Category Archives: #histnov

Death and the Courtesan (Arabella Beaumont Mystery #1) by Pamela Christie

Unique light hearted bawdy entertainment

Death and the Courtesan (Arabella Beaumont Mystery #1) by Pamela Christie
Kensington Mystery, June 2013, $15.00
Paperback 229pp
Historical Romance/Somewhat inspirational
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the August 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:

Pamela Christie’s sparkling historical mystery goes beyond the modest drawing rooms of Regency London in the company of the city’s most esteemed and scandalous courtesan…

Since the age of sixteen, Arabella Beaumont has been happily employed as a highly paid woman of pleasure. True, respectable ladies of the ton would never deign to call at Lustings, her delightful home. Then again, Arabella has no desire to make dreary small talk and sip tea when she could be enjoying the company of amusing, intelligent, and extremely generous gentlemen.

But while Arabella’s admirers are legion, she also has enemies. A paper knife stolen during one of her salons was discovered near the body of a former rival. Arabella was entertaining her wealthy benefactor on the night of the murder, but the engaged duke can’t provide the alibi she desperately needs. It falls to Arabella and her resourceful sister, Belinda, to clear her good—or at least innocent—name. Utilizing all the talents in her arsenal, the irrepressible Miss Beaumont will endeavor to catch the real culprit, before the hangman catches up to her…

It’s the flamboyant age of the Regency, where Miss Arabella Beaumont makes her living as a courtesan offering her physical wares to very rich fellows. With witty banter such as how size matters relating to ribbons for condoms, a story unfolds of how Arabella seeks to clear her name of murder. Her favorite Duke assures the authorities of her cooperation therefore she is free to roam and investigate at whim, thus introducing the reader to many characters.

The writing is drenched with sexual innuendo as an attempt at humor or charm, but the intrusive narrator who occasionally addresses the reader lacks the charm intended. Sadly, the mystery takes a back burner as Arabella struts around town telling stories, until finally the point of the novel reemerges with the final scenes. The text includes some archaic words such as clew, shew and chuse but the tone might be right for those desiring unique and lighthearted entertainment.



Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Mystery

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

A story of Irish proportions! 

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
Published February 15th 2010 by Center Street
Hardcover, 352 pages
Source is a personal copy/not for review purposes
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars

THE YELLOW HOUSE delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th Century. Eileen O’Neill’s family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life. She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior’s soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore.

The Yellow House is a very stirring, emotive novel that re-imagines life in Ireland during the early 1900’s featuring a backdrop of civil war and religious strife. It gives us all fictional characters, but they are all so well told you would have trouble believing this all came from a debut author’s mind. Full of love, hate and bonds of love, the story weaves all the elements of life in Ireland through the first person narrative told by the strong-willed and admirable character of Eileen O’Neill: full of flaws, yet so full of determination so the reader can’t help but root for her even when she is making disastrous decisions.

There are many events that occur through the book, from births to death to marriages and love lost and found but I am certainly not going to spoil all that fun for you. There is a definite family saga feel to this story with a very strong cast of supporting characters, and the added political backdrop of the turmoil between Freedom Fighters and Protestants and Catholics was a bonus for the historical lover in myself.

I found myself tearing up during the last portion of the novel it was just that good, and I have no problems recommending this quick-reading expansive novel to anyone who wants to be immersed in a story full of Irish charm and violence, music men and freedom fighters, romance and revenge. Since this release, the author has published another novel based in Ireland which also mentions our main protagonist so I’m putting that one on my wish-list too.

This novel was one of my picks for the Roof Beam Reader’s 2013 TBR Challenge. Click the button to see my progress thus far:


Filed under #histnov, 2013 Reading Challenge, 2013 Review, Ireland

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

Ready for a gush fest? LOVED LOVED LOVED!

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House; June 1, 2013
Christian Historical Fiction
Review copy provided for free from Litfuse in exchange for this honest review
Burton Book Review Rating:Totally Awesome!

Purchase a copy here

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the person is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?

