Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien

Release Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Pages: 491
Received: Own
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Well, that was disappointing.

Is it Anne O'Brien or Katherine of Valois? I'm not sure which lady is the culprit but I'm guessing both are to blame. "Blame" is probably too harsh a world though, because really this wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't what I was looking for.

What I wanted was Historical fiction, heavy on the historical details. I wanted an engaging Katherine who I could root for and who would come alive off the pages. I wanted to be thrust right in the thick of all of the politics that swirled between the reigns of Henry V (he of Agincourt fame) and Henry VI (the deposed Lancastrian king in the War of the Roses).

What I got instead was a (very) peripheral view of some events and a whole lot of romance. But not even bodice ripping romance. More like pining, longing, talking romance ("Oh I wish he would love me!" "But we cannot act upon our love!" "I'm so lonely, and look at his gleaming chest!"). Which isn't awful, but it did get pretty boring stretched out over 491 pages.

I suspect Anne O'Brien had enough historical fodder at her disposal to flesh out the politics, and I KNOW she could have included more "time and place" type details, but I also know she only had so much to work with having Katherine as her main character.

Katherine is a historical wallpaper character. She's more well known for her "wife of" or "mother of" tags than for anything she actually did (except her choice to become a scandalous "wife of").

What is known tends to paint her as somewhat dim and politically uninvolved. So, while lots of stuff was happening around Katherine, Anne O'Brien is probably pretty spot on in keeping her version largely out of the fracas. I'll buy that and even give points for historical accuracy (even as I detract points for a few choice inaccuracies that still make me cringe), but that doesn't do much for my boredom.

What I did love was Anne O'Brien's interpretation of Katherine as a person. This Katherine wasn't a lady I could admire (she's kind of a wishy washy weakling with a tendency to do dumb things), but I still totally felt for her.

I understood completely why she did the things she did. Anne O'Brien did a marvelous job crafting Katherine's characterization based on her upbringing and later interactions with others. It makes sense that Katherine would feel and think the way she does in this book, which I think is a huge achievement on the part of the author.

That said, Katherine had a sucky life. I sobbed over the situations she found herself in and raged against the way she was treated. When she finally found a man who loved her I was less swept up in the swoony romance of it all and just so, so, so very happy she finally found someone who would care for her.

And the ending? GUTTED me (even though it was historically inaccurate).

Bottom line

I wasn't blown away, but I liked it enough to read more by Anne O'Brien. I have a copy of her book about Anne Neville (wife of Edward of Lancaster and Richard III), so hopefully she focuses more on the politics when given a main character living smack in the middle of the War of the Roses.   

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Have you read any books about Katherine?

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  1. I laughed at your comment about the romance. I'll probably pass on this one, Small, as I tend to want my historical fiction to be heavy on history too. Great review as usual though!

  2. Aww, sorry you didn't like it!!
    Your review made me laugh, if that counts for something ;)


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