An inspirational gothic romance with Austen flair

Read the book review of my latest favorite novel by Julie Klassen

Newest novel by Lynn Austin

Book two in the Restoration Chronicles, and a favorite of 2014!

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I changed the look of my blog!

Favorite reads of 2013

These were the best of the best for 2013 - use this short list to help you with your next library trip!

Best of 2014

BBR's Top Five 2014 Releases!

May 22, 2015

Giveaway! Autographed Goodies including Anne Mateer's A HOME FOR MY HEART

I survived the Romantic Times Booklovers Giant Book Fair.

beautific selfie with autographed goodness!
As I posted on Twitter and on Facebook, I went to the Romantic Time Booklovers Convention during their Giant Book Fair which was open to the public on Saturday May 16 2015.

If you are my FB Friend, you would have seen a few pictures of me dorking out with my favorite inspirational authors, such as Elizabeth Ludwig and Regina Jennings. I got to meet several other authors too like Heather Manning, Melanie Dickerson, Susanna Kearsley, Cindy Nord and Francine Rivers. It was really a booklover's dream.

Cindy Nord - a very sweet lady! 
Of course it was complete and utter mayhem and towards the beginning of the event I had wondered what in the world was I thinking as hundreds of us were herded like cattle all around the hotel.. but in the end I must say they did pretty good except for the part where we were all huddled into an empty room (with no cellphone coverage) in which I am sure we far exceeded the occupancy level. I was trying to ignore the claustrophobic feelings when after fifteen minutes of second guessing my wisdom of attending such an event as my dear mother wondered aloud, "This is a Nazi experiment and they are going to gas us."

Luckily, we survived.

One of my local authors also survived the event, Anne Mateer. And I had been meaning to give away one of the books I bought from her from a signing from (oopsy) 2013 that I had attended. And I never got around to it, just as I had never gotten around to reading the copy that I had purchased for myself. Time ran away and all that.

So at this point, in honor of surviving local author events I figured I better get some of these goodies out of my library before I die...

The intriguing backdrop of an early-1900s orphanage makes this a unique, engaging read.
Sadie Sillsby works as the assistant to the matron at the Raystown Home for Orphan and Friendless Children and dreams of the day she'll marry her beau, Blaine. But when the matron surprises everyone by announcing her own engagement, Sadie is suddenly next in line for the job. For a young woman who was once an orphan herself, a shot at such an esteemed position is a wish come true. But the matron of the Home cannot be married. Is Sadie willing to give up her dreams of a life with Blaine and a family of her own? Is she prepared to forgo daily involvement with the children as she instead manages the financial, legal, and logistical aspects of the orphanage? And when it's revealed that the Home is spending a lot more money than it's taking in, can Sadie turn things around before the place is forced to close forever?

This giveaway is for the awesome fan shown above which many inspirational authors autographed, plus a new copy of Anne Mateer's 2013 release A Home For My Heart (also autographed!) and then some extra little goodies like bookmarks/marketing materials which I picked up at the Book Fair on May 16 2015.

Since I am mailing this out myself I have to request that entries are limited to USA addresses only. Apologies to Canadians, please don't skewer me.

Thanks for being a follower of Burton Book Review... you are much appreciated.

To enter I would like for you to be amazing and share this post, and comment below with a way I can contact you. If I am your Facebook friend, no need to leave your email addy.

For extra fun, try telling me who you recognize in the autographed fan I am holding or who I am smiling with in the photos below:

If you are receiving this post via email and would like to enter, please forward this email to reviewer(at)Burtonbookreview(dot)com and you will receive five extra entries. You still need to comment here though.

Giveaway ends May 28th at midnight CST and winner must respond to my request for mailing information by May 30th 8:00 AM.

May 19, 2015

Giveaway Celebrating Deborah Harkness's paperback release of THE BOOK OF LIFE

THE BOOK OF LIFE is the long-awaited final chapter in the smart, sexy All Souls Trilogy, about historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont (Penguin Books; on sale May 26, 2015; $17.00).

In this finale, Diana and Matthew continue their hunt for the magical alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, and reunite with beloved characters from the first two All Souls books to save their world from the powerful enemies who want to destroy it.

THE BOOK OF LIFE synopsis: 
After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

It is my pleasure to host this giveaway at Burton Book Review, courtesy of the publisher:

A paperback copy of THE BOOK OF LIFE for giveaway, set of buttons and a small BOOK OF LIFE mirror with the ouroboros design for giveaway!
On sale May 26, 2015

A Q&A with the author was offered as part of a giveaway post for the celebration of book three of the trilogy, and I wanted to share just a few of those questions here.

Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept-Tours and reinstate themselves back into a sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Did you draw on your own life?

A. Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family: unqualified love and mutual responsibility. That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents taught me.

Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – a witch who weaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

A. Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted without breaking. You could say it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study knots—unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can be twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus.

Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. Sometimes when I meet readers they ask me how their friends are doing—meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. That’s an extraordinary experience for a writer.

Also available for the paperback release party are clips from the trilogy audiobooks, read by Jennifer Ikeda which you can listen to by clicking these links:

I haven't read any of these books, but I plan on making them all part of my Summer Reading Fun! Have you read these? How did you like them? 

If you would like to enter the giveaway for the paperback, set of six buttons and mirror, please leave me a comment below with your email address so that I may contact the winner. 

I wanted to make it as easy as possible to enter the giveaway, but it would be very nice of you if you would share this giveaway post as well!

Giveaway open to USA residents and ends May 24th, there will be one grand prize winner. Good luck!

May 6, 2015

(Giveaway!) A review of The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck

Captivating storytelling of a passionate love between the Hawthornes

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
NAL Hardcover May 5 2015
eGalley provided via NetGalley in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:

Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman's traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia's vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children's needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia's energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.

Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses. It is the story of a forgotten woman in history, who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature...

A vivid re-imagining of nineteenth century transcendentalists and feminism, The House of Hawthorne introduces us to famous figures of the era while boldly portraying Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne as none have attempted before.

Growing up in Massachusetts when emancipation issues begin to affect society, young Sophia and her sister Mary travel to Cuba in hopes of a healthier existence. While there, they are exposed to slavery and its cruelty firsthand, tormenting her fragile sensibilities further. Her soul is a creative one and it finds an outlet through painting, but this also leads to excruciating headaches. She eventually paints for a rising literary star Nathaniel Hawthorne and after a long courtship they are finally married - each in their thirties.

Author Erika Robuck slowly builds up this romance story, weaving us under the Hawthorne spell. We feel the artistic tension while the couple tries to cope with the daily toil of chores (as opposed to simply doing "what we were born to do") which are too mundane and oppressive for the likes of them. Despite the charities of fellow literary greats such as the Browning and Emerson families, financial struggles plague the couple forcing Nathaniel to take a real job in government through his previous classmate Franklin Pierce.

The novel portrays a palpable passion between Nathaniel and Sophia throughout their marriage, where Sophia is his "dove" and she is willing to give up seemingly everything for his happiness. Their family grows as the years go on, with grief and sorrow permeating the pages even as we feel the intense connection between the two.

Robuck's newest novel brings to life the courage and values of the Hawthornes, displaying both the gloomy and intense sides of creativity as well as the blissful euphoric moments. This exquisite blend of history and emotion is gift wrapped with the prose of Robuck's hypnotic writing style making The House of Hawthorne an easily recommended historical novel.

I will say that that eGalley formatting of this novel was very distracting. Major distractions were the missing quotations where appropriate and the page breaks (where I would assume there was one) were very non-existent. I wrote the review with the hopes that the finished copy corrects these issues.

Erika Robuck is a favorite novelist of mine, and you can find all my reviews of her published work here at the Burton Book Review.

The publisher is offering one of my followers a chance to win a copy of The House of Hawthorne!
To enter, please enter a comment below and I will randomly select a winner from the comments. I wanted to make the contest entry as easy as possible, but I would appreciate it if you would share this giveaway post! 

Please leave an email address so that I may contact the winner unless I am a friend on Facebook and I can contact you that way.

(Not responsible for lost mail, giveaway open to US Residents only, ends May 9th.)

Apr 20, 2015

Into The Storm by Lisa Bingham

Character driven WWII romance

Into The Storm by Lisa Bingham
Diversion Books, March 31, 2015
Historical Romance/WWII
Review copy provided in exchange for review in Library Journal Xpress
Burton Book Review Rating:

RueAnn Boggs meets Charles Tolliver, a handsome Brit with a secret job, and in the course of twenty-four hours, RueAnn is swept off her feet—seduced, wed, and then left by dashing Charlie, who hastily departs for an assignment in England. When weeks go by and she hears nothing from her new husband, RueAnn becomes determined to find out if she’s a wife in name only, and she travels to London for answers. But what she finds there is not at all what she expects…

Susan Blunt has spent her life staying put, retreating into her books while her vivacious twin sister, Sara, lives life to the fullest. The start of the war hasn’t stopped vibrant Sara from collecting a throng of beaus in uniform, including Paul Overdone, an RAF pilot heading for the front. When Sara pressures Susan into switching places and going to a dance with Paul, Susan reluctantly agrees. Little does Susan know that a single night is more than enough time to fall deeply in love with Paul—who returns her ardor, even though he thinks she is someone else…

When the Blitz begins and bombs start raining down on London, both RueAnn and Susan must find the strength and courage they never knew they had in order to survive. They form a friendship out of the city’s ashes, one that helps them weather the storm as they wait for news from the front—from the men they love, have lost, and hope desperately to find once more.