Stealing the Preacher is book two in Karen Witemeyer’s Archer brothers series, the previous novel being Short-Straw Bride (review) which I loved and gave 4.5 stars. This one gets 5 stars! I absolutely LOVE Bethany House Publishers allowing the faith theme to be so majorly prevalent in their Christian historicals, and it was so strong in this novel that I spiritually latched on to Brother Archer very quickly, but I knew I would since I loved him in Short-Straw Bride. And he sure wasn’t that hard to read about either, the way Joanna gets all pink in the face around him -whew- throw that girl a towel!!

Crockett Archer had no idea he was about to meet Joanna, the love of his life, when her father abducted him from a train. Crockett had other places to be and other people to meet, but God had other things in mind and that was Joanna and her goal for restoring faith for her father.

From rebuilding a church and nursing an injured man, Crockett Archer has all the right moves, and he has moved right into Joanna’s path who cannot get enough of the man. Turns out the socialite Holly wants Crockett too, so there’s a little not so nice competition going on. Luckily, Crockett sees through Holly’s ways but can he reform her before someone gets hurt? A dash of intrigue, a great bit of romance and full on unabashed faith keeps this story going in page turning fashion from start to finish. I absolutely loved this story -perhaps I was in the need of a preacher man – but those who don’t revel in God’s glory probably would feel too consumed by the verses being recited throughout. I cannot wait to see what is next from Karen Witemeyer and I am definitely going to get to reading her previous novels sooner rather than later. Stealing the Preacher was just what this reader wanted: a sexy Christian cowboy and a fantastic romance that offers unforgettable characters rewarded with redemption, it’s going on my Best of 2013 list without a doubt.

/end gush fest.

Even though this could be a stand-alone, I highly recommend you read Short-Straw Bride first in order to understand the dynamic behind Crockett’s character.

Karen Witemeyer is “kindling” the excitement for Stealing the Preacher (Bethany House) with a Kindle Fire Giveaway and connecting with readers at her June 18th Facebook Author Chat Party!


  One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer 

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at 4pm on June 18th. Winner will be announced at the Stealing the Preacher” Facebook Author Chat Party on June 18th. Connect with Karen for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Karen will also share an exclusive look at her next book and give away books and other fun prizes throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of Stealing the Preacher and join Karen on the evening of June 18th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 18th!

1 Comment

Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Best of 2013, Bethany House, Christian Fiction, Karen Witemeyer

David and Bathsheba by Roberta Kells Dorr

The love story that rocked a kingdom

David and Bathseba (Song of Solomon #1) by Roberta Kells Dorr
Biblical fiction
Moody Publishers | River North; New Edition, June 2013
Paperback 320 pages
Review copy provided via publisher on NetGalley, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Very good, and I recommend it!

David and Bathsheba is a spellbinding story of a gifted king and the woman he loved but could not have. Told from Bathsheba’s perspective, author Roberta Kells Dorr bring to life the passion that almost cost David his kingdom and tested a people’s courage and faith in God. “David and Bathsheba” is colored richly with details of Bible-era Israel – from the details of the everyday way of life to details of the Jewish religion. Dorr brilliantly merges reality with folklore as she tells the story of two great characters of the biblical era. The book starts out with Bathsheba as a young girl and David as a strong willed rebellious military leader. It details the way they meet and follows them all the way through their difficulties.

Readers of the bible would recognize the story of King David slayer of giants and how he became acquainted with Bathsheba. It was one of those times that upon reading the Bible I was a bit disgusted at how such a revered man behaved regarding women. Despite that, there is a new interest for me to read biblical novels since I am now through with reading the bible cover to cover for the first time.

Even though the synopsis states this is Bathsheba’s point of view, that is not completely true. It is an omniscient narrator that offers a view from many angles, including David’s new advisor Ahithopel who is Bathsheba’s grandfather. Ahithopel is first portrayed as a wise and logical man, and has the best interests of his family at heart, especially since Bathsheba has lost her father during one of the many religious battles.We also get David’s point of view, and his tumultuous relationship with Michal who was Saul’s daughter.

