Book Review: The Plantagenets The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

Release Date: April 18th 2013

“Outstanding . . . A thrilling history of royal intrigues, violent skullduggery and brutal warfare.” —Simon Sebag Montefiore

The first Plantagenet king inherited a blood-soaked kingdom from the Normans and transformed it into an empire stretched at its peak from Scotland to Jerusalem. In this epic history, Dan Jones vividly resurrects this fierce and seductive royal dynasty and its mythic world. We meet the captivating Eleanor of Aquitaine, twice queen and the most famous woman in Christendom; her son, Richard the Lionheart, who fought Saladin in the Third Crusade; and King John, a tyrant who was forced to sign Magna Carta, which formed the basis of our own Bill of Rights. This is the era of chivalry, of Robin Hood and the Knights Templar, the Black Death, the founding of Parliament, the Black Prince, and the Hundred Year’s War. It will appeal as much to readers of Tudor history as to fans of Game of Thrones.

I fully admit to having gone geek wild when I saw this book and was so glad to get a chance to review it through net gallery. I love the Plantagenet’s and follow the history pretty closely. Those who know me of course know my favorite of the brood is The Black Prince, Edward. This book was a fantastic read and the history was spot on. You can tell that a lot of research went into the book and all of the information is presented in a way that will appeal to even someone who is not a major historian. It is not dry or drab at all. The only thing that for me kept it from being a perfect 5 gem was that I really wanted more on The Black Prince and his family line. I know they are not the most infamous of the Plantagenets but still they did a lot of things. A great read though really.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett

As the Wars of the Roses draw slowly to a close‚ England is a place of turmoil. Edward IV is on the throne but his position is unstable and he finds himself challenged by a man who would become Henry VII.

But one woman‚ a silkweaver to the court and mistress to Richard III‚ can cut through the turmoil with her clever ways and her pretty smile. Her sister is mistress to Edward IV. Could they hold the keys to power″

And London is turned constantly on its head‚ with business never sure where to turn‚ where the favours lie‚ who is in power from one moment to the next. Vanora Bennett brings to life a time of passions and politics‚ a time of turmoil and tension‚ a world in flux and a country up for grabs.

I have to say of all the war of the roses books this is going to be one of my favorites. While it does focus on the royals in some respects the main focus is the story of trying to get the silk weaving business brought to England. You learn all the ins and outs of the mercers guild and many others within England at the time. Isabel Lambert a fictional created sister to the infamous Jane Lambert, better known as Jane Shore Mistress to King Edward is the center piece in all of this silk world.

Isabel after meeting with a mysterious stranger (who I guessed right on the first meeting) goes on to marry the Son of the wealthiest independent silkwomen in London Alice Claver. After the death of her Husband not very long after they were married Isabel is stuck with a question of what to do. She ends up becoming the apprentice of her Mother in Law. We follow these industrious women for a very long road of over 10 years as they have ups and downs and work towards a dream of not having to import woven silk from the various ports of the world. I loved learning about the silk world and following them along the path. The back story with the royal family fit as well because the merchants could not act without the royals and the royals often wanted loans from the merchants. It certainly is an interesting fiction and would I very much recommend.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd

Release Date: April 9th 2013

Amelia Barrett gave her word. Keeping it could cost her everything.

Darbury, England, 1814

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s infant baby. She’ll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father, Graham, a sea captain she’s never met.

When the child vanishes with little more than a sketchy ransom note hinting to her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this infant.

Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken; she examines her soul and must face her one weakness: pride.

Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline.

Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.

The Heiress of Winterwood for me was a pretty good book but it did not blow me away. It was one the books I was talking about in my Musing Monday post though with the formatting issues so that did make it a bit harder for me to read and sit back and enjoy. I may visit it again when it is officially released to see if I can enjoy it more.

That said the story itself was pretty good. I liked the plot and it was not one that I had not read before. Amelia is a strong and independent of a sweet nature with a huge heart. You can not help but love a woman who would take on the responsibility that she did and take it to such a point that she would think to marry a man she did not even know just so she could keep a promise. The child vanishing without a single trace..well that adds a whole bunch of trouble into the characters lives. The ups and downs were enjoyable in this read and while I could not finish it with this read through I will give it another shot later on because I enjoyed what I could read.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: The Seduction of Emily by Rachel Brimble

Release Date: April 8th 2013

Seduction is a wicked game, and no one plays it better than the devilish Will Samson in Rachel Brimble’s captivating new novel. . .

Since girlhood, Emily Darson has accepted that she will marry Nicholas, the son of her father’s trusted business partner. The marriage contract safeguards her family legacy, Emily’s fortune, and everything she values–except her independence. Only when a sinfully handsome scoundrel enters her life does Emily realize quite how much a loveless match will cost her.

Will Samson has advanced from expert pickpocket to confidence trickster of the highest caliber. Now he has come to Bath to exact vengeance on the man who destroyed his mother–the man Emily will soon marry. But from his first glimpse of the enemy’s bewitching, spirited fianc�e, Will’s plan changes.

