Category Archives: New Release

>Book Review: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock


Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
Random House, September 7, 2010 USA
Pages: 416
Hardcover 978-1-4000-6609 $28.00
(UK: Bloomsbury May 4, 2009)
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars, bordering towards 4

She was the first woman to inherit the throne of England, a key player in one of Britain’s stormiest eras, and a leader whose unwavering faith and swift retribution earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Now, in this impassioned and absorbing debut, historian Anna Whitelock offers a modern perspective on Mary Tudor and sets the record straight once and for all on one of history’s most compelling and maligned rulers.

Though often overshadowed by her long-reigning sister, Elizabeth I, Mary lived a life full of defiance, despair, and triumph. Born the daughter of the notorious King Henry VIII and the Spanish Katherine of Aragon, young Mary was a princess in every sense of the word—schooled in regal customs, educated by the best scholars, coveted by European royalty, and betrothed before she had reached the age of three. Yet in a decade’s time, in the wake of King Henry’s break with the pope, she was declared a bastard, disinherited, and demoted from “princess” to “lady.” Ever her deeply devout mother’s daughter, Mary refused to accept her new status or to recognize Henry’s new wife, Anne Boleyn, as queen. The fallout with her father and his counselors nearly destroyed the teenage Mary, who faced imprisonment and even death.

It would be an outright battle for Mary to work herself back into the king’s favor, claim her rightful place in the Tudor line, and ultimately become queen of England, but her coronation would not end her struggles. She flouted the opposition and married Philip of Spain, sought to restore Catholicism to the nation, and fiercely punished the resistance. But beneath her brave and regal exterior was a dependent woman prone to anxiety, whose private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses, and unrequited love played out in the public glare of the fickle court.

Anna Whitelock, an acclaimed young British historian, chronicles this unique woman’s life from her beginnings as a heralded princess to her rivalry with her sister to her ascent as ruler. In brilliant detail, Whitelock reveals that Mary Tudor was not the weak-willed failure as so often rendered by traditional narratives but a complex figure of immense courage, determination, and humanity.

You must forgive the length of this review. It is indicative of a thought process of my views on Mary and my struggle to find the inner persona of Bloody Mary. Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII is well known as Bloody Mary due to the many burnings of the heretics during her reign as queen. Daughter of the pious Katherine of Aragon, Mary was strictly Catholic and refused to acknowledge anything other that Catholicism just as she refused to acknowledge her half-sister Elizabeth I as anything other than the whore’s daughter. Queen Elizabeth seems to be the one who is remembered more fondly than Queen Mary, even though it was Queen Mary who was the first female anointed queen. Why is Elizabeth the more exalted? Is it the fact that Elizabeth reigned for a longer amount of time and therefore was privy to more successful events such as the defeat of the Spanish Armada? Was it because of the reign of James I after Elizabeth I that everyone started to realize what they were missing once Elizabeth was gone? The reign of Mary was a difficult one with a strained marriage to King Philip of Spain, which the Englishmen did not appreciate a Spaniard and his consorts infringing on their territory. But Mary was always her mother’s daughter, and embraced her Spanish blood along with her uncle Charles V as well as the Catholic religion. The stubbornness and defiance of Mary has always intrigued me, and I am always eager for more light to be shed on the figure of Queen Mary I, who is often overshadowed by her terrorizing father and later the successful reign of her sister.

The purpose of reading biographies for me is to gain further insight into the actual character of the person, and to find some sort of hidden truth that I had previously missed. The persona of “Bloody” Mary is one that has been debated for many years and I wanted to form my own opinion about her. I have read several novels on Mary, but nothing non-fiction that specifically focused on Mary. Those novels would also slant one way or the other in regards to Mary’s character: she was either a religious zealot or a victim of her father’s tyranny. Perhaps she was a little of both. I wanted to discover something tangible that would help me to form a better opinion of her; perhaps something that I had not grasped previously.

With this Tudor biography we are thrusted quickly into the Anne-Boleyn-hater world. Anna Whitelock, author of Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen presents Bloody Mary’s biography in such a way as to martyr Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor while throwing the whole mess of blame on to Anne Boleyn’s doorstep. What I wanted out of this book was another look at Mary along with some little known tidbits and facts, yet I had not expected the extreme slant against Anne Boleyn. Even I realize that Katherine was treated unfairly when Henry’s devotion turned to Anne, but was it all Anne’s fault for the events that occurred that lead to Katherine and Mary’s fall from their father’s grace? Anna Whitelock believes it so. She heavily relies on Chapuys, the imperial ambassador for Charles V, cousin to Katherine, and later Simon Renard. Can we expect an unbiased view from Chapuys?

Whitelock writes: “When Anne went to visit her daughter {Elizabeth} at Hatfield in March, she wasted no time in humiliating her {Mary}. She ‘urgently solicited’ Mary to visit her and ‘honour her as Queen’ saying that it ‘would be a means of reconciliation with the King, and she would intercede with him for her’. Mary replied that ‘she knew no other Queen in England except her mother’ but that if Anne would do her that favor with her father she would be much obliged.”

Why does Whitelock see this as only being humiliating to Mary?  Why can’t she see it as Anne extending an olive branch to her step-daughter to try and keep the peace, with which Mary spurned and shoved away? This point of view and the authors tone turned me off, but once we got past the Anne Boleyn period the author was more pragmatic in her telling of Mary’s story. And since Mary’s story is reflective of the times themselves, the author then went into the main events of England with more detail than I needed, especially where the rest of Henry’s wives were concerned. I am annoyed with the fact that with each Tudor-themed read they must then go into the monotonous stories of the succession of Henry’s six wives. The issue at hand was Mary Tudor, and I didn’t get any information about Mary as the author told the seemingly obligatory six wives story. The relationships of the wives with Mary were not expounded upon either.

The six wives period is heavily laced with Mary’s father instructing her to abandon her mother’s wishes and to obey Henry as Supreme Head of the Church. This was the main storyline for several chapters. Finally, Henry dies, Mary’s young brother Edward is King, and then Edward takes up the task of harassing Mary about her religion. To Mary’s credit, she never disavowed her Catholicism and always stood firm in regards to hearing mass. Even when I had thought it would just be so much easier to live in peace with the kingdom and to go with the flow of the reformation, I was empathetic towards Mary during this time. She was resolute in the manner even after she realized that many of her staunch supporters were punished or killed because of their loyalty to Mary. I would have been interested to read about how Mary reacted to these punishments towards her supporters, but all the author lets through is the fact that Mary moans that she is losing her friends. Is this a selfish motive or was she truly bemoaning their fate? Mary even had the notion to flee England when the pressure for her to convert became too much, but she stood her ground and realized her place was in England and that her destiny was to be its Queen.

When Edward took the throne, the will of Henry was disregarded when Edward Seymour became the Lord Protector. Henry wanted the council of sixteen to help advise Edward but “it was agreed” that Edward Seymour was the best choice as a Lord Protector. Eventually he steps on too many toes and is done away with. Nearing his death and fearing the work he has done is about to be thwarted by the Catholic Mary, Edward declares both of his sisters as illegitimate which means that the Duke of Northumberland’s plans to gain the throne for his own son Guildford could actually work if he married Lady Jane Grey, the next relative in line. Once Edward VI dies, Mary rightfully seizes the chance to rise up and grab the throne herself. This is where I hoped the biography would take off, which was a little more than halfway through the book. She seemingly was the opposite of her brother in beliefs; the author writes that Edward changed his father’s will and the succession that Henry had laid out which had recognized Mary and Elizabeth. Again, there was a lot of back story that could have been told here, but we merely get the fact that John Dudley, Earl of Northumberland was an upstart and he was dealt with summarily after his plan for Lady Jane to become Queen had backfired.