There are quite a few battles in the Old Testament, and the one that brings the story of David to life is the victorious battle in Urusalim. Here we also meet Uri, who Ahithopel wants the young Bathsheba to marry. Bathsheba has little say in the matter, and is forced to marry Uri the Hittite whom readers of the bible would recognize as Uriah. There is turmoil during this marriage, and we know eventually that David will see Bathsheba bathing, and the rest is history.

The story of the bible is fleshed out, with views of a few sides. The many wives of David, the family of Bathsheba, and the sons of David all play a part in the story. I felt the central mover and shaker was actually Ahithopel, as it was at his will that major things occurred. While the events of Bathsheba’s life are the key events, do not expect to just get her side of the story, because in the end you’ll get a full sense of the restless era that contains David and the sad story of his sons Absalom and Amnon, with the hope of righteousness finally settling on young Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba.

As a reissue from 1980 I was not overly passionate about it at first. Its tone was a bit too matter-of-fact as it offered interesting background information to Bathsheba’s family as a child. Towards the latter of the novel I became more entrenched in the story while the author filled in the voids from what we know from David and Bathsheba’s lives from the bible. Both the historical details of Israel and the biblical sense were very well presented and I would recommend it to those who have not already read David and Bathsheba’s fictionalized story yet.

From what I can tell Solomon’s Song was written as a sequel, but I can’t tell if that is being reissued yet. Queen of Sheba is being reissued a month after this one, but I would prefer to read the story of Solomon. It is a testament to the good writing of Roberta Kells Dorr that I am already eager to read that story.


Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Biblical

Josiah’s Treasure by Nancy Herriman

There are many kinds of treasures..

Josiah’s Treasure by Nancy Herriman
Worthy Publishing, April 2013
Historical Romance/Somewhat inspirational
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the May 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:

Read my review of Herriman’s previous novel, The Irish Healer

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

Don’t let the amateurish cover image dissuade you from this inspirational romance from Nancy Herriman. Set in San Francisco in 1882 we are introduced to Sarah as she is coping with the loss of a close friend and benefactor. She is grateful for the inheritance that Josiah has left her, and has made plans with that money which goes towards securing her future as well as other young ladies. Unforeseen changes occur when Josiah’s long-lost son, Daniel, shows up from Chicago to claim Josiah’s purportedly hidden treasure of gold, along with claiming his rights as heir to Josiah’s estate.

Seedy sides of San Francisco lace the chilly atmosphere once the rumors of Josiah’s treasure circulate and put Sarah in danger. Readers watch the characters develop just as we are trying to find out both the history behind Josiah’s reasons for abandoning his family and discerning the past that Sarah has tried so hard to erase. Daniel and Sarah are admirable characters each trying to make their futures brighter for others as well as themselves, but they each need Josiah’s inheritance to achieve their goals. Herriman’s story weaves an unpredictable suspense factor in with the light romance, and there is just a small thread of the usual faith questions threaded throughout, making Herriman’s newest novel a gratifying reading experience.
Read the first chapter of Josiah’s Treasure here.


Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Christian Fiction


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

Happy Mother's Day!

This week on the blog I reviewed:

The Bastard King by Jean Plaidy (Absolutely fantastic novel as expected, portrays William the Conqueror). I recommend this title for those readers who have enjoyed the recent release of Patricia Bracewell’s Shadow on The Crown. I loved it so much I blazed through it leaving my fellow group readers behind in the dust. It had been way too long that I’ve neglected Jean Plaidy, and I must I must I must find time to read more of her work.

What A Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr

This was a nice change of pace for me; a blend of mystery & suspense as a mom finally wakes up from a coma and finds her world had changed around her. Her husband is distant, people are hiding things from her yet they are quick to judge her. Her daughter has gone missing but it seems no one else cares about that fact. I had chosen this as a sort of tribute to Mother’s Day as it displays the bond between mother and child quite well.

Mailbox Monday is a meme originally from Marcia’s Mailbox and is being hosted by Abi @ 4 the LOVE of BOOKS for this month. The Story Siren also hosts IMM, so we can find some cool YA titles there as well.


