Category Archives: 2010 Review

>Book Review: Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree by Kate Emerson

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Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree by Kate Emerson
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Gallery (December 14, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1439177815
Review copy provided by the author, thanks so very much!
The Burton Review Rating: Great Tudor Fiction

Charming. Desirable. Forbidden. Brought to court with other eligible young noblewomen by the decree of King Henry VIII, lovely Elizabeth “Bess” Brooke realizes for the first time that beauty can be hazardous. Although Bess has no desire to wed the aging king, she and her family would have little choice if Henry’s eye were to fall on her. And other dangers exist as well, for Bess has caught the interest of dashing courtier Will Parr. Bess finds Will’s kisses as sweet as honey, but marriage between them may be impossible. Will is a divorced man, and remarriage is still prohibited. Bess and Will must hope that the king can be persuaded to issue a royal decree allowing Will to marry again . . . but to achieve their goal, the lovers will need royal favor. Amid the swirling alliances of royalty and nobles, Bess and Will perform a dangerous dance of palace intrigue and pulse-pounding passions.



Brought to glowing life by the talented Kate Emerson, and seen through the eyes of a beautiful young noblewoman, By Royal Decree illuminates the lives of beautiful young courtiers in and out of the rich and compelling drama of the Tudor court.

I really enjoyed Kate Emerson’s previous two novels in her Secrets of the Tudor Court series (reviews here), and Kate has an awesome Who’s Who in the Tudor Courts E-book that is really fun to peruse. She included a mini Who’s Who in the end of her latest novel By Royal Decree, as well as maps in the beginning of the book. Instead of another novel focused on the specific royal Tudors, Emerson writes about the Tudor courts from a bystander’s point of view, or another lesser known member of the peerage. In her last novel, she wrote of Nan Bassett, who made an appearance in Royal Decree as well. Royal Decree follows the life of Elizabeth Brooke, who is called Bess. The elder Elizabeth Brooke was Bess’ grandmother who was shunned by her husband Thomas Wyatt. The novel begins as Bess is just getting the opportunity to be a lady in waiting and to be a part of the royal courts in that type of capacity.

She falls in love with Queen Kathryn’s brother, Will Parr, but he is not available. The story then evolves around the political moves of the courts as King Henry is dying, and factions are developing. The different factions have different opinions as to how Will Parr’s previous marriage should be handled, and Will and Bess are forced to wait out the royal courts as they wish for a positive outcome. Bess and Will become foolish, and take matters into their own hands. but how will the Privy Council react? How will Bess’ family react when Bess refuses to listen to reason? The romance of the couple depends on who wins the political race towards the crown, and one never knows who is spying on whom for whom. I found Bess to be impetuous, but likable, but not incredibly rounded as far as characteristics. Will Parr seemed to be the epitome of the knight in shining armor, and they seemed well suited.

What I love about Kate Emerson’s writing style is that she imparts special little details such as the food of the times, the dress, the mannerisms, but she doesn’t lay it on too thick to be a history lesson. Tudor fanatics will also enjoy the familiar faces that are mentioned, from Norfolk wasting in the tower, to the impressionable young Elizabeth who later becomes the formidable Queen. Tom Seymour the ladies’ man is back, and causes a stir with his hatred for his brother Edward Seymour the Lord Protector; and the conniving wife of his Anne is someone you will love to hate. I kept my ears perked for the Dudley brothers as well who came and went from the story as did several other highly placed names. All in all, another intelligent but passionate installment of the Secrets of Tudor Courts series from Kate Emerson that I recommend to those who are interested in the lives of those who both watched the intrigue from the sidelines and created some of their own.

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Filed under 16th Century, 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Kate Emerson, Tudor

>Book Review: Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter by Antonia Fraser

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Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter by Antonia Fraser
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Nan A. Talese (November 2, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0385532501
Review copy from the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Great story!

A moving testament to one of the literary world’s most celebrated marriages: that of the greatest playwright of our age, Harold Pinter, and the beautiful and famous prize-winning biographer Antonia Fraser. — In this exquisite memoir, Antonia Fraser recounts the life she shared with the internationally renowned dramatist. In essence, it is a love story and a marvelously insightful account of their years together, beginning with their initial meeting when Fraser was the wife of a member of Parliament and mother of six, and Pinter was married to a distinguished actress. Over the years, they experienced much joy, a shared devotion to their work, crises and laughter, and, in the end, great courage and love as Pinter battled the illness to which he eventually suc­cumbed on Christmas Eve 2008.

Must You Go? is based on Fraser’s recollections and on the diaries she has kept since October 1968. She shares Pinter’s own revelations about his past, as well as observations by his friends. Fraser’s diaries written by a biographer living with a creative artist and observing the process firsthand also pro­vide a unique insight into his writing.
Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser lived together from August 1975 until his death thirty-three years later. “O! call back yesterday, bid time return,” cries one of the courtiers to Richard II. This is Antonia Fraser’s uniquely compelling way of doing so.

