Loved this Supernatural Thriller Fantasy YA series

The Gifting Trilogy by K. E. Ganshert

Newest novel by Lynn Austin

Book three in the Restoration Chronicles!

Welcome to Burton Book Review!

Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

My epiphany of 2015

Please don't contact me for a review request, I am not accepting any review books.

Best of 2015

BBR's Top 2015 Reads!

Jan 28, 2016

Lament for a Lost Lover by Philippa Carr


Lament for a Lost Lover by Philippa Carr
Various editions, circa 1977
Daughters of England Series, book 5
My previous reviews from this series

I edited this synopsis myself to avoid spoilers:
 Arabella Tolsworthy
Against the background of an England torn by civil war, religious persecution, and political treachery in the turbulent era of Cromwell and the Stuart Restoration, Philippa Carr has set the passionate story of Arabella Tolworthy, whose loves and destiny are inextricably linked to the plight of her nation.
The dethroned Charles I had met the executioner's ax with regal calm, and as Oliver Cromwell tightened his Puritan grip on English church and state, thousands of royalists fled their confiscated lands. Among them was young Arabella, her family seeking safe harbor in France where they hoped to serve the exiled royal heir, Charles II. Separated from her parents, confronted by the unaccustomed hardships of political banishment, she finds solace in the company or the ravishing and charismatic actress, Harriet Main.
Little does Arabella suspect the threat Harriet will pose to her future happiness.
Nor does she envision what lies ahead when dashing Edwin Eversleigh, Cavalier and heir to a titular fortune, makes her his bride after a whirlwind courtship. For in the deceptive peace following Parliament's Restoration of the Crown,  Arabella returns to England bearing a new scion of the Eversleigh estate.
With its skillful narrative, Lament for a Lost Lover is a worthy and engrossing successor to the previous novels of the Daughters of England saga.

This is the fifth Carr book I've read, which is a series written under a pseudonym of Jean Plaidy/Eleanor Hibbert. My fellow Carr reader and I had a mini read along as we could not wait to get to the next book in the Daughters of England series after finishing book 4, Saraband for Two Sisters. The story picks up with the next generation, and Arabella does not disappoint. What was a pivotal character in this one, the witchy one again - was Harriet. Once Harriet comes along, poor Arabella doesn't know which way was up. She had a fascination for the dramatic Harriet and Arabella lets herself be led around like a marionette. It was wicked fun to watch and while the Gothic tones were minimal in this one, there was still a sinister something out there that was a dun dun dunnnn waiting to happen.

I really enjoy these novels in spite of the formulaic plots centered around marriage, birth and death. The characters are the spice of the story, and there are many times the reader could be screaming at the character to open your eyes! I loved how the historical details were a little more in depth with this novel as the focus was always on whether Charles could have his English Crown back.The London Fire and the plague also make their appearance, and how it affects Arabella is part of the novel.

The next novel looks completely totally delish and I cannot wait to read book six, The Love Child. I need to make sure my life is not too crazy because I want to be able to enjoy that one, too! Come visit our Goodreads group for more read alongs on Jean Plaidy's works.

Jan 27, 2016

Sage's Eyes by V.C. Andrews



Sage's Eyes by V.C. Andrews
Simon and Schuster, January 26 2016
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you.
Burton Book Review Rating:3 Stars


From V.C. Andrews, bestselling author of Flowers in the Attic (the first in a series of Lifetime movie events about the Dollanganger family), comes the tale of a young girl kept under the watchful eye of her adoptive parents, as if they fear who—or what—she’ll become… Sixteen-year-old Sage is a lonely child. Her adoptive parents watch her obsessively, as if studying her for warning signs of…something. And maybe they’re right to—even she can’t make sense of the strange things she sees and hears. She possesses knowledge that other teenagers don’t, that her parents and teachers—no adult—could possibly have. So when Sage finally makes a friend who understands her alarming gift, he becomes her confidant, a precarious link to the truth about who she really is. For Sage and the alluring new boy at school share many things in common. Perhaps, they’ll learn, far too many things.

This newest novel from the ghostwriter for the V.C. Andrews estate has a very intriguing premise. Sage is struggling to fit in high school with her friends, as she seems wise beyond her years. She is gorgeous too, and the boys want her so much that the girls envy her. Her parents treat her in an odd way, something of over-protective gone weird. They act strangely and makes Sage realize that she is different than others even where family is concerned. The bulk of the story is how Sage interacts with others as she slowly discovers new things about herself and her 'abilities'. When the new hot kid comes to town, things get interesting. Finally the ending comes and we figure out why Sage has different abilities, and why her parents have been sheltering her.

While the story was intriguing enough to make me want to find out what happens to Sage, there were times that it was too over-thought. Told in a first person narrative, there was a lot of "I think.. I feel.. I wonder" and not a lot of action going on. The narratives could become cumbersome and this was my biggest complaint of the novel with the next being "really? that's it?" at the finale.

As a whole, it was pretty tame, and suitable for young readers - but die hard fans of V.C. Andrews will likely be disappointed. There is not a lot of a suspense feel, just more like a small mystery waiting to be solved. The Gothic Evil Tones of vintage V.C. Andrews is missing.


Jan 26, 2016

Mary Magdalene by Diana Wallis Taylor




Mary Magdalene: A Novel by Diana Wallis Taylor
published June 2012 by Revell
personal kindle copy
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

Long maligned as a prostitute or a woman of questionable reputation, Mary Magdalene's murky story seems lost to the sands of time. Now a portrait of this enigmatic woman comes to life in the hands of an imaginative master storyteller. Diana Wallis Taylor's Mary is a woman devastated by circumstances beyond her control and plagued with terrifying dreams--until she has a life-changing confrontation with the Savior.
 Lovers of historical and biblical fiction will find this creative telling of Mary's story utterly original and respectful as it opens their eyes to the redeeming work of Christ in the lives of those who follow him.

This was a inspired story about Mary of Magdala. It focuses on her life primarily until the Messiah arrives and then she follows Him, bringing the focus more on what she witnessed. I felt like the tone changed with that and the whole build up for empathizing Mary seemed to be ignored until the final chapters.

The beginning of the novel was an imagined story of what life could have like for Mary as someone who was "possessed" or not in control of her thoughts. Through this she was still portrayed as a simple and humble young lady, wishing for peace in her life. The characters that were created in the novel really did a nice job of supporting the story line and helped to flesh out the time line that the author was moving through.

 I enjoyed it fully but felt the last third wasn't as good as the first parts. I read the novel fairly quickly and would still of course recommend it to those interested in biblical fiction. I am looking forward to reading more from Diana Wallis Taylor, perhaps Martha will be the next from her that I will get to.

