Category Archives: 2011 Reviews

Review: At The King’s Pleasure (Secrets of the Tudor Court Book 4) by Kate Emerson

or..

The cover that would match the rest of the series, but not the cover that they stayed with 😦

At The King’s Pleasure (Secrets of the Tudor Court Book 4) by Kate Emerson
Gallery Books, January 3, 2012
Paperback 384 pages
9781439177822
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

Having read all of the author’s previous Secrets of the Tudor Court books, I had anticipated this installment since day one. I was disappointed with the publisher’s choice to change the publication date from August to January (and disappointed with the cover change), but good things come to those who wait. Emerson writes of the Tudor period with ease and eloquence, including many historical details but without over burdening the novel with facts. Although this Tudor series is focused during the popular reign of Henry VIII or his father, Emerson writes of the lesser known characters, and includes some fictional characters as well. This fourth installment, which can be read as a stand-alone, focuses on Lady Anne Stafford, daughter of Henry Stafford and Katherine Woodville, during the earlier days of Henry VIII’s reign. The story was less focused on the courts and the politics and read much more like Anne’s personal story which was a refreshing change of pace for a Tudor novel. Making it even more enjoyable was the clarity the author gives to these lesser known figures of the Tudor era, which always sparks off even more of an obsessive interest in the Tudor courts.

We are introduced to Anne as a young widow at her haughty brother Edward’s disposal. Her other brother is temporarily in the Tower, so it is Edward who always pulls the strings of the Stafford family. Soon enough Lady Anne marries George Hastings, an amiable and likable young man. He isn’t Will Compton, though, and Lady Anne has caught his eye as well as the young King Henry’s. When Edward sees Compton with Anne, Edward hastily sends Anne away to a nunnery (telling her husband to bring her there) and Anne vows revenge: “And if she ever had the opportunity to pay him back in kind and soil his reputation as he’d soiled hers, she would seize upon it without hesitation.”

Anne has a time of it to attempt to rebuild her reputation, as behind the scenes the Cardinal enjoys taunting her with his power over the king and the court. Above all, she wishes for her husband George to realize the truth of the matter, yet she lets things spiral out of control. She does get a bit of revenge on her meddlesome brother, although she didn’t expect it the way it played out. The character development of Lady Anne is well portrayed while Anne copes with the turmoils of her heart. The relationship with her brother Edward Stafford is much at the forefront, and his own realtionships with his mistress and wife play a part as well. Edward starts to believe he is destined to rule England someday, but it is because of a prophecy that he holds on to this dream. Those well-versed in history will know what becomes of Edward Stafford and his dreams..

I have always enjoyed Emerson’s style of writing for its quickness of plot while still inserting many historical details into the storyline. The secondary characters of the Tudor court are always made much more intriguing with Emerson’s pen, and I would recommend this novel of Anne Stafford to anyone interested in the Duke of Buckingham and his family. I was pleasantly surprised that the King himself wasn’t more featured here, as the story really did revolve around Lady Anne and her relationships. As with most Tudor fiction, the author felt obligated to insert facts and names/titles into conversations which seemed out of place at times, but was done in order to better acclimate the reader to the many courtiers involved during the storyline. Aside from a few of these awkward moments, I enjoyed yet another of Emerson’s Secrets of The Tudor Court novels. Emerson has also compiled a long list of notables of the Tudor times with her Who’s Who of Tudor Women database which can be found online or as a download from http://www.awriterswork.com/
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Kate Emerson will visit HF-Connection on her release day of At The King’s Pleasure on 1/3/2012, be sure to check for that.. and if you want to peruse my recent posts and reviews of the author’s work, visit this link at the Burton Book Review.

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Filed under 16th Century, 2011 Reviews, 2012 Releases, Bess Blount, Kate Emerson, Tudor

Review: Heiress (Daughter of Fortune Book One) by Susan May Warren

Heiress (Daughter of Fortune Book One) by Susan May Warren
380 pages Paperback, Summerside Press, August 1, 2011
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
A shortened review was originally created for Historical Novels Review
Burton Book Review Rating:Four glittering stars!

They can buy anything they want—
fame, power, beauty, even loyalty.
But they can’t buy love.
The beautiful and wealthy heiress daughters of August Price can buy everything their hearts desire.
But what if their desire is to be loved, without an enormous price tag attached? When one sister
betrays another for the sake of love, will she find happiness? And what happens when the other sets
out across the still untamed frontier to find it—will she discover she’s left it behind in the glamorous
world of the New York gilded society?
What price will each woman pay for being an heiress?
Set in the opulent world of the Gilded Age, two women discover that being an heiress just might cost
them everything they love.

