November 21st, 2010

the red queen.

Review: The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

The Virgin Widow

by Anne O’Brien

Anne Neville and her sister, Isabel, are the daughters of one of the most powerful men in England: Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Such prominent daughters attract only the best suitors, so at a young age the two girls are engaged to the brothers of the King. Anne knows her future husband; Richard grew up in her father’s house and they are childhood friends. But when Isabel’s husband George teams up with her father to depose Edward IV, placing George on the throne instead, Anne and Richard are placed on opposing sides. The rebellion fails, and the Nevilles are sent into exile in disgrace. But Warwick the Kingmaker is far from defeated. He teams up with the venomous Margaret of Anjou to place the old king, Henry, back on the throne. Their pact is sealed with a marriage between Margaret’s son and Anne, but Margaret refuses to let her spoiled son consummate the marriage until she is once again the Queen of England. It’s just as well, for Anne hates her husband and longs for her childhood sweetheart, Richard. He promised her that someday they would marry, and even as the impossibility of their union grows Anne clings to the hope that someday, somehow Richard will be her knight in shining armor once more.

This historical romance is rich in period detail and gives a strong taste of the intense machinations surrounding the throne. The Earl of Warwick helped Edward IV take the throne, but when he feels the King no longer treats him preferentially he leads a rebellion with the King’s brother. When that fails, he helps the previous King take back his throne. Even after Edward has taken back his throne and seen the Earl’s body cruelly displayed to the public, his brothers upset the peace of the land with their constant jockeying for possessions and power. 

Throughout all the turmoil, Anne is shuffled from one man to the next like a sack of potatoes, with no control over her life. She never really seemed to develop much of a personality, even though the story is told from her point of view. Oh, she speaks of her love for Richard and at times can be sharp-tongued, but she constantly falls back into her role as the ‘prize’ for which men fight. The book ends on a happy note, with the birth of Anne’s child, but I was disappointed since I had hoped the story would end later, when Richard and Anne were King and Queen of England.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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