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Dec 27, 2013

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks reissue Jan 2014 (originally published 1995)
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:Glittery forbidden fruit 4.5 stars

Chinon-chateau of legend, steeped in the history of France and England. It is to Chinon that Emily goes on a long-awaited holiday, to meet her charming but unreliable cousin, Harry. Harry wanted to explore the old town and the castle, where Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, had withstood the siege of Chinon many centuries ago, and where, according to legend, she hid her casket of jewels. But when Emily arrives at her hotel she finds that Harry has disappeared, and as she tries to find him she becomes involved with some of the other guests and learns of a mystery dating from the German occupation during the Second World War. Another Isabelle, a chambermaid at the hotel, fell in love with a German soldier, with tragic results.
Emily becomes increasingly aware of strange tensions, old enmities and new loves; as she explores the city, with its labyrinthine dungeons and tunnels and its ancient secrets, she comes ever closer to the mystery of what happened to both the Isabelles of Chinon's history.

Whenever a title comes up for review by Susanna Kearsley, I jump at the chance. I've also purchased her previous works based on my recent review reads, and The Splendour Falls is indeed a reissue. This novel is a bit of a romance with Kearsley's stellar gothic suspense thing that she has such a fabulous way with, I could probably read Kearsley titles non-stop for months and not be deterred.

The setting is Chinon, where there were legends surrounding the mysteries of two young ladies, centuries apart but both called Isabelle. King John's Isabelle was at Chinon when the castle was under siege, and during the Second World War another Isabelle falls in love with the enemy. Rumors of treasures have our main protagonist Emily chasing after her cousin Harry but she finds more than one mystery to solve before she can be reunited with Harry again. An eclectic group of characters are Emily's fellow travelers whom she meets along the romantic and whimsical adventure in the beautiful setting.

Kearsley didn't disappoint me at all, and this is perfect for those who dream of visiting a castle in France, such as I do. The descriptive writing, the nuances of danger laced with guilty pleasure all come together in a thrilling way as we fall in love with the scenery. I loved the main protagonist and totally wished I could be her during such a delightful adventure.

Dec 23, 2013

Burton Book Review's Best Reads of 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013
Although I read fewer books this year than last, I feel I have read some wonderful reads still. These were given five stars as I tend to write reviews soon after reading, and if I really feel like I loved the book and totally enjoyed the experience, I gave it five stars. There is no order to this list, plus this list will comprise of reads that I physically read in 2013 but not necessarily published in 2013. I got lucky that I had an even round of ten books this year to make the five star distinction.

Click titles to read my reviews:

The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow

The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson  (pictured with the Bible that I also read this year, of course I have to include that title here too)

So there were a lot of inspirational fiction which actually surprised me, but don't let that term deter you from reading most of these that were very very very light on the "biblical" side. These stories are full of romance and hope, and lots of drama. And HISTORICAL! My favorite genre is historical fiction, and over the last few years I have jumped into the inspirational side of history as I was bored of Kings and Queens in Europe. I enjoy reading about the struggles of earlier Americans, and it turns out there is a huge market of these in the inspirational genre. Best of two worlds!

And it is interesting to note that I continue to read more female writers as well (there was a facebook conversation about this).. I tend to lean towards females in general as far as fiction goes. It's just a personal preference.

As far as 2014 goes, I expect to review more romance and hopefully I'll be finding some new authors to enjoy. I have no idea honestly at this point which genres/sub-genres I will actually gravitate towards, it seems that the publishers don't always publish what I'm in the mood for currently, so I might just visit the local library more often especially since my son is getting more and more interested in going there. That's a great thing to this mama!

Dec 21, 2013

Upcoming Group Read Announcement

Saturday, December 21, 2013
I wanted to give others the opportunity to participate in an upcoming Group Read we are having over at Goodreads for a popular author, Jean Plaidy aka Victoria Holt.

On December 26, 2013 we are scheduled to start reading The Courts of Love at the forum and anyone can join in. These are loosely formatted: there is not a formal reading schedule, simply pop in and share thoughts or lurk as you wish.

