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Jul 31, 2012

The Shadow Queen: A Novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Rebecca Dean

Tuesday, July 31, 2012
An intriguing look at an eccentric character of history
The Shadow Queen: A Novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Rebecca Dean
Crown Publishing; August 14, 2012
Review copy from publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Two lovers. Two very different lives. One future together that will change history.

When debutante Wallis Simpson is growing up, she devotes her teenage daydreams to one man, the future King of England, Prince Edward. But it's Pamela Holtby, Wallis's aristocratic best friend, who mixes within the palace circle. Wallis's first marriage to a dashing young naval pilot is not what she dreamt of; he turns out to be a dominating bully of a man, who punishes her relentlessly. But her fated marriage does open a suprising door, to the world of Navy couriers – where navy wives are being used to transport messages around the world. This interesting turn of fate takes Wallis from the exuberant social scene in Washington to a China that is just emerging from civil war. Edward in the meantime is busy fulfilling his royal duties – and some extra-curricular ones involving married women. Until the day, just before he ascends the throne as Edward VIII, he is introduced to a very special married woman, Wallis Simpson.

Was Wallis Simpson really the monster the royal family perported her to be? Or was she an extraordinary woman who led an unimaginable life? A dramatic novel, that crosses continents and provides a unique insight into one of history’s most charismatic and multi-faceted women.
After seeing the movie Wallis and Edward 2005 movie (Joely Richardson = uber-tastic!), I was intrigued by this woman and the romance that rocked the monarchy. How freaking awesome is it that you can snag a king, and have him love you SO much that he will walk away from the throne for you?? Henry VIII wishy-washiness this is not. This is True Love. Of course, Brits may not think it so romantic, but hey, I'm a Texan.

The novel brings us the dramatized story of Wallis Simpson before she was a Simpson. She was born Bessie Wallis Warfield and the novel opens up to her coming into this world. The author re-imagines Wallis' life and creates fictional characters as well as fictionalizing the historical characters of Wallis' life. We go through her childhood and her schooling days, learning of her family and her eccentric mom Alice. Uncle Sol holds the purse strings, and high society is a stone's throw away with the help of Uncle Sol. A major character and driving force of Wallis herself were the fictionalized characters of John Jasper and Pamela Denby. These were major players in the novel, and since they are fictional this should give you an idea of how much this novel relies on historical accuracy.

There are rumors surrounding Wallis and her sex life, and they are given an adequate representation here. As a fictional story I appreciated the author's representation of Wallis in her novel, but I will be looking for the facts elsewhere such as with The Windsor Story. There were several eye rolling moments with descriptions of Wallis, but not enough to make me not enjoy the story.

While hearing enough of the physical descriptions of Wallis, I loved the characterization of Wallis, as her enthusiasm and joie de vivre was evident and well portrayed. Just looking at an older photo of Wallis, we really can imagine the exuberance and vitality of a young lady, and the author captures the spirit of the photo shown through her telling of Wallis' early years. Soon enough, Wallis is married - but not to the royal guy we are eager for her to meet. She marries an aviator.. and that doesn't work out so well.. she goes to China.. she marries again.. and we reach the end of the story and finally the one dream that Wallis holds on to actually occurs.

Wallis constantly thinks of Prince Edward throughout the novel, and doesn't have many chances to meet him. She doesn't become the Duchess of Windsor in the novel, which is a source of disappointment since we were expecting the juicy tidbits of the love between the two. Instead, we are sort of left wanting more once the book ends. Turns out, there is a sequel in the works. Oh. I wish I knew that beforehand, because there is nothing that I hate more than reading 400+ pages and still not getting to finish the story. When that sequel comes out, I will read it so that I can finish Wallis' story which I thought I was getting in the first place.

For this novel as a whole, there was still a bit of a feeling of being on the outside looking in when important things were going on in the world such as the war, and the Great Depression never really seemed to happen at all in the novel. Apparently it didn't affect Wallis at all. The China event barely happened either, and it would have been nice to feel a little more attached to Wallis although I certainly was able to admire her tenacity and drive. Rebecca Dean has a writing style that captivates, while it embraces the era. The Shadow Queen title should not have been used in this telling as it sets you up for disappointment, but it is still an intriguing fictional perspective at the woman she was before she met a King.

The author has written 37 novels according to her website under pennames Margaret Pemberton and Maggie Hudson, and four under Rebecca Dean. Read my review of  Palace Circle here.

Jul 30, 2012

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Monday, July 30, 2012
What are you Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Since I am going to be having less Mailbox Monday posts, I wanted to start a different Monday meme.. This will be perfect =) This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. This is where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.

Today I am going to finish The Shadow Queen: A Novel of Wallis Simpson by Rebecca Dean.
This is an intriguing story, and if you saw the movie like I have (Wallis & Edward), this is still going to be new material for you. I am enjoying it very much, even though there is not a lot of royalty-related events yet. So far it is Wallis' life in a no-holds barred type of view, and it's not too bad.

Two lovers. Two very different lives. One future together that will change history.

When debutante Wallis Simpson is growing up, she devotes her teenage daydreams to one man, the future King of England, Prince Edward. But it's Pamela Holtby, Wallis's aristocratic best friend, who mixes within the palace circle. Wallis's first marriage to a dashing young naval pilot is not what she dreamt of; he turns out to be a dominating bully of a man, who punishes her relentlessly. But her fated marriage does open a suprising door, to the world of Navy couriers – where navy wives are being used to transport messages around the world. This interesting turn of fate takes Wallis from the exuberant social scene in Washington to a China that is just emerging from civil war. Edward in the meantime is busy fulfilling his royal duties – and some extra-curricular ones involving married women. Until the day, just before he ascends the throne as Edward VIII, he is introduced to a very special married woman, Wallis Simpson.

Was Wallis Simpson really the monster the royal family perported her to be? Or was she an extraordinary woman who led an unimaginable life? A dramatic novel, that crosses continents and provides a unique insight into one of history’s most charismatic and multi-faceted women.

Way back when, I had read the author's previous release, The Palace Circle, and now I am wondering if it deserves a re-read. Rebecca Dean has several writing names and has written around 37 novels according to her website. She has a great writing style and after this one I'll be looking for more of her work.

Up next, Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck. Cannot WAIT!!! Loved her last book, Receive Me Falling!

Don't forget to check out my swap list.. this will be an ongoing thing I'll have available.

Jul 29, 2012

Sunday Salon: Drowning in Books/Embracing the Blogosphere (Swap List!)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hello blogosphere! (It's been two years since I've done a Sunday Salon. There's a lot to catch up on!)

What a month it has been! SO many changes.. so many mini and mega dramas have been going on in the blogosphere that I have decided to step away quietly and make a firm decision to curtail the 'review' requests etc that have become a major part of my life. When I began the blog in late 2008 it was because I wanted to share my thoughts on my new love of British history related books. My father had just passed away suddenly and I needed a hobby fast to get my mind otherwise occupied.

