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Jan 30, 2013

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The ties that bind us..

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan
Simon & Schuster UK February 2013
Atria Books (US) July 2013
Contemporary Fiction
Review copy provided by the UK publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

On a crystal clear Mediterranean day, Briony McAllister sits playing with her four-year-old daughter, Katie, while she waits for her mother, Valerie, to join them. Valerie has recently moved to a picturesque town in southern Spain to finally leave behind her turbulent past and find a peace that has always eluded her. Briony has no idea that in a few moments' time her relationship with her mother will change irrevocably. As Katie plays, Briony pulls from her bag an old photo album, found in a box in her mother's new home. As she begins to study the faded photos, a letter falls to the ground. It is addressed to her. My Darling Briony, it begins. As Briony reads the words with mounting shock, realisation dawns. Her mother lied to her about what happened with her beloved grandmother Tessa all those years ago - and denied Briony that most precious of relationships, the type of relationship Valerie now enjoys with Katie. The lives of three generations of women are set to change forever as the past is revisited and the truth unfolds through the undelivered letters Tessa wrote to Briony over the years. Secrets, lies, betrayals and sacrifices - the complex bonds between mothers, daughters and granddaughters are intricately explored as Patricia Scanlan takes us into the hearts and homes of a family at war.

If you tell me "heart gripping multi-generational saga", I'm all over it. With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan has written one here, with all the regrets, jealousies and tragedies that can be endured when writing about several generations of women. Tessa, grandmother to Briony, and Valerie, Briony's mother are all tied together through one special man, Jeff. Valerie and Jeff were sweethearts, and along came Baby Briony which disrupted all the parents' dreams for Valerie and Jeff. Many years later on a beach with her own young daughter, Briony finds a letter from her Grandmother Tess and realizes that there is an unforgivable secret that her mom Valerie kept from her.

The absorbing narrative is structured so that we can get all the angles and all the juicy tidbits from all of these likable characters through flashbacks and memories, as we experience their emotions and feelings as it happens. So many little themes intersect such as insecurities, consequences, jealousies, knee jerk reactions, karma.... abortion? Adoption? Does he love me? Betrayal! There are overbearing mothers whom we can't help but empathize with, despite their faults, and the unsupportive parents whom we actually can see they have a point. I am not going to go into the plot outline of the story, as it is full of the events one would expect from extended families (and more) who are emotionally intertwined through tragedy, but it is told in such a hypnotizing way making this a fantastic read for women of all ages (and I don't want to spoil anything!).

I had a few favorite characters, such as the best friend who was never far from Valerie, and Jeff's father who was supportive to everyone making him a perfect man. And then there were those we would tsk-tsk at, such as Valerie's horrible father Terence, and Jeff's mean-spirited selfish mother Tessa. They are forever tangled in the web they have woven, and only forgiveness and maturity can get them out with minimal scarring.

After this captivating novel, I will definitely be looking for more of Patricia Scanlan's work as I loved her fluid writing style. I highly recommend this for those who want a novel full of emotion, drama and love with unforgettable characters. Scanlan lives in Dublin, so the setting of Ireland was a nice added bonus to this contemporary story, and will probably be yet another bestseller for her.

Jan 28, 2013

Pride & Prejudice 200th Anniversary Party Hop

Monday, January 28, 2013

In honor of the 200th Anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, Alyssa Goodnight and Courtney Webb from Stiletto Storytime are hosting a blog hop to commemorate it with our Austenesque memories and whatever else we can come up with! I signed up late for this one (last night!), and I realized that I had lots going on today on the blog, but I still wanted to share the love and help fellow lovers of Jane Austen celebrate the anniversary.

Everyone knows how Jane Austen's writings eventually became so influential and inspiring to many of her readers, and my fellow bloggers included! I actually have one and a half Austen reads under my belt, and that is Pride and Prejudice and Sanditon. I have seen several of the Austen movies, however, and the Masterpiece Special of Emma is my absolute favorite. Next up would be Persuasion, then the Northanger Abbey movies. I had bought the boxed set from BBC which has all of the BBC versions of the books, and I couldn't get through some of them, but I haven't tried very hard though. And Austen's last unfinished work, Sanditon, was a bit of a disappointment to me as well!

But for me (horrors!), it is not the famous FitzWilliam Darcy that makes me swoon and go goggly eyed. It's Captain Frederick Wentworth - quite specifically of the 2007 drama of Persuasion.
Rupert Penry Jones and Sally Hawkins as Capt. Wentworth and Anne Elliot

I still need to actually read Persuasion. But I can watch that movie a zillion times over, thank you. I think I should make myself a simple bookmark that says 'Captain Wentworth', then I can secretly smile as I think of him.. and me... I wonder if I can play Anne Elliot as well as Sally Hawkins..

EDIT TO ADD: I am cultivating my own mini Captain Wentworth!! It wasn't until I saw that precious lock of hair on the forehead... and it hit me.. ! My little man's once aggravating hairstyle was MEANT TO BE!!!!

There are TONS of Austenesque sequels out there, and they have been a delight to read! The last Austen-inspired novel I read was The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James and that is a favorite read of Austenesque drama. I still need to read James' other Austen book, The Last Memoirs of Jane Austen and that is promising to be a good one as well. That's been on my shelf for several years waiting for that special day.

Another one I would recommend is Jane Austen Made Me Do It, which is a collection of Austenesque stories edited by Austen Blogger Extraordinaire, Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose.

Other authors I have read and enjoyed are Monica Fairview, Judith Brockmole, Abigail Reynolds, Amanda Grange and Jack Caldwell. There are many others on my shelf, just waiting to be read! Isn't it amazing how one author was able to inspire so much creativity, two hundred years later? What's your favorite Austen inspired sequel? Anyone that I absolutely MUST read?

Follow along the Twitter Fun with the hashtag #PP200

I had a few minutes to put this post together, but there are many other participants in the blog hop with some great Austen inspired posts, you can visit them here.

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Monday, January 28, 2013
Another fantastic read from a favorite author!
The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen
Available for purchase
Bethany House January 1, 2013
Christian Historical Romance/Regency
Paperback 416 pages
Received for free in exchange for this review from publisher via LitFuse Publicity
Burton Book Review Rating: FIVE STAR FAVORITE

Award-Winning Regency Romance from Bestselling Author Julie Klassen

Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?

