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Book three in the Restoration Chronicles!

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Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

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Oct 30, 2012

To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander

To Whisper Her Name
Post Civil War South has a lot to learn from sexy Ridley Cooper
To Whisper Her Name (Belle Meade Plantation) by Tamera Alexander 
Zondervan October 23, 2012
Paperback 480 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:4.5 stars


Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a murdered carpetbagger, gratefully accepts an invitation from “Aunt” Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation and the dearest friend of Olivia’s late mother. Expecting to be the Harding’s housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned once again when she learns the real reason why Elizabeth’s husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming. Caring for an ill Aunt Elizabeth, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a southern-born son who—unbeknownst to her and everyone else—fought for the Union. Determined to learn “the gift” that Belle Meade’s head horse trainer, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him while harboring secrets that threaten his life. As Ridley seeks to make peace within himself for “betraying” the South he loved, Olivia is determined to never be betrayed again…

Set within the remarkable history of Nashville’s historic Belle Meade Plantation, comes a story about enslavement and freedom, arrogance and humility, and the power of love to heal even the deepest of wounds.
I loved Tamera Alexander's last novel, A Lasting Impression, and was all set to pre-order this on Kindle when I was offered a review hard copy. Definitely jumped on that one, as I now have all of Tamera's books. Her writing is smooth and subtle.. never pretentious or overly dramatic, it's just like a perfectly relaxing read. This one is about Olivia and Ridley as they each are struggling to imagine their futures, when their lives are beginning to rebound after the American Civil War. They meet each other at the Belle Meade Plantation, the stud farm owned by the Confederate General Harding, and circumstances draw these two together that make the reader tingle with anticipation.

Ridley Cooper's dream is to head west.. and yet he finds himself with a job at the prestigious stud farm at the same time that Olivia does. Olivia has nowhere else to go, and even as she is supposed to be a grieving widow she finds herself drawn to Ridley. Neither one of these two have any idea that cupid is at work here, as they have their own harsh reality to deal with. Olivia's dead husband was a scoundrel, and no one wants to have anything to do with her now. Elizabeth Harding opens her home to Olivia, but she still faces many obstacles in society.

Ridley was a Union soldier, not someone to be welcomed in a Confederate General's business, so he is forced to hide that fact. As a reader, we know that secrets of such importance will rear their head in a bad way, bringing heartache and threatening the potential romance. Meanwhile, we get to know both Ridley and Olivia's characters and we watch them grow and become closer as they adapt to their new surroundings. Ridley and Olivia are both likable, and they seem to bring a new life to the plantation with their presence. I loved how the author based her novel on such an inspiring setting, and I really loved the overall tone and the romance angle. The relationships between the two protagonists with the servants (freed slaves) was commendable and heartwarming. I recommend this newest Tamera Alexander to anyone who appreciates a realistic historical romance, and especially to horse lovers!

Oct 28, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday! What Are You Reading?

What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and can be found here for October.


In the Mail....
Awww, nothing new, just a repeat review book (I smell a giveaway! see below)..I did order some books so I'll be sharing those with you soon!

What I've Read and Am Reading:
Not a whole lot different to report from last week, as I've joined a new church and bible study group so I've been reading the bible as opposed to novels at times. I'm helping with the Church School for my youngster as well, so I'll have less free time but it's for a very good cause.

I read and reviewed Here Be Dragons... a book that was on my shelf for almost four years, so it was nice to get out from the Review Pile of Guilt and read something from my personal library. My review is here.. and now I am looking forward to the rest of her series!! (Note to self: No more read alongs, since no one can keep up with me!) wink wink...



The next book I picked up to read is To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander, a new release which featured the Belle Meade Plantation, the origin of the famous Belmont racehorses.. I've read her last one, A Lasting Impression (loved it!) and this is turning out just as good. Handsome wannabe horse whisperer and a disgraced widower meet at the Belle Meade Plantation..will sparks fly? I absolutely love this cover, plus it's a nice chunky book too at around 475 pages. It's out now, so you can purchase yours at Amazon today. My mother is a horse owner, so I think she will enjoy this one too! I now have all of Tamera Alexander's novels, I can't wait to read her earlier releases as well.



I wanted to give a shout out to Michelle of The True Book Addict (and owner of a gazillion other blogs!) who helped me tremendously as I transitioned from Feedburner to MailChimp for the Email Subscription services. Thank you Michelle!!! It's all in working order now, so now I can confidently invite you to subscribe to Email updates... the link is in the left sidebar. And here is your fair warning.. I'll be doing Email Subscriber Exclusive giveaways very soon.. so if you are not an Email Subscriber, you will miss out on those book giveaways!

 Here's a hint of one of them:

And then when I get some books back from mother I'll be doing a bundle giveaway again and that will be open exclusively to current email subscribers as well.
Happy Halloween week!