Set against the backdrop of a remarkable era, INTO THE STORM brilliantly explores relationships in wartime, when the passion shared in just one day could sustain love for a lifetime and the love borne of one night’s deception could become the truth that saves a life.

Into The Storm stays true to its title as there is never a dull moment for the characters of this World War II-set novel. Although very character-driven, the plot focuses on the Blunt family and their neighbors, thrust together during London air raids. American RueAnn Tolliver chases after her new husband and finds her reluctantly welcomed by her mother-in-law and the Blunt family. Twins Susan and Sara Blunt struggle to keep their family together during very harsh times of rations and the harsh realities of their country suffering through bombing raids. With a bit of espionage interlaced with Charles Tolliver's storyline, the romance and the historical details make for an intriguing and very promising story.

Into The Storm reads swiftly and easily, with smooth writing that draws the reader in. There were quite a few characters whose stories eventually intermingled but one could sense the rushing of the story to get to the end, where it would have better suited to add a few more pages to the novel to flesh it out. While the story reveals grief and sorrow as the characters develop, the romance brought a happy-ever-after feel with perhaps a touch of incredulity. Still, Into The Storm is a very enjoyable World War II novel with a stronger character development theme than the romance factor, as the heat rating was very low key.

Apr 14, 2015

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

An intriguing blend of history, mystery and romance 

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley 
Sourcebooks Landmark, April 7 2015
Review copy provided in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread — its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal's cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal's reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects.

It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise.

When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.
As Mary's tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take... to find the road that will lead her safely home.

Susanna Kearsley is one of those writers that will always intrigue me, if not fascinate me. She writes her books with the same tone which could tend to drag, but if you  immerse yourself in the slower pace you are rewarded with a good story with some special characters. I was a little sad that the last review I wrote for Kearsley's Season of Storms couldn't be all gushy, so reading A Desperate Fortune I went in with a little trepidation. In doing so, I think I prepared myself for her slow, smooth, suck you in style because I was able to read this without feeling like I was going down a rabbit hole (to use a phrase from the book).

The novel features two storylines that went back and forth between the modern day and the year 1732. The year 1732 is when our young diarist Mary Dundas has an adventure with a Scottish rogue and takes part in the Jacobites' mission to protect their own in honor of the exiled king. Mary leaves behind her diary of the intriguing adventures she has while aiding a fugitive, but it is in cipher. This is where our modern day character Sara comes in, who is a genius at codes and has asperger syndrome, making her vulnerable in social situations but makes her more in tune to numbers, meticulousness, and routine.

As Sara travels to Paris to work on decoding the diary, she meets several people who show her kindness and compassion, including a certain Luc Sabran who captured her heart with his "symmetrical smile" and his "perfect blue eyes" -and his adorable son sweetened the package. Luc lives up to the hero status and their romance is a tenderhearted and sweet one, much like the counterpart of Mary and her handsome Scottish protector, though theirs is more of a respectful admiration of each other.

The two narratives of Sara and Mary pleasantly played well off the other, and the ending -particularly for Mary's - was very endearing and just perfect for Mary. I really enjoyed the plotlines and the historical context of the mystery that surrounded the Jacobite Mr. Thomson that Mary was escorting throughout France and eventually leads to Rome where Mary hopes to find her father, and there is an author's note that describes much more in detail about the era.

This was a winner for Kearsley, much to my delight! While it may not be in the  haunting, gothic/suspense feel that I got from some of the author's earlier works, this was enjoyable historical romance and I will remember Hugh Macpherson. And if you've read some of the author's other titles, see if you can find some cameo appearances from those in A Desperate Fortune!

I think my favorite novel is The Shadowy Horses, but I have yet to read The Winter Sea or Mariana. Do you have a favorite?

Read my other reviews of Susanna Kearsley's novels here at Burton Book Review.

