Book Review: Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson

Pretty, flirtatious, and ambitious. Nan Bassett hopes that an appointment at the court of King Henry VIII will bring her a grand marriage. But soon after she becomes a maid of honor to Queen Jane, the queen dies in childbirth. As the court plunges into mourning, Nan sets her sights on the greatest match in the land…for the king has noticed “her.” After all, it wouldn’t be the first time King Henry has chosen to wed a maid of honor. And in newly Protestant England, where plots to restore the old religion abound, Nan may be the only one who can reassure a suspicious king of her family’s loyalty. But the favor of a king can be dangerous and chancy, not just for Nan, but for her family as well…and passionate Nan is guarding a secret, one that could put her future — and her life — in grave jeopardy should anyone discover the truth.

Based on the life of the real Anne Bassett and her family, and drawing extensively from letters and diaries of the time, “Between Two Queens” is an enthralling picture of the dangers and delights of England’s most passionate era.

The Second in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series this book was very enjoyable. There was a couple of points that for me dragged a little bit I think that seems to be a pitfall when getting into deep well covered historical time periods, like the Tudor era.

Anne Bassett was a real person in the court and this is based on her life with of course some creative license like you do in a fiction. Anne goes along many different paths in her life, from young love, a secret pregnancy, freeing someone from the tower, to the kings bed. You can not ask for anymore action and intrigue then what you get in this book. There were moments that I really disliked Anne, but in others I enjoyed her and I could understand what motivated her over all. Its a good book one I enjoyed it had just the right peppering of The King without being overwhelming it really did focus on the people around him.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper

In Mistress Shakespeare, Elizabethan beauty Anne Whateley reveals intimate details of her dangerous, daring life and her great love, William Shakespeare. As historical records show, Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton is betrothed to Will just days before he is forced to wed the pregnant Anne Hathaway of Shottery. The clandestine Whateley/Shakespeare match is a meeting of hearts and heads that no one, not even Queen Elizabeth or her spymasters can destroy. From rural Stratford-upon-Avon to teeming London, the passionate pair struggles to stay solvent and remain safe from Elizabeth I’s campaign to hunt down secret Catholics, of whom Shakespeare is rumored to be a part. Often at odds, always in love, the couple sells Will’s first plays and, as he climbs to theatrical power in Elizabeth’s England, they fend off fierce competition from rival London dramatists, ones as treacherous as they are talented. Persecution and plague, insurrection and inferno, friends and foes, even executions of those they hold dear, bring Anne’s heartrending story to life. Spanning half a century of Elizabethan and Jacobean history and sweeping from the lowest reaches of society to the royal court, this richly textured novel tells the real story of Shakespeare in love.(

Whether or not there was another Anne in Shakespeare’s life has been something that has been hotly debated. Some say there was a clerical error and she never existed others have found some fairly supporting evidence that she did exist at the very least. The book starts off a little bit slow for me but it does pick up once Anne goes to London. The story is not a typical oh they meet oh they fall in love story and I love it for that. The two love each other deeply and passionately but they also fight, and at times seem to “hate” each other. A very real life kind of story.

There is danger around every corner and that also seems to effect their love story. The time of Elizabeth Tudor’s reign was not one of total peace by any means especially if you did not agree with everything the Queen does and say’s. Overall this was a great book with good writing and complex characters. If you like Shakespeare and the Tudor era your going to like this book.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Revenge of the Rose by Nicole Galland

Welcome to a world of intrigue of the most intriguing kind, where emperors and popes desperately vie for power, even as their subjects and servants engage in behind-the-scenes machinations of their own. “The Holy Roman Empire circa 1200 A.D.”

Impoverished young knight Willem of Dole believed he would spend his life in rural Burgundy, struggling to provide for his widowed mother and younger sister, Lienor. And so it’s with surprise–and apprehension–that he obeys a summons to the magnificent court of Konrad, Holy Roman Emperor, whose realm spans half of Europe. Willem’s mischievous friend Jouglet, Konrad’s favorite minstrel, is no doubt behind it somehow . . . but what’s in it for Jouglet?

Court life is overwhelming to the idealistic young Willem, who is shocked by the behavior of his fellow knights, for whom chivalry is a mere game. Yet under Jouglet’s witty, relentless tutelage, the naive knight quickly rises in Emperor Konrad’s esteem–until suddenly his sister, Lienor, becomes a prospect for the role of Empress. This unexpected elevation of the sibling “nobodies” delights Jouglet, but threatens three powerful–and dangerous–men at the court: the Emperor’s brother, Cardinal Paul, who has in mind a different bride for Konrad; the Emperor’s uncle, Alphonse, Count of Burgundy, who would keep secret certain things that only Willem can reveal; and most especially the Emperor’s own steward Marcus, who is hopelessly in love with Konrad’s cousin Imogen. For if Willem’s star keeps rising, Imogen will be betrothed to the knight by royal decree–and Willem’s star will surely continue to rise, unless Marcus figures out a way to stop it. But that would entail outscheming cleverJouglet, ablest of schemers.