Oct 23, 2012

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman

by Sharon Kay Penman


Here Be Dragons (The Welsh Princes Trilogy #1) by Sharon Kay Penman
Originally published by Holt 1985, Ballantine paperback shown
Paperback 704 pages
Review book is from personal collection
Burton Book Review Rating:4.5 Stars


Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's beloved, illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Reluctant to wed her father's bitter enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband who dreams of uniting Wales. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales--and Llewelyn--Joanna must decide to which of these powerful men she owes her loyalty and love.
A sweeping novel of power and passion, loyalty and lives, this is the book that began the trilogy that includes FALLS THE SHADOW and THE RECKONING


Most medieval historical fiction readers immediately recognize Sharon Kay Penman as one of the leading writers of our times. She has had a following for the last twenty years in the genre, and much of what I can say here has been said before so I will attempt brevity. Knowing that Here Be Dragons was book one in the Welsh trilogy, I had assumed it would be something close to Edith Pargeter's Welsh novels, which I had once attempted but was bored to tears. Turns out, this novel is really more focused on Joanna who was the illegitimate daughter of the ruthless King John. Even though the narration shifts around from character to character, it mainly follows Joanna's life as she grows from poverty to being recognized as daughter of the English king and then married to a much-respected Welsh prince.

There are many characters in the novel who appear or are mentioned, the aging Eleanor of Aquitaine, her assumed gay son Richard the Lionheart, the people behind the forces that do battle between Wales and England, and there are even some French politics thrown in for an all encompassing look at the 13th century. Most surprisingly, it is through Joanna's view of her father that we can sense a bit of a humanized King John, who is often seen as a murderous and diabolical king. This portrayal of King John was entertaining and appreciated, and the love Joanna bore for her father was often at odds with her husband Llewellyn's desires for his own kingdom. It felt as if the main theme was the marriage of Joanna and Llewelyn, and their desires, which might put some readers off as it begins to feel like a romance novel.

Eventually, Joanna gives children to Llewelyn, and so the politics of Wales becomes a heavy topic in the book, as Llewelyn's first born son from another marriage is threatened by any male heirs that Joanna gives his father. We cannot but wait for Davydd and Gruffydd to come to arms against each other in the name of Wales, but first Davydd must grow up. There were characters that I had no problems despising, from Gruffydd and his wife Senena, to Maude de Braose who ended up eating her words. ;)

Joanna's character is easily likable, until she commits a sin so grievous that I had an issue with even continuing the book. It is no fault of Penman's writing for the reality of Joanna's betrayal, but somehow because of this act and the ebbing of the book's flow, it wound up that the book's ending had little dramatic emphasis for me. I hate the saying, 'it fell flat', but it seems that in the end, it did fall flat for me as I fell out of love with Joanna. However, for the first 600 pages I was enthralled. I was hoping that we would see some resolution to the ultimate fight of Llewelyn's sons, but that didn't happen either. So it is with this question that I look forward to book two, Falls the Shadow.

See more of my thoughts (and others) at HF-Connection for the Fall Read Along.



Oct 21, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday! What Are You Reading?

What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and can be found here for October.


In the Mail:



©BurtonBookReview
Goodies!!

Swapped for:
 After All by Deborah Raney (Hanover Falls #3, May 2012)
Eighteen months after the tragic Grove Street Fire took the life of her husband, David, and four other heroic firefighters, Susan Marlowe thinks she’s finally beginning to heal. But then she discovers that David carried a secret to his grave.

A secret that changes everything she thought their marriage had been.

For the sake of their sons, can Susan forgive the unforgivable?

Andrea Morley lost her closest friend in the fire. But she has no right to mourn him. Instead, she must forever grieve in silence—because her dearest friend was someone else’s husband. Peter Brennan carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. As Hanover Falls’ fire chief, he was responsible for the brave firefighters

who lost their lives that awful November night.

Can he ever shake the feeling that he should have somehow prevented the tragedy?

As he tries to rebuild the team at Clemens County’s Station 2, it seems he might find comfort in the arms of the woman he least expected.



I purchased:
The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas (April 13, 2012)
Rinette Leslie of Granmuir has the ancient gift of divining the future in flowers, but her gift cannot prepare her for the turmoil that comes when the dying queen regent entrusts her with a casket full of Scotland's darkest secrets. On the very day she means to deliver it to newly crowned Mary, Queen of Scots, Rinette's husband is brutally assassinated.

Devastated, Rinette demands justice before she will surrender the casket, but she is surrounded by ruthless men who will do anything to possess it. In the end, the flowers are all she can trust-and only the flowers will lead her safely home to Granmuir.



And finally, for review, a boo hiss huge ugly galley (which makes me hate reviewing and I kick myself every time I accept an ARC dangit) .. and this one was on NetGalley for those interested..

