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Apr 28, 2013

TSS: Not Just Books in my Mailbox

Sunday, April 28, 2013
The Sunday   
Visit Svea's blog at The Muse in The Fog Book Review to link 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.

April is almost gone! Whew that was fast!
I wanted to share this awesome family heirloom that my first cousin once removed sent to me - it arrived in my mailbox safe and sound (hence my blog post title!).. it is a framed print of the Our Father prayer, with the Ten Commandments illustrated around it. It belonged to Mary Rutterman Gardner Trueman (1886 - 1968), who was my father's paternal grandmother:

Her family had come over to America from Germany.  My father's maternal family had come from Ireland.. interesting how America is such a melting pot isn't it? Such a story it is for these immigrant ancestors of ours.
Mary married my great grandfather Charles Gardner and gave him three children but then he went and wrapped a car around a tree in 1922 and killed himself. Mary was forced to remarry for the sake of her children's financial welfare - it has been said that it was not a very happy marriage but I can't say for sure. This husband had recently arrived from England in 1921. What a story there is to tell as she blended her German roots with his English ones, I wish I knew more. But I certainly have the makings for my own novel, as I have been tracing my ancestors for the last fifteen years.

According to my cousin who graciously passed this print to me, it used to be above the light switch in Great Grandma's bedroom on Church Street in Kings Park, New York. Now forty-five years since her death, here it is in my humbled hands in Texas. It is in my kitchen for now, but once I get it rematted and reframed it will be too big for that spot and I will find a better spot in the house. For now, I shall enjoy it in all its glory many times a day as it peers at me from its perch in the kitchen. I have a special bond with this great grandmother I've never met - she had so much hardship I cannot even imagine. I wish I had been able to meet her, but I came along five years after her death. The rumor is that I resemble her, and that ain't a bad thing.
Great Grandma Mary and then plain old me

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted by Mari @ MariReads for this month. The Story Siren also hosts IMM, so we can find some cool YA titles there as well.

In the Mail:
April 2013
I admit this was one of those gorgeous chunky hardcovers that totally made me want to sit down and read right away. There are pictures in the middle, too!! I've always wanted to read more about America before our Civil War - it seems there are tons of books on the civil war - and this book looks awesome. It's non-fiction but supposedly reads quite well.

American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence by Jane Hampton Cook

John Quincy and Louisa Adams's unexpected journey that changed everything.
"American Phoenix" is the sweeping, riveting tale of a grand historic adventure across forbidding oceans and frozen tundra--from the bustling ports and towering birches of Boston to the remote reaches of pre-Soviet Russia, from an exile in arctic St. Petersburg to resurrection and reunion among the gardens of Paris. Upon these varied landscapes this Adams and his Eve must find a way to transform their banishment into America's salvation.

Author, historian, and national media commentator Jane Hampton Cook breathes life into once-obscure history, weaving a meticulously researched biographical tapestry that reads like a gripping novel. With the arc and intrigue of Shakespearean drama in a Jane Austen era, "American Phoenix" is a timely yet timeless addition to the recent renaissance of works on the founding Adams family, from patriarchs John and Abigail to the second-generation of John Quincy and Louisa and beyond.

Cook has crafted not only a riveting narrative but also an easy-to-understand history filled with fly-on-the-wall vignettes from 1812 and its hardscrabble, freedom-hungry people. While unveiling vivid portrayals of each character--a colorful assortment of heroes and villains, patriots and pirates, rogues and rabble-rousers--she paints equally fresh, intimate portraits of both John Quincy and Louisa Adams. Cook artfully reveals John Quincy's devastation after losing the job of his dreams, battle for America's need to thrive economically, and sojourn to secure his homeland's survival as a sovereign nation. She reserves her most detailed brushstrokes for the inner struggles of Louisa, using this quietly inspirational woman's own words to amplify her fears, faith, and fortitude along a deeply personal, often heart-rending journey. Cook's close-up perspective shows how this American couple's Russian destination changed US destiny.
May 7, 2013

Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith
Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore—but her heart belongs to another. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane Shore from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain and friend, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows his King will find her irresistible.

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as that of Jane Shore and Will Hastings, hang in the balance. This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for 500 years, and told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today’s historical fiction lovers as well. 

