.