Set in the famously extravagant Gilded Age of New England, Heiress tells the story of Price sisters Esme and Jinx who could not be more different. Esme wishes that society protocol would allow her to work alongside her father, the publisher of the Chronicle newspaper, and Jinx wishes to be at the forefront of society’s opulent stage. Just as Esme is betrothed to Foster Worth, a man she loathes, she realizes it is Oliver who really has her heart. Yet Oliver grew up with Esme as a servant of her household, Esme’s parents forbid the lowly match and Esme’s world is turned upside down, especially since little sister Jinx believes it is herself who should wed Foster Worth.

The storyline that follows eventually shows the bonds of a family lost and found again as the narrative follows each sister’s path in separate sections. Esme is forced out of New York City and begins a new life amidst the rough ways of Montana, while Jinx becomes that pinnacle of society’s finest that she so coveted. Yet, trials and tribulations threaten both of the sister’s happiness as each realizes that being a daughter of fortune does not buy love, and that perhaps being true to oneself is the most important thing to accomplish.

Esme and Jinx’s story are embellished with a wide cast of characters who each have their own story to tell, from Oliver Stewart who manages to haunt Esme forever, to Jinx’s brother-in-law Bennett who may not be as bad as the gossip columns report. The dual story of the sisters is set in New York City’s finest mansions, and then in the dust and danger of mining country Montana as Esme pursues her dreams of being a newspaper publisher.

Heiress has a little bit of everything, from romance to mystery set in intriguing times of the past with the spiritual undertones as the sisters questioned their faith. I was surprised by some of the twists presented and found the narrative hypnotic, as I was eager to learn the fate of these two families twisting with the deceit of society. Established author Susan May Warren has another hit on her hands with this series, and I cannot wait to continue the saga of the Worth and Price families with her upcoming Daughters of Fortune novels.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Christian Fiction, Historical Romance, Inspirational, New York, Susan May Warren

Review: His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm

His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm
Sourcebooks September 2011
Paperback 416 pages
ISBN:9781402261510
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

The chilling story of Lucrezia de Medici, duchess to Alfonso d’Este, His Last Duchess paints a portrait of a lonely young girl and her marriage to an inscrutable duke. Lucrezia longs for love, Alfonso desperately needs an heir, and in a true story of lust and dark decadence, the dramatic fireworks the marriage kindles threaten to destroy the duke’s entire inheritance–and Lucrezia’s future. His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara.


This is the second novel I’ve read that draws on Robert Browning’s poem My Last Duchess, focusing on a couple from centuries gone by that we really know very little about. The blurb of this novel is “passionate love story”. The truth of it is bittersweet, monotonous and oppressive. The everlasting cloud of doom hovers over Lucrezia de Medici as she makes one youthful mistake after the other during her tragic marriage to Alfonse II, the Duke of Ferrara. What should be a marriage of wealth and status is simply a stifling prison for Lucrezia, as she cannot deliver a very important thing for the demanding Duke: an heir.

This is not entirely Lucrezia’s fault though. The virile Duke is unmanned by Lucrezia’s purity and youthfulness, and a year and a half of unsuccessful consummation leaves Lucrezia utterly bored. With devastating consequences, Lucrezia decides to sow her wild oats with a local artist, Jacomo. He is one of the more intriguing secondary characters of the story, as the two main protagonists are predictable and selfish, and therefore not very likable. The crux of the story centers around the inadequacies in the marriage, but the storyline finally picks up during the last quarter once the Duke’s diabolical plan to rid himself of his Duchess comes to the forefront.

The supporting cast of characters helped build the story up to a climatic end, with Lucrezia receiving help from unexpected places. The creative ending made up for the repetitive start, and readers would like the intrigue that suddenly spills over. A fitting sequel to this story would be Elizabeth Loupas’ The Second Duchess, which covers the story of the Duke’s second marriage to Barbara of Austria but also features Lucrezia. The author Gabrielle Kimm is working on her newest novel that features the Duke’s mistress, Francesca.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews

Review: Jane Austen Made Me Do It: An Anthology edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine October 11, 2011
Paperback 464 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

22 Austenesque short stories: Regency or contemporary, romantic or fantastical, each of these marvelous stories reaffirms the incomparable influence of one of history’s most cherished authors.

