Mini Reviews of Summer 2016

Mystery, drama, oh my!

Newest novel by Lynn Austin

Book three in the Restoration Chronicles!

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Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

My epiphany of 2015

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

Best of 2015

BBR's Top 2015 Reads!

Jun 28, 2012

Hunter's Prize by Marcia Gruver


Intriguing romance with scary gangstas on the side

Hunter's Prize by Marcia Gruver
Barbour Publishing July 1, 2012
Christian Historical Romance
Paperback 320 pages
Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:




Meander down to Marshall, Texas, through the pages of Marcia Gruver’s third Backwoods Brides novel. Addie McRae accepts a job as governess to young Cedric Whitfield, but she has no idea what lies ahead—especially when a string of attempted robberies and a kidnapping threaten the peace of the Whitfield household. Enter Pearson Foster, a visiting treasure hunter, looking for the lost treasure of the steamer Mittie Stephens. When Addie comes to Pearson for help, can the unlikely pair get to the bottom of recent events? Is anyone safe from the uncertainty rampant in Texas?


Addie McRae crosses paths with the amazingly sexy Pearson Foster, and they strike up an uneasy friendship. Addie has led a sheltered life, and is about to enter a new world of wealth and manners being  a governess in a mansion. Her charge is the adorable little boy Ceddy, who doesn't speak a word. He flies off the handle if one of his precious rocks is out of place, but he is a lovable little boy whom everyone wants to protect.

That is, until two vicious diamond hunters trail after Ceddy after they discover his valuables. There are wild things going on at the masion and now Pearson is suspect after strange things happen whenever he is around Ceddy. The reader knows that Pearson is innocent, and Addie wants to believe it too, but it takes a life threatening moment to bring the truth out.

Meanwhile, Addie and Pearson's courtship is anything but sweet during these difficult times, and stubborn streaks threaten to destroy their chance at a happy future. The end result is sweet and satisfying, and the combination of the endearing little boy against the mean treasure seekers makes this a worthwhile read.

Jun 27, 2012

Heart's Safe Passage by Laurie Alice Eakes


The best nautical adventure you can find for Christian Fiction!
Heart's Safe Passage, The Midwives Series #2 by Laurie Alice Eakes
Revell, February 2012
400 pages, Paperback
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine, May 2012
Burton Book Review Rating:4 Stars
It's 1813 and all Phoebe Lee wants out of life is to practice midwifery in Loudon County, Virginia. When Belinda, her pregnant sister-in-law, presses Phoebe to accompany her onto a British privateer in order to cross the Atlantic and save her husband from an English prison, Phoebe tries to refuse, then finds herself kidnapped. Captain Rafe Docherty is a man in search of revenge. His ship is no place for women, but he needs Belinda in order to obtain information about the man who destroyed his family and his life. Between Belinda's whining and Phoebe's hostility, Rafe can't help but wonder if he made the right choice.
When it becomes apparent there is an enemy among them on the ship, the stakes are raised. Will they reach the English shore in time? Can love and forgiveness overcome vengeance?
Seeking God’s guidance is a strong theme in this second installment of The Midwives series, and sailing through dangerous waters during the War of 1812 is another. Throughout the stand-alone novel, Phoebe is sailing with Captain Rafe Docherty, her captor, who is hell bent on seeking revenge against James Brock. Captain Rafe’s wife was murdered by James Brock, and is using Phoebe and her family to find him. As Phoebe learns more about the captain, her common sense tells her to run from him, but her heart pulls her straight into Captain Rafe’s arms. Amongst the plot twists, our heroine Phoebe is determined to share her faith in God just as much as she tries to stop Captain Rafe’s quest for revenge.

Supporting characters are well drawn out, details of life on a brig are abundant, and the action and suspense are well plotted. The voyage across the Atlantic is complete with a scampering dog, an endearing child, expecting mother and swashbuckling pirates, offering a clever love story with a charming Scottish accent. I enjoyed this novel a great deal, and already bought Eakes’ first book in the series.

And just for kicks, I found this quick summary regarding the War of 1812 here. Americans and Britain were at odds again, and the site points out it was pretty much a stalemate although it was a sort of confirmation that the USA was to be treated as an independent country. We fought Canadians and the native nations in the War of 1812, which ultimately resulted in the Treaty of Ghent. We are near the two hundredth anniversary: on June 18, 1812, the war began.

Jun 24, 2012

Mailbox Monday~ June 25~ (Enter Your Links Here)

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now on tour, and June's Host is www.BurtonBookReview.com.
For July, your host is scheduled to be Mrs. Q Book Addict

Thank you to Marcia for allowing me to step in and emergency host for June! =)

This week a surprise win landed in my mailbox, from Bookreporter.com promoting their Summer Reads List:

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (paperback release May 2012)

Introducing four unforgettable women who have nothing in common but the fact that, like it or not, they’re family.

For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.


And from a Book Banter win (I am so glad there was a slow day at work where I could participate in a chat so I could win this one...woohoo!):
Love In Disguise
this cover is even better in real life!
When costume-maker Ellie Moore suddenly finds herself out of a job in the middle of a bleak Chicago winter, she uses her knowledge of theatrical disguise to secure a position as an undercover operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
Her assignment: find the culprit behind the theft of silver shipped from the mines near Pickford, Arizona. Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie begins her investigation. Soon she finds she must also pose as the dazzling young Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk. Mine owner Steven Pierce is about to lose his business after the theft of several bullion shipments--until hope arrives in the unlikely form of Lavinia Stewart, who offers to invest in Steven's mine. In his wildest dreams, Steven never expected to be rescued by an inquisitive gray-haired widow . . . or to fall head over heels for Lavinia's captivating niece, Jessie. But then the thieves come after both Lavinia and Jessie. Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays! Will she be forced to reveal her true identity before the criminals are caught? What will Steven do when he discovers the woman he loves doesn't exist?