Dec 30, 2015

Burton Book Review Best Reads of 2015 and What's Ahead for 2016



Every year I post a favorites list of books that I had read that year.
Best of 2009
Best of 2010
Best of 2011
Best of 2012
Best of 2013
Best of 2014

This is my seventh year of Best Of's! Which means there is a blogiversary coming up this week, yay me!
I was fortunate that this year I was able to read more titles that I wanted to read as opposed to adhering to a review schedule. As life evolves, so has the blog.. and less review books means less blogging and more real life stuff. I had a career change mid 2013 which derailed my reading, and more recently I have become a mommy chauffeur to the brats. Aside from a recent EF-4 tornado impacting about 1,000 homes nearby, before that hit I posted on facebook regarding the year in review: "2015 began with a hospital bill we are still paying for, my son was the pack 896 winner of Pinewood Derby, my hubby bought me a Kindle Voyage, I met Susanna Kearsley, the boys went camping during a tornado, mom & I went to Shakespeare in the Park, we all went to the Perot Museum in Dallas, I aced a stressful test going towards my TASBO certification, I became a Parish Council member" so it was really a pretty good year for me in general. I have been settling into a new position at my office (after a full year in the position, lol) and have been thankful for the blessings bestowed on me and the family.

I was able to read some books that I had sitting in the wings waiting for someday.. and I will continue to read books from my own library as opposed to new acquisitions. This means that 'best of 2015' did not have to be published in 2015 but almost all of them were. Here is the link to all the books I have read and reviewed this year.

These are my fave reads of 2015:
(Click the titles or images to go to my review, opens in a new window).

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot - The author's previous work made last year's Best Of list as well. A vivid voice shines through her writing that will suck you in and make you sigh with pleasure once you are through. This was a fascinating look at World War II in a very different character-driven perspective.




Watch The Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle - Even though Tudor/Elizabethan novels have overstayed their welcome for the most part, I absolutely loved this portrayal of Penelope Devereux whose mother has always fascinated me. This author has a wit about her writing that gives a new life to the Tudor-era novels.



Somebody I Used To Know by David Bell- There are days which call for unputdownable suspense, and this fits the bill perfectly. I read all 448 pages of this thriller in one day.



The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz- Laura Frantz is well known in the Christian fiction genre, but this was the first one I had gotten around to reading. It was mesmerizing and full of hope and messages of faith, set after the American Revolution.



The entire Gifting trilogy by Katie Ganshert - Written under nom de plume K.E. Ganshert, this series was amazingly eye opening to me, who normally shies away from the alternate world type of Young Adult reads. I absolutely loved all three books and made my daughter read them too. Very well done and I sincerely hope there is more from this nom de plume!


A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - published in 2011, I had not received the book until the summer. I am definitely going to be continuing the series after I get tired of my current series binge of Philippa Carr. This novel was a pleasant surprise for me, as I had begun this with cold feet, and it was not until after the first fifty pages or so that I could get invested in the story of witches, vampires and demons. I raced through to the end though!

As you can see, my tastes have changed a bit over the previous years. What started out at mostly Tudor and Medieval reads have evolved into young adult, fantasy, and some Christian fiction. A little bit of everything just to keep me happy and engaged with reading.




Looking ahead to 2016, one wonders if I should bother blogging or not. It seems like no one is here sometimes.. but I know that not every review generates a need to actually comment. I am guilty of not clicking all the way through the many motions on other folks' reviews to simply say 'Thanks for the review, Looks Good.'  My simple reviews are not combative or mind boggling things that beg others to examine a question and answer them, hence, no comments.

There was a book I decided not to review last year simply because it was a reading for pleasure book. And writing reviews feels a lot like work, so I gave myself a break on it. Then, when I went back recently to look for my thoughts on that book -- it wasn't there. And that's when I reminded myself that I need to blog/review for me. This site is here for my pleasure - and for my purposes of cataloging and remembering my thoughts. Because let's face it: I'm getting older and my mind is pretty much a black hole! I barely remember what I did yesterday, so I am not going to remember every book I've read. That's why I have this nifty little blog so all I have to do is search my blog and I'll refresh my memory. I do NOT have delusions of becoming a writer someday and I am not using this blog to 'hone my craft' as others may be using theirs. I don't have the skills to professionally write reviews, and I never will. However, I like tinkering with design and graphics, and the blog itself allows me to do that as I update the look of it, and create cool little images like I have for this particular post, when I get the itch to do so.


I hope to read more Elizabeth Chadwick as I have kind of dropped the ball on that one this year, and I hope to read some old favorites from Georgette Heyer, Philippa Carr/Victoria Holt (not necessarily Plaidy), Susanna Kearsley and V.C. Andrews. If I add any more I'll just be over-extending and disappointment will rule.

Speaking of disappointment, for the first time in years I am not entering the self-imposed Goodreads challenge where you post a number of books you would like to read. For some stupid reason they changed the format and you can no longer tell how many pages you have read. I find that totally unhelpful. Comparing the number of books per user is crazy when you can't look at real numbers such as actual pages.

May 2016 be fruitful and full of wonderful reading.. if you're reading this, that is!! I'm reading it, so I will wish for myself a happy, chocolate filled loving life with my hubby and kids, and let's enjoy the cat and dogs, too.

Dec 28, 2015

Saraband for Two Sisters by Philippa Carr, Daughters of England book #4




Saraband for Two Sisters by Philippa Carr
Published 1976
The Miracle at St. Bruno's -read my review
The Lion Triumphant - read my review
The Witch From the Sea- read, but never reviewed here.
Synopsis:

Angelet and Bersaba. They were identical twins, but their alikeness stopped at their physical appearance. Angelet was gentle and mild in her innocence. While Bersaba was dark and devious in her overwhelming sensuality. They had never been apart--until Bersaba became ill. Angelet was immediately packed off to London. There she met and married Richard Tolworthy and went to live at the handsome, brooding manor house at Far Flamstead. Bersaba had always thought she would be the first to wed. Recovered, she went to visit the newlyweds with more jealousy than joy in her heart. Nothing could have prepared her for the secrets she discovered there. Secrets of a carefully hidden past that could unleash dangerous passions and forever separate her from the sister she had always loved...

This is the fourth novel I have read of the Daughters of England series created by Philippa Carr who is also known as Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt. The series is a historical gothic romance saga that follows the same family tree from one generation to the next, set against intriguing backdrops of historical importance. While Plaidy's work can be incessantly dry and monotonous as she details historical events with her royal character portrayals, the Carr pen name allowed her to freely carve out fanciful reimaginings with some pretty far-fetched plots which makes it so much fun to read.