Whatever it is about Jane Austen and her nuance, it has inspired and entertained for two hundred years. The classiness of her writing and of the era is what hooked me.. a romance can just be a romance (without the nowadays obligatory embarrassing sexual entanglements) and it is pure good natured fun and witty humor. In this anthology edited by Laurel Ann Nattress, the myriad of traits that made Austen into a genre of her own are embodied full force and unabashedly displayed much to our delight as it infuses the old fashioned and the modern together seamlessly.

Favorite Austenesque authors are featured, and then a few that I had not heard of, as well as an aspiring writer’s short story all make up this homage to Jane Austen that would make her smile. Who would’ve thunk that after a mere six novels that she could inspire so much creativity and wit? And despite the recent rise of Austen sequels, this anthology of many quaint stories never got old for this reader, and I was impressed with all the clever approaches in which Austen themes can be recreated, intriguing and entertaining me with new characters and their stories. This collection of stories is a must for all fans of Jane Austen, and it is a great tool for introducing the authors of the Austenesque genre as well.

All of these short stories were very well done, omitting the epistolary one that bothered me Because of the Way that All the Words Were Capitalized and I just Could Not Function for More than Two Pages Reading like That. I did have a few favorites, one by Monica Fairview, an author I had read and enjoyed before, and the other by an author I knew I had to get to soon, Amanda Grange. Jo Beverley evoked a Louisa May Alcott vibe with her mistletoe story, and Captain Wentworth may have eclipsed the legendary Mr Darcy within these stories. I want to make clear that the stories within Jane Austen Made Me Do It are all original stories that you have not read anywhere else, as another anthology in a different genre perturbed me as they were all regurgitated stories.

I must admit to being a bit blasphemous.. as I seem to be on the verge of reading everything sequel-related and thus far I have only physically read Pride and Prejudice. Yet, I’ve seen the movies, and read some sequels, and read this anthology, I feel quite at home with almost all of Austen’s original characters. So if you haven’t read all of Jane Austen’s novels, never fear: you will be quite at ease with this clever presentation, as there really is a little bit of everything for everyone. Kudos to Laurel Ann Nattress, an Austen Blogger Extraordinaire (http://austenprose.com/) who was able to make her dream come true, and I hope that there is a Jane Austen Made Me Do It Sequel, which would of course be in fashion with the recent Austenesque trends.

I am proud to be a part of Laurel’s Grand Tour of which she will stop by Burton Book Review on November 3rd, but until then, you can ride along with Laurel and try to snag your own copy of the book during her tour stops. The list of stops on her Grand Tour can be found here.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Amanda Grange, Austen Sequels, Lauren Willig, Monica Fairview, Regency

Review: The Gilded Shroud (Lady Fan Mysteries #1) by Elizabeth Bailey

The Gilded Shroud (Lady Fan Mysteries #1) by Elizabeth Bailey
Berkley Trade September 6, 2011
Paperback 368 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

First in a new series that has the perfect mix of Regency murder and mystery.
When the marchioness is found murdered at Polbrook mansion, the Dowager Lady Polbrook’s new companion, Ottilia Draycott, finds herself in a house of strangers and every one of them a suspect. Only she can unmask and outwit a desperate killer and keep a Polbrook family secret buried.

Ottilia Draycott finds herself in a rare situation first day on the job as a companion. She supposed she would be bored to death when taking on the task of amusing the Dowager, but it turns out she is investigating a death the first day on the job. Not one to shy from others, Ottilia immediately forges herself into the family dramas and attempts to become a private detective of sorts. The Dowager’s daughter-in-law is murdered in her bed, and her son the Missing Marquis is the prime suspect. The other son is Francis, affectionately call Fan-Fan, who runs the Hanover House, and encourages Ottilia’s interference with curiousity. Of course we wonder if theirs’ will be a love match in the making since Ottilia keeps flushing at Fan’s smiles.

There is a limited cast of characters, despite the many servants, thus the whodunit was plausible to be this one person from the start, but I hadn’t totally pinned it on one person till the end. Yet the whole plot of going about uncovering the clues by Ottilia was witty and entertaining, as the author has a fluid writing style that reads quite well. The life of the party was not supposed to be the Dowager, but the old lady was amusing as well as the relationship she had with others. The family was an interesting odd bunch, and the fact this is book one in a new mystery series excites me to know that I can visit these characters again.

