A Novel of Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt

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

Newest novel by Tracy Groot

Featured in February's Historical Novel Society magazine as an Editors' Choice.

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I changed the look of my blog!

Favorite reads of 2013

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

Meme Posts

Add to your ginormous TBR pile!

Aug 31, 2010

Book Review: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock

Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
Random House, September 7, 2010 USA
Pages: 416
Hardcover 978-1-4000-6609 $28.00
(UK: Bloomsbury May 4, 2009)
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars, bordering towards 4

She was the first woman to inherit the throne of England, a key player in one of Britain’s stormiest eras, and a leader whose unwavering faith and swift retribution earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Now, in this impassioned and absorbing debut, historian Anna Whitelock offers a modern perspective on Mary Tudor and sets the record straight once and for all on one of history’s most compelling and maligned rulers.


Though often overshadowed by her long-reigning sister, Elizabeth I, Mary lived a life full of defiance, despair, and triumph. Born the daughter of the notorious King Henry VIII and the Spanish Katherine of Aragon, young Mary was a princess in every sense of the word—schooled in regal customs, educated by the best scholars, coveted by European royalty, and betrothed before she had reached the age of three. Yet in a decade’s time, in the wake of King Henry’s break with the pope, she was declared a bastard, disinherited, and demoted from “princess” to “lady.” Ever her deeply devout mother’s daughter, Mary refused to accept her new status or to recognize Henry’s new wife, Anne Boleyn, as queen. The fallout with her father and his counselors nearly destroyed the teenage Mary, who faced imprisonment and even death.

It would be an outright battle for Mary to work herself back into the king’s favor, claim her rightful place in the Tudor line, and ultimately become queen of England, but her coronation would not end her struggles. She flouted the opposition and married Philip of Spain, sought to restore Catholicism to the nation, and fiercely punished the resistance. But beneath her brave and regal exterior was a dependent woman prone to anxiety, whose private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses, and unrequited love played out in the public glare of the fickle court.

Anna Whitelock, an acclaimed young British historian, chronicles this unique woman’s life from her beginnings as a heralded princess to her rivalry with her sister to her ascent as ruler. In brilliant detail, Whitelock reveals that Mary Tudor was not the weak-willed failure as so often rendered by traditional narratives but a complex figure of immense courage, determination, and humanity.

You must forgive the length of this review. It is indicative of a thought process of my views on Mary and my struggle to find the inner persona of Bloody Mary. Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII is well known as Bloody Mary due to the many burnings of the heretics during her reign as queen. Daughter of the pious Katherine of Aragon, Mary was strictly Catholic and refused to acknowledge anything other that Catholicism just as she refused to acknowledge her half-sister Elizabeth I as anything other than the whore's daughter. Queen Elizabeth seems to be the one who is remembered more fondly than Queen Mary, even though it was Queen Mary who was the first female anointed queen. Why is Elizabeth the more exalted? Is it the fact that Elizabeth reigned for a longer amount of time and therefore was privy to more successful events such as the defeat of the Spanish Armada? Was it because of the reign of James I after Elizabeth I that everyone started to realize what they were missing once Elizabeth was gone? The reign of Mary was a difficult one with a strained marriage to King Philip of Spain, which the Englishmen did not appreciate a Spaniard and his consorts infringing on their territory. But Mary was always her mother's daughter, and embraced her Spanish blood along with her uncle Charles V as well as the Catholic religion. The stubbornness and defiance of Mary has always intrigued me, and I am always eager for more light to be shed on the figure of Queen Mary I, who is often overshadowed by her terrorizing father and later the successful reign of her sister.

The purpose of reading biographies for me is to gain further insight into the actual character of the person, and to find some sort of hidden truth that I had previously missed. The persona of "Bloody" Mary is one that has been debated for many years and I wanted to form my own opinion about her. I have read several novels on Mary, but nothing non-fiction that specifically focused on Mary. Those novels would also slant one way or the other in regards to Mary's character: she was either a religious zealot or a victim of her father's tyranny. Perhaps she was a little of both. I wanted to discover something tangible that would help me to form a better opinion of her; perhaps something that I had not grasped previously.

With this Tudor biography we are thrusted quickly into the Anne-Boleyn-hater world. Anna Whitelock, author of Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen presents Bloody Mary's biography in such a way as to martyr Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor while throwing the whole mess of blame on to Anne Boleyn's doorstep. What I wanted out of this book was another look at Mary along with some little known tidbits and facts, yet I had not expected the extreme slant against Anne Boleyn. Even I realize that Katherine was treated unfairly when Henry's devotion turned to Anne, but was it all Anne's fault for the events that occurred that lead to Katherine and Mary's fall from their father's grace? Anna Whitelock believes it so. She heavily relies on Chapuys, the imperial ambassador for Charles V, cousin to Katherine, and later Simon Renard. Can we expect an unbiased view from Chapuys?