The previous novel The Witch from The Sea brought us the story of a woman being washed ashore and the drama that was caused by her arrival. In Saraband for Two Sisters that woman's daughter arrives back at Trystan Priory and creates turmoil within the lives of twins Angelet and Bersaba. This novel is told in alternating first person accounts by these sisters, who are twins only in appearance. Their characters are developed before our eyes as Bersaba is the impetuous passionate one, and Angelet is the sweeter kinder of the two. The reign of King Charles is at question in England and the two key men in the novel are at opposite ends of the political beliefs of the time: Royalist and Puritan. Of course, the twins wind up with one of each.

Wild events occur from smallpox and secrets of a mysterious castle, poisons and falling in love with the wrong men. It was fast paced and seemed better to stomach than the previous novel; with some of the previous Carr novels the males were portrayed as overbearing brutes and this one only seems to have the recurring character of the grumpy maniacal Grandfather Casvellyn as the mean man. The others were pretty darned good to a fault. This time...I know it can't last forever.

These are the type of novels that you can't go too much into the detail without giving away a spoiler, so I will end it here with the remarks that I enjoy the Daughters of England series for the dramatic license it exhibits even while still setting a historical tone, and the characters are so easy to root for. The gothic suspense with romance thrown in is always a treat and whenever I finish a Carr novel I always want to binge read and move on to the next one. These novels would have made a fantastic TV series with awesome instrumentals playing in the background.

Since I own all the titles, just for kicks I looked up the next book: Lament for A Lost Lover and it will bring us more turbulent political drama of Cromwell and will follow the daughter of Bersaba as they are forced away from their home to take exile with the rightful king.

Dec 14, 2015

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - All Souls' book one

Book 1 fascinated me!
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Paperback, 579 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published February 8th 2011)
ISBN 0143119680 (ISBN13: 9780143119685)
Burton Book Review Rating: 
A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

I had gotten the All Souls boxed set over the summer and hoped to be able to find the time to read them asap, but I just managed to finish book one, A Discovery of Witches, recently. At almost 600 pages I would have thought it would take me a month to read given the busy time of the year, but the story had me hooked after page 15 or so and I could not wait to get a chance to sneak in a few pages and visit my fave paranormal characters.

I am not one who habitually sets out to read about witches, vampires or creatures, or any other worldly "fantasy" creatures yet there was something so creative and intriguing about the particular ingenious facets about these characters. Diana is a very likable person who was born a witch but doesn't really trust herself as a witch, and a vampire Matthew finds her and falls in love with her in spite of all the no-no's about no mixing of the creatures. And the demons -- spelled daemons -- are a very intellectual group wearing old-fashioned vests who could be diabolical were a nice touch.

The book has been out for a few years, so there's not much more to say on it review wise. It's a #1 Best Seller on Amazon in the Vampire Thriller Kindle category, which seems pretty cool. There is mystery and suspense,  sweet budding romance, violent vampire cravings, and fire tingling fingers on Diana the witch. So many things that I typically would be all like 'dude, that's so unintelligent and made-up fairy tale stuff for kids'. Whatever, I loved it and I can't wait to get to book two, especially as there is going to be some time travel going on to Elizabethan England. See, there's my historical fiction nerd getting its fix.

 I am kind of annoyed that I read a synopsis for book three because there was a big spoiler there (now that I care about the characters, I'm totally invested in the story). So beware there if you have not read these yet.

For readers who like a bit of adventure, I completely recommend the first book, A Discovery of Witches, the debut novel (whaaat???!!) by Deborah Harkness, she who is the spinner of tales full of awesome imagination and a wonderful sly wit during really tense moments.. and I just heard that she is set to release in 2017 another All Souls' piece, The Serpent of Mirrors, so the current release of three books won't be a trilogy for long.

Penguin has released a free, e-book only, richly illustrated real-time reading guide that brings to life the world created by Deborah Harkness in A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, retracing the events of these two bestselling novels with illuminating behind-the-scenes details and real-life events that figure into the books. Get the scoop here.

Nov 25, 2015

The Gifting Trilogy by K.E. Ganshert

Book one of The Gifting Trilogy by K.E. Ganshert

If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous.

Tess Eckhart has always felt things nobody else can feel. Then the Ouija board incident happens at a high school party. Her complete freak out sends her family across the country--next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill. Worried Tess suffers from the same illness that tormented her grandmother, her parents insist she see a psychiatrist.

Tess is more concerned about fitting in at her new school, and hiding the fact that she's seeing a therapist at the Edward Brooks Facility. She's used to whispers and stares, but when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she's unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something--that he might somehow be responsible.

But what if she's wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?
Somewhere around November 15th I had decided I was going to read something that I wanted to read, something that didn't require a review kind of thing especially since I was coming up on a week long vacation. So I decided to pick up my Kindle Voyage and peruse my large collection. I came upon The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert, (a.k.a Katie Ganshert) and decided this was perfect, and I already had the whole trilogy. A really neat premise - something different when we are talking about supernatural things and how they fit into our reality. I completely loved the character build up of Tess, and the cutest boy in town, Luka along with their relationship. Taking a look back at the whole trilogy, it seems like so long ago when the two of them were sharing classes together in an affluent part of California.
Book #2

I read The Gifting in less than four days, and moved on immediately to book two as I was totally hooked and there was some cliffhanging action going on. In The Awakening there is a lot of action and thrills as we enter into a completely new norm for the characters. The characters have gifts, but the 'other side' is trying very hard to eradicate the world of those people with gifts. The gifts we would normally see as psychosis are actually some really cool abilities that are tailored to fit together in a group attack against evil. More characters are introduced in the second installment which add to the intrigue and the suspense that is building before the ultimate finale: The Gathering.
The final installment

"Darkness is a tricky thing. Especially when it cloaks itself in light."

Luka isn’t dead. He’s not beyond saving. Tess knows because she saw him with her own eyes. After what she saw, she’s sure of one thing: If they don’t rescue him soon, Luka won’t be Luka anymore.
If only she could convince the other members of the hub. They’re not sure Tess saw what she claims she saw. And they’re preoccupied by the fact that their kind is being systematically eradicated. Answers lie in an ancient prophecy, one that revolves around a seventeen-year-old girl who never asked for any of this.
K.E. Ganshert’s final installment in The Gifting Series brings readers on an action-packed journey through loss, sacrifice, betrayal, and the impossible choice between what we want most and what we know is right.
The final installment really did a fantastic job of completely pulling off the whole entire supernatural/good side versus the evil/bad side. I loved the creativity and the imagination of the series, and I was sitting there with tears streaming down my face a couple of times. Such a fantastic job of writing and storytelling, I sincerely hope that Katie Ganshert does another series like this again. Five stars all around. Thank you to Katie for such a wonderful adventure I've had the last ten days with the trilogy. I really enjoyed reading for pleasure again, but I am really going to miss these special characters.

