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Virgin Widow by Anne O’Brien

Posted By Claire on June 24, 2010

Virgin Widow (UK cover)

Virgin Widow (UK cover)

This is not a book that I’d normally pick up, as I tend to stick to historical fiction about the Tudor era, but, boy, am I glad that I got to read this book!

I was hooked from the start and I read all 601 pages in one weekend, completely ignoring my family and the housework. I even told a few white lies, making excuses about why I had disappeared for half an hour at a time – I wasn’t really locked in the bathroom reading!! It’s one of those books which grabs you from the outset and won’t let you put it down until the last page. On the front, it has a quote from The Bookseller: “Better than Philippa Gregory” and that is so true.

The Story

Anne O’Brien’s “Virgin Widow: England’s Forgotten Queen” is set during the tumultuous reign of Edward IV, in the Wars of the Roses. The protagonist is Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, a man known as The Kingmaker. Although she was both Princess of Wales and Queen of England in her lifetime, the name Anne Neville does not mean much to people, but this book seeks to rectify this by telling her story, albeit in a fictional novel.

In “Virgin Widow”, Anne’s life is far from easy. Her father’s power games mean that Anne and her sister, Isabelle, are used as political pawns and have no control over their future. One minute, Anne is betrothed to a man she has come to love and admire and the next she is forced to give him up and flee from her home and everything she knows and loves. At the French court Anne is at the mercy of Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI and mother of Edward of Lancaster, and before she knows it, she has become embroiled in her father and Margaret’s plot to depose Edward IV and replace him with Prince Edward. As her father commits the ultimate treason, Anne’s future hangs in the balance, just what will happen to her as Lancastrians take on Yorkists.

Anne’s story grabs the reader and draws you into her world. She is such a strong character and yet always seems to be at the mercy of everybody else’s actions, particularly her father’s. Just when you think that she has found happiness and a future with the man she has come to love, it is cruelly taken away from her and, instead, she is taken away from everything she knows and loves. You may know how the story ends but you want to know how she gets to that ending and what happens to her on the way. You can’t help but admire her tenacity, courage and determination, and you also can’t help but fall in love with Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who is so often villified and made into a murdering hunchback.

Virgin Widow (US Cover)

Virgin Widow (US Cover)

Does Anne get her happy ending? Does she survive the plots and intrigues of the Wars of the Roses, and betrayal by her own family? I can’t tell you, you’ll just have to read the book. However, I can tell you that it is a fabulous read and that you won’t be able to put it down, just don’t blame me when you stay up til all hours reading it!

The publisher, Mira Books, describes “Virgin Widow” as:-

“A rich and compelling tale of love, ambition, lust, and intrigue, Virgin Widow introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the very centre of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her own heart.”

So true!

The novel is perfect for a book club or reading group as it has discussion questions at the end and also a Q&A with author, Anne O’Brien. Very handy.

So, if you need a good book for holiday reading or for relaxing with in the garden on a sunny day, you just cannot go wrong with this one. All of the right ingredients: romance, intrigue, betrayal, glamour, history, murder… Brilliant!


Anne O’Brien’s “Virgin Widow” was released in paperback in the UK on the 21st May 2010 and is available from Amazon UK and UK book shops. It is due to be released on the 2nd November in the USA and can be pre-ordered from – click on the book covers to order.


6 Responses to “Virgin Widow by Anne O’Brien”

  1. Edie says:

    Thanks for the review. I LOVE the Yorkist period and Richard III is my favorite king. I too think he’s been mistakenly maligned for centuries. I’m definitely going to pick this up for my beach trip! My husband will be thrilled I have yet ANOTHER book from this era!

  2. Lexy says:

    I’ve bought it hen it was published, and I like what I’ve already read from it. I can’t wait to read it all, especially since Richard III is one of my favorite character of history beside our Anne!

  3. […] Book blurb from Amazon UK: This title is about England’s forgotten Queen. England, 1469. A daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker, Anne Neville cannot dictate her own future. Her marriage will be political, made purely to advance her family’s interests. But at the age of fourteen, her father’s treason forces her into exile, and into an uneasy betrothal with Edward of Lancaster. Edward is changeable and completely controlled by his powerful mother, Margaret of Anjou. In a hostile, impoverished court, Anne finds herself at the mercy of other’s whims. On her wedding night, the audience assembled to witness her bedding instead witnesses a royal humiliation. At the point of consummation, Queen Margaret forbids the act. Anne went to her husband’s bed a virgin, and she will remain so. The battle for the crown of England rages, and Anne’s husband must fight for his cause. But he is foully done to death by Richard, Duke of Gloucester – a man who twice before has been betrothed to Anne. Anne must decide where her loyalties lie. And during the reign of King Edward, the wrong decision could mean death. See my review […]

  4. Kate says:

    I bought this by chance today while browisng the local department store and was a little hesitant.Your review sound good so im glad i bought it.
    Thank you

  5. Jessica says:

    I can’t wait until this comes out in November in the US!! I’ve recently been reading anything I can get my hands on about the War of the Roses. I’m excited to read this as Richard III is my favorite king, and Anne Neville my favorite queen (besides Elizabeth of York), even though so little has been recorded about her (which is a shame!)

  6. Deborah says:

    Thank you for posting this! I was walking through the local bookstore here yesterday (I’m in the USA) and I saw the beautiful cover which attracted my attention right away. I had no prior knowledge about Richard III or Anne Neville beyond what my high school history books had taught me, but reading this novel from the first person point of view really gave me a deeper insight to the Yorkist time period and I was highly sympathetic to Richard through it all. I really did fall in love with his character, as well as Anne’s.

    I always believed I had been born in the wrong time period, this confirmed it xD

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