 From Paperbackswap 

a dingy beat up copy that I'd had on my wishlist foreVVer..
So now I have four of the five. Perhaps it is time I sink my teeth in and read one or two before I buy any others. I started collecting these long before I started to want to use Tudor novels as firewood.

Spring, 1543. King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, whom he wants for his sixth wife. But this time the object of his affections is resisting. Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court are watching keenly, for Lady Catherine is known to have reformist sympathies.

Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is working on the case of a teenage boy, a religious maniac locked in the Bedlam hospital for the insane. Should he be released to his parents, when his terrifying actions could lead to him being burned as a heretic?

When an old friend is horrifically murdered Shardlake promises his widow, for whom he has long had complicated feelings, to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him to both Cranmer and Catherine Parr - and with the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

As London's Bishop Bonner prepares a purge of Protestants Shardlake, together with his assistant, Jack Barak, and his friend, Guy Malton, follow the trail of a series of horrific murders that shake them to the core, and which are already bringing frenzied talk of witchcraft and a demonic possession - for what else would the Tudor mind make of a serial killer . . .?

The Shield of Honor by Gilbert Morris
Two families—the Wakefields of nobility and the lower-class Morgans—are the focus of this sweeping generational saga, joined by intriguing personalities such as Elizabeth I, William Tyndale, and John Bunyan. Linking the people and events through the ages is the struggle of men and women who sought God as the answer to their difficulties. #3: Shield of Honor This third book of the series depicts the English civil war, Charles I, and Cromwell as it continues the story of the Wakefield and Morgan families.

Featured eBook Download:
Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising "prime homesteads" in a "booming community." Unbeknownst to them, the speculator's true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledging community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival! Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them. These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances--especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.

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.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Read/Reviewed last week
Reviewed on the blog this week:

After finishing the above titles, my Goodreads Goal is looking pretty fabulous:

You have read 25 books toward your goal of 50 books.
Awesome, you're 11 books (20%) ahead of schedule!

I love that Goodreads also shows Page Count, and that's what is going to intrigue me the most when it comes to the end of the year.

These last four months I've read 9691 pages within those tallied 26 books, but as soon as I completed the bible Saturday morning that will add another 2000 pages to that tally, making it close to 12,000 pages read by the end of April!

Am I fantastic or what? So dang proud of my bible plan and partners. Dang Mike jumped ahead and finished a week ahead of time, boo on him, lol! And then Melanie slid into second place, so I guess I'll have to settle for the bronze lowly last place medal. We originally planned to start as a a great big group, but just we three remained. The M group. I am starting over in 2014 with a Chronological bible.

I read the NKJV Study Bible in 178 days. I highly recommend it, and you can purchase it on Amazon.

Currently Reading
Swept Away by Mary Connealy (Trouble in Texas book one)
I have seen several of her titles all over the place but have yet to read one. She has written several series and I don't jump into the middle of series ever, so when I saw that this one was the first book in yet another series I figured now is as good a time as any to hop on board. And since it's Texas based, even better! It started off with some drama, so I hope that continues!

It Happened at The Fair by Deeanne Gist
This novel is fun because it has photos of the Chicago World's Fair from 1890's in it! Very cool! The hero Cullen I can only imagine as being one tasty nugget of a man... judging from Della's reaction to him:

"Blood rushed through her veins. He was magnificent. As beautifully formed as any sculpture on the entire grounds of the fair. She squeezed the stair rail. Would his chest have the same texture as his arms? {....}Oh, she could see. She could see just fine."

And with that interesting thought, I shall leave you lovely ladies to ponder.

Apr 26, 2013

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

Friday, April 26, 2013

Intrigues of Elizabethan court via the love story of Helena Von Snakenborg

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd (book 3 in Ladies in Waiting)
Historical Romance/Tudor Fiction
Howard Books
Paperback 352 pages
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiance has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen’s downfall, Helena is forced to choose between an unyielding monarch and the husband she’s not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.
Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.

Helena Von Snakenborg may be recognized by Elizabeth I aficionados as one of her closest friends/courtiers/ladies in waiting. In Sandra Byrd's third installment of the Ladies In Waiting series we are treated to the tried and true Elizabethan era shenanigans except now we get to learn a bit more about her favored lady, Elin from Sweden. I was intrigued in this title because my interest is in Christian historicals, and I wanted to see how the author blended an inspirational theme with Elizabeth's court.