I loved blogging.. and I met some fellow like-minded historical fiction fans and things were awesome for a while. Soon enough there was a Drama Mama everywhere I went and I stopped the social aspect but continued reviewing as my love for reading never stopped. Then the review schedule took my life OVER. EVERYTHING in my free time was (still is) balanced against the publication schedule of my review books. The review books have piled up. They have mocked me. They have given me nightmares (almost).

I mean, really, this is horrible. Seriously.

I have not even read Penman's latest. (*And I got the ARC way before pub date. And it sits.) WTF is wrong with me, right?

Turns out there is more to life than the Plantagenets and the Tudors, and I have been happily reviewing Christian historical fiction as well. So that means there are EVEN MORE books *I MUST* read. (Someone slap me!)

Which means once again, I overextend myself, and take on more than I can handle. This has been going on for the longest three years of my life. And as my 2012 Updated Review policy states, I am so sick of it. Of my schedule, the reviews, the pesky dramas, the misguided world..etc.

Longest story short (impossible).. it is with a clean conscience that I am stepping back from review requests and I cannot wait to get to my massive pile of accumulated books that the blogosphere has recommended to me over the last three years. I am back, and as a blogger. Out with the reviewer status, and happily embracing the blogger status. I am going to read and review still... but I am not going to be active out there feeling like some robotic tool for various publishers and authors. I am not going to be any one's free marketer any longer. And I am not going to be mean and snarky, I will just be honest, and if that's snarky, awesomeapplesauce cuz I don't care. There are still commitments that I have personally made to review certain books at certain times in the next few months. I will still honor those if I can, but I am gleefully ignoring all further requests till I get that stack done and over with and then will continue to ignore requests because I am going to be on Goodreads and Facebook and booktalking with bloggers instead of being a book marketer. So get used to me, cuz I'm joining in on your fun too! Read alongs! Yes!

Since it's the end of the month I figured I would share my reading stats. Maybe I'll do that every month like a Monthly wrap up post.

According to my fave bookish site, Goodreads:
I've read 48 Book this year so far, with a total 17,803 pages.
For 2011, my year's total was 52 books and 20,084 pages.. so I think I can manage to knock those numbers out of the park this year, eh?

Some great books I have read so far in 2012. The majority were 4 stars, with 14 being 3 stars and 9 being 5 stars. As you can tell, as long as it keeps me happy and reading, I give it a pretty good rating. It doesn't take much. I do wish Goodreads would implement the .5 star rating though, since I use those in my review ratings and would probably skew things a little more critically for me. But no biggie.
And now to the good stuff...

The other reason I am here.. is to swap with you!
Do you have four million ARC's that you don't know what to do with? I do! Ok, I am exaggerating, but I am seriously running out of room in my 3200 square foot house. Yea, it's freaking horrible. I even have books in the warehouse that I would like to unpack someday. That's where the title of this blog post comes in.. drowning in books. Out with the old, in with the new!

This week I saw at Katie's Christian Fiction blog that she hosts a monthly bookswap. Since I don't have a lot of that genre that I want to give up, I decided to post my own books that I am willing to trade for (after I happily snagged 4 books from the swap at Katie's). I do want more of that genre in my library, but I just didn't have enough to offer her readers to logically post my list on her site. So, I'll do it here.

Here is Katie's swap post at A Legacy of A Writer which I totally stole the idea from (with permission). If you like Christian Fiction, CHECK THIS POST OUT! 

What I have to trade (most of these you can find in my Master Review List unless it was a Historical Novel Society Review to be posted later):

Christian Non-fiction:
I Love You to God and Back by Amanda Lamb (used paperback)

Christian Fiction:
Bees in The Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang (used ARC)
Need You Now by Beth Wiseman (used PB) contemporary

In A Treacherous Court by Michele Diener (new pb)
At The Kings Pleasure by Kate Emerson (book #4, these are stand alone; this is a new pb copy)
The King's Damsel by Kate Emerson (book #5, signed, used ARC)
Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth (used ARC)
Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory (used ARC)

Other Royal-related:
Queen By Right by Anne Easter Smith (used ARC)
For the King by Catherine Delors (used ARC, one that came bound with that black tape)
Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner (used ARC)

Royal Non-fiction:
Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll (older ARC & has a little stain on cover even though I never read it)
Sister Queens by Julia Fox (good non fiction if you are interested in these two Queens; Used ARC)

Wickham's Diary by Amanda Grange (small book, an ARC)
Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell (used ARC)
A Darcy Christmas by Grange/Lathan/Eberhart (used ARC)

Historical Romance:
The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers (used ARC, this is 736 pages and a LOT of fun)

Historical Fiction:
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (used ARC)
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan (used ARC)
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran (used ARC)
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (used pb)
The Irish Healer by Nancy Herriman (used ARC)
A Parliament of Spies by Cassandra Clark (used ARC)
Come a Little Closer by Dorothy Garlock (used pb)
Madame Bovary's Daughter by Linda Urbach (used ARC, she wrote on it, put my name etc)

General Literature/Women's Fic:
This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia (used ARC)
Mothers & Daughters by Rae Meadows (used ARC)
The Darlings by Christina Alger (used ARC)
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (used pb)

Others: (no reviews, I haven't read and won't get to these this lifetime)
The Land of Painted Caves by Auel (ARC)
The First Assassin by John J Miller (ARC)
Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones (ARC)

If you are interested in any of these books and have something you would like to offer in trade, you can either email me, or comment on the post. I can reply via comments as well for initial questions or offers.

There are many different books I would be interested in, so I am not going to post a wish list & further expand this humongous blog post. To get an idea of things that are on my wish list, see my Goodreads wish-list shelf, My Very Old Amazon Wish List, or my paperbackswap wish list. Or, just show me what you've got! (*USA only, please).

Even if you do not see something here that you like, please feel free to also post a swap list of items you have (w/Email addy) so others can contact you, or link to a post of your own if you would like to do it that way. My thanks to Katie for letting me snag this swap idea.

If I happen to have Historical books left over I will be offering some as part of the Partial to the Past Blog Hop Giveaway that Holly is hosting at Bippity Boppity Book on August 24. See you there?

