Review: Very Like A Queen by Martin Lake

Very much a queenAlice Petherton is well practiced at using her beauty and wits to survive in the Court of King Henry VIII. As the King’s favorite, she enjoys his protection, but after seeing the downfall of three of his wives, she’s determined to avoid the same fate. Alice must walk a fine line between mistress and wife.

She finds a powerful protector in Thomas Cromwell, and Alice has every reason to believe that she will continue to enjoy a life of wealth and comfort at Court…until she puts everything at risk by falling in love with a Frenchman, Nicholas Bourbon.

When Cromwell is executed, Alice loses her only ally and flees to France. There she hopes to live in peace with Nicholas. But Alice is lured into a perilous game of treason, and peace doesn’t last long. Will Alice get back the life and love she’s fought for? Or will she lose herself to the whims of a capricious monarch?

My review:

First, I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing a copy of this book. What first captured my attention was the title. I thought, how unusual and I liked it. Though with my busy schedule I read this novel in four days. I did NOT want to put it down. This is the first book I have read of Martin Lake and I am now a fan!

I love his portrayal of Cromwell! I actually like the man in this story. If you know the history, you know his demise and how Martin portrayed that was very powerful and believable. So many great men lost under Henry’s rule.

As I was reading the story I couldn’t help keep thinking that I am so glad I wasn’t alive or one of the members during King Henry VIII court. Yikes! The man’s moods were so up and down and vicious! As his health and eating habits became worse, the more suspicious and paranoid he became. What a miserable existence. One never knows what he will do to you if you made him mad!

I love Alice, though I would have liked to shake her sometimes! She couldn’t help but get herself in sticky situations! But she is a true testament of a survivor and wins the heart of many. I would like to read more about her.

There were several notable characters and locations in the story I enjoyed reading about. Nonsuch Palace, Dover Castle and the French Castles comes to mind and then there was Ralph Sadler, Suffolk. Cranmer, Norfolk-archival to Thomas Cromwell, Master Hans Holbein, Marillac, Katheryn Howard- to name a few…Brilliant character development there.

There is so much to this novel. I am adding this among my favorite Tudor stories. Truly a gem and so well written. I will be on the lookout for more books by Martin Lake!

I rated this book four stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Titles I have Recently Added To My Reading List

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree:

Queen of sorrow

Elizabeth Woodville was the wife of King Edward IV and the mother of the Princes in the Tower. As an impoverished widow she was wooed and won by the handsome young king and believed her dreams had come true. But she was soon swept up in the War of the Roses, enduring hardship and danger as her husband struggled to keep his throne. When he died Elizabeth was unable to protect her family against the ruthless ambitions of the man he trusted above all others. It was the king’s brothers, the unstable Duke of Clarence and the loyal Duke of Gloucester, who would prove to be Elizabeth’s most dangerous enemies.

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree:


Noah’s Wife transports readers to an ancient time and place, while exploring timeless issues—family relationships, autism, religious freedom, and cultural change. Told from the unique perspective of a young girl with a form of autism known now as Asperger’s, this is the award-winning story of Noah’s wife, Na’amah.

“A novel inspired by the biblical story of Noah’s flood, Thorne’s version weaves myth, history, and archeological findings with her vivid imagination, wisdom, and humor into an epic tale you will not forget.”

Na’amah wishes only to be a shepherdess on her beloved hills in ancient Turkey—a desire shattered by the hatred of her powerful brother and the love of two men. Her savant abilities and penchant to speak truth force her to walk a dangerous path in an age of change—a time of challenge to the goddess’ ancient ways, when cultures clash and the earth itself is unstable. When foreign raiders kidnap her, Na’amah’s journey to escape and return home becomes an attempt to save her people from the

Behold the Dawn BRAG

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree:

Marcus Annan, a knight famed for his prowess in the deadly tourney competitions, thought he could keep the bloody secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him wreak vengeance on a corrupt bishop, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade in the Holy Land.