Flora's Wish by Kathleen Y'Arbo (February 2013)
From bestselling author Kathleen Y'Barbo comes a brand-new series of romance, adventure, and hidden identity.
May 1887--Flora Brimm is determined the fifth time is the charm. Back home she has a reputation as "Fatal Flora," a woman whose previous four fianc├ęs died in untimely accidents. Flora is desperate to marry, because producing an heir is the only way she can keep her family's estate. She's confident this visit to Eureka Springs with her grandmother will help her land a husband.
Pinkerton detective Lucas McMinn is hot on the trail of Will Tucker, the thief who broke his sister's heart. When he discovers the slippery fellow with Flora, he thinks they are in on the devious plot together. Will Flora be able to convince Lucas of her innocence? Will Lucas catch the elusive Mr. Tucker?
And, more importantly, will Lucas survive if he pursues Flora's heart?
An engaging story of how God can move circumstances to bring love, joy, and lasting fulfillment to the most hopeless heart.

What I've Read and Am Reading:
Pub. October 23, 2012
Reviewed The Memory Jar by Tricia Goyer, A nice surprise, this was a good story.. and so glad I enjoyed it as it was my first Amish story! Also reviewed last week was a Tudor mixed with Wars of the Rose mess by Alison Weir, A Dangerous Inheritance...which was a fun fluff read for those who like reading absolutely everything there is out there and get lots of teensy details with their fiction.. but anyways..

Surprise of all surprises Penman wins again... BOOM like a dust bunny I was sucked like a powervac into an oldie-but-oh-so-GOODIE
which was supposed to be a read along, but I suck at read alongs in the opposite way of everyone else is doing with this one right now: I read faster than anyone else does with group reads (I did this with required reading in middle school and high school too..) so the three week read along held at HF-Connection is taking me ohhhh .. stretching it to a week if I watch lots of television instead of reading... which means, you guessed it.. I Love it!!! And I'm loving it even more because I don't have to write a review for these 700 pages of political wishy washiness... this is a "personal collection" read (four years in my dusty stacks it sat).. SQUEEE!!!

Have you read Penman's Welsh Trilogy (of which this is book one)? I had avoided it because I was like OH, KILL ME DEADLY with the last "Welsh" read I had attempted (Edith Pargeter) and that was one of two Did Not Finish Books out of roughly 240 review books..
 
Long story short.. Sharon Kay Penman's work is not something to be avoided. Do not be scared by the Welshness. =)

What I'm Reading Next:
Last week's fun treasure in my mailbox, Tamera Alexander's To Whisper Her Name, and then the above Flora's Wish by Kathleen Y'Arbo .. and then I'm free for a little bit!!!!!!! PARTY PARTY PARTY!!!!!!!!! Maybe I'll sneak in some more Penman!

Oct 19, 2012

Please don't hurt me

...
this is a test..

Just a test, and I hate populating my blog with silly posts that serve no meaning..

so here's a fun picture to share:

Sweetie 'helps' me read Penman's Here Be Dragons
 Just in case you were wondering, I'm testing my new MailChimp email service (oh my goodness new gray hairs from this thing) as I switch from FeedBurner which I later found out was unneccessary but since I like to do things the hard way here we are. Crossing fingers. If this doesn't work I will officially go ape sh*t (chimp style). But if it does work, I'll clap heartily, but still yell at Google Feedburner for scaring us all for nothing. Geez.

If you are seeing this in your mailbox, do the happy dance with me. I'd also love it if you would click on over and tell me that yes, indeed, the chimps did work and my job here is done.

And if you are here visiting the blog, subscribe to my new mailchimp email service.. maybe.. (do I sound ultra super positive about this?) Link is in left sidebar =)

(And during this transition my current email subscribers missed my last review, boo..)

Ya know, I really didn't need to have all this drama.. cuz I am dealing with a fun IRS AUDIT HULLO

Binders full of women!!! Just kidding...
Audit Prep.
 The beginning.
 (& the end of my sanity).

Oct 18, 2012

The Memory Jar by Tricia Goyer



by Tricia Goyer
Can romance survive the heavy chains of family obligations? 

The Memory Jar by Tricia Goyer
Zondervan October 23, 2012
Paperback 345 pages
Review copy provided via LitFuse/NetGalley, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:
Every year, 30-40 young Amish men descend on the cozy little town of West Kootenai, Montana, arriving in the spring to live there for six months and receive 'resident' status for the hunting season in the fall. They arrive as bachelors, but go home with brides. Sarah Shelter has lived in West Kootenai for the last ten years and wonders if she will ever fall in love. Since the tragic death of her best friend, she carries her memories in a jar along with the small items connected to them. For just as long, she's also been carrying around her emotions instead of allowing them to penetrate deep into her heart. Now she's met a kind and gentle man who may be able to break down the wall. But can Sarah risk her heart to finally achieve her dreams?



Tricia Goyer is a popular Christian fiction author and I've wanted to read her books for at least a year. I finally was able to read By The Light of The Silvery Moon, a Titanic themed romance, which I did enjoy so I did want to try another one of hers. Add to the fact that I've been scared of Amish fiction, I figured let's mark that off my bucket list too. I normally do not read contemporary fiction because I do not feel an affinity with modern characters, but since the Amish are famous for their simple and basic way of life, I had a feeling the modern setting would not exactly be glaring, and I wasn't wrong.