What was heartening was the support for Mary at her accession. I had never read such a swift but thorough account of the rising for Mary to win back the throne. The people loved her, she was their once revered Queen’s daughter, and they were ready for the reform against the papistry to end and the destruction of the monasteries to be over. The people were beginning to show signs of their hatred of a currupted government and Mary was a beacon for Catholicism and to restore a sense of righteousness back to the royal crown. An interesting point that was made by the author was the fact that after years of relying on the Imperial ambassador and Charles V to help Mary’s cause, they decided to not help her win her crown back, as he didn’t think she would be the victor. Whitelock portrays the procession and coronation with an eye for detail unlike I have previously seen. I was amazed at how much the English were ready to welcome Mary as their Queen, regardless that she was a woman. It seems the government under the Lord Protector of Edward VI and then the Dudleys along with the Edwardian Reformation was a bit too much for the common people. Another interesting note was that the everlasting 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, held Mary’s crown for her during the coronation festivities.

Mary’s relationship with her husband Philip seemed to cause the most discontent to her people, and the fact that she failed in providing an heir. Mary was willing to ignore her people’s wishes when she chose to marry Philip, stating that it was for the good of the realm and to secure the Catholic religion for England’s future. Yet, the false pregnancies seemed to turn the people against her, as she lost their favor when she could not secure the Catholic succession, just as her mother could not provide her husband with the longed-for male heir. All eyes turned towards Elizabeth, the next obvious successor, who was Protestant, but the daughter of the hated Anne Boleyn. Which religion to choose? Did some choose Catholicism only to survive Mary’s reign, knowing that soon Elizabeth would pick up the task of the late King Edward’s reformation?

I would have enjoyed seeing more of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth I and how their relationship grew or faltered, but there was not much that included Elizabeth during the bulk of the biography except that Mary did not trust her and supposed her to be her mother’s daughter and a heretic. Elizabeth was implicated in the several plots that occurred during Mary’s reign, but nothing was proven. Edward and Mary seemed cordial enough until Edward became the Protestant leader and Mary skirted around Edward the issues as much as possible.

To move onwards to the writing itself, the sixty-six chapters were extremely short, which makes for an easy look-back type process if you wanted to look into a specific aspect of Mary’s life. The writing was clear and concise and full of details in regards to Mary, but was lacking that a-ha moment of insight for me. The tempo was even and undramatic which made the getting through the book a longer process. I have now gained a new-found respect for Alison Weir, whom others tend to criticize when her sentences contain words such as “could have” “would have” and “perhaps”, but I missed that train of thought in this biography. In contrast, Whitelock stays true to the well known story and the repeating of ‘letters and papers’ even though she tends to rely on not so reliable sources. There were more issues discussed in this biography than are typically addressed in novels, such as those that concerned the many plots that rose against Mary, which helped to illustrate the amount of unrest that Mary’s reign carried. Since I was looking for more insight into the character of Mary, I would have appreciated further intuition which Weir would typically provide with her pondering style of commentary.

There is not an extreme wealth of new information for the Tudor buff with this biography, but plenty of facts that may help to form your own opinion on Mary Tudor, a much misunderstood figure. The author did well when exuding the nuances and the religious beliefs of the times.With the quick chapters and the look at some issues that have not been overly written of before, this would be an excellent read for those who are looking for a look at the Tudor times that Mary lived in and ultimately reigned over. Overall, I came away with the feeling that Mary was not as much a “misaligned” figure as some like to claim. She was stubborn and adamant with her religion which is admirable, yet the amount of intolerance she expressed is still something that I cannot condone. She relied on her husband Philip for affairs of state, as Whitelock stated that she wrote to him imploring him to come back to England to help to control her government. Bringing a foreigner like Philip, who also brought England to war with France, was not something that England was ready for. The acts of Mary should not be reflected on the writer, though, and I would recommend this biography for those who would like to glean more information regarding the beliefs of Mary and to gain an accurate portrayal of England during Mary’s reign. I am still on the hunt for something that would make me more empathetic towards Mary, I really want to like her, but no matter how hard Whitelock tried to show Mary as a misunderstood woman I could not garner that full realization with this telling, though I do agree with the characterization of “the complex figure of immense courage, determination and humanity”.

I found this interesting quote regarding this book, which I agree with in all ways except the great verve part:
‘This rollercoaster of a story is told by Whitelock with great verve and pace…It is good to find this book saluted as ‘an impressive and powerful debut’ by David Starkey: he has recently been quoted denouncing the feminisation of history by women biographers. Clearly he is able to lay aside such sentiments when faced with a proper historical work. Quite right too.’ (Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday)



Filed under 16th Century, 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Anne Boleyn, Biography, Bloody Mary, Catherine of Aragon, New Release, Tudor

>Book Review: ROSES by Leila Meacham


Roses by Leila Meacham

Roses by Leila Meacham
Category: Historical Fiction
Publish Date: 1/6/2010
Price: $24.99
ISBN: 978-0446550000
Pages: 624
Review copy provided by the publisher
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half HUGE Stars!

“Spanning the 20th century, the story of Roses takes place in a small East Texas town against the backdrop of the powerful timber and cotton industries, industries controlled by the scions of the town’s founding families. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick should have married but unwisely did not, and now must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies of their choice and the loss of what might have been–not just for themselves but for their children, and children’s children.”

The title “Roses”, by Leila Meacham, originates from the symbolism of the heritage of the founding families of the fictional town of Howbukter, Texas. Descendants from England’s white rose of York and the red rose of the house of Lancaster, were young men immigrated from South Carolina to Texas in the 1800’s. Taking with them from New Orleans was Henri DuMont. Thus begins the town of Howbukter, and Mary Toliver, a descendant from one of these founding families, widow to Ollie DuMont, is age 85 and dying.. many many years later as our novel begins. She worked her whole life on the plantation of Somerset, and poured her blood, sweat and tears into it. So why, after all of this back breaking and sacrificial work so her great-niece can carry on the tradition, why does Mary decide to throw it all away with a puzzling codicil to her will?

The novel’s point of view changes from Mary, to her niece Rachel, and jumps back and forth in time as the reader begins to put together the puzzle that forms Mary’s reasons for wanting the plantation of Somerset to finally be taken out of the Toliver’s hands. After generations of work and production on the cotton farm, it is a decision that stuns the family and causes serious rifts between the surviving family members and friends. There are secrets about Mary’s past and the other families, and the climax comes when Rachel is forced to discover the truth behind Mary’s final decisions which threatens to tear asunder all bonds that have formed after years of friendship, especially between the Warwick family. Percy and Mary have secrets and a hidden love that doesn’t come out to the family members until after Mary dies. Before we even get to that point, we are treated to the tears and triumphs of Mary Toliver’s life, her romances, marriage, her child, and her friends. But first and foremost, there was Somerset. The one thing that everyone knew that defined Mary Toliver was one word: “Somerset”, dismissing the love that Percy held for her. And that is what Rachel had groomed herself to emulate, yet Mary at age 85 changes her mind about leaving the land to Rachel and dies before she has a chance to explain about the Toliver Curse.

Focusing on Mary’s life, using flashbacks taking us from 1985 to the roaring twenties and further, the story blends the lives of the three original families that founded Howbukter: The Dumonts, Tolivers, and the Warwicks. Each family focused their businesses on different areas but were still close through the many years as their families grew. This novel features everything you could want in a good historical saga; from broken hearts to death and rebirth and faith in humanity, and there were plenty of roses in this story. The rose was now symbolic of friendship and forgiveness between the families, and the theme was dominant throughout the story.

