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!

Welcome to the new look!

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!

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.

Jan 19, 2015

Mailbox Monday

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued, and now hosted on its own blog.

I haven't done a Mailbox Monday post - or any meme post- in over a year, but today I am actually on the computer and I actually have had some books come in the mail this past week! These are goodies, and I know that because I had read the first book in their series and totally enjoyed them. The authors are based in the UK so I used some Amazon gift card money to purchase these from Amazon who had the best prices for these awesome titles:

Published September 2014 (UK) Sphere

The Winter Crown (Eleanor of Aquitaine #2) by Elizabeth Chadwick

It is the winter of 1154 and Eleanor, Queen of England, is biding her time. While her husband King Henry II battles for land across the channel, Eleanor fulfils her duty as acting ruler and bearer of royal children. But she wants to be more than this - if only Henry would let her.
Instead, Henry belittles and excludes her, falling for a young mistress and leaving Eleanor side-lined and angry. And as her sons become young men, frustrated at Henry's hoarding of power, Eleanor is forced into a rebellion of devastating consequences. She knows how much Henry needs her, but does Henry know himself?
Overflowing with scandal, politics, sex, triumphs and tragedies, The Winter Crown is the much-awaited new novel in this trilogy and a rich, compelling story in its own right.

Read my review of The Summer Queen, the previous title in the series here.

Published September 25th 2014 by Michael Joseph

Trinity (Wars of the Roses book #2) by Conn Iggulden

The brilliant retelling of the Wars of the Roses continues with Trinity, the second gripping novel in the new series from historical fiction master, Conn Iggulden.

1454: King Henry VI has remained all but exiled in Windsor Castle, struck down by his illness for over a year, his eyes vacant, his mind a blank.

His fiercely loyal wife and Queen, Margaret of Anjou, safeguards her husband's interests, hoping that her son Edward will one day know the love of his father.

Richard Duke of York, Protector of the Realm, extends his influence throughout the kingdom with each month that Henry slumbers. The Earls of Salisbury and Warwick make up a formidable trinity with Richard, and together they seek to break the support of those who would raise their colours in the name of Henry and his Queen.
But when the King unexpectedly recovers his senses and returns to London to reclaim his throne, the balance of power is once again thrown into turmoil.

The clash of the Houses of Lancaster and York will surely mean a war to tear England apart . . .

Following on from Stormbird, Trinity is the second epic instalment in master storyteller Conn Iggulden's new Wars of the Roses series. Fans of Game of Thrones and The Tudors will be gripped from the word go.

Conn Iggulden is one of the most successful authors of historical fiction writing today. Following on from Stormbird, the Sunday Times best-seller, Trinity is the second book in his superb new series set during the Wars of the Roses, a remarkable period of British history. His previous two series, on Julius Caesar and on the Mongol Khans of Central Asia, describe the founding of the greatest empires of their day and were number one bestsellers. Conn Iggulden lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and children.

Read my review of Stormbird, the first book in the series here.

Jan 5, 2015

Burton Book Review Best of 2014

I didn't read as many books as I have in previous years, so my Best of 2014 list is short but sweet. In no particular order, here are my picks for the Top Five Titles that I read in 2014:

From my review:
"Julie Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Park is perfectly packaged with several threads of the gothic suspense, Regency romance and inspirational themes while presenting a well plotted story with intriguing characters in an amazing setting. This one is a bit longer than her others which is always welcomed when stories are written are so well. This is definitely one of my very favorite Julie Klassen novels which I highly recommend to readers of Jane Austen and Jane Eyre."

From my review: 
"A stirring story that demands to be read in one sitting because you don't want to leave these unforgettable characters, Tracy Groot could not have done any better with this topic. Even while giving us horrifying visions of 'fence-posts' of dead soldiers, we still could not help but reach for that ultimate gift of a happily ever after. The Sentinels of Andersonville is a wonderfully powerful and evocative story that I would recommend to any historical fiction fan."

"Keepers of the Covenant is a captivating story of hardship, love and faith which depicts a historically important period for those of the Jewish community. I loved the first book, and I knew I would love this next installment. I was not disappointed at all, but I was reminded to continue to pick up the rest of Lynn Austin's work. I know I can't go wrong with any of her skillfully retold biblical novels. I highly recommend Lynn Austin and the Restoration Chronicles to any reader of biblical fiction. I especially love the larger size of these novels as well - nearing 500 pages, Keepers of the Covenant is a wonderfully engrossing and satisfying epic bible story." 