May 7, 2013

Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck.. I am the biggest fan girl of Erika, I totally drooled over Hemingway’s Girl and I pulled a big I-told-you-so moment when I reviewed Receive Me Falling over three years ago. Well, I still told you so. Looking forward to this one. Read my review of Receive Me Falling and then go buy it for kindle at $2.99.

From the author of Hemingway’s Girl comes a richly imagined tale of Zelda Fitzgerald’s love, longing, and struggle against ever-threatening insanity.

From New York to Paris, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reigned as king and queen of the Jazz Age, but those who really knew them saw their inner turmoil.

Committed to a Baltimore psychiatric hospital in 1932, Zelda vacillates between lucidity and madness as she fights to forge an identity independent of her famous husband. She discovers a sympathetic ear in her nurse Anna Howard, who finds herself drawn into the Fitzgerald’s tumultuous lives and wonders which of them is the true genius. But in taking greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she ever intended.

In this thoroughly researched, deeply moving novel, Erika Robuck explores the boundaries of female friendship, the complexity of marital devotion, and the sources of both art and madness.

A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard

“Nothing ever changes at Wauregan.” That mystique is the tradition of the idyllic island colony off the shore of Long Island, the comforting tradition that its summer dwellers have lived by for over half a century. But in the summer of 1948, after a world war has claimed countless men—even those who came home—the time has come to deal with history’s indelible scars.
Helen Wadsworth’s husband, Arthur, was declared missing in action during an OSS operation in France, but the official explanation was mysteriously nebulous. Now raising a teenage son who longs to know the truth about his father, Helen turns to Frank Hartman—her husband’s best friend and his partner on the mission when he disappeared. Frank, however, seems more intent on filling the void in Helen’s life that Arthur’s absence has left. As Helen’s affection for Frank grows, so does her guilt, especially when Peter Gavin, a handsome Marine who was brutally tortured by the Japanese and has returned with a faithful war dog, unexpectedly stirs new desires. With her heart pulled in multiple directions, Helen doesn’t know whom to trust—especially when a shocking discovery forever alters her perception of both love and war. 

Stealing The Preacher by Karen Witemeyer (book 2 in the Archer Brothers series!)

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

 For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the person is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?

Featured eBook Download

Desired: The Untold Story of Samson and Delilah by Ginger Garrett

Meet the legendary Samson as you’ve never known him before … through the eyes of the three women who loved him.

Before Samson was an Old Testament legend, he was a prodigal son, an inexperienced suitor, a vengeful husband, and a lost soul driven by his own weakness. This is his story as told by three strong women who loved him—the nagging, manipulative mother who pushed him toward greatness, the hapless Philistine bride whose betrayal propelled him into notoriety, and the emotionally damaged seductress—the famous Delilah—who engineered his downfall and propelled him to his destiny. Desired celebrates the God of Israel’s to work powerfully in the midst of hopes, fears, desires, and sorrows.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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

One of these I recommend, the other I don’t.:

This week I finished Death and the Courtesan by Pamela Christie and The Bastard King by Jean Plaidy. Unfortunately I had read The Bastard King first and became enthralled/accustomed to Plaidy’s fabulous classy prose, and so jumping into a sexually charged lighthearted silly mystery within Death and the Courtesan was not such a fantastic idea. Slightly arduous and I was so pleased that it was short in length. The review will have to hold till August however for the HNR magazine.

Currently Reading:
That meant it was time to move on to something a bit more enlightening/rewarding:

American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile That Saved American Independence by Jane Hampton Cook
This is a very intriguing chunky non-fiction book featuring John Quincy and Louisa Adams. I have been meaning to pry myself away from British history and learn more about American history, and this is perfect for that. Featuring the War of 1812 and the Adams’ ‘political exile’ to Europe (which was news to me), the author is using the couple’s extensive diary collection to bring these two historical figures to life, and I am enjoying the writing style very much.

The next bible online study plan is starting tomorrow – it is the 89 Day Plan (weekends off for catch up if needed) which will focus on Major People. Sign up here to read along with the group, it is open to everyone.