Some of the British-themed books in my personal library are authored by Antonia Fraser, such as The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and Marie Antoinette for which the popular film was based on. I had little knowledge of the personal life of this British author though, and when I saw that she had written a mini-memoir regarding her marriage with Harold Pinter soon after his death in late 2008, I was intrigued because apparently there was some scandal there. Pinter was an actor, screenwriter and a poet among other things, but Pinter and Fraser were having an affair before they were able to marry.

I learned that Pinter was a respected man with many opinions and a strong opponent to wars, but was most known for his work as a playwright and an actor early on, and is seeming the epitome of “the writer”. His first marriage with Vivien Merchant broke up after his wife learned of Pinter’s indiscretions with Antonia Fraser, and Merchant displayed her disgust by granting many interviews with the media thus igniting the flames of scandal. The new couple dealt with it quite well, and Pinter was overly nice to the discarded wife, in my opinion. After five years of being together, Pinter and Fraser were finally able to discuss becoming married, with no thanks to Vivien.

Without writing an essay or biography of the two people that this “memoir” involves, I must say that both Lady Antonia Fraser and Harold Pinter sound like they would have been excellent friends to have. The way that the author writes is witty, sweet, reminiscent, but not overly done to be too sentimental. I was touched by the love the couple shared, and jealous. Their life together as Antonia writes it sounds close to perfect. And I say “Antonia” as if she were my own friend (wishful thinking!) but after this glimpse into her diary entries I feel like I know her. I loved the way I was drawn in immediately to this special life of the couple as Pinter wrote his fabulous plays and she worked on her biographies or mystery series, they go to dinner with other fabulous people, they get visited by her fabulous kids.. it all sounds so perfectly.. pretentious, doesn’t it?

Yet, somehow, in some way, Lady Antonia Fraser has turned all that wonderfulness of gag-me type nuances of socialites into something that had me from the first page. Instead of turning what could be a long drawn out biography of Pinter, it consists of Frasers’ small diary entries and comments about the times and how they reflected on Harold and Antonia. Harold the writer (who fought for justice when he was not writing) would have loved the way his wife told their love story, and Harold the husband would have been honored to be remembered in this way with Antonia’s vignettes. Although Fraser did add quite a plethora of names as they figured into her life, I had zero idea who they all were and they came and went to emphasize the definition of the phrase “name-dropping”. The group she socialized with were obviously over my head and at least a generation ahead of me, but I was still enamored with the conversations that they had. I loved the quick insights into the blended family, like with the FamHol vs. PinHol which related to which type of holiday they would go on. Fraser’s reflections were meticulous, poignant, witty and charming, and I appreciated the peek into her privileged side of the world in England. The only focus is on their lives, their love, her thoughts, therefore I would recommend this to those who are intrigued by the people involved and the life behind the famous playwright.

Evil me: “Read this really fast because I truly want to gobble it all up.”  Angelic me: “Bit by bit, slowly and peacefully meander through the eloquent prose and absorb the intelligence of the storyteller.” I was touched by their love and respect for each other, I laughed out loud at some of the anecdotes, and I will never forget this book, if just for the simplicity of its very theme: True love never dies.

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Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Antonia Fraser

>2010 in Review: The Burton Review Loved These Books!

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Last year, I made a post about my favorite reads of 2009 where I picked my top ten reads out of the 64 books I had read. And here we are again, another year (that flew by) of fabulous reads, and only a few of not-so-fabulous reads of this year. At the time of composing this draft, I have read 58 books in 2010 (see my entire review list here). I attempted to slow down this year so that I could focus on prioritizing family and summer fun, which has made this a great year just for that fact alone, and I will continue that trend for 2011 as I embark on expanding my horizons with more cooking, more gardening, more genealogy research, more swimming, etc. And something that I have been dying to do, is to read the books I have been accumulating for my personal pleasure, as opposed to reading according to a publisher’s request for review. I have managed to sneak in a few reads in 2010 that were not strictly ‘for review’ books, but for 2011 I hope to dig into my Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt collection as well as some more of Georgette Heyer’s regency reads.

After reading last year’s best of 2009 post, how do I feel about the choices of books I picked last year? I still feel those were all great picks and those selected do still resonate with me over a year later, as I am sure the following selections will also. The following selections were all books that I read in 2010 and were sent to me for review, either from the publisher or the author, at my request.

(Please click the book covers or the linked titles to go directly to my previously posted review.)