Published in the 1980's, there have been several issues of The Courts of Love since its original publication. You can take a look at some of the different covers here. The one that I will be reading from is pictured below:
 Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

Feel free to join in the discussions over at Goodreads! Hope to see you there!
Here is the direct link to the thread of the group read:

Dec 12, 2013

December and TBR Challenge Failure

Thursday, December 12, 2013
It's almost Christmas so I figured it was time to check in here on the blog and say Merry Christmas! I have been doing some reading behind the scenes, but unfortunately they are all for a February post date.. so the blog will seem bare till then.

I had taken some time off so that I could squeeze in some review reads and so I focused on those instead of personal library reads, and that means I utterly failed at this year's TBR Challenge. I did well at the pace I was on until I took a new job in June and health issues and so I only read seven out of twelve selections. I think I may have done better if I had been able to predict my reading habits after the summer, and what type of books I would then be interested in. I had listed some books that had been sitting on my shelf for years and felt I should get to them out of respect for them, but I just was never in the mood.

Titles that I wonder if I'll EVER get to are Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold and Legacy: The Acclaimed Novel of Elizabeth the Most Passionate Queen and the Three Men Who Loved Her by Susan Kay. I am so bored of the Tudors and Elizabethans at this point (I still have two recent releases that I haven't finished and don't care if I ever will) and I really find myself wishing more for American History at this point. I even find myself not wanting any European history either so who knows what I'll be reading in 2014?! Biblical fiction and non-fiction, and American history/Civil War is my guess, with inspirational romance reads still being a favorite.

The most important thing to remember as bloggers is how we are eager to salivate over upcoming reads and find ourselves requesting/accepting ARCs but we end up bogging ourselves down. I find that is what happened with me in the past: counting on Time being my friend and feeling like a review to be posted at a later date shouldn't be a problem. But then real life gets in the way and there are days you just can't find the time to pick up a book to even read a sentence. I allowed myself the current review pile only because I knew I would be on vacation, and now I have to remind myself that once Christmas is over it'll all be over and it's time to get back to focusing on the career. Thankfully I have only one or two for January and February dates, which means I am able to start another Group Read of a Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt novel.

It's time to sign up for the 2014 TBR Challenge.. but experience shows me I may as well save myself the time. It's enough of a chore to compose the scheduled reviews with the links, photos, etc.. when I'd rather just open up a book instead of staring at the computer screen. Kudos to all those bloggers out there who have the strength to keep up with the blogging pace that some of you have set!

Congrats! You have completed your goal of reading 50 books for the 2013 Reading Challenge!
(23,235 pages as of 12/12/13)
I was able to surpass my reading goal for number of titles for the Goodreads challenge, as well as completing the study bible this year. So even though I haven't completed the TBR Challenge, I still feel like I did well. I didn't totally shut down the blog even though it crossed my mind!

I do have two brand new books on my shelf that I wanted to conduct a giveaway for.. but it'll have to wait till I feel the urge. One of them is a new and signed book by local author, Anne Mateer.. and I wanted to be able to read my own copy so that I could GUSH about it during the giveaway.. so stay tuned for that at some future point!

I'll create another post to update upcoming reads and also I'll need to do a Best of 2013 post as well! Till then, enjoy the Christmas season!

Nov 12, 2013

Under A Texas Sky by Dorothy Garlock

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Under A Texas Sky by Dorothy Garlock
Grand Central Publishing, August 2013
 $30.00, hb, 370pp
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the November 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine which really ended up just being an online exclusive anyway.
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 stars

Growing up poor and largely abandoned on the streets of 1920s Chicago, Anna Finnegan has struggled her entire life. Until a talent manager discovers her and brings her into the world of theater. Now years later she's about to start shooting her first movie. Arriving on location in Redstone, Texas, in 1932, Anna steps off the train and collides into Dalton Barnes. He's lived in Redstone all his life and hates how the big city out-of-towners are gawking at the small-town locals like him. It doesn't take long, though, for Anna and Dalton to discover fireworks of a different sort between them. But the movie is plagued by one trouble after another, including a fire that destroys an elaborate set and costumes ruined by huge splashes of paint. Who is sabotaging the film and why? To what lengths will they go? When Anna finds herself threatened, how will she and the love blossoming between her and Dalton survive?

