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

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Best of 2015

BBR's Top 2015 Reads!

Jan 29, 2014

When A Lord Needs A Lady by Jane Goodger

Steamy romance with amusing twists and turns between lords and ladies dancing..
February 2014, eKensington ebook original
Historical Romance
234pp, $5.99
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for review at Library Journal Express 
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Stars

Lord Graham Spencer needs a wife.But not just any girl will do. She must have the money to save his dilapidated estate and desperate tenants. So when he meets a charming American lady’s maid on the beach at Brighton, the last thing he ought to do is kiss her.
Katherine Wright is hunting a titled husband.Or at least her mother is. But Katherine can’t get the memory of a most inappropriate kiss out of her mind. The handsome stranger who took her in his arms in Brighton was only a valet, but even if she is an heiress, she’d rather spend her life with him than some stiff British aristocrat.
Can true love survive two false identities, two scheming mamas, and two lavish house parties where all is revealed? It can…
When A Lord Needs A Lady

It's the late 1870's in England when young American socialite Katherine visits Brighton Beach. Feeling stifled by propriety and by her mother, Katherine disguises herself as a maid so that she can sightsee and finally have some fun. When she meets Graham Spencer, she has no idea that he is actually the sought after Lord Avonleigh, and hijinks ensue as mis-communications and misunderstandings culminate while the two fall in love each other despite his being betrothed. Graham has never given into romantic notions until he has met Katherine, and he considers perhaps making her his mistress would be the answer to his prayers as he is forced to marry another very wealthy heiress in order to save his crumbling estate.

When A Lord Needs A Lady is a heartwarming and amusing romance with steamy scenes and believable tension to keep the reader hoping that there could be a happy ending after all. The supporting characters had stories of their own which helped to flesh out the main story line. Though a quick read, it still felt worthy of my time as the hero in Graham gives us all hope.

Jan 24, 2014

The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki

Spoiled American socialite betrays her country..
The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki
Howard Books, February 11. 2014
Paperback 496 pages
Review copy from NetGalley for which I was denied at first and then I had to beg for indignantly and thus I got accepted to review it, geesh, make a girl beg why don'tcha?
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars


A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America’s most infamous act of treason. Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the infamous Revolutionary War General who betrayed America and fled to the British as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John AndrĂ©, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot; a charming and cunning young woman, who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as Military Commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John AndrĂ©. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former lover and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.

Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.


If you are one of those readers that have to like the main protagonist in order to enjoy reading the book, then you may not enjoy this. Peggy Shippen Arnold didn't have much of a noble character as she can be summed up as a wishy washy spoiled brat who had no qualms at being a manipulative twit. She only wants parties and bigger hair, and flashy men..her only loyalty was to herself. She doesn't care if her admirers are the British or the Colonials, as long as they are fawning all over her and she is the life of the party. Her maid Clara is her saving grace, as the novel features Clara's story as she serves as Peggy's maid at a time when Peggy was looking for that perfect knight in shining armor. She flirts with everyone until she finds herself the wife to Benedict Arnold, the man whose name is known as the traitor to the new American country. But as this story tells it, perhaps he would not be known as a traitor if only he had not met Peggy Shippen.

The nuances of the era were very well portrayed, as one can really get a sense of the Colonials versus the British mentality. I haven't come across a lot of American Revolution novels, despite the fact that fellow readers express their interest in such. Pataki's novel will certainly help fill that void, even if Peggy causes you to have a sour taste in your mouth simply because of her traitorous habits. There never really does seem to be a good enough reason for Benedict to betray one's country, aside from the fact that the Arnolds felt they were owed money for his previous heroic military maneuvers, and so it's hard to empathize with the Arnolds.

However, the story is quite engaging because of the historical detail and the fictitious characters that Pataki creates who redeem the novel as a whole. The use of Clara and her love interest as an added feature to the novel helps draw the reader in to Clara's world. Pataki's storytelling brings to life the less than glorious aspects of the Colonial Americans and brings their situation into a new light. Benedict Arnold's character is very intriguing, and I'm even more interested in further reading of the struggles of our forefathers. I would definitely be interested in the latter half of Peggy and Benedict's life together, as the novel ends right at their point of ultimate disgrace. A very shocking scandal for the times, and I enjoyed how the story played out. Well researched and well written, I recommend this novel for those also interested in learning a slice of colonial history.

