Mini Reviews of Summer 2016

Mystery, drama, oh my!

Newest novel by Lynn Austin

Book three in the Restoration Chronicles!

Welcome to Burton Book Review!

Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

My epiphany of 2015

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Best of 2015

BBR's Top 2015 Reads!

Aug 28, 2013

Darke London by Coleen Kwan


Great cringe-worthy storytelling
Darke London by Coleen Kwan
Samhain Publishing, 2013
Review copy provided for free in exchange for this review at Library Journal
Burton Book Review Rating:Great fun! Four stars!

The only way to save her life is to resurrect the dead...
Julian Darke was only a newborn when he was abandoned on the doorstep of a gentleman doctor. Though raised with love, he is driven to discover his true origins.
Convinced Sir Thaddeus Ormond knows something, Julian shadows him one night and is shocked to see a young woman thrown from Ormond s carriage and accosted by a thug. Julian manages to save her life, but not her face and hands from horrific injuries.

Nellie Barchester doesn t recognize the scarred, disfigured stranger in the mirror. Though the gifted doctor and engineer has done his best to repair the damage, scars ravage her body, and chill her soul with the realization that her own husband may have plotted her death.
Julian s tenderness is a balm to her soul, and Nellie is drawn to the edge of passion by a man not repelled by her deformities. But as their pursuit of the truth draws them into London s underbelly, they cross the path of a ruthless enemy who will stop at nothing to fulfill his schemes.
Warning: Can a brilliant but troubled doctor find happiness with a woman scarred both inside and out? A hint of the supernatural plus a night of passion spice up this Uncanny Chronicle.


It is indeed the underbelly of London as the greedy rich folk collide with the poor of the darkest streets where a brute of a murderer is set loose on Nellie only to be rescued by handsome doctor Julian Darke. Scarred for life and presumed dead, Nellie doesn't let that stop her from learning the truth behind her vicious attack. Julian is linked to Nellie during their search for justice and in spite of amazing odds and a path fraught with difficulties, their passion for each other is undeniable and overcomes all.

The limited cast of characters gives this short novel a sharp focus on the mysterious events occurring around Julian and Nellie allowing for a swiftly fast paced gothic-feel story to take its hold on the reader. A dash of steampunk with a taste of lust, this is an intriguing story perfect for historical romance readers. The romance is sexy but not overbearing or crude, making this novel a perfect weekend read for the thrill seeker.

Aug 20, 2013

Love At Any Cost by Julie Lessman


or at the cost of faith..
Love At Any Cost (The Heart of San Francisco #1) by Julie Lessman
Christian Historical Romance
Revell, April 1 2013
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the August 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:



From the author: "My intent was actually to underscore the Scripture "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." —Matthew 6:20–21. 
The hero has to learn to "love at any cost," which in his case, costs him his will, laying it down to do things God's way. But there's also a double Spiritual meaning which I hint at in the dedication of the book that reads as follows:
To the Lover of my Soul,
Who taught me about ‘love at any cost’
two thousand years ago on a hill outside of Jerusalem.
I will love You and worship You
all the days of my life.

*(the HNR review differs because I fail at reviewing books within a limited amount of words; I write better when I feel less restrained).

Favored Christian historical author Julie Lessman starts off her third series with Texas sized sass and spirit. Cassie is a cowgirl who knows what she wants and it ain't no pretty boy! Yet, when she travels to San Francisco to get away from heartbreaking pretty boys, she bumps into one with Jamie McKenna. Turns out he is a close friend of her Aunt Cait, and Cassie is forced to put up with him during her stay in San Francisco with her McClare cousins.

Jamie McKenna has been working hard all of his life to provide for his impoverished family and has his mind made up that he wants to marry an heiress to provide a costly surgery for his invalid sister. He sees Cassie as his ticket to wealth and courts her as passionately as he can despite her resistance.

At the heart of this burning (slightly uncomfortable in a Christian novel) romance is the prerequisite of Aunt Cait for Cassie to only love a man who loves God first. These ladies aren't taking no for an answer and the journey towards faith for Jamie is not an easy one, forcing Jamie to make difficult decisions which do little to endear the reader to him. Overall, if the reader can get past the multiple references to slanting, tipping or flat smiles, the interesting blend of romance with spiritual tones make up for the bumpy start. The supporting characters helped flesh out the story while also providing for a strong start to this faith based historical series.

I wanted to really love this book, a first Lessman read for me though I have already collected her previous six books based on other blogger's recommendations. As a reader of inspirational historical fiction for the past few years, this novel blurred the lines a bit for me as it was somewhere between 'clean' and 'jaw-dropping' in the romance department. And the first few days of reading this I only managed to get about fifty pages in because I could not help but notice the thin lips, the flat lips, the tilted smile, the curving smile, the wilting smile, the crooked smile, the zagged smile, and my favorite: the rebounding smile. So when a lazy Saturday came along I made it my goal in life to get through the book, and once I dug in and got past the lips and smiles the novel did develop into a worthwhile story with intriguing plot lines which surprised even me. Taking these few warnings in mind, you would have to decide for yourself if this is a read for you, as the majority of the reviews on Goodreads are five stars.