From paperbackswap I received this pretty hardcover, cuz I LOVE CHATSWORTH:

Wait for Me

Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire, is the youngest of the famously witty brood of six daughters and one son that included the writers Jessica and Nancy, who wrote, when Deborah was born, “How disgusting of the poor darling to go and be a girl.” Deborah’s effervescent memoir Wait for Me! chronicles her remarkable life, from an eccentric but happy childhood roaming the Oxfordshire countryside, to tea with Adolf Hitler and her sister Unity in 1937, to her marriage to Andrew Cavendish, the second son of the Duke of Devonshire. Her life changed utterly with his unexpected inheritance of the title and vast estates after the wartime death of his brother, who had married “Kick” Kennedy, the beloved sister of John F. Kennedy. Her friendship with that family would last through triumph and tragedy.

In 1959, the Duchess and her family took up residence in Chatsworth, the four-hundred-year-old family seat, with its incomparable collections of paintings, tapestry, and sculpture—the combined accumulations of generations of tastemakers. Neglected due to the economies of two world wars and punitive inheritance taxes, the great house soon came to life again under the careful attention of the Duchess. It is regarded as one of England’s most loved and popular historic houses.

Wait for Me! is written with intense warmth, charm, and perception. A unique portrait of an age of tumult, splendor, and change, it is also an unprecedented look at the rhythms of life inside one of the great aristocratic families of England. With its razor-sharp portraits of the Duchess’s many friends and cohorts—politicians, writers, artists, sportsmen—it is truly irresistible reading, and will join the shelf of Mitford classics to delight readers for years to come.


I had a little shopping spree at Half Price Books also, the first batch below is a bundle that was a $5.00 deal:
#HPBHaul
I must confess, I had my mom in mind as I was buying these, since she reads my books like water.. there are Susan Wiggs, Nora Roberts and Fern Michaels here, to name a few. I haven't read Roberts in ages!

I also snagged these two at Half Price Books, by a new fave author of mine Gilbert Morris:
The Crossing
From the beloved author of the bestselling House of Winslow series comes a new trilogy about the Civil War. Join Gilbert Morris as he explores the life of General Stonewall Jackson through the story of the fictional Yancy Tremayne. Raised among the Cheyenne, Yancy rejects the Amish community his father rejoins and instead studies under Thomas Jackson, a professor at the local military school. When war breaks out, will Yancy further distance himself from the pacifist community and join the fighting? And can he find a home for his heart?


The Sword

Acclaimed author Gilbert Morris brings you more Civil War romance and adventure in the second of his Last Cavalier books. Enter the reckless world of Clay Tremayne—a world of late nights of gambling and chasing women. When war comes to the South, Clay joins the cavalry under Jeb Stuart in his first act of responsibility. But will he become a casualty of war before he can completely change his reckless ways? And, will he be able to convince a beautiful but wary Chantel Fortier of his sincere affection for her?


On Kindle, I snagged this for free, it may still be free (check here):
Anna Eliiott

 Mr. Darcy's younger sister searches for her own happily-ever-after.

The year is 1814, and it's springtime at Pemberley. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have married. But now a new romance is in the air, along with high fashion, elegant manners, scandal, deception, and the wonderful hope of a true and lasting love.

Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy's fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana's domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana's fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.


And the one book for review I received:
An Heiress At Heart by Jennifer Delamere

An Heiress At Heart by Jennifer Delamere (October 2012)
A New Beginning

A youthful indiscretion has cost Lizzie Poole more than just her honor. After five years living in exile, she’s finally returning home, but she’s still living a secret life. Her best friend, Ria’s dying wish was for Lizzie to assume her identity, return to London, and make amends that Ria herself would never live to make. Bearing a striking resemblance to her friend, and harboring more secrets than ever before, Lizzie embarks on a journey that tempts her reckless heart once again . . .

A committed clergyman, Geoffrey Somerville’s world is upended when he suddenly inherits the title of Lord Somerville. Now he’s invited to every ball and sought after by the matchmaking mothers of London society. Yet the only woman to capture his heart is the one he cannot have: his brother’s young widow, Ria. Duty demands he deny his feelings, but his heart longs for the mysterious beauty. With both their futures at stake, will Lizzie be able to keep up her fa├žade? Or will she find the strength to share her secret and put her faith in true love?


 Enter your Mailbox Monday links here, and don't forget to link back in your Meme post:

Jun 22, 2012

Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham



Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham
A soap-opera style of a read, perfect for the summer reading list!
  Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham
Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group June 2012
General Fiction/Romance
Hardcover, 480 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars




Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives.
Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age. Told with all of Meacham's signature drama, unforgettable characters, and plot twists, readers will be turning the pages, desperate to learn how it all plays out.

I must confess that I adore Leila Meacham since she is the very first author I had met during an event for her previous release, Roses. I had adored Roses as it had an epic/saga feel that was often generously compared to Gone With The Wind. Tumbleweeds has a lot to live up to after that release of Roses which was within my favorite genre of historical fiction, and Leila takes an entirely different turn with Tumbleweeds. It starts off in 1979 with young characters, a trio of twelve year olds and the story follows their lives as they grow to love each other as only true best friends can. And when they turn sixteen, of course the boys fall in love with the girl, and Cathy picks Trey as her lover, and John is okay with that.

Trey is the high school quarterback, John is his receiver, and Cathy dotes on them both. She can only pick one, and of course she seemingly picks the wrong one. One disaster after another follows the trio, just like huge tumbleweeds blocking them from happiness, and these events eventually force the friendship to scatter in the wind. The Friday night football scene comes into play as we witness the small town of Kersey place a lot of emphasis on the 1985 Championship team and the stellar quarterback. The coach, friends and neighbors make a great supporting cast for this story as they all watch and wait to see what happens to these promising youths, just as the reader does. What was once a promising future for the trio to be joined at the hip at the University of Miami, only one will make it there and the other two are left to pick up the pieces of broken promises and broken hearts.