I was swept away to another time, to a time where the car was called a horseless carriage, and where women were bred to run a houseful of servants. There were men going off to war, some men going more than once.. some men sending their boys to war and it was so sad to think of my ancestors and our heritage, the way the author portrayed the hopelessness for the families as they watched the boys come and go.. those that returned were broken, those that didn’t return broke their families. And this was the reality of America back then, and yet, this is still the reality of today. As the author trapped me into this story I began to feel caught up within the family saga of it all as if it were my own family. I sobbed throughout the chapters as I plodded through, I still needed to know more. But it wasn’t the fact of slowly becoming familiar with the story as it slowly touched my heart. That’s not the case at all. My heart was gripped at page ten, as I was tearing up already. I cried at several points in the book. I am not going to tell you where.. or who or what.. because you just need to get this book and see for yourself.

We are knee deep in the story at page 15. The history, the blend of humanity, the description of the changes of society as Mary witnessed it in her hometown, everything is a perfect blend of a family saga that haunts your soul, sets it on fire, blows it out, and does it all over again. There is love and passion, sorrow and grief all in the American pursuit of happiness. After the page flipping frenzy that the novel absorbed me in, I was a bit underwhelmed at the ending, but it could have just been the disappointment that I had finished it. But it wasn’t fireworks and rainbows like I think the author wanted it to be, though I still obviously enjoyed the journey that Leila Meacham took me on. I also loved the fact that the story is set in Texas, probably pretty darn close to my home at that. My town subsisted on cotton farming and its beginnings mirror that of what Leila describes for her town of Howbukter. All in all, this novel was the epitome of an epic family saga that is unforgettable; the emotions that you go through reading it will cause this book to be engraved in your memory.

The crazy thing about it all is that this author, Leila Meacham, is a retired school teacher and this is her debut historical novel. She has dabbled in the writing business in eighties with a few obscure romances. I anxiously await her next novel and her next and her next… no pressure, Leila!! Already compared to epic sagas such as Gone With the Wind and The Thorn Birds, this is definitely going to be an author to watch. If you enjoy the sweeping style of these sagas, you will definitely enjoy the story of Roses. I also must mention that the packaging of the hardcover was a sight to behold.. the inside covers are also bedecked in vines of roses which was a beautiful touch. This one is a keeper and I can’t wait to have Leila sign mine!

Meet Leila 2/10/2010 at Legacy Books in Plano, TX!
Read my article on Examiner about Leila
Become a Fan on Facebook
BlogTalkRadio Live Interview with Leila Meacham (courtesy of Grand Central Publishing)

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Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Leila Meacham, New Release, Wars of the Roses, WWII

>Book Review: "The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York" by Margaret Campbell Barnes


The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York” by Margaret Campbell Barnes
This Reissue by Sourcebooks October 2009
Original Publication 1953
The Burton Review Rating:3.5 Stars

“One woman holds the key to England’s most glorious empire in this intimate retelling of the launch of the Tudor dynasty.
A magnificent portrait of Elizabeth of York, set against the dramatic background of fifteenth century England. Elizabeth, the only living descendant of Edward IV, has the most valuable possession in all of England—a legitimate claim to the crown. Two princes battle to win Britain’s most rightful heiress for a bride and her kingdom for his own. On one side is her uncle Richard, the last Plantagenet King, whom she fears is the murderer of her two brothers, the would-be kings. On the other side is Henry Tudor, the exiled knight. Can he save her from a horrifying marriage to a cut-throat soldier?
Thrust into the intrigue and drama of the War of the Roses, Elizabeth has a country within her grasp—if she can find the strength to unite a kingdom torn apart by a thirst for power. A richly drawn tale of the woman who launched one of the most dramatic dynasties England has ever seen, The Tudor Rose is a vibrant, imaginative look at the power of a queen.”

Elizabeth of York is the eldest daughter of Queen Elizabeth Woodville and King Edward IV who seems to be of a strong character based on all accounts of her life. She was ultimately used as a pawn in the ongoing political struggles caused by the Wars of The Roses but was instrumental in uniting the two different parties of the wars. Elizabeth’s younger brothers Edward and Richard were the infamous Princes in the Tower who disappeared at some point in 1483, which the novel paints a depressing but realistic picture of what is probable to have happened. Her uncle Richard, who had made himself King of England after conveniently declaring Elizabeth’s parents’ marriage invalid, is portrayed as a sinister man in this novel. He even goes so far as to entertain the idea of marrying Elizabeth himself, but luckily for her the Londoners have too much respect for their daughter of York and force him to deny the prospect.

Elizabeth, usually called Bess in the novel, is seen as a sacrificial lamb for the sake of England as she sets her hopes on Henry Tudor. Her motto as queen was Humble and Reverent, and she seems to be so in every sense of the phrase. We slowly go through the events that lead up to the decision that Elizabeth is forced to make between her Plantagenet relations or for the future hope for England. After England’s years of the Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor ends the Wars with his defeat of Richard at the Battle of Bosworth. Eventually, Elizabeth and Henry are married which united the red rose of the Lancastrians with the white rose of the Yorkists, forming the red and white Tudor rose.

Henry Tudor was a change to the Yorkist upbringing that Elizabeth was used to, and the novel meanders through Elizabeth’s thoughts as she is finally made Queen of England. We are made to wonder why Henry took years to crown Elizabeth, it was only after she gives birth to the Tudor heir that it is done for her. Even though Henry was always a frugal man and did very little to support the pageantry known to previous Kings and Queens, he does offer a grand coronation for Elizabeth which is one of the few nice things he seems to do for her.

We see more than a glimpse of Henry’s politics and his coldness towards Elizabeth. The novel seems consumed by it. There is also always the back story of the lost princes and the possibilities of their demise. The pretenders or impostors are also featured here and show us how Elizabeth was affected by the loss of her little brothers, in particular young Dickon, which made Elizabeth’s character a bit more real. On the other hand, Elizabeth’s mother is portrayed as having no scruples as to the whereabouts of her boys, she has no hope for their survival and is portrayed as a cold woman without much to live for. I would have preferred a bit more insight into the old Queen’s character, but she was not the main character. Instead we see everything through her daughter Elizabeth’s eyes, as we see her through her younger days, then through her child birthing and we are privy to her many thoughts regarding the passionless husband of hers.

Contrary to popular (factual?) belief there is a loving relationship between Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother, and Elizabeth portrayed throughout. Although fitting neatly with the novel, this bothered me since I have always heard of the way Margaret went out of her way to make Elizabeth uncomfortable. I look forward to some upcoming works regarding Margaret Beaufort so that I can determine the validity of the claims of Beaufort’s harshness.

The novel continues its story to the upbringing of the four surviving Tudor children, to the death of the firstborn Arthur Tudor in 1502 who was betrothed to Catherine of Aragon. The span of about twenty years is covered in this novel, and in the last half of the book is mostly comprised of Elizabeth’s reactions to Henry’s political decisions. It is not a fast paced and thrilling read, but still holds the reader captive for its substantial subject matter. Elizabeth of York, a proud Plantagenet, along with her Tudor husband, helped to bring England to a time of prosperity that was not known for a very long time. Their children included Margaret, who became Queen of Scotland, and the infamous Henry VIII who had six wives, and Mary who was briefly Queen of France. Elizabeth and her younger son Henry had a loving relationship, and with its portrayal in the novel it was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book as he was one of the few that showed love to Elizabeth. The major events and intrigue that occurred around Elizabeth of York make this a worthwhile read for those interested in the formation of the Tudor dynasty and although it seemed slow going at times I still recommend this to those interested in Elizabeth’s point of view.