Go check out the first installment on Amazon, it is free for the taking!

Nov 22, 2015

Resolution of sorts..more like an epiphany..

I know it's early for New Years' Resolutions, but I just thought of something beneficial to my sanity that maybe if I put it down to words for the public to hold me to it, perhaps I will adhere to it:

I think I've discovered the most amazing and guilt free resolution perfect for me! NO MORE REVIEW BOOKS! I am so enjoying just reading WTF I want to right now. Last week I was not approved to receive and review Julie Klassen's newest upcoming novel, and that was like a slap in the face especially since I missed her last one. I love her work and the four novels which I have been blessed to read have all been review books. I have already gone back and bought the few I had missed that came out before I had started reviewing her books, but I haven't gotten around to them because I've been so busy reading newer REVIEW books. 

And today I realized it was a good time to just forget all that jazz with the 'must post review on this site, this site, and that site'. Yes, it's a review book for free. But really why do I torture myself with all these "mandatory" reads with rules attached? I have a large stash of books that I own, and my Goodreads shelf laughs at me if I try to shelve more.


Because that small number of 1,143 books is the number of books that I know I have a real living physical copy in my house somewhere that I can pick up and read at any moment of free time (there's that laughter again). And then I go look at my Kindle Voyage and there's that small number of 1,866 kindle books hanging out in that black hole.

So you know what, Bethany House, my favorite Inspirational Publisher out there? Thank you again for another gift of wisdom. I shall review my own books.
If I feel like reviewing them, that is. 

 Amen.

Nov 15, 2015

On This Foundation (Restoration Chronicles #3) by Lynn Austin

Conclusion of a fantastic biblical series

On This Foundation (Restoration Chronicles #3) by Lynn Austin
 -easily read as a stand-alone!
Biblical fiction, paperback 466 pages
Bethany House, September 2015
Review copy provided by Bethany House in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:4.5 Stars

Reviews of the previous novels in the series:
Return To Me
Keepers Of The Covenant

The Powerful Concluding Novel to The Restoration Chronicles
When news that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire, Nehemiah, Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia, seeks God's guidance. After fasting and prayer, he's given leave to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, not anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.
The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and halt the work. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, many families resorting to selling their children as bond servants just to keep from starving.
Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is a powerful exploration of faith in the midst of oppression, and hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.
The Restoration Chronicles is the newest series by author Lynn Austin; her previous works in this series were easily my favorites. This third installment brings us the story of Nehemeiah as he pursues his calling to rebuild the protective walls surrounding Jerusalem which have been in ruins for nearly one hundred and fifty years. However, upon his return to his ancestral home to act as governor of Judah, Nehemiah realizes it's not only the walls that require rebuilding.

The village is suffering due to drought and the wealthier noblemen find it easy to flaunt their riches and take advantage of the poor, even enacting laws of the Torah to enslave those who are less fortunate. Austin demonstrates this through both the eyes of the rich and the poor with Malkijah and his new bond servant Nava. Nava must work as his bond servant for seven years in order to repay owed taxes, and Nehemiah implores all of the noblemen to return the bond servants to their families and show mercy.

As the community unites to rebuild Jerusalem's wall, God's hand can be seen as his guide as the impossible task seemed to occur seamlessly- yet it demonstrated how the people's simple faith can conquer all. Nehemiah was a smart man who combined his faith with action and had the willingness to fight for those building the wall, some at their peril. He armed the workers, and worked tirelessly to rebuild the walls and gates in record time.

Nehemiah's actions cause a deeper rift with the noblemen when he is soon seen as a savior to the poor, and conspiracies develop among the more powerful to rid them of the governor. Through it all, themes of God's mercy and His love are running as undercurrents, and Nava learns from those more faithful how to rebuild her own faith and trust in the Lord who she feels has abandoned her during troubled times.

"God is at work. We can't understand how He chooses to answer our prayers, but He will answer them, one way or another.

Don't ask God what He's doing. Ask Him what you should be doing."

The narratives alternate between Malkijah's betrothed, Chana, Nava the servant, and Nehemiah, to fully enhance all points of view of the novel, and each enhanced God's messages through Austin's powerful storytelling. She expertly expands slices of scripture with the culture of biblical times and gives us an unforgettable and believable anecdote of the religious heritage which is a gift in itself. Her stories present theselves as that - a story. I do not find them preachy, nor condemning, I simply relish the author's passion for retelling a biblical source in a very inspiring way. The Restoration Chronicles series is an extraordinary work of biblical fiction and I highly recommend this series as a whole, though they each represent different scripture stories and can be read alone.

Nov 11, 2015

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz



The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz
Revell, September 2015
$14.99, pb, 400 pages
Review copy provided in exchange for review for Historical Novels Review
Burton Book Review Rating:
The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news. When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is a sign of better days to come. But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general's past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost. When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?

Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal--readers find it all in the rich pages of this newest historical novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz. Her careful historical details immerse the reader in the story world, and her emotional writing and finely tuned characters never cease to enchant fans both old and new.

There comes a time when I regret choosing a novel to review for another review outlet when I need to hold my thoughts for months on end when I would prefer to just shout SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE.

When I review for another "professional" type of outlet, I feel limited with my word count restraint, I pay more attention to the words I choose, I re-read and proof my review and take thoughts out, and then I am left with a shell of a review within the word count limits and I don't feel like I get my point across.

Such as this was, with The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz. Reading this in June, when the review cannot post till the fall, and I feel sad that I cannot just simply tell everyone immediately how much I loved this novel with its many facets.

Firstly, it was my first Laura Frantz novel, though I do own some of the others due to other reviewers' recommendations, I rarely get around to reading a book simply for pleasure, meaning when there is not an expected review attached to it. When I was chosen to review this one for HNR, I was eager to finally get my chance to see what all the clamor was about for inspirational novelist Laura Frantz. And I was not disappointed.

Secondly, this novel features an era that inspirational publishers tend to shy away from, though I have no earthly idea why. They have published Frontier novels, Amish novels, Civil War novels, Regency novels. But they skip the American Revolution, and there are so many stories to be told! Please, I BEG YOU! Start publishing more novels on the Revolutionary War!

Frantz does well with the setting of the aftermath of the war, but this is not a novel with details about the war. She shows it as part of the character's past, and demonstrates how royal sympathies conflict with those of the colonials. I am dying for more of the era.