Jan 20, 2014

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen


Regency and Footloose collide!

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
Bethany House, January 7, 2014
Historical/Regency Romance
Review copy provided by Litfuse in exchange for this review, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and Half Stars

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch’s daughter. Though he’s initially wary of Julia Midwinter’s reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul–and hidden sorrows of her own. Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master–a man her mother would never approve of–but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec’s help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village…and to her mother’s tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a “good match” in Regency England.
Purchase a copy
My other reviews of Julie Klassen's titles:  The Tutor's Daughter; The Maid of Fairbourne Hall


This is the third year in a row that I have been lucky enough to start off a new year with a new novel by Julie Klassen. The author is a master of Regency romances, but what makes hers extra special is the enchanting writing and amazing way she blends themes of faith into her stories. The inspirational tones are always lightly put until a certain dramatic point, but it is the characters and the plot that carries you away into her Regency world. After reading a Klassen novel I always wish I were lucky enough to be born during that era of balls and handsomely attired men.

The Dancing Master brings us the story of Alec Valcourt, recently transplanted from London into the small town of Beaworthy. There is an aura of mystery as to why Alec and his family had left London, and it is sad news that Alec can't perform his trade of dancing master to tutor the residents of Beaworth. The influential family at Buckleigh Manor expressly forbids it, therefore the last twenty years have been pretty quiet for the town due to Lady Amelia Midwinter's strict influence.

Alec's doom may not be too quick though, as he is able to secure a position at Buckleigh Manor as a clerk for Lady Amelia. He may be able to provide for his family after all.. but his need to dance may land him in trouble with his employer. Not to mention the fact that the beautiful young daughter at Buckleigh Manor, Julia Midwinter, seems determined to ensnare him with her flirtatious ways. Julia has been bored and spoiled all her life, and sees Alec as an exciting way to thwart her mother's wishes, but what will happen when Lady Amelia discovers the secret dance instructions? Most of all, what will happen when Alec discovers Lady Amelia's own secrets she's held dear for twenty years?

The answers come slowly, which may turn off some readers. Themes of courage and honor remain strong throughout this telling of a dancing master struggling to make himself worthy among his contemporaries, while the revelations are slow to reveal. Klassen's previous works were page turners and tinged with a gothic mysticism which are elements that are missing with The Dancing Master. This novel is focused on character development and their interactions as the plot thickens. The ending was not a true surprise and yet it was still masterfully done.  While this won't be a favorite Klassen novel among her fans due to its slow nature, it is still worthy of high praise as a inspirational Regency novel and one that I would recommend to fellow readers who enjoy the Regency era.

Best-selling author Julie Klassen will be hosting a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway and a live webcast event (1/23) to celebrate the release of her latest novel, The Dancing Master.
 Enter and RSVP today!

dancingmaster-400
 
  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 23rd. Winner will be announced at the "All Things Jane (from Austen to Eyre)" Live Webcast Event on January 23rd. Connect with Julie for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Julie will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books, Jane Austen DVDs, fun "Jane" merchandise, and gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of The Dancing Master and join Julie and friends on the evening of January 23rd 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 today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!

Jan 18, 2014

Ch ch ch chaanges...

Typing this from a snazzy new ZaggProfolio for iPad is awesome, but I'm still left wondering when will blogger ever update their platform, especially their blogger app? They are so slow to keep up with the trends of blogging, and trying to edit older posts is just a nightmare. Can't even center or format posts like you can from the computer, and how hard can a simple alignment command be? Can't even add links to text or images. Lame!!

My five year blogiversary was a few weeks ago -- still seems to be longer. My life has changed so dramatically with the reviewing life and it really altered my free time as it became my only 'hobby' (no matter how much I complain that it's really a chore!). New bloggers, beware! It will suck you in!

Luckily I have managed to quell the need to respond to review requests but I still review for pub companies. Meanwhile, since I've read so many other blogger's reviews over the last five years I have managed to collect a huge amount of books that I often wonder if I will ever read half of the collection I have amassed.

And now, five years in, I have also changed with my views of digital versus hard copy. Since I have that huge library, and books all over the house, I have run out of room for them. I don't like feeling unorganized, and with the stacks of random books around it seems much more tolerable to have a kindle library instead. Seems much neater! I can privately hoard books that I'll never get around to reading, bwahahaha!