"The settings were wonderfully portrayed with strong character development throughout, with the very strong supporting cast that created a fast moving narrative. I really enjoy the fluid writing style of the author, and she doesn't disappoint with Ember Island. With her novels she has always been able to cleverly intertwine the past and the present, and when the characters do switch back and forth I am never unnerved. There is a feel of epic-saga story quality, and with this one the gothic touch that I alluded to earlier is rather thrilling. Very well done and I highly recommend all of her novels."

From my review:

"I simply loved the whole thing - the story and the writing, and will gladly read anything by Robin Oliveira for the rest of my life. I have a friend who wants to read this too, and my first thought is I need to give this to her, but I just can't let it go. I am going to have to read it again. And only maybe then can I share the joy and the heartbreak of the story. For now, it's just too personal, and it's mine to keep. Thank you to Robin Oliveira for touching my heart and putting together sentences the way that you do. Brava!"

Jan 3, 2015

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

My newest favorite Julie Klassen work!

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers, December 1, 2014
Historical/Christian fiction
Paperback 460 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher in expectation of an honest review
Burton Book Review Rating:
Read my reviews of other Julie Klassen titles here.

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

This is the third year in a row that I have read a Julie Klassen novel this time of year and I believe I enjoyed this year's title just a bit more than last year's The Dancing Master. This novel packed a bit more of the gothic suspense in it, which is a return to the style I loved in The Tutor's Daughter and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall. Klassen is a skillful storyteller who can easily channel Jane Eyre and Jane Austen as she writes her intriguing Regency novels which are also laced with an inspiring Christian theme.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park introduces us to a young Abigail Foster who is very close to becoming off the shelf in comparison to her beautiful sister Louisa. After an unfortunate series of events, Abigail gives over her dowry funds to provide a coming out season for the younger Louisa. Meanwhile, a stroke of luck lands Abigail and her family in Pembrooke Park, a large estate which needs a house sitter. Mysteries and strange characters follow Abigail's path as she tries to uncover the past of Pembrooke Park with the help of the locals who remember only pieces of the legend that haunts Pembrooke Park.

The previous inhabitants were distant cousins of Abigail's family, and feature two rival brothers who eventually grew up to have families of their own. One brother comes back to reclaim what he thought was his, and the children become victims of Clive Pembrooke's greed. How this all happens is what Abigail slowly entangles, just as she is also trying to entangle her heart from her girlish fantasy over a beau ignoring the more realistic path to a brighter future with the local parson who is a better fit for Abigail, but it'll take a lot for Abigail to let her guard down after her heart was wounded so recently.

Julie Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Park is perfectly packaged with several threads of the gothic suspense, Regency romance and inspirational themes while presenting a well plotted story with intriguing characters in an amazing setting. This one is a bit longer than her others which is always welcomed when stories are written are so well. This is definitely one of my very favorite Julie Klassen novels which I highly recommend to readers of Jane Austen and Jane Eyre.

Dec 15, 2014

Six Years Later

December 2014 marks the sixth anniversary since I first posted here on blogger. Six years is a very long time, especially when you consider my son is now seven. I really enjoyed the first few years of blogging and reviewing for others until it seemed like all of a sudden there were a huge glut of other bloggers and then bloggers started getting roped into blog tours with rules and obligations and just crappy attitudes from lots of folks who didn't like anything from a five star review to a one star review. Then bloggers turned against bloggers and formed cliques against other cliques and egads- just run for the hills.

Six years of blogging where there were those folks who sorta live kinda close and I'm all for maybe meeting up and hanging out, yo! But I don't drink wine, and I just never was that outgoing person who could just meet someone from the internet. My husband would kill me before the internet person would get a chance to. I'm just not a clubber no matter which connotation you take it.

I have seen online bloggy friends come and go, some with hard feelings and some more just like "I'll like your status update on Facebook but that's it for me".  I can't say I have much of a following here as things really have quieted down on the blog front. I don't remember the last time I got a comment. I think I'll turn commenting off to make myself feel better.

But hey six years! It's been a wild ride for me, as I really have learned a lot of useless information about things from the UK from five hundred years ago. I have also seen people fight about a stupid little historical fact on Facebook/Goodreads. Grow up and get a grip.

I actually stopped wanting to review historical fiction because there would be people out there who would exclaim "You actually liked that when it was fiction and they made that part up about ___ and ____???! How dare you, you evil reader!!"