Edited to add on October 2:

(Thank you Sourcebooks!) Sourcebooks is providing a Giveaway for this book to one lucky reader in the USA & Canada, no P.O. Boxes.

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Filed under Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville, Medieval Era, New Release, Review, Tudor

>Giveaway & The Retelling of William “Red” Hill’s Famous Rescues~Guest Post by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Author

>The Burton Review is pleased to present the following guest post by Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Day The Falls Stood Still, which released August 25, 2009 by Hyperion/Voice.The Day The Falls Stood Still (USA edition)

The Retelling of William “Red” Hill’s Famous Rescues
William “Red” Hill (right) - Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library

When I set out to write a novel capturing the wonder I feel while standing at the brink of Niagara Falls, the life of William “Red” Hill, Niagara’s most famous riverman, was a natural place to find inspiration. Like my imagined riverman, he had an uncanny knowledge of the Niagara River and extraordinary courage. It was said he could predict the weather simply by listening to the roar of the falls, that he would wake in the night knowing he would find a body tossing in the river the following day. In his lifetime (1888-1942) he hauled 177 bodies from the river and rescued 29 people. His two most famous rescues are recounted in The Day the Falls Stood Still.

Ice bridge – George Barker, Library and Archives Canada, PA-056072

In the years before a floating ice boom was installed across the upper end of the Niagara River, an ice run from Lake Erie sometimes resulted in a bridge of ice linking the American and Canadian shores of the river at the base of the falls. The first of Red Hill’s famous rescues−the ice bridge rescue−took place in 1912. That year, temperature and wind conditions were ideal for the formation of an ice bridge, and from late January until February 4th, visitors came from far and wide to view the bridge. The most daring ventured out onto the ice to sled on the ice mound at Prospect Point, enjoy a sleigh ride, or visit the shanties selling light fare, liquor, photographs and curios. At noon time, with close to 35 people, including Red Hill, out on the ice, the bridge rumbled ominously and broke free. Red Hill recognized the sound, and headed for shore, calling out for others to follow him. With all but four adventurers cleared from the ice and what remained of the bridge drifting toward the Whirlpool Rapids, the floe began breaking up into smaller cakes. Red Hill was credited with rescuing Ignatius Roth, one of the adventurers still on the ice. The fate of the remaining three, Burrell Hecock and Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge Stanton, is described in The Day the Falls Stood Still:

“Workmen dropped ropes to the threesome from the Lower Steel Arch Bridge. The boy managed to grab hold of one but was dangling forty feet above the river when his strength gave out. The man caught a makeshift line made from three coils of insulated telephone wire, but it came apart as he was tying it around his wife’s waist. They were on their knees, praying in each other’s arms, some said, when their bit of ice overturned.”

Ice bridge tragedy. The speck on the largest cake of ice is Burrell Hecock. – Niagara Fall (Ontario) Public Library The second of Red Hill’s famous rescues occurred on August 6, 1918, when a scow dredging the entrance of a hydroelectric canal on the river broke free of its tug and drifted toward the falls with two deckhands aboard. After becoming lodged on a rock shoal just a short way from the falls, the men worked feverishly, shifting much of the scow’s load to its bow and building a makeshift windlass from timbers pulled from the scow’s interior. A lifeline gun arrived from a nearby Life Saving Station, and a line was successfully shot to the men from the roof of one of the powerhouses on the river. By the time the line was secured to the windlass, darkness had arrived. When the lines of the breeches buoy, meant to transport the men to safety, became snarled, Red Hill went out along the lines but was unable to untangle the buoy. At dawn, he journeyed out again. The scene is described in The Day the Falls Stood Still, except that it’s my imagined riverman Tom Cole, hanging from the lines.

“The scow is held back from the brink by a bit of rocky ledge and yet it serves as anchor to the lines Tom is dangling from. Should that scow shift in the torrent of the upper rapids, should the bit of rock give way, the scow along with the tangled lines, the pulley and sling, and Tom will be pitched over the falls.”
Red Hill’s second attempt was successful, and the stranded men were returned to shore. The scow still remains at the same spot where it became stuck in 1918.

Scow rescue – Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public LibraryBorn and bred in Niagara Falls, Red Hill’s rescues are stories I grew up with, bits of lore I imagined time and again as I gazed out at the old scow, as I passed by the plaque commemorating the ice bridge tragedy. With their retelling in The Day the Falls Stood Still, perhaps the rescues will captivate readers as they have me.The Burton ReviewA big thank you to Cathy Marie Buchanan for her wonderful insight into the majestic beauty of the Niagara and using it an intoxicating backdrop in her new book, The Day The Falls Stood Still.

See my review here, but suffice it to say, I enjoyed the novel immensely.
See the rest of Cathy’s tour stops here.
Giveaway open to USA and Canada, and closes 9/19/09!
If you would like to enter for your chance to win a copy of this book please do all of the following or you will not be entered:
1. Follow this blog publicly via Google Friend/Followers
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I will email the winner who has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address. Good Luck!


Filed under Author Post, Cathy Marie Buchanan, FREE, New Release

>Book Review: "The Day the Falls Stood Still" by Cathy Marie Buchanan

>The Day The Falls Stood Still
The Day the Falls Stood Still” by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Hardcover: 320 pages
Fiction, Literature
Publisher: Voice (August 25, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1401340970 ISBN-13: 978-1401340971
Review copy provided by Voice
The Burton Review Rating:4.5 Stars
Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.
1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating–and harboring a secret.
The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him–against her family’s strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.
Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel

The Day the Falls Stood Still is a very promising debut novel by Cathy Marie Buchanan. The story is set in Canada near the Niagara where its wonderful beauty and history is emanated from Cathy’s descriptions. This is the story of Bess Heath, who suddenly finds herself at a turning point in her life when everything is forced to change due to the fact that her father lost his job at the power plant. Bess’s mother, father and sister are intriguing characters along with Bess herself, and we immediately get drawn into this captivating telling of this family’s journey. There are quite a few supporting characters as well, each adding depth and drama to this story as Bess must make difficult choices that end up haunting her family, which cast her as a strong and brave woman.

Mr. Heath, Bess’s father, loses his long-time job at the hydroelectric plant which puts the family into a downward spiral of economic hardship and despair. Although set in 1915, the modern economic times also mirrors the struggles that the Heath family faced back then, and they also had the war to deal with. Mr. Heath shuts his family out, Mrs. Heath can do little to get him out of his self-induced funk, and Bess’s treasured sister Isabel is going through her own personal crisis. And through it all, Bess is watching trying to add strength to her family, as she is trying to adjust to a new way of life after her father loses his job.

A light at the end of the tunnel is when the son of a prominent family member proposes to Bess, but Bess has fallen in love with a fishmonger of whom her family strongly disapproves. And then suddenly a horrifying tragedy occurs, sending the family into an emotional spiral of grief and depression and further forces the family into the speculative limelight of gossipers. How Bess and her family deal with this tragedy is portrayed simply, but it is told with a distinct grip of grief that is significant of excellent writing that resonates throughout the novel.

All the while through this story of Bess and the trials of her family, Bess goes through her own life events of marriage, career and children which makes the book a sort of romance in the beginning; but all is told with the Niagara as an integral part to the novel and not just as a backdrop. The story of the man, Fergus Cole, who previously was a renowned riverman known for daring river rescues at the Falls, is the undercurrent in the story with interesting anecdotes about him and his rescues, which also makes the book a sort of historical. The author was inspired for this novel by the true riverman William “Red” Hill, and the rescues are depicted in the novel as well. It is cleverly portrayed through newspaper clippings along with inspiring old photos of the Falls themselves. The residents of the area were caught between the controversy of technology and development versus the preservation of the sanctity of the Falls and the river, and serves as a theme throughout this novel as Bess finds herself right in the middle of the issues.