 Starting off as what seems to be a rags to riches story turns into a suspenseful romance with the heroine Anna who is introduced as a young girl living in poverty in Chicago. Fast forward to the 1930's and Anna is being cast in a new movie that is set in Texas trying to make it big in the industry. Anna deals with jealous actresses and lecherous men while on the set, but she meets a local blacksmith, Dalton Barrnes who has already formed a negative opinion of all the Hollywood types swarming his hometown. It's a touch of western romance with a large dose of cynical characters and themes, but throughout the novel we are rooting for Anna and Dalton to survive the dirty dealings of those around them.

There are plenty of villains and suspects so that the mystery wasn't easily apparent, and overall this latest novel of the prolific Dorothy Garlock makes a quick read for readers of historical romance, but doesn't stand out as one of her best.

I had read one of her other novels, and it seems that the novels are pretty standard fare. The other novel I read of hers last year was Come A Little Closer (review here). After reading that review, I hardly remember what the story was about. And this is pretty much the same kinda thing.. which is why the original review didn't quite make it to the magazine I reviewed it for and was just a sad little Online Exclusive.

Nov 6, 2013

On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Fantastic war time details fused with light romance

On Distant Shores (Wings of the Nightingale #2) by Sarah Sundin
Revell, August 2013
Inspirational/Historical Romance
426pp paperback
Burton Book Review Rating: five stars for fabulous prose
Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie’s cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson. Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they’ve made?

With her signature attention to detail and her talent for bringing characters together, Sarah Sundin pens another exciting tale in her series featuring WWII flight nurses. Fans new and old will find in On Distant Shores the perfect combination of emotion, action, and romance.
Read my review of the first book in the series, With Every Letter
It is with a quiet dexterity that author Sarah Sundin fuses together touches of inspiration and times of war in this second installment in her WWII series. In a reprising role, we follow Lt. Georgie Taylor during her journey as a nurse close to the front lines during German aggression overseas, confronting both fears and family members during very difficult times. Characters from the previous novel are present and new ones are introduced, as Georgie meets her new love interest in the Army's pharmacist. The story is focused on both of these characters, and much like the first novel (With Every Letter) this is another emotionally charged but realistically told story of love, friendship and hardship.

The author knows her historical subject matter, and while the reader may not fully comprehend many of the details of the foreign places or the Army lingo, we are still completely at ease and immersed in the eloquent storytelling featuring disasters and air strikes and hope. The tender romance of Georgie and Hutch manages to avoid the stereotypical story arc of inspirational romance, and its evolution is well plotted. On Distant Shores is another fantastic WWII novel that I recommend to readers of the genre.

Sarah Sundin is officially in the running for my personal favorite authors list. With all due respect to lovers of the Christian Fiction genre, I'd say this is perfect for those who would like a little "more oomph" to their inspirational novels. There is not a lot of heated romance, but Sundin steps it up a notch with her attention to detail, and is evident with the slightly longer page count in her novels as compared to other Christian novels. Most of them have been around 320 - 350 pages, and the few Sundin novels I've read have been a hundred pages longer. This gives the author more time to fully develop the characters and the storyline, and lets you become a part of the story. I love it.

Nov 3, 2013

The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow

Sunday, November 03, 2013
Very emotive, provocative and worthy of my five stars
The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow
Historical Fiction/Biblical
Crown Publishers orig.2005, edition shown is 2007 hc edition
Personally bought copy
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

Raised like sisters, Mariamne and Salome are indulged with riches, position, and learning-a rare thing for females in Jerusalem. But Mariamne has a further gift: an illness has left her with visions; she has the power of prophecy. It is her prophesying that drives the two girls to flee to Egypt, where they study philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy in the Great Library of Alexandria.
After seven years they return to a Judaea where many now believe John the Baptizer is the messiah. Salome too begins to believe, but Mariamne, now called Magdalene, is drawn to his cousin, Yeshu’a, a man touched by the divine in the same way she was during her days of illness. Together they speak of sharing their direct experience of God; but Yeshu’a unexpectedly gains a reputation as a healer, and as the ill and the troubled flock to him, he and Magdalene are forced to make a terrible decision.This radical retelling of the greatest story ever told brings Mary Magdalene to life-not as a prostitute or demon-possessed-but as an educated woman who was truly the “apostle to the apostles.”

