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Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

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Sep 12, 2013

Death and the Courtesan (Arabella Beaumont Mystery #1) by Pamela Christie

Unique light hearted bawdy entertainment

Death and the Courtesan (Arabella Beaumont Mystery #1) by Pamela Christie
Kensington Mystery, June 2013, $15.00
Paperback 229pp
Historical Romance/Somewhat inspirational
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the August 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:

Pamela Christie’s sparkling historical mystery goes beyond the modest drawing rooms of Regency London in the company of the city’s most esteemed and scandalous courtesan…


Since the age of sixteen, Arabella Beaumont has been happily employed as a highly paid woman of pleasure. True, respectable ladies of the ton would never deign to call at Lustings, her delightful home. Then again, Arabella has no desire to make dreary small talk and sip tea when she could be enjoying the company of amusing, intelligent, and extremely generous gentlemen.


But while Arabella’s admirers are legion, she also has enemies. A paper knife stolen during one of her salons was discovered near the body of a former rival. Arabella was entertaining her wealthy benefactor on the night of the murder, but the engaged duke can’t provide the alibi she desperately needs. It falls to Arabella and her resourceful sister, Belinda, to clear her good—or at least innocent—name. Utilizing all the talents in her arsenal, the irrepressible Miss Beaumont will endeavor to catch the real culprit, before the hangman catches up to her…


It’s the flamboyant age of the Regency, where Miss Arabella Beaumont makes her living as a courtesan offering her physical wares to very rich fellows. With witty banter such as how size matters relating to ribbons for condoms, a story unfolds of how Arabella seeks to clear her name of murder. Her favorite Duke assures the authorities of her cooperation therefore she is free to roam and investigate at whim, thus introducing the reader to many characters.

The writing is drenched with sexual innuendo as an attempt at humor or charm, but the intrusive narrator who occasionally addresses the reader lacks the charm intended. Sadly, the mystery takes a back burner as Arabella struts around town telling stories, until finally the point of the novel reemerges with the final scenes. The text includes some archaic words such as clew, shew and chuse but the tone might be right for those desiring unique and lighthearted entertainment.

Sep 7, 2013

The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt


bodice ripper material? or gothic romance? or psycho madness? or all?

The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt
First published 1982
Personal reading copy
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 to 3.5 stars


When Kate Collison, to help her ailing father, completes his portrait of the powerful Baron de Centeville, her only thought is to be a dutiful daughter. But when the Baron presents her to Parisian society as the painter, Kate finds herself basking in the recognition . . . until she discovers that the Baron has plans for her -- shocking plans that will change her life unless she can fight the Baron with his own weapons . . .


I was reading this for a group read when I found that I wasn't really reading this fast enough, which means perhaps it wasn't that great. Or I'm being a finicky/picky/bored/tired reader or any combo thereof. Who knows, but I do know I am tired of being disappointed by Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt/Phillippa Carr whoever she is pretending to be at the moment of the publication of whatever zillionth book she was writing.

It's a strange story -- gothicky in a way, but mostly, cringe-worthy. Not cringe-worthy in a good way where you are on the edge of the seat wondering what is lurking around the corner, but more like wow what a creepy thing that is sorta sick/mental and perhaps I need to distance myself from the weirdness. The Baron is a strange man, and Kate is seduced in a way even while she knows he is so cringe-worthy. But there were other characters too that were a little odd and added depth to the story. Being told in first person by Kate did get tiresome halfway through, and while her character didn't change too much by the end I was able to put up with her wearisome traits.

I don't want to get too much into the plot line since there is one dramatic event that the whole book revolves around; the same event that other reviewers had given away (& thus spoiled the story for me as well). The last three chapters made the whole thing worthwhile, as it tidied up most of the plot lines but still kinda weirded me out. Which stays in tune with the rest of the book at least. I did say "oh, my God!" in an amazed sort of way as I turned the last page.