If you are wondering why I only gave the novel four and a half stars as opposed to five, it is because I would have preferred just a touch more of the actual events of the era- or the allusion of, although the era was adequately portrayed as a whole in reference to the social classes and stereotypes. When I read hist-fic, I do like to learn a bit of something along the way, which is why I got so caught up in "royal" historicals. I also admit to having a dry spell where I didn't pick up the book for a couple days in the middle of reading it, so I guess it had started to be just a bit too slow at some point. But again .. I obviously still definitely recommend this one for lovers of the inspirational fiction genre; I see no reason why many readers won't give her the five star prize for this.


Anyway, here's to the actual review I submitted to HNR:

As Sophie Menzies waited patiently for her brother to return safely from the American War of Independence, her home was in the process of being seized by the government. Her neighbor General Seamus Ogilvy did return as a war hero and was sympathetic to Sophie who was alone at Three Chimneys. Needing a helper for his young daughter, he was kind to Sophie and offered a reprieve from the anonymous threats aimed at Sophie's once-Tory household. Daughter Lily Cate was an integral character to the story as the budding romance between Sophie and Seamus blossomed and she was adored by them both. A refreshing twist was that the woman who managed to save the day was a colored woman whose integrity ultimately secured Seamus's and Sophie's marriage, allowing Sophie to remain Mistress of Tall Acre. But when tragedy strikes, the couple needed to overcome both emotional and legal obstacles in order to remain together at Tall Acre.

Kindling a slow paced romance allowed the reader to feel the tension and become fully invested with the story which included several sub-plots. As the story arc progressed, the moods would change as we experienced grief, loneliness, fear, hope and joy alongside Sophie and Seamus. The tense setting of the post-American Revolution was shown as an uneasy time with unregulated government and progressive ideals; a country of colonists struggling to adapt to its new found independent status where sympathies between neighbors range from loyalists and Tories to colonial settlers eager for a new beginning. The novelist includes quotes of faith to guide the unforgettable characters' path and they turn to Him to lighten their load, making this novel a beautiful blend of inspirational and historical romantic fiction. It is no surprise that Laura Frantz is a favorite of the genre.

And here is where I tell you that if you haven't gotten to read Frantz's previous works, feel free to start here. Her latest works were her Ballantyne Legacy series, and I tend to stay away from series as a personal choice (until I know I have all the books and the time to read them close together). This stand-alone is perfect to get introduced to Frantz, though her earliest novels are also stand alone. And definitely moving up in my TBR list.

Nov 4, 2015

The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick




The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick
Revell, September 2015
Historical/Biographical/Inspirational
Review copy provided in exchange for review for Historical Novels Review
Burton Book Review Rating:3.5 Stars Liked it a lot

Read my posts mentioning Jane Kirkpatrick works

Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now the young mother of two children, Eliza faces a different kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants them to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her departed mother's grave--and returning to the land of her captivity. Eliza longs to know how her mother, an early missionary to the Nez Perce Indians, dealt with the challenges of life with a sometimes difficult husband and with her daughter's captivity.

When Eliza is finally given her mother's diary, she is stunned to find that her own memories are not necessarily the whole story of what happened. Can she lay the dark past to rest and move on? Or will her childhood memories always hold her hostage?

Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick's latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman's heart. Readers will find themselves swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.



Jane Kirkpatrick's historical novels re-imagine a period of time many have forgotten, usually featuring important members of society of that particular time. The Memory Weaver brings us the story of Eliza Spalding growing up among the wilderness of the Oregon Trail in the mid 1800's and how she and her family dealt with the tragic event of the Indian Massacre of 1847. The Spalding family is a missionary family that traveled with the Whitman family in order to bring the "Book of Heaven" to the Indians across the Rockies.

At age ten, Eliza witnesses the horrible tragedy when the Whitmans were killed along with about a dozen others spurred on by a measles outbreak among the Cayuse Indians. Eliza's life is portrayed as reliving certain memories and how she eventually learns to interpret the memories from what she eventually believed happened and reality. Her tenacity, loyalty, strength and devotion to her family are all traits that we come to admire about Eliza, and the struggles between the Indians and pioneers are just one of the themes interlaced throughout the story. Eliza's relationships with her stubborn father, her sisters, and husband carry the story forward as we marvel at the hardships of the pioneer families.

Since the novel is written to closely mirror actual events, the final push towards the end of the novel focused more on Eliza's need to find peace and understanding with her memories, which stalled the enjoyment of the novel. Even still, the novel imparts an intriguing slice of America's history with several tear-jerking moments as we recount Eliza's steps as the first white baby to survive adulthood in the Oregon Territory.

Oct 8, 2015

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle


Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle
Simon & Schuster paperback June 2015
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this honest review
Burton Book Review Rating:

Synopsis:
 From the author People called “a must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a “terrifically entertaining” (The Sunday Times, London) novel about two sisters who must survive life in the Tudor court after the execution of their sister Lady Jane Grey who was queen for just nine days.
Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Katherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal death of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Fremantle brings these young women and their perilous times to vivid life.Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous career at court.
 Flirtatious Lady Katherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act.
 It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth Tudor, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

Other links at Burton Book Review:
Interview with Fremantle for Sisters of Treason paperback release
Interview with Fremantle for Watch The Lady release
Review of Watch The Lady, book 3 of the Tudor Trilogy
Review of Queen's Gambit, book 1 of the Tudor Trilogy



Fremantle's effortless storytelling brings new life to age-old tales, especially those tired Tudor stories. I have thoroughly enjoyed her entire trilogy which featured royal court players of the Tudor courts, along with this one which focuses on the Grey sisters. Lady Jane Grey is best known as the Nine Day Queen, the young girl foisted onto the English throne by eager power grabbing nobles after the young king dies. She lasted a little while until Queen Mary Tudor ordered her death.

While it is a story we know well, the new spin is the point of views from a painter Levina Teerlinc, and the remaining sisters Katherine and Mary. Their mother Frances is portrayed a bit less haughty in this telling, and we can definitely feel a empathy for her as her daughters are merely trying to survive once Elizabeth I rises to the throne. I love how the crook-backed Mary Grey gets a voice through this novel as she seems to have been overlooked many times before. And while Katherine could easily be seen as a flighty, passionate young girl with her trysts, this telling gives her a veil of innocence that we cannot help but to root for her and her romance.

The narrative switches between the sisters and the painter, and we become invested in each of their livelihoods even when we know it will not end happily ever after. A bit of an interesting fictional plotline is thrown in which might turn some folks off, but overall the way the story was presented was done so well that it merits a high rating from me. While the middle started to feel redundant for a bit, it was as I was reading the last pages with tears down my cheeks. So poignant, and so well done. I probably don't need to read Leanda Lisle's biography on the Grey sisters, but I am even more intrigued to do so now.


