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.

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!

Sep 8, 2011

CAT THURSDAY!

Something a little fun and different today... Today is CAT THURSDAY over at the True Book Addict's site.. and she says every second Thursday she'll feature Authors and their cats..so without further ado..
Future AUTHOR!! ME!!!



Now THAT'S really LOL, right?!
But there I am reading one of my fave authors, Georgette Heyer.
Pictured is Sweetie, our cutie pie we adopted in May. She has quickly attached herself to me. She sees me sitting anywhere and she rockets right to me because she knows she'll get some loving (and safe haven from four year olds!).

If you want to see more cat pictures from today's link-up, visit the True Book Addict!

Sep 6, 2011

Review: The Women of The Cousin's War by Philippa Gregory

Women of the Cousins' War

The Women of The Cousin's War by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin & Michael Jones
Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, September 13, 2011
Hardcover 352 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Stars

The Women of the Cousins' War is an attempt to shed light on three important women of the Wars of the Roses, which Gregory refers to with the old fashioned name of the Cousins' War. The Duchess refers to Jaquetta of Luxembourg, minor French nobility who married into English nobility of the Lancastrian side and who would probably have had a satisfied life if things ended there. Her first husband John, Duke of Bedford was the third son of Henry IV. When he dies, Jacquetta defies convention and marries Richard Woodville, who was merely her first husband's chamberlain. Philippa Gregory writes the first portion of The Women of the Cousins' War as a sort of prelude to her novel, The Lady of the Rivers, her third installment in the Cousins' War fictional series.

David Baldwin writes the second portion of The Women of the Cousins' War on the Queen Elizabeth Woodville, daughter of Jacquetta, mother of the lost princes in the tower, mother-in-law to Henry VII. Elizabeth Woodville underwent much scrutiny when she married the younger Edward IV, who enraged all nobility by bringing the large family of Woodville upstarts into the royal fold. She encounters foes on all sides, from the scheming Warwick to the King's own brothers. Baldwin previously wrote a biography on Elizabeth Woodville, one of the few written.

Finally, Michael Jones brings us the third portion of The Women of the Cousins' War with his writing on Margaret Beaufort, mother to Henry VII, who against all odds persevered throughout the tumultuous Cousins' War and eventually was able to see Lancaster restored to the English throne via her own son. All three of these women are main protagonists in Gregory's novels The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Lady of the Rivers.

In the roughly forty-seven page introduction, Gregory explains that there is very little known about the female significant others of times gone by because women were simply considered irrelevant. Sometimes we have dates of birth and dates of death, and then a little can be filled in between the lines based on certain battles and where their husbands had traveled. And that's exactly what Gregory provides us with when discussing Jacquetta of Luxembourg. As forewarned by Gregory herself, the actual lines that were devoted to Jacquetta in Gregory's section of The Women of the Cousins' War were full of probably's and maybe's with a summary of the Wars of the Roses. The last few pages focus a bit more on Jacquetta and her family, her legacy and the stigma of being a branded a witch (which she miraculously survived a trial intact).

David Baldwin's portion on Elizabeth Woodville read much quicker, and the tone of Baldwin's writing is pitch perfect. He calls into account more of Elizabeth's actions during the events of her marriage to Edward IV, and he didn't overlook some details that I had previously not comprehended. It seems that Edward IV had a peculiar way of ignoring rules and making stuff up as he went along to whatever suited his current needs. King Edward had even declared a countess legally dead in order for her lands to be distributed, even though she was very much alive. It becomes more understandable of the unrest at the time when Edward ignored the Yorkist nobles' alliances with families regarding betrothals, bequeathals and land disputes. Even though most of the disgruntled nobles placed the blame on "the upstart Woodvilles", we cannot but help but wonder where Edward's mind was once he continued to stir the pot more and more. And so the magic/witch/evil spell factor comes back into play, because certainly Edward would not have knowingly been such an idiot when he married the Woodville widow...and he certainly would not normally have misplaced all his trust with the Woodvilles who were (up till then) staunch Lancastrian supporters. I had read Baldwin's non-fiction book on Elizabeth Woodville a few years ago and I recall enjoying it more than other WOTR non-fiction. His writing in The Women of the Cousins' War was just as enjoyable.