The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.

When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor's daughter figure out which brother to blame...and which brother to trust with her heart?

View other reviews and follow the tour with LitFuse!

Julie Klassen has a fantastic writing style that incorporates many of her favorite things: clever story lines, the hope of a thrilling romance, threads of faith and values - all while channeling Jane Austen and Jane Eyre. I loved her previous novel, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, and I loved The Tutor's Daughter just as much.

It begins as Emma Smallwood is contemplating her future, as her widowed father is buried is despair and without hope, but our Emma takes matters into her own hands and secures a position for them as tutors at a prominent family estate. There is a prior history with the Westons and the boys of that family, but now Emma has to deal with the entire family all at once with all of their eccentricities, and as it turns out, family secrets. The Weston boys were quite a troop, with the evil step-mother to round them out, and I loved watching them interact with the shy but strong-willed Emma.

The 'secret' was pretty easy to figure out, and the sinister characters were also easy to spot but couldn't quite figure out why (Julian!), while the relationships of the characters and the execution of the plot was perfectly done. Adam was a character you wanted to break down walls to get to know, and I loved Emma and her father, and Henry Weston would certainly be Mr. Darcy material. The cover of the book is absolutely perfect for the novel set in nineteenth century Cornwall, and I found myself gazing at it while absorbing the story.

Knowing I was going to adore this story, I admonished myself to please read it slowly so that I could savor every word, but I couldn't help myself. I devoured this newest Klassen novel, and my only consolation is that I have yet to read her earlier works. Julie Klassen is sure to be one of my favorite novelists, especially for her non-preachy way to add God and His praise into her stories. Do not be afraid to pick up a novel by Julie Klassen if you fear being preached at, even though I do appreciate most Christian messages regardless. This one is worth your time and I would never hesitate to recommend Julie Klassen to lovers of Regency romances and the sweeter side of historical romances. I wouldn't doubt this one becoming Julie Klassen's fourth Christy Award Winner.

Jan 27, 2013

Sunday/Monday Bookish Memes

Sunday, January 27, 2013
The Sunday

Visit Svea's blog at The Muse in The Fog Book Review to start linking up your Sunday posts! Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea whose purpose is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted by Lori @ Lori's Reading Corner this January.

The What Are You Reading meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.
What are you Reading?

January is almost over, and I am happy to bid it goodbye. I am hoping Spring comes early this year as I do not like this icky cold and flu weather! Sinus headaches galore this season for me! I am happy to report that my little man is on the mend from his feverish episodes last week. I thank you for any of those who thought of him and prayed for him to get well, I appreciate it.

This week I managed to get some good Bible reading in, as I am finished with the Book of Job and now reading the Psalms and should finish those within a few days. There are a lot of them, and I absolutely LOVE the Psalms, there are so many fantastic messages within. And I am super eager to be preparing to get both of my kids baptized, and get the oldest into the First Communion classes as well, so that at the Easter service we will get all that done during the service! If anyone knows where to obtain inexpensive Baptism and Communion style clothing, please let me know! I'd be needing boys size 5 or 6, and Girls size 12.  If someone has anything I can borrow, I'd be welcome to that as well!

This week, I had finished reading Safe in His Arms by Colleen Coble (really enjoyed it), and then also just finished reading Josiah's Treasure by Nancy Herriman. This is the most horrid cover that I've seen for a NON self-published book; I messaged the author about it and she said that she is heartbroken her publisher won't rework the cover. So sad for her, especially when her last release (The Irish Healer) featured a much prettier cover. I did enjoy the story, but not as much as Coble's.

I just started to read Frenchman's Creek by Daphne DuMaurier today, a few pages into this one, which is part of my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge. I have not read Du Maurier in about 18 years so I am looking forward to sinking my teeth in!!

On the blog this week I reviewed The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan. If you are sick of the Tudors, do not be afraid to pick this one up. This was very much Margaret in Scotland related, and I really enjoyed this story of a lesser known Tudor.

I also posted the review of the chunkster by Elizabeth Chadwick, Lords of the White Castle. The novel Shadows and Strongholds is being reissued from Sourcebooks and Lords of the White Castle continues the story of the FitzWarins.

I received the order from that I mentioned last week! Now you see why I had to do some rearranging of the bookshelves! Check out for some awesome inspirational fiction bargains. I can't recommend their services highly enough. These are the days that I wish I could just stay at home and read all day, there are so many good looking (and feel good!) stories here! The next three pics are all taken from my iPhone, and show the 13 books that I bought for a grand total of $17.62:

They Also Serve by by Pam Hanson, Barbara Andrews
Warm April showers bring new life to Jane's garden and new opportunities for the ladies of Grace Chapel Inn. Alice agrees to help Vera Humbert chaperone a school field trip to Philadelphia, but keeping track of a lively group of boys teaches her a few lessons of her own. Louise is left in charge of Nine Lives Bookstore and a most unusual helper, and Jane does everything she can to keep their beloved minister from leaving his position at Grace Chapel. Through their adventures, the sisters are reminded that serving others often leads to blessings for everyone. 

Something Old, Something New by Jane Orcutt
A celebrity author visits Grace Chapel Inn to finish her novel. Can the Howard sisters give her the quiet she needs? The whole town gets involved in the high-school genealogy project, and Aunt Ethel provides some surprise information about their own family's history. Meanwhile Jane is busy with preparations for a Grace Chapel wedding. Everyone seems ready to pitch in, but time is short!

Building Bridges by Carolyne Aarsen
Welcome to Grace Chapel Inn. Once you visit the charming village of Acorn Hill, you'll never want to leave. Here, the three Howard sisters reunite after their father's death and turn their family home into a bed and breakfast called Grace Chapel Inn. They rekindle old memories, rediscover the bonds of sisterhood, revel in the blessings of friendship and meet many fascinating guests along the way. As the dog days of summer wind down, the Howard sisters end up trying their hands at many new things. After a minor auto accident, Louise - accustomed to coaxing beautiful music from the piano and organ - learns to check tire guages, dipsticks and battery cables. Alice gets roped into helping Aunt Ethel on a new project, and employs hammers, saws and nails to try to keep up with her feisty aunt, and Jane has been commissioned to cater a very special dinner. The finicky hostess makes planning a menu a challenge, but learning to minister to a special group of guests may just be the trickiest task of all.