Sarah Shelter still suffers from grief over the death of her best friend, and it isn't until she meets Jathan that she sees there is life outside her humble world and the memory jars. Sarah is a strong willed person and easy to admire and feel sorry for, but as a reader we immediately want more for her..such as a love interest. Jathan has his own issues as well, as he deals with the Amish tradition of being the one to care for his large family when his father falls ill. Opportunities arise that allow Jathan and Sarah to explore new avenues, but while doing so they wind up alienating those who cling to the Amish tradition, forcing Jathan and Sarah to make difficult decisions.

Sarah loves to bake, and she is quite good at it. As it turns out, Jathan does too.. and has a business head for it as well. Will his family loosen their reins on Jathan to allow him a chance at happiness? I loved how the story played out; it started off slow but this allowed for the greater appreciation of these characters and their dynamics to grow and feed off each other. There were some ups and downs to the story, and I loved the realistic way Tricia Goyer seemed to handle the story arc. Not everything can have a happy ending, but we can work towards something even better. I love the idea of memory jars, and I am not going to be afraid of Amish fiction anymore either. This was one of the first 'contemporary' reads I enjoyed in a long time, probably because the setting was more nature related and character driven.

Thank you to Litfuse for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Celebrate with Tricia by entering her Amish Kindle Gift Pack Giveaway and RSVPing to her Facebook party on November 7th. (And be sure to catch the fun video trailer or try your hand at one of the simple, keepsake crafts Tricia has put together on her website.)


One fortunate winners will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Custom-made Memory Jar Kindle Cover
  • Amish-made decorative items {Wall hanging, horse/buggy and Amish houses}
  • The Memory Jar {Be swept away by this captivating series.}
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 6th. Winner will be announced at the "Memory Jar Author Chat Party on 11/7. Connect with Tricia for an evening of book chat, Amish trivia, and a live video chat! There will also be a chance to win gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of The Memory Jar and join Tricia on the evening of the November 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

Oct 15, 2012

A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir

by Alison Weir
Royal blood curses these women as their hopes and dreams are shattered
 A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir
Ballantine Books October 2, 2012
Hardcover 528 pages
Review copy provided from the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:


England's Tower of London was the terrifying last stop for generations of English political prisoners. A Dangerous Inheritance weaves together the lives and fates of four of its youngest and most blameless: Lady Katherine Grey, Lady Jane's younger sister; Kate Plantagenet, an English princess who lived nearly a century before her; and Edward and Richard, the boy princes imprisoned by their ruthless uncle, Richard III, never to be heard from again. Across the years, these four young royals shared the same small rooms in their dark prison, as all four shared the unfortunate role of being perceived as threats to the reigning monarch.



The setting: c.1553-1563; Lady Katherine Grey during the reigns of Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I
The other setting: c.1483-1486; Kate Plantagenet, during her father Richard III- later known as the usurper's reign- and Henry VII

The quick review: The 'same-old same-old' given an updated look through the eyes of two different women; great stuff for those who adore fan fic of Wars of the Roses and the Tudor Dynasty, but could be a long drawn out bland blah blah blah to those who have read all about the R3 + Princes events over and over and over again.


The long review:
A Dangerous Inheritance features an interesting format with the narration, as it brings us the story of two women about seventy years apart. Katherine Grey will be somewhat familiar to Tudor fans as the younger sister of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey (the Nine Days Queen), and Kate Plantagenet brings us a 'new' look at the reign of Richard III and the nephews he is rumored to have killed in the tower. The events are the same as we know of history, aficionados may find themselves bored for the lack of 'new' material, but one can take comfort in the fictionalized account of these women who typically fade in the background of other novels of their respective eras. It was an interesting format with the switching back and forth of Kate and Katherine, and only a few times I had to readjust the time frame in my mind to get back on the same track. Even though the women are living in a different century, Weir presents their story as a simultaneous timeline so it was easy to get confused as to who was pining for who amongst the endless list of titles of the lords of the realm.

The themes of the women are the same: they each fall in love with a man that due to their royal blood could not be allowed to love freely but each of them handle their woes differently. Katherine Grey, a cousin to Elizabeth I, eventually finds herself in a treasonous love affair with Ned Seymour, and Kate Plantagenet is like a tumbleweed in the midst of the warring factions of the Wars of the Roses. What is most intriguing about Kate is I have barely heard mention of her at all in the other novels, so even though I could barely stomach the redundancy of the Richard III events I was still intrigued by what happens to Kate because that was one thing I had no prior knowledge of. During the story of these women, they each try to discover what happened to the Princes in the Tower; Kate being a staunch supporter of her father, and Katherine fearing their fate and her own will meet somewhere.

When Katherine Grey comes across possible places where Kate could have been decades before her, Katherine gets the heebie-jeebies and all distraught and full of sudden despair until she steps out of the draft kinda thing.. and that can get old after the second instance...but I think along with the Princes Mystery this was supposed to be the underlying theme that connected the two women. (It was perhaps the only silly part of the novel, which is lame because was this really supposed to be the main thing??) I think if Weir added a little more oomph and didn't try to downplay the ghost thing maybe she could have filled it out more instead of making it seem like a half-hearted attempt at creativity and too fluffy for a Weir novel.