What is left for the other two is the will and courage to survive, but not in the way the third one is mistakingly thinking they would. There is an entire miscommunication theme throughout, as stubbornness prevails and refusal to set aside pride threatens the happiness of Cathy, Trey, John and their families. We see everything crumbling around them, and there is little hope for them as time passes and they each move on, but we know that at some point the three will still have to come to grips with reality and have a super pow-wow. Even if it is years later, which is what made the novel such a page-turner.

This inevitable meeting of the three (which is alluded to in the opening scene) kept getting pushed aside and is what kept driving me to read on, as I really wanted Trey to open his eyes and stop being such a jerk of a jock. There was once an inseparable bond between the three friends and there was the hope that even with the passage of years there had to be a way to bring them back together. When the past finally catches up to the trio, worlds collide in more ways than one. Murder, mayhem and fatherhood all twist into a strange ending that is a bit over-the-top, but in spite of the crazy twists this is a captivating and emotionally rich story of friendship and (misplaced?) loyalty, laced with that soap opera feel.. which makes Tumbleweeds a perfect summer read.

Jun 19, 2012

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman

50% too strange for me and the other 50% completely epic

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman
Viking Adult, June 19, 2012
Hardcover 432 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you (I think)
Burton Book Review Rating:



From a debut novelist, a gripping historical thriller and rousing love story set in seventeenth-century Manhattan


It’s 1663 in the tiny, hardscrabble Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now present-day southern Manhattan. Orphan children are going missing, and among those looking into the mysterious state of affairs are a quick-witted twenty-two-year-old trader, Blandine von Couvering, herself an orphan, and a dashing British spy named Edward Drummond.
Suspects abound, including the governor’s wealthy nephew, a green-eyed aristocrat with decadent tastes; an Algonquin trapper who may be possessed by a demon that turns people into cannibals; and the colony’s own corrupt and conflicted orphanmaster. Both the search for the killer and Edward and Blandine’s newfound romance are endangered, however, when Blandine is accused of being a witch and Edward is sentenced to hang for espionage. Meanwhile, war looms as the English king plans to wrest control of the colony.

This "gripping historical thriller" didn't begin to interest me until after about two hundred pages in. I was confused and disgusted for the first half of this novel as the author attempted literary prowess with the shock value feature, and I was very close to setting it aside. It was only the reviews of other bloggers that pulled me through, as those who had stuck with it had seemed to love it. And there were others who stuck with it and didn't love it either. As a whole, I would say the novel was pretty good, if you could sift through the minutia of the first half.

The beginning was the major hurdle, as it introduced a slew of characters who merely promised an intriguing story. The onslaught of initial characters wreaked havoc on my attention span, even if most were not too important in the long run, but trying to keep a tally of who was who in the world of New Amsterdam was proving to be a daunting task. And underneath them all, we had to discern between who was good and who was evil. But still, it was not what I would call a character-driven story because there were so many other intrinsic parts to this novel.

The first half of the novel plodded slowly along as I slowly began to piece together a semblance of a plot, though it was so painstakingly slow I wondered what the real plot was. Was it about Blandine the girl who bested men at the trade of trading and her romantic life, or was it about the mad psycho killer who ate orphans? (It was about both, of course). There was commentary throughout the novel, perhaps attempting philosophical debate within the story that smacked of wasted space as if to fill up pages (or was this the literary prowess?). I could not help but feel for the first hundred or so pages a sense of nothingness except for the wickedness that was portrayed, as the exact stage of the plot was still at the same stage as the very beginning (145 pages in). As I tried to ignore the grotesque images that predominated the story, I meandered through these lives of various characters where it always seemed like we were going two steps back with each step forward. The orphanmaster himself was a mixture of good and bad, and we wonder about him throughout the entirety of the story. He is indeed the glue that holds it all together, hence the title.

Some of the shock factor had to do with this being a 'thriller' and the theme of insatiable cannibalism. There was indeed a flesh-eating monster/man/something targeting orphans who were brought to the New World with promise of a new life. But this novel is not for a vegan, or for the faint of heart/queasy stomach. From mentions of human bones throughout the story -of the slaughtered orphans- we also have the underlying theme of a painted beast getting ready for his next slaughter, as well as various intermittent images thrown in (for that over the top thrill factor I suppose) such as a young boy generating income in allowing others a peek at a prize possession: a jar containing a miscarried fetus.

And then, we get to the last quarter of the novel and things are finally moving along - and actually occurring.
Finally we are immersed in the history of New Amsterdam (Manhattan) and we understand more of the concept of living there in the 1660's with the convergence of Dutch settlers, Indians, Africans and the English. I loved the historical context, and the details of the era during the novel. The author also started some chapters with several sentences of what else was going on in the world outside of New Amsterdam, from sea to shining sea. When I was finally able to appreciate the novel, I found myself barreling towards the conclusion with enthusiasm, staying up way past my bedtime to finish it. After all this, was the redeeming last quarter of the novel worth it? For those who enjoy the Stephen King factor with their historical fiction, this would be just the thing. I certainly will not be forgetting this one for a long time.

Jun 17, 2012

Mailbox Monday~ June 18 (Enter Your Links Here)

For the rest of June, Mailbox Monday will be hosted right here at Burton Book Review.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now on tour, and June's Host is www.BurtonBookReview.com

I just read and reviewed Gilbert Morris' new release, The River Rose, and I had to download the first book in the series, even though it is a stand alone:


The River Queen by Gilbert Morris
Julienne Ashby, 24, must change her pampered ways after her father, a prominent businessman in Natchez, Mississippi, loses their fortune and family home to a bad gambling habit in 1850. Like a fish out of water, she aims to refit their one remaining possession, an old riverboat, in hopes of making a profit and restoring the Cuvier name along the mighty Mississippi.