Apr 6, 2015

The Abduction of Smith and Smith by Rashad Harrison

A wonderfully crafted surprise of a novel

The Abduction of Smith and Smith by Rashad Harrison
Atria Books, January 2015
352 pages Hardcover 978-1451625783
Review copy provided by HNS in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:

In this harrowing and thrilling work of historical fiction, two enemies become the unlikeliest of allies as they fight to save their own lives aboard a hell ship headed into the dangerous unknown.The Civil War is over, though for Jupiter Smith, a former slave and Union soldier, many battles still lie ahead. He returns to the plantation he worked on before the war in search of his woman, but rather finds his old master gone mad, haunting the ruins like a ghost. Out of pity for the now mentally ill Colonel, Jupiter strangles him and heads west to seek a new life in San Francisco.
When the Colonel’s son, Confederate soldier Archer Smith, arrives at home and finds his father murdered, he vows revenge upon Jupiter for all he has lost—following his former slave to the far reaches of the continent.
But things take a new turn as Archer’s desire for retribution is overwhelmed by his dependency on opium, and he ends up the target of a gang of “crimpers”…the very gang that Jupiter works for in San Francisco. When Jupiter fails in an attempt to save Archer, they both end up shanghaied aboard a ship headed on a dangerous mission and ruled by a merciless captain. Will the two Smiths work together to stay alive and return home, or will they become victims of the sea, the crew, and their mad captain?

 For a novel that started out with a uneasy beginning, the author was able to hold my attention as I read the entire book in one day. The setting of the American Civil War's aftermath is a popular one for readers, yet this story brings us to a harsh reality of how the war's effect caused ripples for years to come. Wholly intriguing characters in a unique setting set this novel apart as the author writes with no holds barred. Though it comes off as crude when we are dealing with sailors and ruffians who kidnap innocents to force them to work on ships, and run ins with the mobster like villains who hold the cards of the day, the entire package presented by author Rashad Harrison is a well thought out suspenseful masterpiece of a story. There are many moving parts, from the fractured relationships of slaves and masters, brothers in arms and women who seek restoration after so many hardships which will captivate the reader as things slowly begin to connect to each other.

These many twists and turns intermix to create a powerful story as Jupiter Smith, a freed slave, seeks his wife after seven long years. During his search he encounters people from his past and battles the harsh reality of his life after freedom has been granted through the war. Through one of those twists of fate Jupiter finds himself kidnapped along with his former master's son Archer Smith and they are both forced to rely on each other begrudgingly for mere survival's sake during the dangerous voyage. Several characters are featured in the novel which the author creates short chapters around each scene, and there are even a few sketches interspersed throughout. The short chapters make it a quick read but the story itself is a vivid tale that is unforgettable and creative as it brings us to the underbelly of San Francisco to Shanghai and all the way to Liberia. A wonderfully crafted surprise that I would not hesitate to recommend.

Mar 23, 2015

The Price of Blood (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy #2) by Patricia Bracewell

Emma of Normandy's story continues...

The Price of Blood (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy #2) by Patricia Bracewell
Published by Viking, February 5, 2015
Hardcover 448 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

Read my review of the first book in the trilogy, Shadow on the Crown

Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.
Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

I waited two years for this novel to come out and it was very much worth the wait. In the previous book of Emma's younger days as a Norman bride to the English King Æthelred we were introduced to a volatile era in England's history as it struggled to withstand numerous Viking attacks. While Shadow on the Crown was fast paced and exciting, The Price of Blood delves more into the personal conflicts of the marriage of Emma and Æthelred and more about the political factions that affected the country.

Characters reappear, such as Lady Elgiva, as she makes up much of this book's story when she is able to hide from the king and his newest henchman Eadric, stirring up trouble from afar unbeknownst to the king. Eadric himself is not making many friends as he is a new favorite of the king's, offering him unwise counsel and using harsh tactics to get his way. The princes have little say in their father's court and Æthelred is described as being a paranoid and nervous king. Emma tries her best to survive among the many threats to her safety and that of her son, and is portrayed as a strong and capable Queen even when her king gives her little space in the court.

I can only hope for the final installment in the trilogy to bring us both a climax and a resolution to the saga of Emma's life and the events of her time, as The Price of Blood has set this reader on the edge of her seat waiting for things to blow up in the royal family. What the author does by filling in the blanks of the Anglo Saxon Chronicles is nothing short of amazing as she brings to life an otherwise forgotten time period; something I am especially grateful for as the historical fiction genre seems to have become bloated with novels of Tudors and Plantagenets. The writing of Patricia Bracewell may well possibly be compared to some of my other favorite story tellers such as Elizabeth Chadwick and Sharon Penman....if the final installment pulls it off as a marvelous conclusion to the trilogy. Sadly I will have to wait and see another long few years.