Sep 23, 2015

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley

Thank you Sourcebooks for another winner!

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark, reissue pub date of October 6, 2015
eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this honest review
Burton Book Review Rating:

Read my reviews of other works by Susanna Kearsley
A haunting tale of intrigue from New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley.
Although it goes against her workaholic nature, literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw lets herself be whisked off to Wales for the Christmas holidays by her star client, flamboyant children's author Bridget Cooper. She suspects Bridget has ulterior motives, but the lure of South Wales with its castles and myths is irresistible. Perhaps a change of scene will bring relief from the nightmares that have plagued her since the death of her child.
Lyn immerses herself in the peace and quiet of the charming Welsh village, but she soon meets an eccentric young widow who's concerned her baby son is in danger—and inexplicably thinks Lyn is the child's protector.
Lyn's dreams become more and more disturbing as she forms a surprisingly warm friendship with a reclusive, brooding playwright, and is pulled into an ancient world of Arthurian legend and dangerous prophecies. Before she can escape her nightmares, she must uncover the secret of her dreams, which is somehow inextricably located in a time long ago and far away...
I think I've now read about five of Susanna Kearsley's novels, most of which I have really enjoyed. This one I also enjoyed which is intriguing to me simply because this novel isn't quite like her others. My original draw to the author was her dual time-period narratives and yet this one is different. There is no dual time period here though there are themes that redirect your thoughts to eras gone by, such as the Arthurian legends or the quest for Henry VII to win the English crown.

The story itself is that of a writer's agent, Lyn, who goes on holiday with her flirtatious client, Bridget. Lyn is there to perhaps score herself another client, but she prides herself on being of sound ethics and a good judge of character. She is definitely very easy to like which made me want to pursue reading about what was happening to Lyn as she uncovered more and more of a mystery going on in a remote village of Wales and gets a little caught up with romantic thoughts for rogue-ish Welsh guys.

There was a wonderful tension being built up between the fellow inhabitants of the house that Lyn was staying at, and the mystery theme didn't come off as a plain whodunit formula. The story revolved around Lyn's past hurts and how she was coming to terms with grief, and learning about her new friends. When she becomes protective of a baby is when the drama and tension start to take off, and I was sucked in. It wasn't till I finished the novel that I realized, hey this isn't a historical! And I liked it! Good times. I don't like coming up with buzz words or quotable sentences that feel forced, so let me just say I do love this author and her stuff: she is good at what she does. Susanna Kearsley is one of those names that come to mind when someone asks me for recommendations.

Sourcebooks has been reissuing Kearsley's novels, and this is another one. Some readers get perturbed when novels are marketed as "new" so I just wanted to put it out there that this novel was originally issued in the late nineties but long out of print. Some reviewers will also say they don't give five stars for anything unless their socks got knocked off. I don't wear socks too often, but since I read this book in less than two weeks and I actually WANTED to read again (unlike the last read which was over a month long of complete torture), hell yeah: five stars to Kearsley for making me remember what reading for pleasure was all about.

And thank you to Sourcebooks for offering the eGalley for my review. I still need to read some of the originals that Sourcebooks reissued, such as The Winter Sea or Mariana. I had gotten those signed by the author when I got a chance to see her at a signing in Dallas. Sweet!

Sep 8, 2015

The Passionate Enemies: Book 3 of the Norman Trilogy by Jean Plaidy


The Passionate Enemies: Book 3 of the Norman Trilogy by Jean Plaidy
First published about 1976
Not even gonna try to rate this bad boy
This is the third and final book in The Norman Trilogy and tells the story of the last days of the reign of Henry I. His son and wife are dead, and Henry hastily remarries a woman more than thirty years his junior in the hope of producing a male heir and securing the succession.

If he fails, the throne will pass to Matilda, and Henry fears that his nobles will not willingly serve a woman. But after his death this feckless daughter becomes the focus of a line of would-be kings and soon the country is plunged into a bitter civil war that only a child can undo.


What a thorn in my side this book was. I was so looking forward to getting to a Plaidy historical, for Jean Plaidy has been lauded as a favorite author by many. I have seen many posts by people who state that they read her novels when in high school and loved them so. I wanted to love this book, but much like book two of the Norman trilogy, this was a major bomb.

The story follows the timeline of Empress Matilda and her cousin Stephen, when Henry I is aging and needs to name a successor since his one legitimate son perished on the White Ship. The characters of the Empress and Stephen were repeatedly cemented in throughout the novel: the Empress: a virago, and Stephen, the weak usurper.

The novel has a bit of floof to it as well, with the Empress and Stephen secretly in love (which is not a secret or a spoiler since that is what the synopsis implies). The Empress could wield the magic stick and bring Stephen to his knees, pretty much the whole entire novel was the going back and forth .. one of my Goodreads status updates was "Please don't be more about how Stephen wants Matilda and Matilda holds crown over Stephen's head."

Among the many repeated themes in the novel was the fact that the Empress was named Matilda and Stephen's queen was also Matilda. Over and over again the two Matildas were compared to each other, mostly as Stephen mooned over one while ignoring the other. The novel was so very character focused that one does not completely get the feel of how England suffered during the turmoil of the Stephen vs. Empress wars.

I started the novel in the beginning of August. The dog then ate the book, so I had a week off while I waited for another copy. I finally finished the book on September 8. Not exactly one of those page turning novels!
I think over the years the historical fiction genre has seen the rise of excellent writers such as Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick which then makes picking up a practically vintage Plaidy a hit or miss type of option.

I have enjoyed the three novels I've read under the Phillippa Carr pseudonym, and definitely will return to that series before I can brave another Jean Plaidy.

Thank you so much to MaryKate to being my fellow sufferer. Though perhaps I would have fed the second copy of the book to the dog if I didn't have someone waiting on me for a readalong. BUT it was nice to  have someone who understood what I was going through! The fourth Carr will be our next read along as soon as I can muster up the strength to try again :)

The previous reviews of the Norman trilogy:

The Bastard King Vol. 1
The Lion of Justice Vol. 2
The Passionate Enemies Vol. 3

Aug 17, 2015

An Open Letter to Books Squared of Dallas, TX

To Whom It May Concern at Books Squared of Dallas TX.
I could have easily gone directly to Thriftbooks to order my used book as I used to do before I got tired of their horrific stickers and labels all over my books.
I did not order from Thriftbooks specifically and YET, by ordering via AbeBooks and choosing a local seller named Books Squared STILL somehow I am getting the book via Thriftbooks. The replacement copy that I ordered from you will always stick out now because I have a nice rip where I tried to take the label off.
           But gee- what do YOU care, since I can't leave a rating for you as a seller.
I chose you, Books Squared, specifically because you were 25 miles away from my home. I didn't count on the fact that it took you six days to simply process my order (and then wait for it via snail mail).
So, now I won't shop at Abebooks, and of course Thriftbooks, for my personal library needs.