Jul 27, 2012

Central Park Rendezvous (Romancing America) by Kim Vogel Sawyer, Ronie Kendig, Dineen Miller, MaryLu Tyndall

Friday, July 27, 2012

Central Park Rendezvous
Fantastic Christian historical spanning generations

Central Park Rendezvous (Romancing America) by Kim Vogel Sawyer, Ronie Kendig, Dineen Miller, MaryLu Tyndall
Barbour Books, August 1, 2012
Historical Romance/Christian Fiction
Egalley via publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: five stars for this great surprise

Welcome to the Big Apple where four generations of heroes find a love that never ends. Home from Afghanistan, Sean Wolfe is avoiding his dreams. Will Jamie Russo and an old coin give him new hope? Once betrayed by love, Alan James is embittered. Will a sweet reunion in Central Park heal his broken heart? Helen Wolfe is struggling to provide for herself and her family. Is Bernie O’Day her answer to prayer? Damaged in body and soul by war, William Wolfe’s fiancée has rejected him. Will he ever risk his heart again? Will love persevere despite unimaginable odds?
Never in a million years did I think I was going to enjoy this book as much as I did. It has a strong Christian message throughout, one of the strongest I've read lately, and I loved it. There was a definite saga feel as we span generations throughout the novel, which switched authors seamlessly most of the time. This was fantastic for gauging the writing techniques of some of the popular Christian historical fiction authors that I have not read, and I enjoyed all of it.

The concurrent theme is the contemporary story of Jamie and Sean, who are opposites that attract. They meet when Jamie is delivering Wolfe family letters to Sean Wolfe, and as they explore the letters the reader is transported back in time to their ancestors. The transition was effortless, and as we continued to come back to the present I didn't have that normal itch to hurry up through the contemporary storyline. The present narrative had its own impact on me, and throughout the novel there were many instances of faith, love, and loyalty that got the Wolfe family through the wars that America participated in.

Sean's father committed suicide when he was a young boy, which left his family in shambles. The letters from Sean's grandfather helped paint a different picture of Sean's dad, helping Sean heal from the issues that he endured because of the loss. These themes of loss and survival are also part of all the stories that we read about, as with war there always comes loss and the questions of faith caused by intense suffering.

I really appreciated how the different authors all presented a different story with different characters yet still it all flowed effortlessly from one to the next. From the Civil War, World War II and Vietnam War, Sean discovers the struggles of his ancestors which are similar to his own experiences and the effects of the Afghanistan War.
Bow Bridge

Where there was romance, there were meetings at Bow Bridge in Central Park, New York. If I were still a New Yorker (which I was for twenty years), the bridge would be on my to-visit list solely because of this book. I loved how the one location was a meeting point for the lovebirds, and it all came together beautifully in the end even with the contemporary couple of Jamie and Sean.

I would recommend this story to anyone interested in some good old fashioned romance! I especially loved the many positive traits of the main characters along with the powerful Christian theme. In one of my favorite stories presented here (To Sing Another Day by Kim Vogel Sawyer) I was reminded of the nuance of Louisa May Alcott and of a Christmas that was about the spirit of the season as opposed to the material aspects of physical gifts; gifts of love and charity are what is important at that time of year. This novel would be a perfect Christmas gift as well as a great book for those needing a little reminder that you need to look at the glass half full. Even though the story unabashedly features faith and God, it does not preach or overdo it which is a feat considering how much the storylines embraced it.  Definitely going on my favorites of 2012 list.

Jul 24, 2012

A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A haunted house, memories of loved ones, and how War tears apart families

A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner
WaterBrook Multnomah October 2011
Contemporary/Historical/Christian/Romance (a light blend of all)
Paperback 336 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: Three Stars

A house shrouded in time.
A line of women with a heritage of loss.

As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past. When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there. With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love. 
It took me quite a while to get into this book as it begins with contemporary characters Marielle and Carson as they move into Holly Oak, an old house that has withstood the test of time and war. The novel focuses on the house and its inhabitants, with the house of Holly Oak being a central theme that is strong enough to be a character in itself. As we slowly unwind the past via the contemporary newlyweds Marielle and Carson, we meet a few of the past inhabitants of Holly Oak. Many of the characters of the book were long gone by the time Marielle arrives at Holly Oak, but in order for Marielle and Carson to move onwards in life they have to untie the threads of the past that are holding them to Holly Oak .. and to Adelaide.

It is the story of the events of the Civil War that had intrigued me about this novel, and I was not disappointed with the story the novel finally creates surrounding this important period in American history. However, it took a very long time to come to that point in the past which was my main interest in the novel, and is why it only earned three stars in my book. It took me twelve days to read, when I would normally finish a book of this size within four days.

I prefer historical fiction because I like to immerse myself in another time, when I can learn about a different era and have instant empathy for characters who have to work hard for their daily bread. None of this should have any bearing on the current read.. but since it took so long for me to become invested in this novel, I felt an explanation was in order. I have found that I have an unconscious distaste for contemporary themes, no matter how hard I try to like the book, most often the main characters are shallow and wishy-washy and spoiled in the books I come across. I didn't like Marielle or Carson in this story, though I did like Adelaide when she was not acting superstitious even though she said she wasn't.

Holly Oak is hundreds of years old, and with a history that creates superstitions and possible ghosts as horrors of the Civil War were witnessed by the house. As Marielle moves into Holly Oak, its elderly matriarch is clinging to the past but stubbornly does not let its secrets unveil themselves to the reader. It turns out Adelaide's great grandmother was known as a Union Spy during the fight of the Confederacy in Virginia, and this ghost of Susannah has all of Fredericksburg talking about it to this day. It is Adelaide's estranged daughter who holds all the clues, but she has been MIA for many years, but when she does appear the novel is given new life.

In the end, we realize along with Adelaide the truth of the house, and the truth of her ancestors and their involvement with the Civil War. But, it is only through letters of Susannah herself (my favorite part of the novel, surprisingly) that the whole truth reveals itself, and that Holly Oak can figuratively rest in peace.

The epic conclusion was just what the book needed to make it worthwhile; the emotions of the characters as they discover the past were well portrayed, and everything came together in a very satisfying way. Although I wish the quickened pace had started a bit earlier, the novel as a whole was very enjoyable with writing that flowed easily with intriguingly flawed characters and I recommend it to those interested in how Southern life was affected by the Civil War. This intriguing story is a mix of light romance, an almost non-existent Christian nuance, and a good mix of contemporary and historical Virginians.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this honest review.

Jul 20, 2012

The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Queen's Vow
Queen Isabella portrayed as a woman, as opposed to inquisitor
The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner
Ballantine June 2012
Hardcover 382 pages
Review copy from the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: Three stars

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

Gortner enjoys writing of female monarchs who may have been vilified or misunderstood, and his newest novel is no different. Queen Isabella is most remembered for her role in the Spanish Inquisition and for funding Cristobal Colon's voyage. Was she a money hungry, blood thirsty monarch, with ethnic cleansing views similar to Hitler? That would be open to interpretation, and Gortner uses his research to try and portray Isabella in a more positive light. The story takes us through four parts, which were all discussed during the HF-Connection Read-along so I feel like I may be repeating myself here.

Using a first person perspective the author attempts to humanize Isabella as she deals with both political and marital conflict. I felt that with the many names coming and going, Carillo, Villena, Chacon, it may have been easier to get a full-figured view of the time period if we were able to see it through someone else's eyes and feel more of a sense of the political upheaval as well. Instead, using first person view of Isabella we are limited to her actions, thoughts and fears, which sometimes made me feel like I was trying peer through the haze to gather what was really happening elsewhere in the opposing factions/realms.