Elin learns the ways of the court quickly as she decides to choose potential love in England instead of returning to Sweden with her family. She is about nineteen years old and has eyes for William Parr, but Parr is still married, unfortunately. Luckily for Elin she is welcomed by Elizabeth and she anglicizes her name to Helena and is given every comfort. Her high nobility for being associated with William Parr raises her status and she never has to worry for income as long as she remains under the fickle Elizabeth's favor. She manages well until she blunders in the name of love again.. all at a time when Elizabeth has forbidden her ladies to marry.

Major events and players are portrayed in this retelling of Elizabethan courts, from Lettice Knollys' marriage to Robert, Earl of Leicester, Francis Drake to the Mary Queen of Scots debacle. The difference this time is in learning more about Helena and how she managed to stay one step ahead of some of the other ladies at the court. Refreshingly, this telling helps humanize Elizabeth a bit more as we witness the relationship between Elizabeth and Helena and how it grows over the years. Although the novel covers a span of forty years, it certainly reads fast and there is no lull in the writing as there was always something going on from treachery in the courts to treachery in Helena's own house.

I would recommend Roses Have Thorns for those who would like to learn a bit more about Elizabethan life and more about Helena. There are biblical references but I would not wholeheartedly classify this as the inspirational sub-genre simply because the mission of  Inspirational Christian Fiction is supposed to glorify God through a biblical truth while exhibiting a strong theme in forgiveness/faith/redemption; perhaps with the characters debating whether their life is living towards God's will. There is a discernible difference from this title and my other reviewed inspirational titles but the element of a "clean read" could certainly apply here, as most christian fiction readers do require that in their reads.

If you happen to steer yourself away from Byrd's books because you fear a possible preachy biblical element, please do not, although she does use basic scripture as an added layer to Helena's turmoils in a "the bible tells me so" type of way. There is also the religious turmoil that occurs for the realm, the typical Catholic versus Protestant issues that Elizabeth had to deal with during her reign, as she attempted to not peer into men's souls regarding faith yet the factions were still evident during her reign, mostly because of the Catholic Mary of Scots. The practices of these faiths were a major source of contention in Elizabeth's time, and it is evident during this story as well. 

The author takes great pains to display the amount of knowledge she has gathered for the era and there are many details about the historical events that occur during the latter part of Elizabeth's reign. But the main crux is always Helena - her life and her loves, a rare glimpse of the fact that perhaps it wasn't so bad being the highest titled lady in the land next to Elizabeth. A book that features family lineage charts as well as a reading guide, this is an exemplary novel on Helena Von Snakenborg and her own love life, a lesser known figure in Elizabeth's court that I would recommend especially to those who are just learning their ways around Elizabeth's court.

On my other blog at HF-Connection the author was kind enough to offer an intriguing guest post regarding Elizabeth and her women, which you can read here, and it ties in a bit with the author's note as well.

Apr 23, 2013

Duchess (Daughters of Fortune Book #3) by Susan May Warren

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
A poignant conclusion that ties up the series with dramatic zeal
Duchess (Daughters of Fortune Book #3) by Susan May Warren
Christian Historical Romance
Summerside Press, March 1 2013
Paperback 352 pages
Review Copy provided by the publisher, via LitFuse
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Read my previous reviews of these Susan May Warren titles:
Heiress (book 1)
Baroness (book 2)
Buy Duchess here!

Follow Susan's tour here 

The golden age of Hollywood is in the business of creating stars. Rosie Worth, now starlet Roxy Price, has found everything she’s wanted in the glamour of the silver screen. With adoring fans and a studio-mogul husband, she’s finally silenced the voices—and grief—of the past. Her future shines bright…until the fated Black Friday when it all comes crashing down. When Roxy loses everything, she finds herself disgraced and penniless. Her only hope is to join forces with Belgian duke Rolfe Van Horne, a longtime film investor. But Rolfe is not who he seems, and he has other plans for Roxy and her movies—plans to support a growing unrest in Europe, plans that could break her heart and endanger her life.
When her country needs her, will she have the courage to surrender her glittering world and her one true love?

The Daughters of Fortune series follows the females of the Worth/Price families and this last novel of the trilogy features Rosie Worth. I've said in previous reviews that the books need to be read in order, and that holds true again. The characters change generations from the first to the last books and it would definitely heighten your enjoyment if you knew the background of the current story (obvious spoilers will be provided in book three if you start the series here).

