A Novel of Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt

Read the book review of my latest favorite novel by Robin Oliveira.

Newest novel by Lynn Austin

Book two in the Restoration Chronicles, and my newest 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!

New Recommended Read

Another wonderful addition to your Wars of the Roses collection!

Aug 9, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Please don't steal my images!Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.
Mailbox Monday is on a blog tour! The popular meme started over at The Printed Page blog is being hosted by Chick Loves Lit for the month of August!

We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week.. as I am fretfully trying to whittle down my review pile.. no advance review copies this week! YAY!

By suggestion of Arleigh at Historical-fiction.com, I received from Paperbackswap:

A Clare Darcy Trilogy by Clare Darcy which contains her regency-style novels from the 1970's: Lady Pamela, Victoire, Allegra:
Lady Pamela - ". . . the story of an impulsive, high-spirited girl who sets out to restore the Family Honour by locating a memorandum from the Foreign Office that was entrusted to her grandfather and suddenly missing from his files."


Victoire - ". . . a clever plot to extract money from the Marquis of Tarn is foiled by spunky Victoire Duvernay."

Allegra - ". . . the plight of lovely Allegra Herrington, left penniless and homeless by the death of her father."
 
Clare Darcy has been compared to one of my favorite authors, Georgette Heyer. I look forward to seeing how they stack up against each other!

What did you get in your box this week?

Aug 7, 2010

It's a Weekend Wrap up

Nope, won't call this a Sunday Salon and post it on Saturday like I did last week, heaven forbid.. since someone Twittered at me asking if I knew it was just Saturday and I posted a Sunday Salon. I had explained in that post that I still do not have internet at the house so I was cheating and composing the post from work.

Rules schmools.

At this time Saturday,Sunday, whenever you are reading this, I wanted to update my friends on the three different giveaways that are still open right now at The Burton Review.


His Last Letter: A Novel of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley by Jeane Westin.. the giveaway post is here with the interview I had with the author. You can read my review here.

I also interviewed Cecelia Holland for her new book release The Secret Eleanor, and offered the giveaway with the interview post here. I am currently reading this novel now, and it is different than many of the Eleanor novels I have read as it includes more insight to her sister, Petra's, character. Not sure if I am enjoying it yet or not though, I think I have been oversaturated with Eleanor of late with this being my 4th or 5th read with Eleanor this year.

And last, but not least.. the book review I just posted for Philippa Gregory's The Red Queen! What an interesting read it was for me, and I really enjoyed it. I have a new ARC of The Red Queen and a new paperback version of The White Queen up for giveaway to one lucky winner on my review post here. And for those interested, my previous review of the The White Queen can be found here. These were both 4 star reads for me.

That's all for the current giveaways at The Burton Review. When I posted the last two reviews that I had for this week, I made it to review number 44 for the year of 2010. I am pretty much on target, though I still have plenty of ARC's to read that I have skipped over for time reasons only. I will get to the ARC pile, I promise. It is a thorn in my side, actually. Which is why I have been pretty good and not accepted new review requests in a long time. I wish I could read a lot more and give a lot more attention to first-time authors but I am just running out of time with working full-time, the house, the kids, the husband.. etc.

Also posted this week was the Tudor Mania Challenge Wrap Up!! Again I wanted to thank those who participated, and congratulate the two winners who each got to choose a book from The Book Depository:
Living and Loving in California read 5 books, and Cortney chose The King's Grace as her prize;

Bippity Boppity Books read 5 books and Holly chose Elizabeth & Leicester as her prize.

I had read 6 Tudor Themed books, but I wanted to read at least 4 more that are still on my shelf. I tried. I shall get to those too, eventually.


I added a poll to my right sidebar =----->>>>
I would appreciate it if you would offer me some feedback as to your reasonings for visiting the Burton Review. I just wanted to see WHY you visit The Burton Review. Is it just for the giveaways, or do you like reading the reviews also? Inquiring minds want to know.
 
I hope everyone has been enjoying their summer... it's been extremely hot and humid in Texas, which is the norm of course. The pool water is at least 85 degrees itself, so it doesn't quite cool me off when I jump in. So funny when I think of where I grew up on Long Island how folks would put solar covers on their pools to try and absorb some heat into the water. Somehow I am going to attempt to freshen up the flowerbeds this weekend without having a heart attack. Wish me luck!

Aug 6, 2010

Book Review & Double Giveaway! The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory


The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster Ltd (August 3, 2010 in USA; August 19 in UK)
ISBN-13: 978-1416563723 & 978-1847374578
Review copy provided by Simon and Schuster, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:

The Synopsis:
Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.

Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York’s daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret charts her own way through another loveless marriage, treacherous alliances, and secret plots. She feigns loyalty to the usurper Richard III and even carries his wife’s train at her coronation.

Widowed a second time, Margaret marries the ruthless, deceitful Thomas, Lord Stanley, and her fate stands on the knife edge of his will. Gambling her life that he will support her, she then masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of the time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize.

In a novel of conspiracy, passion, and coldhearted ambition, number one bestselling author Philippa Gregory has brought to life the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history.
The Build Up:

First up, yes, I have a brand new copy to giveaway to one of my lucky followers in the USA! See the bottom of this post for the details on how to enter.

Follow the S&S UK Blogtour with this hashtag on twitter: #pgblogtour

The series website is http://www.warsoftherosesbooks.com/ There are lots of videos here on The Red Queen.

The first competition is live at http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/sweepstakes/win-a-signed-copy-of-the-red-queen - this is a WORLDWIDE competition to win 1 of 10 SIGNED copies of the UK hardback – the competition will run for the length of the blog tour, closing at the end of September.

Thanks goes out to Simon & Schuster for spreading the Philippa Gregory love! Although, there are many readers who do not like Philippa Gregory, so to those readers I say.. that's fine with me..to each their own. And since there will be quite a few reviews of this novel, I'll try not repeat them. Too much. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and here's mine:

I loved The Other Boleyn Girl by Gregory (runs and hides from the Anne Boleyn fanatics..); the movie.. not so much (redeemed myself..). I also enjoyed Gregory's The Boleyn Inheritance (there I go again!). The Constant Princess was interesting, but the Henry VII characterization was a little strange. Then I read The Queen's Fool, and that was a very engrossing read that I could not put down. I haven't read The Virgin's Lover yet, I am now waiting for a decent span of time before I pick up another Elizabeth I novel. The Other Queen rubbed me the wrong way totally (since I was spoiled by Plaidy's view of Mary Stuart in The Captive Queen and The Royal Road to Fotheringay) and The White Queen was pretty interesting for me even though it was a little over the top with the Melusina/witchcraft mentions.. So now we have the follow up to The White Queen, and the second installment (though not in succession in the timeline) to the Cousins' War as Gregory is calling it, which is more popularly known as the Wars of the Roses. And I love the numerous side stories that all meet up to add to just parts of the colossal Wars of the Roses. I can't adequately determine if I enjoy the Tudor period or the Wars of the Roses more; after this read, I can say it is becoming very hard to still pick Tudor over the Wars. I was very eager to read this book to get yet another point of view, this time from the Lancastrian side, and I was inspired by this read to find more like it.