Wounded in battle and hunted on every side, he agrees to marry—in name only—the traumatized widow of an old friend, in order to protect her from the obsessive pursuit of a mutual enemy. Together, they escape an infidel prison camp and flee the Holy Land. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past—or his growing feelings for the Lady Mairead. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

Galley Reads From NetGalley

As a Book Blogger and a Book Reviewer, I get to pick some fabulous galleys to read and review. Here are the latest from NetGalley. 

Flight of Dreams

With everyone on-board harboring dark secrets and at least one person determined to make sure the airship doesn’t make the return trip, Flight of Dreams gives an utterly suspenseful, heart-wrenching explanation for one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century.

On the evening of May 3, 1937, Emilie Imhof boards the Hindenburg. As the only female crew member, Emilie has access to the entire airship, from the lavish dining rooms and passenger suites to the gritty engine cars and control room. She hears everything, but with rumors circulating about bomb threats, Emilie’s focus is on maintaining a professional air . . . and keeping her own plans under wraps.

What Emilie can’t see is that everyone—from the dynamic vaudeville acrobat to the high-standing German officer—seems to be hiding something.

Giving free rein to countless theories of sabotage, charade, and mishap, Flight of Dreams takes us on the thrilling three-day transatlantic flight through the alternating perspectives of Emilie; Max, the ship’s navigator who is sweet on her; Gertrud, a bold female journalist who’s been blacklisted in her native Germany; Werner, a thirteen-year-old cabin boy with a bad habit of sneaking up on people; and a brash American who’s never without a drink in his hand. Everyone knows more than they initially let on, and as the novel moves inexorably toward its tragic climax, the question of which of the passengers will survive the trip infuses every scene with a deliciously unbearable tension.

With enthralling atmospheric details that immediately transport and spellbinding plotting that would make Agatha Christie proud, Flight of Dreams will keep you guessing till the last page. And, as The New York Times Book Review said of her last novel, “This book is more meticulously choreographed than a chorus line. It all pays off.”

Where the river parts

Blood had begun to trickle down Asha’s starched cotton salwar, and once more she tried to will herself to stay calm. It was nothing. These things happened. ‘

But these things haven’t happened before. It’s August 1947, the night before India’s independence. It is also the night before Pakistan’s creation and the brutal Partition of the two countries.

Asha, a Hindu in a newly Muslim land, must flee to safety. She carries with her a secret she has kept even from Firoze, her Muslim lover, but Firoze must remain in Pakistan, and increasing tensions between the two countries mean the couple can never reunite.

Fifty years later in New York, Asha’s Indian granddaughter falls in love with a Pakistani, and Asha and Firoze, meeting again at last, are faced with one more – final – choice.

Spanning continents and generations, Where the River Parts is an epic tale of love, loss and longing.

The Summer before the war

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

Looking forward to reading these! 

Cover Crush: In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation by Jennifer Ellis

A good friend and fellow book blogger of mine started a post series called, Cover Crush and a couple of other book bloggers and I love the idea so much we had to join in! Here is two others by A Bookaholic Swede and 2 Kids and Tired Books

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover design plays an important role in the overall presentation of the book and gladly admit I judge a book by it’s cover. When I saw this one on NetGalley, it set the mood for me wanting to find out more about the story. I have since then read the book and have a lot to say about it. My review will be coming soon here on Layered Pages!

A little teaser of my thoughts on the subject: This book cover is perfect for the story and the premise makes for a thrilling read by the fire side.

What book cover have you been crushing over lately?

In the shadows

In a world torn apart by economic collapse, Natalie and her husband Richard establish an island of relative safety on a communal farm. Death—by starvation, raiders, and sickness—stalks them daily, and their survival hinges on working together for the common good. But in a lawless land with no shortage of suffering, good is a malleable concept.

As the constant grind of survival and the frictions of farm politics expose the rifts in Natalie and Richard’s marriage, Natalie finds herself seeking refuge in the company of Richard’s twin, Daniel, a solitary man with little interest in politics.

In the face of ongoing external threats and simmering internal divisions, Natalie, Richard, and Daniel must each map the boundaries of their own loyalties and morality. In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation is a story of adventure, politics, and love in a brave new world where the rules have both changed, and stayed the same.