Some of the biblically themed reads I've come across closely follow the traditions of the bible and religious teachings while simply fleshing out the details with an author's creative finesse, but this story of Mary is unlike any I have ever read. What I expected was a story of Mary Magdalene and perhaps some "shocking" affair between she and Jesus, but again this was so much more than that. The author does not set out to preach, but lets her characters of Yehoshua and Mariamne encounter philosophical themes featuring God and the ultimate truth, and the reader sits back and contemplates these heavy things throughout the story.

The story started off swiftly as Mariamne and young friend Salome are passed along the learned sects of these ancient times, and many factions and types of beliefs are examined and left open to interpretation. We follow the girls' relationship with each other and it is always a major theme so that Mariamne is never seen as too remote to the reader, as she has real feelings and these are palpable.

Although eventually a story arc that follows Mary and Jesus, called Yeshu, there were tons of characters, and most of them I could correlate to the biblical teachings even if the names weren't exact matches. With each new discovery I could begin to follow the golden threads along the tapestry that the author was weaving. It was not an easy path, it required deep thought and therefore it took me over two weeks to get through the 430 pages, but it was worthwhile for the paths down theology and tragedy which were amazingly constructed.

The prose was fantastic. It spoke volumes with its words that expressed humanity and all its faults and glories. I admit to getting a little perturbed when I wasn't getting through the text swiftly, but it required my full attention. In the end, perhaps it was a better received novelization for myself as I am incredibly interested in all the biblical events and I yearn for more. This gives me more, and demands me to re-read it. Though geared for those who seek truth and clarity, the text does not lean towards any specific religion, but it certainly would require the reader to have a respect for God in order to enjoy this work of art.

Oct 15, 2013

Return to Me by Lynn Austin (The Restoration Chronicles #1)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fantastic biblical fiction that propels  to the top of my favorites list!
Return to Me by Lynn Austin (The Restoration Chronicles #1)
Biblical Fiction
Bethany House, 2013
Paperback 459 pages
Review copy provided by Litfuse in exchange for this honest review

After years of watching his children and grandchildren wander from their faith, Iddo's prayers are answered: King Cyrus is allowing God's chosen people to return to Jerusalem. Jubilant, he joyfully prepares for their departure, only to learn that his family, grown comfortable in the pagan culture of Babylon, wants to remain. Zechariah, Iddo's oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather's ancient beliefs and the comfort and success his father enjoys in Babylon. But he soon begins to hear the voice of God, encouraging him to return to the land given to his forefathers.

Lynn Austin is a well-known author of biblical novels, but Return To Me was my first of hers that I'd read. And with this one fantastic novel, I am already searching out all of her works because this story was perfect and hit home for me. The biblical story of a second exodus was not one that I had studied too hard, but the main gist is that Babylon had enslaved the followers of God and for many years they could only dream of going back to their ancestral land in Jerusalem to fulfill the dream of the tribe of Judah populating the earth with numerous descendants to outpace the stars in the heavens. We watch that dream come alive with this masterfully told novelization of an important faith testing period of Jewish and Christianity's history as the believers finally get to rebuild Solomon's temple in Jerusalem.

This is the story of Iddo and his family, their struggles, their beliefs, their hardships. And wrapped up in this story is strife and survival, and Zechariah, the prophet who has his writings in our bible of today.

The author propels us into this biblical story without leaving anything out from her imagination: the Samaritans, the prophets, the sorceress, the fear, the faith, the hatred, the love, the greedy and the humble. And everything in between. Zechariah starts off as a young boy in the story but he leaves us a full grown man who has finally found his calling as a prophet revered by his peers and neighbors. Haggai is mentioned as well, along with many family members who help flesh out the dramatic story that hides beneath the prophetic words of Zechariah. Although not a Zechariah quote, the story focuses on the people finally leaving Babylon and following their heart to where they felt the Lord will dwell, and how they had to have faith that God would preserve them: "How great you are, Sovereign lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears." - 2 Samuel 7:22

A compelling story focused on returning to the Lord that I would recommend for any reader of the bible who likes biblical and christian fiction. This story was so fascinating that I am perturbed I cannot find any news on the next book in the trilogy. Another bonus was the chunky-ness.. loved the length of this novel. It was just right; not too small, not too big.. I just wish I could get my hands on book two..