Duchess focuses on Rosie, the daughter of Jinx, who desires to be a movie star. She gets her wish and yet she slowly begins to realize that living the life of the rich and famous can also be empty and full of heartache. She struggles to find her path and even though good friends encourage her, she still rejects God and the notion that faith in Him could fill her up. She seeks love in the wrong places and when she does find a worthy love she can't find a way to hang on to it. Through all of her bad choices we still root for her because her heart is pure - and we know that there has to be a happy ending, right?

Turns out there is a war brewing in Europe in 1938, and the German Jewish are being persecuted. Rosie finds herself in the middle of it with Rolfe Van Horne and just like a blond starlet she has no idea what is going on around her. Alongside this growing tension, Rosie learns to accept the biblical phrase, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." How Rosie finally embraces this is our ultimate journey, and with this faith theme alongside a bit of intrigue this series is much like a soap opera, though with classy style. The Nazi plot line doesn't take precedence until the last section of the book, so don't buy this thinking you're getting a full look at the impending war. Most of the novel focuses on Rosie's relationships and the people she connects with, which eventually will bring us to the climax of the Nazi theme. Meanwhile, we'll just have to sit back and enjoy the movies and the glitzy ride that Rosie brings us on.

Previous threads of untied story lines do get a chance to be resolved in this conclusion, and since I've thoroughly enjoyed this Daughters of Fortune journey I am sad to see it end. I absolutely loved reading the author's note, as the biblical themes all came together with a huge dose of redemption, but I don't want to spoil it and clue you in. Duchess is a very well plotted story that totally had me crying at the end! I really wish the editing were a little bit more polished, as I spotted at least two errors. Still, with the dramatic writing style of Susan May Warren, I am wondering if I could step out of my comfort zone of historical themes and read one of her many contemporary novels. Definitely something worth looking into.

Thank you so much to LitFuse to providing me with a copy of Duchess to review! This series is special to me, because it was book one that actually turned me on to the Christian historical genre in 2011, and I haven't looked back since.

Apr 21, 2013

TSS | The Bookish Memes

Sunday, April 21, 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.

Not much to add for happy joy joy stuff after the Boston Marathon bombings and then the explosions here in Texas. Sad to see how our world is dismantling itself. I can only hope and pray for peace and recovery for all those affected, my heart goes out to them.

In good news, and we all need some, it does seem like Spring is here to stay in Texas: the weather is still a bit back and forth but it has been pleasantly warm! I think it's time for some Spring shopping.

I love playing on my iPhone with photo editing filters etc, look what I made last Sunday during the beautiful weather!! You can see a really green one on my facebook page. My daughter had fun taking pics. And what it really started out as me going down to look for my husband because supper was ready.. he was on the tractor on the other side of the pond. OF course. It seems like we are always playing hide and seek and it drives me nuts, especially at dinner time.

This week on Burton Book Review:

Coming soon will be my review of the final installment of Susan May Warren's Daughters of Fortune trilogy, Duchess, which is a favorite series of mine.

Also for fun, here is a link to a recent interview about me and historical fiction.. just a quick Q&A with Kayla of the Pittsburgh Examiner. Twice in this year that I've been interviewed, but I must admit I like my first one much better since I got to get a lot of things off my chest as a lowly blogger.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted by Mari @ MariReads for this month. The Story Siren also hosts IMM, so we can find some cool YA titles there as well.


The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau, from a win at Broken Teepee courtesy of (YES! I entered as many of the giveaways as I could for this one!)

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era.

In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

From a book swap:
The Wakefield Dynasty by Gilbert Morris, books 1 & 4, looks like there are 7 total in the series.
 Two families--the Wakefields of nobility and the lower-class Morgans--are the focus of this sweeping generational saga, joined by intriguing personalities such as Elizabeth I, William Tyndale, and John Bunyan. Linking the people and events through the ages is the struggle of men and women who sought God as the answer to their difficulties.
The Sword of Truth by Gilbert Morris (published 1994)
Myles Morgan's discovery of his noble heritage introduces him to a fascinating new life in the English court and to the political conflict surrounding the translation of the Bible into English. Never in his wildest dreams did Myles Morgan believe he would rise above his commoner upbringing. Then through a tragic twist of fate, he is reunited with the father he never knew: Sir Robert Wakefield, lord and nobleman. Claimed as Wakefield's rightful heir, Myles is thrown into the dizzying life at court, the confusing intrigues of love, and the struggle between King Henry VIII and those seeking to bring the Bible to Englishmen in their own language--the most vocal of whom is a scholar named William Tyndale. Soon Myles must made a choice between the woman he has come to love and the faith he cannot live without. Share the drama, intrigue, and adventure of England's history, and experience the struggles of those who fought so valiantly for religious liberty.