The Review:
The Red Queen is the story of Margaret Beaufort who is the mother to Henry Tudor, who later becomes Henry VII, who begins the popular Tudor rule. The novel opens to a very pious and somewhat haughty nine year old Margaret who learns that even though she feels destined to be an abbess she is instead to be used as the Lancastrian pawn. She was cousin to the Lancastrian King Henry VI who offered her his half-brother Edmund Tudor to wed. It was at this point that I thought that I disliked Margaret. And unfortunately, when I dislike a main character, I tend to dislike the book, such as part of my issue with The Other Queen.  Warning bells went off. Thankfully, I read further.

What I wanted from this book is entertainment value. Although I have read a few Wars of the Roses books, both fiction and non-fiction, I have not read anything focused on Margaret and I wanted to learn more about her. What made her promise her only son, the precious Lancastrian heir, to the enemy Yorkist Elizabeth Woodville's eldest daughter? What propelled Margaret to continually strive to get her son on the throne? In my Tudor novels, she is often portrayed as the elderly mother to Henry VII, and as being overbearing and obnoxious to Elizabeth of York. So, who really was Margaret of Beaufort? Gregory gives her a voice with this novel, and I was not disappointed.

Gregory portrays her as an annoying child who feels superior to everyone and wants to be noticed as such. Since this is stressed over much with the Joan of Arc theme, it gets a little tiresome. But, after awhile, Margaret grew up into her twenties and thirties and she in turn grew on me. Even though she continued to feel destined for greatness and never doubted herself or Joan of Arc, the story evolved in such a way that Margaret's destiny was something that I could not wait to see how she fulfilled it. If anything, Gregory makes the reader admire Margaret's tenacity. I hated her, liked her, hated her..Perhaps the most intriguing thing for me was that she was devious, yet still pious. Odd combo, eh? Twenty-eight years of waiting for her son to take their family's rightful crown, and the story followed Margaret as she helped to make it happen. And as I have been a Yorkist-in-training with my previous reads, I had always had the lingering impression that the Tudors were a grasping bunch, and that the Beaufort boy was pretty darn lucky to have wound up on the throne like he did all because of a single battle. What a different view this paints! I almost believe that the Yorkists never had a right to be up there at all! (ducks head swiftly..)

And oh, the dear prodigal son Henry.. I have always had him pictured as miserly and almost frail in comparison to his boisterous son, Henry VIII. Gregory shows his character as being a darling brown-headed child that Margaret misses very much during his childhood that he spent with Jasper. The fact that he understood his calling, and that the Lancastrians were so patient before they finally pounced on the Yorks... I was awed. Of course, in order for Lancaster to have a leg to stand on, they needed French backing, and Henry was always looking around for his protector Jasper during the fight.. but still.. very intriguing. I have read books that focused on the York view, from Richard of Gloucester to Elizabeth Woodville, that this Lancastrian view from Margaret Beaufort was really intriguing for me. And Lord Stanley, Margaret's third husband, I do believe he is the epitome of the term "turncoat". Another one of those characters you love to hate. Always an enticing topic, the mystery of the ill-fated princes in the tower was also well played in this telling. Even though it still saddens me when I think of it. How would history be different if they had lived?

I really enjoyed how Gregory wrote this story, and the fact that I am being pleasantly entertained is all that I need when I am settling in to read a novel such as this. Being a casual Wars of the Roses reader, historical inaccuracy was not something that leaped out at me with this read, although again there will be many things that are debatable for all time. I love this era, I love this point of view, I love the fact that really we will never really know many important details and I am so glad that I had a chance to read this novel and get another facet to an important historical event. (ducks again..)

As mentioned in other reviews, the letters that were exchanged between Margaret and her husband or Jasper were so far fetched that their appearances brought the plausibility of the novel to a lower level. Another annoying nagging thought I had while reading this was regarding the title. Who exactly was the Red Queen? Margaret was not it, although perhaps she wanted to be, and supposedly the publishers wanted her to be. The book ends in 1485 with Henry's success and with Margaret once again saying she should be treated as royalty as the king's mother. I can only applaud Margaret's success as well (leaving the horrifying fact aside that she may have had something to do with the murder of innocent children...but we'll never know..). She was only a ruler during her brief regency after her son died in 1509 and a young Henry VIII came to the throne. I wish the publishers had attempted to market this series with titles that would intellectually work for each book. Just because The White Queen title was accurate with the last one doesn't mean the same is true for The Red Queen. The ending sequence with the shift away from Margaret and then a quick obligatory zoom in on her to finish it off was too much of a difference from the rest of the novel, making a good book end in a somewhat corny way which unfortunately takes away from the overall feel of the novel.

With that being said, I believe that anyone with the casual interest in the Wars of the Roses and how they had affected the chain of events that ultimately lead to a successful Tudor rule will find the newest Gregory novel to be an insightful read. And most of the current Philippa Gregory fans know ahead of time what they are getting with her novels, so I doubt they would be too disappointed with this one.


I am giving away both of the current books in The Cousins' War series to my followers in the USA!
For those of you who would like to enter for the chance at their own (unread) Advance Release Copy of The Red Queen and the newly released paperback of The White Queen, (as shown in the graphic) please do the following:
Discuss your opinions of the Wars of The Roses. Where would you have put yourself in the wars: Lancastrian or Yorkist? (mandatory entry)

+3 entries Post the Giveaway graphic on your sidebar, linking to this post.
+2 entries: Facebook, tweet; leave me a link to the post.
You must include your email address so that I can contact you if you win.

I will choose randomly from the entries that have been successfully completed.

USA only! Contest ends August 20, 2010.

Aug 5, 2010

Book Review: Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester

Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester
400 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks reissue (August 1, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1402241369
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:


Immerse yourself in the resplendent glow of Regency England and the world of Georgette Heyer...


From the fascinating slang, the elegant fashions, the precise ways the bon ton ate, drank, danced, and flirted, to the shocking real life scandals of the day, Georgette Heyer's Regency World takes you behind the scenes of Heyer's captivating novels.


As much fun to read as Heyer's own novels, beautifully illustrated, and meticulously researched, Jennifer Kloester's essential guide brings the world of the Regency to life for Heyer fans and Jane Austen fans alike.

At first glance, readers may get excited that this could be a piece of literature focused on something regarding Georgette Heyer. This is definitely not a biography of Heyer, but more of an inside look at the culture of the Regency period in which famed author Georgette Heyer wrote of. From the styles of clothes and the dances that were acceptable to the period, to references to Heyer's novels and to the Prince Regent, this is an intelligent look at the Regency period that gives the novels of Jane Austen and Heyer a lot more context.

I am a huge fan of Georgette Heyer for the way that her writing style makes me laugh and for the silly situations that Heyer put her characters in. I have only read one Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice) and about six or seven of Heyer's Regencies. Heyer is touted as the Queen of Regency, and I would not disagree there. This reissue of Georgette Heyer's Regency World is a wonderful companion to Heyer's Regencies and I appreciate the amount of research the author must have done in order to put something like this together. Not entirely entertaining such as a Heyer regency, this goes into encyclopedia-like detail about anything and everything Regency related and what it was like to be gentleman or a lady at that time, and I must say, I would much prefer to be a gentleman. The life of a lady was a lot more restricted, unless of course she was lucky enough to become a widow and then she could enjoy herself (after a responsible period of mourning, of course!). Yet, what was amazing to me was that wives were also 'allowed' to have affairs once she provided her husband with an heir. And never expect a man to be faithful.. why, that is unheard of!! I found much of the information written to be very interesting and enlightening, especially the references to the actual people of the Regency period such as Beau Brummel and the Royal family, and the medicinal habits which make me cringe.