This year, I read both popular and a little more obscure titles. One of those obscure ones from a debut author was Matthew Flaming’s The Kingdom of Ohio  (Putnam). It was released on 12/31/2009 so even though it was a 2009 published work there was no way I could have included it in my 2009 list since it was released on the last day of the year. It would have been on the list if it was released just a bit earlier though, because this was an amazing debut, and a fantastic storyline that had me hooked from page one! I cannot wait for this author’s second novel, though rumor is it will be an entirely different theme, I am sure his writing will again suck me in. This work itself has some minor issues with it, but the fact that it is a novel that I still think about ten months later proves it is something that is worth a second look. The creativity and the suspense of the book was really something that packed its own punch, as the author really had me believing that there was indeed a lost kingdom of Ohio. And look at that great cover! Classic, elegant and creative, just as the words were on the inside.

I just recently read Désirée: The Story of Napoleon’s First Love  (Sourcebooks) by Annemarie Selinko, so it is indeed fresh in my mind. This is a reissue for 2010, but it was a moving story that many others over the years have agreed with me on its worth. Désirée became a Queen of Sweden, but how she got there was an extraordinary story of the young girl who first fell in love with Napoleon Bonaparte. The story of the love, and respect, between these two was heartwarming to witness through this novel. This will always be a book that I will not hesitate to recommend as it features much of France’s pivotal events after the Revolution. This book was made into a film starring Marlon Brando in 1954 which I am hoping to find somewhere.

Before the beautiful bookstore of Legacy Books shut its doors, I had the opportunity to meet author Leila Meacham when she was promoting her book, Roses (Grand Central Publishing). That book was such a page turner for me, as the fictitious setting of a cotton industry town was close by and the plot was intriguing, inspiring and felt like it was written just to my tastes. I love novels that reach for saga status, and this was one that came mighty close, as some compared Roses to Gone With The Wind (which the author hadn’t even read!). Leila Meacham is also the classiest Southern lady I have ever met, and I am so glad that I have had that chance. The paperback releases 1/3/2011.

The Kitchen House (Touchstone) by Kathleen Grissom was one of those heartbreaking stories, as opposed to heartwarming. But it was an incredible story that shocks and saddens the reader s you wish you could do something to make the world a better place. The story starts with a young orphaned girl, Lavinia, who becomes like a family member to a group of slaves on a sprawling southern estate. We become further involved in the slave’s stories and their many struggles, while the white people were mingling in and out of their personal lives in tragic and heroic ways. I gushed over the book in my review, but summed it up with “This is a must read. Absolute must read for those interested in America, how it was born, and who we are and why we should be thankful for the mere fact we are here today, and not back then.” Kathleen Grissom is a superb storyteller, who is now working on a story about a Crow Native woman who married a fur trader in 1872.

Next up, another slice of Americana with My Name is Mary Sutter (Viking) by Robin Oliveira’s story of a headstrong but compassionate nurse during the horrific times of war. It had always been Mary’s calling to be a nurse, and yet back in those days women working in any field other than as a homemaker was frowned upon. Doctors refused to apprentice her, yet she still persevered, long enough to help the wounded and the dying as much as she could. Along the way, there are chances for romance, but Mary is focused and resolute and quite a character to admire. We watch her struggle with her emotions and her duties as a nurse, but we are on the edge of our seat during the ride. It was quite poignant and very well-written, that I knew I was going to include this work as a favorite of 2010 even as I was still reading it. The paperback release is March 29, 2011 so if you have missed this one, be sure to put the paperback on your wish list!

Another book that is yet to be released in paperback (May 2011) and you need to put on your wishlist is an endearing novel regarding one of my favorite classic authors, Louisa May Alcott, titled The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott (Putnam) by Kelly O’Connor McNees. This short and sweet novel is a must for any Alcott fan, though it may leave you wanting more once it is finished. The debut novel was also selected for Oprah’s 2010 Summer Reading List.
The author portrayed Louisa just as I had always imagined her: a headstrong, smart and utterly compassionate person. Her desire for independence can be the one thing that stands in her way of eternal happiness, and the single decision that she makes during this summer can be the one decision that she regrets for the rest of her life. I was completely immersed in this story and has me hoping and wishing that the author will again write another story on Louisa May Alcott.