However, the author was not writing a historical novel regarding the period of Isabella, he was writing a novel on the character of Isabella. He does a great job of offering a glimpse of what could have been going through her head at various times, and we witness Isabella's transformation from young adult to wife and ruler. My favorite parts were the beginning, where Isabella is developing her relationships with her brother Alfonso, and half-brother Enrique. Those relationships helped humanize Isabella in my eyes, as I could see Isabella loved Alfonso very much and was willing to wait for Enrique's reign to be over before she reached for the throne of Castile. Another relationship (but ended up being a bit anti-climactic) was the fate of Juana la Beltraneja, the issue of Enrique's wife who was considered illegitimate. The political turmoil between the family and their advisers was well portrayed and I was eager to read how it would play out.

An underlying theme is Fernando and Isabella's marriage, going through the motions of the begetting of heirs for their realm in hopes of solidifying future political alliances. The other theme is the aspect of religion and how Isabella's beliefs helped shape her life and therefore how she governed. However, Gortner shows that Isabella did not make the important decisions on her own, as she had several people close to her that she listened to. He attempts to show Isabella as very reluctant to be the Inquisitor, and suggests that perhaps it is Fernando who had more religious zeal. The aspect of religion and the ultimate belief that all things are done for God and in His name is another important topic to consider when learning of Isabella's actions. The horrors inflicted on her people can be seen as a casualty of war, as she was on a mission to save her soul as well as her people. And to be fair, Isabella was one woman, and a product of her times. Her decisions were not her own.

This is a satisfying read for those who are interested in seeing a characterization of Isabella that possibly offers clues to why she made the epic decisions that she did, especially in regards to the persecution of her people. I am a reader who has to like a main character in order to fully enjoy a book, and I am predisposed to disliking Isabella. I wanted to be able to love this passionate Isabella, but I still wasn't able to in the end. There were many battles and struggles going on around Isabella which became a major thrust of the novel, and this helps portray the image of Isabella as a Warrior Queen, even though it was Fernando who was doing most of the battle organizing. The politics of the era are another major theme to the novel, and I found the Spanish maneuverings and battles for control of cities slightly confusing as there was a lot of this carried out throughout the novel.

Isabella exhibited tenacity, passion for her causes, and love for her family and Gortner does a thorough job of portraying these characteristics throughout the novel. My favorite scenes were those that focused around her children, and how she interacted with her children. I wish there were more towards the end of the book that focused on the marriage, but that too was overshadowed with the political upheaval and the conquests. I also loved Isabella's maid, Beatriz, who came in and out of the story.

One of the children that Tudor fans should recognize would be her daughter Catalina/Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII of England. Another daughter is Juana de Loca/Juana the Mad, who was a subject of Gortner's novel The Last Queen, which I enjoyed and recommend. I recently conducted an interview with the author regarding his research on Isabella and writing this book, which can be found here.

Along the same theme, I have to recommend Mitchell James Kaplan's novel By Fire, By Water, which was a  favorite of mine. It features Luis de Santangel, a character who was also mentioned in The Queen's Vow as he becomes entrenched on both sides of the Spanish Inquisition. For those who have read The Queen's Vow and would like to comment on many of the topics related to the book, feel free to comment on any of the discussion posts of the read along.

Jul 19, 2012

The King's Damsel (Secrets of the Tudor Court #5) by Kate Emerson

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The King's Damsel
Another fabulous Tudor novel to stay up late with!

The King's Damsel (Secrets of the Tudor Court #5) by Kate Emerson
Simon and Schuster, August 2012
Paperback 384 pages
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 Tudor Stars
In 1533 and again in 1534, Henry the Eighth reportedly kept a mistress while he was married to Anne Boleyn. Now, that mistress comes to vivid life in Kate Emerson's The King's Damsel.
A real-life letter from Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, written on September 27, 1534, reported that the king had "renewed and increased the love he formerly bore to another very handsome young lady of the Court" and that the queen had tried "to dismiss the damsel from her service." Other letters from Eustace reveal that the mystery woman was a "true friend" of the Princess (later Queen) Mary, Henry's daughter by Catherine of Aragon. Though no one knows who "the king's damsel" really was, here Kate Emerson presents her as young gentlewoman Thomasine Lodge, a lady-in-waiting to King Henry's daughter, Princess Mary. Thomasine becomes the Princess's confidante, especially as Henry's marriage to Catherine dissolves and tensions run high. When the king procures a divorce in order to marry Anne Boleyn, who is suspicious and distrustful of Mary, Mary has Thomasine placed in Anne's service to be her eyes and ears. And that's when she gets the attention of the king...

Rich in historical detail and featuring a wealth of bonus material, The King's Damsel is sure to keep readers coming back for more in the exciting series!
Read my reviews of the previous books in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series:
The Pleasure Palace (Book 1)
Between Two Queens (Book 2)
By Royal Decree (Book 3)
At The King's Pleasure (Book 4)

I love love love love love Kate Emerson! That's five loves for each of her books in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series that I've read. This fifth one is much like the others with lesser known Tudor characters, and these are all stand alone novels which makes it easy to pick this one up if you haven't read the others.

The King's Damsel alludes to the possible dalliance between King Henry and another mistress, but do not get discouraged if you think you've heard this story before. Since this time our main protagonist is the entirely fictional Thomasine Lodge the author is able to spin a new story for us that is set against the backdrop of the always scandalized Tudor courts. Thomasine is sent to King Henry's daughter's household, to be a maid of honor to the Princess Mary. We get to learn a lot of the details and the important figures of the period and the setting of Princess Mary's household which has not really been delved into before. Princess Mary is aged nine when Thomasine enters her household, and Anne Boleyn is just becoming the apple of King Henry's eye. Where we would normally think of the moniker Bloody Mary, we instead are privy to the younger mind of the Princess, and can feel sympathy for her as her world is torn apart when King Henry divorces her mother and chooses Anne Boleyn.

With all this going on, we also are treated to Thomasine's story. She is an orphan and not at an age where she can legally inherit what will be hers, and Lionel Daggett is appointed her guardian over her vast estate. He is an ominous character who only seeks wealth and status, and he is in complete control of Thomasine's inheritance. We eagerly await the time when Thomasine can kick out the odious man, but that proves difficult. Thomasine is an enjoyable character who was easily likable, and the characterizations of the main Tudor historical figures are portrayed well. Anne Boleyn was haughty, Princess Mary was naive but shrewd, King Henry was pretty much his usual mix of an enigma of King and Man, and Catherine of Aragon was an afterthought. The entourage of the maids of honor and the servants provided a believable network creating the Tudor environment that the reader can sink their teeth into. The side note of the almost-romance provides a bit of a fun dalliance, but is never taken seriously throughout the novel, and provides an all too tidy ending.