Amid the ballrooms and salons of elegant society, heated glances explode into scandalous kisses. Revenge is sweet, but surrender will be irresistible. . .

I really wanted to sit back and enjoy this book. The story seemed there and I liked what I had heard about it so far. That said the copy I had was so badly edited I simply could not enjoy the book at all. There were spaces where there should not be spaces, every 5 or 6 words or so there was no space at all, the authors name would show up at various points with a number that made no sense. I know I got an early copy so perhaps the final copy will be better edited. I hope so anyways as for me this was a big disappointment that I could not sit and enjoy the book.

Update 4/3/13: The Author Rachel Brimble contacted me personally via e-mail (which was lovely) to appologize for the formatting issue. It was a not completed copy (which I did mention I figured) and she told me that once it was complete I am being offered a error free version to read. I am excited to be able to read it and I will very happily do a new review once I do.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne

From the author of The Absolutist, a propulsive novel of the Russian Revolution and the fate of the Romanovs.

Part love story, part historical epic, part tragedy, The House of Special Purpose illuminates an empire at the end of its reign. Eighty-year-old Georgy Jachmenev is haunted by his past—a past of death, suffering, and scandal that will stay with him until the end of his days. Living in England with his beloved wife, Zoya, Georgy prepares to make one final journey back to the Russia he once knew and loved, the Russia that both destroyed and defined him. As Georgy remembers days gone by, we are transported to St. Petersburg, to the Winter Palace of the czar, in the early twentieth century—a time of change, threat, and bloody revolution. As Georgy overturns the most painful stone of all, we uncover the story of the house of special purpose.

I really wanted this book to blow me out of the water, alas it did not. That said I did enjoy it over all. I think it was just the tone of the main character who tells the story that kept me from being blown away. I could not warm up to him much at all. That said the story itself the words that he told were well done. I like how the imagery is painted it is not done in a rosy colored bunch of colors. You get the dark and the grime of the time along with the moments of happy hope. I would recommend it because someone else might actually warm to the main character more than I did, I can not actually say why I didn’t like him.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: The Borgias by G.J. Meyer

Release Date: April 2nd 2013

The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of The Tudors and A World Undone. Sweeping aside the gossip, slander, and distortion that have shrouded the Borgias for centuries, G. J. Meyer offers an unprecedented portrait of the infamous Renaissance family and their storied milieu.


They burst out of obscurity in Spain not only to capture the great prize of the papacy, but to do so twice. Throughout a tumultuous half-century—as popes, statesmen, warriors, lovers, and breathtakingly ambitious political adventurers—they held center stage in the glorious and blood-drenched pageant known to us as the Italian Renaissance, standing at the epicenter of the power games in which Europe’s kings and Italy’s warlords gambled for life-and-death stakes.

Five centuries after their fall—a fall even more sudden than their rise to the heights of power—they remain immutable symbols of the depths to which humanity can descend: Rodrigo, the Borgia who bought the papal crown and prostituted the Roman Church; Cesare, the Borgia who became first a teenage cardinal and then the most treacherous cutthroat of a violent time; Lucrezia, the Borgia as shockingly immoral as she was beautiful. These have long been stock figures in the dark chronicle of European villainy, their name synonymous with unspeakable evil.

But did these Borgias of legend actually exist? Grounding his narrative in exhaustive research and drawing from rarely examined key sources, Meyer brings fascinating new insight to the real people within the age-encrusted myth. Equally illuminating is the light he shines on the brilliant circles in which the Borgias moved and the thrilling era they helped to shape, a time of wars and political convulsions that reverberate to the present day, when Western civilization simultaneously wallowed in appalling brutality and soared to extraordinary heights. Stunning in scope, rich in telling detail, G. J. Meyer’s The Borgias is an indelible work sure to become the new standard on a family and a world that continue to enthrall.

G. J. Meyer is a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow with an M.A. in English literature from the University of Minnesota, a onetime journalist, and holder of Harvard University’s Neiman Fellowship in Journalism. He has taught at colleges and universities in Des Moines, St. Louis, and New York. His books include A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, Executive Blues, and The Memphis Murders, winner of an Edgar Award for nonfiction from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Goring-on-Thames, England.

This is a good book and a nice fresh take on the story of the Borgias. I have enjoyed this family historically for a while because they are so scandalous. I mean look at what the family members got up to even for the time period they were a whole new kind of scandal. G.J Meyer digs deeper and presents everything to us in a nice take. I like the way that this book is written the tone in which it is set is very readable. Unlike many non fiction historical books it does not come off as dry and boring. If your a fan of the Borgias historically or even just the TV show I would recommend this book as a read for you.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: Bound to Be a Bride by Megan Mulry

Exciting historical erotic novella from acclaimed author Megan Mulry. In 1808 tempestuous Isabella, daughter of the Duke of Feria, unites with rebellious Javi, a highborn aristocrat practiced in the art of hojōjutsu, Japanese rope binding. They meet in the forest of western Spain, where both are on the run from an arranged marriage…to each other.