This historical mystery would be entertaining for those who like Georgette Heyer’s mysteries. The tone is a bit different than that of the more antiquated Heyer, but is still a very enjoyable Pre-Regency-style read. With fluent writing and a fabulous ending, author Elizabeth Bailey is sure to have a hit mystery series on her clever hands.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Mystery, Regency

Review: The Lady of the Rivers: A Novel (Cousins’ War #3) by Philippa Gregory

Simon & Schuster October 18, 2011
Hardcover, 464 pages
ISBN 978-1416563709
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her house-hold for love, and then carved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou’s close friend and a Lancaster supporter – until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fell in love and married the rival king Edward IV. Of all the little-known but important women of the period, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina, and to the founder of the house of Luxembourg, together with her reputation for making magic, she is the most haunting of heroines.

Philippa Gregory’s third novel in the Cousins’ War series focuses on Jacquetta of Luxembourg, who later becomes mother to the Queen of England. Her story is a fascinating one, and it is made quite entertaining Gregory-style. In Gregory’s previous novel The White Queen (2009), we are introduced to the legacy of Melusina when Elizabeth Woodville captures the eye of Edward IV and the stigma of witchcraft that the Woodville women are surrounded with. With this installment on Jacquetta, we are immediately brought into this magical element of Jacquetta’s upbringing and the legend of Melusina. Those readers who dislike this fantasy theme should not bother reading the book, as it is a large fragment of the story.

The White Queen centered around Elizabeth Woodville, who was Jacquetta’s eldest and beautiful daughter. The Lady of the Rivers moves back in time a bit, to Jacquetta and her story of survival, love and loyalty. (Could have been a publisher’s decision because two years ago Gregory was going to do the third book on Elizabeth of York: The White Princess). A young Jacquetta is forced to leave France as she is married off to England’s Duke of Bedford, who is on a mission to find the mystical answers to all things unknown, along with that pot of gold. Poor Bedford seems like a creepy little man, sadly for him. Meanwhile, Jacquetta finds a friend and protector in Richard Woodville who acted as Bedford’s right hand man. Once Bedford dies, Jacquetta throws caution to the wind, and usurps all authority in declaring her love for Richard.

Her story develops around the turmoil of England as they struggle to hold on to the lands in France that the late Henry V worked so hard for, but the young and weak Henry VI is ill advised and caught between the rising factions of the Cousins’ War. Jacquetta embraces her new country of England, and serves the Lancastrian King and Queen as she hopes against hope that her new husband Richard Woodville won’t be killed in battle. The love that grew between Jacquetta and Richard is lovingly portrayed and one can easily imagine, through Gregory’s eyes, how the unlikely pair found a lasting love that brought forth quite a brood of Woodvilles. There were repeated mentions of the blue eyes of Richard, but he was always in the background of the other novels I had read so it was nice to see him form into a handsome blue-eyed person with a knack for quickly making babies. He was quite the star in this novel, with his loyal and gallant characteristics, not to mention sex appeal.

Jacquetta and Richard live out their life in fear of witch hunts as they do the royal bidding. Margaret of Anjou is insufferably unqueenly in this portrayal and her husband Henry is either a pious robot or a recluse. The city of London is a mob of dejected souls and Richard Duke of York is mentioned as the most-wished-for-wanna-be-king.. and other loose characterizations are formed and maintained throughout the story. The phrase ‘Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset’ is drilled into my head as he is mentioned umpteen times and who is not so subtly hinted as being in love with the Queen. History is a bit of a glazed backdrop as Gregory focuses the crux of the novel on Jacquetta and her experiences as Gregory imagines them as Jacquetta stands by the Queen’s side while her Richard goes off to fight for them. Historical buffs for the Wars of the Roses may be a bit bored and put off by the lack of dramatic emphasis in areas where we would expect them as the mystical elements play the stronger part in this telling.

Of course, as with all Philippa Gregory novels, there seems to be a major uproar when the fiction outweighs the history, and this is no different. I could not get a handle on what exact title Richard Woodville had (squire/knight/chamberlain/baron/commander whatever he was at any given time), and then since we truly know very little about Jacquetta herself except for royal occasions where she was present, Gregory fills in the rest with lots of gorgeous babies. I can’t remember my phone number sometimes so I wouldn’t dare attempt to find any historical accuracies, but I am sure that those readers who pursue inaccuracies within Gregory’s fiction as a sort of sport will be able to point them out to you. This reader doesn’t care, I love the genre of historical fiction because of the entertaining accounts of historical figures, and Philippa Gregory usually captures that need for me with flair (most of the time).