The Fields of Glory  by Gilbert Morris (published 1996)
Evan, Amos, and Jenny form a triangle of romance and adventure that takes them to the limits of their faith. With the help of an outspoken minister named John Bunyan they are drawn closer to God.

Evan Morgan--bold and wild, a young man whose convictions and passions run deep...Amos Wakefield--bearer of a noble name, who is determined to do whatever it takes to live up to his family's reputation...Jenny Clairmont--a young runaway who comes to Wakefield with Evan, seeking a better life. Together these three form a triangle of romance and adventure that will take each of them to the limits of their faith, drawing them closer to God through the powerful presence and ministry of an outspoken young minister: John Bunyan.

The Homeplace by Gilbert Morris (published 2005)
Book one of four in The Singing River Series
Lanie took out her journal and dated it April 12, 1928. She started the habit of writing down everything that happened to her when she was no more than eight years old, and now she had six journals completely full. She thought about the prize at school, almost prayed to win, but somehow she could not. 'God, ' she finally said, 'I'll do my best, and if you'll help me, that's all I ask.' Fourteen-year-old Lanie Belle Freeman of Fairhope, Arkansas, has high hopes for her future. Happy on the five-acre family homeplace, she dreams of going to college and becoming a writer. And with her father launching a new business and her mother expecting the fifth baby, the bright days of an early Southern spring seem to herald expansive new beginnings for the Freeman family. But her mother isn't as strong as she should be, and it's going to take time for the business to pay back the mortgage. When unexpected tragedy strikes, it is left to Lanie to keep the family together and hold on to their home. In a world shaken by the Great Depression, it is faith in God and love in a tightly knit family that will help Lanie and her siblings overcome the odds and create a future that promises the fulfillment of love. The Homeplace offers a warmhearted and inspiring saga of a courageous young woman who holds her family together through the Depression era.


A Light On The Veranda by Ciji Ware
a sequel to Midnight on Julia Street

"A secret may hold for a hundred years... and then it's time for the past to take revenge"

Daphne Duvallon vowed never to return to the South years ago when she left her philandering fiance at the altar. Now family has called her back to Natchez, Mississippi, a city as mysterious and compelling as the ghostly voices that haunt her dreams.

From a time when the oldest settlement on the Mississippi was in its heyday and vast fortunes were made and lost, Daphne begins to uncover the secrets of an ancestor whose fate is somehow linked with her own. In a compelling and mesmerizing tale, now Daphne must right the wrongs of the past, or follow the same path into tragedy...

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.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Currently Reading
This week I read David and Bathsheba which is a reissue from 1980. I am glad to see the biblical titles coming back again, but this one was pretty straight-laced. This is another reason why I don't like reading e-galleys, I always wonder if the funky formatting is taking away from my enjoyment. There were several moments where I was like, hey I remember it will help my enjoyment of reading those parts of the bible again. It is being published again in June 2013 and my review will post a bit closer to that pub date.

After David and Bathsheba, I picked up Roses Have Thorns from Sandra Byrd. I have not read any of her others yet, since the most recent ones have been set during the Tudor era and we all know about Tudor Burnout Stick A Fork In Me. This one is a stand alone in her Ladies in Waiting series, and after much prodding I've decided to take the plunge. It has been marketed as a bit of a mix of Christian plus Tudor themes, but I don't notice anything that would deem it being considered a Christian Historical. Every now and then there is a small biblical quote but it quickly moves on. This one is a bit different only because it features Helena Von Snakenborg who was a favorite courtier of Elizabeth I.

Up Next 
It Happened at The Fair by Deeanne Gist
What A Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr

May 1 begins the group read of The Bastard King by Jean Plaidy, I welcome you to read along with us on Goodreads.

I am on target to finish reading my Study Bible VERY SOON! Can you BELIEVE IT?! So excited.

Apr 17, 2013

The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Fantastic Regency era romance full of intrigue and faith values!