I went from Tudor Fanatic to Tudor Pee U Icky I hate the Tudors and then I was like, "OH I LOVE the Wars of the Roses!" and then I was like "oh, Regency how Quaint!" and then I was like, "oh look, a Book! Must Buy!" and then "Oh, look a Book! Must Buy!" & "oh look, a Book! Must Buy!" and then "Oh, look a Book! Must Buy!"  and then I acquired my own library, and my own reading room, and my bedroom also looks like a mini library and then I realize geez, I've had some unread ARC's for about five years. (SO sorry, y'all!).. and then I'm like "Medieval?" eh can't really get into it so let's go Christian fiction and hell yeah I loved that for a year and then boom I switched professions and dropped off the face of the earth (or internet) and thousand of books are literally collecting dust as I type.

And then I am like awww I lurrvve my new church! let's sign up to do this! and that! oh okay, if you say so, I guess I'll do that, too! and then my daughter's Girl Scout Troop needs an assistant leader because no one else is left in the list of troop moms to do it, so Crap you Are So Screwed and why the f did you want to be a PTA mom, really??

And now I'm like, "bed... must sleep."

I miss reading. So when I do read - it's when I want to tune everyone out and I don't really give a crap about obtaining an education on Richard III anymore and V.C. Andrews is just magnificent for this exhausted brain.

I read every now and then and sometimes I will post a review if I get a large cup of coffee, pray to the wireless connection gods and try to get blogger to function on the old decrepit laptop.

So yeah. Maybe I'll see you here, but most likely not. It's okay if you're not around here, because I haven't had time to blog surf myself over there and I've missed your blogs-- if you are even posting out there anymore?! I'm out of the loop, man! (Same old story, different decade!)

I just felt like I owed my sad little blog a little Happy Anniversary post, since it was such a good friend to me for quite awhile. Happy Sixth Birthday, Burton Book Review!!!

Dec 12, 2014

Garden of Shadows (Dollanganger prequel) by V.C. Andrews

If you haven't read the prequel then you're totally missing the point!

Garden of Shadows (Dollanganger prequel) by V.C. Andrews
Pocket Books, first published 1987
Personal copy/read for pleasure

Read my other V.C. Andrews reviews

Dollanganger Series:
Flowers in The Attic
Petals on the Wind
If There Be Thorns
Seeds of Yesterday
Garden of Shadows (prequel)

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth (October 2014; ghostwritten)
Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger (January 2015; ghostwritten)

Before terror flowered in the attic there was a young girl. An innocent, hopeful girl... When young Olivia arrives at Foxworth Hall, she thinks her marriage to handsome Malcolm will bring the joy she has longed for. But in the gloomy mansion filled with festering desires and forbidden passions, a stain of jealous obsession begins to spread—an evil that will threaten her children, two charming boys and one very special, beautiful girl. For within the halls of this cursed house a shocking secret lives. A secret that will taint the Foxworth family for generations to come...

Recent posts have comprised of my V.C. Andrews reviews of both new and old releases, and this one is an old release that I never had the pleasure of reading. I cannot imagine why I didn't read it - perhaps I was turned off by the "prequel" part since I was in my teens and I had a high opinion of myself and what I felt was worthwhile. I have a feeling that I had a misconception that I knew everything there was to know about those kids who looked like Dresden doll angels as they were locked up at the Foxworth Mansion. I probably thought I didn't like that crazy old coot of a Grandma that Olivia was, and didn't want to know anything about her.

Garden of Shadows is all about Olivia Foxworth and her sad life as a wife to Malcolm Foxworth. More crazy weirdo shenanigans await readers with Olivia's story - and there is indeed a very intriguing secret that I had no idea about which pretty much floored me! It all really comes together now and puts everything into perspective as we see what brought Olivia to the point of locking grandchildren up in her attic. And we get to see Corrine as she grows up, and her brothers too. Olivia's character is a lot of matter-of-fact and definitely not a lot of sympathy can be derived, but in some ways the reader at least gets to see why Olivia does what she does.

Remember Joel from Seeds of Yesterday? Only now was I able to connect the dots. Melodramatic twists that even I didn't expect as we learn more about Garland Foxworth and his first wife who was Malcolm's runaway mother, and then we learn more Malcolm's beautiful stepmother Alicia. The Swan Room and the Attic are all key rooms in the story, and Olivia doesn't disappoint with her stern observance over every minor detail and her love for her children. Her cousin John Amos appears as Olivia's butler when she needs him most and later we see where the religious fervor all began, but most importantly: why.

When we find out why, we actually can sorta understand the reason behind the melodramatics that led to locking children in an attic for three years. Sorta. But all that stuff that turns people off from V.C. Andrews books like incest, abuse, making the bible look bad, peeking in on people having sex; this insanity is only for a certain few of us looking for that perfect escape from accounting.

Yes indeed, this is the perfect book for when you're ignoring the kids, the dogs, the husband, but not the cat. You mustn't ignore the cat.