I noticed this time around with the supporting Tudor figures, the titles and names were not overly explained, so that newcomers to the Tudor era may find themselves a little confused as to who was who (not knowing their historical significance). Obviously not a problem for me since I've read quite a few Tudor books, but I wanted to give fair warning for possible confusion. Also, as expected in some Tudor novels, there were quite a few convenient moments where Thomasine was able to eavesdrop on private conversations, but since she was spying for both Anne and Princess Mary this was shrugged off. I am happy to say there were no spying through the actual keyhole moments, but there were cleverly placed window alcoves and curtains.

There are times when I hear of yet another Tudor novel coming out and I want to scream, but I always look forward to Kate Emerson's work. With Kate Emerson's writing, you know what you are going to get. Her Secrets of the Tudor Court series are always cleverly descriptive and her passion for the Tudor era is evident. She skillfully weaves her stories blending fiction and fact to bring us the intriguing slice of life scenes set against a favorite period, and the novels are always page-turners. The King's Damsel is no different, and I highly recommend it to historical fiction fans and especially Tudor fiction fans.

Book six, Royal Inheritance, will be out in 2013:
The protagonist of Royal Inheritance is Audrey Malte, allegedly the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII. Audrey was raised as the "bastard daughter" of John Malte, the king's tailor.

Jul 17, 2012

The Wild Princess by Mary Hart Perry

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Romance and suspense in Queen Victoria's court
The Wild Princess by Mary Hart Perry
William Morrow and Company July 31, 2012
Paperback 384 pages
Egalley provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

The marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert produced nine children—five of them princesses, all trained for the role of marriage to future monarchs. However, the fourth princess, Louise—later the duchess of Argyll—became known by the court as “the wild one.” She fought the constraints placed on her brothers and sisters. She broke with tradition by marrying outside of the elite circle of European royals at a time when no child of the English throne had wed a commoner in 300 years. Some said she married for love. Others whispered of scandal covered up by the Crown.

In fact, many years after Louise’s death, a civil lawsuit claimed that the teenage princess secretly gave birth to a baby boy out of wedlock. One Henry Locock sought to prove through DNA evidence that his grandfather was Louise’s child, delivered by Queen Victoria’s gynecologist then secretly adopted by the doctor’s young son and his wife, thereby avoiding scandal and preserving the line of succession to the throne. But the mysteries and drama involving Louise’s life don’t stop there...This is her story.

The fourth princess borne of Queen Victoria is Louise and is dubbed the wild one in her family because of her precocious ways. Apparently her free spirit is abhorred by her very own mother, and she is held at arms' length. The author depicts a relationship between mother and daughter that no one would enjoy, and we have to feel sorry for Princess Louise. There seems to be only tolerance between the family members. So, Louise finds love elsewhere.

Of course, Louise's gout-ridden mother doesn't like her choice, and a mystery follows of what happens to Louise's lover, so Louise hires her mom's Secret Service guy Stephen Byrne to investigate, and of course Louise falls in love with him, too. Stephen Byrne, also known as The Raven, is also tasked to uncover the Irish plot to wreak havoc on the monarchy, which adds a touch of thrill to this romance.

Add to this little love triangle a husband for Princess Louise. And he is a gorgeous specimen of a man that Louise is excited to marry, until it comes time to consummate their marriage. At that point, all bets are off.

Although there are some historical nuances of the era, the main theme would be romance first, mystery/suspense next and historical last. It was a quick read, and interesting to contemplate the complete What-if-Louise-did-this.. but in doing so, it was a bit too much of an alternate history for this history lover. However, there were some intriguing details of the era, from the horse drawn carriages to the gowns, and the art school that Louise attended in the city.

For those wanting to learn more about Queen Victoria or her family, this is an interesting take on the possible family dynamic, but I would definitely refer to the authors bibliography for more detailed reads on the subject. But for a light-weight romantic read this is perfect for the summer, and it is a great look at the character behind Louise herself. The author is working on book two which focuses on younger princess Beatrice who doesn't want to be a virgin forever, so I think this will be a sort of romance series for her. She definitely has some fabulous writing skill, even though I didn't love the creative take on the novel, it really read well.

Read an excerpt from The Wild Princess on Mary Hart Perry's website

Jul 16, 2012

Mailbox Monday

Monday, July 16, 2012
Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now on tour, and for July, your host is Mrs. Q Book Addict

Hello again! I missed posting last week, summer isn't really slowing the craziness in my life..I had another darn birthday and played with my presents all week.
But I didn't want to miss sharing some of the books coming my way..
For the near future, however, I expect there may be some more skipped Mailbox Mondays since I must.stop.accepting.books. or I will burn my library down.

This first book is special, because I need to see what I can do to help a friend who had a bad experience with Christianity. I am hoping I will be able to learn something from this one that will help me help my friend.

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett
Help for those who have been harmed by Christians–and those who have inflicted the wounds. Throughout history, Christians have done considerable damage to others–both independently and in the name of Christ. Each time this occurs, one of God’s precious creations is wounded and the church’s witness to the world is grievously weakened.

For years, unbelievers and Christians have rejected the church because of damaging encounters with a Christian, a Christian leader, or a group of Christians. No matter how much we wish to reverse the damage, however, we cannot reach the unchurched with the life-changing message of the gospel–nor can we protect those still within the body–unless we insist upon dramatic changes within our church communities.

Targeting every person who has ever been hurt by a Christian–as well as those believers responsible for inflicting such damaging wounds–author Dave Burchett calls for a new way of relating that will bring healing to the church and transform our witness to the world

I bought this one because I loved the first two books of the Two Crosses trilogy, this one is a stand-alone (I have the third of the trilogy to also read soon):
by Elizabeth Musser
Looking forward to this!
The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser
The Singleton family's fortunes seem unaffected by the Great Depression, and Perri--along with the other girls at Atlanta's elite Washington Seminary--lives a carefree life of tea dances with college boys, matinees at the cinema, and debut parties. But when tragedies strike, Perri is confronted with a world far different from the one she has always known.
At the insistence of her parents, Mary "Dobbs" Dillard, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, is sent from inner-city Chicago to live with her aunt and attend Washington Seminary, bringing confrontation and radical ideas. Her arrival intersects at the point of Perri's ultimate crisis, and the tragedy forges an unlikely friendship.
"The Sweetest Thing" tells the story of two remarkable young women--opposites in every way--fighting for the same goal: surviving tumultuous change.

And then to complete my Tamera Alexander collection, I bought:
by Tamera Alexander

Revealed by Tamera Alexander (Fountain Creek Chronicles #2)
Words, once spoken, can mend a broken life…or cripple it. But words left unspoken can haunt the soul, inflicting a far deeper wound.

Annabelle Grayson has been given a second chance at life, but she can't claim it with the cloud of her past hanging over her in Willow Springs. After her husband dies, she advertises for a trail guide to accompany her to land waiting for her in Idaho—and a most unlikely candidate applies for the job.