Rosemary for Remembrance by Sunni Jeffers
The winter doldrums have started in Acorn Hill, but the ladies of Grace Chapel have come up with a way to liven things up - a weekend retreat. While they plan their getaway, local farmer Samuel Bellwood is busy planning a surprise Valentine's Day vow renewal ceremony for his wife Rose to celebrate their anniversary. The whole town is pitching in to help plan the festivities, but Rose has a few surprises up her sleeve as well. Meanwhile, Jane befriends newcomers Kristin and Blair Casey. She sets out to help the young couple feel welcome in their new home and ends up helping their marriage in the process. The icy chill of winter is no match for the warmth of friendship and love in Acorn Hill.

All in the Timing by Melody Carlson
The week before Easter finds many surprises at Grace Chapel Inn. Alice's college beau Mark Graves comes for a visit and Alice finds herself facing feelings, and decisions, she never anticipated. And when a mysterious young man claiming to know Mark arrives at the inn, it only raises more questions, and his surly attitude means the Howard sisters need a huge dose of patience to survive his stay. Meanwhile, they get to know teenage guest Laura Winston, who is sullen and angry after an illness has left her blind; and Jane is preparing for a town wide Easter egg hunt. As they celebrate this special time of year, they all learn that some of the best things are not seen with eyes but felt with the heart.

Portraits of the Past by Rebecca Kelly
An antique trunk, an anonymous book of sketches and a long-buried secret plunge the Howard sisters right into the middle of a mystery at Grace Chapel Inn. Who made the exquisite drawings in the old sketchbook, and how did his work end up in a trunk in the attic? Meanwhile, the inn's guests, a man with a bowler hat and eccentric habits and a frustrated and frustrating artist, keep the sisters guessing, and a spat among some of the girls of Grace Chapel exposes old insecurities in all of them. As they come closer to understanding the truth, they understand more about their own family's past and what it means for their future.

Slices of Life by Judy Baer
Excitement is in the air as Acorn Hill prepares for the first all-county reunion. The three Howard sisters get into the spirit, and they look forward to catching up with old friends, but Grace Chapel Inn is busy with guests who need lots of attention, and prayer. Jane gets ready to face the girl who made her high school years difficult, and Alice ministers to a prickly visitor who keeps surprising them. Meanwhile, Louise tries her best to help a young couple staying at the inn. The couple wants to open a restaurant, but their differing visions just might tear them apart. Can the Howard sisters help them remember what's really important? And is the beloved Good Apple Bakery about to close its doors? As they help one another through tough decisions, the Howard sisters are reminded that faith is the best guide.

Texas Charm: Love Is in the Air Around Houston as Told in Four Complete Novels by DiAnn Mills
Charm and grace fill the bluebonnet state--from the hill country to the gulf coast to the arid desert. And in this four-in-one novel collection, women seek to find life's charm amid some of its deepest pain. When widowed Paula finds love again, will she lose her daughter? Can Kristi help Jack rekindle his faith in God... and in other people? Cassidy has repented of her prodigal teen years, but can she prove she's worthy of love? Can Rachel ever regain custody of her kids and pull her life together? God can bring charm from the chaos! Can God turn chaos into charm? Four contemporary Texas women find that the Lord does move in the midst of the most difficult life situations.

Too Rich for A Bride by Mona Hodgson
With a head more suited to bookkeeping than a bridal veil, Ida’s dreams include big business- not beaus. 

Ida Sinclair has joined her sisters, Kat and Nell, in the untamed mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado for one reason: to work for the infamous but undeniably successful businesswoman, Mollie O’Bryan. Ida’s sisters may be interested in making a match for their determined older sister, but Ida only wants to build her career.

Under Mollie's tutelage, Ida learns how to play the stock market and revels in her promising accomplishments. Fighting for respect in a man's world, her ambition leaves little room for distractions. She ignores her family's reservations about Mollie O'Bryan's business practices, but no matter how she tries, she can't ignore the two men pursuing her affections—Colin Wagner, the dashing lawyer, and Tucker Raines, the traveling preacher.

Ida wants a career more than anything else, so she shrugs off the suitors and pointed “suggestions” that young ladies don’t belong in business. Will it take unexpected love—or unexpected danger—for Ida to realize where her priorities truly lie?

Romancing America Novels

Tennessee Brides by Diane T. Ashley, Aaron McCarver
Can three women handle the drastic changes looming at their doorsteps in the Nineteenth Century Tennessee? Rebekah Taylor’s long-anticipated wedding is threatened by war with Britain. Iris Landon becomes nanny to two Cherokee orphans who draw persecution from the townsfolk. Amelia Montgomery inadvertently becomes involved with the Underground Railroad. Will adventure and danger lead each to the heart of romance?

Prairie Hills (South Dakota) by Susan May Warren, Paige Winship Dooly, Linda Ford
Ride the hill dotted prairie with three independent women. Emma Delaney is doing fine on her own until her daughter decides to play matchmaker. Hannah Williams relishes her freedom until a local rancher tries to solve all her problems for her. Lilly Clark is content with her choices until siding with an immigrant against prejudice puts her at odds with the whole town. Will each woman surrender when faith and love call to them?

Wild Prairie Roses (Iowa) by Lena Nelson Dooley, Lisa Harris, Laurie Alice Eakes
Join a quest for lost Civil War gold in the small town of Browning City, Iowa, where three women find a treasure worth far more than currency. Constance Miller comes to town on her father's dying request, only to walk right into a mystery. Tara Young's quest for gold is met with heavy competition. Lily Reese discovers her quiet town is hiding a deep and dangerous mystery. Will the men who come alongside them lead them deeper into danger or be the answer to their prayers?