On the tippy top of my favorite topics to read about is the Tudor courts as I just cannot seem to get enough of the many players of the time period. There are always new Tudor novels cropping up, and we were treated to a new one in 2010 by D.L. Bogdan called Secrets of The Tudor Court (Kensington). This is not to be confused with another author’s Tudor series of Kate Emerson’s who I also enjoy reading. Bogdan’s work featured the prominent member of the Tudor court, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Most Tudor fans would recognize this name, as he was the man who helped propel two of his nieces to becoming Queens of England. But what of Norfolk himself, and his own immediate family? Thomas Howard’s son, Henry Howard, was another prominent member of the Tudor court and well-known for his poetic abilities, but was a bit full of himself and eventually executed. Bogdan’s story is focused, though, on Mary Howard, the daughter of Thomas Howard, and it is through her eyes that we poke through the typical characterizations of Norfolk and we read of an abusive and twisted man. Mary’s story is indeed fraught with the intrigues of the Tudor court, and her entire life seemed to be a hardship just to survive within her father’s presence. I enjoyed this different look on the man that lived to a ripe old age of 80 in the Tudor courts, which is a rarity (though he came thisclose to getting his own head lopped off), and I was touched by the author’s portrayal of Mary Howard. Thomas Howard outlived many of his younger family members, and I cannot wait to read Bogdan’s upcoming novel which will contain even more background to his personal story.

One of those books that make you feel more aware and sensitive of other cultures and beliefs is Mitchell James Kaplan’s By Fire, By Water (Other Press). This impressive debut novel tackles the Spanish Inquisition while representing several sides and stories to the horrors it created. It opened my eyes about the Jewish people who were abused during the Inquisition, but it surprised me and taught me more about the politics behind the Inquisition as well. The characters (both fictional and real) that Kaplan uses to portray this story were perfectly written as brave voices of the victims of the Inquisition; even the ones whose job was to perpetrate the crimes against the Jews were somehow made intriguing through Kaplan’s vision of a story that stays with you long after reading it. The combination of the subject matter, various themes (reform vs. fanaticism) and the characters’ individual plights together made this a riveting story for me.

Have you read any of these books I chose as my personal favorites of 2010? Would you agree or disagree with the choices? What are some of your own favorites of 2010?

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Filed under 2010 In Review, 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Why I Blog

>Book Review: Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

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Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (December 1, 2010)
Literature/Fiction
ISBN-13: 978-1402241284
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: Great story!

When the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.



In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.


But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…

Pemberley Ranch is not your ordinary Pride & Prejudice sequel. It mirrors Jane Austen’s famous literary characters somewhat, and borrows from some of the themes, and then author Jack Caldwell spins us a yarn of wild west fun. The author has been an avid fan of Jane Austen and his debut novel would probably make Austen proud (and perhaps a bit scandalized, but in a good way!). The Bennet family is relocated from Ohio to Texas just after the American Civil War, and the family learns to adjust to becoming southern while mourning the loss of their brother due to the war. Down the road at Pemberley Ranch, brother and sister Will and Gaby Darcy welcome the Bennets to the neighborhood while trying to break through Beth Bennett’s toughened exterior.

We also have a Cate Burroughs who is the overbearing and quite greedy mother to the innocent Anne Burroughs, as well as several new characters in the Texas settlement such as posse and lawmen. Shady deals are underfoot that will affect all of the members of the Texas community of Rosings, but the question is who is involved, and how far will they go to get what they want?

Although not something that is Austen-like, I still enjoyed the western spin on the story. It was completely original and not just another rehashing of how Darcy wins the girl, as this author had no qualms to make the original story disappear in the dust of the wild horses’ hooves. The writing was styled succintly and not in the melodramatic female tones, as it dealt more with the shady George Whitehead and the aftermaths of the Civil War. I loved connecting some of these new characters with the old P&P characters, but was surprised at how much I enjoyed the way the author intrigued me with this western story. A great read for those readers who like a bit of gunfighting and romance rolled into one.

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Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Austen Sequels

>Book Review: Sunset Park by Paul Auster

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Sunset Park by Paul Auster
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 9th, 2010 by Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN 0805092862
Review copy provided by the publisher
The Burton Review Rating: = “Interesting premise, someone else might like it”

Luminous, passionate, expansive, an emotional tour de force:


Sunset Park follows the hopes and fears of a cast of unforgettable characters brought together by the mysterious Miles Heller during the dark months of the 2008 economic collapse.
An enigmatic young man employed as a trash-out worker in southern Florida obsessively photographing thousands of abandoned objects left behind by the evicted families.
A group of young people squatting in an apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
The Hospital for Broken Things, which specializes in repairing the artifacts of a vanished world.
William Wyler’s 1946 classic The Best Years of Our Lives.
A celebrated actress preparing to return to Broadway.
An independent publisher desperately trying to save his business and his marriage.
These are just some of the elements Auster magically weaves together in this immensely moving novel about contemporary America and its ghosts. Sunset Park is a surprising departure that confirms Paul Auster as one of our greatest living writers.

This is one of those books that I had seen generating some buzz in bookish newsletters, and was surprised to learn that the author has quite a collection of published works. Before I started reading Sunset Park, I saw that there were four and five star ratings for Auster’s newest novel, which is always a happy sign of good things to come, although ‘happy’ certainly would not be the right term for it given the theme of the novel. I normally stay within the confines of historical fiction, but every once in awhile I enjoy a piece of contemporary work to take a break from my regular reads.