Gossip, secrets, and lies are the fuel of daily life in Konrad’s court. As Konrad edges closer to proclaiming Lienor his bride, those around Willem play a perilous game of cat-and-mouse as they attempt to secure their own fortunes, knowing that even the slightest move can shift the playing field entirely. And through it all, Jouglet remains Willem’s most maddening yet staunchest ally. But what, really, does Jouglet stand to gain . . . or lose?

Transporting the reader to the brilliant, conniving heart of the largest empire of medieval Europe, “Revenge of the Rose” is a novel rich in irony and tongue-in-cheek wit, and reveals all the grit and color, politics and passion, of court life in the Holy Roman Empire.

It is books like this that made me fall in love with historical fiction. There are so many layers and so much fun with the different characters that you just enjoy reading each and every word as it unfolds. A couple of the twists I did guess them before they were revealed, however I did not care because it was still so artfully written you could not help but enjoy it.

I actually really liked Konrad even though he could be a bit of an ass sometimes. Overall as a ruler he was fair and forgiving unless you really crossed him in an unforgiving way. Willem really reminds me of William Thatcher from a Knights tale on several levels, but on others he is very much his own character so for me I connected to him the most. I would highly recommend this one to any lover of Historical Fiction.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Lover be Mine by Nicole Jordan

Release Date: May 28th 2013

From New York Times bestselling author Nicole Jordan comes this Romeo and Juliet-like story-the scorching second book in her wickedly sexy Legendary Lovers regency romance series, following Princess Charming.

When Lord Jack Wilde’s cousin tries to match him with Lady Sophie Fortin, he isn’t too thrilled by the prospect since Sophie’s family has long feuded with the Wildes. Nevertheless he attends a masquerade ball in disguise and when he meets Sophie, he’s drawn to her. The attraction is mutual-until she learns who he is. Angry that Jack has tricked her into lowering her guard under false pretenses, Sophie declares she doesn’t ever want to see him again. But then Jack shows up in unexpected places, driving her crazy with his seductive advances. She doesn’t want her parents finding out that she even knows him, let alone succumbed to his passionate kisses. If her father discovers Jack courting her, blood could be shed. Yet, Sophie still wants him and realizes that in order for the star-crossed lovers to be together, they must try to somehow settle the bitter feud between their families once and for all

This was the first book that I have read by Nicole Jordan and I did like it. I think for me some of the Romeo and Juliet stuff was a little bit to much, maybe even unbelievable which to me made the story drag in parts which is why the rating I have chosen for this one.

However the writing itself is solid and enjoyable it was not a bad book to read and if you like the genre or are already a fan of the author your going to enjoy this book. Lord Jack is your typical hero in a romance novel, he does not want to Marry he is a bit of a rake and a handsome devil. But hey that is what makes you adore him, and he does find himself attracted to Lady Sophie whether he wants to be or not. Over all not the greatest book I have ever read but it was a fun read and one I do not regret picking up. Thank you Net Galley for the chance to read this one.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: The Girl from Junchow by Kate Furnivall

China, 1929. For years Lydia Ivanova believed her father was killed by the Bolsheviks. But when she learns he is imprisoned in Stalin-controlled Russia, the fiery girl is willing to leave everything behind- even her Chinese lover, Chang An Lo.

Lydia begins a dangerous search, journeying to Moscow with her half-brother Alexei. But when Alexei abruptly disappears, Lydia is left alone, penniless in Soviet Russia.

All seems lost, but Chang An Lo has not forgotten Lydia. He knows things about her father that she does not. And while he races to protect her, she is prepared to risk treacherous consequences to discover the truth.

Again we join up with Lydia and her rag tag group of her Brother Alexei and Leiv but this time they are going across Soviet Russia. Just when things look the darkest when her brother has seemed to go away and leave her behind. Chang An Lo shows up and things for them seem to pick up right where they left off.

This is a wonderful book that brings to life the same pictures and ideals that you had painted for you in the last book. This time however instead of a bright flower like china being painted we get Soviet Grey and really a feeling for how things were in those days in Russia. While things were dark and gloomy some people bound together. I really enjoyed the twists and turns this novel took including where Alexei ended up, never would have thought it of him and yet at the same time it seemed to suit. If you enjoyed the Russian Concubine I think this second installment will be on the top of your list as well. I know I did!