And another author that I have read and realllllly enjoyed is Leila Meacham, (see my Roses review)


Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham (June 2012)
Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives.
Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age. Told with all of Meacham's signature drama, unforgettable characters, and plot twists, readers will be turning the pages, desperate to learn how it all plays out.
See my previous Leila Meacham posts which includes when I met her!
Also you may want to Enter the Goodreads Giveaway!



A Lady in The Making by Susan Page Davis (October 2012; read my review of the previous novel in the Prairie Dreams series, Lady Anne's Quest, featuring the same characters).

Millie Evans has changed, choosing to leave rather than join an outlaw gang with her brother. Hoping for a new future, she boards a stagecoach but runs into her past and David Stone—a man she and her brother once tried to swindle. As she tries to convince David she’s changed, her brother’s gang holds up the stagecoach. Fighting beside David goes a long way to softening his heart, but he’s still not convinced. Millie must trust God to show David the truth, but will he see before it’s too late?

Enter Your Mailbox Monday Links here:

Jun 16, 2012

Saturday Snapshot (Proof a Blogger Convention needs to come to Rockwall)

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog At Home With Books.


I missed last Saturday's post because we were finally out on the town.. our very own Rockwall Harbor
Lake Ray Hubbard

On the boardwalk, behind us would be the Hilton Bella Harbor resort

Cinemark theater in the background, where we saw Madagascar 3
after this picture was snapped!
{Click photos to Enlarge}
This is where I think the next book blogger convention should be. This is a great place for us all to meet each other, have fun and hang out. That's what it should be all about. And then on the side, the publishers, authors and publicists can have their meetings in the Hilton, and we can choose to attend if we would like..


The Hilton Bella Harbor offers a 20,000 square foot conference center and lodging right on the lake. And we have tons of entertainment options and other hotels close by.

From May through July, there is even a free concert by the lake; sit on the grass, listen to great music and watch the sunset.. they have a stage set up for these weekly concerts.

So, if we had like 200 bloggers descend Rockwall & stay at the Hilton, they would be able to go to the movies, see a concert, walk along a lake, even take a catamaran ride, eat at many different retaurants all within easy walking distance. No cab needed. Oh, yeah.. they can do the convention thing.
Just sayin'.
Happy Father's Day to everyone's fathers and hubbys .. blowing kisses to my father in heaven!

Jun 15, 2012

The River Rose by Gilbert Morris


Loved this intriguing and classy story
The River Rose: A Water Wheel Novel by Gilbert Morris
B&H Publishing Group June 1, 2012
Paperback 400 pages
Review copy from publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:FOUR STARS!

Life hasn’t been easy for Jeanne Bettencourt, a widow approaching thirty and struggling to provide for her eight-year-old daughter. But hope arrives in the form of the Helena Rose, a steamboat she unexpectedly inherits from a distant, departed relative. Jeanne’s father had captained a similar vessel and taught her how to pilot a steamer along the banks of Memphis. She’s looking forward to a renewed livelihood on the mighty Mississippi.

However, as plans are made, news comes of another heir to the Helena Rose - a tough man named Clint Hardin - and a clause in the will that says claimants of the estate must live aboard the boat. Jeanne, a Christian woman, makes it clear she won’t stay with a man who is not her husband. But both are desperate for work, so they agree to keep their distance as Clint occupies the lower deck and Jeanne takes the captain’s quarters.

As they restore the Helena Rose, the slowly softening Clint becomes attracted to Jeanne - who is now being courted by a wealthy plantation owner. With her family and future at stake, the desires of Jeanne’s heart are duly complex. Only her simple faith can navigate her through what’s about to happen.

The opening chapters of The River Rose sets the scene as if it were straight out of a Louisa May Alcott novel. I could imagine a black and white movie with Jeanne and her angelic daughter Marvel vividly in my mind, and I was hooked. I had expected a river boat type setting but that doesn't happen till later, and I enjoyed the author taking the time to let us explore his characters and become entrenched in their lives. There were indeed quite a few characters, from the sexy singer of Clint Hardin, to a wealthy suitor of Jeanne's who aches to sweep the young maid off her feet. Instead of welcoming the gentle advances of George Masters, Jeanne is an honest woman, and doesn't mind working hard for a living to provide for herself and her daughter.

Clint's story is much like Jeanne's: willing to work hard, and even to fight for a living. Unusual circumstances and an inheritance of a river boat bring Clint and Jeanne together as Jeanne agrees return to her roots and pilot the river boat, despite the astonishment of those who believe a woman's place is in the kitchen. Jeanne and Clint also face adversity with each other but continue to work together despite their differences, as honor and willpower drive them both.
Jeanne's daughter Marvel - along with her friends the dog Leo and a young boy - bring a sweet element to the story of hardship and survival, which also underlines a devotion to God and flawed characters. I enjoyed the fact that most of these characters were not one dimensional; they were all intriguing in their own way. The plot was superb with a mix of romance and even suspense, and the Christian element was well done. I think with all of the elements the author presented into one novel some things could have been explored deeper; though seemingly for the sake of expediency with efforts to include a myriad of plot points some things may have been glazed over and rushed through. However, Gilbert Morris has sold me and I plan on reading many more of his novels as this Christy Award winner has quite a few to choose from. The River Rose is a perfect read for those who enjoy clean and classy Christian historical fiction, with an old fashioned flair.

The previous novel in the Water Wheel series is and is a stand-alone.

Giveaway winners!

For the Armchair BEA Giveaway, I went ahead and picked 3 winners even though I didn't get as many entries as I wanted to..
Those winners have been mailed their books:
Nise won To Have and To Hold by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller
Rebecca won Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell
Meg won Wildlfowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

Those winners were selected via the Rafflecopter form, and I had so much fun during the ArmchairBEA, hope you did too!