This attempt of ghostly reincarnations/visions/manifestations was thrown in to perhaps make this a different kind of Tudor/Wars of the Roses type of novel, and the fact that the two women's stories are presented together also makes it different; but I still think you really have to be in the mood for this one since Weir likes to add many details that tend to bog down the actual novelization. Even though it focuses on the important events of their times, it also focuses on their loves and losses which humanizes these two women in a fantastic fashion. The title A Dangerous Inheritance implies these women who are born too close to the throne for comfort, and their travails were well fleshed out as such. I could truly empathize with these two young women, and I appreciated their stories very much.

But, there was indeed another 'silly part' was the amount of time Sir Edward Warner (jailer!) spent with Katherine as they picked each other's brains regarding the lost princes. In prison in the tower, Katherine would not have had opportunity to do much of anything at all, so Edward Warner was used by the author to give her a bit of life behind those walls, but the extent - and content - of the discussions started to feel a bit over the top. And when Katherine is thinking 'in her head' about the princes, it sounds awfully like it would from a book the author would write herself (perhaps The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir?).

I am kind of on the fence about this one because it was well written and it does offer a lot of insight with it being over 500 pages, but as a novel goes I just wish I were a bit more entertained. I think maybe those readers who are just getting their feet wet with the two eras would enjoy this novel because Weir does a fabulous job of depicting the eras and the important events surrounding Katherine and Kate. She holds true to the typical portrayals of the rulers: Richard III is the crown grasping ogre, Henry VII is an ugly little miser, Lady Jane Grey is the proud victim, Mary I is the Spaniard loving burner of heretics, Elizabeth I is shrewd/powerful/paranoid. And I am beginning to hate Richard III just about as much as the author, so even though I love the many facets of the Wars of the Roses, after reading this one and Gregory's The Kingmaker's Daughter I am making a mental note to not read another Richard III book for at least a year.

I am also of the opinion that 'famous' authors who are viewed as historians have to be near perfect in order to please many readers (I am thinking of Philippa Gregory, of course). If this novel were not written by Alison Weir but someone a bit more obscure, perhaps it would be seen as a triumph. We always have such high expectations for the big name type authors. Again, this is why I am on the fence. I am so sorry this is such a long rambling review, I tend to do this when I can't decide which way to go with it. =)

Oct 14, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday! What Are You Reading?

What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and can be found here for October.


In the Mail:

Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers

  In 1953, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Alice was dressed from head to foot in a long gray dress and a gray cloak, and a nun’s veil. Amidst all the jewels, and velvet and coronets, and the fine uniforms, she exuded an unworldly simplicity. Seated with the royal family, she was a part of them, yet somehow distanced from them. Inasmuch as she is remembered at all today, it is as this shadowy figure in gray nun’s clothes...”

Princess Alice, mother of Prince Phillip, was something of a mystery figure even within her own family. She was born deaf, at Windsor Castle, in the presence of her grandmother, Queen Victoria, and brought up in England, Darmstadt, and Malta.

In 1903 she married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and from then on her life was overshadowed by wars, revolutions, and enforced periods of exile. By the time she was thirty-five, virtually every point of stability was overthrown. Though the British royal family remained in the ascendant, her German family ceased to be ruling princes, her two aunts who had married Russian royalty had come to savage ends, and soon afterwards Alice's own husband was nearly executed as a political scapegoat.

The middle years of her life, which should have followed a conventional and fulfilling path, did the opposite. She suffered from a serious religious crisis and at the age of forty-five was removed from her family and placed in a sanitarium in Switzerland, where she was pronounced a paranoid schizophrenic. As her stay in the clinic became prolonged, there was a time where it seemed she might never walk free again. How she achieved her recovery is just one of the remarkable aspects of her story.


To Whisper Her Name (Belle Meade Plantation) by Tamera Alexander (Squeeee Excitement!)

Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a murdered carpetbagger, gratefully accepts an invitation from “Aunt” Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation and the dearest friend of Olivia’s late mother. Expecting to be the Harding’s housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned once again when she learns the real reason why Elizabeth’s husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming. Caring for an ill Aunt Elizabeth, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a southern-born son who—unbeknownst to her and everyone else—fought for the Union. Determined to learn “the gift” that Belle Meade’s head horse trainer, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him while harboring secrets that threaten his life. As Ridley seeks to make peace within himself for “betraying” the South he loved, Olivia is determined to never be betrayed again…

Set within the remarkable history of Nashville’s historic Belle Meade Plantation, comes a story about enslavement and freedom, arrogance and humility, and the power of love to heal even the deepest of wounds.
 

Read my review of her previous novel, CBA and ECPA Bestseller and 2012 Christy Award Nominee, A Lasting Impression.