Up Next
Quite a few titles in the pile, including Call Me Zelda, Stealing the Preacher, Firebird by Kearsley, Godiva by Galland, Wildish by Parry. It would be nice if I could get all these done before the July Group Read of Katherine by Anya Seton. Wishful thinking, I know. I have so many pressures in real life right now, blogging about books is kinda like not exactly high on the priorities list but as usual it does keep me sane as a hobby in its own annoying sort of way.


Filed under #histnov, #IMWAYR, Erika Robuck, Mailbox Monday, The Sunday Salon

The Bastard King (Norman Series #1) by Jean Plaidy

By God’s Splendour, this was a great intro to William The Conqueror!

The Bastard King by Jean Plaidy

May’s Group Read for the Gooodreads Plaidy/Holt/Carr group
My personal copy is PAN 1977 edition, 333 pages
Burton Book Review Rating:4.5 stars
From my back cover:

Princess Matilda at last found the man she would marry- William, the fierce bastard of Normandy. Proud and fearless, the Duke had ridden into the stronghold of his enemies, dragged her by her thick golden hair into the gutter, and left with her heart. It was a love story that would change the face of history.
Battles, triumphs, revenge and jealousy crowd the dramatic years leading to William’s fateful conflict with Harold of England and its bitter aftermath as Queen Matilda’s love for her children threatens her loyalty to William, Bastard, Conqueror and King.

The Bastard King focuses on William the Bastard (William the Conqueror) and as a history lover, I recognize the date of the year of 1066 as having significance for England, but I had not read anything specific to that historic event having been mostly stuck somewhere betwixt Henry II and Henry VIII. Enter Jean Plaidy: Mistress of good old fashioned historical fiction. With a dose of quiet poisons, traitors, romances, revenge and melodramatics we are treated to an education of William the Bastard that begins with his parents: Robert the Magnificent and Arlette (the tanner’s daughter!).
Being the son of a tanner’s daughter William was ridiculed and teased but he was also portrayed as being a favored son of the Duke in spite of the taint of the low birth. His father loved him and geared him to be the next Duke of Normandy even though the aristocracy had a tough time swallowing that. Meanwhile, England was going through their typical upheavals of who should rule and William’s cousins from England stayed in Normandy for safety during the rule of the Danes. Eventually one of these cousins became King Edward the Confessor who seemed to have a soft spot for William and vice versa. Years later at King Edward’s death it is William who wants to have the English crown and it’s two-thirds of the way into the book that William decides to assert his claim.
As typical of Plaidy, she expertly weaves us through the factions and the turmoil of the times which includes battles, political alliances made and broken and with a keen eye for historical detail we get a peek into the lives of famous figures. While the focus remains on William and his ultimate reach for England, there are subplots concerning his family and the informative fleshing out of the side characters that make Plaidy’s writing style a favorite among the genre. His wife Matilda is of course the flaxen-haired beauty to rival all others yet she shows a sinister streak as she embroiders; King Harold is portrayed as a shrewd but sensitive man and that’s the guy that William has to beat in order to win the throne of England, making for an interesting climax. 
There are things that can get repetitive (the fair blue eyed extremely gorgeous English cousins/my temper will destroy you/By God’s Splendour!/Robert has short legs) or over the top (people conveniently poisoned and dispensed with) and the heavy use of foreshadowing and omens (throughout the novel) but this story is still very entertaining and worth the read for those learning of the era. This first installment of the Norman series begins with Robert the Magnificent circa 1028 and continues with his son William all the way past 1066 and his eventual earning of the moniker ‘Conqueror’ and finally ending with his death in 1087 – an ending so very well done, Ms. Plaidy. I was certainly ready to take up a battle cry.
Further reading:
Patricia Bracewell’s Shadow on The Crown (my review) precedes this novel time-wise, I am glad I read that first and would recommend it.
The Bastard King
Lion of Justice
The Passionate Enemies

This novel was part of my 2013 To-Be-Read-Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader

I read along with the Goodreads Plaidy group, my second with that group. I wonder what we’ll read next!


