Posted By Claire on June 24, 2010
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.
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.
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.”
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 Amazon.com – click on the book covers to order.