If you are like me and love historical fiction then this book has to be on your to-read list. Thank you so much to The Coffee Pot Book Club for your invite to take part in this tour.
The Queen's Rival
One family united by blood. Torn apart by war…
The Wars of the Roses storm through the country, and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, plots to topple the weak-minded King Henry VI from the throne.
But when the Yorkists are defeated at the battle of Ludford Bridge, Cecily’s family flee and abandon her to face a marauding Lancastrian army on her own.
Stripped of her lands and imprisoned in Tonbridge Castle, the Duchess begins to spin a web of deceit. One that will eventually lead to treason, to the fall of King Henry VI, and to her eldest son being crowned King Edward IV.
Any serious historical fiction addict will have one or two novels by Anne O’Brien on their bookcase, and I am no exception. However, although I have a copy of Queen of the North on my bookshelf, I have never gotten around to reading it. Don’t get me wrong, I have every intention of reading it, just not yet (my to-read list is not as long as my arm, it is as long as the street I live on)!! When I was offered the chance to read Anne O’Brien's upcoming new release, I did feel a little flutter of butterflies in my stomach because I never thought I would have the privilege of reading an ARC from such a distinguished author. So naturally, I said yes! In fact, I went a little mental and texted all my friends to tell them, thank goodness they know how to humour me!!
So, what did I think? Was Anne O’Brien’s writing everything I had thought it would be? Hell, yes!! It was bloody brilliant, and I stayed up reading it until two in the morning because there was no way I was putting this baby down.
The Queen’s Rival is the story of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York’s life. For those who had no idea who she was, let me give you a quick history lesson! During the War of the Roses, or The Cousins War as it was known back then, the Plantagenet dynasty had the mother of all family arguments. I am not talking about the kind of argument one gets into with your cousin over a family dinner because they ate the last roast potato and you had your eye on it and he knew that I did (I am not at all bitter about the roast potato incident), no, this was about power, and an insatiable greed. Their war was the ultimate Game of Thrones, in fact George R. R. Martin’s series is based on this period of history. But fantasy cannot even come close to capturing the historical truth of the time. The country, well the family, split and unless you were a Stanley, you had to choose a side (the Stanleys liked to have a foot in both camps). So, imagine this era, you are either with York or Lancaster. Obviously, Cecily was a Yorkist, her title kind of gives it away, and her family were right in the thick of the action. In fact, two of her sons became king. You may have heard of them - Edward IV and Richard III. If not, where have you been? Did you miss the whole king under the carpark thing?
The Queen’s Rival is an intimate exploration of Cecily’s life. Reading this novel felt as if I had been granted a special privilege. I felt like I should be wearing white gloves as I read it - you know the kind historians wear when they handing hundreds of year old documents. I know that sounds silly, but that is how I felt. This story, Cecily’s story, is played out through letters. The letters really brought her story to life, and I thought the delivery was brilliant.
Cecily’s story is one of heartbreak and loss. It is a truly tragic story, but she is brave. So very, very brave. If you are like me and are a bit of watering pot (as my granny used to call me - she is still alive, but now she calls me Maddie because that is my name and I am no longer a child who cries because her cousin ate the last roast potato), have some tissues close to hand because you are going to need them. You are really going to need them.
The letters are fictional in the telling, but I thought Anne O’Brien demonstrated a clear understanding of the historical period. She also brought Cecily gloriously back to life. I think Cecily would have been very pleased with the way she was depicted.
I really enjoyed this novel. It was certainty a great introduction to Anne O’Brien’s writing, but it does mean that my bank account is really going to take a hint because as soon as I have finished reading Queen of the North I will be treating myself to more of Anne O’Brien’s books - just don’t tell my husband, or my Granny because she will tell me to get down the local library, and stop wasting my money. But she was never much of a reader, so she does not understand!!!
I received a copy from the publisher, but there are so many places where you can buy this book. Hold your breath, here comes the bookshops:
Sunday Times Bestselling author Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history.
Today she has sold over 700,000 copies of her books medieval history novels in the UK and internationally. She lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire. The area provides endless inspiration for her novels which breathe life into the forgotten women of medieval history.
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