This is an informative look on the impact of both the electric powerhouses of the times, and the majestic force of the Niagara. The story moves swiftly and is sadly poignant but engrossing all the same. Giving the novel an even more realistic flavor is the attention given to the dressmaking projects that Bess takes on, as this is how many women helped to support the family in the days of WWI. The few criticisms I have is that the book ended, and that the back cover exposes a major turning point in the book that should not have been given away on the back cover (which will not be divulged here). This is not for the weak of heart as it is certainly not a happy-joy-joy type of book. The ending leaves you feeling bereft through its heart wrenching details, but this makes for a compelling read and I recommend it for the main character’s fortitude and strength. I look forward to future works by Cathy Marie Buchanan, so that I can again relive the intense drama that she writes.

The author Cathy Marie Buchanan will be adorning this blog with a guest post/author’s note tomorrow, in which she speaks of the legendary rescuer William ‘Red’ Hill and shares some older photos of the Niagara Falls. I would love for you to stop by and enter the giveaway for this novel then!

If you cannot wait for the giveaway and absolutely must purchase this because I have written such an awesome review, then please visit:
Amazon, B&N, Powell’s or an independent bookseller to purchase!

If you have written a review and would like for me to link you to this post, please leave a comment and I will do so.


Filed under Author Post, Cathy Marie Buchanan, FREE, New Release

>Book Review: "The Treasures of Venice" by Loucinda McGary

>The Treasures of Venice” by Loucinda McGary
Review Copy provided by Sourcebooks
Paperback 352 pages, 9781402226700
The Burton Review Rating:

“When American librarian Samantha Lewis and Irish rogue Keirnan Fitzgerald set off to find priceless jewels, they become embroiled in a 500-year-old love story that eerily prefigures their own… In 15th century Venice, beautiful and wealthy Serafina falls in love with Nino, a young Florentine sculptor. They decide to flee to Padua, and to fund the trip, Nino copies a set of jewels that then disappear. In modern-day Venice, Keirnan needs Samantha’s help to locate the jewels so he can pay his sister’s ransom. Samantha must decide whether the man she’s so drawn to is her soul mate from a previous life…or are they merely pawns in a relentless quest for a priceless treasure?”

I loved this novel by Loucinda McGary for its mixture of suspense, romance and historical fiction. There are two main stories happening throughout the novel as it switches back and forth between the 1485 characters and the present day characters both dealing with sinister forces amidst an all encompassing love. The novel opens up to the recently jilted Samantha Lewis trying to enjoy a much needed vacation in Venice, Italy when a gorgeous guy immediately involves her in a desperate chase against time and kidnappers. Their story is fun and well played as they learn about each other and the mystery of the Jewels of the Madonna, and we are transported back in time to 1485 and another clandestine love affair between Serafina Lombardo and a painter, Nino.

Serafina is supposed to marry her dead sister’s husband to fulfill the need for an heir, but Serafina is violently opposed to this fate as she is suddenly magnetically attracted to Nino, and they formulate a diabolical plan to help her escape the same predetermined destiny that took her sister. Fast forward to present day, Sam and her new friend, Kiernan, also share a magnetic attraction that could get them both killed as they try to unravel the mysterious past of Serafina and the mysterious legacy she left behind. There are killers on the loose, the pesky Interpol and other obstacles that still cannot hamper the love instantly shared between Sam and Kiernan. Their attractions are mirrored with Serafina’s and Nino’s, so there is more than a hint of reincarnation in the story. Even though the story jettisons back and forth frequently between the two time periods, it did not disturb the rhythm since all of the characters were intriguing.

Sam occasionally has flashes of visions which also leads one to rely on the reincarnate factor, and there are other similarities between the two sets of star-crossed lovers. Serafina and Samantha also seem to mirror the same hair coloring and complexion so much so that one of the bad guys even mistakes Sam for Serafina. Kiernan is one of those guys that seems perfect, totally loyal to his kidnapped sister and ever the sensitive one when it comes to Sam. As the mystery comes to a close, the romance question remains if Sam and Kiernan can function together outside of the intrigue and mayhem that first threw them together. This was an enjoyable well rounded and fast-paced story that had me eagerly turning the pages to see what would happen next, but I would have enjoyed it even more if the historical story was more developed. As a whole, the novel had a great plot and breezed through quickly most of the adventures so that there was not any room for slow points.

I enjoyed the mystery, the suspense, and the intrigue of this imaginative story line. Coupled with the strong romances and the hunt for the Jewels of the Madonna, this would also make an impressive film; a well-kept Matthew McConaughey would be an excellent actor as Kiernan, and Sandra Bullock would make an excellent Sam. The setting of Venice with its gondolas, old churches, cemeteries and palazzos are a magnificent setting for the story and you wouldn’t go wrong choosing this read to spend your weekend on.


Filed under Loucinda McGary, New Release, Romance

>Book Review: "Highland Rebel" by Judith James

“Highland Rebel: A Tale of a Rebellious lady and a Traitorous lord” by Judith James
Historical Romance
Mass Market Paperback, 480 pages
Sourcebooks, Incorporated September 01, 2009
Review Copy Provided by Sourcebooks
The Burton Review Rating: 3 Stars

“Amidst the upheaval of Cromwell’s Britain, Jamie Sinclair’s wit and military prowess have served him well. While leading a troop in Scotland, he impetuously marries a captured maiden, saving her from a grim fate. A Highlands heiress to title and fortune, however, Catherine Drummond is not the woman Jamie believes her to be.”

This is an adventurous novel about Jamie Sinclair, a never-do-well but gorgeous guy who impulsively saves a woman from a horrible fate by claiming her as his wife. The woman he saves is one who he believes to be a poor camp follower, and little does he know that she could be the answer to his prayers. Jamie Sinclair has all we need to empathize with him; he is mistreated by the noble ladies, and his own parents didn’t want him around when he was growing up so he has been doing the best he can by switching allegiances as needed during the rough political times between Charles and James II. Once James II was king, his subjects and parliament disapproved of him, and our Jamie was doing all he could to stay under the radar.. until he found himself with a wife who happened to be of noble peerage in Scotland.

She is Catherine Drummond, who her father had chosen to rule his clan after his death, but her family would not allow this to happen. They chose for her a husband, and she disobeyed their wishes when she explained to them she was married to an Englishman. She then has to run to find him in England and see what she can do to get an annulment, or go against her nature and follow her dreams instead. The events that follow is a rather slow rendering of a cat and mouse game between Catherine and Jamie, although the novel got off to a promising start. The romance angle was over done with the same thing happening over and over (they get close, and then they scare each other off).

Amidst the back and forth romance the author does a thorough job of defining the aura of the turbulent times without feeling like a history lesson. In fact, the most interesting parts of the novel were when James was reacting to the political events. I enjoyed the book for the plot and the clever story angles, such as Cat dressing as a man to disguise herself, but I think it could have been a four star read for me if it had cut out about 100 pages in the middle of it. The historical nature of the book which encompasses Scotland, England and some France were the highlights of the novel and were well told with attention to detail. The author seemed to want to add all of her research and ideas into this one book, and sometimes the back and forth romance got in the way. The fact that the title Highland Rebel could refer to either Cat or Jamie adds to the drama, as the heroine Cat is a force to be reckoned with. This would be a wonderful read for those who like a little history mixed in with their romance reads.