Aug 15, 2013

Katherine by Anya Seton

Classic storytelling  
Katherine by Anya Seton
Medieval hist-fic
Originally published early fifies
Source is a personal copy/not for review purposes
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars


Synopsis:

This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.


Katherine is a book that many of my fellow historical fiction readers have read and recommended to me, and it took the 2013 TBR Challenge and an online group read to get-er-done. I was totally loving the classic prose of Anya Seton, and winged through the first half of the book as Katherine became the loving mistress to John of Gaunt, and thus the famous ancestor of many of the royal line. Katherine Swynford was a commoner, and portrayed as a bewitchingly ethereal beauty. Some of her 'magnificence' became a little tedious as things were getting tense in the real world around her but she would presently "forget" all about such and such and move along her merry way. The character seemed to be a bit bland as we got to know her better but the classic writing style of Seton really won me over in the end.

I would recommend this classic novel to anybody who is interested in the story between John of Gaunt and his eventual wife, Katherine. While I didn't love it as much as I thought I would as it seemed to drag a bit here and there, I still enjoyed it very much; especially because of the myriad of characters who helped portray an evocative part in history. John of Gaunt was a very intriguing figure, and I have to wonder about this characterization of him.. he was portrayed as being adored by the people and a strong leader, which I wonder if his one flaw was falling in love with the Swynford woman. The beginnings of their relationship were very dramatic, and again I have to wonder what is reality. Definitely a fantastic era for a movie..the setting of the era was a character in itself, a testament to Seton's writing talent.

The edition that I read is shown in the picture above which was a reissue with several typos. I have an older edition that I didn't want to mess up, but I kinda wish I had read that one instead.

This novel was one of my picks for the Roof Beam Reader's 2013 TBR Challenge. Click the button to see my progress thus far:


Aug 11, 2013

Dark Road Home by Elizabeth Ludwig

Enchanting historical mystery 

Dark Road Home by Elizabeth Ludwig
Bethany House, 2013
Historical Romantic Suspense/Christian Fiction
Review copy via publisher
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars

Synopsis:

Ana Kavanagh’s only memories of home are of fire and pain. As a girl she was the only survivor of a terrible blaze, and years later she still struggles with her anger at God for letting it happen.At a nearby parish she meets and finds a kindred spirit in Eoghan Hamilton, who is struggling with his own anger–his sister, Cara, betrayed him by falling in love with one of his enemies. Cast aside by everyone, Eoghan longs to rejoin the Fenians, a shadowy organization pushing for change back in Ireland. But gaining their trust requires doing some favors–all of which seem to lead back to Ana. Who is she and who is searching for her? As dark secrets from Ana’s past begin to come to light, Eoghan must choose which road to follow–and where to finally place his trust.


I had really enjoyed this author's previous title in the Edge of Freedom series and was excited to get the chance to review this next installment. While this novel introduces new characters, I personally would recommend reading the first book, No Safe Harbor, since that book sets up the relationships and includes important events that bring us to book two. Set in New York, it features Irish immigrants who are still not far enough away from the violent political factions that were wreaking havoc in Ireland, as well as a murderous uncle who threatens the heroine's life.

Ana is the estranged niece who tried to find a new life in a new country but her uncle wants to make sure she stays out of his way. Ana meets up with Eoghan (from the previous book) and they form a sweet relationship with each other. They find themselves in danger and the story sets up a plausible and entertaining suspense story while the romance takes us on a slow stroll. The writing is fast paced and evocative of the turbulent 19th century era and will not disappoint Ludwig's fans of the first book in the series. 

This is a novel from Christian fiction publisher Bethany House, and would not be for those who do not enjoy the genre as there are trials and tribulations of the main characters' questions of faith that are a theme to the story along with their struggles to find the truth about who to trust.


Aug 5, 2013

The Lion of Justice by Jean Plaidy

(Snooooozzer!)


The Lion of Justice by Jean Plaidy
Published circa 1975
Norman Trilogy series, book 2

Summary:
"The death of the Conqueror left three sons to inherit his power and his wealth. Normandy for Robert, England for Rufus and for Henry, the youngest, five thousand pounds of silver.....The three were natural rivals. The feckless Robert lost his Norman dukedom in an orgy of impulsive extravagance. Red-haired Rufus scandalized the court with his perverse sexuality and contempt for the church...And Henry - cleverest of all - awaited his chance to fulfill his father's prophecy and assume the mantle of The Lion of Justice."


I loved the first book in this Norman series (The Bastard King) so I was naturally totally looking forward to this group read of the next installment. I was disappointed from beginning to end, sad to say. 

Did I have high expectations? Perhaps. Somehow this book should have been at least as good as the first, as this one deals with Matilda (once known as Edith) and her husband King Henry I. Set against such an intriguing backdrop of England's struggle for power against Normandy, France and the Pope, there was a lot going on. The King's arrival at the throne in itself was a wonder.

I was bored throughout specifically because I felt Jean Plaidy, historical fiction extraordinaire, should have been able to do better. But what she presented was amateurish, childlike, and totally subpar writing, that I wouldn't ever recommend this one. The Bastard King was good, this one was a waste of almost two weeks of my free time, do I dare attempt book three?

But, I am in the minority I think .. Except for my read along participants.. Check out other reviews: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0449243184