Americans today are not the same happy Americans of a few decades ago; there are many of us who have become economically challenged through no real fault of our own. Yes, I am one of them, which is why I was initially drawn to the plot when the galley was being offered. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and you either have money or don’t. Paul Auster’s story focuses on some individuals who don’t have money, although the first character he introduced comes from a wealthy family but chooses not to divulge that fact to his girlfriend. Miles Heller is the central character that connects the other characters that author creates, and Miles is the one character that I did not despise. His father is pretty cool, even though Miles has exited from his life for the last seven and a half years. The storyline about Miles’ and his family issues was what pulled me into the novel and begged me to keep going, no matter how vexed I became.

The synopsis begins with the description as being “luminous”. I would replace that with something like sad, broken, damaged, or dark. And as far as “emotional tour de force”: it evoked emotions from me once, when a family friend died late in 2008 in the novel and there was a phrase that mentioned there were many deaths that year. My own father was one of them, and so my grief was lit a bit more at that point in the novel. Not incredibly enlightening, not moving, but depressing is the storyline of the group of have-nots who live rent-free at an abandoned house in Sunset Park, New York, just waiting for the authorities to kick them out. The writing itself was the main draw to the novel for me: it wasn’t like I really wanted to immerse myself in my fellow poor Americans hardships, but the way Auster created the flow of the story and each character with deceiving clarity made it seem not quite like a novel but more of a bit of a creative thesis on the current events of America. He has a way with words making small statements with them that actually speak volumes, although more masculine nuances emanated, which tend to annoy this female reader when they are overly present.

I was intrigued by the details of the interests of the characters, such as publishing, artistic endeavors and baseball statistics. But halfway through the book the monotonous stream of consciousness style of writing began to gnaw on my nerves, and some of the overly-cerebral descriptions of things began to grate on my nerves as well, which were at first pleasantly entertaining miscellaneous details. One character was studying the film The Best Years of Our Lives, which then became pages and pages of commentary within the novel and.. well, … snore… (but I think that perhaps there might be a jump in online searches for that very film due to its many mentions in Auster’s novel). There were sexual themes throughout the young characters, which is expected, but I am a prude. I like romance and love themes to be included if there is an abundant sex life. I must be asking for too much.

Another peeve was the fact that there were many conversations throughout the novel that were just too good to be punctuated with quotation marks was exasperating. Thumbing through again, and not a quotation mark to be found. And when I finally did reach the end of the story.. what a horrific spot to end the freaking story… boy, was I ticked off! What a waste of my time.

It strikes me that I’ll have to read Franzen’s Freedom, or perhaps Corrections, and see how they compare as they follow the same premise, but it won’t be too soon. Basically, I felt this was one writer’s round about psychological analysis of why America sucks today as we know it, and that’s just not my cup of tea. I must not be one of those intelligent cerebral types, and this is a rare departure from my comfortable historical reads. Given his track record, there’s no doubt that Paul Auster is a talented, intelligent writer, but the storytelling part and his job to enlighten and/or to entertain this particular reader failed. Frankly, I prefer other genres of books that bring me to another place and another time in order to escape my everyday reality of small horrors such as financial hardship and dysfunctional families. Given the fact that there are others out there who adored this book, I must humbly accept the fact I am a nerd. It is at this point that I am proud to say I love historical fiction so much that perhaps I should never stray from it again (unless it’s a historical non-fiction work).

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Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review

>Book Review: A Darcy Christmas by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan and Carolyn Eberhart

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A Darcy Christmas by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan and Carolyn Eberhart
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (October 1, 2010)
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!
ISBN-10: 1402243391
ISBN-13: 978-1402243394
The Burton Review Rating: The Burton Review, 4 stars

This is something different for Darcy fans: a novella collection! Christmas and the spirit of Jane Austen. Bring on the cinnamon and apple cider aromas! Each author’s individual story is reviewed separately:

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol by by Carolyn Eberhart
This was the first story in the book and is also a debut for the author. Right away she remonstrates that the elder Mr. Darcy was dead as a door nail, several times, which made me wince. Thankfully, she gets past that quickly enough and goes into the lamentations of the younger Mr. Darcy (our favorite Mr. Darcy) of how Lizzy spurned his request for her hand. Georgiana, Darcy’s younger sister, is featured as she adds a nice touch to the story by being a sweetheart and treated as such. Warm and fuzzy feelings! Hold on to your reticules, as ghosts are haunting Pemberley!

Starting off as more of a macabre type of story, the typical elements of ghosts and spirits take over as Darcy goes on journeys to see the past, present and future. Predictable for both Darcy and Dickens fans this is not a suspenseful read, but the ending makes up for its weak beginning as everything is tied up into a happy package for a Darcy lover.