I have no idea what type of schedule the author keeps, but I think that her recent popularity may have zapped some of the story-telling skills that she once demonstrated in earlier novels. Gregory is one of the more well-known authors of  historical fiction with a following of many critics and has a lot to live up to. I would personally wish for something a bit more in-depth and rounded out characters, while others wish for a bit more accuracy in the details. Jacquetta Woodville, Duchess of Bedford, mother to a Queen.. Gregory has the potential to turn her life into quite a story with creativity and that midas touch that once made Gregory so popular…

However.. the last half of the book did not quite match the expectations that were solicited in the first half as I wished for a lot more substance and a lot less of the repetitive silliness that she emphasized when utilizing various rumors of the time. I really wanted this to be a fabulous read that entertained and absorbed me, but this time Gregory comes up short. I think that newcomers to the Wars of the Roses era would enjoy this novel, much like once upon a time I was a rookie in regards to the Tudor era and Philippa Gregory wrote some intriguing introductions to the Tudors with The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance.  Also recently released which I recommend as a brief summary on the main protagonists of Gregory’s Cousins’ War series is The Women of the Cousin’s War (my review), which is a collaborative effort with authors David Baldwin and Michael Jones.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta Woodville, Medieval Era, Philippa Gregory, Wars of the Roses

{{Giveaway!}} Review: Sunrise of Avalon (Trystan & Isolde Trilogy Book #3) by Anna Elliott

Sunrise of Avalon (Trystan & Isolde Trilogy Book #3) by Anna Elliott
Simon & Schuster Touchstone September 13 2011
Paperback 448 pages
ISBN 978-1416589914
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Great big Four stars!

She is a healer, a storyteller, and a warrior. When Britain is faced with threats both old and new, the strength of her love may be the kingdom’s downfall . . . or salvation.


Their love has overcome endless obstacles. Never ones to shy away from danger, former High Queen Isolde and Trystan, a mercenary with a lonely and troubled past, have already endured a perilous journey to keep the underhanded Lord Marche from the throne of Britain. But now a new traitor lurks amongst the kings on Britain’s High Council – and just when they’ve realized the depth of their love for each other, a new danger calls Trystan from Isolde’s side to test the strength of their secret marriage vow. Only Isolde knows that she is carrying Trystan’s unborn child.

As Britain’s armies prepare for a final battle in which they will either turn back the tide of the invaders or see their kingdom utterly destroyed, Isolde must undertake yet another daring mission – one that will bring her even nearer to a secret that Trystan has kept for seven long years. As the clouds of war gather, Trystan and Isolde must once again fight to protect Britain’s throne. Together, they hold the key that can defeat the Saxon king, Octa of Kent, and Lord Marche. But the cost of Britain’s sovereignty may be their own forbidden love.

Based on the earliest written version of the Arthurian tales, Anna Elliott’s Sunrise of Avalon breathes new life into an age-old legend and brings the story of Trystan and Isolde to an unforgettable end.

Having read Anna Elliott’s first two novels in the Trystan and Isolde series, I knew I had to read the final chapter, Sunrise of Avalon. The first two books set up the scene and the nature of the characters of Trystan and Isolde along with their legacies, which brings us to the third book and the final battle for the fate of Britain. Book one, Twilight of Avalon, was actually one of my favorite reads on 2009, as it was my first Arthurian/Dark Ages read which had really enthralled me. Book two, Dark Moon of Avalon, developed the storyline and the struggle of Britain versus the Saxons, along with the relationship between Trystan and Isolde.

The plot of the Avalon books feature Trystan’s battles on the field as well as his own personal demons, as Lady Isolde learns to preserve herself and her integrity in the midst of warring men. The love story that begins in book one continues on to book three as we hope that there will be a happy ending once and for all for Trystan and Isolde. However, there are quite a few obstacles that block the path to love, and the Kings of Britain wouldn’t mind having Isolde’s land for their own.

Lady Isolde has inherited the gifts of the ‘seeing’ power from her legendary grandmother, Morgan, and she uses the gifts to help give her peace of mind of Trystan’s whereabouts. He has all but shut her out, and she hangs on to the hope of his love by the threads of the magic through Trystan’s dreams. Isolde hopes she can break through Trystan’s hardened exterior as she harbors the secret of her pregnancy, but she is lucky enough to have faithful friends who would risk their lives for her as she travels through harsh lands. Daka, Piye, and Hereric all return in this finale, as well as King Madoc and the evil King Marche as they all are supposed to be saving Britain from the hands of Octa of the Bloody Knife. The characters are the stars of the books, as the author diligently endears them to us, along with the hope that Trystan and Isolde can hold on to their lives and their love while helping to keep Britain out of enemy’s hands.

