Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Marlene by C. W. GortnerMarlene by C. W. Gortner

It’s no secret that I am a fan of C. W. Gortner, so when I saw the change to grab a ebook for review of his latest historical fiction, I jumped. This time Gortner’s focus is on the very famous Marlene Dietrich ( December 27, 1901-May 6, 1992). 

Marlene Dietrich was born and raised in Germany.  She studied violin under pressure from her mother but really wanted to be an actress.  After being told at the music conservatory by the same music teacher she had an affair with, that she wasn’t good enough to play professionally, she gave up lessons.  However, for a short while she does play for a burlesque company, until she was fired.  She played fine but she was the only woman in the orchestra and her colleagues complained that her legs were driving them crazy.

Soon she moves in with a new lover, this time, a female.  With the encouragement of her Uncle’s mistress and her new lover, she starts taking acting lesions.  She also gets dancing parts in cabarets.  She soon starts getting bit acting parts in plays too.  Then she meets her future husband, Rudi, who works in the film industry and gets her a screen test.  Eventually she gets her first movie part.  Her and Rudi also have a daughter together but soon Marlene is invited to Hollywood and signs a contract.  This is just as things are heating up in Germany and the stage is being set for World War II.  She is glad to get out of there!

Soon she also gets her husband, their daughter, and Rudi’s mistress out of Germany and moves them to France and then once that is no longer safe, to the U.S.

In the mean time, her movie career is taking off and she has supporting and lead roles with famous actors.  She has affairs with some of the leading men, including Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant.  At the same time, Hitler is working hard to lure her back to Germany and even threatens her remaining family living in Germany.  What does she do? She joins the U.S.O and performs for U.S. soldiers, of course! She later meets General George Patton and has a brief affair with him but really she wants him to get her into Germany at the war’s end, so she can check on her family. She is devastated when she sees the state of the country she grew up in.

This book is told in chronological order.  At times, I wanted her teenage and young adult years to move at a faster pace but once her career started, the book really picked up.  I am not one to judge people by who they sleep with, I judge them on their accomplishments and Marlene Dietrich accomplishes a lot.  She not only builds a career for herself but she braves war zones to comfort solders fighting for her new country.  She is am inspiration!

I highly recommend ‘Marlene’ to historical fiction fans.  Although this is a fictionalized account, if is well researched and I recommend it to those who enjoy biographies of famous people as well.


I received the ebook version for my honest review.

About C. W. GortnerMarlene by C. W. Gortner

C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwittterGoodreadsPinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.

Madamosielle ChanelDescription of Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner:

For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes a vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel—the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and become one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.

An enthralling novel of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.

My thoughts on Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner:

Before reading this book, I knew of Coco Chanel and her perfume and women’s suits but I really didn’t know anything about her as a person.  Thanks to C.W. Gortner I now know about her rich history and life.

Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings were born into poverty.  When her mother died, she and her sisters were sent to one orphanage and her brothers to another.  At the orphanage the nun’s soon recognized her talent for sewing and challenged her with exceedingly with more difficult patterns.  She was able to sew all of them.

When she turned 18 the nuns got her a job but she soon became bored working for someone else.  She broke out on her own trying to get a job in Paris with the end goal of opening her own shop.  However, it was harder than she thought and she temporarily became a torch singer with the help of a friend, just to meet her most basic expenses.  It is then, she met her first lover of many.

Eventually Coco realized her dream of opening up her first shop and eventually many more.  She eventually propelled herself into the spotlight and becomes the household name she is still to this day.

I loved getting to know Coco.  Back in the day when women were suppose to “know their place”, she rejected living that lifestyle.  Despite her many affairs, she was a role model for women of her time.  She was willing to put in all the hard work necessary to realize her vision!

Written in hypnotic pose, C.W. Gortner has painted a vivid picture of Coco Chanel’s life and Whalebone corsettimes.  He captures the scenery in all the places in France that she lived beautifully.  Her sumptuous fashion is brought to life, so much so that I could see it displayed in front of me.  Women, we have Coco Chanel to thank for getting rid of all those uncomfortable whalebone corsets.

Though this book is historical fiction, it is clear to me that C.W. Gortner spent a long time researching for it. He also explains much of what was fact and fiction in an author’s note, at the end.   Mademoiselle is an un-put-down-able read from start to finish and kept me up into the wee hours of the morning.  It is a must read for historical fiction lovers or those interested in learning more about this extraordinary woman!

Thanks to C.W. Gortner for bringing another strong historical woman to life!  I also highly recommend is book, ‘The Last Queen’, about Juana of Castile.


I was invited by Katherine Turro of William Morrow , to download the ebook version from Edelweiss for my honest review.  Thanks so much to Katherine and William Morrow, you are always putting out wonderful historical fiction and literary fiction!

CWG_red_background_300_dpiAbout C.W. Gortner:

C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from the New College of California. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has experienced life in a Spanish castle and danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.  His novels have been translated in 20 countries to date.

 Pub Date: June 12, 2012 | Ballantine Books | 400p

 It is mid-15th century Spain and with her father, the King, dead Isabella and her brother Alfonso go into exile with their mother.  Their half-brother, Enrique becomes King.  When Isabella and Alfonso become  pre-teens, Enrique sends for them to join him in life at court. 

There, they meet a second cousin of theirs, Fernando of Aragon, who is there visiting.  He walks in the garden with Isabella with loose supervision and announces to her that they will eventually marry.  She’s not sure about that but she does like him and enjoys his company.  However, he goes back to Aragon and she doesn’t think a lot on it. 

She has too many things to worry about at court.   The two young siblings soon learn how ineffectual a ruler Enrique is and Alfonso is taken by Archbishop Carrillo of Toledo and other to strike up resistance to King Enrique with the goal of crowning Alfonso.  Isabella is accused of treason and is held prisoner. 

For awhile, it looks like Alfonso will succeed in his mission but he eventually dies and Isabella takes his place.  She marries Fernando, even though Enrique forbids it.  However Isabella does make peace with her half-brother and he vows that she will rule when he dies.  He leads a very unhealthy lifestyle and soon dies.

Enrique has a daughter who in all likelihood isn’t really his but she also strikes up a fight for the crown.  However, her attempts fail and Isabella becomes Queen.  Though she is Queen she shares her power with Fernando, though she ultimately has to make most decisions on her own.  With hardly any money in the treasury and unrest all over Spain and Europe, will Isabella be able to start the healing process for her realm? 

C.W. Gortner creates a brave Isabella who, like most people is also conflicted.  With all male advisors and a sign of the times she often gives into what she thinks must be done, even though it conflicts her ethics.  It is a time where many countries all around are trying and killing people for heresy and eventual Isabella agrees to it for Spain, which we know as the Spanish Inquisition. 

Gortner paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be there in mid 1400’s Spain.  With the stroke of his pen his characters come to life and leap off the page.  This is the third book I have read by C.W. Gortner.  If it wasn’t official before, it is now, I am a fan!  I didn’t think he could top The Last Queen or The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, but I think he has with A Queen’s Vow.  I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with next.


I was given this book for my honest review.

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About C.W. Gortner:

C.W. Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Tudor Secret. He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.


Thanks to Amy Bruno of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and C.W. Gortner, I am giving away one copy of The Queen’s Vow.

This giveaway is open to Canada and the U.S. and ends on July 2, 2012.  Please use Rafflecopter to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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