Michael Jones then writes of Margaret Beaufort, and we learn about her family and her own father's tragic life. He had committed suicide when Margaret had turned a year old, but as Jones tells it, he was never far from her mind. Jones writes of John Beaufort's tragic exile, his plundering the spoils of battles, enraging the pious Henry VI, his ultimate suicide and ponders what effect did these events have on Margaret? Jones emphasizes Margaret's political acumen and her very act of survival during those politically treacherous times with appraisal. There were a few more details of Margaret's family that I had not realized before, and her family's name going back and forth in and out of royal favor occurred more than I had realized. Margaret's ultimate success of seeing her son on the throne of England, and finally her grandson succeeding the throne without protest, must have been sweet success indeed.

The Women of the Cousins' War is a quick read without bogging down the reader with minutia of details regarding the many angles and intrigues of the Wars of the Roses, and is a worthy resource (family trees, illustrations, notes and sources, and index included) for those who wish to know the real story behind the formidable women featured in Philippa Gregory's novels of the Cousins' War.

Sep 1, 2011

RELEASE DAY! Guest Post: Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

In honor of Elizabeth Chadwick's release day today I wanted to present this article written by Elizabeth Chadwick which was previously posted in June.

Lady of the English paperback has been released by Sourcebooks and you can also look for the beautiful hardcover from the June UK release by Sphere at the BookDepository or Amazon.uk. I really enjoyed this newest medieval novel from Elizabeth Chadwick (my review can be found here).

UK release, Sphere, 6/2011
Two very different women are linked by destiny and the struggle for the English crown. Matilda, daughter of Henry I, is determined to win back her crown from Stephen, the usurper king. Adeliza, Henry's widowed queen and Matilda's stepmother, is now married to William D'Albini, a warrior of the opposition. Both women are strong and prepared to stand firm for what they know is right. But in a world where a man's word is law, how can Adeliza obey her husband while supporting Matilda, the rightful queen? And for Matilda pride comes before a fall ...What price for a crown? What does it cost to be 'Lady of the English'?

One of the most favored historical fiction authors of our day, here is Elizabeth Chadwick, as I asked her to set the scene of her new novel for those who might not be familiar with The White Ship disaster and the ensuing struggle between Empress Matilda and King Stephen. I myself had read When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman which begins with the White Ship Disaster. That book got me started on this fabulous journey of the medieval era, and it is with eager anticipation that I get my reading pleasure back to that historic time period.



US release, Sourcebooks 9/1/11
LADY OF THE ENGLISH

Setting the Scene

On November 25th 1120, King Henry I of England was at Barfleur in Normandy preparing to return to England. He was in settled middle age, but still looking to the future. His eldest son William was in his late teens and being groomed to eventually succeed his father as Duke of Normandy and King of England. Henry's daughter Matilda, also in her late teens was Empress of Germany. Henry's wife, Matilda, had died two years ago, but Henry was now looking to remarry and had already set matters in motion and was contracting to wed Adeliza of Louvain, a young woman of similar age to his daughter. Adeliza was accounted beautiful and pious, and Henry was keen to marry, and hopefully beget more legitimate heirs beyond the two born of his first wife. Henry had something of a reputation for liking the ladies and fathered at least a score of bastards on various women.

But that cold winter's night in Normandy, everything was to change. Henry set sail first in daylight with a lot of older, sober court members, but left the youngsters including his son and several of his illegitimate offspring, to their carousing and pleasure. It was the last Henry ever saw of them. The White Ship foundered when it hit a rock in Barfleur harbour, and sank without survivors save one - a butcher who clung to a spar and was washed ashore.