And next week, my daughter turns twelve. Official pre-teen status. Today, she has been introduced to her very own kindle app. She has finally caught on to The Hunger Games craze. She read the first book on the iPhone (bluefire reader app). 

With 2014 in full swing now, I contemplate what I want to accomplish this year. I need to develop and grow in my career, as it is a job that I want to keep. Personalities conflict however.. and it is so very hard to maintain composure. It is a true test that I must ace. And then of course I must find a way to stop the downward spiral that seems to be following me elsewhere... oh, but let's stick to books before I depress the world!!

Several titles that I think I would like to get to this year are the Lowlands of Scotland series by Liz Curtis Higgs:

Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour is another. But then so is many of her others, such as the newer Lionheart and maybe even the sequel to that coming out soon.

I had originally thought I would want to read the Chronological bible this year, but instead I think I'm going to read more biblical books, such as novels on the major figures of the bible, from authors like Diana Wallis Taylor and Jill Eileen Smith. I also bought The Family Guide to The Bible, which is really of a franchise of 'family guides' to various things and so this specific name is not truly appropriate. It's more like a crash course on selected bible events. Still, I enjoy the easy format and pick that up when the mood strikes to read of biblical themes and inspiration.

I am expecting the Ragamuffin Bible to come in any day now from a recent giveaway win, and plan on reading that as well along with The Story that I bought myself for Christmas.



You can find all these titles at Christianbook.com -- oh and there is another Roma Downey bible series, Son of God, coming out, and I scored the NetGalley of it! YES! Looking forward to that one as well.

Lofty goals already, plus the titles that I expect to review soon from favorite authors such as Erika Robuck and Robin Oliveira. 

And after that? Life goes on. Somehow I'll put a dent in my personal library, and maybe even be able to part with some titles after I read them. It really does seem silly to own so many books. But what if my daughter will read them someday? What to do?! I will have some giveaways as well but the thought of going to the post office scares the crap out of me. I hate going to our teeny post office which services 45,000 people. I even put a hold on my Paperbackswap account because I don't want to go to the post office. Plus these days, the PBS Credits don't really seem worthwhile to me any longer. Get another book to add to my huge pile, ah, not really smart...

The most important change for me personally this year is to force myself to enjoy life as much as I can. Life is really hell in a hand basket most of the time honestly.. and I simply need to give up trying to be perfect and just live. I'm 40.5 years old, I'm not getting any younger, things aren't going to get better so I just need to suck it up and go along with it. Find that inner peace that spirituality offers, and cling to it. I need to offer more of myself to worthwhile pursuits such as volunteering at church and for the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

And I must remember that somewhere in the world there is someone else who has it harder and someone who would love to be blessed with healthy children or a fancy car. Someone who doesn't have the option of choosing the couch or the bed. I will just be happy here on my couch.. somehow.

Have you had any revelations or resolutions for 2014? Are they already muddled up? Despite all the horrors and tragedies of the world, I still hope we all can sink ourselves into a good book, and enjoy living in that world, even if it's just for a few minutes before we pass out at bedtime. 

Jan 14, 2014

The Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy

Not quite so loving, but a saga of a woman's search for it.
The Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy (Queens of England #5)
Published December 30th 1989 by Fawcett (first published 1987)
Personal reading copy
Burton Book Review Rating:3.5 stars

'When I look back over my long and tempestuous life, I can see that much of what happened to me—my triumphs and most of my misfortunes—was due to my passionate relationships with men. I was a woman who considered herself their equal—and in many ways their superior—but it seemed that I depended on them, while seeking to be the dominant partner—an attitude which could hardly be expected to bring about a harmonious existence.'

Eleanor of Aquitaine was revered for her superior intellect, extraordinary courage, and fierce loyalty. She was equally famous for her turbulent relationships, which included marriages to the kings of both France and England.

As a child, Eleanor reveled in her beloved grandfather’s Courts of Love, where troubadours sang of romantic devotion and passion filled the air. In 1137, at the age of fifteen, Eleanor became Duchess of Aquitaine, the richest province in Europe. A union with Louis VII allowed her to ascend the French throne, yet he was a tepid and possessive man and no match for a young woman raised in the Courts of Love. When Eleanor met the magnetic Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of England, their stormy pairing set great change in motion—and produced many sons and daughters, two of whom would one day reign in their own right.