Blue Ridge Brides (North Carolina) by Lynn A. Coleman, Lauralee Bliss
You'll be swept away on a bridal wave in these three historical stories of romance and courage. Join Beth Colman in her quest to find love and answers as John Harris leads her into the wilds of Roanoke Island. Team up with Ida Mae McAuley as she determines if her heart-and life-are safe in the hands of Olin Orr. Hit the road with Drusie Fields, the songbird of Sunshine Holler, as she leaves her fiance, Gladdie Gordon, to seek the limelight. Will these women find firm footing on the road to love in the Tar Heel State?

In other announcement news, I am excited to be a part of two special projects for two special authors. MaryLu Tyndall has added me to her 'secret group' of MaryLu's Motley Crew, and as such I will be part of a Pirate Crew of warriors who offer camaraderie, prayers and bookish fun for each other. And which also means I will be reviewing her books. (I read Veil of Pearls last year and loved it!).. Forsaken Dreams is coming out soon, and is available for pre-order at for $6.99!

The second project will be as an Influencer for author Jody Hedlund. Last year her novel Unending Devotion made my Best of 2012 list, so I am excited to be a part of anything Jody does.

Anything caught your eye today? What are you reading?

Jan 24, 2013

The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan
Kensington Books February 2013
Historical Fiction
 Review copy from the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

 From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. Her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But while Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And nothing can guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of loss she falls prey to an ambitious earl and brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal and secret alliances, Margaret has one aim—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost…

Read my previous D.L. Bogdan reviews

There are two contemporary Tudor novelists that I really enjoy and who I would not be adverse to reading their fifth or sixth book set in the era. Otherwise, a Tudor book by any author would not cross my threshold as I have had my full of the whole Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn episodes. With D.L. Bogdan's newest Tudoresque novel we are treated to a historical figure that always seems out of England/out of mind in my reads: Margaret Tudor, elder sister to Henry VIII and the favored Mary Tudor, Queen of France who later married Charles Brandon.

Margaret's story may not be too different than other royal princesses as they are marketed to the best match for their country and off they go, never to return to their homeland again. Margaret was sent by her father Henry VII to go make peace with Scotland and marry their King. That is what she attempted to do, and her marriage was portrayed lovingly and I enjoyed reading their story. There was always a constant struggle for Margaret, was she a princess of England or was she a Queen of Scotland? Margaret herself came off as naive, petulant, somewhat wild in nature, and wholly unpredictable. Which made the reading that much more fun (except when sometimes I felt like I was reading about Mary Queen of Scots! SO similar in character!)!

When we got to the parts where Margaret lost so much, I really empathized with Margaret that I was able to forgive her arrogant ways and horrible marriage choices. Her losses were many, and she seemed to stack up more losses than her counterparts such as Catherine of Aragon or even Anne Boleyn. And yet, we always hear SO MUCH more about Catherine and Anne. Due to Bogdan's captivating storytelling, I am more intrigued about Margaret Tudor, mother of King James V and eventual ancestress of the United Kingdom.

I recommend The Forgotten Queen for its quick pace, and for doing Margaret justice. Why she should always seem to be forgotten in novels and history is a mystery and a travesty for a woman who went through so much and ultimately gave so much to Scotland yet was not recognized for it. As I read through Bogdan's telling of Margaret's story, I felt her pain as she yearned for love and appreciation, and she finally achieved it with this reader.

Jan 22, 2013

Lords of The White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
by Elizabeth Chadwick
Sphere UK Edition published in 2006

Lords of The White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick
Historical Medieval Fiction
Originally published in Great Britain, 2000, by Little, Brown and Company
Paperback 678 pages
This copy from personal collection, ordered from Book Depository
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 medieval stars
Read an excerpt
Previous Elizabeth Chadwick Reviews at Burton Book Review

A violent quarrel with the future King John destroys the young Fulke FitzWarin's greatest ambition: to become Lord of the White Castle. Instead of accepting his fate, Fulke rebels. But the danger pursuing Fulke reaches new heights as he begins a passionate love affair with Maude Walter - the wealthy widow chosen by John himself.

Negotiating a maze of deceit, treachery and shifting alliances, Fulke's route to success is fraught. And when the turmoil of the Magna Carta rebellion combines with a shocking tragedy, everything Fulke has fought for is thrown into the path of destruction.

I had just completed reading Chadwick's Shadows and Strongholds when in the Author's note Chadwick mentioned that a previous release of hers will continue the story of the FitzWarin family. I was so ecstatic, since I owned Lords of The White Castle for a year or so and was happy to keep on going with this medieval story of love and war. This novel picks up with Fulke FitzWarin, who is a few years younger than Prince John. If you've read Chadwick's William Marshal novels, you'll recognize this Prince John as the evil and malevolent King John in the Marshal novels. As a prince, he is no better. Prince John and Fulke are not friends from the onset, but Fulke still has to serve Prince John. He is still young squire at fifteen, and it was very intriguing to watch Fulke reach adulthood and see what he would do to win the FitzWarin castle back from my last read in Shadows and Strongholds so that he could finally become the lord of that White Castle.

Fulke le Brun is the main character from Shadows, and this novel jumps ahead to his son, Fulke in 1184 as he is a reluctant courtier in the court of Prince John. Fulke has five brothers, and they are similar to the Robin Hood/Three Musketeers legends as the band of brothers find themselves branded as outlaws once Fulke realizes that King John will never give back the land of FitzWarin's grandfather. It is this ultimate quest for Whittington that the story relies upon, but there are also layers and layers of story lines with many strong characters, which is where Elizabeth Chadwick is such a masterful storyteller. Fulke and John become bitter enemies, and their lives are punctuated like moves on a chess board, where such a game is the symbolism of the beginning of the paramount battle for superiority. Both men are stubborn and strong, and both men have those who are willing to support them in their quest to out maneuver the other.

I will admit that after devouring Shadows and Strongholds, I wanted to dive right into that same page turning atmosphere with Lords of The White Castle. But it ended up being a bit slow going for the first few hundred pages as it set the story up for the next generation (maybe it was a mistake for me to continue the story right away). It took awhile for Fulke to grow into manhood and for the love of his life to become available to him, and it wasn't until that happened that I felt we were finally getting somewhere. Still, with Chadwick's skill we are transported to the medieval era and we can feel as close to the main characters as we could possibly be. Fulke's wife Maude is a lady to be reckoned with, and I admired her tenacity and her intellect. The two as a couple were portrayed as blazing hot when together, which added an enjoyable romance element to the historical fiction. As the years went on, their love still held them together, in spite of the major issues that King John forced upon them which hindered Fulke's upmost need for the castle of Whittington. That was always his main concern, his raison d'être, even if it meant  harming his family politically. Sometimes he seemed like a blockhead because of the stubbornness.