Whitelock writes: "When Anne went to visit her daughter {Elizabeth} at Hatfield in March, she wasted no time in humiliating her {Mary}. She 'urgently solicited' Mary to visit her and 'honour her as Queen' saying that it 'would be a means of reconciliation with the King, and she would intercede with him for her'. Mary replied that 'she knew no other Queen in England except her mother' but that if Anne would do her that favor with her father she would be much obliged."

Why does Whitelock see this as only being humiliating to Mary?  Why can't she see it as Anne extending an olive branch to her step-daughter to try and keep the peace, with which Mary spurned and shoved away? This point of view and the authors tone turned me off, but once we got past the Anne Boleyn period the author was more pragmatic in her telling of Mary's story. And since Mary's story is reflective of the times themselves, the author then went into the main events of England with more detail than I needed, especially where the rest of Henry's wives were concerned. I am annoyed with the fact that with each Tudor-themed read they must then go into the monotonous stories of the succession of Henry's six wives. The issue at hand was Mary Tudor, and I didn't get any information about Mary as the author told the seemingly obligatory six wives story. The relationships of the wives with Mary were not expounded upon either.

The six wives period is heavily laced with Mary's father instructing her to abandon her mother's wishes and to obey Henry as Supreme Head of the Church. This was the main storyline for several chapters. Finally, Henry dies, Mary's young brother Edward is King, and then Edward takes up the task of harassing Mary about her religion. To Mary's credit, she never disavowed her Catholicism and always stood firm in regards to hearing mass. Even when I had thought it would just be so much easier to live in peace with the kingdom and to go with the flow of the reformation, I was empathetic towards Mary during this time. She was resolute in the manner even after she realized that many of her staunch supporters were punished or killed because of their loyalty to Mary. I would have been interested to read about how Mary reacted to these punishments towards her supporters, but all the author lets through is the fact that Mary moans that she is losing her friends. Is this a selfish motive or was she truly bemoaning their fate? Mary even had the notion to flee England when the pressure for her to convert became too much, but she stood her ground and realized her place was in England and that her destiny was to be its Queen.

When Edward took the throne, the will of Henry was disregarded when Edward Seymour became the Lord Protector. Henry wanted the council of sixteen to help advise Edward but "it was agreed" that Edward Seymour was the best choice as a Lord Protector. Eventually he steps on too many toes and is done away with. Nearing his death and fearing the work he has done is about to be thwarted by the Catholic Mary, Edward declares both of his sisters as illegitimate which means that the Duke of Northumberland's plans to gain the throne for his own son Guildford could actually work if he married Lady Jane Grey, the next relative in line. Once Edward VI dies, Mary rightfully seizes the chance to rise up and grab the throne herself. This is where I hoped the biography would take off, which was a little more than halfway through the book. She seemingly was the opposite of her brother in beliefs; the author writes that Edward changed his father's will and the succession that Henry had laid out which had recognized Mary and Elizabeth. Again, there was a lot of back story that could have been told here, but we merely get the fact that John Dudley, Earl of Northumberland was an upstart and he was dealt with summarily after his plan for Lady Jane to become Queen had backfired.

What was heartening was the support for Mary at her accession. I had never read such a swift but thorough account of the rising for Mary to win back the throne. The people loved her, she was their once revered Queen's daughter, and they were ready for the reform against the papistry to end and the destruction of the monasteries to be over. The people were beginning to show signs of their hatred of a currupted government and Mary was a beacon for Catholicism and to restore a sense of righteousness back to the royal crown. An interesting point that was made by the author was the fact that after years of relying on the Imperial ambassador and Charles V to help Mary's cause, they decided to not help her win her crown back, as he didn't think she would be the victor. Whitelock portrays the procession and coronation with an eye for detail unlike I have previously seen. I was amazed at how much the English were ready to welcome Mary as their Queen, regardless that she was a woman. It seems the government under the Lord Protector of Edward VI and then the Dudleys along with the Edwardian Reformation was a bit too much for the common people. Another interesting note was that the everlasting 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, held Mary's crown for her during the coronation festivities.

Mary's relationship with her husband Philip seemed to cause the most discontent to her people, and the fact that she failed in providing an heir. Mary was willing to ignore her people's wishes when she chose to marry Philip, stating that it was for the good of the realm and to secure the Catholic religion for England's future. Yet, the false pregnancies seemed to turn the people against her, as she lost their favor when she could not secure the Catholic succession, just as her mother could not provide her husband with the longed-for male heir. All eyes turned towards Elizabeth, the next obvious successor, who was Protestant, but the daughter of the hated Anne Boleyn. Which religion to choose? Did some choose Catholicism only to survive Mary's reign, knowing that soon Elizabeth would pick up the task of the late King Edward's reformation?