Matthew Taylor is a man on the run, with consequences of past mistakes pursuing him at every turn. Meeting Annabelle Grayson the first time was unpleasant enough, but when she crosses his path again, her presence in his life—and what she reveals—is devastating. If given a single wish, Matthew would turn back time and right a grievous wrong. If given a second wish, he would make Annabelle Grayson pay.

From a Goodreads Giveaway:
Bernie McGill

 The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill
McGill delivers a haunting, unforgettable story--based on real events in late 19th-century Ireland--of two women linked by a tragic, 70-year secret.

And from a twitter giveaway! YES!
(I really need to get book one now, I wanted it last year, but my request was politely ignored)
Ted Dekker
Mortal by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (The Books of Mortals #2)
Centuries have passed since civilization's brush with apocalypse. The world's greatest threats have all been silenced. There is no anger, no hatred, no war. There is only perfect peace...and fear. A terrible secret was closely guarded for centuries: every single soul walking the earth, though in appearance totally normal, is actually dead, long ago genetically stripped of true humanity.

Nine years have gone by since an unlikely hero named Rom Sebastian first discovered a secret and consumed an ancient potion of blood to bring himself back to life in Forbidden. Surviving against impossible odds, Rom has gathered a secret faction of followers who have also taken the blood-the first Mortals in a world that is dead.

But The Order has raised an elite army to hunt and crush the living. Division and betrayal threaten to destroy the Mortals from within. The final surviving hope for humanity teeters on the brink of annihilation and no one knows the path to survival.

On the heels of Forbidden comes MORTAL, the second novel in The Books of Mortals saga penned by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee. Set in a terrifying, medieval future, where grim pageantry masks death, this tale of dark desires and staggering stakes peels back the layers of the heart for all who dare take the journey.

The Books of Mortals are three novels, each of which stands on its own, yet all are seamlessly woven into one epic thriller.

And then.. just to make sure I had WAY too many books toppling over..
by Gilbert Morris
This is the House of Winslow series, books 1 (on bottom) through 14 (on top) that I won on eBay, by Gilbert Morris. The books will stay on the desk in the library, with the rabbits, since I have nowhere else to put them. My shelves runneth over.

The House of Winslow series started in 1987, and goes (so far?!) to book 40 printed in 2007. The series is inspirational Christian historical fiction, with romantic themes, following the Winslow family in Colonial North America, beginning with the Mayflower, pilgrim settlements, pre-Revolutionary times, and onwards towards the Westward expansion, through the Civil War, you get the picture.

I also received a few more for review, but since they are a thorn in my side... I am not dignifying their presence with a spotlight. I have not organized my summer reading as I had hoped, and I am fully booked (pun intended) with review books past September. Yep. And that's praying I read like two a week. Not likely.

Bah humbug.

Jul 12, 2012

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novel by Michael Boccacino

Thursday, July 12, 2012
Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novel by Michael Boccacino
Facebook Fan Page: Michael Boccacino
Author Twitter campaign: @mboccacino
William Morrow Paperbacks, July 24, 2012
320 pages
Review EGalley downloaded via the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 stars

Neil Gaiman meets Tim Burton in this debut-a Victorian gothic tale of the world beyond the living and the price you pay to save those you love.We bid you welcome to the House of Darkling…
When Nanny Prum, the nanny to the young Darrow boys, is found mysteriously murdered in the forest, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to care for the children. During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, the place for the things that cannot die, where Lily Darrow, the late mistress of Everton, has been waiting. She invites them into the ominous House of Darkling, a wondrous, dangerous place filled with enchantment, mystery and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.

Through repeated visits with Lily, Charlotte and the boys discover the wonders of the House of Darkling, careful to keep the place and their mother's existence a secret from their father, Henry Darrow, lest the spell linking the two worlds together be broken. But when the boys and their mother become trapped in the enchanted house, Charlotte has no choice but to confide everything to Henry, to whom she finds herself increasingly drawn. Together they search to find a way to travel back into The Ending, but when they learn the price demanded by the creatures who inhabit the netherworld, Charlotte and Henry must decide if the sacrifice is worth the danger.

Not since Coraline unlocked a door and discovered a distorted world through a mirror has the simple act of walking through a dense fog revealed such a fantastic journey that is so splendidly strange, frightening, and exhilarating.

At first glance I thought this would be a quaint British-nanny-murder-mystery with a gothic flair.. but after a bit more reading I realized I was in for the full Tim Burton effect. Which means this is fantasy-fairytale with not so quaint images. Even a bit of Stephen King peeks out of these pages. This is an imaginative and creative story that follows the replacement nanny, Lily, into another world beyond an orchard, where her charges find their dead mother and explore the possibilities of rescuing her.

Lily knows what it is like to lose loved ones, so she allows the boys to visit their mother, but of course everything has a price (I would assume) when you are dealing with the dead/underworld/evil creatures. Along the sidelines of the plot is the possibility of a romance between Lily and the boys' father, as is expected.. and eventually that works itself out, too. The father Henry was off to the side throughout the story, so the romance aspect which could have exuded Jane Eyre was a mere nuance throughout most of the novel.

I am very glad this was a short novel, since I had reached just about my fill of odd otherworldly creatures, and I am not too sure I enjoyed the ending. When the author says "Think of it as 2 cups Jane Eyre, 6 oz of Lovecraft, and a tbsp of Tim Burton", I would reverse the Tim Burton and the Jane Eyre quantities. (No idea what Lovecraft is).

Obviously, this is not my normal type of read, so for those readers who do enjoy the fantasy/fairy/horror realm, this just might be their cuppa tea. The writing flowed nicely (I did read this in a day) but this is not for those with weak stomachs. Or for those who have may have recently lost a loved one. Or for those who do not like disturbing images frolicking throughout their mind. I would also say this should appeal to the paranormal and young adult audience as well.

Jul 9, 2012

Hope Springs by Kim Cash Tate

Monday, July 09, 2012

Where family bonds are truth and faith is strong..

Hope Springs by Kim Cash Tate
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 06/12/2012
Paperback 336 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher for free via LitFuse Publicity
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

In a small community where everyone is holding tight to something, the biggest challenge may be learning to let go.

Hope Springs, North Carolina, is the epitome of small town life-a place filled with quiet streets, a place where there's not a lot of change. Until three women suddenly find themselves planted there for a season.

Janelle hasn't gone back to Hope Springs for family reunions since losing her husband. But when she arrives for Christmas and learns that her grandmother is gravely ill, she decides to extend the stay. It isn't long before she runs into her first love, and feelings that have been dormant for more than a decade are reawakened.

Becca is finally on the trajectory she's longed for. Having been in the ministry trenches for years, she's been recruited as the newest speaker of a large Christian women's conference. But her husband feels called to become the pastor of his late father's church in Hope Springs.

And Stephanie has the ideal life-married to a doctor in St. Louis with absolutely nothing she has to do. When her cousin Janelle volunteers to stay in Hope Springs and care for their grandmother, she feels strangely compelled to do the same. It's a decision that will forever change her.