The ending was sort of weird for me.. I normally feel a sense of euphoria over such a magnificent story of Chadwick's, but this time I was just glad I was done. It is a chunkster, and in hindsight I figure I should have let a bit of space in between reading the two FitzWarin stories so close together. This novel has many glowing reviews, as expected from a Chadwick novel these days and I would definitely recommend the story to those readers who enjoy romance, with a hefty dose of the vindictive King John. Just space out your King John reads! Don't forget, I absolutely LOVED Shadows and Strongholds, and you can read my review here.

Edit to Add: Sourcebooks will be reissuing this novel in the USA in September 2013, with a new title. Chadwick also said she cut huge chunks of it, so perhaps it won't be as close to 700 pages! Watch for The Outlaw Knight in September!

Jan 20, 2013

Sunday & Monday Bookish Memes

Sunday, January 20, 2013
The Sunday

Visit Svea's blog at The Muse in The Fog Book Review to start linking up your Sunday posts! Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea whose purpose is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted by Lori @ Lori's Reading Corner this January.

The What Are You Reading meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.
What are you Reading?

Hello bloggy friends. What a long week with daughter off at camp and me and the five year old toughing it out without her, with the husband working a crazy shift so he could be home when the kiddo gets home. And then the dreaded phone call from the school nurse that kiddo has a fever. And now Mommy feels like she's been run over with a truck and then repeat. Sometimes it is really hard work being a mommy, wife and someone who is also expected to be at the office for forty hours a week. Not to mention laundry, what a dirty word that is.

So, I'm feeling low and wishing for Spring. I like Texas for its fair weather, I do not like snow! We had SNOW and I had to drive in it! EEK! I don't know, maybe Al Gore had something right when he was warning us to watch out for that Global Warming thing, and we all said "hmmph.. Al Gore.. snort.." Le sigh.

Some pre-spring cleaning was in order for my personal collection of many, many books.. so I forced myself to condense and combine my Jean Plaidy/Philippa Carr/Victoria Holt Collection and put them all in one smaller spot since I NEED more room. Did some reshelving and created a bit more organization to allow for more collecting of the inspirational historicals that I've obtained over the past year, and also was able to move some other double stacked shelves around so I can see the random books better. Picked out some books that are ARCs that I'll give away, and six others that I am willing to put on Paperbackswap. I just hate running giveaways though, I just don't get as much traffic as I would like so it irks me when I am standing on line for thirty minutes at the post office to mail the books out and I didn't even get a great response. Vent over.

In my reading world, I finished up my second Elizabeth Chadwick book of 2013, which is the story of the FitzWarins and their generations long battle with King John for their castle. Lords of the White Castle review will post this week, and I had posted the review to Shadows and Strongholds last week. I LOVED Shadows, and I think that I was on medieval FitzWarin overload by the time I got to the middle of the Lords book. And that was a very long book. So I've got 1634 pages in for 2013 thus far with three novels finished.

Next up came The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan, to be released shortly.

From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. Her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But while Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And nothing can guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of loss she falls prey to an ambitious earl and brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal and secret alliances, Margaret has one aim—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost…

I have read many Tudor novels, but none that focused on Henry VIII's elder sister Margaret who was sent off to Scotland to marry their King. I knew of how Catherine of Aragon wanted to bring the body of that same King home when her troops killed him, and now we get to see Margaret's point of view as a widow and mother to the future young king. Somehow the book is channeling Mary Queen of Scots for me though.. their behavior is very similar.

Coming up next would probably be Safe In His Arms by Colleen Coble, as that is a review book that I've been neglecting in favor of the medieval world. There are so many books in my personal collection that I would like to get to also, but there's just not enough time in the day. I realized that I still have five of Philippa Gregory's romance novels that I haven't read yet, and I'm itching to read The Secret Keeper by Morton or The Cove by Ron Rash...and when things settle down I need to see if I can finally sink my teeth into a Dorothy Dunnett book.

Also on my Currently Reading pile is the Holy Bible, and I have just finished the Book of Job this weekend.  I was supposed to reading that when the itch to organize the books came, and then it was time to start dinner.. and then the FIRST DALLAS STARS GAME to be watched on Saturday night.. FINALLY Hockey is back! GO STARS! And then church, laundry, tend the sick kid... (please say some prayers for him; this is the first time in his five years that he has had a fever for three days straight so far). And so I worry worry worry.

It was a slow Mail Week, but I did snag some Kindle deals:

The Widow Makers: Strife by Jean Mead
The story is set in the quarrylands of North Wales amidst the Snowdonia Mountains, ancient castles, opulent Penrhyn Castle, grand mansions and the straggling cottages of a mountain community in the 19th century. A blend of fact and fiction, it traces the lives of two very different families.

Following a pit disaster in Manchester, Joe Standish takes his wife Emily and tiny son Tommy to live in North Wales where he settles to the hard and dangerous existence as a quarryman. Home life for Emily and Joe is happy but for the small problem of Tommy's increasing wilfulness. As the boy grows, his cleverness comes to the fore and he catches the attention of the quarry owner, Bertram Bellamy, who offers to educate the boy with his own son.

Growing into manhood, Tommy's life changes drastically, split between his working class family living in a simple cottage and the immensely rich benefactor in the grand mansion, Plas Mawr.

Unaware of the destructive force hidden behind Tommy's charm and charisma, Bertram Bellamy accepts and encourages him and the destiny and the destruction of the Bellamy family is shaped.

The Hammock: (A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot) by Lucy Paquette
The story of ten remarkable years in the life of James Tissot (1836 – 1902), who rebuilt – and then lost – his reputation in London.

