A Beauty So Rare

Written by Tamara Alexander
Review by Tamela McCann

Eleanor Braddock does not expect to marry, being rather plain without much money. When her father shows signs of dementia, she finds she must rely on the kindness and generosity of her aunt-by-marriage, Adelicia Acklen (a real-life historical personage whose wealth and fame were quite well-known in mid-1800s Nashville). Eleanor goes to live with her aunt, where she is introduced to local society and matched with an unimaginative banker who will secure her future. But Eleanor’s attentions fall first to the gardener, Marcus Gottfried, and then to helping local widows who cannot afford to feed their families; neither of these interests find favor with Aunt Adelicia, and Eleanor realizes she will have to make a choice in how she wants to live her life.

This story was of particular interest to me, a native Nashvillian, as I’d heard about Adelicia Acklen most of my life. The story is well-woven among the people and society of real life at the time, and Eleanor is quite relatable, if a bit naïve. My biggest problem in suspending belief came with Marcus’s story, which was unbelievable in almost every way. I enjoyed seeing Eleanor’s growth and maturity shown throughout the novel, and I did ultimately like the ending. The story is at times slow, and the characters’ voices are often stiff and formal. However, overall this is a good story with an inspirational plot that manages to thread real-life characters with fictional ones fairly seamlessly.