In this majestic and sweeping story, set against a backdrop of medieval politics, intrigue, and strife, Jean Plaidy weaves a tapestry of love, passion, betrayal, and heartbreak—and reveals the life of a most remarkable woman whose iron will and political savvy enabled her to hold her own against the most powerful men of her time.
Historical fiction lovers recognize this prolific author of Jean Plaidy who goes by several different pseudonyms as each evoke a different style of writing.  After reading some of Plaidy's, some of Holt's, and one of Carr's I can safely make the assertion that Plaidy's work under that name is historically based but yet she still seems to impart a bit of "liberty" into her fiction, though she doesn't do it in an over the top kind of way. By using this tactic with her slightly dry/to-the-point prose, readers are often left wondering of what was factual and what was not.

With The Courts of Love, Plaidy also imparts a few nuances of liberties, but I felt like she portrays Eleanor of Aquitaine very well, as I've come to believe of her. A passionate woman, a ruler by her own right and by her husband's right, she was at the heart of many events during England's and France's history. The novel opens up with Eleanor and her sister Petronilla, with a bit of an awkward relationship with her father, and then transitions to Queen of France and finally to Queen of England. I have always deplored the whole sad relationship Eleanor had with the pious Louis, and it was there that the story stalled, especially since we know the fun stuff doesn't really happen till she meets the young-soon-to-be King Henry. There was a lot of "Oh, how I wish Louis were more like Uncle Raymond" and it wasn't until we get to having kids with King Henry that the story began to take off.

This novel is one that is the same to those of us who have read a few Eleanor novels, so if you are like me in that regard (my Eleanor reviews) there is a high chance you could be bored with more than just the France part. It glazes through everything of Eleanor's life swiftly, as if to fit it all in, which leaves us wondering if she left all the meaty historical bits for her Plantagenet series. I did feel several times that I wanted to pick up a Penman novel after this (Lionheart has been neglected for quite awhile already). I did not appreciate how Petronilla was a big part of her life up to the point she met  Henry, and how she then dropped off the face of the earth.

As it was so character-oriented with Eleanor, it also served as a spotlight of Eleanor's and Henry's relationship. I felt like slapping Henry several times, and hoped that Eleanor wasn't so detached from her children as she seemed to be. From the way Plaidy tells it, Eleanor did not have a very happy life, though she had several triumphant moments. It does speak to the fact that men ruled everything, which really grates my nerves. And while the title is The Courts of Love, the novel instead is representative of The Courts of Betrayal. There was not a surfeit of love going on in this one, and one of my pet peeves is the fact my husband believes I am reading some smutty romance because of some of the titles of books I read. This is one example of that injustice.

Eleanor was constantly reaching for those courts of love that her childhood represented, but as she got older it became more and more elusive to her. She never does find it, especially as she finds that her husband has strayed from her. Her heart is broken, and we can't help but feel for this queenly woman who fought for everything she owned, though it was never enough.

I would recommend this novel for those who haven't read more than five Eleanor-related titles, but it would be a perfect read for those who are just starting to get to know her. The fact that Plaidy DOES manage to fit a ton of small baiting type of historical tidbits into this story is why I felt compelled to give it an extra half star. Her storytelling is exact and to the point though sometimes repetitive, but in the end you're still glad you finally read that Plaidy novel that's been beckoning for so long. Jean Plaidy is a pioneer in the historical fiction field especially with how prolific she was, and I feel she helped to pave the way for more contemporary favorites such as Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick.

Jan 12, 2014

The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18126904-the-headmistress-of-rosemere?from_search=true
Regency romance with suspense and faith undertones blended together seamlessly

The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson, December 2013
Historical Romance
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for this honest review, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars

Patience Creighton will finally find the peace she lost years ago--if she can open her heart and forgive the man who loves her.  
Bright, sensible Patience knows what is expected of her. At twenty-five, her opportunity for a family of her own has passed, so she finds contentment teaching at her father's school for girls. When her father dies suddenly and her brother moves away to London, she is determined to keep her father's dream alive.