As these women come together, they soon recognize that healing is needed in their hearts, their families, and their churches. God's plan for them in Hope Springs-is bigger than they ever imagined.

Hope Springs is a contemporary story of family and the bonds that are created. There are several female characters here, and most of them were of African American descent which was an interesting change for me. I don't remember ever specifically reading a contemporary novel which featured ethnicity as it is presented here. I really enjoyed the story of how these women intereacted and especially the enviable bond of this great big extended family. The women - mostly cousins - reunite in Hope Springs to help take care of the aging family matriarch, Grandma Geri. Old loves are explored, and the characters each have their own flaws along with their developing journeys of faith which are skillfully expressed throughout the novel.

One of the aspects of the novel is the community and the two dominant churches in Hope Springs. There are two different beloved pastors for each church, and one is black and the other white. The two pastors are good friends, and they make strides within the community to bring the town together and to not focus on the color of skin of their neighbors.

With several different storylines which follow along the many different characters, there seems to be a lot going on. Yet the author seamlessly blends two cultures, as well as the themes of romance and faith which brings us an invigorating story that grabs hold and doesn't let go. Those who can't get enough of this tremendous family have the opportunity to revisit some of the characters with Kim Cash Tate's novel Faithful. The way this story ended, it seems there could be a lot more written and I wouldn't mind reading a new installment.

The blog tour is at the end of the road, but you may visit the other reviews:
Thank you to Litfuse for providing me with a free copy to participate in the blog tour. This did not affect my opinions of the book stated here.

Jul 6, 2012

Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall

Friday, July 06, 2012

Veil of Pearls
Worlds collide..will love survive prejudice and social custom?
Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall
Barbour Publishing July 1, 2012
Historical Romance
Paperback 320 pages
Review eBook via NetGalley
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars, LOVED this story!

Be swept away to Charleston of 1811, a city bustling with immigrants like Adalia, who is a runaway slave so light-skinned that no one guesses her past. Terrified her secret will be discovered, she settles into a quiet life making herbal remedies for a local doctor. But when Morgan, the handsome son of a prominent family, sweeps her into his glamorous world—a world in which the truth about Adalia’s heritage would ruin them both—suspicions and petty jealousies are aroused. What will Morgan do when he discovers that the woman he has fallen in love with is a runaway slave?

Veil of Pearls has a magnificent storyline with a bit of a Cinderella theme but is certainly more realistically told. It also tackles the plight of the slaves as our main protagonist is a runaway slave trying to hide her true identity in efforts to escape an abusive owner and begin a new life for herself. Adalia doesn't fit in right away in her new town of Charleston because high society has taken notice of her.. Morgan Rutledge in particular. He senses a kindred spirit and is immediately entranced by Adalia, much to the chagrin of his admirers. Adalia's fair skin gives no hint that she was once a slave, and the attitude of the day was that slaves were property and nothing more. It is because of the scorn of society that Adalia seeks to hide the very personal reasons behind her stand against slavery, but secrets have a way of coming out at the worst times.

Adalia knows in her heart that any courtship would lead to heartbreak or ridicule, and she spurns the wealthy Morgan Rutledge's many chivalrous advances. With each denial, Morgan becomes more and more determined. Meanwhile, the good Dr. Willaby whom Adalia is assisting tells Adalia to stay away from those Rutledges. True love, however, cannot be thwarted, and the two become closer despite the demands of high society.

Vicious slave owners, jealous women, sweet slave girls and jovial ship owners are all just a sampling of the mix of characters portrayed in Veil of Pearls. From romance at a ball to heroes of the sea, this is a story that begs the question if we should be shameful of our heritage or embrace it as a gift from God? All together it gives us an important story with purpose, as it teaches that God has a plan. I loved this story of opposite worlds colliding, and it was the first novel from the author that I had read. Based on the writing skill demonstrated here, it won't be my last. Highly recommended!

Jul 4, 2012

Where Wildflowers Bloom by Ann Shorey

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A stubborn character, will she ever see the light?
Where Wildflowers Bloom by Ann Shorey
Revell, January 1, 2012
 336 pages paperback 
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine, May 2012
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 Stars

The War Between the States stole a father and brother from Faith Lindberg-- as well as Royal Baxter, the man she wanted to marry. With only her grandfather left, she dreams of leaving Noble Springs, Missouri, and traveling west to Oregon to start a new life, away from the memories that haunt her. But first she must convince her grandfather to sell the family's mercantile and leave a town their family has called home for generations.

When Royal Baxter suddenly returns to town, Faith allows herself to hope that her dreams might come true. Does he truly love her? Or could another man claim her heart? Will she find that following her dreams may not mean leaving home after all?

The characters in Where Wildflowers Bloom jump off the page and into the reader's heart. Author Ann Shorey infuses her characters with the virtues and quirks that bring them fully alive as they search for contentment and love.

Faith has little faith in herself, and her aging grandfather. They are both struggling to overcome the losses of the War Between the States, and Faith dreams of the wildflowers of Oregon. Even though Grandpa has the same painful memories of family long gone, he wants to stay in Missouri and have Faith run his mercantile store even though a woman running a business is frowned upon.

The story unfolds as Faith tries to force her wayward dream into reality, but we hope that love blooms between Curt and Faith which would hold Faith in Missouri where she belongs. However, Royal Baxter, a childhood fancy of Faith’s, returns from the war and offers Faith her childish dreams. The author meanders through this love triangle with some mystery and plenty of historical ambiances, along with Faith’s eye rolling moments. Where Faith’s character is stubborn, willful and determined, she is foolish in many of her decisions. Faith’s friend Rosemary is the wise and rational counterpart to Faith, and is shunned for being a nurse during the war. Reading of these two ladies and their struggles was engaging, and I do hope to see these characters in the next installment of the Sisters At Heart series, even if it's just to see if Faith had matured some!

Edit to add that I just learned the next novel in the series, tentatively titled When the Heart Heals, features Faith's friend Rosemary Saxon. Ann Shorey's fiction debut was in 2009 with The Edge of Light, Book One in the At Home in Beldon Grove series.

Jul 3, 2012

Reminder: The Queen's Vow Read Along at

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Queen's Vow Read Along

Just a quick note to let everyone know I'll be participating in a Read Along of the newest release of C.W. Gortner's, The Queen's Vow which is being hosted at

Arleigh and I were contemplating when we were going to read it, and the read along was born! The discussion posts will be separated into the actual parts for the novel (happiness that Gortner created parts in the novel so we could easily find breaks!).

The reading is scheduled to begin on Saturday, and the very first discussion post is on Tuesday the 10th.

Click here to view the schedule and to learn about a special giveaway that Arleigh is sponsoring, available to a lucky read along participant!

There's still time to buy the book and join us, especially if you have a Kindle! Hope to see you there!

