Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

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Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Anne O’Brien plunges us into the Wars of the Roses and the romantic affairs of Anne Neville, daughter of the famous Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker. A superb heroine, the teenage Anne is vividly drawn, as are her suitors Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Edward of Lancaster, and his domineering mother Margaret of Anjou. Anne O'Brien was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 624 Date: May 2010
Publisher: MIRA
ISBN: 978-0778303756

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The mighty Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, is famous throughout England as one of King Edward IV’s most trusted advisors. But as Edward is lured towards another influential family when he falls in love with Elizabeth Woodville, Warwick responds by backing the alliance between Margaret of Anjou and King Louis XI of France, aiming to put Margaret’s husband Henry VI back on the English throne. A helpless pawn, Anne is torn away from the man she loves, who will grow up to become Richard III, to be used as political capital by her father and his allies as they try to regain the kingdom of England.

O’Brien throws us straight into the heart of the storyline, starting the book in 1469 with Anne, her parents, her heavily pregnant sister Isabel and Isabel’s husband the Duke of Clarence bound for Calais to muster a force to attack King Edward. After they’re turned away from the port, with Isabel having lost her child, Anne asks herself how it has come to this – and we go back to 1462 and the arrival of Richard Plantagenet in her household to learn the ways of high society. From there, we follow the budding romance between the pair of them as Anne matures, and Warwick’s argument with King Edward and fall from grace, eventually taking us back to the ship bound for Calais and then onwards from there as Anne is promised in marriage to Edward of Lancaster. Will she ever find her way back to Richard? For lovers of history, this isn’t a particularly challenging question to answer – but the fun is finding out how it happens.

There’s lots of fun to be had here, in a really good romance which is even better for the way that Anne O’Brien ties together the known facts, and some of the theories about disputed events, from the Wars of the Roses, and uses them to breathe fresh life into characters such as the little-known Anne and the much-maligned Richard. While I’d perhaps like a little more historical detail in the book at times, the romance is gorgeously written and the main characters are very well described. It’s also really easy to read – despite being just short of 600 pages, I finished it in just a couple of days as I was really keen to find out what happened next. The fast pace, enjoyable style, and the relatively tame love scenes mean that this is one I’d be happy to recommend to teens with an interest in history as well as adults – a fantastic light read for over the summer.

It also has a nice little extras section at the back giving a bit of detail about Anne’s life, suggested further reading, and questions a book group might like to discuss. While these additions rarely capture my attention, I was genuinely interested by them here, and it’s led me to put a couple of books that Anne O’Brien mentions here on my reservations list at the local library.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For a non-fiction look at some of the women of this period we can recommend The Kingmaker's Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the Wars of the Roses by David Baldwin. For other great historical fiction set at around this time, the hilarious Kings of Albion by Julian Rathbone is highly recommended.

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Buy Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien at

Bookinterviews.jpg Anne O'Brien was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.


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