Anna Elliott’s voice is pure and unwavering, and her setting and character descriptions are expertly told throughout the storyline. She shifts the writing tones as she navigates from Trystan’s to Isolde’s point of view, but it is done with ease. The plot seems simple enough: finding true love and keeping it throughout war, but the author knows how to pull the reader in because of the way she writes and endears the characters and the setting of Dark Ages Britain to us. The Twilight of Avalon trilogy is a fantastic mix of romance, hope, danger and magic and I would definitely recommend this entire series as it is the epitome of the phrase masterful storytelling. I cannot wait to see what Anna Elliott will write next!

Read my previous Anna Elliott posts here.
On towards the Book Giveaway!! The publisher is offering two lucky followers a chance to win this book!
To enter, just comment with your email address and let me know if you have read any Arthurian or Dark Ages books before.

For extra entries, tweet or facebook this post, and leave me those links in the comments. (+1 each)
For one more entry, like the Burton Book Review Facebook page.

Open to USA only, and ends September 30, 2011. Good Luck!

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Anna Elliott, Arthurian, Dark Ages

Review: The Women of The Cousin’s War by Philippa Gregory

Women of the Cousins' War

The Women of The Cousin’s War by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin & Michael Jones
Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, September 13, 2011
Hardcover 352 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Stars

The Women of the Cousins’ War is an attempt to shed light on three important women of the Wars of the Roses, which Gregory refers to with the old fashioned name of the Cousins’ War. The Duchess refers to Jaquetta of Luxembourg, minor French nobility who married into English nobility of the Lancastrian side and who would probably have had a satisfied life if things ended there. Her first husband John, Duke of Bedford was the third son of Henry IV. When he dies, Jacquetta defies convention and marries Richard Woodville, who was merely her first husband’s chamberlain. Philippa Gregory writes the first portion of The Women of the Cousins’ War as a sort of prelude to her novel, The Lady of the Rivers, her third installment in the Cousins’ War fictional series.

David Baldwin writes the second portion of The Women of the Cousins’ War on the Queen Elizabeth Woodville, daughter of Jacquetta, mother of the lost princes in the tower, mother-in-law to Henry VII. Elizabeth Woodville underwent much scrutiny when she married the younger Edward IV, who enraged all nobility by bringing the large family of Woodville upstarts into the royal fold. She encounters foes on all sides, from the scheming Warwick to the King’s own brothers. Baldwin previously wrote a biography on Elizabeth Woodville, one of the few written.

Finally, Michael Jones brings us the third portion of The Women of the Cousins’ War with his writing on Margaret Beaufort, mother to Henry VII, who against all odds persevered throughout the tumultuous Cousins’ War and eventually was able to see Lancaster restored to the English throne via her own son. All three of these women are main protagonists in Gregory’s novels The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Lady of the Rivers.

In the roughly forty-seven page introduction, Gregory explains that there is very little known about the female significant others of times gone by because women were simply considered irrelevant. Sometimes we have dates of birth and dates of death, and then a little can be filled in between the lines based on certain battles and where their husbands had traveled. And that’s exactly what Gregory provides us with when discussing Jacquetta of Luxembourg. As forewarned by Gregory herself, the actual lines that were devoted to Jacquetta in Gregory’s section of The Women of the Cousins’ War were full of probably’s and maybe’s with a summary of the Wars of the Roses. The last few pages focus a bit more on Jacquetta and her family, her legacy and the stigma of being a branded a witch (which she miraculously survived a trial intact).

David Baldwin’s portion on Elizabeth Woodville read much quicker, and the tone of Baldwin’s writing is pitch perfect. He calls into account more of Elizabeth’s actions during the events of her marriage to Edward IV, and he didn’t overlook some details that I had previously not comprehended. It seems that Edward IV had a peculiar way of ignoring rules and making stuff up as he went along to whatever suited his current needs. King Edward had even declared a countess legally dead in order for her lands to be distributed, even though she was very much alive. It becomes more understandable of the unrest at the time when Edward ignored the Yorkist nobles’ alliances with families regarding betrothals, bequeathals and land disputes. Even though most of the disgruntled nobles placed the blame on “the upstart Woodvilles”, we cannot but help but wonder where Edward’s mind was once he continued to stir the pot more and more. And so the magic/witch/evil spell factor comes back into play, because certainly Edward would not have knowingly been such an idiot when he married the Woodville widow…and he certainly would not normally have misplaced all his trust with the Woodvilles who were (up till then) staunch Lancastrian supporters. I had read Baldwin’s non-fiction book on Elizabeth Woodville a few years ago and I recall enjoying it more than other WOTR non-fiction. His writing in The Women of the Cousins’ War was just as enjoyable.