Henry's whole game plan had to change because now the only legitimate heir to the throne was his daughter Matilda in Germany. He went ahead with his marriage plans, but it became obvious that no child was going to be forthcoming from Adeliza. Young and beautiful though she was, she did not quicken. Henry began to cast around for a successor and his gaze fixed upon his nephew Stephen, son of his sister Adela. Stephen had an older brother Theobald, who would become count of Blois, and a younger brother Henry who was destined for the priesthood. Stephen in the middle seems to have attracted King Henry's interest and approval. He had grown up at the court with tragic young Prince, and had only been saved from drowning himself because he was suffering from a stomach upset and preferred not to embark on the fated White Ship.

Henry married Stephen to Matilda of Boulogne, who was kin on her mother's side to the old Royal Saxon house of England, thus giving Stephen a firm claim to the Crown. There was another claimant to the throne too, a young man called William le Clito. He too was Henry's nephew, but an enemy because he was the son of Henry's older brother, Robert. Henry had defeated Robert in battle way back in 1106, and had had him cast into prison ever since - where he was subsequently to die. When le Clito was old enough, he took up his father's gauntlet and laid claim to England and Normandy. However Henry's grip was strong and sure, and although le Clito fought hard, he was hampered by a lack of resources and his threat to Henry was to end in 1128 when he died from a poisoned battle wound.

In 1125 the Emperor of Germany died untimely, leaving Henry's daughter Matilda a widow. Suddenly there was a new player in the game. Henry summoned Matilda home and had the barons swear to her as their future sovereign. This did not sit well with many of his lords and clergy, but Henry was so strong a King, and ruled with such charisma and iron that no one dared oppose him. However, he did not cast off Stephen entirely. As I have him say in LADY OF THE ENGLISH:

‘A prudent man keeps more than one horse in the stable, but there is always one he prefers to ride.’

And that is exactly how I believe Henry felt. He could play one off against the other. If one displeased him or if policy changed that he could turn to the other. I also think that he was hoping to live forever, or at least until his grandson's were grown up. Externally he might have prepared to meet his own mortality, but internally he had no intention of giving up his fistfuls of power.

When he did eventually die – (did he jump or was he pushed?) The Blois faction were well placed to seize the Crown, and I think their swift action was premeditated. Stephen was at Wissant which was a short sea journey from England, and his brother Henry was at Winchester and in control of the Royal Treasury. You tell me whether there was a conspiracy or not!

Matilda on the other hand was in Anjou with her husband and sons, and newly pregnant again. No one came galloping to offer her the crown. Instead it was all stitched up by the Blois faction and the reluctance of barons to accept a woman on the throne, when they could have a man.

Nevertheless, they had sworn their allegiance to Matilda, and Matilda had not only her own right to fight for, but that of her small son, Henry - and fight she did, to the great cost of the lands involved, the people, and herself.

Adeliza helped her in that fight. Indeed Adeliza was immensely important to Matilda. After Henry died she married William D’Albini, a young baron who was a staunch supporter of Stephen. But despite her loyalty to her husband, Adeliza was determined to do what she felt was right by old obligations and ties. When Matilda came to England to fight her corner, it was Adeliza who gave her a safe landfall.

LADY OF THE ENGLISH begins the story in 1125 when Matilda is setting out from Germany to return home, and Adeliza is despairing that she will never bear Henry an heir. Both women were titled ‘Lady of the English’ in their lives, and and that's why I chose it for the novel. It was always given to the Queen of England in that period, and although Matilda never gained the Crown, she was acknowledged with that tribute.

THANKS SO MUCH TO MS. CHADWICK!!
Also, please visit some of my other Elizabeth Chadwick posts, which includes reviews of previous titles. Additionally, you may visit with Elizabeth Chadwick on her blog and website. Also, very helpfully Elizabeth Chadwick has kindly supplied us with a Suggested Reading Order for her novels which can be found here.

Aug 29, 2011

Review: Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman


Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman
Paperback544 pages, Touchstone
ISBN-13 978-1451623499
Review copy from the publisher, thanks so much!
Burton Book Review Rating:Epic!