The Heiress of Winterwood (Whispers on the Moors Book #1) by Sarah E. Ladd
Christian Historical Romance
Thomas Nelson; April 9, 2013
Paperback 320 pages
Review copy provided by publisher via LitFuse in exchange for this review, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Totally Awesome! 5 stars

Purchase your copy here
Follow along Sarah's virtual tour here

I edited out some of the plot in the following synopsis....
Pride goes before the fall . . . but what comes after?
Darbury, England, 1814
Amelia Barrett, heiress to an ancestral estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s infant baby. She'll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father, Graham, a sea captain she’s never met.

Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she examines her soul and must face her one weakness: pride.
Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline.
Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.

I must say I devoured this one, I could NOT put it down. I am VERY glad I didn't read the synopsis or back cover thoroughly, or I would have been anticipating what was a big twist in the story. (I HATE when marketing gives away the plot!) ..vent over..The above synopsis is safe for consumption since I deleted the middle.

The story is set during England's Regency era where Amelia Barrett finds herself as a temporary guardian of an infant. Nine months later, the father of the infant comes back to retrieve her, and Amelia is willing to stop at nothing so that the baby can remain in her custody. Captain Graham Sterling is a neighbor to Amelia, but he has been away at sea for most of his life. Upon his return to his estate he finds his brother William has ran it into debt, and he is not worthy of caring for his daughter. Amelia is the best person for the job, but Amelia's intended does not want anything to do with the Sterling baby.

Turns out this is really not just a romance - as there is more suspense and intrigue that you can shake a stick at!! Amelia realizes that her engagement to a shady Edward Littleton must not be acted upon, but it turns out that Littleton doesn't really want Amelia anyway - he wants her estate and is ready to move heaven and earth to get it. In an era where a woman is bound to be loyal to a man and her family, Amelia has little hope of achieving her dreams of being a mother to her friend's baby when scoundrels like Littleton stand in her way.

Many plot twists occur which have us losing breath as we try and keep up with Amelia's headstrong ways as one disaster after the other happen at breakneck speed - which is why I could not put this novel down! I loved how the faith factor was skillfully inserted, both Amelia and Graham have to mend their ways and the novel shows how they approach their faith in order for them to have a happy outcome. The narrative seamlessly shifts from both of the main character's point of views and we are eager to see them both succeed. The love story was achingly slow, as we knew these two are made for each other, but it was a nice backdrop to the fast paced intrigue. A fantastic debut for author Sarah Ladd, and I CANNOT wait to see what is next.. since this is book one of a series, I am guessing that the ill-fated cousin Helen will be featured in book two.... (no spoilers, so I'll hush!!)

The journey towards absolute trust in God + idyllic setting + good vs. evil + sweet romance + a plethora of interesting characters = a new favorite novel and five star read!!

My Goodreads Reading Progress:

04/07page 320
100.0%"Squeeeeeee.. Loved it!!!"
04/07page 262
81.0%"I love this book - will be sad to see it end. But I can't stop myself from reading it!"
04/06page 135
42.0%"Methinks they shouldn't leave Amelia unprotected tonight, after that shocking announcement!"
04/06page 82
25.0%"Amelia is betrothed to a cad."
04/05page 1
0.0%"OOHH first lines: 'Katherine was going to die. And Amelia could do nothing to prevent it

Apr 15, 2013

The Miracle at St. Bruno's by Philippa Carr (aka Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt)

Monday, April 15, 2013
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England #1) by Philippa Carr
Gothic Historical Romance of the 70's
Book from my personal collection
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 Stars

Available on Kindle now!
"I was born in the September of 1523, nine months after the monks had discovered the child in the crib on that Christmas morning. My birth was, my father used to say, another miracle: He was not young at the time being forty years of age . . . My mother, whose great pleasure was tending her gardens, called me Damask, after the rose which Dr. Linacre, the King's physician, had brought into England that year."

Thus begins the story narrated by Damask Farland, daughter of a well-to-do lawyer whose considerable lands adjoin those of St. Bruno's Abbey. It is a story of a life inextricably enmeshed with that of Bruno, the mysterious child found on the abbey altar that Christmas morning and raised by the monks to become a man at once handsome and saintly, but also brooding and ominous, tortured by the secret of his origin which looms ever more menacingly over the huge abbey he comes to dominate.