Michael Jones then writes of Margaret Beaufort, and we learn about her family and her own father’s tragic life. He had committed suicide when Margaret had turned a year old, but as Jones tells it, he was never far from her mind. Jones writes of John Beaufort’s tragic exile, his plundering the spoils of battles, enraging the pious Henry VI, his ultimate suicide and ponders what effect did these events have on Margaret? Jones emphasizes Margaret’s political acumen and her very act of survival during those politically treacherous times with appraisal. There were a few more details of Margaret’s family that I had not realized before, and her family’s name going back and forth in and out of royal favor occurred more than I had realized. Margaret’s ultimate success of seeing her son on the throne of England, and finally her grandson succeeding the throne without protest, must have been sweet success indeed.

The Women of the Cousins’ War is a quick read without bogging down the reader with minutia of details regarding the many angles and intrigues of the Wars of the Roses, and is a worthy resource (family trees, illustrations, notes and sources, and index included) for those who wish to know the real story behind the formidable women featured in Philippa Gregory’s novels of the Cousins’ War.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Edward IV, Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, Richard III, Tudor, Wars of the Roses

Review: Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman
Paperback544 pages, Touchstone
ISBN-13 978-1451623499
Review copy from the publisher, thanks so much!
Burton Book Review Rating:Epic!

SPANNING THREE GENERATIONS AND HALF THE WORLD, WILDFLOWER HILL IS A SWEEPING, ROMANTIC, AND COMPELLING STORY OF TWO WOMEN WHO SHARE A LEGACY OF SECRETS, HEARTBREAK, COURAGE, AND LOVE. Emma, a prima ballerina in London, is at a crossroads after an injured knee ruins her career. Forced to rest and take stock of her life, she finds that she’s mistaken fame and achievement for love and fulfillment. Returning home to Australia, she learns of her grandmother Beattie’s death and a strange inheritance: a sheep station in isolated rural Australia. Certain she has been saddled with an irritating burden, Emma prepares to leave for Wildflower Hill to sell the estate.
Beattie also found herself at a crossroads as a young woman, but she was pregnant and unwed. She eventually found success—but only after following an unconventional path that was often dangerous and heartbreaking. Beattie knew the lessons she learned in life would be important to Emma one day, and she wanted to make sure Emma’s heart remained open to love, no matter what life brought. She knew the magic of the Australian wilderness would show Emma the way.
Wildflower Hill is a compelling, atmospheric, and romantic novel about taking risks, starting again, and believing in yourself. It’s about finding out what you really want and discovering that the answer might be not at all what you’d expect.

This is one of those novels that you know from the beginning would be a page-turner, and then when you finish it you wish you hadn’t ended your journey (and wish for truly waterproof mascara). Wildflower Hill is a multi-generational story that starts with Beattie as a young girl and ends with Emma, her granddaughter. The two women were seemingly worlds apart, but perhaps after Beattie’s death there can be a sense of rebirth with Emma if she could only find the path that Beattie carved out for her.

Beattie’s story is sad, sweet, hopeful and horrifying as she deals with ostracization due to having a daughter out of wedlock and for respecting colored people. She is thrown every obstacle society can give her and we get to read of Beattie’s journey through her life in bits and pieces through Beattie’s eyes, and then a bit more of her mystery through Emma’s discoveries. The book transitions to the granddaughter Emma who loses her career as a ballerina after an injury and heads down to Australia to pick through the estate left to her by her grandmother. She uncovers mystery after mystery as she tries to deal with the direction of her own life which she was completely unprepared for after her boyfriend leaves her and her career is over.

There are alot of things going on within the story, from high end society versus the commoner, from neighbor against neighbor and mother versus stepmother. From Scotland, England to Tasmania, Australia..all of it ties together to make Wildflower Hill the epitome of saga material with all those facets of Gone With the Wind type of feel. Love, lust, greed, labor, prejudice, secrets, courage are all underlying themes, but through it all we are waiting for redemption. Aching for it, for both Beattie and Emma. The writing style was fluent and easy to absorb, and the characterizations were pure and simple, and easy to identify with. Beattie was a woman to admire, and maybe Emma wasn’t just because she couldn’t think outside the box. The development in the plot from point A to B was a thrilling, inspiring, and quite an entertaining journey for me. What more can I ask for? A sequel?