SPANNING THREE GENERATIONS AND HALF THE WORLD, WILDFLOWER HILL IS A SWEEPING, ROMANTIC, AND COMPELLING STORY OF TWO WOMEN WHO SHARE A LEGACY OF SECRETS, HEARTBREAK, COURAGE, AND LOVE. Emma, a prima ballerina in London, is at a crossroads after an injured knee ruins her career. Forced to rest and take stock of her life, she finds that she’s mistaken fame and achievement for love and fulfillment. Returning home to Australia, she learns of her grandmother Beattie’s death and a strange inheritance: a sheep station in isolated rural Australia. Certain she has been saddled with an irritating burden, Emma prepares to leave for Wildflower Hill to sell the estate.
Beattie also found herself at a crossroads as a young woman, but she was pregnant and unwed. She eventually found success—but only after following an unconventional path that was often dangerous and heartbreaking. Beattie knew the lessons she learned in life would be important to Emma one day, and she wanted to make sure Emma’s heart remained open to love, no matter what life brought. She knew the magic of the Australian wilderness would show Emma the way.
Wildflower Hill is a compelling, atmospheric, and romantic novel about taking risks, starting again, and believing in yourself. It’s about finding out what you really want and discovering that the answer might be not at all what you’d expect.
This is one of those novels that you know from the beginning would be a page-turner, and then when you finish it you wish you hadn't ended your journey (and wish for truly waterproof mascara). Wildflower Hill is a multi-generational story that starts with Beattie as a young girl and ends with Emma, her granddaughter. The two women were seemingly worlds apart, but perhaps after Beattie's death there can be a sense of rebirth with Emma if she could only find the path that Beattie carved out for her.

Beattie's story is sad, sweet, hopeful and horrifying as she deals with ostracization due to having a daughter out of wedlock and for respecting colored people. She is thrown every obstacle society can give her and we get to read of Beattie's journey through her life in bits and pieces through Beattie's eyes, and then a bit more of her mystery through Emma's discoveries. The book transitions to the granddaughter Emma who loses her career as a ballerina after an injury and heads down to Australia to pick through the estate left to her by her grandmother. She uncovers mystery after mystery as she tries to deal with the direction of her own life which she was completely unprepared for after her boyfriend leaves her and her career is over.

There are alot of things going on within the story, from high end society versus the commoner, from neighbor against neighbor and mother versus stepmother. From Scotland, England to Tasmania, Australia..all of it ties together to make Wildflower Hill the epitome of saga material with all those facets of Gone With the Wind type of feel. Love, lust, greed, labor, prejudice, secrets, courage are all underlying themes, but through it all we are waiting for redemption. Aching for it, for both Beattie and Emma. The writing style was fluent and easy to absorb, and the characterizations were pure and simple, and easy to identify with. Beattie was a woman to admire, and maybe Emma wasn't just because she couldn't think outside the box. The development in the plot from point A to B was a thrilling, inspiring, and quite an entertaining journey for me. What more can I ask for? A sequel?

Aug 27, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken, post it to your blog, and link it up to Alyce's blog At Home With Books.


June 2011


June 2011

Time flies.. summer is almost gone.. taking with it fleeting memories of nature's freedom
Quick .. catch him while you can..
As we prepare for the autumnal changes and wait for the season's majestic hues.

Aug 26, 2011

Review: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

The Map of Time: A Novel by Felix J. Palma
Hardcover: 611 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (June 28, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1439167397
Review copy provided by Atria, with many, many thanks!
Burton Book Review Rating:Fabulous.



THE PHENOMENAL INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Set in Victorian London with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time boasts a triple-play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H.G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and thereby save the lives of an aristocrat in love with a murdered prostitute from the past; of a woman bent on fleeing the strictures of Victorian society; and of his very own wife, who may have become a pawn in a 4th-dimensional plot to murder the authors of Dracula, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, in order to alter their identities and steal their fictional creations.  
But, what happens if we change history?  Felix J. Palma raises such questions in The Map of Time. Mingling fictional characters with real ones, Palma weaves a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting, a story full of love and adventure that also pays homage to the roots of science fiction while transporting its readers to a fascinating Victorian London for their own taste of time travel. 