Once upon a time I was whimsically wishing that I were a grand lady riding in a phaeton in Hyde Park during promenade hour, but after reading this tell-all of the Regency Period, I am pretty much happy to have my own voice as a married woman as I am definitely demanding fidelity from my husband! I cannot imagine what it must be like to witness the privileged folks out dancing and partying their lives away, while the common folks struggled to put bread on their table. And all one had to do to be privileged was to be born in that family, and there was zero requirement to be intelligent or charitable or to have a job. The job of the privileged was to honor the code, unwritten and written, of the privileged.
"It was acceptable to offer one's snuff-box to the company but not to ask for a pinch of snuff from anyone else."
 "During the Season it was essential to be seen in Hyde Park during the Promenade hour of 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm."
This was an interesting read for me as a casual Regency fan, though I suspect that those more familiar with the period may find this work old news, though there are quaint line drawings which also add some life to the text. Absolutely everything was covered, from the fashions to the carriages to the houses to the dances.. I will set this book right up on the Heyer bookshelf and may even have to refer to its glossary and Who's Who section for my next Heyer read; if you are a Heyer reader this should go along with your Regencies as well. You can get the zoom in/preview feature of this work on Amazon here by clicking on the image of the book.

Aug 3, 2010

BOOK GIVEAWAY "THE SECRET ELEANOR" Q&A WITH AUTHOR CECELIA HOLLAND

Eleanor of Aquitaine has been an intriguing historical figure as she was a Queen of France, and later a Queen of England who was famous for helping to maneuver her sons against her husband King Henry II. One of her famous sons was Richard the Lionheart, who is touted as her favorite. This year has been a fabulous year for novels on Eleanor and her famous family, and today, August 3rd, brings us the newest one titled The Secret Eleanor:
Please welcome to The Burton Review Cecelia Holland, the author of the new release The Secret Eleanor.
Eleanor of Aquitaine seized hold of life in the 12th century in a way any modern woman would envy!

1151: As Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor grew up knowing what it was to be regarded for herself and not for her husband's title. Now, as wife to Louis VII and Queen of France, she has found herself unsatisfied with reflected glory-and feeling constantly under threat, even though she outranks every woman in Paris.

Then, standing beside her much older husband in the course of a court ceremony, Eleanor locks eyes with a man-hardly more than a boy, really- across the throne room, and knows that her world has changed irrevocably...


He is Henry D'Anjou, eldest son of the Duke of Anjou, and he is in line, somewhat tenuously, for the British throne. She meets him in secret. She has a gift for secrecy, for she is watched like a prisoner by spies even among her own women. She is determined that Louis must set her free. Employing deception and disguise, seduction and manipulation, Eleanor is determined to find her way to power-and make her mark on history.
See the end of this interview for giveaway details of the book!

Q: You have written over twenty historicals based on very intriguing characters. Was there one book that was more difficult to research than others?


The hardest book to research was THE BELT OF GOLD, for which all the primary data was in Greek, and most of the better commentary in German or Russian. It's not my favorite book. The California books were fabulous to research, everything right here, in English and very close in time. JERUSALEM, which is my favorite book, covers a time period (1180's in the Holy Land) with lots of available primary material, which I prefer (the sources written closest to the actual event are primary sources), and a lot of controversy; I like to twinge an event, try to see it from a whole different slant than the usual, question the pre-assumptions. These days when so few readers actually have much background in history this has its own issues; it's hard to play off the note when nobody knows the song.

Q: Your newest novel, The Secret Eleanor, features a time period that has been recently been written of Eleanor's life. What was the inspiration for you to write about the relationship of Eleanor and Henry?

This nine-ten months' time, from her first meeting with Henry of Anjou until she married him, is the turning point of Eleanor's life. What I find missing in most accounts is the awareness that she was the mastermind: it had to be all her decision. Nobody else was in a position to see what she could make of the marriage with Henry, or that she would be able to make the marriage at all. I wanted to develop the idea of this passionate and willful woman seizing control of her life in the face of all the entrenched powers of male privilege and female submission. I don't think anybody else has done this.

Q: Was there anything that surprised you about Eleanor or Henry that you came across in your research?

Not in the research (contrary to popular belief, the real data--the primary material--on both these major figures is pretty piecemeal, as you would expect, given the 900 years between us and them) but in the writing, when Eleanor became a fully-functioning character in a story that was leaping away out of my hands, she really did and thought and felt things I hadn't expected. She scared me sometimes.

Q: Eleanor is typically portrayed as a domineering, strong willed woman who was able to defy both the King of France and the King of England. How do you think women thought of Eleanor at that time in history? What do you think was Eleanor's greatest trait?

The prevailing opinion of Eleanor at the time, and for centuries afterward, was dominated by what Ralph Turner calls her Black Legend, the image of an adulterous headstrong evil queen whose husband was probably right to lock her up to keep her out of trouble. Shakespeare doesn't help with his portrait of her in KING JOHN. I think a lot of women probably agreed with this assessment at the time--it was in the interests of many women to buy into the male view that women should be firmly subordinated to their husbands. Certainly the Empress Matilde, Henry's mother, disapproved of Eleanor immensely. (Matilde however was a pretty aggressive woman in her own right .) But I imagine some women saw Eleanor as showing the way to a new respect and power--her daughters were active and independent minded, and the whole popular attribution to Eleanor of the Courts of Love (which seems a later amendment to her story) indicates people at the time saw her as presiding over a kind of revolution in women's lives. Whether they appreciated this or disapproved depended a lot on their own circumstances.

Q: With three daughters and a menagerie of animals, how do you find the time to write so much? Does writing seem like work to you, or is it still something that you enjoy doing?

I love to write. Writing gets me through the bad times. On the other hand the girls ground me in real life. They're all grown up now with families of their own but I am deeply grateful to have had them and to have them now. When they were little, finding time to write was hard, and I learned to break the work up into little pieces that I could think about while doing dishes, or hanging up diapers--bits of dialog, starting sentences, the like. I got a major flash on the end of FLOATING WORLDS for instance while I was hanging up diapers--maybe the white sheet before my face worked like blank film, on which I could project something.

Q: Have you been able to travel abroad to conduct your research? If so, what have been some of your favorite historical places to visit?

I've gone around a lot, the more now that my children are grown. I like Constantinople. I know it's called Istanbul now but if you go with some information and maps and look, you can still find bits of what was for close on to 1000 years the greatest city in the Western World. I'm trying to get to North Africa now, and to Central Asia and the Silk Road, but there are political problems.

Q: Do you have any current writing projects that you can tell us about?

I'm finishing a novel about Richard the Lionheart's Crusade. Richard of course was Eleanor's son so this continues some of the research and ideas I did for THE SECRET ELEANOR.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am looking forward to that new work in progress, also! Thanks SO much to the author for visiting The Burton Review and answering my questions!! And another treat for my followers, the publisher is offering one copy of The Secret Eleanor to you!

To enter, please comment on the interview or tell me something about Eleanor that intrigues you. What books have you read regarding Eleanor or her family?

Some sort of response regarding the above is mandatory, and you must leave your email address so I can contact the winner.

