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review 2017-02-05 01:16
Greatly recommended!!! I loved this!
Marlene: A Novel - C.W. Gortner

The first moment I got this book in the mail (Thank you, William Morrow Paperbacks!) I got excited and at the same time had to settle down (I was sick with an awful flu that knocked me down and got the entire household sick). It could not have come at a better time. I say that not only in the sense that I needed a book to get me out of a reading rut and also to distract me from this flu, but considering what’s going on in the world now, it’s perfect timing. I loved this book. Everything about it was all that I had imagined Marlene Dietrich would be. The book captured who she was; strong willed, free spirited, glamourous yet determined to make her name out there known in the world. What I loved best was how her attitude during this particular time period. She participated in just about every deadly sin listed but did it with grace and poise. I loved how this book captured that essence and that was what made her shine even through the War. I absolutely loved her bravery and willingness to stand up against the Nazis even though she loved her country dearly and it tore her apart to see it ruined by the end of WWII. The writing in the book is well done. It was enough to engage the reader and to keep the pages turning. Now, I do notice in some other reviews I’ve read, some readers didn’t like the fact that the book stops at a certain time period (after WWII). Fair enough, perhaps they wanted more out of Marlene. I was satisfied with it, because if you really think about it, the absolute highlight and prime moments of her life was during this time period. This book was meant to capture those particular occasions. So try not to feel jilted or robbed! It’s still a great read and it goes by rather quick! I’d have to say one of my absolute favorite parts in the book was her experiences in Weimar Berlin. It was beautifully written and you could just feel the cigarette smoke, the music, and you can almost picture the decadence that permeated throughout the cabarets. It was perfect!. Another part that I loved, and that I had waited throughout the book to read and was getting worried that it wasn’t going to be mentioned, was Lili Marleen. Such an iconic song it had to be in the book! And it was. It tugged at my heart and I welled up with emotion reading that particular passage. Beautifully written and an excellent novel I greatly recommend this book to historical fiction lovers or lovers of Marlene Dietrich. Her actions during the WWII is crucial and something to emulate. Especially for what we are going through right now in the world.


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review 2016-05-15 04:41
Meticulous, beautiful work of historical fiction
Marlene: A Novel - C.W. Gortner

I have been a fan of C.W. Gortner's meticulous historical fiction since reading "The Queen's Vow" a few years ago. With this book, Gortner has left the world of the Spanish royal family and entered war-torn Germany for a look at one of Hollywood's most glamorous leading ladies.


We start with a very young Marlene Dietrich, attending private school and taking violin lessons ... and discovering her sexual orientation is not quite what she expected it to be. Throughout the book, Dietrich's relationships with men and women alike are examined through thoughtful eyes.


As Marlene gets a little older, we see her becoming a film star at a very young age ... and finding the challenges of working in both Germany and Hollywood. Dietrich's well-known anti-Nazi sentiment is shown in depth, with a clear understanding of how she came to dislike the country where she grew up as it changed radically under Hitler's regime.


Gortner never fails to do his homework, which results in pages full of rich historical detail and well-developed characters. In this book, every person mentioned actually existed; the details were gleaned from correspondence, biographies, and more.


Gortner really hits it out of the park with this one.

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review 2016-04-11 14:37
The Last Queen: A Novel - C.W. Gortner

I've been a fan of C.W. Gortner's work for a few years now. His research is always impeccable, and his prose is rich.

This book is no exception.

"The Last Queen" is the story of "Juana the Mad," the last queen of Castile. Her parents, Ferdinand and Isabella, are getting older and they arrange a marriage for Juana with Philip of Flanders ... who is handsome and profligate. The marriage is tempestuous, to say the least.

Juana's story is a sad one, as it seems apparent that her "madness" may have been largely created in order to discredit her, although she does exhibit some behaviors that would indicate bipolar disorder.

Gortner's story is sympathetic, but also a challenge as we read about the difficulties encountered by even the highest-ranking women during Juan's time.

Highly detailed, beautifully researched ... but not a "fun" read.

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review 2016-02-09 17:18
The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner
The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia - C.W. Gortner

Many of you may have watched the show The Borgias on TV (I forget what channel). This is not that show. While it may share some characters and events, the way their are treated is very different. Which one is more accurate? I have no idea. I don't think anyone really does. Everything the Borgias did was steeped in secrecy, which leaves much to the imagination. Perhaps this is why the world seems to be fascinated with them.

I really enjoyed C.W. Gortner's take on the life of Lucrezia Borgia. We really get to focus on how events shaped and changed her life. And those events were ones that helped make history. While we may never know the reality of what she thought and felt through these years, C.W. Gortner does an amazing job bringing her to life. Lucrezia came back to life in her pages.

The corruption, not only in the Vatican, but in all of the religious and political spheres was astounding. Everything was done for a reason, and many of the people in high positions seem to have bought there way into them with favors or money. I'm amazed that the people seemed to be as OK with it as they were portrayed to be. It seemed to be common knowledge, but everyone looked the other way.

There are some potential trigger moments in the story - but nothing is described in an overly graphic way. I found the portrayal of her family and the intrigues that she was made a pawn of to be cruel - and her ability to rise against them and try to find happiness was incredible.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Source: www.hotofftheshelves.com/2016/02/the-vatican-princess-by-cw-gortner.html
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review 2016-01-26 14:08
Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel - C. W. Gortner
As both a Francophile and a fan of C.W. Gortner, I was very excited to read this book. It definitely did not disappoint.

Gortner draws upon numerous primary sources (the book contains an extensive bibliography) to bring us into the world of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, who was born into an impoverished family and grew to fame for her easy-to-wear, practical designs that freed women of their corsets and allowed them to move in their clothes.

Gortner shows us the flawed, insecure woman behind what we now think of as classic fashions ... which were, at the time, revolutionary. We see a woman who takes lovers rather than marry, who is constantly in fear of what others might think of her ... and who is not always very nice.

We also see the politics of her time, which encompasses two world wars, a stock market crash, and more.

Highly readable and entertaining; I was reluctant to put the book down.
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