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Customer Review

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expect a romance and not a historical novel (SPOILER WARNING), December 22, 2010
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This review is from: The Virgin Widow (Paperback)
O'Brien takes a new spin on the early life of Anne Neville, daughter of the mighty Earl of Warwick, "The Kingmaker". Both Anne and her sister Isabel are major prizes on the marriage market (and must marry where papa says), but Anne has her heart set on a Plantagenet husband, childhood *friend* Richard, younger brother of Edward IV. Getting her heart's desire isn't quite so easy as there's this little dispute going on now known as The Wars of the Roses (or The Cousin's War as Phillipa Gregory is calling it). This is a very complicated period (read more on Wik), but for our intents and purposes, Warwick and Isabel's husband George, Duke of Clarence, get miffed at King Edward, turn their coats, hightail it to France and throw in their lot with Margaret of Anjou. George thinks he'd make a better king than older brother Edward, but Warwick's changed his tune and marries Anne of to Margaret's son Edward of Lancaster, who is or is not the Prince of Wales depending on whether you are a York or a Lancaster.

Confused? I told you trying to explain this was complicated. SPOILER WARNING going forward. Much of this is known history to those familiar with the period, but for those new to the party it might seem like I'm spilling the beans, so be warned.

Anne's narrative covers her early years, her marriage to Lancaster, the failed attempts to reclaim England for the Lancasters and subsequent trials and tribulations as a consequence of her father's treasonous plots. This book does not cover Anne's years as Richard's queen, the plots of that Grasping Henry Tudor, nor the events leading up to Bosworth Field. Cutting it off where she did gives the author an opening for a HEA, but you'll just have to read it for yourself to see if Anne gets it.

While not necessarily a bad book, those looking for insight into Anne will likely be very disappointed. From what I gathered at the author's comments at the end (an interview of sorts, not notes), this was written more with romance in mind and that is what you are going to get. As for O'Brien's writing itself and her take on the period, I do have a few quibbles. Written in the first person narrative (not a favorite of mine) set some limits on recounting back history for the reader and I was scratching my head a time or two when Anne had long conversations with Richard about past events both of them should know perfectly well. Anne refers to her parents as the Earl and the Countess more often than mother and father, and that is both in her *thoughts* and in private conversations with her sister. Odd, that. As a very well-born medieval lady, Anne should know that marriage is about duty and making powerful alliances and not about *twu wuv*, yet she's constantly stamping her feet when Richard doesn't declare his true feelings - dangit by this time she's in a serious political pickle and anyone with a brain in her head should be jumping at the best offer she's ever going to see.

Anne's little episode as a kitchen maid (known history, I am not spoiling) is given an unusual twist, and by the end images of Disney's Cinderella and Prince Charming were stuck in my head and never let go. All of the baddies are easily recognizable by their "feral" smiles, and that includes Margaret who is given a plot twist that will probably inflame the die-hard Lancastrians. That said, I do give the author kudos for giving Anne some backbone, as well as a more rounded Richard without the sugar-coated-to-the-point-of-vomit-inducing-perfection we've seen so much from other authors writing about Richard.

All in all, not a bad book by any means, and should do nicely for readers new to the period and looking to get your feet wet. The be-all to end-all book on this period is still Sharon Penman's fabulous The Sunne In Splendour and one I would highly recommend.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 30, 2010 4:21:10 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2010 4:22:41 PM PST
Blue Jean says:
Great review, Misfit! And this is the best one on the book that I've read.

Teeny thing, though; though Gregory gets tons of stuff wrong, "The Cousins' War" is one thing she got right. That was the war's name to those who actually fought in it; the "War of The Roses" moniker wasn't coined until the Victorian age (when it was fashionable to have pretty names for ugly topics). So having the various Annes, Richards, Henrys and Edwards refer to the "War Of The Roses" would be like having Woodrow Wilson say "World War I" instead "The Great War" while he's debating with his cabinet.

Love your writing, though.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2010 4:33:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2010 5:48:54 PM PST
Misfit says:
Hehe, I think I actually did know that the Wars of the Roses wasn't coined until quite a bit after. I'm just irked at the way PG's resurrecting the Cousin's war moniker and making it her *own*.

At least we didn't get a Richard-Sue in this one :p

ETA, thanks a heap for the kind words about my reviews they are appreciated.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2010 4:39:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 31, 2010 4:41:11 PM PST
Blue Jean says:
LOL! Yeah, I knew you probably knew that one already, but everybody says "Wars Of The Roses" so often that it's always a surprise when somebody calls it by its actual contemporary name. (And "Cousin's War" could refer to a lot of wars throughout history, especially WWI, where the Kaiser, the King, and the Czar were all cousins through Queen Victoria.) No wonder the Vics decided to find a more poetic name. ;-)

Fascinating how you brought up Penman's novel, which takes its title from Edward of York, who usually fought under the "Sun In Splendor". Henry Tudor fought under the Red Dragon banner of Bosworth, and later thought up the Tudor rose as a symbolic combination of York and Lancaster. (which is a good thing; trying to combine three suns and a red dragon into one logo would have been a real headache, especially before computer graphics.)

<i>At least we didn't get a Richard-Sue in this one :p</i>

LOL! True, that. I can understand "rescuing" Richard III's reputation, but turning him into a combination of Sir Galahad, Saint George and Miss Grundy probably makes more readers hate him than sympathize with him. Bet Edward of Lancaster comes off as a "feral" villain, though. ;-)

<i>ETA, thanks a heap for the kind words about my reviews they are appreciated.</i>

You're welcome! I always look forward to your reviews.
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Misfit
(VINE VOICE)   

Location: Seattle, WA USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,220