Purchase a copy:

Oct 11, 2013

Life in the fast lane

Friday, October 11, 2013

the 2013 version of Big Tex!
Hey fellow readers! Can I really say that any longer? WHY YES.. I am still reading, but just not caught up too much in the whole review biz thing, thank the Lord! After a full year of stressing the fact that I am no longer accepting review copies, it has finally come to fruition where I am not a slave to that despicable review schedule. Of course, there are a few goodies that I have the time to slip in, so you will see a few posts here and there that are "blog tour" type posts, but those will be just a few along the way.

I do miss chatting with all my fellow bloggy buddies, so I wanted to touch base and let you all know what's been going on in my life. I do hope you are all just peachy, and that life is treating you well!

Pretty much the last few months have been a whirlwind, and for those followers who have been with me since 2008/2009 you will know that I used to be able to read and review like lightning. Then I got burnt out, and bloggy type drama turned me off the whole thing and so I stepped away and focused on things that made me happy - enjoying time with the family, doing nothing. Greatness! Well, we did meander out to the State Fair of Texas a few weeks ago... the fried kit kat was kinda of a once in a lifetime experience I don't want to go through again. And now both of my kiddos are a Scout of some sort, so that means meetings meetings meetings fund raising stick a fork in me...

Of course, my career path changed so that I am no longer watching the crows outside the office windows -- I have no windows in my new 'office' (where I sit among a bunch of cubicles in the finance office of my local school district) and I am now doing the exact opposite of what I used to be doing: bouncing off the walls of busy busy busy but now I am happy happy happy. (Yes, I have caught on to the Duck Dynasty craze, a season or two later). I am even going to conferences and all that fun stuff, and I get weeks and weeks off, bwahahahaha...(no joke!!)

So while I was out changing my life, I bought a fast car. I do love the darling thing, and now I kinda kick myself for living two to three minutes from my office. Sometimes I do have to take the top down and drive the long way home. Tack on an extra mile or so as I cruise down Highway 66 with my hair whipping my face making a fool out of my forty year old self.
But you only live once.
2013 Mustang Club of America edition V6 Premium convertible with saddle leather seats, thank you very much! = my unicorn.

As you can see, I've also been eating and drinking a lot. You heard me. But heck, for the first half of my life I've been a thin thing, so now the last half (Lord willing) I am really just going to enjoy myself, alcoholic beverages and all.

I think maybe in a month or so I will be back to reading a bit more since I will have a full three weeks off to recover from major surgery around Thanksgiving time. Yes, that horrible surgery that many women end up having to get. I'm one of the lucky ones due to a plethora of problems -- and I am so freaking looking forward to it because I am so sick of feeling like a pile of ouch. My eleven year old daughter will be my slave as I recover, and yea, I am milking it for the full three weeks. Then I go back to work for a week to see what drama occurred while I was away, and then I will take another two weeks off at Christmas time. It will certainly be a different holiday season! But I have slated three review titles to keep myself busy while I milk it recover- here's hoping that I can coin a sentence together intelligently at that point.

While I still enjoy reading, I have found that I have completely lost the mojo to review. I kinda hate doing that. It's a lot like homework. So I apologize in advance for the missing wow factor in my upcoming reviews, but heck, I think I've earned myself a break after the three hundred reviews I've posted for you here.

I did read a heckuva great story this past week that really floored me. It was Return to Me by Lynn Austin, and if you are interested in biblical retellings this is the one to get. LOVED IT. And with that, I am off to go see what is available for cheap by Lynn Austin. I know I have her much acclaimed Gods and Kings novel but I need to figure out which book goes with what series etc.

Happy reading folks, and see you next week with my Return To Me review! Peace and blessings -- and good health!

Oct 3, 2013

Fired Up (Trouble in Texas #2) by Mary Connealy

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Romance and charm in this fun novel!