Read an Excerpt here and you’ll see that the story starts with some wild fun.
There are some high ratings for this book on Goodreads, check out the reviews here. The author Judith James has also written Broken Wing, which is set in the Napoleonic era and I plan to read that as well.


Filed under Judith James, New Release, Review

>Book Review: "Darcy and Anne: Pride and Prejudice Continues.." by Judith Brocklehurst

>Darcy and Anne: Pride and Prejudice Continues...Darcy and Anne: Pride and Prejudice Continues..” by Judith Brocklehurst

ISBN: 9781402224386
Price: $12.99
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Review Copy provided by Sourcebooks
The Burton Review Rating:3.5 Stars

On the Cover:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Catherine will never find a husband for Anne…”
The synopsis:
“When a fortuitous accident draws Anne away from Rosings and her overbearing mother’s direct influence, she is able to think and act for herself for the first time ever. In the society of her cousins Darcy and Georgiana, and, of course, the lively Mrs. Darcy, Anne reveals a talent for writing and a zest for life.
Meanwhile, Lady Catherine is determined to choose a husband for Anne. But now that Anne has found her courage, she may not be so easy to rule.
Anne de Bourgh is a sympathetic character whose obedience and meekness were expected of women in her day. As she frees herself from these expectations, Anne discovers strength, independence, and even true love in a wonderfully satisfying coming-of-age story.”

I read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen immediately before this read, and I was glad to have the delightful story continue for me. Judith Brocklehurst picks up the story a few years later, after the Darcy’s have settled into their new life. This is not focused on Darcy and Lizzy, though, and is actually about the domineering Lady Catherine’s daughter, Anne. We were introduced to Anne in P&P, but we only got to know her as the sickly frail one who was destined to marry Mr. Darcy. Of course, Darcy defied Lady Catherine’s plans and now Anne needs to get herself a husband. Since it is Darcy and Lizzy’s fault that Anne has no one to marry, Lady Catherine sends Anne to Pemberley and tells the Darcys it is their responsibility to find her a husband now. Preferably someone who Lady Catherine can enjoy pushing around conversing with.

Of course this embarrassing situation is a blessing in disguise for Anne, as she is finally free from the confines of her mother and her ‘vinegar-faced’ servants after 25 years of her subtle prison at Rosings. She meets new people and has a chance to think for herself and finally begins to feel comfortable in her own skin, and shockingly, healthy! She gets to explore her feelings and her talents and discover things she had never known before.

A whimsical moment that must be shared with Pride and Prejudice fans is the simple fact that Mr Bennet, Lizzy’s father, actually goes to an Assembly at the behest of Lady Catherine, when for some twenty years he has refused to do so for his wife. And Georgiana Darcy, the sister to Mr Darcy whom we met briefly in P. & P., is featured in the novel as a companion for Anne as she is also looking for a husband. Lady Catherine’s true colors shine through and is the epitome of the character you would love to hate.

Seemingly obligatory for the romance novels that have daughters bickering with their mother, Anne of course falls in love with someone unsuitable for her rank and drama ensues. “Does he love her? He is going to move to Barbados!” And of course Anne fell in love with the first gentleman that crossed her path. It is a wonder if that is truly how it worked in Regency England; there does not seem to be much actual dating, but rather if one got along all right with the other while dancing then the next step most logically was marriage. What happened to you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get your prince? But such was the way it seems in the olden days. How odd that the divorce rate increased after we became pickier.

The storyline may be a bit predictable as a coming-of-age story, although Anne was a bit old to be doing so at age 25, yet the characters involved are still so endearing that it makes the read a worthwhile one. There is some of the Austenian dialogue, though not quite as in-depth as Jane Austen was, but still some conversations were had that certainly had the nuance of the Jane Austen wit and charm. Although the events did not move very fast for the first half of the book, the writing itself is so simple that it makes it an easy read. The story greatly picked up its pace throughout the last half with an ending that tied everything into a neat bow. Brocklehurst’s easy style is not nearly the quality of prose of a deeper Austen read, it is actually a bit short at around 200 pages. Yet, Darcy and Anne is still a fun continuation of favorite characters with an outcome that can’t be beat.

The author Judith Brocklehurst passed on October 2008, but was delighted when she learned that Sourcebooks was going to reissue her self-published title “A Letter from Lady Catherine” as “Darcy and Anne”. Rumor is that her sequel to Mansfield Park is also possible.


Filed under Austen, Austen Sequels, New Release, Regency, Review

>Book Review & Giveaway: "The White Queen" by Phillippa Gregory


The White Queen: The Cousins War” by Phillippa Gregory
Read An Excerpt
Cover is of my ARC (a big thank you to Ally at Simon & Schuster!) I don’t really care for the current release’s cover.
The second and third books in the anticipated series are tentatively titled The Red Queen (Margaret Beaufort) and The White Princess (Elizabeth of York).

Published August 18th 2009 by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, 416 pages
The Burton Review Rating: 4 stars
Book Description:

Philippa Gregory, “the queen of royal fiction,” presents the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the Wars of the Roses.
Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenet’s. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.
The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.”

Phillippa Gregory does it again! All the possible controversial theories are utilised here in this work of The Wars of The Roses and shall be used for fodder by history enthusiasts. Phillippa Gregory is one of those authors that you either love or hate. Those that are very particular about sticking to the known facts regarding Anne Boleyn dislike her for what she says happened in “The Other Boleyn Girl”. And then the movie came out and that took even more liberties (not Gregory’s fault) and there was a mini revolt on Facebook against Gregory which was fun to watch. I must say that “The Other Boleyn Girl” is exactly what got me hooked on historical fiction last year, probably about February of 2008. And there was no turning back. I googled Henry VIII and bought more books, from non-fiction to fiction all about the Tudor Era. I then read Gregory’s “The Constant Princess” and “The Queen’s Fool” and enjoyed those. I got a little burnt out on Gregory once I read last year’s “The Other Queen”; I did not like some of the insinuations that were made about Mary Queen of Scots in her attempt to spice up her dull writing. STILL.. I have a soft spot for her since she was the jumping off point to this passion I now hold for historical fiction. The fact that I know the family tree of Henry VIII and potential successors to the throne during his reign would probably fascinate and bore those that know me outside of this book blog world. It’s my little secret, and I owe it all to Phillippa Gregory.

Just as there are myths and rumors that have been debated about regarding Mary and Anne Boleyn of The Other Boleyn Girl, there have also been many different theories regarding Elizabeth Woodville. Most historians now seem to agree that without proof of things such as Elizabeth and her mother being witches, there is no reason to discuss it further because of the lack of logical proof. But with this novel, it is all opened back up and historians again will have a field day denying all the insinuations that Gregory makes with this new novel. Gregory even has a YouTube video discussing this Witchcraft topic. For this particular novel we are treated to historical fiction where the author has taken all of her available information and used her creative spin to twist the facts into something more pleasing then a text book. She does quite well creating the story and I believe there will now be a lot more googling on Elizabeth Woodville, and there is nothing wrong with that.