Lessons In Loving by Peter McAra

Lessons in learning

Wanted: Governess. Properly qualified in English, to instruct male pupil in rural location.

Sydney, 1902. Desperate for a job, Kate Courtney travels to the faraway New England Ranges to interview for a governess position. She is greeted by wealthy landowner, ruggedly handsome Tom Fortescue, and is shocked to find that her new charge isn’t a small boy—but the grown man.

It was Tom’s mother’s dying wish that he finds a refined, elegant, English bride to marry. But a country man with country manners can never win a lady fair. Tom needs Kate to smooth away his rough edges, make him desirable to the English rose he wants to marry.

But the more time Kate and Tom spend together, the closer they become, and Tom has to decide between the dreams of his childhood, and the reality that is right in front of him.

My thoughts:

I am not a fan of Historical Romance and I rarely pick them up to read. Unless it has something more to offer than just sex scene fillers (as I call them), I am just not interested. I am delighted I decided to pick up, Lessons in Loving. What first captured my attention was the cover, a male writer and this, “…is shocked to find that her new charge isn’t a small boy—but the grown man.” I haven’t read that sort of plot twist before! I thought, “Oh, this is going to be good.”

When I began to read the story, I started to have a little doubt. I felt the beginning was not strong enough but as I read on, the story-line became stronger and I was pleased with the character development and dialogue. I am delighted to report that this story does not have sex scene fillers and I devoured this book quickly.

I did however want to knock the handsome Tom Fortescue over the head a few times but hey, his stupid choices at times makes for an entertaining read. I wouldn’t mind reading more about him.

I did like how Kate took charge in the beginning of the story, though I felt she could be a bit too trusting at times but how things turn out might surprise you.

Charming story-a tad bit predictable- but, interesting characters, enjoyed reading the interaction between Kate and Tom, lovely settings and an intriguing plot. I will be looking for more books by this author.

I rated this story: Three Stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins


5 Books I want To Read

Every month I will be selecting five books from my never ending wish-list to share with you. This month I have selected five from my Historical Fiction/Classic re-telling wish-list. Next month will be thrillers. Enjoy!

Villa America

Sara and Gerald Murphy’s good looks, talent for living and perfectly successful marriage breed both devotion and jealousy congest among their friends. But when Owen Chambers, an American aviator, arrives in their lives, the deep emotional fissures in Sara and Gerald’s marriage reveal themselves and their lives change forever.

Villa America is a fictional imagining of the real lives of Americans Sara and Gerald Murphy who, in the heady years of 1920s France, presided over a group of expatriate writers, painters, singers and dancers–including Pablo Picasso and Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This dazzling cast of characters gathered together in the Murphy home in Cap d’Antibe, as both Sara and Gerald cast their elusive magic over all of them.

Spanning 1890s New York, the battlefields of WWI, the birth of aviation, the artistic explosion of 1920s France, the Depression and the rise of fascism, Villa America charts the beautiful and tragic course of three intertwined lives to create a vivid portrait of a gilded age that couldn’t last.

 Americas first daughter

In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France. And it is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that she learns of her father’s liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age.

Patsy too has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé, William Short, a staunch abolitionist intent on a career in Europe. Heartbroken at having to decide between being William’s wife or a devoted daughter, she returns to Virginia with her father and marries a man of his choosing, raising eleven children of her own.

Yet as family secrets come to light during her father’s presidency, Patsy must again decide how much she will sacrifice to protect his reputation, in the process defining not just Jefferson’s political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

The marsh Kings daughter

From the author of ‘The Champion’ and ‘Shields of Pride’, this novel is set in England during the closing days of the reign of King John. Injured fighting King John’s troops, Nicholas de Caen is nursed back to health by Miriel of Wisbech.