Sucks for you.
And yes, I will paste this on my book review site, my goodreads account, twitter it, Facebook it. You're welcome, Books Squared.


I sent the seller this note because there was no way to leave a bookseller rating. Many of you realize I own all of the Jean Plaidy novels, Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr novels which are her pseudonyms.

So when my damn dog ATE my freaking book three of Plaidy's Norman trilogy, I was perturbed. But I reordered it, since they are pretty easily accessible via the secondary marketplace.

And needless to say, I was even more perturbed at my buying adventure at Abebooks. Buyer, beware.


Please feel free to share my rant.

Aug 15, 2015

Evergreen Falls by Kimberley Freeman- (Review and Giveaway!)

A fantastic page turner!

Evergreen Falls by Kimberley Freeman
Simon & Schuster/Touchstone (reissue) August 2015
HistFic/Dual Time Period
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this review, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: Four and 1.2 Stars!


A long-forgotten secret, a scandalous attraction and a place where two women's lives are changed forever - Evergreen Falls is the captivating new novel from Kimberley Freeman. 1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.

2014: After years of putting her sick brother's needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel's renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair - and a shocking secret.

If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?
Read reviews of Kimberley Freeman's previous novels here at BurtonBookReview.com


This is the fourth novel of Kimberley Freeman's that I have read, and I have yet to be disappointed. Her novels are similar to another favorite author of mine, Susanna Kearsley, as they follow a dual time period story arc and always seem to be intriguing and fast paced. If I wasn't offered this novel for review, I was all set to buy it! But many thanks to the publisher for originally turning me on to this author in 2011.

Evergreen Falls is a small little town in Australia's Blue Mountains where the contemporary character Lauren Beck is working when she stumbles upon papers in an old hotel that is being remodeled. Her new love interest gives her access to the hotel so she can do some further investigating after finding evocative love letters that were hidden away. The story brings us to the 1920's, set in a classy hotel where servant Victoria Armstrong finds forbidden love with a very wealthy guest, Sam Honeychurch-Black. Both storylines eventually intersect but each mirrors the other with the themes of a building romance, family loyalties and betrayals, and sacrifice.

There are quite a few supporting characters to add realistic touches to the novel: with meddling mothers, and both overbearing men and heroic men. The setting is beautiful, from and enchanting swimming hole and a love cave to a luxury hotel held captive among the snowdrifts.

The author does a very good job with capturing the nuance of both eras, and the switching from one narrative to the next wasn't jarring in any way. Very enjoyable with the suspense of Lauren trying to discover what happened many years ago with Victoria and Sam, and Lauren's current issues with her family were also timely and intriguing. Full of secrets and scandals, Evergreen Falls is a fantastic piece that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Fair warning: you will find it difficult to put down in order to get a good night's sleep!



Thank you to the publisher for offering a giveaway of Evergreen Falls to my followers in USA and Canada!!

And extra special this time is there will be TWO winners if I can get more than 15 individuals to enter and comment on this giveaway. Which means YOU will need to help out and SHARE this post! 

Aug 11, 2015

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot


Captivating storytelling


Maggie Bright (A Novel of Dunkirk) by Tracy Groot
Tyndale, 2015, $24.99, 368 pages
Review copy provided in exchange for review at Historical Novels Review (Editors Choice)
Burton Book Review Rating:


England, 1940.
Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the "Maggie Bright"--a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she's counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler's darkest schemes and prompt America to action.Across the Channel, Hitler's "Blitzkrieg" has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows "Maggie Bright" must answer the call--piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.



Tracy Groot packs a powerful punch with her compelling story of characters coming together during terrible times, featuring the Maggie Bright, a little boat that brings hope to all it touches. The novel starts off with seemingly unrelated characters: Clare, a simple woman who wants to learn how to sail her new boat; Jamie, a soldier who wants to do his duty and save England and a captain; Murray, a cartoonist wanting to bail his priest out of jail; and William, a detective wanting to avenge cruelty. Somehow the author makes these simple characters explode onto the pages with several moving plots that climax at the famous Dunkirk evacuation of 1940.

Clare and Detective William begin to work together to find a way to prove certain atrocities, but World War II is about to happen on their doorstep. The very idea of an evacuation is far from anyone’s mind, and the realization of the effects of Germany’s advances is portrayed vividly throughout each character’s story. These are unforgettable characters put in an untenable situation, but they manage to persevere and show us that humanity exists for a reason (keep tissues handy).

Much like Tracy Groot’s last novel of wartime (The Sentinels of Andersonville), Maggie Bright is a page-turner that will stay with you long after you are finished. The portrayal of war and all its ugly facets is written to avoid shock value, but to give the reader a clear vision of why we have to fight in the first place. Without a doubt, Maggie Bright is a favorite novel of 2015.

Read my review of Tracy's previous award winning novel: The Sentinels of Andersonville

Aug 5, 2015

To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander




To Win Her Favor (A Belle Meade Plantation Novel #2) by Tamera Alexander
Zondervan, May 12 2015
352 pages
Review copy provided in exchange for review at Historical Novels Review
Burton Book Review Rating:


A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who can help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing for good.

An Irish-born son far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and start a farm, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the annual Drayton Stakes at Nashville’s racetrack––the richest race run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance, and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder, Maggie’s father––aging, yet wily as ever––makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail––Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Cullen and Maggie need each other in order to achieve their dreams. But their stubborn, wounded hearts––and the escalating violence from a "secret society" responsible for lynchings and midnight raids––may prove too much for even two determined souls.

Tamera Alexander introduces us to new characters in the familiar setting of Belle Meade with To Win Her Favor, easily allowing the novel to be read as a stand alone. The main protagonists are Cullen McGrath and Maggie Linden who are strangers forced to work together to save Maggie's homestead of Linden Downs in Tennessee. It's not an easy life any longer for Maggie in 1869 with her ailing father when Irishman Cullen McGrath befriends her father. Although Cullen is considered an outsider as an Irish immigrant, Mr. Linden can see Cullen's potential when he solicits an intriguing contract with Cullen: "Marry my daughter and you can have Linden Downs."