Nov 30, 2014

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth by V.C. Andrews

Christopher’s Diary…For those who liked the Dollanganger series…

Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of Foxworth by V.C. Andrews
Pocket Books Paperback; October 28, 2014; ISBN: 9781476790589 $7.99
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

Read my other V.C. Andrews reviews

Jealousy, tragedy, survival, and revenge—the discovery of Christopher’s diary in the ruins of Foxworth Hall brings new secrets of the Dollanganger family to light and obsesses a new generation. With Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind both now major Lifetime TV events, this first new addition to the Dollanganger story in nearly thirty years is a timely look at the events in the attic—from teenage Christopher’s point of view.

Christopher Dollanganger was fourteen when he and his younger siblings—Cathy and the twins, Cory and Carrie—were locked away in the attic of Foxworth Hall, prisoners of their mother’s greedy inheritance scheme. For three long years he kept hope alive for the sake of the others. But the shocking truth about how their ordeal affected him was always kept hidden—until now. 

Seventeen-year-old Kristin Masterwood is thrilled when her father’s construction company is hired to inspect the Foxworth property for a prospective buyer. The once grand Southern mansion still sparks legends and half-truths about the four innocent Dollanganger children, even all these decades later. Foxworth holds a special fascination for Kristin, who was too young when her mother died to learn much about her distant blood tie to the notorious family.

Accompanying her dad to the “forbidden territory,” they find a leather-bound book, its yellowed pages filled with the neat script of Christopher Dollanganger himself. Her father grows increasingly uneasy about her reading it, but as she devours the teen’s story page by page, his shattering account of temptation, heartache, courage, and betrayal overtakes Kristin’s every thought. And soon her obsession with the doomed boy crosses a dangerous line…

(Read an excerpt here)

I am one of those age forty-something readers that remember the drama and the wicked horror of the original Flowers in The Attic series when the books had first caused a sensation in the eighties. The Real Virginia Andrews had a way with words that made this once-a-teenager swoon over her next published book. She became such a success that long after her death in 1986 a ghost writer still makes money off of her iconic name. The tone may be the same but it is inevitable that there are only whispers of the passion that the original author of the series had infused into her plots.

I had recently re-read the series which goes as follows: Flowers In the Attic, Petals on The Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and I am now just beginning Garden of Shadows, which is a sort of pre-quel to the series (I also re-read My Sweet Audrina, a stand alone novel that was just as juicy fun as the novels of the Foxworths). These were all titles that were written by the original author, and almost thirty years later Andrew Neiderman brings us the Dollanganger series with the new releases of Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth, and coming in early 2015, Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger.

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth is set in a later time long after the children of the attic are gone. We can only revisit them through Christopher's diary as Kristin Masterwood discovers the diary at the ruins of Foxworth Hall. While the synopsis hints at amazing secrets coming to life, we as the reader are not getting anything new. But Kristin is! Apparently, no one really knew what was going on at Foxworth Hall though the reader knew the secrets firsthand through the original books. Yet when Kristin finds the diary, she really did not have a good grip on what really went on behind the doors of Foxworth Hall before the two fires had finally destroyed the ancestral home. All that anyone in the community knew was that crazy Bart went off to bang the bible somewhere else. The rest were all theories and gossip about children in an attic but Kristin would like to know more since she knows her deceased mother was somehow a distant cousin.

The distant relative theme was something that could have come up as major suspenseful, but instead it become more of a mantra getting thrown out there for no effect but to annoy. If we are seriously talking fifty years later, the math doesn't really add up if you think hard about it. The storyline was all about Kristin and her current relationships and how "oh no- I should study to be valedictorian but I can't because Christopher's diary is calling my name." Kristin develops an odd relationship with a boy and the reader gets to hear all about how Kristin feels about her teen life and how her modern life would relate to Christopher's and Cathy's. As a new character to the series, Kristin's traits can turn off readers as she is obsessive but otherwise seemingly perfect; plus the narrative would go off into la-la land while Kristin's dad was talking to her by having a long musing about Christopher's and Cathy's feelings, and then going back into the current event at hand which got a bit old.

The next book will hopefully put a bit of closure on this first installment in the Dollanganger series, as the first ends with a dangling string of darkness and promises new attic moments. While I enjoyed this novel, I am on the fence as to which readers would enjoy it. Some major hardcore fans of V.C. Andrews may not like Niederman's drawn out (and unfinished) plot line, but those who really can't get enough of the soap opera drama that the original story provided should still enjoy the additional fodder related to the Flowers In The Attic family.

Christopher’s Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger is scheduled for release by Pocket Books in January 27, 2015; I look forward to that book to see if the family relationship between Kristin and the original clan can be unveiled.