Christmas Present by Amanda Grange
This was a short and sweet little story about Lizzy and Darcy as they expect the birth of their first child during the Christmas season. Lizzy’s older sister Jane has just had her little boy and the extended family members are spending the holidays with Jane and Charles Bingley at their new house, which was just enough far out of reach so that Mrs. Bennet wouldn’t drop by every day on Jane. The story was complete with the characters that we loved from Pride & Prejudice, and the “scandalized” Lady Catherine and the pushy busy-body Caroline and does a good job of bringing holiday cheer, Jane Austen style. Grange’s next book, Wickham’s Diary, is due in April 2011.

A Darcy Christmas by Sharon Lathan
Off to a weird start was this last novella in the collection. It featured Darcy feeling depressed that Lizzy had spurned his proposal, and yet he couldn’t get her out of his mind. The theme of sexual tension was a bit overly played, as the one reason I enjoy classic novels like Austen’s and Heyer’s is the mere fact that they are always clean and fun. I was a bit put off by Lathan’s sensual undertones, but eventually they went away, which was a good thing because I had half a mind to not even attempt to finish it once it started up about some sex books that Darcy kept locked up. I plodded on, and of course I am glad that I did, because it eventually became a pleasant Christmas story that had a little bit of everything involved. I enjoyed the clan of the Darcys that Lathan created and the personalities of the family members who managed to annoy each other in a loving way. And upon further research, I have learned that Lathan’s Darcy sequels are marketed as sensual Pride & Prejudice sequels, and the 5th in the series is coming in April 2011.

All in all, the collection of Christmas themed Darcy stories was a hit, and I enjoyed the book as a whole. I can’t even pick a favorite out of the bunch, but I think that Darcy and Lizzy fans would be pleased with this Christmas collection which should definitely help the reader get into the holiday spirit!

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Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Austen Sequels, Regency

>Book Review: Désirée by Annemarie Selinko

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Désirée: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon’s First Love by Annemarie Selinko
Sourcebooks Product ISBN: 9781402244025
Price: $16.99, 608 pages
Sourcebooks Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks Landmark, thank you!

To be young, in France, and in love: fourteen year old Desiree can’t believe her good fortune. Her fiance, a dashing and ambitious Napoleon Bonaparte, is poised for battlefield success, and no longer will she be just a French merchant’s daughter. She could not have known the twisting path her role in history would take, nearly breaking her vibrant heart but sweeping her to a life rich in passion and desire.

A love story, but so much more, Désirée explores the landscape of a young heart torn in two, giving readers a compelling true story of an ordinary girl whose unlikely brush with history leads to a throne no one would have expected.

An epic bestseller that has earned both critical acclaim and mass adoration, Désirée is at once a novel of the rise and fall of empires, the blush and fade of love, and the heart and soul of a woman.

Désirée, a last work written by Austrian novelist Annemarie Selinko and first published in 1951, was a New York Times Bestseller, being translated into 25 different languages as well as being made into an American movie in 1954. Sourcebooks Landmark has reissued the wonderful historical for new generations this October and I really enjoyed the insider’s view Napoleon’s personal life through the eyes of his first love, a young girl Eugénie Clary, who preferred to be called Désirée.

Désirée, the daughter of a silk merchant, and Napoleon first meet when he is a poor soldier and she is fourteen; they become betrothed soon after but abide her mother’s wishes to wait to marry until she is sixteen. Unfortunately, the wait becomes too much as the ambitious Napoleon instead becomes engaged to a richer and more notable lady, whom we know as Empress Josephine. The young Désirée is shocked at the betrayal and we become sympathetic to her plight of lost first love, but we are hopeful for Désirée’s future as her life moves on.

Désirée Clary

I enjoyed learning about the family of Napoleon, as his brother is married to Désirée’s close sister, Julie. The family mechanics are at the forefront of Désirée’s story which become entwined with the Bonaparte’s, and thus the politics of France as the controversial Rights of Man were being accepted and enforced. The story is being told during a turning point for France and the political ramifications that Napoleon causes directly effect Désirée’s own happiness with her new family. Being told in a diary style, Désirée seems selfish and naïve at times, but the fact that she is quite young gives her character a lovable quality. Although I enjoyed the first-person narrative, there was a little too much of jumping back and forth in the timeline as she tells the story with each new chapter which became slightly irritating.

The life of Désirée Clary Bernadotte is a fantastic one as she was witness to much of history’s events as well as being a part of it, as the author tells it. In reality, how much Désirée actually participated in the politics between Sweden and France and with Napoleon can be debated, but the story takes full advantage of Désirée’s ties to the Bonapartes and romanticizes the tumultuous events of the times of France and Napoleon’s various political maneuvers. The author has superbly shown Désirée’s character that this eccentric woman would have been proud of, and I am so glad to have learned some of Désirée’s story through this author’s talented work, as I was quite intrigued by the fact that this daughter of a silk merchant eventually becomes Queen of Sweden and mother of the successors to the crown of Sweden to this very day.