And for Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham the list randomizer shows the winner list:
  1. mamabunny
  2. megbookis
  3. readingwithmarg
  4. jawblo
  5. rebecca
  6. rachel
  7. lucy
  8. jennygirl
  9. Colleen
  10. Michelle
  11. linda
  12. arleigh
  13. carl
  14. JennyGirl
  15. colleen
  16. michelle
Mamabunny is not a follower however, so next in line Meg @ Bookish Affair, http://abookishaffair.blogspot.com/ and she is indeed a follower & she's already responded to my email, thank you!  Thanks to everyone who entered!

YAY Congrats to all my winners, and please remember to follow Burton Book Review! I'll be having some more giveaways soon, and they will only be open to my loyal followers.

Jun 13, 2012

Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

A contemporary story of forgiveness and hope
Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert
WaterBrook Press (May 8, 2012)
Paperback 320 pages 978-0307730381
Contemporary Christian Romance
Review copy via publisher, and Blogging For Books

A young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa. Determined to pay her respects while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. But the unexpected inheritance of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.

Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. So when Bethany is left the land, he must fight her decisions to realize his dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany's vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps so carefully locked away.

For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn't seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love and a peace she's not even sure exists?


I had seen this book being gushed over on the blogs and review sites, and I also attended a chat with the author along with some of the other Christian fiction authors I would like to read, but I didn't love this one as much as I wanted to. Because the author, Katie Ganshert, is really a true sweetheart. That being said, I think I really need to stick with the historical Christian theme as opposed to the contemporary, because yet again I've found myself disliking the main protagonist, probably because of their modern ways and attitudes.

The storyline follows suit where Bethany disappoints others, mostly the handsome cowboy we'll call My Hero, and she does it over and over again. She is insistent upon ignoring her roots and despising the fact that -oh no- she used to live in a trailer. I remember thinking what if there was a young woman living in a trailer reading Wildflowers from Winter feeling a little slighted by Bethany right about now? Bethany's character needs to undergo severe attitude adjustments, and the novel slowly gets us towards that.

Bethany goes back home when friends and family members sincerely need her, and she does her best to accommodate them. However, Bethany has a lot of things on her mind such as the life she had to leave behind in order to go back to her hometown, and her mind isn't ready to accept the fact that maybe she should stay in her hometown. Her best friend Robin is a good reason to stay, although Bethany is resisting all clues that show her the path to happiness. A few plot twists keep us reading, and there is a big bang at the end of the novel that was really well done, and yes, had me crying.

Finally, Bethany finds a bit of peace with her lot and is able to make a decision on whether to stay or go off to some major architect firm. But it takes a bit of faith, some extra love, and even tragedy to get her to open her eyes and her heart. Because My Hero is Bethany's hero, and I'll share him.

The point of view on this story is a bit all over, sort of third person narration with a flashback mode of first person narration during Bethany's younger life. This in itself was a little unnerving, because I noticed it each time there was this shift. It just didn't seem to be necessary to go to first person at all. I know I am in the minority for not completely gushing about this one, but it was definitely good writing, and an interesting plot with the character development of Bethany. Katie Ganshert is already planning the sequel which will follow Robin's story, and I am sure that will be a big hit as well; especially because Robin was so much more likable. Katie Ganshert is a fresh new voice in the Christian Fiction market and I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about her work.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, and I have passed it on to another blogger for her enjoyment.

And now three years later, I have bought several of Katie's other works as well.

Jun 10, 2012

Mailbox Monday June 11, 2012 (Enter your links here!)

For the rest of June, Mailbox Monday will be hosted right here at Burton Book Review.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now on tour, and June's Host is www.BurtonBookReview.com
Glamorous Illusion (Grand Tour #1) by Lisa T. Bergren
June 2012
Glamorous Illusion: A Novel  (Grand Tour #1) by Lisa T. Bergren
I was so thrilled to get this for free via Kindle, the reviews have been great. If you want this one, enter for the Goodreads giveaway!
When Cora Kensington learns she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king, her life changes forever. Even as she explores Europe with her new family, she discovers that the most valuable journey is within. The first book in the Grand Tour series takes you from the farms of Montana through England and France on an adventure of forgiveness, spiritual awakening, and self-discovery.


I recently loved and read Elizabeth Musser's first two books in the Secrets of the Cross trilogy, and here is book three on my doorstep for which I am so appreciative of:
September 2012
{I have to add that when I received the first two books a few months ago, I was wary. Very wary. And then I started reading them. Wow. These are keepers. Sadly, review has to hold over till Historical Novel Society publication in August.}

Book Three is set some thirty years later:
Two Destinies: A Novel
1994. In the south of France, a high school teacher, a homeless man and a young Algerian student newly converted to Christianity embark on a journey of faith which leads them into the midst of Algeria's civil war and into a war for their souls--a war that will force each one to choose between two cultures, two religions and two destinies.
June 2012
 Hope Springs by Kim Cash Tate
Hope Springs is the epitome of small-town life-a place filled with quiet streets where families have been friends for generations, a place where not a lot changes . . . until now.
Janelle Evans hasn't gone back to Hope Springs for family reunions since losing her husband. But when she arrives for Christmas and learns that her grandmother is gravely ill, she decides to extend the stay. It isn't long before she runs into her first love, and feelings that have been dormant for more than a decade are reawakened.
Becca Anderson is finally on the trajectory she's longed for. Having been in the ministry trenches for years, she's been recruited as the newest speaker of a large Christian women's conference. But her husband feels called to become the pastor of his late father's church in Hope Springs. Will small-town living affect her big ministry dreams?
Stephanie London is married to a doctor in St. Louis and living an ideal life. When her cousin Janelle volunteers to stay in Hope Springs and care for their grandmother, she feels compelled to do the same. It's a decision that will forever change her.
As these women come together, they soon recognize that healing is needed in their hearts, their families, and their churches that have long been divided along racial lines. God's plan for them in Hope Springs-and for Hope Springs itself-is bigger than they ever imagined.
April 2011
Noble Cause: A Civil War Novel of Love and War by Jessica James
This is the tale of Colonel Alexander Hunter, a dauntless and daring Confederate cavalry officer, who, with his band of intrepid outcasts, becomes a legend in the rolling hills of northern Virginia. Inspired by love of country and guided by a sense of duty and honor, Hunter must make a desperate choice when he discovers the woman he promised his dying brother he would protect is the Union spy he vowed to his men he would destroy. Readers will discover the fine line between friends and enemies when the paths of these two tenacious foes cross by the fates of war and their destinies become entwined forever.