By 1870, at age 34, he had become a multi-millionaire celebrity with an opulent new Parisian villa and studio among aristocratic neighbors near the Arc de Triomphe. Handsome and charming, his friends included the painters James McNeill Whistler, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Lawrence Alma-Tadema and John Everett Millais. When the Prussians attacked Paris that year, Tissot became a sharpshooter in the artists’ brigade defending the besieged capital. After a bloody Communist rebellion, fought virtually at the doorstep of his mansion, he fled to London.

Amid suspicions that he was a Communist, he quickly rebuilt his brilliant career among the Industrial Age’s nouveaux riches. In 1876, Tissot took a young Irish divorcée as his mistress and muse. He referred to her only as “La Mystérieuse” and withdrew from Society to paint her in his garden paradise in the suburbs. Within three years, his pictures had pushed the boundaries of Victorian morality, and the British art establishment turned against him. In a debacle of friendship, fame and loss, his artistic heyday of painting a decade of glamour and leisure in London came to an end. Celebrated during his lifetime, Tissot has been nearly forgotten by all but art historians.

THE HAMMOCK is a psychological portrait, exploring the forces that unwound the career of this complex man. Based on contemporary sources, the novel brings Tissot’s world alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color, courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library. QED seal for quality in e-book design

The 13th Resolution by Charles Sheldon (a classic)
Sheldon's classic story is now available again in this digital-first edition, retelling the story of James Blaisdell and his family, as they live out their faith and life in Kansas.

Exclusively Yours (The Kowalskis) by Shannon Stacey (a contemporary romance)
When Keri Daniels' editor finds out she has previous carnal knowledge of reclusive bestselling author Joe Kowalski, she gives Keri a choice: get an interview or get a new job.
Joe's never forgotten the first girl to break his heart, so he's intrigued to hear Keri's back in town--and looking for him. Despite his intense need for privacy, he'll grant Keri an interview if it means a chance to finish what they started in high school.

Treasure of Saint-Lazare by John Pearce (Historical Mystery)
An old lover brings a cryptic letter to Paris, pulling Eddie Grant reluctantly into a treacherous web of intrigue and death -- but giving him a slim chance to find the terrorists who murdered his family seven years before.
It launches him on a dangerous quest through Paris and the Loire Valley for the most valuable piece of Nazi loot that remains missing, a famous Raphael self-portrait from the early 16th century, along with the crates of Nazi bullion that accompanied it -- all intended to finance the Fourth Reich.

Jen Wetzmuller, daughter of his father's World War II colleague in Army Intelligence, arrives in Paris, bearing a letter she found after he father was run down by a car on the streets of Sarasota. Its clues take Eddie from his Paris home to Florida, where he works to solve the mystery, barely escaping with his life. Then it's back home to burrow into the darkest reaches of the German occupation in search of the treasure. Along the way he and Jen restart the brief, fiercely passionate affair that he abandoned, to his regret, 20 years before Sarasota.
Most of all, Treasure of Saint-Lazare is a novel about Paris.

All Due Respect by Vicki Hinze (Romantic Suspense)
Dr. Julia Warner-Hyde must do the unthinkable: return to a life she thought she left forever --- the covert world of Air Force missile technology. Not long ago, she fled in terror, stalked by an abusive husband, beginning a new life as a teacher in the Florida panhandle. But her safe, quiet life is shattered the day her former partner, Dr. Seth Holt, appears, asking for help.
The Rogue missile system Julia and Seth designed has fallen into terrorist hands. Julia has no choice but to join Seth in a critical race to prevent the ultimate nightmare. And in doing so, she must revisit her own private hell --- one that won't let her go until she faces it head-on. Now, Julia and Seth, fellow warriors who've seen the worst life has to offer, must breach the highest security risk of all: trust ... and love.

Lady Crenshaw's Christmas (Miss Delacourt) by Heidi Ashworth (A short story)
Ginny and her beloved Anthony, Lord Crenshaw, are finally married and have spent the bulk of their first blissful six months of marriage in the country. However, Ginny must now hostess a Christmas ball at Dunsmere, the estate of the dowager Duchess of Marcross. How is a mere vicar's daughter to carry off such an event with no experience and little exposure to the ways of the ton? And how is she to meet the expectations of her Grandaunt Regina, earn the good graces of Anthony's uncle the Duke of Marcross, endure the spite of the duke's new wife, manage the hysterical escapades of Lucinda, Lady Avery, and find the perfect gift for her husband, all while expecting a babe? All these questions and more are answered in Lady Crenshaw's Christmas, a short story follow-up to two full length novels, Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind and Miss Delacourt Has Her Day available via Montlake Romance.

And since if was a slow mail week, I ordered no less than 13 books from, so that situation shall be remedied shortly and you'll see that haul soon! (Another reason I had to reorganize the library!) is having a fabulous fiction sale, and I have ordered from them a few times. I highly recommend their services, very fast and great value along with great products. I got a fabulous Latte mug from them also that is big enough to brew the travel size Keurig setting! Coffee Heaven! And now I'm on their mailing list so I am looking at their Early Spring 2013 Fiction catalog right now.. oh, so many fabulous new books coming out.. swoon...

Jan 16, 2013

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Cover from my UK Time Warner edition

Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
My personal copy is published by Time Warner UK, 2005
Also published November 29th 2005 by St. Martin's Press (first published July 2004)
Paperback 568 pages
Not sent by publisher, author etc; Personal collection!
Burton Book Review Rating: FIVE Stars!
Previous Elizabeth Chadwick Reviews at Burton Book Review

A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power.

England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin's development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back.

Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin. Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin's rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other's arms.

Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family's lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....

What a book to start the New Year with, and this is the first book I've read towards the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge! Medieval treachery, love, and war coming from the pen of Chadwick is always a treat for me. I adore Elizabeth Chadwick's writing as she blends romance and history with much detail of the medieval period. This particular story focuses on a young couple who first met when the young boy became a ward of the girl's father. Brunin FitzWarin was a friend to Hawise, and kindred spirits. They enjoyed each other's company growing up, but once they were finally betrothed their world changed. Hawise's family home of Ludlow Castle comes under threat from de Lacy cousins who would like to battle for its possession, and Brunin finds himself face to face with that threat at the same time his own ancestral home becomes threatened.