Mar 17, 2015

Burton Book Review - Leafing through history: Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Burton Book Review - Leafing through history: Happy Saint Patrick's Day!: My 9th great-grandfather, Thomas Lee was born circa 1672 in Carrickfergus, Antrim, Ireland. He had a son named Gershom, who had a son named ...

Mar 2, 2015

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark (Reissue) September 2014
512 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:

A mystery trapped in time..
 In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D'Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed.
Now, two generations later, Alessandro D'Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather's masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands-at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D'Ascanio's magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake's disappearance-and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro.
But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia's fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back...

When I received this book in summer of 2014 I was extremely excited to read another novel by Susanna Kearsley. I had really enjoyed the few that I read in recent years which were reprinted via Sourcebooks Landmark. Her novels have hints of Rebecca DuMaurier tones set in contemporary settings which always intrigues this stuck in historical fiction reader.

This particular novel involves the theater, Italy, and a possible ghost of an actress from many years ago who bears the same name of our contemporary first person character. Celia Sands' character is easy enough to like, but during the entire novel I wished I knew what she looked like and I wished I felt like I cared more about what happened to her. Celia had a big hang up about her famous mother, and she was raised by two gay men which made for an endearing backdrop to the character, but that was almost all we get out of the characterization of our main protagonist. At twenty-two she gets a chance to go to Italy to act in a play written for her namesake. Celia slowly -- very slowly-- develops friendships and relationships with the other actors while hints of treachery and ghosts flit in and out of the story line.

I first attempted to read the novel the moment I received it, but I got bored so much that I had to put it down a few weeks later. I tried again five months later and hard to restart from the beginning. It was still a struggle to really want to read the novel, but I persevered. It took quite a while to get going, though I'm not really sure the plot line did get going. If you haven't read any of Kearsley's novels before, don't start with this one. I would definitely recommend any of these others that I have reviewed previously here at Burton Book Review:

The Splendour Falls
The Firebird
The Shadowy Horses

Jan 27, 2015

Never Surrender to a Scoundrel by Lily Dalton

Treat yourself to a sizzling historical romance
Never Surrender To A Scoundrel (One Scandalous Season #3) by Lily Dalton
Grand Central Publishing's Forever imprint
January 27, 2015 432 p. ebk.
Historical Romance/Regency
Review copy provided by Library Journal in exchange for review in Xpress Originals
Burton Book Review Rating:

A Reckless Desire...
Lady Clarissa Bevington is in trouble. A reckless indiscretion has left her with two choices: ruin her family with the scandal of the Season, or marry Mr. Kincraig, the notorious scoundrel mistaken as her lover. Desperate and disgraced, Clarissa vows to love and cherish a veritable stranger, a man whose eyes smolder with danger—and undeniable desire...

An Unexpected Arrangement
As an agent for the Crown, Lord Donovan Blackmer has spent the last two years guarding Clarissa's grandfather from an unknown assassin while disguised as the rakehell Kincraig. His mission may now be over, but his duty has just begun. Salvaging his beautiful, impetuous wife's virtue will cost him his fortune and his position as an officer—but it might save him from the ghosts that haunt his own past. When their marriage "in name only" leads to exquisite seduction, Donovan must risk the only thing he has left to lose . . . his heart.

Historical romance readers will delight with this third installment to the One Scandalous Season Series featuring lords and ladies of the ton. Previous titles involved Clarissa's sisters yet this could be read as a stand-alone. Clarissa is about to announce an engagement to her secret lover when she discovers his unworthiness and moments later Clarissa is found in a compromising position with family friend Mr. Kincraig. Kincraig is forced to marry Clarissa to save her honor which inevitably destroys his own undercover operations for the Crown and leaves him unemployed. The story unfolds as Clarissa learns the true identity of Mr. Kincraig, who happens to be a very wealthy Lord Dominick Blackmer, though he is resistant to the title. Clarissa and Dominick slowly learn to love each other in a heated yet heartwarming and rainy journey to Lord Blackmer's estate where he must confront his own past in order to move forward with Clarissa.

Passionate scenes are abundant as Clarissa discovers what real love can be like as she discovers Blackmer's expertise in the bedroom, yet the story is also intriguing and eventful for those readers who prefer a believable plot with their romance. Complete with pleasurable settings, enjoyable characters and an entertaining storyline which includes poison, Never Surrender to a Scoundrel is an ideal choice for any historical romance lover.