This is also the story of an engaging family, the Farlands. Of a father wise enough to understand "the happier our King is, the happier I as a true subject must be," a wife twenty years his junior, and a daughter whose intelligence is constantly to war with the strange hold Bruno has upon her destiny. What happens to the Farlands against the background of what is happening to King Henry and his court during this robust period provides a novel in which suspense and the highlights of history are wonderfully balanced.

I was fortunate to be able to participate in the read along for this first book of the gothic series that prolific author Eleanor Hibbert/Jean Plaidy wrote under her pen-name of Philippa Carr. It is the story of a family in England struggling to stay out of trouble during the tyrannical reign of Henry VIII and eventually his daughter Queen Mary.

The main characters are three .. "we three as one": Damask, the daughter of the household, Kate, her distant cousin, and Bruno, the miracle child that was brought up next door to Damask in the Abbey. Religious turmoil permeates the land, as persecution reaches its wicked tentacles out to the innocents, and Damask and Kate attempt to live their lives after tragedies occur.

Damask is introduced to us as a young girl, and by the end of the story we pretty much see what would be the end of her life as well. She was a narrator that could easily get on your nerves though, she is supposed to be so uber smart, yet it seems she doesn't see the reality in front of her face and that got tedious after awhile. The other characters were all well done with bad guys and good guys; the plus was that in the background  we also had Henry VIII and his wives.  The writing had small lulls - as we knew that the proverbial shoe was going to drop and we kept waiting for it. Full of tension and the gothic style of melodramatics, this was a fun read that definitely has me intrigued enough to at least see what happens with the next generation in book two. I had been suspecting what was to be the "climatic moment" when it hit by page 357, but it was still awesome.

I haven't read a series in a very long time that features a particular family through a long period of time, though the Morland series comes to mind (Cynthia Harrod Eagles). These two series have completely different tones, as I would not hesitate to recommend this first book of the Daughters of England to the Young Adult reader who is intrigued by the tumultuous reign of the Tudors and their effects on the families of England.

This novel was part of my 2013 To-Be-Read-Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader
Checking in for April here

The next novel I'm reading for the challenge will be another by the same author (different pen-name) The Bastard King by Plaidy.

I read along with the Goodreads Plaidy group for The Miracle at St. Bruno's and we had great discussions there about the book, but here are some of the status updates from the book as I was reading (you may have to be my friend there in order to see since I'm pasting):

Marie Burton is on page 291 of 376
A slightly tortuous journey at this point. Kill them all already.
— Apr 11, 2013 03:14pm
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie’s Previous Updates

Marie Burton
Marie Burton is finished
It is done. The Miracle persists.
— Apr 12, 2013 11:45am
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton
Marie Burton is on page 357 of 376
— Apr 12, 2013 11:13am
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton
Marie Burton is on page 355 of 376
Reading the last chapter... I wonder how I'll fell about this title when it's done.
— Apr 12, 2013 10:28am
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton
Marie Burton is on page 267 of 376
Enjoying this first Philippa Carr novel (pseudonym of Jean Plaidy).
— Apr 06, 2013 07:27pm
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton
Marie Burton is on page 249 of 376
Lots of uh-oh moments!!
— Apr 06, 2013 07:01am
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton
Marie Burton is on page 185 of 376
The story is full of twists and turns, I am enjoying its gothic feel.
— Apr 04, 2013 07:50pm
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton
Marie Burton is on page 156 of 376
— Apr 02, 2013 01:56pm
The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton
Marie Burton is on page 123 of 376
This chapter is titled the shadow of the ax.. And the king is Henry VIII.. Makes me wanna scream "run girl, run !!!

Apr 14, 2013

TSS | Mailbox Joys | Is it Spring yet?

Sunday, April 14, 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.

Tax time, folks! Did you get your taxes done? Aren't I a sweetheart for reminding you? I hope you are getting a refund, anyway. We got enough so we can buy some shoelaces or something extravagant like that. It's been a yucky spring thus far, so next winter I need to not say I can't wait for Spring!! and instead say I can't wait for Summer! (Remind me this summer when it's 110 degrees out how miserable I've been). This weather going back and forth is killing my sinuses and I've had a headache for a month.

This past week on the blog:

In fun Bloggy land, the Armchair BEA is fast approaching.. registrations will be opening soon, so you should go subscribe to their blog so you can keep updated on it and don't miss out. Last year I had tons of fun conversing with other bloggers, and meeting NEW bloggers too. You will have opportunities to link up daily 'get-to-know-me' or writing prompt type posts, as well as giveaways galore. Get some books in mind to host your own giveaway! The dates are from May 28 thru June 2, 2013, which coincides with the BEA Conference in NYC that many of us don't get to go to. So we can have tons of fun for FREE from the comfort of our own computers =) And more giveaways for us, squee!