Fired Up (Trouble in Texas #2) by Mary Connealy
Bethany House, September 2013
Review copy provided by the publisher
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can't let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he's trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.
Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she's determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she's terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner—never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. The men in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.
Glynna can't help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There's the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna's diner into Dare's back. Are Flint's cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna's son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?
Dare Riker is a stubborn man who thinks he shouldn't doctor anymore due to ethical reasons, yet he is the best doctor in town. Glynna Greer has a troubled past but if she and the doctor could find their ways into each other's hearts there could be a happy ending. But her son had enough of dirty rotten men who do harm to his family, and he just might take matters into his own hands if the doc and his mom start to show signs of love. Things start heading south and there are a few suspects.. but could Glynna's own son truly have a murderous streak? After their hard life, it wouldn't be that hard to believe.

I really enjoyed the first book in the Trouble in Texas series (Swept Away), and it was no different with this new installment. It is a bit of a western romance but told with light hearted wit that is charming. While the storyline could have used a bit more oomph behind the 'suspense' factor, the rest of it seemed to flow well and is an enjoyable Christian based romance. Mary Connealy's regular readers will enjoy this novel as well with its unique set of characters and story. Even though this is a series novel, this is one where I believe it could be a stand alone novel but the characters do carry through so if you read the series out of order you will be spoiling it for yourself.

Sep 12, 2013

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

Thursday, September 12, 2013
Unique light hearted bawdy entertainment

Death and the Courtesan (Arabella Beaumont Mystery #1) by Pamela Christie
Kensington Mystery, June 2013, $15.00
Paperback 229pp
Historical Romance/Somewhat inspirational
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the August 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating: 2 sad stars

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 7, 2013

The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt

Saturday, September 07, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 28, 2013

Darke London by Coleen Kwan

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 20, 2013

Love At Any Cost by Julie Lessman

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

or at the cost of faith..
Love At Any Cost (The Heart of San Francisco #1) by Julie Lessman
Christian Historical Romance
Revell, April 1 2013
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the August 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 15, 2013

Katherine by Anya Seton

Thursday, August 15, 2013
Classic storytelling  
Katherine by Anya Seton
Medieval hist-fic
Originally published early fifies
Source is a personal copy/not for review purposes
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars


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

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

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

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

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

Aug 11, 2013

Dark Road Home by Elizabeth Ludwig

Sunday, August 11, 2013
Enchanting historical mystery 

Dark Road Home by Elizabeth Ludwig
Bethany House, 2013
Historical Romantic Suspense/Christian Fiction
Review copy via publisher
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars


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

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

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

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

Aug 5, 2013

The Lion of Justice by Jean Plaidy

Monday, August 05, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

But, I am in the minority I think .. Except for my read along participants.. Check out other reviews:

Jul 22, 2013

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

Monday, July 22, 2013
Another amazing historical from my favorite medieval storyteller
The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
Sphere, June 20, 2013
Hardcover 478 pages
Source: Bought from an Amazon seller after I scoured the internet for an hour looking for an available copy when it came out in the UK.. I read and devoured it immediately upon its arrival, but just lacked computer time to compose this review.
Burton Book Review Rating:  (Must you ask?)Fifty Stars, if I could
Eleanor of Aquitaine is a 12th century icon who has fascinated readers for 800 years. But the real Eleanor remains elusive.

This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13. Barely out of childhood, this gives an entirely new slant to how Eleanor is treated bv those around her. She was often the victim and her first marriage was horribly abusive.

Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor's legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition . . .
Once upon a time there lived an amazing woman who was destined to be ruler of Aquitaine. Her heart and soul was with Aquitaine and the heritage that she was born with. In a time where women were considered frail or used as chattel, Eleanor of Aquitaine rises up and becomes Queen of France, then dumps her husband and that title only to soon become Queen of England.

After many reads based on Eleanor's life, one would think I've had enough. But then here comes Elizabeth Chadwick writing a novel that she has wanted to write for a very long time. Her previous historicals on William Marshal were based during Eleanor's time, and Eleanor would beckon to the author to write Eleanor's story.

And that she did. With typical Chadwick flair, we have a start to what will prove to be an amazing trilogy on Eleanor, except our main protagonist is now called Alienor. My first inclination was to shy from this twist on the anglicized name of Eleanor, but Chadwick's skillful writing set me at ease with this proper spelling of Eleanor right away. Among other things, I loved how she portrayed Louis; my feelings about him changed as his character changed.. and she made him more interesting than he probably was! What a sack of uselessness he seemed to be.