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Inspirational, Saga

Review: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

The Map of Time: A Novel by Felix J. Palma
Hardcover: 611 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (June 28, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1439167397
Review copy provided by Atria, with many, many thanks!
Burton Book Review Rating:Fabulous.

THE PHENOMENAL INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Set in Victorian London with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time boasts a triple-play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H.G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and thereby save the lives of an aristocrat in love with a murdered prostitute from the past; of a woman bent on fleeing the strictures of Victorian society; and of his very own wife, who may have become a pawn in a 4th-dimensional plot to murder the authors of Dracula, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, in order to alter their identities and steal their fictional creations.  
But, what happens if we change history?  Felix J. Palma raises such questions in The Map of Time. Mingling fictional characters with real ones, Palma weaves a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting, a story full of love and adventure that also pays homage to the roots of science fiction while transporting its readers to a fascinating Victorian London for their own taste of time travel. 
I’ve always been a non-conformist. So, there are times when books from Oprah’s Must-Have list immediately get ignored by me, just because. (Not that this one is on it.. because does Oprah even do that anymore?) I have seen The Map of Time getting some attention here and there, and I must admit that The Map of Time is worthy of whatever accolades come its way. There are quite a few (deserving) gushy blurbs on this book, such as:
“Strange and wonderful. Magical and smart.”~M.J. Rose
“Singularly inventive, luscious story with a core of pure, unsettling weirdness.”~Cherie Priest
I can’t really add more to that except that I heartily agree. Let’s just say, I got it. I really got it. And then there are some who won’t get it, but I am glad I was one of the lucky ones. The book is a gorgeous piece of work in itself which got it on its first path to my heart: a hardcover with embossed gold lettering, intriguing imagery on the cover and the endpapers and then the book is a hefty 611 pages. So, I read a few other books before tackling this one because I figured I’d be bogged down with those 611 pages and I would probably have to carve out a chunk of my life to devote to this book. BZZZZZ I was wrong. I found myself reading over one hundred pages a night, and that is a feat considering that I typically read half that in twice the amount of time as I tend to fall asleep rather easily. The Map of Time was different.
It is so different that I cannot even strictly classify this book. Historical fiction because it is set in 1896, but it jumps ahead to the year 2000 which makes it a time travel book. And that means science fiction and that means I have lost you, haven’t I? WAIT.. come back!!!!! I admit that there was a paragraph or two in the scientific explanations that started to wear me down, but the rest of it was, quite frankly, genius.
So along with history and science there is a bit more that makes up this whole circle of life: Romance. Heroes. Suicidal tendencies. Murder. Jack the Ripper. Evil inventors. Automatons. H.G. Wells. Insights into mankind as a human race. An omniscient narrator you want to smack every now and then. Just a little bit of everything for everyone all wrapped up in this magnificent book that I honest to God truly snuck out of my desk drawer and read at my desk at work. There was just something about this story, however convoluted it strived to be- how it connected and reconnected in circles of time from the past and the future, that really grabbed me. The whole concept of these ripples of time and the effect of the time continuum through the past to the present to the future was very well plotted out in all of its intricacies. And the addition of intriguing characters like Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, and the Elephant Man were fantastic little escapades into the author’s clever world of alternate history. It was really a pretty complicated storyline, but the way it all started filling in as I went along ended up enhancing the story more and more for me, although I wish the ending was a bit more dramatic than it wound up being.
So what was it all about anyway, you ask.. well, it opens to a young man contemplating suicide because his girlfriend is gone. But his cousin saves him by giving him hope that he can go back in time when she was alive and perhaps alter the future.. and that was part one. Along comes part two, and we meet another set of characters, yet they cross paths with the first group.. and the very important fabric of time is thus created.. but what happens if we pull on that one stray thread? What exactly does unravel? A bit of treachery and dishonesty starts to fray the fabric and yet we remain still stuck in the circle of time and reality becomes a bit dimmer as the hope for a better future brightens the present…
I don’t want to spoil it anymore… the synopsis alone gives off a lot of information that should be enough to whet your appetite. Since this is a book of an eclectic origin, I think there are a select few who just won’t be able to understand or appreciate the storyline, but then there will be others like me who are fortunate enough to have enjoyed climbing out of the box with this one. And be careful with that box, folks, because there are dragons and ferocious beasts that will kill you if you open it…


The intro to part 3, via camera phone.



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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Best of 2011, Mystery, Victorian