Monday 1 May 2017

Review ~ The Shadow Queen by Anne O'Brien

4 May 2017

What's it all about ..

A tale of treachery, power-hungry families and legal subterfuges.

Woven through it is a remarkable story of a beautiful girl, desirable as a bride, growing to be a woman of foresight and power.

A story of love and loyalty and of the cost of personal ambition. The story of the woman who would ultimately wield power as the King Mother to 10 year old King Richard II.

What did I think about it ..

If Joan of Kent had been alive today she would most certainly have been one of those people who the press would have had enormous amount of fun pursuing. Secretly married at twelve, bigamously married at fifteen and then, righteously remarried at twenty-one to the man she first married at twelve, only to be widowed, and then remarried to the heir to the English throne. Well, they do say that truth is stranger than fiction…

In The Shadow Queen, Anne O’Brien has once again given us a story of a little known member of the English royal family. Born on the periphery of the royal household, and a princess in her own right, Joan of Kent was never going to approach life by taking the easy option. Her abiding love for Thomas Holland, a minor knight, was to set to last despite her mother’s best efforts to ignore it and even, Joan’s bigamous marriage to William Montagu, a match that would, in effect, unite two prosperous branches of the English aristocracy, was doomed from the start.

Beautifully written and impeccably researched by a historical fiction writer who is absolutely at the top of her game, The Shadow Queen allows the little known story of Joan of Kent, to come alive in a truly exciting way. Filled with intrigue and dark with secrets, the story is both romantic and adventurous and this novel shows just how much scheming and plotting went on at the very heart of the medieval English court.

Joan is shown to be very much a woman who knows her own mind, she is both forthright and outspoken in an age when women who so often influenced by men who sought to control them. She is a feisty heroine, sharp, shrewd and a clever manipulator both in terms of her personal life and also in the way that she seemed determined to control rather than be controlled. Her later marriage to Edward, Prince of Wales, who we know from history as the Black Prince, is shown in a rather special way, and I particularly enjoyed seeing how their relationship, in the shadow of the crown, played out.

I devoured the book in quick time as, even when I had put the book down to grab a cup of tea, I was always eager to return to the fourteenth century and to the world of knights and jousts, war and intrigue, love and lust. Back to the story of a warm hearted heroine so beautifully brought to life by this clever author.

So intrigued was I by Joan’s story that I was encouraged to find out more about her first husband, Thomas Holland, and to my delight I discovered that Thomas, a minor knight was born in Up Holland, Lancashire, which is an area I know well as it is just a few miles from where I live. 

I love it when history comes alive on the page and in the hands of this talented author I  know that I am always guaranteed a good story, well told.

Best Read with..a glass of spiced wine and small bowl of sweet comfits...

Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in history at Manchester University and a Master's in Education at Hull. she lived in the East Riding for many years where she taught history.

Leaving teaching-but not her love of history-Anne turned to writing and her passion for giving voice to the oft forgotten women of the medieval era was born. Today Anne lives in an eighteenth century cottage in Herefordshore, an area steeped in history and full of inspiration for her work.

You can discover more about Anne on her website on Facebook and Twitter @anne_obrien #TheShadowQueen

Read a tantalising extract from The Shadow Queen  by clicking here...

My thanks to Bethan at edpr  and to HQ books for sending a copy of The Shadow Queen to read in advance of its publication on the 4th May 2017


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