I would have enjoyed seeing more of Mary's sister, Elizabeth I and how their relationship grew or faltered, but there was not much that included Elizabeth during the bulk of the biography except that Mary did not trust her and supposed her to be her mother's daughter and a heretic. Elizabeth was implicated in the several plots that occurred during Mary's reign, but nothing was proven. Edward and Mary seemed cordial enough until Edward became the Protestant leader and Mary skirted around Edward the issues as much as possible.

To move onwards to the writing itself, the sixty-six chapters were extremely short, which makes for an easy look-back type process if you wanted to look into a specific aspect of Mary's life. The writing was clear and concise and full of details in regards to Mary, but was lacking that a-ha moment of insight for me. The tempo was even and undramatic which made the getting through the book a longer process. I have now gained a new-found respect for Alison Weir, whom others tend to criticize when her sentences contain words such as "could have" "would have" and "perhaps", but I missed that train of thought in this biography. In contrast, Whitelock stays true to the well known story and the repeating of 'letters and papers' even though she tends to rely on not so reliable sources. There were more issues discussed in this biography than are typically addressed in novels, such as those that concerned the many plots that rose against Mary, which helped to illustrate the amount of unrest that Mary's reign carried. Since I was looking for more insight into the character of Mary, I would have appreciated further intuition which Weir would typically provide with her pondering style of commentary.

There is not an extreme wealth of new information for the Tudor buff with this biography, but plenty of facts that may help to form your own opinion on Mary Tudor, a much misunderstood figure. The author did well when exuding the nuances and the religious beliefs of the times.With the quick chapters and the look at some issues that have not been overly written of before, this would be an excellent read for those who are looking for a look at the Tudor times that Mary lived in and ultimately reigned over. Overall, I came away with the feeling that Mary was not as much a "misaligned" figure as some like to claim. She was stubborn and adamant with her religion which is admirable, yet the amount of intolerance she expressed is still something that I cannot condone. She relied on her husband Philip for affairs of state, as Whitelock stated that she wrote to him imploring him to come back to England to help to control her government. Bringing a foreigner like Philip, who also brought England to war with France, was not something that England was ready for. The acts of Mary should not be reflected on the writer, though, and I would recommend this biography for those who would like to glean more information regarding the beliefs of Mary and to gain an accurate portrayal of England during Mary's reign. I am still on the hunt for something that would make me more empathetic towards Mary, I really want to like her, but no matter how hard Whitelock tried to show Mary as a misunderstood woman I could not garner that full realization with this telling, though I do agree with the characterization of "the complex figure of immense courage, determination and humanity".

I found this interesting quote regarding this book, which I agree with in all ways except the great verve part:
'This rollercoaster of a story is told by Whitelock with great verve and pace...It is good to find this book saluted as 'an impressive and powerful debut' by David Starkey: he has recently been quoted denouncing the feminisation of history by women biographers. Clearly he is able to lay aside such sentiments when faced with a proper historical work. Quite right too.' (Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday)

Aug 30, 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!

This week was fantastic, every now and then I receive a treasure from PBS, and this is one of them!

I received from Paperbackswap:
Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Eric W. Ives

Lady Jane Grey is the queen England rejected and one of the most elusive and tragic characters in English history. Here, Eric Ives, master historian and storyteller presents a compelling new interpretation of Jane and her role in the accession crisis of 1553, with wide-ranging implications for our understanding of the workings of Tudor politics and the exercise of power in early modern England. This is the first major study of the 1553 crisis, created after Edward VI's untimely death left the Tudor dynasty in turmoil. It presents a vivid portrait of Lady Jane Grey, one of the least studied figures of English history, depicting Jane as a forceful, educated individual. It subjects Jane's writings to an original literary and religious analysis. It demonstrates that Edward VI's will gave Jane and her supporters strong legal grounds for her claim to the throne. It offers a fresh assessment of other characters involved in the 1553 accession crisis: including Edward VI; Mary Tudor; and, John Dudley, duke of Northumberland. It illuminates the inner workings of Tudor politics and the exercise of power in Early Modern England.

Aug 27, 2010

In Pictures

What a busy summer its been! Many life changes have occurred for me, and many are for the best, and some days have been full of trials.
I could be writing about all the great things I've been reading lately.. but I've been busy enjoying the great outdoors this summer, and wishing my flowers would thrive.. (maybe next Spring).. but it has been a summer to remember!