For extra entries, leave me a link to your advertisement of this post:
+2 Post this on your blog, Facebook or Tweet this post

Good Luck!!
Giveaway ends August 14th, open to USA only courtesy of the publisher.

Aug 2, 2010

TUDOR MANIA CHALLENGE RESULTS

The FINAL results of The Tudor Mania Challenge are:

The Burton Review: 6 books
Living and Loving in California: 5 books
Bippity Boppity Books: 5 books
Lady Gwyn's Kingdom: 4 books
Historical-fiction.com: 4 books
Book Addiction: 3 books
Enchanted By Josephine: 1 book
Stiletto Storytime: 1 book
Historically Obsessed: 1 book

A big thank you to all of those who have participated in the Tudor Mania Challenge here at The Burton Review!
I had posted preliminary results previously but we did have some last minute entries, and the above totals reflect that.

Skipping over me, we have a tie for second place, with 5 books a piece between Living and Loving in California and Bippity Boppity Book. Of course, I didn't think that far ahead as to what to do when there is a tie. Dopey me. I figured I could offer up a wide variety of books from own library at home that the second winner would enjoy, but that means alot of work of discussing them and then packing and mailing them. And that is not something I have the strength for. And my local post office is a scary place to visit.

I am just going to award both of them the grand prize, any book available from The Book Depository, up to $15.00 each. So, winners.. please email me your mailing address within a few days, and the link to the book you have chosen from The Book Depository!!

ENJOY! And Congratulations!!! Thanks for entering The Tudor Mania Challenge!! A little birdie told me that there just may be another reading challenge in the works from a fellow blogger, this one will focus on the Stuart era! I will let you know if I hear anything else about this one!

Mailbox Monday

Please don't steal my images!Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week..

Here are a few goodies that I received this week:
From Paperbackswap.com:

My Antonia by Willa Sibert Cather
Willa Cather, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, considered My Antonia to be one of her best works, and critic H.L. Mencken claimed it was one of the best American novels ever written. Published in 1918, the novel compassionately and intimately traces the story of a Bohemian family as they settle on the Great Plains in Nebraska. This American classic is still lauded internationally by scholars and everyday readers.

The Son of York (In the Shadow of the Throne, Bk 4) by Margaret Abbey
Richard of Gloucester was the younger brother of a king, Edward IV, and the uncle of another king, Edward V. There were rumors that, ambitious for the crown, he had killed his nephew in cold blood. The murder could never be proven, but Richard was next in line for the throne. By the Grace of God and Edward's untimely death, Gloucester became Richard III, King of England. These were cruel times -- life could be short, and love and power had to be taken quickly.

Sir Francis Walsingham's official title was principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I, but in fact this pious, tight-lipped Puritan was England's first spymaster. A ruthless, fiercely loyal civil servant, Walsingham worked brilliantly behind the scenes to foil Elizabeth's rival Mary Queen of Scots and outwit Catholic Spain and France, which had arrayed their forces behind her. Though he cut an incongruous figure in Elizabeth's worldly court, Walsingham managed to win the trust of key players like William Cecil and the Earl of Leicester before launching his own secret campaign against the queen's enemies. Covert operations were Walsingham's genius; he pioneered techniques for exploiting double agents, spreading disinformation, and deciphering codes with the latest code-breaking science that remain staples of international espionage.

The Swan Maiden by Jules Watson
She was born with a blessing and a curse: that she would grow into a woman of extraordinary beauty -- and bring ruin to the kingdom of Ulster and its ruler, the wily Conor. Ignoring the pleadings of his druid to expel the infant, King Conor secrets the girl child with a poor couple in his province, where no man can covet her. There, under the tutelage of a shamaness, Deirdre comes of age in nature and magic... And in the season of her awakening, the king is inexorably drawn to her impossible beauty.


But for Deirdre, her fate as a man's possession is worse than death. And soon the green-eyed girl, at home in waterfall and woods, finds herself at the side of three rebellious young warriors. Among them is the handsome Naisi. His heart charged with bitterness toward the aging king, and growing in love for the defiant girl, Naisi will lead Deirdre far from Ulster -- and into a war of wits, swords, and spirit that will take a lifetime to wage.

Aug 1, 2010

‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ at Austenprose – August 1st – 31st, 2010

One of my very favorite authors is Georgette Heyer. I have a Georgette Heyer list here with my reviews and my collection which I have been neglecting of late. So, to get my groove on and to reinspire me to get back into reading a favorite author, Laurel of Austenprose is offering a grand event for all Heyer lovers and to convert all those who are still Heyer virgins.

Please join me and many other Heyer fans as we participate in the month-long event of ‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ at Austenprose – August 1st - 31st, 2010, which I am so happy and appreciative to have been asked to participate alongside so many fantastic bloggers, of which I am so happy to have a list of new blogs to watch.

The Promo From Austenprose:
Stylish, witty and historically accurate, novelist Georgette Heyer has been delighting readers with her romantic comedies for eighty-nine years. In honor of her birthday on August 16th, Austenprose.com www.austenprose.com will feature a month long event ‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ featuring thirty-four book reviews of her romance novels, guest blogs, interviews of Heyer enthusiast from the blog-o-sphere, academia and publishing and tons of great giveaways.

Our very special guests will be Heyer expert Vic Sanborn of Jane Austen’s World and Deb Werksman, acquiring editor of Sourcebook Casablanca and the catalyst in re-introducing Heyer to a new generation of readers.


The festivities start August first with a review of the newly re-issued Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester. Don’t be a wet goose. Chase away that fit of the blue-devils by attending this bon ton affair.

Georgette Heyer Event Schedule at Austenprose:
Sun Aug 01 Event intro

Werksman Interview

Review of Georgette Heyer’s Regency World

Mon Aug 02 The Black Moth, Aarti – Books Lust

Powder and Patch, Lucy – Enchanted by Josephine

Wed Aug 04 These Old Shades, Keira – Love Romance Passion

The Masqueraders, Helen – She Reads Novels
Fri Aug 06 Devil's Cub, Meredith – Austenesque Reviews

The Convenient Marriage, Laurel – Austenprose

Sun Aug 08 Regency Buck, Susan Scott – Historical fiction author

The Talisman Ring, Ana – An Evening at Almack’s

Mon Aug 09 An Infamous Army, Elaine Simpson Long – Random Jottings of a
Book and Opera Lover

The Spanish Bride, Kelly – Jane Austen Sequel Examiner

Wed Aug 11 The Corinthian, Danielle – A Work in Progress

Faro's Daughter, Joanna – Regency Romantic

Fri Aug 13 The Reluctant Widow, Jane Greensmith – Reading, Writing, Working, Playing

The Foundling, Claire – The Captive Reader

Sun Aug 15 Arabella, Kara Louise – Austenesque author
The Grand Sophy, Meg – Write Meg

Mon Aug 16 Interview with Vic – Jane Austen’s World

Friday's Child, Vic – Jane Austen’s World

Wed Aug 18 The Quiet Gentleman, Deb Barnum – Jane Austen in Vermont

Cotillion, Alexa Adams – First Impressions

Fri Aug 20 The Toll-Gate, Laura – Laura’s Reviews

Bath Tangle, Deb Barnum – Jane Austen in Vermont
Sun Aug 22 Sprig Muslin, Laura – Laura’s Reviews

April Lady, Becky Laney – Becky’s Book Reviews

Mon Aug 23 Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, Laurel Ann – Austenprose

Venetia, Laurel Ann – Austenprose

Wed Aug 25 The Unknown Ajax, Brooke – The Bluestocking Guide

A Civil Contract, Elaine Simpson Long – Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover

Fri Aug 27 The Nonesuch, Marie – The Burton Review

False Colours, Kristen – BookNAround

Sun Aug 29 Frederica, Nicole – Linus’ Blanket

Black Sheep, Katherine – November’s Autumn

Mon Aug 30 Cousin Kate, Chris – Book-A-Rama

Charity Girl, Dana Huff – Much Madness is Divinest Sense

Tues Aug 31 Lady of Quality, Elizabeth Hanbury – Regency romance author

Heyer Vintage Covers

Event wrap-up

Sat Sep 07 Giveaway winners announced.
~~~~
I will also be working on my new review of Sourcebooks reissue of Georgette Heyer's Regency World for August.

Meanwhile, over at All Things Royal, Susie is also hosting a Heyer event coupled with another favorite author, Victoria Holt:
From Susie's blog:
The object is to read as much Victoria Holt and/or Georgette Heyer books as you can during the summer beginning July 1 – September 22. There will be monthly prizes awarded and a surprise grand prize for the overall winner at the end of the challenge.

See you at Austenprose and All Things Royal!!

Jul 31, 2010

Sunday Salon: Tudor Mania Results!

The Sunday Salon.com


It's been a very long time since I've composed a Sunday Salon post, but it's for good reason. I've been busy with work, reading, the outdoors, the family, the house, swimming.. etc.

But I wanted to take this chance to announce the end of The Tudor Mania Challenge that was posted here at The Burton Review.

Thanks goes out to those who participated in the challenge and posted their review links to the challenge post on the McLinky tool. The McLinky tool will close at midnight Saturday pm, so if you have a recent Tudor Review that you would like to submit, do it soon!

 Hopefully it will generate your site some additional traffic as well. Since I have no internet at home right now, I am composing this post (from work, sssh!!) a day ahead of the scheduled end of the challenge. So if anyone enters another Tudor Review on Friday afternoon or Saturday, I will adjust the following tallies as needed.

The preliminary results are:
The Burton Review: 6 books
Historical-fiction.com: 4 books
Living and Loving in California: 4 books
Lady Gwyn's Kingdom: 3 books
Bippity Boppity Books: 3 books
Book Addiction: 3 books
Enchanted By Josephine: 1 book
Stiletto Storytime: 1 book
Historically Obsessed: 1 book

As of Friday, the winner is ME! LOL! YAY. Well, okay, the next winners are Arleigh (Historical-fiction.com) and Cortney (Living and Loving in California)! Read Arleigh's Wrap up post here.

The purpose of the challenge was to get ME to read more Tudor books from my huge to-be-read pile. My main love of books stems from this Tudor obsession of mine, yet I have let myself get distracted by all sorts of other awesome books (and the huge ARC pile!). I am glad that I was able to read more Tudor themed reads this summer but still not as many as I wish I had.

My favorite out of the six Tudor books I had read for this challenge is Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan. I really enjoyed the point of view of the Tudor intrigue told from Mary Howard, daughter of the seemingly vicious Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. I look forward to more books from this author.

If there are no further entries of submitted reviews this Friday the 30th and Saturday the 31st, the results posted above will be made final and I will contact Arleigh and Cortney to discuss the results and the prize!

Recently, I've reviewed His Last Letter by Jeane Westin, here, as my last entry for the challenge and there is also the Book giveaway going on until August 14th where there is an intriguing interview. That review brought my own review tally of the year 2010 to a big number of 42 reviews published! You can see a complete list of all my reviews here.


Coming up for August, I have great book giveaways in store for you, such as the new release by Philippa Gregory, The Red Queen, and also for The Secret Eleanor by Cecelia Holland for which I have interviewed the author. Stay tuned!

August will also be a month-long event at Austenprose.com honoring Georgette Heyer. It will feature giveaways, reviews and interviews!!

Other than that, I still have a large to-review pile, but I do hope to get past those so that I can participate in other reading challenges and read some of my favorite authors again such as Jean Plaidy aka Victoria Holt, and Georgette Heyer. And I want to focus a bit more on my real life, and less blogging. I will always do reviews, but I will not be online as much. I do follow many blogs via the Google reader, so I will be reading your posts there. My oldest is starting a new school at the end of August and I am so nervous for her!! It's a great school, much better than her previous one, and I hope that she continues to get A's and that she makes some great friends. And I hope that my son will be more receptive to the failed potty training adventures. What a boy he is. {The "Oliver, let's go potty" phrase returns one of two answers: "I already went." "I don't waaaannnnnnt to!" each accompanied by the irritating melodramatic-the-sky-is-falling-whine.}

Happy reading to my bookish friends, and I hope that everyone has a great finish to their summers!!

Jul 29, 2010

Book Review: His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and The Earl of Leicester by Jeane Westin


His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and The Earl of Leicester, A Novel by Jeane Westin
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade (August 3, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0451230126
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating::Three Stars

One of the greatest loves of all time-between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley-comes to life in this vivid novel.

They were playmates as children, impetuous lovers as adults-and for thirty years were the center of each others' lives. Astute to the dangers of choosing any one man, the Virgin Queen could never give her "Sweet Robin" what he wanted most-marriage- yet she insisted he stay close by her side. Possessive and jealous, their love survived quarrels, his two disastrous marriages to other women, her constant flirtations, and political machinations with foreign princes.


His Last Letter tells the story of this great love... and especially of the last three years Elizabeth and Dudley spent together, the most dangerous of her rule, when their passion was tempered by a bittersweet recognition of all that they shared-and all that would remain unfulfilled.

Jeane Westin's previous release of The Virgin's Daughters: In The Court of Elizabeth I received much attention when it released last year. I have not gotten a chance to read that novel, though I did not want to miss this new release as it goes into the much discussed relationship of Elizabeth I and a favored courtier, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. An undisputed fact is that Robert Dudley and Elizabeth had spent time together in their early years, and they maintained this friendship till his death. What is at the crux of the debate is whether anything sexual occurred during the relationship. There have been many speculations as to the nature of their relationship, and even rumors that Dudley had fathered a secret child with her. I was very curious to see where Westin would take us in this fictional telling of this fascinating courtship of a supposed Virgin Queen and a supposed lover. (I am one of those of the belief that Elizabeth was indeed a virgin, who flirted, perhaps outrageously, to garner attention and admiration).

The beginning of the novel features a small author's note that advises to follow along the timeline using the chapter guide. I quickly learned why this was pointed out when I discovered that the story goes back and forth between Elizabeth's younger years, her middle years, but had started when Dudley had died. Elizabeth clutches the last letter she received from Dudley and the story takes off. The entirety of the novel is not a typical Elizabethan read, as this does not focus on the events that occurred around Elizabeth during her long reign. The author focuses primarily on Elizabeth and Dudley, tapping into their minds and thoughts as she attempts to recreate the relationship between the two.

Westin takes liberties with her story, and those die-hard Elizabeth I fans may take offense to that. The other downside to the novel is the hopscotch across the timeline, as I could never fully grasp where they were and what was going on unless I specifically worked out the chronology in my head using the date that is provided at the beginning of each chapter. And some chapters would end with either Elizabeth or Dudley reminiscing back to a specific event in order to lead into next chapter, which would of course be another time and place.