I've always been a non-conformist. So, there are times when books from Oprah's Must-Have list immediately get ignored by me, just because. (Not that this one is on it.. because does Oprah even do that anymore?) I have seen The Map of Time getting some attention here and there, and I must admit that The Map of Time is worthy of whatever accolades come its way. There are quite a few (deserving) gushy blurbs on this book, such as:

"Strange and wonderful. Magical and smart."~M.J. Rose
"Singularly inventive, luscious story with a core of pure, unsettling weirdness."~Cherie Priest

I can't really add more to that except that I heartily agree. Let's just say, I got it. I really got it. And then there are some who won't get it, but I am glad I was one of the lucky ones. The book is a gorgeous piece of work in itself which got it on its first path to my heart: a hardcover with embossed gold lettering, intriguing imagery on the cover and the endpapers and then the book is a hefty 611 pages. So, I read a few other books before tackling this one because I figured I'd be bogged down with those 611 pages and I would probably have to carve out a chunk of my life to devote to this book. BZZZZZ I was wrong. I found myself reading over one hundred pages a night, and that is a feat considering that I typically read half that in twice the amount of time as I tend to fall asleep rather easily. The Map of Time was different.

It is so different that I cannot even strictly classify this book. Historical fiction because it is set in 1896, but it jumps ahead to the year 2000 which makes it a time travel book. And that means science fiction and that means I have lost you, haven't I? WAIT.. come back!!!!! I admit that there was a paragraph or two in the scientific explanations that started to wear me down, but the rest of it was, quite frankly, genius.

So along with history and science there is a bit more that makes up this whole circle of life: Romance. Heroes. Suicidal tendencies. Murder. Jack the Ripper. Evil inventors. Automatons. H.G. Wells. Insights into mankind as a human race. An omniscient narrator you want to smack every now and then. Just a little bit of everything for everyone all wrapped up in this magnificent book that I honest to God truly snuck out of my desk drawer and read at my desk at work. There was just something about this story, however convoluted it strived to be- how it connected and reconnected in circles of time from the past and the future, that really grabbed me. The whole concept of these ripples of time and the effect of the time continuum through the past to the present to the future was very well plotted out in all of its intricacies. And the addition of intriguing characters like Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, and the Elephant Man were fantastic little escapades into the author's clever world of alternate history. It was really a pretty complicated storyline, but the way it all started filling in as I went along ended up enhancing the story more and more for me, although I wish the ending was a bit more dramatic than it wound up being.

So what was it all about anyway, you ask.. well, it opens to a young man contemplating suicide because his girlfriend is gone. But his cousin saves him by giving him hope that he can go back in time when she was alive and perhaps alter the future.. and that was part one. Along comes part two, and we meet another set of characters, yet they cross paths with the first group.. and the very important fabric of time is thus created.. but what happens if we pull on that one stray thread? What exactly does unravel? A bit of treachery and dishonesty starts to fray the fabric and yet we remain still stuck in the circle of time and reality becomes a bit dimmer as the hope for a better future brightens the present...

I don't want to spoil it anymore... the synopsis alone gives off a lot of information that should be enough to whet your appetite. Since this is a book of an eclectic origin, I think there are a select few who just won't be able to understand or appreciate the storyline, but then there will be others like me who are fortunate enough to have enjoyed climbing out of the box with this one. And be careful with that box, folks, because there are dragons and ferocious beasts that will kill you if you open it...

The intro to part 3, via camera phone.


Aug 22, 2011

Review: The Man in the Moon: The Guardians of Childhood (Book One) by William Joyce

Illustrated by: William Joyce
$12.99 56 pages, Ages: 4 - 8
Legends/Folklore
September 6, 2011


The Man in the Moon:

Up there in the sky.

Don't you see him?
No, not the moon.

The Man in the Moon.

He wasn't always a man.
Nor was he always on the moon.
He was once a child.
Like you.


Until a battle,
a shooting star,
and a lost balloon
sent him on a quest.


Meet the very first guardian of childhood. MiM, the Man in the Moon.