Filed under #histnov, 11th Century, 2013 Reading Challenge, 2013 Review, Emma of Normandy, Jean Plaidy, Jean Plaidy Review, William The Conqueror

It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist

World’s Fair comes to life through Cullen and Della’s eyes

It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist
Christian (?) Historical Fiction
Howard Books April 30 2013
Paperback 432 pages
Review copy provided by LitFuse, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

Purchase a copy here

(Read my Love On The Line review, her last release)

A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

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

Who could resist that gorgeous cover?! And that dress does actually make an appearance in the novel which adds an intriguing factor. If you have ever wondered what it was like to be at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair, look no further. Deeanne Gist masterfully recreates the atmosphere as we see the fair through Della and Cullen’s eyes, and we even get some pictures too! I loved that there were photos included from the fair, that was a really nice touch and added such authenticity to the story.

The story is a sweet and slow romance, because Cullen is only at the fair to market his invention of a sprinkler system while he has left his betrothed at home. Cullen is going to be at the fair for six months and he and Della have come up with an arrangement so that he could learn to lip read which is something he is going to need to learn how to do soon because of his own hearing impairment. Della easily begins to fall for him – in spite of herself – but Cullen is a respectful young man who knows where his heart is supposed to be: at home.

The story blends the historical element with the romance in a slow atmospheric way that is hard to put down. Tragedy spurs the story forward and the future is not so easy to guess for Cullen and Della, and when girlfriend Wanda shows up, Cullen has to make a difficult choice once and for all. At first I was distracted by the way the author displayed the annunciation of the words that Cullen was hearing, but that dissipated after a while. Those readers who do not like a large dose of “Christian” in their reads would be fine with reading this one, as there are only a few moments that I noticed the christian theme, which I guess is the norm for the Howard Books imprint of Simon & Schuster. I do want to mention that there is palpable amount of lust going on that is implied and while some may not think that is appropriate I absolutely LOVED the romance especially at the end – it was tastefully done and yet so..warm and passionate. Perfect.

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

Deeanne Gist’s newest novel brings to life the Chicago World’s Fair through the eyes of these two very lovable characters. Her writing style flows easily and I found that even though I sometimes wish I could knock Cullen and Della over their heads when they were not explaining their feelings to each other, it was still a story that I will remember. I recommend it to any historical romance reader, and definitely to those who are interested in the history at the fair.

Incidentally, Goodreads is hosting a giveaway of the title till May 10, 2013.
Christian Bookshelf Reviews is offering a giveaway and a fabulous interview with the author here. There she offers a sneak peek at her next World’s Fair novel.

Deeanne Gist is celebrating the release of It Happened at the Fair with an iPad Mini Giveaway and a Live Author Chat Webcast event {5/22}!


  One “fair” winner will receive:

  • An iPad Mini
  • A $25 iTunes gift card

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 21st. Winner will be announced at the It Happened at the Fair” Live Webcast Event on May 22nd. Connect with Deeanne for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Deeanne will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books and fun gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of It Happened at the Fair and join Deeanne and friends on the evening of May 22nd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 22nd!

As always a warm thank you to Litfuse and their fabulous nesters for providing me a copy of this title for review. They are a fabulous group of ladies, always a pleasure to participate in their blog tours. 


Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Christian Fiction, Deeanne Gist, Howard Books