Westin keeps her novel focused on the objective of spotlighting the romance between Elizabaeth and Dudley, yet she also takes time to cultivate the story behind the effects of the threat of the Spanish Armada and a little on the Mary Queen of Scots ordeal. Since the rest of the actual historic events took place as a behind the scenes nuance during the novel, newbies to the Elizabethan era may not appreciate or grasp the flow of the novel as much. And since Westin does not go in to the details of these smaller events, it is sometimes forced into inane conversations like the lady's maid Anne telling Elizabeth what to call Lord Burghley since he used to be Cecil but was now made Lord. That whole conversation, and others, were among those that really would have been better off not happening at all as it simply took away from the novel and seemed ridiculous in the narrative. I think those middle-ground Elizabethan fans who have not yet felt that they have had their fill of Elizabeth I novels would enjoy the story for the entirely different point of view that it offers.

Both Dudley and Elizabeth are portrayed as completely and totally head over heels in love with each other, forsaking all others, yet unable to tie the knot due to politics. Although Dudley was married at least twice and had multiple affairs, Elizabeth still adored him, albeit in a jealous manner as she banished Dudley's second wife from court. Those Elizabethan fans who have read every other Elizabethan novel might want to skip this one though, due to the confusing nature of the alternating timeline and the singular focus on the love match between the two which may seem to scream of jealous tirades from Elizabeth and Dudley as a spineless jilted lover.

Jeane Westin has a love for all things Tudor, and she graced The Burton Review recently with this interview (giveaway as well). She states that her love for historical fiction stems from the fact that known history is full of gaps and questions. She loves being able to pen a novel in her favorite genres to help to re-imagine a different perspective and to perhaps fill in some of those gaps. Westin has done that here with the love story of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley by presenting these two in a way that is daring and provocative that demonstrates Westin's love for the Elizabethan period.

The Tudor Mania Challenge which is here at The Burton Review ends this Saturday night. This will be my last entry into the linkfest of the reviews.I can't wait to see who the winner is of the Challenge, who gets a book of their choice from The Book Depository!

Jul 28, 2010

Another fantastic opportunity to review..

CSN Stores has been making the rounds on the blogs for awhile now, as we lucky bloggers get a chance to review a product for our readers. I have had several experiences with them so far, and I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for their next purchase online. They have so many items available at their 200+ online sites, that you are sure to find what you are looking for.

I have been eyeing the Batman couch set for my son, and an upgrade to our coffeemaker. It seems we need a coffee maker every year, and it turns into an emergency. Yes, it is certainly an emergency when there is no coffeemaker in the house! My eyes do not open in the morning unless I hear it automatically percolating.
Even though I am the only coffee drinker in the house lately, I still need the 12 cup styles. CSN Stores lets you search their site by narrowing the category to how many cups you want. No dinky 1-4 cups for me! 12 all the way!! We've been using the standard Mr. Coffee Programmable 12-cup machine (shown, available from CSN Stores), but I'm taking a peek and seeing what else is out there. CSN Stores is sure to offer something in my budget and I love looking at all of their products!!

What have you gotten from their stores recently? I am going to take a look around and see what catches my fancy.. I've got a big house to fill up now!

Jul 27, 2010

Book Review: Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo


Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo
June 22nd 2010 by Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages
isbn13: 9780312374983
Book won via Bookreporter.com
The Burton Review Rating:3 and 1/2 stars
Speak no evil . . .


In the quiet town of Painters Mill an Amish family is found slaughtered on their farm. Kate Burkholder and her small police force have few clues, no motive and no suspect. Formerly Amish herself, Kate is no stranger to secrets, but she can’t get her mind around the senseless brutality of the crime.


State agent John Tomasseti arrives on the scene to assist. He and Kate worked together on a previous case, and they’re still setting the limits of a complex, difficult relationship. They soon realize that the disturbing details of this case will push those boundaries to the breaking point.

When Kate discovers a diary, she realizes a haunting personal connection to the case. One of the teenage daughters kept some very dark secrets and may have been leading a lurid double life. Driven by her own scarred past, Kate vows to find the killer and bring him to justice—even if it means putting herself in the line of fire.
Read an excerpt

Linda Castillo pens her second thriller bringing back a cast of characters which include a female chief of police with her small town police force, and the love interest who was featured in the previous novel. The chief of police, Kate, is the main protagonist going through the motions of a CSI episode written in present tense and offers the same amount of ick factor at the gore. An Amish family is slaughtered in Ohio, and Chief Kate is hot on the pursuit of the suspects, except she cannot find them. Kate seems pretty young to be the chief of police at age 32. She is pretty tough though and manages to keep her head on straight 95% of the way through the case. She has scant evidence, and zero leads for quite awhile, and so the reader was privy to Kate asking many questions of many people. The story leads us through each small discovery as it happens, and we get a glimpse of the supposedly handsome Tommasetti.

There are a few suspects, from a boyfriend that a young daughter of the Amish family wasn't supposed to have, and mere acquaintances from a store, to the riff raff criminal element of the town. Scummy people are everywhere as Kate looks for clues, and as any good cop should, she feels responsible for finding the killer. Slowly the author eludes to a hidden meaning as to why Kate feels so empathetic towards the young daughter and was only one of the few surprising things in the novel. There was a lot of insight into the lifestyle of the Amish people in Ohio, which I found interesting. Once the case started moving along and the suspect list grew, we had an idea of who the killer was. The story then takes on the task of discovering how and why. Since this is a 'thriller' type of read, it is not for the faint of heart. The murders were gruesome and particular carnage was spelled out. Once it got past that, it was all detective style with a slightly annoying romantic relationship in the background. All in all, it was as expected, a page turner that was slightly addicting, although in hindsight I can't explain why the need was so demanding to force me to stay awake to finish it, though I grew tired of the multiple references to the Slaughterhouse case from the previous novel. Given the fact there are high ratings on Amazon, this is probably a great read for those who like the thriller genre.

Since I won this from bookreporter, they asked me to consider the following questions:
1. What did you think of PRAY FOR SILENCE?
It probably achieved what the author was intending with this thriller, it was entertaining.. and see review above.

2. How would you describe this book to a friend?
Thriller/Detective novel with a strong female lead

3. How does this title rate compared to other thrillers you’ve recently read?
I do not read more than 2 thrillers a year, but I do enjoy mysteries. I am glad that this thriller was not as lewd or gory as others I have read.

4. Would you read another novel by Linda Castillo?
Probably so.
5. Do you have any questions for Linda Castillo?
Not at this time, thank you.

P.S. There is a previous novel in the series, as mentioned, and rumor has it that Linda Castillo is working on book #3 for the series as well. If that is the case, I hope the author does something specific with the love interest between Kate and John, because that theme brought the rest of the novel down.

Jul 26, 2010

'HIS LAST LETTER' BOOK GIVEAWAY!! Q&A WITH AUTHOR JEANE WESTIN

His Last Letter, available August 3, 2010

One of the greatest loves of all time-between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley-comes to life in this vivid novel.


They were playmates as children, impetuous lovers as adults-and for thirty years were the center of each others' lives. Astute to the dangers of choosing any one man, the Virgin Queen could never give her "Sweet Robin" what he wanted most-marriage- yet she insisted he stay close by her side. Possessive and jealous, their love survived quarrels, his two disastrous marriages to other women, her constant flirtations, and political machinations with foreign princes.

His Last Letter tells the story of this great love... and especially of the last three years Elizabeth and Dudley spent together, the most dangerous of her rule, when their passion was tempered by a bittersweet recognition of all that they shared-and all that would remain unfulfilled.

Please welcome author Jeane Westin to The Burton Review! Her previous Tudor novel The Virgin's Daughters came out last year and now I am reading His Last Letter where it portrays an entirely different point of view than I am used to reading regarding Elizabeth I. See below for the giveaway of the above pictured book, His Last Letter, by Jeane Westin.


Your bio states that you have been intrigued by historical fiction since you were a child. What do you think is the key to the continuing fascination that you have for the Tudor period?

Although my mother told me family history stories throughout my childhood, my fascination with historical fiction started when I was six years old and she took me to the library for the first time. Out of all the choices and shelves, I pulled The Little Cave Boy and Girl. The whole idea of it...another time and other people that I would never know must have called to me. I don't remember now, but I continued to read YA historical fiction until I was old enough to take out books from the adult shelves where I discovered Daphne du Maurier, Jean Plaidy and so many others.

I've continued to read and write in the Restoration and Tudor periods because there is so much we know and yet don't know...gaps that can only be filled by a novelist.

In your research, what are some of the things that you have come across that surprised you about Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley?

For one thing, their staying power. They knew each other for almost five decades and their mutual fascination really never waned, while fighting and loving and suffering the ups and downs of most long relationships. What that must have been like for both Elizabeth and her Robin is the basis for my novel His Last Letter.

What is your personal opinion on the death of Robert Dudley's first wife, Amy: accidental, suicide, or murder?

It's very hard for me to have a personal opinion. Although two inquiries exonerated him, many thought and still think Dudley guilty of having engineered Amy's accident. Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth 's councilor certainly did, just as he thought Elizabeth and Dudley were lovers even into 1572. Remembering that Dudley was Elizabeth 's favorite and therefore unpopular with others, their suspicions were not surprising.

It is likely that Amy had a breast tumor and modern medicine tells us that a metastasis could weaken bones so that a minor fall might well have broken her neck. She could have commited suicide, which is what I believe Dudley thought, though he protected her to insure her Christian burial.
The possibilities are many and it was so long ago there is no way of putting an end to the speculation.
Surely, Dudley was smart enough to know that if he were suspected, he could never marry Elizabeth , which was what he wanted more than anything.

So like most people, I go back and forth not able to make up my mind. If he were guilty, he paid a great price. He knew she was dying and so did Elizabeth . They were brilliant people. I have to believe they would not have taken such a risk.

But I'll never know.

One of my favorite Tudor historical figures is Lettice Knollys, and I loved how she was portrayed in Victoria Holt's My Enemy The Queen. What is your opinion of Lettice? Did you gather any fun details about her while researching for your novels?


In His Last Letter Lettice Knollys is a villainess. I apologize if I have wronged her, but Elizabeth did hate her. She was a Boleyn cousin and prettier than Elizabeth, a rival for Dudley and given to wearing gowns to court much finer than the queen thought suitable. Although Lettice was one of the queen's early ladies-in-waiting, I think it was an example of keeping your enemies closer than your friends. After Dudley, by then Earl of Leicester, married her, Elizabeth refused ever after to see Lettice or have her back to court. The queen got even (as only queens can) by nearly bankrupting Lettice after the Earl died, by calling in all his debts.
Lettice lived on into her 90's an almost unheard of age at the time and I suppose that was some revenge.

Why do you think that Elizabeth and Dudley never married?

Elizabeth would never share her rule, nor place herself under the power of a husband which at that time was supreme. She also needed to remain single to use herself as a bargaining chip in the wars for dominance between the continental powers. She brilliantly prolonged marriage negotiations with first one and then another until she had wrung all the benefit she could out of them. Even when suitors withdrew, they were never sure that they couldn't go back and try again, or that she wouldn't change her mind.

What has been your biggest challenge with your writing of historical fiction?

With Tudor fiction, Elizabeth herself has presented the biggest challenge. She was powerful, yet needed admiration...strong and active, yet sickly...refusing to marry, yet needing men to adore her. I've read an historical psychoanalysis of her behavior. Disturbed, domineering, fearful, brave and needy are only some of her personality traits.

In His Last Letter I've tried to show all of these through the prism of Elizabeth 's love for Dudley.

Over the past few years do you think that the market has been saturated with Tudor novels? What are the pros and cons to the continued popularity of the Tudor period?

Although popularity runs in cycles, Elizabeth and Henry VIII continue to fascinate and will for some time, Edward and Mary less so. (The English still vote her their favorite ruler.) Movies, theater dramas and books, both fiction and non-fiction appear regularly to feed this fascination without ever seeming to satisfy it completely. In the last three or four years, the internet has become a feeding ground for Tudor information and reviews. Recently I watched a program on the History Channel about Henry's medical problems, which made me wonder how he could have lived as long as he did, and partially explained why he became such a monster. Now who would think that such a program would interest without proof positive. We continue to speculate about this father and daughter because there are so many gaps in our knowledge and they are so real to us that we want to know more. As a novelist, I'm thankful for that.

What is next for you on the writing front?

I've already contracted for my next book, which is tentatively titled The Queen's Lady Spy. It is a thrilling story of Lady Frances Sidney, the ignored wife of England 's favorite love poet and the daughter of Queen Elizabeth's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. Brought to court when her husband is sent overseas, Lady Frances is eager to put her brilliant mind to good use. She becomes a secret intelligence and aids in foiling deadly plots against the Queen while working closely with her father's man Robert Pauley. A forbidden love blossoms between the married noble woman and the commoner all while Lady Frances is being pursued by the queen's handsome new favorite and notorious pleasure seeker, the Earl of Essex. The earl does not know Lady Frances is a secret intelligencer, but is determined to have her in his bed. But her own servant, Robert Pauley, secretly in love with her is determined that he will not.
Frances is a distant ancestress of mine and her interest in cryptography mirrors my own. I'm very much looking forward to writing this book Thanks for asking me to answer these interesting questions.

Thanks so much to Jeane for visiting The Burton Review and answering my questions. And now for my lucky readers, I have a question for you, and I will choose among one of your answers a winner for the new novel, His Last Letter, by Jeane Westin.

Who is your favorite Elizabethan figure, and why?
 
To enter for the giveaway:
Please comment here with your answer to that question, leaving your email address. This is a mandatory entry.
For extra entries:
+2 for a graphic link to this post on your blog (sidebar or post)
+2 to those who Facebook this post
+1 for a Twitter Post
+1 for another Twitter Post on another day.
 
Please leave links to any of the extra entries posts that you are entering for.
 
Good Luck!!
 
Contest available to USA residents only courtesy of the publisher. Ends August 14, 2010.

Mailbox Monday!

Please don't steal my images!Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week..
I'll have to take a picture of our new Jumbo mailbox someday =)
But here are a few goodies that I received this week.

From a cool author and blogger, and yes I promise to read her books one day.. Susan of the West of Mars and WinABook sites swapped with me so I received this new release:
Daughters of The Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt



Daughters of the Witching Hill brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching account of a family sustained by love as they try to survive the hysteria of a witch-hunt.


Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow living in Pendle Forest, is haunted by visions and gains a reputation as a cunning woman. Drawing on the Catholic folk magic of her youth, Bess heals the sick and foretells the future. As she ages, she instructs her granddaughter, Alizon, in her craft, as well as her best friend, who ultimately turns to dark magic.

When a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon, a local magistrate, eager to make his name as a witch finder, plays neighbors and family members against one another until suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights.

Sharratt interweaves well-researched historical details of the 1612 Pendle witch-hunt with a beautifully imagined story of strong women, family, and betrayal. Daughters of the Witching Hill is a powerful novel of intrigue and revelation.


I also swapped for these next two via Paperbackswap:
All For Love: The Scandalous Life and Times of Royal Mistress Mary Robinson by Amanda Elyot
A bold and bawdy historical novel-from the acclaimed author of Too Great a Lady.
Mary Robinson's talent, beauty, and drive led her from debtors' prison to the glamour and scandal of the London stage, where a star was born-and sold as society's darling, envied by women, and desired by men. From her shocking affair with the Prince of Wales to heartbreaking betrayals and a restless pursuit of true romance, this breathtaking novel paints a vivid portrait of a woman who changed history by doing as she pleased-for money, for fame, for pleasure, and above all, for love.

This is a Reissue of Morgan's The Taste of Sorrow:
From an obscure country parsonage came three extraordinary sisters, who defied the outward bleakness of their lives to create the most brilliant literary work of their time. Now, in an astonishingly daring novel by the acclaimed Jude Morgan, the genius of the haunted Bront√ęs is revealed and the sisters are brought to full, resplendent life: Emily, who turned from the world to the greater temptations of the imagination; gentle Anne, who suffered the harshest perception of the stifling life forced upon her; and the brilliant, uncompromising, and tormented Charlotte, who longed for both love and independence, and learned their ultimate price.
 
For Review, I received another goodie that I had just done the giveaway for (see the guest post here):
Captivity by Deborah Noyes
This masterful historical novel by Deborah Noyes, the lauded author of Angel & Apostle, The Ghosts of Kerfol, and Encyclopedia of the End (starred PW) is two stories: The first centers upon the strange, true tale of the Fox Sisters, the enigmatic family of young women who, in upstate New York in 1848, proclaimed that they could converse with the dead. Doing so, they unwittingly (but artfully) gave birth to a religious movement that touched two continents: the American Spiritualists. Their followers included the famous and the rich, and their effect on American spirituality lasted a full generation. Still, there are echoes. The Fox Sisters is a story of ambition and playfulness, of illusion and fear, of indulgence, guilt and finally self-destruction. The second story in Captivity is about loss and grief. It is the evocative tale of the bright promise that the Fox Sisters offer up to the skeptical Clara Gill, a reclusive woman of a certain age who long ago isolated herself with her paintings, following the scandalous loss of her beautiful young lover in London. Lyrical and authentic and more than a bit shadowy Captivity is, finally, a tale about physical desire and the hope that even the thinnest faith can offer up to a darkening heart.

Jul 20, 2010

Book Review: Betsy Ross and The Making of America by Marla R. Miller

Betsy Ross and the Making of America by Marla R. Miller
April 27, 2010
Henry Holt, 467 pp., $30
Review copy from publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:
Betsy Ross and the Making of America is the first comprehensively researched and elegantly written biography of one of America's most captivating figures of the Revolutionary War. Drawing on new sources and bringing a fresh, keen eye to the fabled creation of "the first flag," Marla R. Miller thoroughly reconstructs the life behind the legend. This authoritative work provides a close look at the famous seamstress while shedding new light on the lives of the artisan families who peopled the young nation and crafted its tools, ships, and homes.


Betsy Ross occupies a sacred place in the American consciousness, and Miller's winning narrative finally does her justice. This history of the ordinary craftspeople of the Revolutionary War and their most famous representative will be the definitive volume for years to come.
This is one tough book to crack. Instead of being focused on Betsy Ross, it is a portrait of Philadelphia and how the colonies reacted to British authority before and during the American Revolution of 1770's. For the first twenty years of Betsy's life, the book comprises of about 100 pages of the aforementioned history of America with accounts of the extended ancestry of Betsy Ross. It is very wordy, but once a chapter winds down, we get a small morsel of what could have been with an entertaining foreshadowing tidbit of how something horrid is going to happen that will change Betsy's life forever. That happened several times, I turned the page excitedly, and we were back to the history lesson that was an automatic sleeping pill.

Betsy Ross whose given name was Elizabeth Griscom at her birth in 1752, is known as the legendary patriotic woman who met with George Washington in her parlour and sewed America's first official flag. As it is the stuff of legend and most probably not very true, the author Marla Miller sets out to establish the facts surrounding Betsy, her work, and other flag maker's work. In this all encompassing account of Colonial America, the author explains the political views of Betsy's immediate family and those that she came across or married into, which was a mixture of radicals, loyalists, patriots and conservatives. We do read about how Betsy gets her start in the seamstress business as she works as a young lady in an upholstery shop. The vision of Betsy simply sewing flags is shattered as we learn that Betsy was much more skilled than that as she was a part of the decorator business with chair coverings and the rare window coverings and many other household items.

Betsy's heritage and her great grandfather the talented builder Andrew Griscom are a strong focus in the book. The Boston Tea Party and the events that lead up to the Americans rebelling against the British rule who kept on taxing the Americans comprises the first half of the book. This brings us to the sad event of Betsy's first husband, John Ross, when he died mysteriously. No one really knows for sure what happened to him; he could have been injured while working with military weapons, or he could have been afflicted with a mental sickness that had also plagued his mother.

Interestingly enough, the author recounts how many citizens of America wanted to simply not be be subject to the taxes of the British, but were not expecting to actually go to war. It was the radicals who were loud enough to be heard that seemingly forced the rest of the citizens to go along with whatever was going to happen. Independence was not something that was on the colonies' minds as they opposed the Stamp Act or took part of the Boston Tea Party. The author also explains how Philadelphia was very much a capital of the the colonies, while others looked to Philadelphia for guidance. Bostonians thought they were doing Philadelphia a favor as they destroyed the tea, but Philadelphia was actually a bit chagrined.

The author writes the book with the promise that this is a story of stories, as she mentions several times that it was the grandchildren and heirs to the legend of Ross that have perpetuated certain stories that could be myths; and as such, there is indeed little proof of anything. So in order to bulk up the book, the author turned this would-be biography of Ross into something that could have sufficed as a semester of American History as well as upholstery.

This is a well-researched history of families in colonial America, but I was disappointed that it did not jump right into Betsy Ross' own life. It meanders around it and mentions Betsy or her many family members at certain intervals, but not enough to keep me entertained or ..awake through its entirety. I was once a little girl who cherished a toy bank that portrayed Betsy Ross on her yellow rocking chair as she stitched the American Flag, and even though I learned more about the times of Betsy Ross, this book did not satisfy the desire to know more about that whimsically magical person in the rocking chair. This was a book that would be better served with the title "Evolution of Colonial American Upholstery and Government, featuring Betsy Ross's Family".