The story of France after the Revolution and the upheaval that Napoleon caused became much a part of Désirée’s story, and was a fantastic backdrop to the heartwarming relationship Désirée had with her husband Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. The writing style was quick and easy to understand and not dated to its original fifties publication which is surprising. Not a literary masterpiece but just a fantastic story of an otherwise forgotten lady (who is not depicted well on Wikipedia), I am so glad that Sourcebooks Landmark has reissued the tale fifty years after its first printing. Timeless and epic are true adjectives even though I cannot fully explain the draw that the story had for me, it is just one of those novels that will be unforgettable. Annemarie Selinko dramatically relates the life of Désirée, her family, and the Bonapartes though with a blunt matter of factness that tugged at my heartstrings which showed Désirée had sacrificed much for her beliefs of the Rights of Man, but seemingly with no regrets.

Even though Désirée’s character was flawed, I found the book to be addictive, accentuated with politics and romance, making this a classic tale for anyone intrigued with France, Europe and Napoleon; I recommend this to any historical fiction fan as one that you should not miss. As a Tudor addict, I now understand the compelling draw that Napoleon and Josephine novels are purported to have, and I cannot wait for the chance to read the trilogy by Sandra Gulland which feature the couple.

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>Book Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling (Book 4 in Lady Julia Grey series) by Deanna Raybourn

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Dark Road to Darjeeling (Book 4 in Lady Julia Grey series) by Deanna Raybourn
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Mira (first published September 17th 2010)
ISBN0778328201 (ISBN13: 9780778328209)
http://www.deannaraybourn.com/dark_road_.
series Lady Julia #4

After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more. At the urging of Julia’s eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the newly-widowed Jane Cavendish. Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband’s family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child—and with discovering the truth about her husband’s death. Was he murdered for his estate? And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?

Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish. The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies. In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly. The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.

This newest release in the Lady Julia Grey mystery series was released in October 1, 2010 by MIRA and helped to introduce Deanna Raybourn to book reviewers through MIRA’s marketing efforts. I am one of those new fans of Deanna Raybourn, and I have reviewed book one and book two in the series here at The Burton Review.

Dark Road to Darjeeling begins with Julia traipsing through India at the behest of two of her siblings, Portia and Plum. Her new husband, Nicholas Brisbane, and she are already at odds with each other. The stories leading up to their relationship are found in the previous novels, and the charm of the duo would be immediately lost on a reader who started the series with this book. The book could be a stand alone novel though, but as with all series, it is best to start with the beginning for continuity’s sake. Even though I read book one and two, I had to skip three and keep it on my wishlist and was forced to begin book four because there are dozens of folks ahead of me in the wishlist queue.

Book three, Silent on the Moor, had Brisbane and Julia marrying, which was a surprise to learn when starting book four, and I was sorry I missed it. Besides that, book four seemed to picked up where I had left off, which shows talented storytelling for a series. I was once again immersed in Lady Julia’s world and I enjoyed this story very much as she explored the tea making estate where her friend Jane’s husband had been killed. Freddie was bitten by a snake, but it should not have been life threatening, and he left behind Jane with his unborn child. If it was a boy, the inhabitants of the estate would be in an uproar. But could these family members have killed Freddie for the inheritance?

The story in book four did not seem as witty and full of mirth as book two (my favorite), but it was still charming, fun and worthwhile. The who-dun-it mystery itself unwrapped slowly and I enjoyed the characterization of the new characters and the eccentricities of those that appeared in the story. Even though Brisbane and Julia were married by this time, I appreciated the way the author showed the relationship as one that was still learning and developing, and the sparks still flew. Raybourn’s first person writing for Julia made me feel like I was having a long conversation with a best friend and I thoroughly enjoyed myself in Julia’s world. I am completely sold on this author, and I will be happy to spend money on her next books and the book three that I have missed.

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>Book Review: Silent in the Sanctuary (Book 2 in the Lady Julia Grey series) by Deanna Raybourn

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Book two in the Lady Julia Grey Mysteries

Silent in the Sanctuary (Lady Julia Grey Series #2) by Deanna Raybourn
January 2008 MIRA Books
560 pages
ISBN: 978-7783-2492-8
This book was purchased by me
The Burton Review Rating:4.5 stars!

Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father’s estate crowded with family and friends— but dark deeds are afoot at the deconsecrated abbey, and a murderer roams the ancient cloisters. Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget—the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane—is among her father’s houseguests… and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.