What I've Read:
A Lady in the Making by Susan Page Davis... Reviewed here... and this was a great addition to the series that I recommend!

I also reviewed the fabulous new release, Illuminations by Mary Sharratt last week, it seems to be a big hit elsewhere too!

I finished reading Alison Weir's A Dangerous Inheritance, and the review is going to be a long one, bwahahaha.. for Tudor fans, and Richard III non-fans, this is the book for you! ETA: here is the review.

Currently reading:

 The Memory Jar by Tricia Goyer (Amish fiction), hoping to finish by the time this posts.. and then it'll be time for the Here Be Dragons read along finally!! See the details here for the brand new read along, there is still time for you to join in.

Hope you all have a fantastic reading week!!

Oct 12, 2012

A Lady in The Making by Susan Page Davis


A Lady in the Making
Another entertaining historical romance from Susan Page Davis
A Lady in The Making (Prairie Dreams #3) by Susan Page Davis
Barbour Books October 1, 2012
Paperback 320 pages
Review copy via NetGalley, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

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?


This is the second novel I've read from this author, and I love her quick pace and realistic storytelling. This is book #3 in the Prairie Dreams series and follows along with the characters that were previously introduced to us in the prior book, Lady Anne's Quest, which I reviewed here on Burton Book Review. This is a series that I would recommend reading in sequential order, even though I had not read book one I felt I missed out on something while reading book 2.

Lady Anne's Quest followed the storyline of Anne in pursuit of her Uncle David in America, and now A Lady in the Making features David making his way back to England to claim his estate as Earl of Stoneford. Millie Evans is back, but better than ever as a reformed woman making her way back to Pennsylvania to make a new start for herself. Coincidence puts both David and Millie on the same stagecoach, and when an accident occurs it falls to Millie to take care of David.

Millie is still in love with David, but David wants nothing to do with her as she was the woman who almost brought him to his death in book two. The story follows the two as they are forced to deal with each other during their travels though they hold each other at arm's length. Behind the scenes, a greedy cousin wants David to not make it to his destination in England, and it is only a matter of time before a showdown occurs. Millie and David are brought together as a tentative alliance, and only time will tell if they can overcome their past and look towards the future. A romance between a common woman and a potential earl would certainly raise a few eyebrows back in England, and David may have to choose between love and the status quo if he can open his eyes to Millie's redeeming qualities.

I loved the atmospheric western tone of traveling through America in the 1850's with fear of outlaws, and this was another entertaining and quick read from Susan Page Davis. Those who fear a preachy tone from a Christian or inspirational genre should not be wary of this novel, as it is something that is lightly laced throughout the novel but not a major plot point. The series is a fun western historical romance with a touch of British class that I would highly recommend.

Oct 10, 2012

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt


by Mary Sharratt
An inspiring story of a very strong woman
 Illuminations by Mary Sharratt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 9, 2012
Hardcover 288 pages
Review copy provided via Saima Agency, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: four stars

Illuminations chronicles the life of Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), who was tithed to the church at the age of eight and expected to live out her days in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned but disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. Instead, Hildegard rejected Jutta’s masochistic piety and found comfort and grace in studying books, growing herbs, and rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died some three decades later, Hildegard broke out of her prison with the heavenly calling to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters and herself from the soul-destroying anchorage.
Like Anita Diamant’s portrayal of Dinah in The Red Tent, Mary Sharratt interweaves historical research with psychological insight and vivid imagination to write an engaging and triumphant portrait of a courageous and remarkably resilient woman and the life she might have lived. Deeply affecting, Illuminations is a testament to the power of faith, love, and self-creation.
Anchorite: a person who lives in seclusion, esp a religious recluse; hermit.

Author Mary Sharratt brings us a story of  Saint Hildegard beginning when she was given to the church at an early age as a tithe, accompanying a wealthy young woman. I cannot imagine the sacrifice of being an anchorite, and being walled in with little sustenance for a young girl around nine years old. Somehow housed within this prison of sorts, Hildegard finds her own peace with the lot of her life and embraces any sort of past time that comes her way, from books to herbs to embroidery. Her beautiful companion, Jutta, is portrayed as perhaps a bit mad as she is eager to be cloistered away from the evil hands of her brother. Hildegard is portrayed as being made of stronger stuff than Jutta, and ably survives being shut within walls for what seems to be eternity, as Jutta is happy to be viewed as pious and full of grace as she starves herself.

Meanwhile, ever since Hildegard can remember, Hildegard is the one who is seemingly touched by God as she sees prophetic visions that are difficult for anyone to understand. She is immediately rebuked as being mad and learns to hides her visions as many view these visions to come from the devil. It is not until later that she is able to use them to help guide others, although she always had many detractors. Once she is out of the stifling grip of Jutta, whom everyone loved more than she, Hildegard was able to exert herself over those in the monastery who oversaw her care. She began to speak out against the severe treatment of girls brought to the anchorage and to discourage very young girls from being forced into the anchorage at such an early age.