“The White Queen” is a novel taking place during a tumultuous period of time in the latter half of the 1400’s before Henry VIII’s father’s reign, called The Wars of The Roses, also known as The Cousin’s War for the specific period that takes place within Gregory’s book. England was not stable, there were two distinct factions of Lancastrians and Yorkists who battled for their right to the throne of England and each had legitimate candidacy with ancestors that had easily each justified their quests for the throne. For some, it was just a matter if the descendancy came via the female or male line as to where in the royal line of succession they landed. The Yorkists overthrew the reigning King Henry VI who was a bit ‘touched in the head’ and put Edward IV, a Plantagenet, on the throne, eventually murdering the pious king. It is a very intriguing history for England, as well as one of my favorites, and there are many what-if’s that can be asked for the possible outcomes of this war. There are many people involved, many important figures also who are turncoats and traitors (such as Warwick the advisor and ‘Kingmaker’, and the king’s brother George, the Duke of Clarence) and those who try to keep up with the prominent figures of this time could easily be confused. For this read, Gregory successfully dodges that confusing bullet. She sticks to her main characters and centers her story around Elizabeth Woodville, a Lancastrian widow who suddenly marries the Yorkist King. That was such an amazing feat in itself that Elizabeth and her mother were quickly branded as witches, since there could have been no other logical way that the King of England would have wedded in secret to an unimportant family from an opposing party. There are conflicting stories as to whether Elizabeth and Edward had known each other before the infamous meeting under the tree, but there is not a lot of hard evidence about Elizabeth Woodville in general. She is of a large family and was married and widowed before wedding Edward; she came into her royal marriage with two sons of her own, and she was older than her husband Edward IV. These Grey sons did not get a lot of time in the book, but were also quite important in their time, along with the Woodville clan themselves.

P. Gregory depicts Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV meeting when Elizabeth asks for the rights to her dead husband’s land, and soon after their marital events are taking place towards the beginning of the novel. Some intriguing dialogue comes after, prophetic phrases galore and then Queen Elizabeth is complete with three girls off of the King. I was a bit dismayed at the jump in time, as well as the lack of putting names to her growing family. It wasn’t till the younger Elizabeth was 4 years old before Gregory actually mentions her name. I think that since there are so many different family members a part of this Cousin’s War, that the author did not want to add more names than necessary into the story that she was telling. There are many Elizabeths, Edwards, Richards of the time. For a novice, leaving some names and their importance out of this novel works well, such as the Grey boys, but since I am not, that turned me off a bit, especially since I know the importance of her daughter, Elizabeth of York, who later does become a Queen and mother to the Tudor Dynasty.

The characterization of Elizabeth Woodville in the beginning was very likable and I enjoyed the first person narration. Once Elizabeth Woodville is Queen, she seems to become immediately shallow, spiteful, and vengeful, eager to promote the Woodville names. I liked the way that the seemingly loving marriage was portrayed; Edward was promiscuous and Elizabeth had resigned herself to that even though she outwardly did not like Elizabeth (Jane) Shore. Once disaster strikes the family and her father and brother are killed in battle, she is intent on revenge and not exactly likable at that point either especially when the witchcraft angle is at use. Yet as a mother, I completely fell into pace with her character as she finally realized the extreme danger her royal family was in and I was helplessly rooting for her all the way even though I already knew the general outcome.

Although I was enjoying the way that P. Gregory was depicting the story of the traitors Warwick and Edward’s brother George, I was getting a bit annoyed at the amount of times the author had Elizabeth mentioning that they were “dead men” because she has “their names in the black locket in my jewellrey case and their names will never see the light again until they themselves are in eternal darkness”… which is just one example that shows that the author wants us to believe that Elizabeth and her mother were indeed witches. Several occasions occurred where either the whistles or breaths of the ladies had affected major events in the stories. As far as witches go, I do not subscribe to that idea although I do believe that perhaps they were harmless women attempting any means possible to get what they wanted by trying little tricks and prayers and the like, but I do not believe that they would have certain powers that the author would like us to believe. With these interesting twists to the original facts, readers may not enjoy the overused witch theory.

Other little tricks of the witch angle were used that were said to aid in battles, as well as the sixth sense Elizabeth had that almost had her privy to The Sight. I call it woman’s intuition. There were many references to Melusina, a goddess of the River, hence the origin of Elizabeth’s family name; at the time her brother was the Earl of Rivers. And this brother Anthony Woodville is known as being a scholarly and astute man, and that memory is held intact in the novel. Anthony was shown as disputing the power of Melusina as mere stories, until he was facing his death and he even reflects upon the ‘fact’ that Melusina was Jacquetta’s grandmother. At Anthony’s death we also are treated to an actual poem that he indeed wrote during that time. I was intrigued by Anthony and I look forward to reading some more on him.

Elizabeth is very close to her brother Anthony, the other brothers do not figure prominently until a little more towards the end. Elizabeth’s emotions towards her young boys and her love for her children are emoted quite well throughout, and I felt sorry for her at her inability to see the right way of out of her ordeals. I think everyone who knows the name Elizabeth Woodville would then understand the fact that her two boys by the King Edward had disappeared in the Tower following the death of the King. The novel depicts the king’s brother George Duke of Clarence as an outrageously jealous boy, his and the King’s mother is seemingly doting only on George and could care less for King Edward, and the third York brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester is depicted as a sensitive quiet boy who wants to come into his own in his own time. There are a few of the other main characters of The Wars of The Roses mentioned but they do not feature as prominently, such as Margaret Beaufort, her new husband and her son, Henry Tudor, who is leading the Lancastrians. Overall I did not find in-depth characterizations except just for what Elizabeth W. portrayed them as, which is the downfall of first person narratives, although a few times we slipped into third person to set the scene.

I do not want to give too much away for the actual novel, but the facts are history that many know and there are just so many facts and pertinent events!! This novel does not immediately bode well for the reputation of Richard, the dead King’s brother who decides the throne should be his and not Edward’s son. There are multiple reasons why the nobles do not want Edward and Elizabeth’s children on or near the throne of England. The novel climaxes around the events of these little princes, and we are treated to a rare glimpse of what happened during the period the boys, and how the infamous Princes in the Tower disappeared. The author again takes liberties with the age-old theories, although mostly scoffed at the author uses them for a clever story angle.

There are many more events that occur throughout the novel that correlate to the reality of the Wars of the Roses, such as battles, births, marriages and deaths, but the basis of the novel is indeed fiction and should not be taken as fact. Ages of supporting figures are probably incorrect also. It took awhile to feel accustomed to some of my I-don’t-believe-that-happened thoughts, and I had to remind myself that this was not intended to be a history lesson. The author really did a fine job of spinning the controversy of the rumors into a very entertaining read. Although the initial writing of Phillippa Gregory started off a bit forced it sucked me in quick enough. Aside from the complaints of distortion of facts which is to be expected, and the lack of character development, another criticism I have is that I could not grasp a sense of time. The chapters are divided by dates and those are the only clues we have as to what year we were in. When time passed or the author jumped a few years, we actually didn’t know it unless you were paying attention to the chapter’s dates. I am also sure that there were other minor facts that are misconstrued in the novel, (like dates and people involved in what conspiracy) but I am not that much of a stickler for remembering odd dates and places. I think that Phillippa Gregory wanted to keep us entertained, and since I am forever in awe of the period, and she accomplishes that.

I am sorry for the very long drawn out review, this was a hard one to do because I didn’t want to give the twists away, but I wanted to try and explain my reactions to the book. And it’s not every day I review a Phillippa Gregory book, so instead of deleting all the rambling discussion in the middle here I just kept it in to be true to myself. I realize only 2 of you read it, and I look forward to your responses. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed reading the novel, it was fascinating to read the plot development twists that the author fashioned and helped quench my thirst for more information on Elizabeth Woodville. I do not think that those who wish for more accuracy in their historical reads will thoroughly enjoy this one. The fact that we will never truly know what happened in many instances is still evident, but this is still a worthwhile read for those who enjoy historical fiction that is meant to entertain. The author does well with not tying up loose ends, so we are eager for her next installment. And for those that are not that up-to-speed on The Wars of The Roses, this is a fabulous introduction to one of the views of the period. Just as “The Other Boleyn Girl” beguiled many new fans of the era, and perhaps even started the Tudors media frenzy, I can only hope that this novel also spurs on the debates about The Wars of The Roses. A fabulous time period full of battles, love, treachery, you really should not miss this read.