This book was just okay to me. I am not sure why but I really did not connect with anyone of the characters to well. The writing was okay but the plot was just not what I thought it would be. It was a fast read and not a total bore, I honestly think I may have liked it better if I found the characters more likeable. I won’t go into what I thought of Issabelle’s Father, of course I am sure we are not supposed to like him and for the time period he was not that much of an oddity.

Well it would seem the slump continues.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: A Secret Love by Stephanie Laurens (Bar Cynster)

All of Regency London knows that no Cynster male would ever walk away from a lady in distress…but their protection can come at a tantalizingly high price. And now, Stephanie Laurens has created her boldest Cynster yet–Gabriel–a man who has known the pleasure of many women, but who has given his heart to no one.

She was desperate for his help…When a mysterious lady, her face hidden by a black veil, begs Gabriel Cynster for his help, he cannot refuse her plea. For despite her disguise, Gabriel finds the woman alluring and he is powerless to deny her. But he exacts payment as only a Cynster would demand: with each piece of information he uncovers, she must pay him–in the form of a kiss.

He was powerless to resist…

Lady Alathea Morwellan knows Gabriel is intrigued, but despite the sparks that fly between them, they have never passed a civil moment together. Yet as the stakes get higher, so does Gabriel’s desire for payment. And with each overpowering kiss, each passionate embrace, Alathea knows that she will not be able to resist his ultimate seduction…but what will happen when she reveals the truth

Time to dive back into the realm of the Ton and the Bar Cynster. Gabriel is next in line who is running from destiny, he is determined (like those before him) not to marry. Of course he happens to be in town for the season and even though he chooses the events he goes to carefully he can not escape what happens next. A mysterious Countess approaches him and is in deep need of help, like any good Cynster male he can not say no to a woman in distress and so he accepts her deal of helping her and not knowing who she is. Will it stay that way however?

Well it is a Cynster book so of course he ends up finding out who the Countess is and it happens to be a woman he has known for his whole life his friend Thea. I really did enjoy this book a fair amount. While there were a couple of times I wanted to smack Thea and tell her just to admit how she felt, or admit to Gabriel who she was it was just because I wanted to see him turn on his full Cynster stubbornness. If your a historical Romance reader and a Stephanie Lauren’s reader there really are no surprises in the turns that take place, however that does not take away from the story. The characters are enjoyable the plot is good and over all it is a fun historical romance read, dive on in and give it a chance.

My Gemstone Rating:


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Book Review: Written on Silk by Linda Lee Chaikin

A royal wedding masks the unfolding of Catherine de Medici’s murderous plot against the Huguenots. Will any of the Huguenot princes survive? Life and death rest with two people …Rachelle Dushane-Macquinet, couturiere from a celebrated silk-making family, has come back to the Louvre Palais to create the royal wedding gown. Recruited into the evil Queen Mother’s ring of women spies, she must use her wits to preserve her honor—and the lives of her fellow Huguenots.Marquis Fabien de Vendome has also returned from a buccaneering venture against Spain. The Queen Mother plans to implicate him in an assassination. But Fabien has designs of his own.A man and a woman caught up in history’s deadly swirl and love’s uncertainties seek to escape the venom of Madame le Serpent. Faith in Christ must uphold them, and all who stand alone, in a city gone diabolically mad.

Written on Silk for me turned out to be not as good as Daughter of Silk. I will probably eventually read the third in the series to have read it, but overall the book was a bit dragging to me. There were parts of it that stood out like the poor massacre of the Huguenots but over all it just seemed to be sluggish and drag. There were a lot of mentions of scripture of course, but this was to be expected given the subject material however I felt it might have been a little bit over done and rather than add to the story it started to sound a bit like you were being preached at.

It is not a bad book just slow moving and I would have liked to see a bit more historical information put into than what was.

My Gemstone Rating:


Book Review: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities.

But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

The Birth of Venus is a tour de force, the first historical novel from one of Britain’s most innovative writers of literary suspense. It brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion, and power through the passionate voice of Alessandra, a heroine with the same vibrancy of spirit as her beloved city.

I really tried to like this book, I wanted to like this book as it has been on my to read pile for a long time but it was one I thought sounded really good. Sadly I just could not get into this one and while I read the whole thing it really was not one I probably should have finished.

The core things that I look for in a good historical fiction were there. The history was solid and I liked the time period as well as the location. You can not get much better then a story in Florence during the Renaissance after all. I love hearing about all the art of the time, after all some of the finest art came out of that time. However there was just something about this one that I could not get myself to like. I suspect it was the general writing style as it just did not connect well with me. There is also the fact that after the initial introduction (which I enjoyed) most of the book becomes rather predictable.

While I can look past mistakes in form and technical aspect of things if the story grips me because this one didn’t I tended to find the mistakes in this one easier and it bothered me. I know others have enjoyed the book and I would love for them to perhaps tell me the key to what I am missing here although perhaps I am not missing anything at all, I just did not care for it much. If you like predictable plot, and a lot of art talk this may be a read for you, otherwise I wouldn’t read it.

My Gemstone Rating:


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