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

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

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

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

Helena Von Snakenborg may be recognized by Elizabeth I aficionados as one of her closest friends/courtiers/ladies in waiting. In Sandra Byrd’s third installment of the Ladies In Waiting series we are treated to the tried and true Elizabethan era shenanigans except now we get to learn a bit more about her favored lady, Elin from Sweden. I was intrigued in this title because my interest is in Christian historicals, and I wanted to see how the author blended an inspirational theme with Elizabeth’s court.
Elin learns the ways of the court quickly as she decides to choose potential love in England instead of returning to Sweden with her family. She is about nineteen years old and has eyes for William Parr, but Parr is still married, unfortunately. Luckily for Elin she is welcomed by Elizabeth and she anglicizes her name to Helena and is given every comfort. Her high nobility for being associated with William Parr raises her status and she never has to worry for income as long as she remains under the fickle Elizabeth’s favor. She manages well until she blunders in the name of love again.. all at a time when Elizabeth has forbidden her ladies to marry.
Major events and players are portrayed in this retelling of Elizabethan courts, from Lettice Knollys’ marriage to Robert, Earl of Leicester, Francis Drake to the Mary Queen of Scots debacle. The difference this time is in learning more about Helena and how she managed to stay one step ahead of some of the other ladies at the court. Refreshingly, this telling helps humanize Elizabeth a bit more as we witness the relationship between Elizabeth and Helena and how it grows over the years. Although the novel covers a span of forty years, it certainly reads fast and there is no lull in the writing as there was always something going on from treachery in the courts to treachery in Helena’s own house.
I would recommend Roses Have Thorns for those who would like to learn a bit more about Elizabethan life and more about Helena. There are biblical references but I would not wholeheartedly classify this as the inspirational sub-genre simply because the mission of  Inspirational Christian Fiction is supposed to glorify God through a biblical truth while exhibiting a strong theme in forgiveness/faith/redemption; perhaps with the characters debating whether their life is living towards God’s will. There is a discernible difference from this title and my other reviewed inspirational titles but the element of a “clean read” could certainly apply here, as most christian fiction readers do require that in their reads.

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

The author takes great pains to display the amount of knowledge she has gathered for the era and there are many details about the historical events that occur during the latter part of Elizabeth’s reign. But the main crux is always Helena – her life and her loves, a rare glimpse of the fact that perhaps it wasn’t so bad being the highest titled lady in the land next to Elizabeth. A book that features family lineage charts as well as a reading guide, this is an exemplary novel on Helena Von Snakenborg and her own love life, a lesser known figure in Elizabeth’s court that I would recommend especially to those who are just learning their ways around Elizabeth’s court.
On my other blog at HF-Connection the author was kind enough to offer an intriguing guest post regarding Elizabeth and her women, which you can read here, and it ties in a bit with the author’s note as well.


Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Elizabeth I, Howard Books, Sandra Byrd, Tudor

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

The Miracle at St. Bruno’s (Daughters of England #1) by Philippa Carr
Gothic Historical Romance of the 70’s
Book from my personal collection
Burton Book Review Rating::Enjoyed it, had minor quirks

Available on Kindle now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This novel was part of my 2013 To-Be-Read-Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader

Checking in for April here

The next novel I’m reading for the challenge will be another by the same author (different pen-name) The Bastard King by Plaidy. You are welcome to join the group and read along with us, starting May 1.

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

Marie Burton is on page 291 of 376

A slightly tortuous journey at this point. Kill them all already.

— Apr 11, 2013 03:14pm

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie’s Previous Updates

Marie Burton

Marie Burton is finished

It is done. The Miracle persists.

— Apr 12, 2013 11:45am

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton

Marie Burton is on page 357 of 376


— Apr 12, 2013 11:13am

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton

Marie Burton is on page 355 of 376

Reading the last chapter… I wonder how I’ll fell about this title when it’s done.

— Apr 12, 2013 10:28am

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton

Marie Burton is on page 267 of 376

Enjoying this first Philippa Carr novel (pseudonym of Jean Plaidy).

— Apr 06, 2013 07:27pm

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton

Marie Burton is on page 249 of 376

Lots of uh-oh moments!!

— Apr 06, 2013 07:01am

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton

Marie Burton is on page 185 of 376

The story is full of twists and turns, I am enjoying its gothic feel.

— Apr 04, 2013 07:50pm

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton

Marie Burton is on page 156 of 376


— Apr 02, 2013 01:56pm

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (Daughters of England, #1)

Marie Burton

Marie Burton is on page 123 of 376

This chapter is titled the shadow of the ax.. And the king is Henry VIII.. Makes me wanna scream “run girl, run !!!


Filed under #histnov, 16th Century, 2013 Reading Challenge, 2013 Review, Jean Plaidy, Philippa Carr, Tudor