Jul 1, 2012

Mailbox Monday

Sunday, July 01, 2012
Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now on tour, and for July, your host is Mrs. Q Book Addict

courtesy Ganshert Adoption
HF Bundle!

I bid on and won this bundle (in efforts to support author Katie Ganshert, and her quest to adopt a child from the Congo):


In a time before history, in a harsh and beautiful land near the top of the world, womanhood comes cruelly and suddenly to beautiful, young Chagak. Surviving the brutal massacre of her tribe, she sets out across the icy waters off Ameria's northwest coast on an astonishing odyssey that will reveal to Chagak powerful secrets of the earth and sky... and the mysteries of love and loss.

The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund
In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher--whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John's protests of her aid. She's even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.
Yet Elizabeth's new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John's boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher's enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she's more determined than ever to save the child--and man--she's come to love.

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund
Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.
Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

Fairer than Morning (Saddler's Legacy #1) by Rosslyn Elliott

Ann dreams of a marriage proposal from her poetic suitor, Eli-until Will Hanby shows her that nobility is more than fine words.
On a small farm in 19th-century Ohio, young Ann Miller is pursued by the gallant Eli Bowen, son of a prominent family. Eli is the suitor of Ann's dreams. Like her, he enjoys poetry and beautiful things and soon, he will move to the city to become a doctor.
Ann travels to Pittsburgh, accompanying her father on business. There she meets Will Hanby, a saddle-maker's apprentice. Will has spent years eking out an existence under a cruel master and his spirit is nearly broken. But Ann's compassion lights a long-dark part of his soul. Through his encounters with Ann's father, a master saddler, Will discovers new hope and courage in the midst of tremendous adversity.
When the Millers must return to Ohio and their ministry there, Will resolves to find them, at any cost. If Will can make it back to Ann, will she be waiting?
Sweeter than Birdsong by Rosslyn Elliott
"Music offers Kate sweet refuge from her troubles...but real freedom is sweeter."
In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, " "Kate Winter's dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she'll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance--and use it to mask her flight.
Ben Hanby, Otterbein College's musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing-and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.
A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage-and her voice-if she is to sing a new song for their future.
"Sweeter than Birdsong" is a stirring novel of hope and faith inspired by real historical people and events.

Maggie's Journey by Lena Nelson Dooley
A girl who’s been lied to her whole life…Near her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Lenora Caine finds a chest hidden in the attic containing proof that she was adopted. The daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed both by her real parents and by the ones who raised her.
Maggie desires a place where she belongs. But her mother’s constant criticism and reminders that she doesn’t fit the mold of a young woman of their social standing have already created tension in their home. With the discovery of the family secret, all sense of her identity is lost.
When Maggie asks to visit her grandmother in Arkansas, her father agrees on the condition that she take her Aunt Georgia as a chaperone and his young partner, Charles Stanton, as protection on the journey. Will she discover who she really is and, more importantly, what truly matters most in life?

Chadwick UK cover
2007 Sphere edition

Chadwick 2012 USA cover
September 2012 Sourcebooks edition
For review, I received Elizabeth Chadwick's newest USA release via Sourcebooks, it's been on my wish list forever! Just in case you have read the earlier version, I didn't want Chadwick lovers to get excited about a new book so I posted the two covers. (At least they didn't change the title!!)

The early twelfth century is a time for ambitious men to prosper, and royal servant John FitzGilbert Marshal is one of them. Raised high as the kin of the deceased King Henry battle each other for England's throne, John reaps rich rewards but pays a terrible price for the choices he makes - as do his family. His wife, fragile, naïve Aline is hopelessly unequipped to cope with the demands of a life lived on the edge and, when John is seriously injured in battle, her worst nightmare is realised. Sybilla, bright, forthright sister to the Earl of Salisbury, finds herself used as a bargaining counter when her brother seeks to seal a truce with his troublesome neighbour, John FitzGilbert. And then there is Sybilla's small son, William, seized hostage by the King for John's word of honour. But sometimes keeping your honour means breaking your word...

For Review:

The Shadow Queen
This is a heavy book! Physically I mean. It's going to give me carpal tunnel, and yes it's only 448 pages.
Two lovers. Two very different lives. One future together that will change history.

When debutante Wallis Simpson is growing up, she devotes her teenage daydreams to one man, the future King of England, Prince Edward. But it's Pamela Holtby, Wallis's aristocratic best friend, who mixes within the palace circle. Wallis's first marriage to a dashing young naval pilot is not what she dreamt of; he turns out to be a dominating bully of a man, who punishes her relentlessly. But her fated marriage does open a suprising door, to the world of Navy couriers – where navy wives are being used to transport messages around the world. This interesting turn of fate takes Wallis from the exuberant social scene in Washington to a China that is just emerging from civil war. Edward in the meantime is busy fulfilling his royal duties – and some extra-curricular ones involving married women. Until the day, just before he ascends the throne as Edward VIII, he is introduced to a very special married woman, Wallis Simpson.

Was Wallis Simpson really the monster the royal family perported her to be? Or was she an extraordinary woman who led an unimaginable life? A dramatic novel, that crosses continents and provides a unique insight into one of history’s most charismatic and multi-faceted women.

For Review:

A Sound Among The Trees
Gorgeous cover!!!!
A house shrouded in time.
A line of women with a heritage of loss.
As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

And, finally, from Paperbackswap:

Remembered by T Alexander
 (Christy Award Winner for 2008!)
Fountain Creek Chronicles #3 Now I just need book 2 and I'm set with all eight of Alexander's titles!
Though loss is often marked in a single moment, letting go of someone you love can take a lifetime.

The threat of war—and a final request—send Véronique Girard from France to a distant and uninviting country. In the Colorado Territory, she searches for the man who has held her heart since childhood—her father. Pierre Girard left Paris for the Americas to seek his fortune in fur trading, vowing to send for his wife and daughter. But twenty-five years have passed and his vow remains unfulfilled. Sifting through shards of broken promises, Véronique embarks on a dangerous search for a man she scarcely remembers.

His grief finally healed, Jack Brennan is moving on with life. After years of guiding families west, he is now working as a freighter to the mining towns surrounding Willow Springs. What he doesn't count on is an unexpected traveling companion on his trips up into the mountains, and how one woman's search will cause havoc with his plans... and his life.

A nice surprise from Simon & Schuster was the reprint of Jean Plaidy's novel on Catherine de Medici, which was originally published in 1951. I already have the 1971 Pan Edition of this, but a new one is nice to read from:

Madame Serpent
2012 reprint
As a fourteen-year-old Catherine de Medici rode into France. Behind her and before her rode the nobility of Italy. She was to marry Henry of Orleans, second son of the King.
Amid the glittering fetes, masques, jousts and banquets of the immoral court in 16th century Europe, the reluctant bride became a passionate but unwanted wife.
Angry, humiliated and tortured by jealousy as she secretly spied on Henry's lovemaking, Catherine began to plan her revenge...