When the heroes of childhood
band together, anything is possible.
Get ready for an adventure of epic proportions. 
 
When I first heard about this book, I was so impressed with the website and its imagery, and I knew I had to have it for my four year old and nine year old. I was so excited to see it in real life because it is truly beautiful! We spent two nights reading it because it is not your average children's book, and it is 56 pages long. It is not written like a toddler's picture book, though it would be a very beautiful one if they scaled down the writing. As it is, The Man in the Moon is an enchanting story about a little boy in the moon we call MiM, and his gallant friend Nightlight who saves him from the evil darkness..
 



See evil darkness, Pitch, on the right? (click to enlarge)
   
My toddler loved the story of the Nightlight, and my eldest enjoyed hearing a new story about a man in the moon which she never could really say she knew anything about in the first place. There were Lunar moths, and the Moon Clipper ship, helpful moon mice, visions of Earth far away.. I can't wait to see the Dreamworks movie Rise of the Guardians in the fall of 2012, which are based on books and artwork of William Joyce. I especially want to see the return of Nightlight, who was my toddler's favorite. My daughter really wanted to know more about MiM and the balloons he collected from the children from the earth.
 
This is going to be quite a series, as it tries to widen its net of potential readers (and viewers) with six chapter books and seven picture books. Evil darkness Pitch is said to be included in more of the books as well, as the author tries to help young readers conquer fears of the dark. The next book will be the chapter book in October, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, which features our favorite Santa Claus.
 
Keep your eyes open for these, folks! I am collecting all the books for my kiddos, as it will be something they will both enjoy for years to come. I love how there will be both picture books and chapter books to satisfy readers of all kids' ages. This has been an endeavour twenty years in the making for the author and artist, and it is nice to see how dreams can come true even for us older folks. Find out more information here: http://guardiansofchildhoodbooks.com/

Aug 19, 2011

Review: Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen


Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen
Hardcover, 448 pages
Putnam Adult, August 4, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157097
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

From the author of The Creation of Eve comes a tale of love and madness, royal intrigue and marital betrayal, set during the Golden Age of Spain.
Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her parents' crowns, but as a princess knows her duty: to further her family's ambitions through marriage. Yet stories of courtly love, and of her parents' own legendary romance, surround her. When she weds the Duke of Burgundy, a young man so beautiful that he is known as Philippe the Handsome, she dares to hope that she might have both love and crowns. He is caring, charming, and attracted to her-seemingly a perfect husband.
But what begins like a fairy tale ends quite differently.
When Queen Isabel dies, the crowns of Spain unexpectedly pass down to Juana, leaving her husband and her father hungering for the throne. Rumors fly that the young Queen has gone mad, driven insane by possessiveness. Who is to be believed? The King, beloved by his subjects? Or the Queen, unseen and unknown by her people?
One of the greatest cautionary tales in Spanish history comes to life as Lynn Cullen explores the controversial reign of Juana of Castile-also known as Juana the Mad. Sweeping, page-turning, and wholly entertaining, Reign of Madness is historical fiction at its richly satisfying best.

Many historical fiction fans have been introduced to Juana of Castile by reading The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner (Ballantine, 2009) and now there is another novel of this often misunderstood queen. Sister to Catherine of Aragon and daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Juana came from a famous royal family and some would assume "good stock." Yet, she is know as Juana the Mad. The traits of insanity have been linked to her, her brother, and Isabella's mother, but how much of this is true? We may never really know, but we'll have fun trying to find out!

Lynn Cullen delves into Juana's life with this piece of fiction that is testament to the consuming power of greed of those who surround Juana. Christopher Colon (aka Columbus) was one of them, her husband was another and even Juana's parents were. The titles that landed at Juana's doorstep were unwanted and unexpected, and they eventually made her a prisoner in her own lands.

