The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time to delve into my old favorite: historical fiction...
I stumbled upon The Forbidden Queen when I was hunting in Overdrive for something different to read from my latest kick of Austen-inspired Regency romance and smoldering modern novel series. I wanted something that reminded me of my obsession since my pre-teens - early English Monarchy. And who wouldn't want to learn about a forbidden queen?
Admittedly a big fan of Philippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy, I was interested to delve into this book by Anne O'Brien. And I wasn't in any way disappointed!
This historical romance is based around Katherine (or Catherine) of Valois, a french princess from the 14th century who became Queen of England through a fluke of a marriage. Even more importantly to many, she also became mother to the Tudor dynasty, to which even today's English monarchy can trace their roots back. Now, just an FYI - I'm a bit history obsessed, so this review is going talk of the book, and history behind it. I also plan to spoil a bit of the story. If that isn't your thing, you might wanna find another review to read.
Katherine of Valois (by Silvester Harding, 1792)
We are introduced to a very young and starved (literally and emotionally) young princess Katherine, running around her royal home in rags. Not what you picture for a child of the top class, but unfortunately, madness ran in her family and her father was most affected by it. Katherine, along with her sister Margaret, were ignored by both mother (reported floozy and adulterer) and father (mentally ill). No love in her life greatly influences Katherine, causing her to become unsure, nervous and needy. Her life becomes structured (in a convent) and strict, despite her need for affection and care. It is a sad, sad story that was sadly true of the real Katherine.
Henry V (by unknown artist, before 1923)
From here, a hero appears. Henry V, the hero of England, king that has been slaughtering her French kinsmen in the Hundred Years War, offers for her hand in marriage. Even among the honor and splendor, Katherine finds that she is the last pick from her family, and worse, that there is a price for her marriage. Still, the poor love-starved girl finds Henry handsome, compelling and even kind. But that cannot last for this sweet soul.
The Marriage of Henry and Catherine (by Jean Chartier, 1490)
Katherine's search for love is not ended in the "happily ever after", fairy tale royal wedding. Not only is she a foreigner whisked into England without a friend in site, but she is mostly tolerated by her king husband, as his ambitions and visions of a united England and France are his sole focus. Once again abandoned, you can't help but feel for the sorry position of the new queen. Despite all this, she has this hidden strength that I love to see written into historical figures we know little about. I'm sure she was strong - for she survived the sudden death of her husband and managed to raise her son to be the next King of England. All this, in the very face of villains that would plot to hold her virtual prisoner and bind her will every way they could. Still, Queen Katherine would not break.
Queen Katherine (by Catarina Carol, 1446)
I won't even touch on Edmund because that whole part of the story is why this is a four star and not a five star review. Not that I blame the author for writing about the worthless coward, but no one can truly love Edmund Beaufort, once his serpant-in-the-grass motivations are revealed. What can I say about this man, other than, "Once a Beaufort, always a Beaufort."
Owen Tudor (from the BBC iWonder site)
At last, my favorite character. From the first mention of Owen Tudor, I was intrigued. I must note here that, before reading this book, I had not deeply explored this far back into the Tudor line. I believe the farthest back I had gone was Henry VII. But after my beloved Welshman Owen Tudor (or Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudor) appeared in the picture, I scampered off to Google so I could read more on the real man.
The Owen Tudor of this novel is proud, respectful, dutiful, and solemn. But he is also loyal, loving, fierce and passionate. And for poor Katherine, so unloved for most of her life, this is the ultimate appeal (that and his hot bod - LOL). Very little is known about the real Owen, but I love how Anne O'Brien develops him into this hero that Katherine first thought Henry V to be. And through this, grows a love that will spawn the beginning of a dynasty that will last through the years.
Tudor Family Tree (from the English Monarchs site)
The writing in this novel is compelling, and drives the reader to not want to put it down - the marks of a good novel. The historical references are good, most of the research sound, but the most compelling part of the book for me is the characterizations of these well-known historical figures that we know very little about personally. That makes this book well worth the read. And then go read about the true history to add to your fun!
Next, we tackle a new type of novel review for me - fantasy!
For more on the history behind The Forbidden Queen, please follow the links by the pictures. I don't recommend Wikipedia (which can be faulty by its very nature) for the full truth behind the history, but as an overall summary, it isn't bad.
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