There are many side characters as typical of a Chadwick novel which helps to give an epic style story, and as Chadwick readers already know, the stories are always full of historical details that are inter-weaved throughout a dramatic story. The FitzWarin family may be a step above the de Dinan's as far as status and lineage goes, but marrying Hawise de Dinan to Brunin will bring the FitzWarins the prize of Ludlow Castle. But that's only if the de Lacy's will let Ludlow go, and it doesn't seem like Gilbert de Lacy and his loyal squires are willing to do that. There are disputes from several families as to the rightful owners of the castles of the story which brings battles and grudges to the families involved. Add the fact that England is in the middle of yet another political war between King Stephen's factions and Matilda's son Henry, we've got ourselves a fantastic telling of a complex period of England's history.

Shadows and Strongholds provides a riveting, captivating wondrous tale of medieval chivalry and rivalry among powerful families such as the de Lacys and Mortimers. One of the most interesting things romance lovers will adore is the fact that one of female leads from this novel, Marion de la Bruyere, is to this day purported to be a ghost amongst the ruins of Ludlow Castle. Her story is vividly imagined in the novel and such a sad one. And in the Author's Note I was so happy to learn that Chadwick's earlier 2000 publication of Lords of the White Castle is actually the latter story of the FitzWarin story, so guess what I'm reading next?!

I have read and enjoyed five other novels from Elizabeth Chadwick, and this one does not disappoint in the least. Chadwick is a master of the medieval period and I love how she is not afraid to add a thicker layer of  romance than most. She and Sharon Kay Penman are each my favorite medieval period historical fiction authors, and other fans of Elizabeth Chadwick will be pleased to know that she is reissuing Shadows and Strongholds with Sourcebooks Landmark in March 2013. Be prepared to see it on many favorite lists at the end of 2013, including mine.

Jan 13, 2013

Suddenly Sunday | Monday Memes

Sunday, January 13, 2013
The Sunday

Visit Svea's blog at The Muse in The Fog Book Review to start linking up your Sunday posts! Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea whose purpose is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted by Lori @ Lori's Reading Corner this January.

The What Are You Reading meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we keep track of what we are currently reading and plan to read.
What are you Reading?

2013 started with a bang as I whizzed through Chadwick's Shadows and Strongholds, and then started the next book in the timeline, Lords of the White Castle. Chadwick is becoming my ultimate favorite author, so it seems perhaps I ought to pick up a Sharon Kay Penman soon so I can have them battle in my head for the title of my favorite medieval era author ;)
Finishing this one over the weekend..
When I finish this one, I'll post the reviews for the two Chadwick books fairly close to each other since they follow the same story line. I must say, Chadwick doesn't seem to like King John in her novels, and I certainly have much disdain for him now. He is always portrayed as a money hungry, power grabbing sexually driven man who has no regard for the people he governs. And in Lords of the White Castle this is true ten fold, plus add in a hefty dose of vindictiveness and he is quite vile.

Since 2013 is going to be about reading for me and what I want when I want, I also am excited about a new Goodreads group meant for recommending Classic Historical Fiction! I know there are zillions of matriarchs/patriarchs of Historical Fiction that I have not even heard of before, and I hope to find some goodies to read after following the discussions from the group. Since last June, my goal is to read more of the oldies, but I need more of an education on them first so I can separate the 'dry' storytellers to the ones that will keep me engaged. I had attempted to read Edith Pargeter a few years ago, and BLAH I could not follow through.

And going back to the currently reading discussion is the glorious fact that I am still managing to keep up with my plan to read the Bible in 180 Days which is also a Goodreads Group. I am so eager to get to the New Testament and get to know Jesus better, but I know I must learn the history as well! I just watched Ben Hur in the Charlton Heston cartoon version with the kiddos and that was pretty good!

And we are staunch Seattle Seahawks fans in this Texan home, so I ask that you pray for us.

Posted this week on the blog:
Review: The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James
Enter for the giveaway of above at my other site at HF-Connection, giveaway is ending shortly.

In the Mail....
For Review for the Historical Novel Society:
yucky cover, agreed??

Josiah's Treasure by Nancy Herriman
I read Herriman's last one, The Irish Healer, and it was pretty good. Not fantastic amazing, but good. I am hoping this one steps it up a notch, but with that weird cover that just irks me, who knows.

In 1882 Sarah Whittier dreams of opening an art studio run by immigrant women. She plans to use the house left to her by family friend Josiah Cady as collateral for her studio. But will all be lost when the inheritance is challenged by an angry man claiming to be Josiah’s son and legal heir? Rumor of gold nuggets hidden in the house place Sarah’s life in danger. Her future uncertain and her safety threatened, Sarah has nowhere to turn. That is, unless she can soften a vengeful man’s heart – and they both learn that love is finer than any gold.

From PaperbackSwap:

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance by Sara Poole (2010)
In the simmering hot summer of 1492, a monstrous evil is stirring within the Eternal City of Rome. The brutal murder of an alchemist sets off a desperate race to uncover the plot that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge Europe back into medieval darkness.
Determined to avenge the killing of her father, Francesca Giordano defies all convention to claim for herself the position of poisoner serving Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, head of the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy. She becomes the confidante of Lucrezia Borgia and the lover of Cesare Borgia. At the same time, she is drawn to the young renegade monk who yearns to save her life and her soul.
Navigating a web of treachery and deceit, Francesca pursues her father’s killer from the depths of Rome’s Jewish ghetto to the heights of the Vatican itself. In so doing, she sets the stage for the ultimate confrontation with ancient forces that will seek to use her darkest desires to achieve their own catastrophic ends.

Another from Paperbackswap (Because I saw it on Julianne Douglas' Top Ten list!):

Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones (2008)
Cathedral of the Sea follows the fortunes of the Estanyol family, from their peasant roots to a son, Arnau, who flees the land only to realize spectacular wealth and devastating problems.

During Arnau's lifetime Barcelona becomes a city of light and darkness, dominated by the construction of the city's great pride -- the cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar -- and by its shame, the deadly Inquisition.

As a young man, Arnau joins the powerful guild of stone-workers and helps to build the church with his own hands, while his best friend and adopted brother Joan studies to become a priest.