The Pursuit of pearls

In the spring of 1939, the drums of war beat throughout Europe, but nowhere more ferociously than in Berlin. The film studio where Clara Vine works is churning out movies, but each day that she stays in Germany is more dangerous than the last. Spying on the private life of the Third Reich, passing secrets to contacts in British intelligence, falling into a passionate affair—any of these risky moves could get Clara shot. So she is wholly shaken when someone close to her is murdered instead. The victim is Lottie Franke, an aspiring costume designer and student at the prestigious Faith and Beauty finishing school that trains young women to become the wives of the Nazi elite. While the press considers Lottie’s death in the Grunewald forest the act of a lone madman, Clara uncovers deeper threads, tangled lines that seem to reach into the darkest depths of the Reich—and to a precious discovery that Hitler and his ruthless cohorts would kill for.

Nelly Dean

A gripping and heartbreaking novel that reimagines life at Wuthering Heights through the eyes of the Earnshaws’ loyal servant, Nelly Dean. Young Nelly Dean has been Hindley’s closest companion for as long as she can remember, living freely at the great house, Wuthering Heights. But when the benevolence of the master brings a wild child into the house, Nelly must follow in her mother’s footsteps, be called servant and give herself to the family completely. But Nelly is not the only one who must serve. When a new heir is born, a reign of violence begins that will test Nelly’s spirit as she finds out what it is to know true sacrifice. Nelly Dean is a wonderment of storytelling, a heartbreaking accompaniment to Emily Bronte’s adored work. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.

Check out my friend’s and fellow bloggers, It’s A MAD MAD WORLD’S Wish List

The Maiden’s Court Wish List

Up next on the 29th, my friend and fellow blogger, A Literary Vacation’s Wish List

Books and More Books

Last Friday evening after a delicious meal at one of my daughter’s favorite restaurants, we decided to make a stop at our local B&N Book Store. While my daughter made her way over to the comic section to check out her beloved Stars Wars Comics, I ventured over to the bargain section. As I browsed the selection-mostly modern day thrillers-these two beauties (below) were in the bunch. With a gleam in my eye and my mind in turmoil if I should dare pick these books up-knowing what could possible happen if I do-I reached for them anyways and as I read the book description inside the book jacket, I knew I was a goner. Yes, I bought them and at a great deal too! Twelve dollars for two hardbacks. Not bad. Well, let me confess something to you. I blew my book budget for the year. You see, I was determined to NOT buy any books this year so I may catch up on all my galley copies on NetGalley. Sigh. I just can’t help myself. Alas, they look so pretty on my book Shelf and I look forward to reading them in the near future. 

Songs Willow Frost

Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.

Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping book will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.

The Darling ladies of Lowell

From the best-selling author of The Dressmaker comes the warm-hearted and enthralling saga of a bold young woman caught between two worlds-the vibrant camaraderie of factory life and the opulence that a budding romance with the mill owner’s son affords-as the murder of her best friend sends shock waves throughout the town.

Determined to forge her own destiny, Alice Barrow joins the legions of spirited young women better known as the Mill Girls. From dawn until dusk, these ladies work the looms, but the thrill of independence, change in their pockets, and friendships formed along the way mostly make the backbreaking labor worthwhile. In fact, Hiram Fiske, the steely-eyed titan of industry, has banked on that. But the working conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous and after one too many accidents, Alice finds herself unexpectedly acting as an emissary to address the factory workers’ mounting list of grievances.

After traveling to the Fiske family’s Beacon Hill mansion, Alice enters a world she’s never even dared to dream about: exquisite silk gowns, sumptuous dinners, grand sitting parlors, and uniformed maids operating with an invisible efficiency. Of course, there’s also a chilliness in the air as Alice presents her case. But with her wide, intelligent eyes and rosy-hued cheeks, Alice manages to capture the attention of Hiram’s eldest son, the handsome and reserved Samuel Fiske.

Their chemistry is undeniable, soon progressing from mutual respect and shy flirtation into an unforgettable romance. But when Alice’s best friend, Lovey, is found strangled in a field, Alice and Samuel are torn between loyalty to “their kind” and a chance for true love.