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Emperor The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden

Rarely, if ever, does a new writer dazzle us with such a vivid imagination and storytelling, flawlessly capturing the essence of a land, a people, a legend. Conn Iggulden is just such a writer, bringing to vivid life one of the most fascinating eras in human history. In a true masterpiece of historical fiction, Iggulden takes us on a breathtaking journey through ancient Rome, sweeping us into a realm of tyrants and slaves, of dark intrigues and seething passions. What emerges is both a grand romantic tale of coming-of-age in the Roman Empire and a vibrant portrait of the early years of a man who would become the most powerful ruler on earth: Julius Caesar.
On the lush Italian peninsula, a new empire is taking shape. At its heart is the city of Rome, a place of glory and decadence, beauty and bloodshed. Against this vivid backdrop, two boys are growing to manhood, dreaming of battles, fame, and glory in service of the mightiest empire the world has ever known. One is the son of a senator, a boy of privilege and ambition to whom much has been given and from whom much is expected. The other is a bastard child, a boy of strength and cunning, whose love for his adoptive family-and his adoptive brother-will be the most powerful force in his life.
As young Gaius and Marcus are trained in the art of combat-under the tutelage of one of Rome’s most fearsome gladiators-Rome itself is being rocked by the art of treachery and ambition, caught in a tug-of-war as two rival generals, Marius and Sulla, push the empire toward civil war. For Marcus, a bloody campaign in Greece will become a young soldier’s proving ground. For Gaius, the equally deadly infighting of the Roman Senate will be the battlefield where he hones his courage and skill. And for both, the love of an extraordinary slave girl will be an honor each will covet but only one will win.
The two friends are forced to walk different paths, and by the time they meet again everything will have changed. Both will have known love, loss, and violence. And the land where they were once innocent will be thrust into the grip of bitter conflict-a conflict that will set Roman against Roman…and put their friendship to the ultimate test.
Brilliantly interweaving history and adventure, Conn Iggulden conjures a stunning array of contrasts-from the bloody stench of a battlefield to the opulence of the greatest city in history, from the tenderness of a lover to the treachery of an assassin. Superbly rendered, grippingly told, Emperor, The Gates of Rome is a work of vaulting imagination from a powerful new voice in historical fiction.

First thing you have to keep in mind when your reading this series, it does take some creative license. Second thing to keep in mind is that while we all know about Caesar’s later life we do not know as much about his young life. Now with my official I am a history buff and generally freak out about these things warning.

This is one of the few books that end up on my keeper shelf that are fiction. The Gates of Rome is one of the best written books of Ancient Rome there is. The characters come alive and leap off the page. You can smell the dirty streets and feel the bruises that come from practicing and then further along. I love seeing the shape that Caesar begins to take as he is a young man, we can see how he is going to become the great General that he becomes.

Brutus is almost likeable in this first book. I am not much of a Brutus fan anyone who knows me knows that, but in this book he is nearly likeable. There are moments when you feel bad for him, moments when you smile at his friendship with Young Gaius and moments where you can see what is going to happen coming clear as day. Overall this book gets a thumbs up must read from me.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

A thrilling, chilling reimagining of the story of the most famous woman in history.

Once there was a queen of Egypt…a queen who became through magic something else…

The year is 30 BC. Octavian Caesar and his massed legions are poised to enter Alexandria. A messenger informs Egypt’s queen, Cleopatra, that her beloved Mark Antony has died by his own hand. Desperate to save her kingdom, resurrect her husband and protect all she holds dear, Cleopatra turns to the gods for help. Ignoring the warnings of those around her, she summons Sekhmet, goddess of death and destruction, and strikes a mortal bargain. And not even the wisest of Egypt’s scholars could have predicted what would follow…

For, in return for Antony’s soul, Sekhmet demands something in return: Cleopatra herself. And so Egypt’s queen is possessed. She becomes an immortal, shape-shifting, not-quite-human manifestation of a deity who seeks to destroy the world. Fighting to preserve something of her humanity, Cleopatra pursues Octavian back to Rome: she desires revenge, she yearns for her children…and she craves human blood.

It is a journey that will take her from the tombs of the Pharaohs to the great amphitheatres of imperial Rome and on, to Hell itself where, it seems, the fate of the world will finally be decided.

Blending authentic historical fiction and the darkest of fantasy, Queen of Kings is a spectacular and spellbinding feat of the imagination that fans of Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, George R.R. Martin, Patricia Briggs, Philippa Gregory, and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator won’t want to miss.

Alright this book has me all conflicted and irate and I may have to go back and read it at a later date when I can separate myself a little bit better. Or maybe the book just was not nearly as good as I had hoped it would be there was so much hope for it. Queen of Kings has all the right stuff, Ancient love story, Ancient battles and Ancient Magic. So why does it flop?