Although the book seems to be a short one, there was a lot packed into it. The novel brings to light all of the struggles that Hildegard faced beginning from her enclosure all the way into her last days as an abbess, and it speaks to the enormous sacrifice that nuns and those of religious vocation make. It also hints at the debauchery that hides behind the walls once Bernard of Clairvaux dies and how the times changed as money instead of God becomes the driving force behind the monasteries and abbeys.

I really enjoyed this story and the telling of Hildegard's difficult life; it is not sugar coated with her piety but shows Hildegard as a true woman with real desires and needs. Her intellect seems to have known no bounds, as she is remembered for her music, poetry and scientific writings. The people of her life were also intriguing characters, especially the beautiful Jutta and Richardis, and Volmar, the one monk who was never failing in his support of Hildegard. What an honor to have read this dramatic story of a woman who is well deserving of her recent recognition as a Doctor of the Church which comes much too late.

Oct 7, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading?

What are you Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and can be found here for October.
Just one on my mailbox this week, YAY!!

The Memory Jar by Tricia Goyer

Every year, 30--40 young Amish men descend on the cozy little town of West Kootenai, Montana, arriving in the spring to live there for six months and receive 'resident' status for the hunting season in the fall. They arrive as bachelors, but go home with brides. Sarah Shelter has lived in West Kootenai for the last ten years and wonders if she will ever fall in love. Since the tragic death of her best friend, she carries her memories in a jar along with the small items connected to them. For just as long, she's also been carrying around her emotions instead of allowing them to penetrate deep into her heart. Now she's met a kind and gentle man who may be able to break down the wall. But can Sarah risk her heart to finally achieve her dreams?


Reviews posted the previous week:

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley (recommended, I am now looking for more of her work!)
Queen of the Waves by Janice Thompson (too many improbable circumstances for my tastes)

What I've just read:


Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen
I really enjoyed this story of a strong willed nun who is just now being recognized in October as a Doctor of the Church;  my review is coming this week. In the meantime, you have an opportunity to win this one over at my sister site HF-Connection.


No Safe Harbor: Edge of Freedom Series #1 by Elizabeth Ludwig
This was an intriguing historical romantic suspense.. Irish lass in New York City has no clue how to keep a secret and has zero judgement of character.. but still a good story! Review to come soon.


What I'm reading:
A Dangerous Inheritance: A novel of Tudor Rivals and The Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir

Don't read this one too close to reading Philippa Gregory's The Kingmaker's Daughter or you'll find your eyes glazing over during the 'Kate' Plantaganet parts. This novel has a double timeline, featuring Richard III's bastard daughter Kate (who?) and then Lady Jane Grey's younger sister Katherine Grey. It pretty much starts with Richard III seizing the Woodville brothers who he later executes with no legal reasoning and since I just read Gregory's book about all this I am finding myself very, very bored of Richard III. And I never thought I would say I am looking forward to the Tudor part of the book that features Katherine Grey; she and the younger sister Mary have always intrigued me. I still haven't read The Sisters Who Would Be Queen featuring the Grey sisters, even though I bought it in November 2009. Story of my life.

What I'm reading next:
I hope I won't have to set this Weir aside to prepare for the Here Be Dragons read along! That would mean book #3 that I still have to finish before 2013 comes knocking. Yuck. If you haven't read Here Be Dragons by Penman, you should join us at HF-Connection! Here are some details of the event.

What are you reading?

Oct 4, 2012

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley


A Scottish romance that will make you believe in ghosts.

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks reissue October 2012
Originally published 1997
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Yea, baby!


THE INVINCIBLE NINTH ROMAN LEGION MARCHES FROM YORK TO FIGHT THE NORTHERN TRIBES. AND THEN VANISHES FROM THE PAGES OF HISTORY.
Archaeologist Verity Grey has been drawn to the dark legends of the Scottish Borderlands in search of the truth buried in a rocky field by the sea.
Her eccentric boss has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he's finally found it—not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has "seen" a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades.
Here on the windswept shores, Verity may find the answer to one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. Or she may uncover secrets someone buried for a reason.

I really loved this story set in Scotland during a small archaeological dig that featured several lovable and quirky characters. Verity's name means truth, and that's exactly what she is looking for in regards to the history of the land that Peter Quinnell and his team are excavating. Most endearing is the Scottish accent which came through vividly and easily, making me wonder how the author was able to effortlessly set this scene for us. This novel is making me think twice about men in kilts.

Verity's GQ-style ex-boyfriend is among the team, and is a bit protective of Verity as she falls head over heels in love with David. David and his mother are a fixture in Peter Quinnell's life, and it was like a small family that Verity found herself a part of as she joined the archaeological dig. All of the characters brought their own element to the storyline and I loved their banter back and forth. Most surprising of all, the ghostly 'sightings' were magnificently told. A young boy Robbie seemed to have a bit of a second-sight, and it went against Verity's logical judgement to believe that a member of the famous Ninth Legion was trying to contact the team through Robbie.