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia's Mailbox and is being hosted by Mari @ MariReads for this month. The Story Siren also hosts IMM, so we can find some cool YA titles there as well.

In my Mailbox:
From Paperbackswap:

February 2013

Rebekah (Wives of the Patriarchs #2) by Jill Eileen Smith
When her father dies and she is left in the care of her conniving brother Laban, Rebekah knows her life has changed forever. Her hope for the future is restored when she falls in love with her cousin Isaac, and their relationship starts strong. But marital bliss cannot last forever, and the birth of their twin sons marks the beginning of years of misunderstanding, disagreement, and betrayal. The rift between them grows wider and wider until it is surely too deep to be mended. And yet, with God all things are possible.
Join bestselling author Jill Eileen Smith as she fills in the blanks around the biblical women behind the men we know well. Her in-depth research and creative storytelling bring Rebekah's unique story alive with romance, heartache, and the power of forgiveness.

Grace in Thine Eyes (Lowlands of Scotland #4) by Liz Curtis Higgs
Davina McKie is a bonny lass of seventeen, as clever as they come and a gifted musician. Unable to speak since childhood, she is doted on by her belligerent younger brothers, Will and Sandy, who vow to protect their silent sister. — When the lads are forced to depart the glen, Jamie McKie intends to brighten his daughter’s summer by escorting Davina to the Isle of Arran. Her cousins make her welcome at the manse, and the parish delights in hearing their talented fiddler.

But when she catches the eye of a handsome young Highlander on Midsummer Eve, sheltered Davina is unprepared for the shocking events that follow.

A timeless story of passion and revenge, of lost innocence and shattered dreams, Grace in Thine Eyes explores the sorrow of unspeakable shame and the gift of immeasurable grace.

Has anyone read any of these Liz Curtis Higgs titles? I've been collecting them so that now I have all four of the Lowlands of Scotland series. Now.. the hard part is finding time to read them.

For Review:

June 2013
The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (a sort of sequel to The Shadowy Horses! squeeee!)
Nicola Marter was born with a gift: when she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When the gallery she works in receives a wooden carving she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird, the mythical bird that inspires an old Russian fairytale and was once owned by Russia’s famed Empress Catherine.

Nicola’s investigation into the Firebird’s origin draws her into the 1715 world of Anna Logan and leads her on a quest through Scotland, France and Russia, unearthing a tale of love and sacrifice, of courage and redemption.

It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist (I really enjoyed the author's last one, Love On The Line)
A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair’s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.

So I did pickup Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman and reviewed it here, and enjoyed that one as I was reading One Perfect Life and then also the read along book for the Plaidy Group, The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Review can be found here on Monday) and then not to mention the bible which I am supposed to complete on April 29.. I did finish that Bruno's book and now I just need to write the review and start planning the next read along..
take a breath.. I've never read more than one book at a time like I've done so often the last few months, and I am tired of it, lol.

I'm reading David and Bathsheba now, which is a reissue from 1980 I believe, and I don't know what I'm going to read next, since I've got a million to read.

I have a million books to read still, and they are all ones I WANT to read, but I am getting to the point where the pile of them which never seems to diminish is getting aggravating. Why am I always feeling so totally behind? Why am I always feeling like I'm doing a reading marathon because I HAVE TO GET THE REVIEW PUBLISHED, and WHY do I always do this to myself - the usual admonitions of the book blogger.

Granted the pile is not quite so large as it was before, especially since there are some I've decided to completely ignore from last year. But it is still enough to make me mad. I have been turning down the 'random' requests - but the ones specifically from authors that I've reviewed for before, I don't want to leave them hanging, and so I cave. I must stop. I don't mind accepting ones from LitFuse publicity, because all of those that I pick are always great reads of my favorite Christian historical themes. It's the ones that pile up on the side that kill me, because they don't have blog tour dates and so I say sure I can throw one more in there, blah blah blah and they all just pile up.

Le sigh. I shall stop complaining. You know the story. I need to grow up and manage my life properly!
I mean, as long as I get to watch Dallas and the Vikings, I am happy.