First of all it jumps around to much. WAY to much. You get the story through way to many pairs of eyes and characters and you can simply not feel connected to any of them. Secondly there really is not much of Cleopatra for a book that was supposed to be about her. Then for me the biggest botch of them all was how many times they brought Antony back and then shoved him back into the land of the dead. Antony is by far the historical person I most enjoy, I even call myself a fan girl. It is hard enough to always read of his death the way it is said to have happened. But to endure it several times? It is to much. The first time is when Cleopatra makes her deal with the Lion Goddess of Old for his Soul. Antony is brought back and he lives and begins to heal under her hands, sadly before he can fully recover he is killed again with a sword skewer. I mean really..similar things happen again and again with his shade and such.

I will try this one again maybe next year. For now it is a two star.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Widow of Gettysburg by: Jocelyn Green

For all who have suffered great loss of heart, home, health or family; true home and genuine lasting love can be found.

When a horrific battle rips through Gettysburg, the farm of Union widow Liberty Holloway is disfigured into a Confederate field hospital, bringing her face to face with unspeakable suffering-and a Confederate scout who awakens her long dormant heart.

But when the scout doesn’t die she discovers he isn’t who he claims to be .

While Liberty’s future crumbles as her home is destroyed, the past comes rushing back to Bella, a former slave and Liberty’s hired help, when she finds herself surrounded by Southern soldiers, one of whom knows the secret that would place Liberty in danger if revealed.

In the wake of shattered homes and bodies, Liberty and Bella struggle to pick up the pieces the battle has left behind. Will Liberty be defined by the tragedy in her life, or will she find a way to triumph over it?

The Civil war was a trying time for all of those involved in it. Liberty is a widow who thought she would be able to move forward with her life with her plan and after the war. Sadly that does not happen for her. I did enjoy this book although parts of it dragged a little bit and a few times I just wanted to shake a few of the charters. Overall though it was a very enjoyable book. I feel if your someone who enjoys historical titles you will enjoy this one.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: One more kiss by Mary S. Blayney

Release Date: April 30th 2013

Mary Blayney, the acclaimed author of Courtesan’s Kiss, returns to the Pennistan family with this new historical romance—the delectable story of a free-spirited beauty with no interest in marriage who gets more than she bargained for when a seductive kiss leads to the possibility of love.

Dispatched by their ambitious father to snag a titled husband, Beatrice Brent and her twin sister, Cecilia, attend a house party with an array of eligible gentlemen. Defiantly ignoring her father’s wishes, Beatrice flirts shamelessly with Lord Jessup Pennistan, a gamer with scandal in his past—and the one man her father has warned her against. But when flirting goes too far, Beatrice suddenly finds herself engaged and, worse, estranged from her family. Though convinced that her fianc�’s wicked ways will bring nothing but heartache, Beatrice is powerless against Jess’s masterful seduction and the anticipated delights of the marriage bed.

A gambling man who has lost more than his family is willing to forgive him for, Jess quickly realizes that compromising Beatrice was the best mistake he ever made. But to keep her he must right the wrongs of the past, reclaim his lost fortunes, and place the boldest wager of his life. For now he has everything to win . . . and everything to lose.

Well the first thing that came to my mind when I started reading this book was that I am going to need to go back and read the other 4! When I got it I did not know it was part of a series. At any rate it really does actually stand alone very well and you can get a good feel of the characters without having to worry about having missed to much of the past interactions.

Jess is by far my favorite character. A loyal, heroic and wonderful cut of a regency man who has a bad wrap because he allowed his reputation to take a hit to help a childhood friend. The twins are also enjoyable and boy little Cecelia turns into something I would not expect at the very end. A great fun and entertaining read. It is fast and fun!

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Heiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to the daughter of Cleopatra to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers…

To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene’s parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can’t hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother’s dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?

So those who know me best will know why I both loved..and tossed this book across the room several times (yes I mean you melda, Legolas..ect).

I am firmly Pro Antony and Cleopatra and Anti Octavian and I love to read about this period in time it feels like going home to me. Stephanie Dray introduces us to the children of Antony and Cleopatra just after Antony has killed himself and Cleopatra is not yet dead. An emotional ride by any stretch of things. We see this book and the events that happen through Selene’s eyes, she struggles, she blames her parents, she blames herself all of those things you would expect. But she does have her twin Helios and her younger brother to give her some sense of family still left. A sense of purpose.

I really did enjoy the book it got many of the historical facts completely correct down to the golden chains they were marched through the streets of Rome in. Many of the Egyptian traditions are spot on and everything. There is of course creative license taken on some parts. We can not possibly know what happened completely in those years because the winners write the stories not those who lost. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the next book in the series. Hopefully there will be less Octavian so I can more than happily give it a five. I know terrible reason to give this one a four but that is how much I truly dislike the guy. I do strongly recommend this read.

My Gemstone Rating:


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