Great story, great plot, fabulous characterizations made this a fantastic read for me. As far as the suspense and details go, there were some things that were either taken for granted or glazed over which left me wondering what exactly just happened, as if we got from point A to point C without stopping at point B. But, even with the conclusion tying things up as far as the mystery goes, I would love to read a sequel because I adored all these characters. I took some extra time just to make this novel last longer because I just knew I would not want it to end. I was right. This one is going in my keeper pile as I may want to re-read it just for the way the Scots talk.

Oct 1, 2012

Queen of The Waves by Janice Thompson


A rags to riches romance set on the Titanic
Queen of The Waves by Janice Thompson
Summerside Press, October 1, 2012
Paperback 336 pages
Review copy provided for free from LitFuse in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:


When pampered Jacqueline Abington secretly elopes with the family gardener, she asks another woman to take her place on the much anticipated maiden voyage of the Titanic. Tessa Bowen hails from a poor corner of London but has been granted the opportunity of a lifetime—a ticket to sail to America aboard a famed vessel. But there’s a catch: she must assume Jacqueline’s identity. For the first time in her life, Tessa stays in luxurious quarters, dresses in elegant gowns, and dines with prestigious people. Then a wealthy American man takes an interest in her, and Tessa struggles to keep up the ruse as she begins falling for him. When tragedy strikes, the game is up, and two women’s lives are forever changed.

From the synopsis I knew it would take a lot of faith in the storyline for me to enjoy this one. I absolutely love Titanic novels even though it was such a tragedy, there is something about it that I love to continue to explore in novels. The major issue with this plot point is that of a pig farmer's daughter impersonating a wealthy young lady in a very wealthy first class on the Titanic, with only two weeks 'training'. As a pig farmer's daughter, Tessa apparently has only tended to pigs and barely left the farm in her life so the believability factor is a major stretch. Impersonating the well-bred Jacquie, it is amazing that Tessa is able to form intelligent words and mingle with the best of the best who are traveling on the epic Titanic.

Tessa is impersonating Jacquie so that Jacquie can stay behind to marry Peter, Tessa's brother. Peter is the gardener at Jacquie's estate, and even though Jacquie should be engaged to a very eligible and sweet young man, she follows her heart and sends Tessa on the Titanic so that Jacquie can stay behind with Peter. Of course, the fact that a beautiful high society London girl falls in love with a lowly gardener is yet another unlikely thing to happen in real life. She hides her intentions from her parents, so while the story follows Tessa's journey to riches on the Titanic, we also follow Jacquie's possible path to eventual rags.

Ignoring the incredulity of the plot in itself, the events on the ship and the people described were all well done. There were several conversations with crew members and the staff of the Titanic offering details of the Titanic adding to the atmosphere which tingled with excitement. The normal mentions of the famous people aboard such as the Astor's and the Straus' were here as well, along with an eccentric fashion designer Edith Russell.

Jacquie sits at a hotel waiting for Peter to visit her, while on the Titanic Tessa-now-Jacquie catches the eye of Nathan Patterson, the same scripture quoting man who had admired the real Jacquie once before. He notices immediately their eyes are different shades, and another man Tessa-now-Jacquie meets remarks on this as well, but she somehow is able to reassure the men. Nathan's character offers a side story as well, with the odd relationship of his mother and another gentleman which offers a bit of mystery.

The total amount of believability required of a reader such as myself renders this story a bit contrived. There were no faults with the author's writing or the tone, and I really wanted to like this one, but I couldn't bring myself to feel invested in the characters, probably because of the improbability of the basis of the story. The plot twists of who will end up with whom were what kept me reading, and the emotionally charged ending with the sinking ship was my favorite part of the book. The awakening of faith in a merciful God for Tessa was another theme, so there is a strong Christian element with both Tessa's and Nathan's character and I only mention it for those who were strictly looking for a Titanic themed novel. Those who do not like the preachy tones of Christian novels will certainly get a dose of preachiness from another traveler who acts as a bit of a confessional for Tessa and Nathan.

I am intrigued by the American Tapestry series that Summerside Press has created: novels that focus on epic moments of our history such as the Oregon Trail, and an upcoming novel on the Alamo. Queen of The Waves has been well received in the historical romance market, and you can follow along the blog tour to gauge differing opinions. If you can easily get past the improbability of the rags to riches storyline, this could be an exciting romance set amongst a tantalizing setting of the great ship Titanic.


Celebrate with Janice by entering to win a Kindle Fire!

 
One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Where the Trail Ends by Melanie Dobson
  • Queen of the Waves by Janice Thompson
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 17th. Winner will be announced at the American Tapestries Author Chat Facebook Party on 10/18. Connect with authors Janice Thompson and Melanie Dobson for an evening of book chat, trivia and fun! There will also be gift certificates, books, and a Book Club Prize Pack to be won (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of Queen of the Waves and Where the Trail Ends and join Janice Thompson and Melanie Dobson on the evening of the October 18th for a chance to connect with the authors and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the books – don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 18th!