Confirmed bachelor William Sterling also knows what is expected of him, but mistake after mistake has left him teetering on ruin's edge. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns a great deal of land but possesses little money to manage the upkeep. He is desperate to find a new source of income, including the sacrifice of land connected to Rosemere.

When her brother returns with a new wife to take over management of the school, Patience is heartbroken to no longer be responsible for her beloved school and is forced to reassess God's purpose for her life. After her sister-in-law's matchmaking brings Patience and William together, they both learn new truths about their character and find a common goal in restoring Eastmore's legacy.

Read my review of the first book of the Whispers on the Moors series, The Heiress of Winterwood.
(A favorite of 2013!)

Sarah Ladd created an envious fan base with her debut novel last year making many of us jump at the chance to review The Headmistress of Rosemere and I was included in that jumping up and down. Her stories are witty but genuine, and include an underlying message of hope and redemption all set against the popular backdrop of a Regency England. This story features William Sterling, master of the large estate of Eastmore Hall where Patience Creighton teaches young ladies. Even though within close proximities for years, the two hardly ever meet till William is beset by scoundrels and seeks shelter in Patience's barn.

While there is a romantic interest between the two, it is set aside for more realistic pursuits such as attending to their daily routines and taking care of things around them. William is forced to make decisions that he may regret and the readers are holding their breath as another suitor comes calling for Patience. Supporting characters all form an integral part to the story, such as the suitor for Patience and her distracted family, and the girls she tutors.

Patience's sacrifices for the school have seemingly gone unnoticed as her brother appoints a new headmaster for her school, and her future becomes more and more unclear. William Sterling makes business decisions with ruffians which end up bringing danger to them all, giving the novel a mysterious flair. Ladd's storytelling skills shine once again, and her theme of forgiveness and hope is threaded throughout making for a fulfilling reading experience. I cannot wait to see what is next for this captivating Whispers on the Moors series! (These can be read as a stand alone, the characters from each are lightly intertwined).


Jan 3, 2014

Elusive Hope (Escape to Paradise #2) by Mary Lu Tyndall


Elusive Hope (Escape to Paradise #2) by Mary Lu Tyndall
Barbour Books, November 2013
Historical Inspirational Romance
Review copy provided by the author, thank you
Burton Book Review Rating:Four stars


In a colony named New Hope, while their friends are seeking a southern utopia...
Hayden is seeking revenge. Relentlessly.
After years of all but selling his soul to track down his scoundrel of a father, Hayden Gale discovers his search must continue in South America, where his father is reported to be helping colonize Brazil. Hayden has nothing more to lose, certainly not a good reputation, and vows to keep pursuing--at any cost--the vile man who he believes killed his mother.
Magnolia is seeking a way out. Desperately.
She's in the jungles of Brazil against her will, but what choice does Magnolia Scott have? Her father insisted on uprooting their family to escape the uncertainty of Southern life after the Civil War. But how will she survive without all she holds dear--wealthy suitors, beautiful clothes, summer balls, and slaves waiting on her every whim? She vows to find a way to get back home--and attaches herself to handsome Hayden Gale.
As they journey toward Rio de Janeiro, they each seek to use the other for their own purposes. Deceptively. Falling in love was never part of their plans.... 


The second installment to the Escape to Paradise trilogy focuses on Magnolia Scott and Hayden Gale who we met during Forsaken Dreams (my review can be found here). The first novel featured the background to the travelers on the journey to Brazil and should be read first. I was looking forward to continuing this story of a new colony of Southerners eager to make a fresh start close to a jungle far from home, and far from the damages of the Civil War.

While Forsaken Dreams focused on rebuilding a Southern Utopia, this novel seemed to focus more on the characters' interactions with each other with a major focus on the love blossoming between the opposites attract angle between Magnolia and Hayden. Deep down they weren't very opposite as they were both self serving and difficult to get along with, which made their relationship that much more fun to watch develop.

The intriguing twist to this romance was the ominous shadow that had that supernatural quivering tingle underneath the main plot line, and it wasn't until the end that we get to that climatic conclusion... but it wasn't a conclusion except more of a cliffhanger which will again entice MaryLu's readers to pick up her next novel. It was well-written with just the right dose of faith-based discovery, with characters that really help flesh out this intriguing setting. Definitely not to be read as a stand-alone though, as newcomers will lose the sense of the story if they start here.