Follow Us @burtonreview

Feb 26, 2018

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
Penguin Books March 6 2018, 315 pages
(first published in UK by Raven Books/Bloomsbury)
Review copy provided via NetGalley

When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband's crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting...

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure--a silent companion--that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition--that is, until she notices the figure's eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect--much like the silent companions themselves.

Channeling tones of Daphne Du Maurier, Laura Purcell's Gothic tale of The Silent Companions is a must read for those who enjoy feeling like they are being watched. Prepare for goosebumps as you visit the English estate of the Bainbridge family with Elsie as she prepares for her upcoming lying in as a widow. The house is a decaying estate set amongst the poorest of the villages complete with rising mists and clawing vines. This is where Elsie's new husband has died, and is Elsie's first visit. Mystery surrounds the death of her husband but Elsie is more concerned with the scratching sounds in the night and the mannequins that seem to appear out of nowhere.

The novel does a bit of a time slip from Elsie's late 1800's period to the Charles I 1600's through the diary of Anne Bainbridge once Elsie's companion Sarah Bainbridge begins to read her ancestor's diaries. Elsie and Sarah attempt to thwart the evil nuances that follow them but as it happens the novel begins as Elsie is in an asylum and so we know right away what poor Elsie's fate is. The diary speaks of Sarah's daughter Henrietta Maria and the herbs and tisane that were used to conceive Henrietta Maria - alluding to the evil beginnings of the child who was born with a shriveled tongue.

The back and forth of the narrative of Elsie's past and her current state and then the developing story told through the diaries are well presented and easy to follow. The story carries the atmospheric tones throughout as the reader tries to understand why all the evil events are happening around Elsie. I read the novel quickly and still it stayed with me after the last page perhaps wishing the book could have been a bit longer. I would have really liked to read more from the 1600's plot line and the point of view of Anne Bainbridge and her family. There was a lot of time spent to demonstrate Elsie's time in the mental health unit before we could really understand why she was there in the first place.

After reading The Silent Companions it was hard to decide what to read next -- I didn't really want to close that book and move on. I am intrigued enough to follow the author to see what tale she spins next and happy to learn that she has a Georgian Queens series that I can put on my to be read list.

PS I turned off commenting long, long ago.. so go find me on facebook to say hello!

Feb 19, 2018

Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira

Monday, February 19, 2018

Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira
Viking/Penguin February 27 2018
Hist Fic/Saga/Thriller 416 pages
eBook galley provided by the publisher

From the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter comes a rich and compelling historical novel about the disappearance of two young girls after a cataclysmic blizzard, and what happens when their fate is discovered
New York, 1879: After an epic snow storm ravages the city of Albany, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, begins a search for two little girls, the daughters of close friends killed by the storm who have vanished without a trace.
Mary’s mother and niece Elizabeth, who has been studying violin in Paris, return to Albany upon learning of the girls’ disappearance—but Elizabeth has another reason for wanting to come home, one she is not willing to reveal. Despite resistance from the community, who believe the girls to be dead, the family persists in their efforts to find the two sisters. When what happened to them is revealed, the uproar that ensues tears apart families, reputations, and even the social fabric of the city, exposing dark secrets about some of the most powerful of its citizens, and putting fragile loves and lives at great risk.
Winter Sisters is a propulsive new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter

Previous works by Robin Oliveira:
Read my review of I Always Loved You
Read my review of My Name Is Mary Sutter

When I was notified this book was available to review on NetGalley I jumped at the chance without much of a thought. I vividly remember the last two books from Robin Oliveira and how I enjoyed them very much and I knew whatever the book was it would be worth my sacrifice of taking the time to review it. I love the way the author writes -- it is fluid and melodic and keeps me intrigued from start to finish.

What was a pleasant surprise is that this novel brings back characters from My Name Is Mary Sutter, which was about the rarity of a woman becoming an accepted doctor in Civil War times. The story is now focused on Mary's extended family who suffer from an epic northeastern blizzard and the subsequent search for the two young girls who are missing since that storm. I may not have been fully prepared for the horrors of the tale as it progressed, but yet the sordidness of the story is handled delicately and with as much emotion as can be portrayed on paper through the well drawn characters. There is no need to go into a lengthy summary of this novel as you can surmise enough from the book description and I beg you to experience it firsthand as I recommend this for fans of historical fiction set in America.

Robin Oliveira is three for three in my book! I found Winter Sisters to be captivating, horrifying, historical and yet a timeless representation of the prejudices of man and the evil that exists among us. Seeking redemption is our only hope if you can survive the storm.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Feb 12, 2018

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Monday, February 12, 2018

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
  • William Morrow Paperbacks (March 1, 2016) 624 pages
  • my copy was a library loan

The New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph--a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother's death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father's troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love--with her father's protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William's wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

I have always had an interest in the colonial history and the founding of America along with the rich history that often gets overlooked in hist-fic as a whole. I still feel that I have tons to learn about the 1700s of American life and this novel really puts into perspective the turmoils of the American Revolution and how it affected the families of those thrust into the political arena of the times. This novel is a chunky one that tells the story of Thomas Jefferson as told by his daughter Patsy's point of view.

Patsy's character is one to love: her compassion, her devotion to her father and his causes are the crux of this tale. The sacrifices are many, and it brings home how grateful modern Americans should be for those who made it their life work's to bring America the freedoms it was founded for. We see how Thomas Jefferson could have been as a man - and not just a presidential figure. We see how low he gets and yet we don't really see him at a high due to facts the reader is made privy to with his personal life.

The novel addresses controversial topics such as slavery, marital abuse, alcoholism and depression as seen through the eyes of Patsy. While the story started off a bit slow I eventually tuned in and became well invested with Patsy and the supporting characters. The romance of a young Patsy and her father's colleague was a turn-off when it began so young but I can understand why the authors included it. The book is definitely long but I cannot see where I would have edited anything much out aside from the young love bit. The narrative really does suck you in and make you feel like visiting Monticello, the home of the prized home of the Jeffersons.

While I am late to the party with this one - if you had not had the chance to pick this one up during its initial release a few years ago please move it forward on your to-be-read pile because it is well worth the time. Towards the last quarter of the book I was crying my eyes out. Yup, crying about Thomas Jefferson. Only a fellow reader would understand.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.