But the homecoming celebrations quickly take a ghastly turn when one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the chapel, and a member of Lady Julia’s own family confesses to the crime. Certain of her cousin’s innocence, Lady Julia resumes her unlikely and deliciously intriguing partnership with Nicholas Brisbane, setting out to unravel a tangle of deceit before the killer can strike again. When a sudden snowstorm blankets the abbey like a shroud, it falls to Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane to answer the shriek of murder most foul.

Deanna Raybourn is a new favorite author for me. After reading the first book in the Lady Julia Grey mystery series, I immediately started book two, Silent in the Sanctuary. I am a fan of mysteries, and of wit and charm and the good old fashioned type of romances. And Raybourn delivers that for me with her star character of Lady Julia Grey. Written with a clever slant on the sarcasm in first person, I really came to like and admire Julia. And if I enjoyed reading Julia’s point of view, I also enjoyed the characteristics of Julia’s family just as much. The author gives herself a wide berth with many aunts and siblings; ones who disappear in the night and another brother who flirts ferociously with a lady who is already betrothed.

Along with the eclectic family members, Lady Julia has several house guests at her father’s estate, lovingly called the Abbey. The place was almost as much of a character in the novel in this book as the murder and the mysteries all occur at the Abbey during a “house party”. I loved how the author blended in the Abbey’s history and the monks who once lived there into the story. Clergyman Lucian Snow is found murdered, but could it really have been done by Julia’s meek cousin Lucy? Once again, the sexy sleuth Brisbane from book one appears, and widowed Julia partners with him to solve the mystery. Can Julia separate business from pleasure, or will she let jealousy over Brisbane’s recent engagement cloud her vision?

For book one to book two comparison, I found book two to be even better than the first. I felt a lot more in tune to Julia this time around, and I really enjoyed the entire story which encompassed several small themes and kept me intrigued throughout. This is a series that I do hope ends up with a long line of titles, because I am reading each one of them!

Since MIRA has issued book four in the series, Dark Road to Darjeeling this October, many readers are picking that up and reading Raybourn for the first time. I do like the new style of the cover for the new book, but I definitely think that the previous book covers from MIRA were more appropriate. I am so glad that MIRA’s marketing efforts turned me on to this author, and even more glad that I have given myself the time to read book one (Silent in the Grave, click for my review) and two before jumping into the newest release. Book three is Silent on The Moor and I have that on my wishlist. Raybourn has also penned another mystery this year (The Dead Travel Fast), though it is unrelated to the Lady Julia Grey series. If you like mysteries along with an intriguing character list garnished with a dash of romance, you really need to pick up these Lady Julia Grey books. Stay tuned for the review of book four, Dark Road to Darjeeling!

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>Book Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

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Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (book 1 of 4 in Lady Julia Grey series)
Mass Market Paperback, 511 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Mira (first published 2006)
Purchased for my own enjoyment
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars of Five

“Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.”



These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.


Prepared to accept that Edward’s death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.


Determined to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward’s demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

This is an amusing mystery genre story that is set in Victorian England. Lady Julia Grey is a very likable character who winds up with the mystery of her husband’s death on her conscience, although the esteemed family doctor ruled Edward’s death as a natural one. When Julia finds evidence to the contrary, she partners with Nicholas Brisbane to discover the murderer. The developments of their findings are not the only subject at hand, as Julia comes to grips with her new widowed state and the confused relationship with Brisbane; of which you are just waiting for it to turn romantic.

One of the best parts of the story was the nature of Lady Julia’s own family and her servants. She is one of many siblings who are all a wonderfully eclectic group. We’ve got a lesbian in the family as well as an aunt who is affectionately called “The Ghoul”. The Queen’s raven was stolen and winds up at Lady Julia’s house as winnings at a card game of the younger brother. Among several intriguing themes are the darkness of gypsies and the taint of prostitution which overshadow the case. I enjoyed that there was an unabashed style of wit throughout the story and that there was quite a blend of scandals in the story.

Raybourn’s writing style quickly drew me into Lady Julia’s world, and the fact that she is a native Texan could have blown me over with a feather. There was no trace of a southern attitude and I would have wagered the author had to have been a born and bred Englishwoman. I must say that the last half of the book moved quicker than the first and may have even been a bit predictable, but it was an enjoyment in entirety for me. I think readers who enjoy Georgette Heyer’s Regency mysteries would also enjoy this Victorian mystery as they mirror the same tone and pace, though Raybourn’s writing exudes more of a modern stance. Upon finishing this book I immediately set about to read book two in the Lady Julia Grey mystery series, Silent in the Sanctuary. Book three is Silent in the Moor, and book four, Dark Road to Darjeeling, is out October of 2010.

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Filed under 2010 Review, Deanna Raybourn, Victorian