The author offers Juana's story of most of her life, and embellishes a little here and there to make it different than that of C.W. Gortner's recent novel. The two are similar in that they are both told in first person, and as such both are sympathetic towards Juana. The players around her change a little, which created a different contexts between the books, therefore I was not having too strong of a sense of deja vu. I enjoyed Lynn Cullen's portrayal of Juana, and of the events that saw her imprisoned for reasons beyond her control. Juana's husband Philippe was the one you would love to hate, and I would've enjoyed a little bit more story into what life was like after Philippe died. Her father Fernando seemed to be the villain at the end but it seemed to end a bit abruptly.

Poor Juana was the phrase going through my head for much of this read, and I wish there were something triumphant and hopeful that we could have gotten out of the read. Yet, more to the point, Juana lived her later life ruling as queen by name only, and perhaps there really was nothing to be hopeful for. One thing that troubles me has nothing to do with the book, but the fact that Phillippe was supposedly so handsome he was known as Philip the Handsome. I just don't see it.

If you are interested in reading more of Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Colon, or Juana of Castile, this quick reading novel will not disappoint, although how much is true or not we would never know. As fiction, this novel was fast-paced and intrigued me enough to want to know more about Juana and her family. I was especially tickled to see Margaret of York, Dowager Duchess, featured as the evil grandmother of Philip and yet another power hungry player. Reign of Madness was a myriad of page-turning worry and suspense for Juana as this reader wished for Juana to fly out of her coop once and for all, and into the arms of the one who truly loved her...

Read an excerpt here.

Aug 15, 2011

Review: The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer
Paperback, 368 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca Reissue May/June 2011, originally published 1951
ISBN: 9781402238833
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Faboulous Heyer Fun!
Returning to his family seat from Waterloo, Gervase Frant, seventh Earl of St Erth, could have expected more enthusiasm for his homecoming. His quiet cousin, stepmother, and young half-brother seem openly disappointed that he survived the wars. And when he begins to fall for his half-brother's sweetheart, his chilly reception goes from unfriendly to positively murderous.
One of Heyer's most suspenseful Regency romances, The Quiet Gentleman combines an ingenious mystery plot with her signature witty style and effervescently engaging characters.

Although most of Heyer's romances seem to follow a formula of witty heroine vs the world who doesn't realize the direct path to everlasting love, The Quiet Gentleman sets itself apart. Focusing on Gervase Frant, the Seventh Earl of St Erth, the novel strays from the female point of view and even adds a bit of gothic and mysterious tones. Our hero, Gervase, returns to his (estranged) deceased father's estate after serving in the army to claim his inheritance, much to the dismay of his half-brother and stepmother who didn't actually think he'd survive Waterloo. Gervase is of the character where he could shrug off their dislike of him, but things get dicey when strange happenings occur that put Gervase in harm's way. Could his half-brother Martin really detest him so much as to wish that Gervase were dead? Is the step-mother the epitome of the evil witch? Or, is the house really haunted?

The romance comes in when Gervase meets Martin's love interest, Marianne, who is a beautiful and cheerful young lady with many admirers. Martin is quite protective of his invisible tie to her, and Gervase is a bit more dashing than Martin and an immediate rivalry occurs. Luckily, Gervase's cousin Theo is on Gervase's side and acts as a bit of a buffer between the brothers and is a trusted confidante of Gervase. And when Gervase's friend Lord Ulverston comes to stay, Martin earns another foe. Thrown into the mix was Miss Drusilla Morville, neutral friend and loyal companion to all (who could always be counted on to do the Dowager's tedious tasks).

It has been my previous experience with Heyer that her novels take a bit to get used to its jargon of Regency speak and a myriad of characters who normally take a bit of time to comprehend. With The Quiet Gentleman, there was not an immediate onslaught of unfamiliar names and we are taken right to the action after the opening description of the magnificent homestead of Stanyon, which is somewhat of a medieval fortress turned castle turned grand estate, which in itself becomes a bit of a character in the story.