Alienor's story is familiar to most of us medieval fiction lovers, but as always Chadwick tells it beautifully and with deft writing skill. She does not inundate us with endless facts and names, she simply draws us into Alienor's world from the time she was a child to the time she finally meets Henry, her second husband. It is a poignant tale as we ache for Alienor during her loveless marriage to the weak and overly pious King of France even though we know eventually she will break free. But Chadwick gives us the full story, the full measure of Alienor so that we live and breathe in Alienor's world unlike any other novel on the woman.

We root for Alienor as she faces obstacle after obstacle (and goes on a crusade!) and we still manage to learn a bit more of the story behind the well-known history of the era. Her sister Petronella shows us a new side of a scandalous story, and Alienor herself proves she is not all ice as one would believe. The supporting characters all add to the nuances of the drama, and there were some characters who get to stay around longer than others as the author saw fit. Fans of both Chadwick and the love and hate story between Eleanor and Henry will love this telling, but will be sad when the novel is over because there is still so much left to be told. I am impatiently waiting for the author to write the next installment, The Winter Crown, which we hope will be available by the fall of 2014.

As I stated in my final reading status update on Goodreads, "Chadwick writes so well I am annoyed I've finished the book." There is no need for me to repeat how awesome and vivid of a story that Elizabeth Chadwick writes, she is the ultimate contemporary expert of medieval historical fiction in my humble opinion. Yet I will never get tired of complimenting Elizabeth Chadwick's writing as long as she promises to write more, more, more, more, and more!!! Come on, 2014!

A problem that I'll have to debate during my wait for her next novel is trying to decide which is my favorite Chadwick novel of the eight that I've read. I've read three Chadwick's this year but 2011's Lady of the English still sticks in my mind. Perhaps I'll have to have a Chadwick Re-Read Marathon to see which is the cream that rises to the top. Of those that I've read, Shadows and Strongholds, Lady of the English, and now The Summer Queen will be battling for that position. Which novel was your favorite Chadwick thus far?

Jul 21, 2013


Sunday, July 21, 2013
The Sunday   

Where have I been this whole month of July, you ask? Or did you not even notice that I was absent?
It's been a wind tunnel of changes!!!

As expected with any career move, priorities have shifted as my life has taken a new direction. At my previous full time job, I had spent the last four months not doing a whole lot as the owner was slowly inching towards shutting the 35 year old company down. I was avidly searching for a job - but knowing that my big fortieth birthday was in July and I was ONCE AGAIN undergoing a job search, I wanted one that would LAST. I had thought this last one would last, as I had replaced a lady five years ago who had been there for twenty five years and was retiring. I wanted to be retiring from that job in twenty five years myself. But, for whatever reason, the owner of the company did not have the normal, polite, caring personality of a person who would hand down his business to the son in law who had made his business profitable for the last fifteen years. Instead the owner handed over a last paycheck with uncivil ceremony to the son in law.

The writing was on the wall however, from my point of view, since Christmas time. I had been searching for THE JOB that would feature stability and longevity. And benefits. I worked at my last job for over five years and did not take a single vacation. I took a single day off for some surgery and that was about it. So when I handed in my resignation letter, my boss was relieved, as he was able to go forth with putting a sign out front to put the building for sale, etc. Meanwhile, all he had to do was transfer his business to his son in law and many people would have been happy, but that just wasn't in the cards. Now an extended family is in upheaval and at odds with each other, and I am working at my local school district in a building that is less than a mile away. I started there on June 24, and that's when I stopped writing blog posts. I have tons of learning to do as the sole Purchasing Specialist for the entire district, and with summer here my free time is being spent with the family as opposed to cuddling up with a book. Oh yes, I am reading some - but I just don't have the zeal to blaze through books any longer. I am enjoying the sun before it gives me a heart attack, and then I'm simply hanging with the family. Zoo, movies, dinner, swimming etc. I definitely do not have the zeal to sit at the computer during my time off -- I was able to blog and blog some more at the old office, but since that isn't the case with my new career, things will be slow on the blogfront for the rest of its duration.