July 2012
This one just landed in my driveway one day.
The Elusive Mr. McCoy by Brenda L. Baker
Lesley McCoy works in a day-care center, and she is planning to start a family of her own. Her husband, David, is a homebody whose job as a wilderness guide takes him away for long periods—but when he’s home, he’s the best partner Lesley could imagine.

Kendra McCoy is a successful businesswoman whose husband, Eric, is an analyst who specializes in Middle Eastern politics. He supports her enthusiasm and drive to succeed, and is the perfect partner—when he’s home between assignments.

While trying to identify a man who collapses in a Portland, Oregon, coffee shop, two wallets are found: one belonging to David McCoy, the other to Eric McCoy.

Devastated by their comatose husband’s betrayal, Kendra and Lesley reluctantly join forces in an attempt to piece together a true picture of the man they both fell in love with. Instead, they uncover a vast web of deceit as they learn their husband lived a third life neither of them suspected.



From Sourcebook for review, I was totally hooked by this storyline:
September  2012
The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony
Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives .

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France,
pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything––or anyone.

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands the impossible. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.

The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray...or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear.


And I bought these two at HalfPrice Books:
Originally published 1992, this is a chunkster at 846 pages!
 Glastonbury by Donna Fletcher Crow
It was a sanctuary from the world--and a silent witness to it all
As the legacy of faith passed from generation to generation, each era of believers found refuge in Glastonbury. In its story you will experience the faith that gave Joseph of Arimathea and his family courage to claim new land for Christ. Relive the persecution of St. George and St. Patrick during their captivity under the Roman Empire. Ride along with King Arthur on his historic adventures and discover the spiritual fortitude that enabled him to become the greatest leader of his time. Witness the rekindling of Christianity with St. Augustine of Canterbury. Be inspired by the faith of the remnant in the midst of the Dark Ages. Watch the upheaval under the rule of Henry VIII that led to the Reformation. And as Christianity triumphs over the darkest moments of its history, you may even find your own spiritual roots.
An epic novel of the history of the faith.



The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer
Walking home at dawn, Sir Richard Wyndham encounters heiress Penelope Creed climbing out her window, running away from a dreaded marriage. Sir Richard can't allow her to careen about the countryside unchaperoned, so he pretends to be her tutor and takes her on a fine adventure.


Which of these catches your eye? And what books arrived in your mailbox?
Enter your Mailbox Monday Post in the linky below, if it is not showing up just enter in comments:

Jun 8, 2012

Armchair BEA ~ Ask the Experts and The Future of Book Blogging


Today's topic at Armchair BEA is the Ask The Experts. But I wanted to tie in the other feature posting on the Armchair BEA blog, the future of book blogging, which is a great post in itself. I started this blog in 2008, and there were blogs out there but they were not as respected as they are today. I remember some rants going on about the definition of a book blog versus book critic and how the critic was professional and book bloggers were all just a bunch of morons wanting free books. I see the whole industry of Book Bloggers as proving ourselves worthy of praise, and I would love to remember who those critics were four years ago so I can see where they are now. Because, ya know, some of them were pretty mean.

Since I really don't have a question to ask an expert, I'll offer a tip. Don't get caught up in the drama. Just walk away. It can really ruin your day. Sometimes a silly comment aimed at your post or review is uncalled for.

I'll share a fun example.. Something that will confuse the heck out of you because the commenter was really off her rocker... but a teeny back story here:

One of the things about historical fiction and reviewing books that deal with 'real life' people (that lived hundreds of years ago) is that some folks dispute the evidence/facts/theories.

I reviewed a novel by Philippa Gregory once (the horror!!).. and all of a sudden a troll out of nowhere started commenting on all of my Tudor era-themed book reviews and ripped apart anything and everything that she wanted to.

Slightly psychotic rants, on a book review no less, such as:

"For the benefit of those who don't know I have today on You-Tube slapped down Phillipa Gregory not once but five times.

Isn't there something in the States called the Freedom of Information Act?"



"What a chapter of amazing coincidences.

Not only was I born under the sign of the Ox but Georgette Heyer happens to be one of my fave authors only one of six.

For the record the remaining five are Conan Doyle, Wilde, Sayers, Stephen King and MR James"

"As the saying is 'Walk into my parlour said the Spider to the Fly'

Thanks for walking into mine. For the record I don't rant and rave. Why should I when you and so many of your fellow contributors do it so much better than I ever could?"

Moral of this story:
1. Don't feed the trolls (like the one above).
2. Be careful what you put out there on your blog and comments elsewhere. The internet is here to stay, and so are your words.  (like the words of the troll above).

Previous Armchair BEA posts:
GIVEAWAY (today is the last day to enter!)

I had a lot of fun at the Twitter parties, and I enjoyed 'meeting' everyone!
I'd love it if you'll follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads

Jun 7, 2012

Armchair BEA ~ Beyond Your Blog ~ Day 3

Hello again Armchair BEA bloggers! Welcome!
Here are the posts for the event that I've created this week:


Today's prompt is how has owning your blog helped you get other opportunities besides free books. Do you write/freelance elsewhere? etc...

Nope, I don't monetize, I don't offer advertising for a fee, I do not provide any fee-based promotional services, and I try not to participate in blog tours that are not big bonafide publicity companies (I stick with those who pay taxes and file for tax id #s etc). There are tax implications to receiving any sort of compensation in affiliation with a blog, and I would really like to not get on the IRS radar; this is another reason I have decided to not become a Mommy Blogger/Product Reviewer. (You are supposed to report income received on your tax return and I am not even going to attempt to distinguish tax laws between products, their value and money). I do have an Amazon store, but no one uses it. It's there for show to list cool books, and I don't link to Amazon within reviews with the 'special' link etc.