If you have also read this book, then I direct you to Phillipa’s not exactly live website here (at time of my reviewing) but you really need to be wary if you have not read the book, as it contains serious spoilers. Otherwise for those who received an ARC like I did, this is a good replacement for the Author’s note that we enjoy so much. There is also a group read occurring August and September on Goodreads. It will be separated out by chapters so that you will not get hit with any spoilers. This would have been delightful for me as I was reading it, as sometimes I was bursting at the seams with incredulity, yet other times I was truly aching for Elizabeth’s loss.

I am hosting a giveaway for an unread copy of the ARC of this novel which reached me par avion from the UK which is always fun, but this is for USA addresses only. The ARC is shown in the picture shown above. In order to qualify as an entry, you must do all of the following. (You do NOT need to leave separate comments):

1. Follow This Blog via Google (See sidebar, or the very top of page under your toolbar)

2. Comment with your Email Address telling me if you have read any Phillipa Gregory Books and what your opinion is of them/her.

After all the above is complete, you may:

3. Plus One Entry for a Twitter, Facebook, Blog post or sidebar blurb mentioning this Giveaway with a link back to this review. You must also post the link to where I can find your post doing this. You can also borrow this handy dandy graphic to post it, just don’t forget to link it to here:

Contest Ends: Friday, August 14th 7:00PM CST; I will email the winner who has 48 hours to respond.


Filed under Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville, FREE, Medieval Era, New Release, Phillippa Gregory, Review, Wars of the Roses

>Book Review: "Twilight of A Queen" by Susan Carroll~Giveaway

>Twilight of A Queen By Susan Carroll“Twilight of a Queen” A Novel written by Susan Carroll
Category: Fiction; FictionHistorical; FictionRomanceHistorical
Format: Trade Paperback, 480 pages
On Sale: July 21, 2009
Price: $15.00
ISBN: 978-0-449-22109-9 (0-449-22109-1)
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Fifth in “The Dark Queen” Series (aka The Cheney Sisters of Faire Isle): The Huntress, The Silver Rose, The Courtesan, and The Dark Queen
“As war and treachery loom, an ambitious man’s mission threatens to topple two dazzling realms and their formidable rulers: Catherine de Medici, the Dark Queen, and Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle. It is 1588, and as the Spanish Armada prepares to besiege England, Paris balances on the brink of revolution. To maintain her grip on the throne and on the dark magic that has become her obsession, Catherine de Medici turns to Louis Xavier, a ruthless corsair who was schooled in the dark arts and has mastered piracy along the Spanish main. But Louis’s basest instincts are held in check by the kindness of Lady Jane Danvers, a British exile whose innate sense of honor is but one facet of her complex and passionate nature.

On Faire Isle, Ariane Cheney, unaware of the escalating threat from the Dark Queen, struggles with the task of protecting the daughters of the earth and their vast store of ancient magical wisdom. Weak and desperate for an advantage, the ailing Catherine makes a devil’s bargain that will cast a shadow over all.”

Being that this new release is the fifth in the Cheney Sisters series, the first question I am asked is if I had read the previous four titles. The answer is no, though they all do sit patiently in a quaint cubby hole in my nightstand. In the normal way of things I would not read a series out of order, but in this case I wanted to review this some time this year rather than later. Otherwise it would sit unheeded in my quaint cubby hole with its’ mates. As I began to read this, I did not feel at a disadvantage as the story wore on, only that I realized some of the events of the previous books were lightly touched upon throughout so that a new reader would not be lost in the current story. It served to whet my appetite for the other stories though and I do plan on pushing the other reads further up on the list so that I could learn more about the Cheney Sisters. They did not figure prominently in this novel except for Meg, but I could tell that their exciting events were featured in the previous books.

The title ‘Twilight of A Queen’ refers to the formidable Catherine De Medici, whom many have heard of for her dabbles in witchcraft and sorcery. She was the mother of French Kings, and was the other woman in her husband’s life. Her true story is amazing in itself, and in this novel we see Catherine as an aging woman with aches and pains and struggling to maintain control over her witless son Henri; struggling to maintain a grip on the kingdom that despises her. She is intent on finding the infamous Book of Shadows and Meg, who is the person that Catherine believes holds the key to the book. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the Dark Queen and her Royal son, I have a preference towards the Royal stories themselves and those were my favorite parts of the book.

With Catherine’s waning power and obsessing over the secrets of the Book of Shadows is where Louis Xavier comes in as he is contracted by Catherine to procure the book. He is a dashing swashbuckler pirate with family issues. His dialogue was quite amusing to behold and he was really a typical arrogant man, and bastard being the right term here in all ways. The adventure takes off when Catherine pays Xavier to also bring back young Meg, the Silver Rose, from Faire Isle. Unbeknownst to Catherine, Xavier’s father is also the Cheney sisters’ father, and the twists begin.

For a clue on our Xavier’s character, Miri asks what happened to her prized bird and her father’s journals:

{Xavier:} “Regrettably I was obliged to eat the bird and I had to use the journals for kindling.”
Miri paled, but she rallied, saying, “Well, if you were cold and starving, it is quite understandable. I only hope you remembered to thank the bird for sacrificing his life for you.”
Xavier stared at her as though she were mad.

He was quite a rogue, I’d say. And yet all this just serves as the setting and backdrop of the story as this novel is primarily the focus of Jane Danvers who is exiled on Faire Isle from England, suffering from religious persecution of Elizabeth I and her secretary Walsingham. Jane Danvers and her brother Ned had been under Elizabeth’s radar before, and I found a connection to Bess of Hardwick an interesting tidbit, as Jane and her brother were wards of Bess at one time. England itself is another behind the scenes feature as the rumors of the Spanish Armada loom and scare everyone in England for a time.

With “Twilight of A Queen” we see the conclusion of The Dark Queen series as a romance develops along with the many adventures of the pirate as he must choose between family loyalty (of which he never was known to do) and risk his life if he does so, or does he choose to be beguiled by a spell of The Dark Medici Queen herself and her money. I found the writing to be fluid and fast paced and did not see any glaring issues, except for the multiple mentions of dark fog in the opening of the novel. There seemed to be more of a predictability to this story since we knew this is the final book in the series, therefore there can not be a lot options logically to it. But despite even that, the storyline and the characters were indeed a delight and since I have not read the other books I do have something to look forward to. For those who have read the previous four and were looking for more of a dramatic conclusion, the actual ending here may not achieve that for you. I enjoyed the book all the way up to the ending and then it felt a bit forced and rushed. Perhaps after 5 novels surrounding virtually the same person the author was getting a little burnt out. But I still think that this is a fun series to tackle and is worthwhile for me to go back and read the others to catch up with the rest of the story.


Are you ready to read Twilight of A Queen by Susan Carroll? You can purchase it now, or enter here to win a copy.
Random House will send one lucky reader in the USA or Canada a copy of this book!
To enter you must do all of the following:
1-Comment on this post with your Email address.
2-Recommend to me a Catherine De Medici book that you have read
OR tell me why you want to read this and if you have read the series yet.

Please pay attention to these qualifications!
Giveaway ends August 7!


Filed under Elizabeth I, New Release, Review, Susan Carroll