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Literary Friday: To Wager Her Heart *plus* a Recipe for Chocolate Chess Pie

Friday, September 15, 2017

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  I have a bittersweet Christian historical romance to share with you today.  It's Book 3 in the Belle Meade Plantation series:  To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander.  Although it's part of a series, it truly reads as a stand alone novel, so it doesn't matter if you haven't read the first two. 

According to Goodreads:

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided that the truth doesn't tear them apart first. 

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father's name. One man holds the key to Sy's success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville's society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he's found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison's fiancee—and what has broken her heart. 

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen's university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both. Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy's roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor? 

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn't count on is having to wager her heart to do it. 

Set against the real history of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

My Review:

First of all I need to fully disclose that I love the setting.  I went to graduate school at Belmont College in Nashville, and I've attended several charity events at Belle Meade Plantation.  It is such a gorgeous property, and I could picture Alexandra and Sy on the Old Harding Dogtrot Cabin front porch before the dinner party in the main house.  I also appreciate Tamera Alexander's research.  I don't normally expect this much attention to detail in a romance, and I was pleased with the historical accuracy in this book.  It's a treat to visit Tamera's website because she has several videos and other historical extras that are fun to see.  Here is a LINK to the extras page.

Alexandra's story is heart-wrenching, but so is Sy's.  Both are still in mourning over losing loved ones in the train accident, and Alexandra is still too terrified to get on a train again not to mention ride in one.  Both characters are also at a crossroads, in their faith and in their vocations.  I loved seeing how they recognize God's hand in guiding their paths.  I found their love story to be a bit more difficult than most, but at the same time it's very realistic. Also, the story as a whole doesn't tie-up nicely like a bow which is atypical of romances; this makes the story more real to me.  

If you or a friend is looking for a well-written Christian romance with a historical setting (this one is set during the South's Reconstruction), then I highly suggest To Wager Her Heart. Plus, there's a recipe in the back for Chocolate Chess Pie (which is a Nashville thing). Usually chess pie is either chocolate or lemon.

Belle Meade Plantation, c. 1890

This is the Belle Meade Depot that "Sy built" for Mr. Harding in the book.  Sadly, this structure is no longer standing.

Via the Belle Meade FB Page
This is the dollhouse at Belle Meade, c. 1890's.  These are the Harding and Jackson children playing, and today it's open to the public.  Run by the education department and staffed by the junior docents, there are period games, toys, and primers for children to see and play with in the miniature house.

If you ever visit Nashville, I highly suggest a tour of Belle Meade.  It is one of the best plantation tours in the South!

Connect with Tamera

Website | Facebook | Twitter

It's Pie Time!!!

There's speculation as to why it's called "Chess" Pie.  My favorite story is this one:  A non-Southern gentleman was visiting Nashville, and he asked a waitress what they had for dessert. She answered, "just pie."  According to his untrained ear, it sounded like "Chess Pie" so the name stuck!

In the back of the book is a recipe for Chocolate Chess Pie.  Tamera has many recipes on her website,  and HERE is the link for discussion questions for To Wager Her Heart and her delicious recipe for Chess Pie.  I baked a pie using her recipe, and I really like it!

Chess pies aren't pretty, but they sure taste delicious!
I baked the above pie using Tamera's recipe in the back of the book, but the recipe I'm posting is my own.

Chocolate Chess Pie


1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T cocoa
1/2 t salt
1 T flour
2 eggs
1/8 t ground nutmeg
1 T vanilla
1 small can evaporated milk
Unbaked pie crust


Beat eggs slightly.  Add margarine and vanilla.  Pour over dry ingredients and mix well.  Add milk, and heat thoroughly.  (I usually heat it in a saucepan on low for a couple of minutes.) Pour into unbaked pie crust.  Bake 350 degrees approximately 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.  

(I also like to sprinkle with powdered sugar.)

NOTE:  This pie also freezes well!  Also, I thought Tamera's recipe was MUCH easier, so it was a happy surprise when I finished reading the story!

Sy and Alexandra enjoy a barbeque dinner with chocolate chess pie for dessert in To Wager Her Heart.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of To Wager Her Heart from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I'm getting married at a plantation an hour outside of Nashville in May so the setting of this book really captures my attention!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  2. I love Southern fiction and you must have literally ate this up being set near your alma mater! I've never made or eaten a chess pie, but I do know they are a Southern staple. Pinning~ psst, just got back to the "Ham" where is all the cool weather I've been hearing about? 😂

  3. I am pinning the book and the pie. :-)
    Thank you for sharing both.
    And for the travel tip. We would like to visit the South as a family. We better start planning! Sam is a senior this year. ;-)
    Love, Carla

  4. There is a possibility I'll be in Nashville this December. That might make for a fun side trip -- especially if I end up reading the book before! I love chess pie. Sounds good!

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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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