Maggie has no wish to marry anyone, let alone a lazy Irishman, but she sees the wisdom in her father's wishes if she wants to save her home. With slavery still a painful product of the South's way of life and the racist attitudes, Linden Downs barely has a fighting chance to survive once the crooked leaders of the town set their sights on the property. Cullen already has a target on his back as an immigrant, and his new wife has ideas of horse racing that Cullen cannot sanction for very personal reasons.

The story evolves around the blooming relationship between the newly married couple and their slow to ignite romance due to their mistrust of each other, but romance readers will appreciate the building tension. The novel highlights the struggles for Cullen and Maggie to overcome the town's prejudices while suspense and intrigue accentuate the story.

Cullen stands out as an easy hero to like, though Maggie's sensitivity borders on selfishness as she focuses on entering her horse in Nashville's race. Quiet undertones of a Christian message of seeking redemption while keeping the faith and surrendering to God's will should easily satisfy Tamera Alexander's growing fanbase.


Read my review of the first Belle Meade Plantation Novel, To Whisper Her Name
Read my review of the first Belmont Mansion novel, A Lasting Impression
Read my review of Tamera Alexander's Belmont Mansion novel, A Beauty So Rare

In comparison with Tamera's other novels mentioned above, this novel has a bit more of a romantic feel to it where there were a few more "tinglings" than normally mentioned in Christian novels. This one was also a shorter novel than the others, where To Whisper Her Name was 480 pages and this one was 352 pages. I had always appreciated the longer length of the previously mentioned novels, and wonder why this was shortened. As a historical novel, longer novels seem to be norm, yet Christian romance novels seem to be shorter. I hope that Tamera's upcoming novels are allowed to be longer in length and that this was the exception.

Jul 19, 2015

Sunday Salon: Summer Reading Plans

I haven't done a Sunday Salon in forever, plus there is a gap between reviews so here goes!

Now that the summer break is half over, it is time to take stock of what is left on my pile that I wanted to get to.

Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt/Philippa Carr Goodreads Group! Our ninth read along!
Each summer I host a Goodreads Read Along which has mostly been between myself and MaryKate, and I'm fine with that. However, if you would like to participate, you are more than welcome to crash the party over on the discussion threads that are posted. We expect to start reading in August.


The summer read will be featuring The Passionate Enemies :

This is the third and final book in The Norman Trilogy and tells the story of the last days of the reign of Henry I. His son and wife are dead, and Henry hastily remarries a woman more than thirty years his junior in the hope of producing a male heir and securing the succession. If he fails, the throne will pass to Matilda, and Henry fears that his nobles will not willingly serve a woman. But after his death this feckless daughter becomes the focus of a line of would-be kings and soon the country is plunged into a bitter civil war that only a child can undo. 

More information can be found on Goodreads here regarding the read along.

I have a few review reads for the summer as well, these two reviews will be postponed till the fall due to a later publication date.

I just finished The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz, and it was my first novel of hers that I'd read, though I've collected a few of her recent works. Very good inspirational historical fiction that the fans of the genre will just lap up, it's great stuff...especially since it deals with the American Revolution which seems to be poorly represented out there.

The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news. When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is a sign of better days to come. But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general's past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost. When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?
Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal--readers find it all in the rich pages of this newest historical novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz. Her careful historical details immerse the reader in the story world, and her emotional writing and finely tuned characters never cease to enchant fans both old and new.




I am halfway through The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick, which is a book based on a true story of a pioneering missionary family who undergo tragedy and turmoil at the hands of Indians and the general hardship of their crude way of life. I loved Kirkpatrick's Where Lilacs Still Bloom so much that it was a favorite of 2012.

Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now the young mother of two children, Eliza faces a different kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants them to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her departed mother's grave--and returning to the land of her captivity. Eliza longs to know how her mother, an early missionary to the Nez Perce Indians, dealt with the challenges of life with a sometimes difficult husband and with her daughter's captivity.
When Eliza is finally given her mother's diary, she is stunned to find that her own memories are not necessarily the whole story of what happened. Can she lay the dark past to rest and move on? Or will her childhood memories always hold her hostage?

Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick's latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman's heart. Readers will find themselves swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.



And at some point after that I want to read Elizabeth Fremantle's Sisters of Treason which just released in paperback (my celebratory interview can be found here)

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. Elizabeth Fremantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness -- and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante. But when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.


This summer's NetGalley book is Susanna Kearsley's reissue coming from Sourcebooks, Named of The Dragon. I really enjoy Kearsley's writing, which is saying a lot since half of the plots run along a contemporary story line. I am trying to limit the NetGalley eversions as I am just tired of the poor formatting which distracts from my reading pleasure. Hopefully this one is not horrendous, though I do recall the publisher having some wonky formatting issues before. Fingers crossed this isn't horrendous formatting.

The invitation to spend Christmas in Angle, on the Pembrokeshire coast, is one that Lyn Ravenshaw is only too happy to accept. To escape London and the pressures of her literary agency is temptation enough, but the prospect of meeting Booker Prize nominee James Swift - conveniently in search of an agent - is the deciding factor. On holiday she encounters the disturbing Elen Vaughan, recently widowed and with an eight-month-old son whose paternity is a subject for local gossip. Elen's baby arouses painful memories of Lyn's own dead child/ and strange, haunting dreams, in which a young woman in blue repeatedly tries to hand over her child to Lyn for safekeeping.
Who is the father of Elen's baby? What is the eerie, monstrous creature of Elen's dreams that tries to ensnare her son, and what makes her so sure that Lyn has been sent to protect him? As she begins to untangle the truth behind the stories, the secret she discovers leads Lyn to an encounter with the past that will change her life forever.
You can find my other Susanna Kearsley's posts here.



And last but not least, on the review pile will be another "auto buy" if not offered for review, Kimberley Freeman's upcoming release of Evergreen Falls. Yet another dual time period author that I love.

A long-forgotten secret, a scandalous attraction and a place where two women's lives are changed forever - Evergreen Falls is the captivating new novel from Kimberley Freeman.
1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.
2014: After years of putting her sick brother's needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel's renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair - and a shocking secret.
If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?

You can find my other reviews of Kimberley's books here.

I had wanted to get to Conn Iggulden's newest since I have had that since Christmas, and I also wanted to try Deborah Harkness's trilogy, but I fear I won't have enough time to get to those. School starts for the kiddos in late August, which means shopping and shopping and more drama with a thirteen year old and an eight year old. And then of course the Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts events start up again, and then the Church School where I love teaching the 2nd and 3rd graders..but the free time thing will be a distant memory.

Let's hope that I get to most of the books I pictured here before the madness begins again!
Look how big they've gotten!!