And my first vacation with my six year old is coming up! We are going to take an extended weekend trip to San Antonio: going to Sea World, Ripley's museum, doing a River Boat ride etc. I have lived near Dallas, Texas for the last nineteen years and yet I have never been to San Antonio. My eleven year old daughter has seen more of Texas than I have!!

This new job offers vacations built in, so when my kids are off from school, I will be off too! The only difference is the summers, but that's fine with me! Can you imagine this positive change in my life? NEVER have I had the luxury of taking days off when the kids were off from school, and NOW I will be off as well! A full week at Thanksgiving, almost two weeks at Christmas, Spring Break.. plus an additional ten days of personal time for the year. Wow. I have been so blessed and I am so glad that I was patient and held out for that perfect job that would be the best fit for my family. And blessed to be working in the business office with so many fantastic people, what a tremendous boon that is, and I am so thankful...not to mention all the extended relationships I am making with the teachers and personnel from nineteen schools.

So, now that you know I haven't really dropped off to the dark side...

 My last post was a review of Patricia Falvey's The Yellow House which put me at the halfway point of the TBR Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader. I then started reading the newest Philippa Gregory novel, The White Princess, and got bored so I put that aside to read Elizabeth Chadwick's newest novel on Eleanor of Aquitaine The Summer Queen which I have still to write the review, sad to say. But I devoured that one. Obviously. I haven't met a Chadwick novel I didn't like.

But Gregory is another matter.. as a fellow reader once said to me, perhaps we are outgrowing Philippa Gregory. My last status update on GR regarding The White Princess:

"Put aside to read Chadwick's. This novel was not holding interest anyway. Too many smh & WTF moments for my sanity right now. I'll get back to it, though."
That was July 6 at page 114. For some reason Elizabeth of York comes off as being as interesting as a white wall. And blah blah blah with all the dang gossipy stupid tawdry rumors that Gregory uses with relish, I am just not in the mood. Plus the fact I was sent the book to review, but not with any sort of agreement of WHEN I would review it, and once they told me to post on such and such a date, I'm sorry but I do NOT GET PAID TO WRITE REVIEWS AT YOUR REQUEST. So that just made me hate the book even more, and it was time to step away.

Now I am reading my next TBR Challenge book, Katherine, a classic historical by Anya Seton. This is also a read along at Classic Hist Fic on my Goodreads group, and it's been great reading along with others. I am about 70% through it, and the first half was great but then started slowing down. Katherine's character doesn't seem very dimensional and she aggravates me, but the writing and the story itself keeps me going.

My next read will be Jean Plaidy's Lion of Justice, which is book two in the Norman Trilogy. In my Plaidy Goodreads group we had loved The Bastard King, and so it was unanimous to choose the next in the series. We will start reading that July 28 and I have to work on setting up those discussions before I forget, so I will leave you all now!!

I hope your summers are all about being fun and amazing and most of all, relaxing!!

Jul 1, 2013

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

Monday, July 01, 2013
A story of Irish proportions! 

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
Published February 15th 2010 by Center Street
Hardcover, 352 pages
Source is a personal copy/not for review purposes
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

THE YELLOW HOUSE delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th Century. Eileen O'Neill's family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life. She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior's soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore.

The Yellow House is a very stirring, emotive novel that re-imagines life in Ireland during the early 1900's featuring a backdrop of civil war and religious strife. It gives us all fictional characters, but they are all so well told you would have trouble believing this all came from a debut author's mind. Full of love, hate and bonds of love, the story weaves all the elements of life in Ireland through the first person narrative told by the strong-willed and admirable character of Eileen O'Neill: full of flaws, yet so full of determination so the reader can't help but root for her even when she is making disastrous decisions.

There are many events that occur through the book, from births to death to marriages and love lost and found but I am certainly not going to spoil all that fun for you. There is a definite family saga feel to this story with a very strong cast of supporting characters, and the added political backdrop of the turmoil between Freedom Fighters and Protestants and Catholics was a bonus for the historical lover in myself.

I found myself tearing up during the last portion of the novel it was just that good, and I have no problems recommending this quick-reading expansive novel to anyone who wants to be immersed in a story full of Irish charm and violence, music men and freedom fighters, romance and revenge. Since this release, the author has published another novel based in Ireland which also mentions our main protagonist so I'm putting that one on my wish-list too.

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