Book Review: Murder Comes Calling by C.S. Challinor

Murder comes calling

When four murders take place in a secluded English community, Scottish barrister Rex Graves is called on to lend his investigatory expertise. The only link between the victims is that their homes were up for sale. But when the local authorities arrest a shady house agent, letters written in blood on the bodies tip Rex off to a different kind of killer.

Digging into the past, Rex discovers that the victims were not who they appeared to be. For the first time, he’s not up against a lone operator. With his fiancee away on a cruise, Rex must race to solve the murder before she catches him indulging his forbidden crime-solving hobby . . . or before he becomes the latest victim.

My thoughts:

After reading this story, I was really torn with writing this review. While this story has much to recommend it, I wasn’t really thrilled with it. It was an okay read for me.

Rex Graves was about the only commendable character in the story and Malcolm annoyed me to no end. Rex is the perfect sleuth. Though Malcolm annoyed me, I sympathized with his situation. When Rex came on the scene, he pushed Malcolm to-get with it-if you will.

I love a good murder mystery and while the premise was interesting and I did become intrigued how the plot unfolds, I found several of the parts to be uninteresting. I wanted to be drawn in more. I might go back to the story in the future and see if my feelings change.

I rated this book three stars.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopins

Key to Success

I make sure to keep sayings and quotes near me–pretty much all the time. The uplifting and inspirational ones. Positive motivation is key to success in all things we do. Including reading! Success in reading, you ask? Why yes. Lovers of books set reading goals and challenges and if we have a blog, we blog about it and more. We share to the world our love of reading and the impact it has on us and when we meet those challenges, we have accomplished a goal. THAT is a form of success in my opinion.

tea cup with books

Here are just a few quotes that inspire or motivate me.

“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?” -Anthony Trollope

“Never underestimate the power of good Literature” -Unknown

“Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once!” -Stephen King

“Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth by the truth of the tale, of the imagination, and of the heart “-Salman Rushdie

“A Room without books is like a body without a soul.” -Cicero

A quote I wrote…

“Writing is a time honored moment. When the writer breathes life into the characters and gives them a place in the reader’s heart. Characters capture us in their embrace and we take refuge in their lives in a world of uncertainties.” ~Stephanie M. Hopkins

What is your favorite quote or saying?

Book Review: The Temple of Light by Daniela Piazza

The Temple light

It is the early fifteenth century, and the Italian peninsula is ravaged by war. While Milan fights for its political and economic life, Duke Filippo Maria Visconti lies on his deathbed with no heir to succeed him. But the old nobleman has a secret: He has a son.

Visconti hands over the one-year-old child to the archdeacon Onorio, who agrees to keep him safe. Little does young Niccolò know that when he comes of age, he will inherit the great Visconti fortune and become the city’s next duke.

Years later, in the shadows of a new cathedral, the members of a secret brotherhood practice alchemy and plot court intrigues, working to fulfill the ancient prophecy of the goddess Belisama. The brothers, sustained by blind faith, will do whatever it takes to achieve their Grande Opera, but first they need peace in the city, and Niccolò is the only one who can help. But when he starts to witness mysterious rites and killings, Niccolò will be forced to reconsider his destiny.

My thoughts:

The story begins with a brutal rape scene and it turned my stomach. In my opinion this is not a way to start a story. I have to admit; I didn’t think I would finish this book. Though I am used to writers writing violence in stories-when needed-I felt this story focused on too much brutality and took much away from other themes of the story. Though I do realize this story takes place in a period of history ravaged by war. Still, too much brutality for my taste.

I was intrigued with certain aspects of this story. Milan captured my attention and the political and economic life during that time. However, I found it hard to follow due to the fact that some of the names were not known to me. Which I will be researching on my own time. Also, I would like to add that I felt like I was back in history class.

The premise of a Visconti dying and had no known surviving male heirs intrigued me at first but did not hold my attention.

None of the characters appealed to me. I am all about character development AND wanting to find a connection to the characters. That did not happen for me in this story.

I lost interest in this story quickly and as an avid reader of Historical Fiction I found that very disappointing. I do like the book cover and title. That is what first captured my attention and had high hopes going in. I am sad to say I have rated this book two and a half stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins