Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.

This is Manhattan, 1899. Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone--from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud--threatens Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future.

With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city's gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan's most celebrated daughter disappear...

In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.


The Luxe takes place in Manhattan, New York during the year 1899. If Gossip Girl were to take place in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s then this is what it would look like.

Elizabeth and Diana Holland are sisters who spend their time in Manhattan’s elite social circles, attending glamorous parties dressed to the nines, and crushing on handsome guys.
Elizabeth is considered the mature and responsible one. She usually does what she is told.
Diana is more adventures. She longs to be a free spirit and not trapped by society’s rules and restrictions for women.

 This rich and exciting life they lead is all they have ever known and when they find out that their life isn't as secure as they once thought, a sacrifice has to be made.  A sacrifice by way of an engagement between Elizabeth and Henry Schoonmaker; son of one of the richest families in New York. This further complicates things because Elizabeth is already in love with someone else.

Enter Penelope Hayes, who is supposed to be Elizabeth’s friend, but is more like a friend you would never want to trust with anything. Penelope is in love with Henry. So while Elizabeth opens up to her friend, Penelope is trying to plot against Elizabeth in order to get what she wants and what she thinks she deserves.

“Don't go looking for boys in the dark.
They will say pretty things then
leave you with scars.
Do go looking for boys in the park.
For that is where the true gentlemen are.”

-Anna Godbersen, The Luxe (Luxe, #1)

Secrets, deception, jealousy, and romance all mix together in this teen/young adult historical fiction novel. The Luxe is a must read for anyone who enjoys a good historical fiction read and is a fan of the Gossip Girl series. There were some parts in the book that were obvious and I felt anyone could guess, but other than that I enjoyed reading it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

You can buy The Luxe here: 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Keowee Valley by Katherine Scott Crawford

Keowee Valley is an absorbing historical fiction read set in the year of 1768 involving Quincy MacFadden, who finds out that her cousin is being held captive by Shawnee Indians. She bravely decides to do something not many women of that time would even consider doing…leaving behind her home in Charlestown and searching for cousin in hopes of finding him alive.

“I was an unlikely adventurer, at least by all appearances. I knew what the people of Charlestown saw when they looked at me: a wealthy woman clad in the new fashions, small of stature but possessed of an unruly mane of yellow hair that made me seem taller—a bluestocking with a well-worn volume forever in hand, one who looked out at the world from a pair of disconcertingly direct blue eyes. The ladies, especially, would whisper “orphan,” and allow that the early demise of my parents could be reason enough for a man such as my grandfather to keep me a spinster at age twenty-five. The gentlemen viewed my person with vague calculation, surely wondering just how much—as the sole granddaughter of Campbell MacFadden, Esquire, and heir by marriage to a profitable rice plantation—I was worth. And so when the trapper arrived in the hour before dawn, smelling of wood smoke and the sweat of a hard ride, I was ready: ready to abandon Charlestown and my life there, to shutter permanently those judging, prying eyes.”
-Katherine Scott Crawford, Keowee Valley

Quincy is independent, a free spirit, and a dreamer. Literally. She has been haunted with visions that she believes are actually omens. Because of this she feels as if she does not fit in anywhere. She longs for a different and better life for herself. When she hears news about her cousin, Owen being captured she realizes that this is the opportunity she has been hoping for. A chance to go someplace different and start anew; and that while she is on her journey for a different life, she will also find Owen.

She ends up in the gorgeous surroundings of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she begins a settlement while she awaits the arrival of Jackson Wolfe a handsome half Cherokee/half Irish man whom she is told can help her find and negotiate Owen’s freedom.

When Quincy and Jack meet there is a connection between them and soon a romance begins to spark. The passion that they share is undeniable…and not to mention steamy.

Jackson is not only good looking, but also a strong, kind man who knows is way around the Appalachian Mountains and is an excellent Cherokee tracker. Because Jack was a translator for the British army, he is stuck in middle and has a tough choice to make on whether to commit treason and flee or begrudgingly obey a King he hates.

My favorite thing about this story is that it’s full of vivid descriptions about the world during the Revolutionary war era that Quincy is in. Its gives the reader a better picture about how things are and adds to the story. I could almost see Quincy’s world unfolding as I read. Keowee Valley is ideal for readers who enjoy history, adventure, and romance. It was a satisfying read, but the ending still left some questions unanswered, so I am hoping for a possible sequel to tie things together.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

** I received this ARC from Bell Bridge Books in exchange for nothing, but my honest review. Thank you.** 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

From Goodreads
Susan Elia MacNeal introduced the remarkable Maggie Hope in her acclaimed debut, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Now Maggie returns to protect Britain’s beloved royals against an international plot—one that could change the course of history. 
As World War II sweeps the continent and England steels itself against German attack, Maggie Hope, former secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, completes her training to become a spy for MI-5. Spirited, strong-willed, and possessing one of the sharpest minds in government for mathematics and code-breaking, she fully expects to be sent abroad to gather intelligence for the British front. Instead, to her great disappointment, she is dispatched to go undercover at Windsor Castle, where she will tutor the young Princess Elizabeth in math. Yet castle life quickly proves more dangerous—and deadly—than Maggie ever expected. The upstairs-downstairs world at Windsor is thrown into disarray by a shocking murder, which draws Maggie into a vast conspiracy that places the entire royal family in peril. And as she races to save England from a most disturbing fate, Maggie realizes that a quick wit is her best defense, and that the smallest clues can unravel the biggest secrets, even within her own family.


Princess Elizabeth’s Spy takes place during WWII with Maggie Hope not passing her undercover agent training for MI-5 and getting reassigned. She is then sent to Windsor Castle under the premise of tutoring the young Princess Elizabeth in math. Protecting the Princess and helping to stop the Nazi’s in their attempt to take over England becomes the real agenda for Maggie. As she tutors the young Princess, she has to deal with family issues arising, and not to mention a murder, spies, and a kidnapping plot. Maggie tries to juggle everything to the best of her abilities, but finds it challenging at times to separate her spy life from her personal one while trying to expose dangers to the Royal Family.

I have not read the previous book, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal, but that did not hamper my enjoyment of this book at all. And Maggie is a smart and brave character with a great personality that I liked from the get go. Princess Elizabeth’s Spy is a fun standalone novel that is easy to read and get into. Especially for those who enjoy WWII storylines or British Historical Fiction. 

Everything was described in such great detail that I felt like I was in England during that time period. There was a lot of action during the course of the story, which kept the excitement level high and me constantly turning the page to discover what was going to happen next. Nothing in the book was predictable for me which is good since it’s a mystery novel. The ending has me already excited for the next book in the series.

Rating: 3½ out of 5

** I received this ARC from Random House Publishing / Bantam Dell in exchange for nothing, but my honest review. Thank you.** 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Wier

“We had none of us girls been born to inherit a crown, and yet it has overshadowed us all our lives— and blighted them. I thought once that it would be a wonderful thing to be a queen, to wield power and wear the coveted diadem— but I know differently now. Tangling with princes rarely brought anyone anything but ill-fortune and grief.” – Alison Weir, A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower

A Dangerous Inheritance is a fascinating story told from the alternating points of view of Katherine Grey and Kate Plantagenet. With a time difference of less than 100 years between them; Katherine in the year 1553 and Kate in 1483, these two young royals lives become connected when they try to investigate the mystery of the two miss Princes in the Tower; bothers Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York.

The novel starts with Katherine Grey just receiving word that her sister Lady Jane Grey, a Queen for only nine days had just been executed. 
In 1553, Katherine at age 12 and Jane, age 16 were married in a double ceremony. Katherine married Henry Herbert and Jane married Guildford Dudley; men that their parents Lady Frances Brandon and Henry Grey chose hoping that the marriages would prove to be advantageous for the whole family. It was not. A plot developed for Jane to take over the throne and become Queen, and she was…for nine short days until Mary takes over the throne and Jane was imprisoned. Both Katherine and Jane become unwilling pawns caught up in the schemes of their parents who were vying for power and the throne.  Their lives were not their own, decisions were made for them, yet they were the ones who paid a high price for those decisions.

As for Kate Plantagenet, she is the illegitimate daughter of King Richard III. Kate begins to hear rumors swirling around about her father being involved in the disappearance of the two Princes in the Tower. She has great faith in her father and believes he had nothing to do with their disappearances.  She despises hearing these negative this against King Richard III and because of this she sets out trying to uncover what really happened.  

This is the first novel I have read from Alison Weir, and I hope it will not be my last. The novel was well written and pretty easy to follow along with everything.  The characters and their story are intriguing and a bit sad at the same time, especially since they were real people. The mystery with the princes adds a nice layer of suspense and I found myself not wanting to stop until I found out what happened. Having said that though, I think the novel would have been just as good without the mystery of the two princes.  But it was an interesting and I think effective way to intertwine these two young women from different time periods.  It was a long read, but an entertaining and enjoyable one nevertheless.

Rating: 3½ out of 5

** I received this ARC from Random House/Ballantine Books via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.** 

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris

From Goodreads: On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze. 

Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic 

Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?


Cat Crawford is a teen girl on the verge of her 16th birthday. She is shy and a bit of loner, part of which comes from being hurt and not wanting people to get close to her. She is a big art enthusiast, and has been dreaming of going to Italy and exploring her Italian heritage for quite some time. While on a tour through the city she stumbles upon a gypsy and thus begins the start of her time traveling adventure.
When she discovers that she must have gone back in time, she wasn’t as freaked out as I thought she would be. Especially for a 15 year old, she took the situation rather well…almost too well. Though she does panic a bit at first, she warms to the idea and decides to use this trip as a way to discover more about her family. Her family consisting of her uncle Marco, aunt Francesca, and cousins Alessandra and Cipriano.
While staying her with her 16th century family she meets Lorenzo, the best friend of Cipriano. Lorenzo is quite taken with Cat, but she dismisses him as being a total player and wants nothing to do with him.  Eventually her feelings change and she starts to like him.  The more she stays there and interacts with everyone the more she starts to look at things differently.

"Letting anyone besides Dad get close to me was never a part of my life plan. I’ve seen what it does, the pain it can cause. But now it’s happening anyway, and not just with Lorenzo. Alessandra, Cipriano, my aunt and uncle… Loving each of them is like an earthquake— I can feel it; I know the destruction it’ll leave behind and have witnessed previous aftermaths, but I’m powerless to stop it. And the worst part is, I don’t really want to."
-Rachel Harris, My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century
(That is one of my favorite quotes in the book).

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century (MSSSC for short) is a fun and light-hearted read, that I am happy to have discovered. It has some fluffiness, but not too much so that it’s over the top, which is good.  Normally I don’t like the whole time traveling concept in books, but for this story I didn’t mind it.  Even though this book is on the younger side of the YA book spectrum than what I would normally go for, I was still able to get into it and enjoy the story.  One thing that I liked was Rachel Harris’s way of describing Italy and the various surroundings. It was so nicely detailed that I almost felt like I was there too. My only big complaint is that there is a cliffhanger at the end. That I was not expecting at all. Now I will be on pins and needles wondering when the second book will be released and what will happen next.  I liked this book enough that even though I got it as an ARC, I ended up buying a copy anyway.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hello Again!

Hello :)

I decided to create this Once Upon a Historical Time blog because I wanted one spot that would focus on just historical fiction. No matter what kind. I am still keeping up my other blog, The Life & Times of a Book Addict and you can even check out that blog by clicking on the Life & Times Book Reviews tab at the top. If you love Historical Fiction, I hope you enjoy this blog and decide to follow along. Happy Reading :)