So, I decided to post some of the best things of the summer today (in pics!). School started for the 3rd grader this week and I am looking forward to hearing of her experiences this year. And perhaps the three year old will decide it's okay to go potty in the actual potty. But, one day at a time.
We did cave in, and got little rodents, aka dwarf hamsters, for the kiddos. They're cute! (REALLY!) A fun addition to our little family.

 Picture taken just before sunset from my front yard. It was fantastic.. and humbling.
This American Flag was my husband's 50th birthday gift this summer.

C'mon babies, grow!

This fantastic one of a kind birdhouse and matching stand was bought from a sweet craftsman at the side of the road during one of my summertime shopping trips. 
May the Lord bless and keep those close to me. May you
walk with sunlight shining and a bluebird in
every tree... (I've been enjoying the cardinals in my yard!)

Thanks for reading, folks! Enjoy the last of the summer!

Aug 25, 2010

The Witch Queen's Secret: Anna Elliott Freebie!

Last year, I read my very first Arthurian-style read when I reviewed Anna Elliott's Twilight of Avalon. It was one of my favorite reads last year because of the intelligent writing that entertained me with an entirely new story for me which was that of Isolde and Trystan. You can read my review and get more background here.

In honor of Anna's release date of September 14 for book two in her Avalon series, Dark Moon of Avalon, (which I am looking forward to reading soon!) she is offering a couple of freebie short stories as a gift to readers!

The first, titled The Witch Queen's Secret, is available now; you can download it for free in various e-reader and printer compatible forms on Anna's website here. Or (because of Amazon policy) it's available for 99 cents on the Kindle store here.
The Witch Queen's Secret
Between Books I and II in the Twilight of Avalon Trilogy


Dera owes Britain's former High Queen Isolde her life. But as an army harlot, the life she leads is one of degradation and often desperate danger, with small hope for the future either for Dera or for her small son.

Through a Britain torn by war with Saxon invaders, Dera makes her way to Dinas Emrys, last stronghold of Britain's army, to beg Queen Isolde's help once more. Isolde offers Dera a new life, both for herself and for her child. But when Dera and Isolde uncover a treasonous plot, Dera must leave her little boy and undertake a dangerous mission, the outcome of which comes to her as a stunning, but wonderful, surprise.

And as she risks her life, Dera also draws nearer to Queen Isolde's most closely-guarded secret: one that Britain's courageous witch-queen may be hiding even from herself.

Anna also explains that this "middle" story is self-contained; you don't have to have read any of the Trystan and Isolde books to understand The Witch Queen's Secret.

Aug 23, 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!

This week was a good one.. I received from Paperbackswap:

Silent In The Grave by Deanna Raybourn, which is Book One in the Lady Julia Grey series. I had received book 4 in last week's box for October publication, and want to get some background first. I wish I could read all of them before the fourth... it seems like the series is a lot of fun. I sat down and read the first chapter of book one when it arrived and it looks like a fun read! I can't wait to start it, but I am stuck in a long winded studious read right now.


"Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."

These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.


Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.
Also from PBS:
An Uncommon Woman - The Empress Frederick: Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm by Hannah Pakula

An epic story of wars and revolutions, of the rise and fall of royal families, and of the birth of modern Germany is brilliantly told through the lives of the couple in the eye of the storm--Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, and her handsome, idealistic husband, Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia.

 1997, 704 pages!



Again from PBS:
Seven Days to the Sea: An Epic Novel of the Exodus by Rebecca Kohn (2006)

As a child, Miryam foretells the birth of a leader who will save their people from oppression—a vision so vivid that she dedicates her life to seeing it fulfilled in her brother, Moses. But after many years, she wonders in the deepest confines of her heart if her sacrifices mean anything, if her calling is real.
Tzipporah, a desert shepherdess who knows nothing of her husband's divine purpose, suffers as he is torn from her by a strange god, a foreign people, and an unforgiving sister. In her heart, she harbors terrible secrets that haunt the love she shares with Moses and threaten her tenuous peace with Miryam.
Together, Miryam and Tzipporah weave a narrative that gives voice to the women of Exodus—their lives, their community, and ultimately, their sisterhood.

From Sourcebooks  an advance release of A Darcy Christmas (October, 2010) An omnibus of novels by
Carolyn Eberhart, Amanda Grange and Sharon Lathan:

From two bestselling and a debut author comes heartwarming Christmas tales sure to delight Jane Austen fans:

From Amanda Grange, the bestselling author of Mr. Darcy's Diary and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, Christmas finds the Darcy's celebrating the holiday with preparations for a ball, but the festivities are interrupted by the arrival of a very special gift... Ever sensual and romantic, Sharon Lathan highlights everything that's best and most precious in the celebrations of the holiday season. After a quarter of a century together, Darcy and Elizabeth reminisce... Jane Austen meets Charles Dickens! Carol Eberhart's Mr. Darcy's Christmas Carol finds Darcy encountering ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, who show him his life if pride keeps him from his one true love.

Aug 19, 2010

For those annoying continuous Emails..

I love Goodreads because I can keep track of my books there. I also like to see what other reviewers are saying about particular books before I make a purchase, and it is all right there at my fingertips without the fuss.

There is a group on Goodreads that is called Free Book Giveaway.. which I have joined and entered a few of my Book Giveaways there to promote this blog. Now I get an email several times a day from the group, with members posting their own giveaways. Which is great for some people, but it gets tiresome to me because the group itself is not separated out into genres. Therefore, every book giveaway promotion that is offered is getting emailed to me.

This can happen in any group, where any topic is discussed within that group that you are a part of, and you are about to get a slew of unknown emails about any discussion, which can flood your inbox.

So I found a way to set your settings in Goodreads Groups. You can set your emails to digest, individually or weekly. In the general settings I had already changed this to Digest which included all my groups, but at this time for some reason in the individual group of Free Book Giveaway I had to go in and edit the membership
(which was a pain to figure out, so I thought I would share my adventure with you):
Go to the group homepage, and find
You are a member of this group (edit membership) which is on the right side pane. Click the Edit Membership link.
Another screen comes up with these options:
You can either Leave the Group, or click another time where it says:
 
group discussion update emails
edit group discussion updates (Click this)

And then the list of every topic comes up and the first one is ALL which is where I clicked to recieve this in a DIGEST, which negated the individual emails.

Alternatively, if you are someone who LOVES FREE BOOK GIVEAWAYS!
Go to this Goodreads group, Join, and you can edit your membership to Individual and you will be alerted each time a member enters a book promotion there!

Good Luck!

Aug 18, 2010

Wonderful-ness

Every now and then you come across an interesting article online and you read it in its entirety. So I read this article today called Turn Ugly Dresses into Nice Ones for $1 and I was inspired. Nope, I can't sew, so the idea behind this phenom is not what struck me. Sadly (apologies to Gramma Erma, the Crochet Blanket Queen) I realized at age 6 my abilities were lacking...

The setting: Mrs. Cooney's first grade class, Oxhead Road Elementary School.
The task: Sew a pretty purple scarf along with the rest of the class.
The crime: Stitch, knot, purl, knit, tuck, under etc. was all Greek to this youngster.
The outcome: Long chain-like strings for the cats to chase.

And so while the rest of the class continued to sew pretty little scarves for their mommies, I was allowed to read to the rest of the class during the Sew-A-Scarf time. The book blogger was born. =)

The point of the blabbering here.. the article that I read directed me to the Blog for the New Dress a Day, and this girl is the cutest thing eva!! You have got to run over there and read some of her blog posts, she had me in stitches!!! tee hee!

Book Review: The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy


The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Plume (February 26, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-0452289062
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:4.5 Stars of 5!


The richly imagined tale of Deborah, the courageous Biblical warrior who saved her people from certain destruction.


In ancient Israel, war is looming. Deborah, a highly respected leader, has coerced the warrior Barak into launching a strike against the neighboring Canaanites. Against all odds he succeeds, returning triumphantly with Asherah and Nogah, daughters of the Canaanite King, as his prisoners. But military victory is only the beginning of the turmoil, as a complex love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses.


Deborah, recently cast off by her husband, develops a surprising affinity for Barak. Yet she struggles to rebuild her existence on her own terms, while also groping her way toward the greatest triumph of her life.


Filled with brilliantly vivid historical detail, The Triumph of Deborah is the absorbing and riveting tale of one of the most beloved figures in the Old Testament, and a tribute to feminine strength and independence.

This is a story that deftly interweaves itself through faiths and cultures and greed and power which is emphasized by Eva Etzioni-Halevy's fantastic storytelling through endearing characters from both sides of a war in ancient Israel. The novel begins as the women of the opposite sides are awaiting the news of the outcome of the battle, but we are then treated to a series of flashbacks and a buildup to the battle so much so that we are vested in both sides of the battle and wish for peace on both sides before we learn the outcome ourselves. A better educated person may be able to recall the outcome of the battle between the Israelites and Canaanites for which this novel is based. I had no idea so I had to do a quick wikipedia lookup to gain some further insight, because the suspense was too much for me.

The Bible tells us the story of a compelling woman named Deborah, who was a judge of the Israelites. In the novel, the author breathes new life into the era of the Judges and shows us all facets of the battle that Deborah helped to wage against the Canaanites and King Jabin. Most importantly in this story was Nogah, a young woman torn between the two conflicting faiths of the Israelites and the Canaanites. Nogah was the daughter of an Israelite slave, who later learns that her seemingly non-existent father is none other than King Jabin, believer of gods and goddesses. Although mother and father are worlds apart in culture, Nogah's heart is open to both of them and their views. It is through Nogah's eyes that we feel the strain of the wars and the conflict it causes between the two faiths.

Another key figure in the story is Barak, the leader who Deborah chose to lead the war against the Canaanites. He is an enchanter of women: they fall in love with him almost instantly, including Deborah and Nogah. The one who Barak wants, however, is another of the Canaanite King Jabin's daughters, Asherah. As Barak was the leader against the Canaanites and the perpetrator of death amongst her family and people, Asherah is unforgiving. Yet, she has little choice in the matter of her situation as a captive of Barak's. It was hard to connect with her due to her unforgiving nature which was a contrast to the other characters of the novel, but made for a well-rounded story. I was enthralled by the plot and the characters who were so vividly portrayed in alternating third person with an interesting timeline of flashbacks and their present times.

The author's prose was so fluid and addictive that I didn't want to put the novel down. And yet I valued the importance of the story in itself so I forced myself to savor the experience. The only quibble I had with the story was the way that it was saturated with sex. The women seemed overcome with lust especially where Barak was concerned and that became tiresome. The sexual scenes were told with grace, though, and the powerful storytelling outweighed the negative leanings I had due to the amount of sexual content of which I had been forewarned of.

I am so glad to have read this novel, and wish I had read it sooner. It is eye opening and poetic, and a must read for those who are intrigued by the history of religion and heritage of Israel, and it serves well for readers of historical fiction. I plan on also reading Eva Etzioni-Halevy's previous novels, The Garden of Ruth and The Song of Hannah. In biblical fiction, I have also read India Edghill's Delilah which I really enjoyed and I plan on reading more from India Edghill and Antoinette May as well. The genre of biblical fiction is vast and I must take baby steps, but after this fantastic read I know it is well worth the wait.

Aug 17, 2010

Winners winners..

I recently held two contests for the book giveaway of THE SECRET ELEANOR and HIS LAST LETTER which coincided with interviews of the authors. Click the links to get to the interviews.
The reviews of the two titles are here:
The Secret Eleanor
His Last Letter

The winner of The Secret Eleanor is: LAMusing

The winner of His Last Letter is: Rheanna

Congratulations, Emails have been sent!!

Still ongoing is the 2 book giveaway for Philippa Gregory's The Cousins War series! Enter here.
Have a great day!

Aug 16, 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!

After being a total good girl last week with zero ARC's for review.....

I did cave in and accepted for review some interesting titles. And I was enticed by Sourcebooks but didn't go overboard, thankfully. Instead of reading the many Guinevere novels I already own, I will have to start with this one, and belatedly I realized this is another reissue from a previous 1987 novel (bonks self over head):
 Child of the Northern Spring by Persia Wooley— Book 1 of the Guinevere Trilogy (Historical Fiction) And it's almost a chunkster at 576 pages!
The story of a queen who deserves to become a legend—a startlingly original tale of Arthur & Guinevere.
Often portrayed as spoiled, in Persia Woolley’s hands Guinevere comes alive as a high-spirited, passionate woman. When she is chosen by Arthur to be his wife, Guinevere’s independence wars with her family loyalty. As the wedding approaches and hints of rebellion abound, she learns that the old gods are in revolt against the new Christian church, and that scattered kingdoms are stirring from their uneasy peace. This is Arthurian epic at its best, filled with romance, adventure, authentic historical detail, and a landscape alive with the mystery of Britain in the Dark Ages.

I also received from Henry Holt something different, which came with a CD too:
Sunset Park by Paul Auster 
Luminous, passionate, expansive, an emotional tour de force


Sunset Park follows the hopes and fears of a cast of unforgettable characters brought together by the mysterious Miles Heller during the dark months of the 2008 economic collapse.
An enigmatic young man employed as a trash-out worker in southern Florida obsessively photographing thousands of abandoned objects left behind by the evicted families.
A group of young people squatting in an apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
The Hospital for Broken Things, which specializes in repairing the artifacts of a vanished world.
William Wyler's 1946 classic The Best Years of Our Lives.
A celebrated actress preparing to return to Broadway.
An independent publisher desperately trying to save his business and his marriage.
These are just some of the elements Auster magically weaves together in this immensely moving novel about contemporary America and its ghosts. Sunset Park is a surprising departure that confirms Paul Auster as one of our greatest living writers.


For review:
Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Series, #4)
Have you read the previous books in the series? I haven't, but I ordered one so that I can read it before this one. The newest installment comes out October 1st 2010 by Mira:

With an exotic setting in the foothills of the Himalayas and the introduction of an arch-villain, Dark Road to Darjeeling promises to be the most exciting Lady Julia novel yet.

I LOVE this cover, it has such pretty coloring.


From paperbackswap, I received:
Madame de Pompadour: A Life by Evelyne Lever
A riveting new biography of the legendary French queen Family life in Vienna, the wedding at Versailles to Louis XVI, the French court, boredom, hypocrisy, loneliness, allies, enemies, extravagant entertainment, scandal, intrigue, sex, birth and bereavement, lovers, peasant riots, the fall of the Bastille, the attack on Versailles, confinement in the Tuileries, escape and capture, mob rule in Paris, imprisonment, the guillotine. Marie Antoinette is a biographer's dream, and Evelyne Lever's account of the life of the inimitable (and last) French queen is a sumptuous, addictive delight. From Marie Antoinette's birth in Vienna in 1755--the fifteenth child of Austrian Archduchess Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I--through her turbulent and unhappy marriage to Louis XVI, the turmoil of the French Revolution, her trial for high treason (during which she was accused of incest), and her final beheading, Lever draws on a variety of resources, including diaries, letters, and firsthand accounts, to weave a gripping, fast-paced historical narrative that reads like expertly crafted fiction.

Aug 13, 2010

Book Review: The Secret Eleanor by Cecelia Holland

See the interview with the author at The Burton Review http://www.theburtonreview.com/2010/08/book-giveaway-secret-eleanor-q-with.html

The Secret Eleanor by Cecelia Holland
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (August 3, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0425234501
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:

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.

Ok, so here we have the zillionth historical novel on Eleanor this year. Are we tired of her yet? I am definitely tired of the sexual references over and over and over. So if you are too, I would recommend reading Christy English's The Queen's Pawn. At least it had Eleanor in it where she did not fantasize about men in her bed (too much). After recently reading The Captive Queen by Weir, I was hesitant to read another novel that is slanted again so much towards that sexual drive of Eleanor. I get it, ya know? And yet, I have to wonder.. what was Eleanor REALLY like? Is she now turning over in her tomb at Fontevraud with these supposed sexual exploits?

The Secret Eleanor opens up to Eleanor in the French courts as she first eyes the must-be-extremely-sexy Henry, future king of England. She is like a cat in heat upon first glance. I didn't really want to read any more after this, because, really, is it possible that we could we get past this? Well, it would have to be the flow of the writing itself. Which surprisingly and so very thankfully was not lacking. Thirty or forty pages of Eleanor scheming to get closer to Henry and finally the story starts taking shape and the humanity seeps through. If we had another thirty pages more of just Eleanor scheming for Henry, I would have given up. A saving grace were the supporting characters in the novel which included a naive young girl named Claire, and Eleanor's own sister, Petronilla and her eventual love interest. The story ultimately focuses on a fictitious illegitimate pregnancy of Eleanor's and once that story takes off, we are in for an entirely different slant on Eleanor as the supporters of Eleanor work to keep this very treasonous secret for Eleanor.

Arguably, the best feature was that the novel started to not focus on Eleanor but instead focused on Eleanor's sister Petronilla. In many of my previous encounters with Eleanor novels, Petra is involved in different capacities. This is the only one that focuses fully on the character of Petra and her feelings from jealousy to low self-esteem. Since Eleanor was secretly having an illegitimate child, Petra dons the Eleanor makeup and the royal clothes and impersonates Eleanor, long enough to fool everyone including Henry the Duke who Eleanor had high hopes of catching. Thus the title of this novel The Secret Eleanor makes perfect sense as Petra actually becomes Eleanor for public spectacles.

Another contrast from this novel to other Eleanor novels is the timeline. Many previous novels have been all encompassing which includes and emphasizes Eleanor's reign as Queen of England and the struggles she has between Henry II and their children, but this novel stops before we get to that point. It opens up to Eleanor as a Queen of France, struggling to find a way out of there as Louis' queen and directly on to Poitiers and her beloved home of Aquitaine. Henry (still just a duke and not yet king) is featured as the catalyst for Eleanor's will to make her split with Louis a reality, and her sister becomes a major mover in her quest as well. The side story of the lady in waiting, Claire, who we never knew if we could trust, was a positive departure from the norm in the novel, as we grew to empathize with Claire and her own plight in the world. She becomes involved with a troubadour which could have disastrous consequences for her and we witness her decisions as we await either her ruin or her rise.

As Eleanor fights to sever her ties with King Louis, the strongest theme of the novel was the relationship between the two sisters. Eleanor was always the one in the limelight, Petra was the shunned one. Once Petra switched places, and became the secret Eleanor, she felt noticed and beautiful. Can Petra find true love after being tossed away by her ex-husband? Can she ever feel as worthy to her sister as merely a sister and not as a servant? And can she do it without breaking the bond with her royal sister?