I enjoy Heyer's writing because of the way she writes with class, and I love knowing that I will be entertained just because of a silly situation or a witty remark. I am not expecting a thrill-ride or something so extraordinary to knock my socks off; I simply appreciate the story and the setting. Heyer had such a clever mind and writing style, and she did it very well.  Heyer is similar to Austen and I often feel that Heyer is overshadowed by Austen, even though Heyer was so much more prolific. I have read ten Heyer's and one full Austen now, and I have not been disappointed with Heyer's romances and mysteries yet. I think I enjoyed this one most of all because of its slightly different formula. It is put in her romance genre, yet I enjoyed the mystery of it most of all. And the fact that it didn't focus on a woman and instead followed the gentleman (and then the women in his life) was a nice change of pace for me. For real Heyer and Austen fans, this one should not disappoint in the least.

Read an excerpt here. In honor of Georgette Heyer's 109th birthday, Sourcebooks is temporarily offering ALL 46 of Heyer's titles in e-book format at $1.99 each:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MS. HEYER!
eBooks Available for $1.99
Sale prices are only good August 15-August 21, 2011
Heyer’s Birthday: August 16, 2011

Aug 9, 2011

Review: Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer


Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer
Paperback, 368 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca reissue June 2011, originally published 1955
ISBN: 9781402238796
Review copy provided by the publisher, with many thanks!
Burton Book Review Rating:



A Delightful Tangle of Affairs…
The Earl of Spenborough had always been noted for his eccentricity. Leaving a widow younger than his own daughter Serena was one thing, but leaving his fortune to the trusteeship of the Marquis of Rotherham – the one man the same daughter had jilted – was quite another.
When Serena and her lovely young stepmother Fanny decide to move to Bath, Serena makes an odd new friend and discovers an old love. Before long, they’re all entangled in a clutter of marriage and manners the likes of which even Regency Bath has rarely seen.

Bath Tangle is another one of Georgette Heyer's witty romances, and this one really had me laughing towards the end. Lady Serena is a willful young woman, destined to be a spinster, who now lives with her younger mother-in-law who has no idea how to reign in Serena's wild ways. Lord Rotherham has been named as a guardian of her inheritance, which really should not be of a huge concern except that he must also approve of whom Serena chooses to marry. This could become tangled due to the fact that there is some prior history between Lady Serena and Lord Rotherham where Serena backed out of their marriage negotiations at the last moment.

Serena is a wonderful character to read of, and she was the exact opposite of the ladylike of her sweet-natured mother-in-law, Fanny. After Serena's father's death, we wondered what exactly would happen to Serena, and how the arrangement between her and Rotherham would wreak havoc. Lo and behold, Serena becomes reacquainted with a previous suitor and they contrive to hide their relationship until the proper mourning period has passed. All this seems simple and straightforward, yet as only Georgette Heyer can divulge, Regency hijinks galore follows Serena everywhere she goes. Rotherham is left to wonder at her, as he obligingly lets her live her wild life, but poor Fanny is all in a flutter and Serena' betrothed doesn't know whether to be besotted or scornful.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the reader knows that Lady Serena is making another mistake by betrothing herself to Major Hector Kirkby. And there are more love tangles in Bath as Rotherham is engaged to a young lass who has no idea what she is getting herself into besides the idea of a coronet. As always, Bath Tangle contains a lot of witty remarks and colorful Regency dialogue with a bit of action at the end, making for a typical Georgette Heyer romance that demonstrates her clever prose with ease. For readers who are new to Heyer, they may not appreciate the prose at first, especially as this one started off hard to follow with many characters. It turns out that the story ended up following along with just a few of these initial characters and thus became easier to follow after a few more chapters. Moreover, it was a bit slow to reach any feverish pitch, so Bath Tangle would be best suited  for those already with an admiration for Georgette Heyer. This was my eighth Heyer novel, and I am still ready for more of Heyer's classy writing and charming Regency situations. I have enjoyed both her romances and her mysteries, and if you have enjoyed Jane Austen, you really need to discover Georgette Heyer as well.

I am amassing a collection of Heyer novels, and I am tracking my reading progress with them at Burton Book Review. The green navigation button at the top of this page titled "Heyer" also leads to this page.
Read an excerpt of Bath Tangle here and one from later in the book can be found here.