When Arnau, who secretly loves a forbidden Jewish woman named Mar, is betrayed and hauled before the Inquisitor, he finds himself face-to-face with his own brother. Will he lose his life just as his beloved Cathedral of the Sea is finally completed?
Thanks for the heads up Julianne!

New on Kindle downloads (some were free and some were just too good of a deal to pass up):
For Time and Eternity (Sister Wife #1) by Allison K. Pittman
{Christy Award Nominee for 2011!}
In an effort to escape her stern, legalistic upbringing, Camilla Deardon runs away from home with a handsome young Mormon man, Nathan. Married in the church, they raise their daughters and hope for more children. But their lives take a sudden turn when her husband, whom she loves deeply, is designated for special honor by the church elders. Nathan is given the honor of taking a second wife and soon a new “sister wife” comes into their home. Camilla is heartbroken and remembers the faith of her childhood. She begins to question this revelation and is charged with unfaithfulness to the Mormon teachings. She enters a struggle for her life when elders call for blood atonement for her disobedience. Forced to abandon her children, she leaves them in the care of a Paiute Indian woman who shares her faith. Camilla knows they’ll be safe until she can return for them.

The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
A novel full of grand passion and intensity, The Soldier's Wife asks "What would you do for your family?" "What should you do for a stranger?" and "What would you do for love?"

As World War II draws closer and closer to Guernsey, Vivienne de la Mare knows that there will be sacrifices to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and for her mother-in-law, for whom she cares while her husband is away fighting. What she does not expect is that she will fall in love with one of the enigmatic German soldiers who take up residence in the house next door to her home. As their relationship intensifies, so do the pressures on Vivienne. Food and resources grow scant, and the restrictions placed upon the residents of the island grow with each passing week. Though Vivienne knows the perils of her love affair with Gunther, she believes that she can keep their relationship and her family safe. But when she becomes aware of the full brutality of the Occupation, she must decide if she is willing to risk her personal happiness for the life of a stranger.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

Land of My Heart by Tracie Peterson
Book 1 of Heirs of Montana from bestselling author Tracie Peterson. Adventurers, families, outlaws...all driven west in the 1860s by a longing for endless blue sky along with wild and wide-open spaces. Tracie Peterson, from her own Montana home, paints an unforgettable portrait of this rich, rugged landscape, populated by strong and spirited characters. When Dianne Chadwick urges her family to move west to her uncle's ranch in the Montana Territory, she has no idea that her new life in the rugged frontier--and even within her uncle's home--will not be the idyllic adventure she expects. But first she has to survive the arduous wagon journey with the help of guide Cole Selby, whose heart seems to be as hard as the mountains he loves.

I couldn't resist getting this one, I read a few of the mysteries when I was young and they were probably over my head a bit ;)
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Ryan

The complete collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales, both long and short, compiled together for the first time by Simon & Schuster for free!
This fantastic collection is accompanied by an exciting new introduction from Robert Ryan, a writer who's own book has been fully endorsed by the Conan Doyle Estate. A big Holmes fan himself, he will undoubtedly provide a fascinating new look at the detective and his bizarre ability to read both people and objects, in order to discover who dunnit.

The Runaway Pastor's Wife by Diane Moody
What could possibly drive a pastor's wife to run away from home?
After years of frustration from life in a church fishbowl, Annie McGregor walks away from it all and boards a plane for Colorado. She has no way of knowing her college sweetheart is headed to the same cabin in the Rockies, terrified and gravely wounded. Their unexpected reunion couldn't have come at a worse time. Or could it? Bewildered that God would allow Michael Dean to walk back into her life, Annie pleads with Him to keep her heart true to her husband and her family. God answers her prayer, but in a way she would never expect.
Written by a former pastor's wife, Annie's story provides a rare look inside the family life of those in the ministry, particularly the unique pressures on those who marry men of God.

Jan 7, 2013

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

Monday, January 07, 2013
Like an undiscovered treasure just waiting to be unwrapped!

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James
Berkley Trade, December 31, 2012
Historical Fiction/Regency Time Flip
Paperback 432 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Samantha McDonough cannot believe her eyes--or her luck. Tucked in an uncut page of a two-hundred-year-old poetry book is a letter that she believes was written by Jane Austen, mentioning with regret a manuscript that "went missing at Greenbriar in Devonshire."
Could there really be an undiscovered Jane Austen novel waiting to be found? Could anyone resist the temptation to go looking for it?
Making her way to the beautiful, centuries-old Greenbriar estate, Samantha finds it no easy task to sell its owner, the handsome yet uncompromising Anthony Whitaker, on her wild idea of searching for a lost Austen work--until she mentions its possible multi-million dollar value.

After discovering the unattributed manuscript, Samantha and Anthony are immediately absorbed in the story of Rebecca Stanhope, daughter of a small-town rector, who is about to encounter some bittersweet truths about life and love. As they continue to read the newly discovered tale from the past, a new one unfolds in the present--a story that just might change both of their lives forever.

I had not read any of Syrie James' work before, but after reading her newest novel she has me sold on her writing skills. This novel comprises of a novel within a novel as we are treated to the contemporary story of Samantha who hunts down and discovers that there is an unpublished story written by Jane Austen. She then has to beg the sexy owner to do the right thing and allow the work to be published. (While fighting her attraction to him, she has to struggle to remember that she has a boyfriend, so it turns into an interesting romance story). But.. we are also treated to the (astutely imagined) unpublished work of the epic authoress herself, Jane Austen, called The Stanhopes.

All the prerequisites of an Austen novel are there.. from the whimsical heroine to the doting father, and misconceptions of characters and a quaint mix of everything we love about Austen. I was quite impressed with the Austenesque prose, and it has me wondering what I missed with a previous novel of Syrie James, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

The author has done her Austen homework, and I recognized a character from the novel immediately, as she named a friend in the story Laurel Ann in honor of Laurel Ann Nattress of as she gave her expert advice to the author. I loved the plot line and how the present day plot sort of mirrored our own emotions as the characters read through the story the same time as we did. Very clever, and I can really imagine all of the story actually being true since the clues and facts (however imagined) seemed to really sell the mystery of the lost manuscript. Very well done!

Check Historical Fiction Connection on 1/9/2013 for a guest post and GIVEAWAY!