Those readers who are intrigued by the historical period before Eleanor became the Queen of England and mother of kings, would enjoy this novel if they can appreciate the romantic twists that the author inserts into the novel. It has the aura of a historical novel with its many characters and the nuance of the times, with the romantic overtones heavily laced throughout which makes it also a compelling historical romance. And for me, once the story took shape and I became invested in the storyline of what would happen as a result of the untimely pregnancy, I did enjoy this novel and the surprising plot. I was glad that it eventually did not focus on Eleanor's lusty desires and that it gave me insight into her sister's character who has always been Eleanor's shadow in other Eleanor novels.

Aug 12, 2010

Goodreads Interview of Philippa Gregory

Book bloggers everywhere are touting the newest Philippa Gregory release, The Red Queen, as a success.. me being one of them. I have a giveaway going on here at The Burton Review for the first two books in the series of The Cousins' War, and a hardcover giveaway chance at The Historical Fiction Connection site. Be sure to enter at both blogs to increase your odds!

I was very intrigued with the interview that has posted at Goodreads with Philippa Gregory.
First of all, there are going to be at least SIX books in the Cousin's War series!! Something to look forward to, probably to be released yearly. If the books continue to be entertaining I will eagerly await each one. She is also working on a collaboration book with David Baldwin, who wrote and excellent bio on Elizabeth Woodville that I enjoyed.

Another interesting tidbit is that even though the newest book The Red Queen is Lancastrian in nature, the author herself is a Yorkist who still believes that Richard III should have been the true King. I would never have guessed this after reading The Red Queen. I am on the fence, but wanting to lean towards Lancastrian as they had the most legitimate descendancy according to a line I recall from the newest novel.

Philippa's favorite historian is Alison Weir, whom I have found other readers loving to hate, just as they do Philippa Gregory. I like them both. I still have many of her reads to get to, as well the rest of Philippa Gregory's novels that I would like to read also.

Aug 10, 2010

Book Review: Bellfield Hall: Or, The Observations of Miss Dido Kent, by Anna Dean


Bellfield Hall: Or, The Observations of Miss Dido Kent, by Anna Dean
Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books, February 2010
ISBN: 978-0-312-56294-6
304 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Three Stars

1805. An engagement party is taking place for Mr Richard Montague, son of wealthy landowner Sir Edgar Montague, and his fiancee Catherine. During a dance with his beloved, a strange thing happens: a man appears at Richard's shoulder and appears to communicate something to him without saying a word. Instantly breaking off the engagement, he rushes off to speak to his father, never to be seen again. Distraught with worry, Catherine sends for her spinster aunt, Miss Dido Kent, who has a penchant for solving mysteries. Catherine pleads with her to find her fiance and to discover the truth behind his disappearance. It's going to take a lot of logical thinking to untangle the complex threads of this multi-layered mystery, and Miss Dido Kent is just the woman to do it.

This is one of those novels that I wanted to evoke Georgette Heyer with a dash of Agatha Christie. While straining to do so, the novel starts out with Dido Kent, unprofessional lady sleuth, writing a letter to her sister. This continues off and on throughout the novel and is where the wit shines through regarding Dido's character. Otherwise, Dido seemed a bit annoying and obtrusive. Dido was called by her niece Catherine to visit Bellfield Hall because Catherine's betrothed of two weeks has disappeared. There has been a murder of an unknown woman in the shrubbery. Are these two things related? At first, Dido thinks not. But she has some questions to put forth.

Bellfield Hall has several interesting characters much like your basic game of CLUE. It felt a lot like Dido was roaming from room to room on the CLUE board badgering the other players. It went on like that for days and it takes awhile to get used to before you actually start to understand more of the intricacies behind the two mysterious events at Bellfield Hall. Nothing new was really happening to Dido or around her, except for her unraveling the past with her excellent abilities at detective work. Every now and then Dido considered her personal life and the fact that she never married. One of the interesting duos in the book were the Harris girls who have quite emphatically decided not to marry and this also plagues Dido as she is destined to be a spinster herself.

The entire novel can be summed in a few sentences, but it was full of interesting characters in the quaint Regency setting that lovers of that genre would like. Although it was not fast paced enough to feel like a page turner (are Regencies even supposed to be?), I enjoyed the picturesque setting of Bellfield Hall that other Jane Austen lovers would appreciate, and this is a story that can be summed up as a quaint mystery with a few surprises. There were a few quibbles against probability of certain events that I had thought of along the way, but all in all this was entertaining enough to warrant me looking for book two in the series, A Gentleman of Fortune.

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