So, how about freelancing? I do indeed want to become a writer someday, and blogging has helped me see how my writing has developed over the past three-four years. I do have the opportunity to write as a Dallas Literature Examiner, but I haven't really done anything much with that. Their publishing tool is hogwash and there are so many nitty-gritty rules for posting articles on Examiner that I would rather not waste my time.

As a result of reviewing books, I have become a member of the Historical Novel Society and I have been reviewing for them since last fall. I also have the opportunity to review for the brand new Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers group, but that would require learning Wordpress and I am not too keen on that endeavor yet. Oh yeah, I forgot I did do a sweet little article as well for the HNS, in which I try to get history lovers to try Christian historical fiction.

So as you can see, I see the blog as a hobby. I already work full-time, have two kiddos, and a cat. There's only so much time in the day, and going beyond the blog anymore than what I've mentioned above would only be if I was writing a book. Which I would like to do.


I have loved meeting so many new bloggers, and wanted to share my other social links so we can stay connected:
Feel free to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads

King Edward VI, Life and Times of Francophilia Giveaway: Susan Higginbotham Her Highness the Traitor

Please warmly welcome Susan Higginbotham, (since she put up with a eye roll of a topic suggestion) during her blog tour for her new release,

Her Highness, The Traitor
For a Guest Post topic suggestion, I really put Susan to the test. Here was my post suggestion:

 I would love it if Susan could explore more about the character of Edward VI and the actual what-if he lived and was able to gain his majority and rule as King as his father did. Which families would still be in power if he was healthy enough to marry? Who would he have married? And if King Edward was able to live out to at least his thirties, and have his own heirs to the throne, what does Susan see becoming of his sisters Mary and Elizabeth?

And now, the test.. You are hereby ordered to keep a straight face, not even a grin is allowed, or off with your head!!

The Novel I Didn’t Write: A Brief History of Edwardian England
Susan Higginbotham

In Her Highness, the Traitor, I told the story of the events surrounding Jane Grey’s brief reign, including the tragic death of young Edward VI. But what if Edward—not a sickly youth until the last months of his life, when he contracted an illness that likely could have been easily cured by modern antibiotics—had not died in 1553? Let us sit back and visit the Edwardian England that never was.

In 1558, Edward married a French princess, Elisabeth of Valois, thereby ushering in a new era of Francophilia in England. Englishmen complained of all of the French terms invading the English language, but all were too busy enjoying French cuisine to complain all that loudly.

Mary, Edward’s oldest sister, was grudgingly allowed to continue her Catholic practices, known affectionately at court as “Mary’s little whims.” She died unmarried in 1558, at which time Edward allowed a priest, imported from Spain just for that purpose, to bury her with full Catholic rites. John Fox the martyrologist, bereft of Protestant martyrs to write about, wrote a book of riddles instead, which were vulgarized by English schoolboys and are remembered chiefly in that form today.

Elizabeth, Edward’s other sister, reluctantly married a French prince in order to please her brother Edward, but made him promise that her second marriage would be to a man of her own choosing. In 1562, the widowed Elizabeth married the widowed Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose wife Amy had died after a fall down the stairs at Dudley’s great castle of Kenilworth. The five hundred guests who witnessed the fall were in no doubt that it was a tragic accident. The new Countess of Leicester moved the body of her mother, Anne Boleyn, from its resting place at the Chapel of Peter ad Vincula into a fine tomb at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth spent the rest of her life urging her brother to give Anne Boleyn a posthumous pardon, but Edward, out of loyalty to his own mother, Jane Seymour, refused. Only in the next century would his grandson declare Anne Boleyn to have been innocent, after which she would be the subject only of an occasional obscure historical novel.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, died in the late 1560’s of the stomach problems that had dogged his last years. Edward VI would give his mentor and trusted advisor a grand funeral and declare a day of public mourning. Historians in the twenty-first century continue to hotly debate whether Northumberland or Edward VI was more responsible for the economic prosperity that marked the latter half of the 1550’s and the 1560’s. Jane Dudley, Northumberland’s widow, devoted the remainder of her long widowhood to commissioning statues of her late husband. Many of these “Northumberland memorials” remain in larger English towns today.

Northumberland’s son Guildford, having married Jane Grey in 1553, was made Duke of Suffolk in right of his wife in 1554 when his father-in-law, Henry Grey, died without male heirs following a hunting accident. Jane, Duchess of Suffolk, composed a number of scholarly works in Greek and Latin, but is best known for the Bible translation she produced in 1611 for the king, known as King Edward’s Bible and still used in Protestant churches today.

Guildford, Duke of Suffolk, finding himself incompatible with his intellectual wife, took a number of mistresses, including his own sister-in-law, Katherine Grey. The romance of Guildford and Katherine has been the subject of many nonfiction books, novels, plays, and films. Although in 1585, Guildford was granted a charter by King Edward to colonize the area in North America now known as the state of Henrico, named after Edward’s father, he is remembered today chiefly for his involvement with Katherine.

Frances Grey, known as the dowager Duchess of Suffolk after the Suffolk title was bestowed upon her son-in-law Guildford, married her master of horse, Adrian Stokes, after Henry Grey’s death in 1554. After being besieged for advice by mothers eager to have their learned daughters follow in Jane’s footsteps, she finally wrote a book on child-rearing. The book, which advocated combining firmness with love, was enormously popular and was followed by an equally successful book by Adrian Stokes about training horses, based on many of the same principles.

Edward VI’s reign was not entirely peaceful. In 1564, his aunt Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, still bitter after the execution of her husband in 1552, plotted with her fellow prisoners in the Tower, Edward Courtenay and Bishop Stephen Gardiner, to murder Edward VI and his sons and put Courtenay on the throne instead. The rebellion failed when the duchess’s daughter Anne, Countess of Warwick, alerted her Dudley in-laws to her mother’s plans. The Duchess of Somerset, along with her co-conspirators, was executed in 1565 and buried beside her husband Edward Seymour in the Chapel of Peter ad Vincula. At her execution, the Duchess of Somerset broke with tradition and delivered a long harangue against King Edward, forcing the executioner to swing the axe prematurely in order to shut her up.

William Shakespeare wrote many plays during King Edward’s reign, including the famous Seymour trilogy, which chronicles the insatiable ambition of Thomas Seymour, Edward Seymour, and Anne Seymour and their attempts to remove Edward VI from the throne. For years, the test of any serious actress has been her ability to deliver Anne’s soliloquy in Act III of the play that bears her name, in which Anne from her Tower cell agonizes about whether to abandon her plan to murder Edward VI, as well as her dying speech upon the scaffold. A now-obscure play about the little-known King Richard III was once attributed to Shakespeare but is now thought to have been composed by one of his rivals in an effort to capitalize upon the popularity of the Seymour trilogy.

Elisabeth of Valois died in 1610, leaving Edward VI a grieving widower. He refused to marry again. Edward VI died in 1620 and was succeeded by his first surviving son, Henry IX. The golden Edwardian age had come to an end, but the Henrician age would be even greater. But that, my friends, is another story.

~~~~~~~~~
There you have it folks. Now please tell me you kept a straight face. By the time I got to the book of riddles a stupid grin was stuck on my face, but then I'll admit to something close to cackling when I read of Amy Robsart's death: "The five hundred guests who witnessed the fall were in no doubt that it was a tragic accident"..
And Frances Grey's book on child-rearing forced a strange sound.. and poor Anne Seymour...

Brava, Susan! Thanks for indulging us!



Sourcebooks is offering followers of Burton Book Review, in US/Canada, a copy of Her Highness, The Traitor..


To enter please comment on this guest post and leave me your email address. Giveaway ends 06/14/12


Extra entry for commenting on the Review post for Her Highness, The Traitor

Jun 6, 2012

Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham

Good book. Hate this cover.

Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks Landmark; June 1, 2012
Historical fiction
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Excerpt
Burton Book Review Rating:
Frances Grey harbored no dream of her children taking the throne. Cousin of the king, she knew the pitfalls of royalty and privilege. Better to marry them off, marry them well, perhaps to a clan like the Dudleys. Jane Dudley knew her husband was creeping closer to the throne, but someone had to take charge, for the good of the country. She couldn't see the twisted path they all would follow. The never–before–told story of the women behind the crowning of Jane Grey, this novel is a captivating peek at ambition gone awry, and the damage left in its wake.

In Her Highness, The Traitor Susan Higginbotham writes of the famous Tudor era during Edward VI's short reign, and the struggle for the crown that followed King Edward's death in 1553. Although the story is not a new one for Tudor fans, the author chose two intriguing figures of the time to narrate the story: Frances Grey, a niece of the old King Henry VIII, and Jane (Guildford) Dudley, who was married to John Dudley, father of the now famous Elizabethan courtier, Robert Dudley. The Tudor era is fraught with similar names (Robert, Henry, Edward) and nobles who's titles can come and go on a king's whim, which makes for confusing reading in any Tudor novel.

Higginbotham attempts to stay true to the story of the women she features, without too many detailed accounts that were going on behind the scenes. Frances Grey is popularly known as the witchy mother of the nine-day queen Lady Jane Grey and is rarely shown in a sympathetic light. If the author strove to right that wrong opinion of Frances, she succeeded. I loved the character of Frances from the beginning: she was stubborn, realistic, and not too fanciful as one may expect born with royal blood.

Jane Dudley's story is similar to Frances' as they each have children caught in the tangled web their husbands created. Frances' daughter was put on the throne of England, attempting to bypass the Lady Mary. Bloody Mary did not get the moniker for nothing, as the novel will demonstrate. Frances and Jane each become Duchesses due to the political prowess of their husbands, but the titles end up having a high price.

The story is told in alternating first person point of views by the two duchesses, which caused me to think twice each time a new chapter began. I felt it may flowed better had the two narratives been told in third person, but eventually I took it all in stride. The author's own witty sense of humor starts off quickly with the novel, with small joking statements being made which at times seemed out of place, knowing the subject matter to be would include a few deaths of family members, but the serious situations when they occurred were handled with due decorum and were quite emotive at times.

I enjoyed reading about the behind the scenes dynamics of the families of the two women, but felt there may have been a bit left out, but at 336 pages this was not meant to be a hefty historical. The reason for putting Lady Jane Grey on the throne seemed vague, the people who supported this decision were few, and a lot of the goings-on and would-be-drama simply seemed glazed over considering the myriads of upheaval that the women experienced during the reign of Edward VI, Jane Grey, and then Bloody Mary. The men in the main protagonists' lives seemed to be represented well enough as characters in a novel and not much else, but I did get entrenched in the storyline enough that I wound up wishing for a happier outcome for the families despite what the history books tell us.

Yet, Higginbotham has a firm grip on her details and tells the story as close to fact as she can, adding in the personal details of the courtiers in such a way that they would be proud of. The traits of each of them could be imagined to the fullest, and Higginbotham presents a plausible and pleasurable historical account that all Tudor fiction fans would enjoy. Susan Higginbotham is one of the best accessible historical fiction authors out there and will soon be well known for very enjoyable and well-researched novels.

My cover review where I rant about this book cover to get it out of my system (& not into this review).
My other Susan Higginbotham posts, includes reviews such as Queen of Last Hopes which was a Best of 2011 for Burton Book Review.

Stay tuned for an alternative history (you heard me) guest post from Susan Higginbotham for her blog tour tomorrow, and a chance to win your own copy.