Friday, December 3, 2010

The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

book cover

The Virgin Widow
by Anne O'Brien

ISBN-13: 9780451231291
Trade Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: New American Library
Released: November 2, 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
Anne Neville is born during the War of the Roses--the many battles fought by the York and Lancaster houses to gain and keep the throne of England. Her father, the powerful Earl of Warwick, helps to elevate King Edward IV to the throne. The king's third brother, Richard, is sent to train with the Earl and there Richard encounters Anne. Over the years, the two fall in love.

However, the Earl feels insulted that the king shows greater favor to his wife's family than to the Nevilles who made him king. The Earl marries his eldest daughter to Edward's second brother (and heir). When he fails to put his son-in-law on the throne, his family flees to France. He joins forces with Margaret of Anjou, the queen he deposed to make Edward IV the king.

He betroths Anne to Margaret's son, Edward of Westminster. Anne tries to make the best of a bad situation: the cruel treatment by her distrustful husband and mother-in-law and the jealousy of her sister. But her worst pain is the knowledge that her father and her true love are on opposite sides now and either could be killed in the conflict to come...

My Review:
The Virgin Widow is a historical romance set in England and France during the War of the Roses. Though not a typical romance, the story started with the budding romance in 1462 and ended with it's seemingly impossible fulfillment in 1472. It did cover her child's birth in 1473, but that's where it stopped. It didn't cover Anne becoming queen.

Considering how young Anne Neville was (ages 6 to 16 years old during the story) and how little control she had over her future, I felt the author did a good job of portraying her as not completely passive within those constraints. Political, social, and every-day historical details were skillfully woven into the story. The rich, vivid detail brought the story alive in my imagination. The author followed the overall known facts of Anne Neville's life but, as the author explained in the back, she chose the more dramatic possibilities when facts weren't certain or known.

The pacing was typical of a historical, and the characters were intriguing. The suspense was created by the two characters loving each other but ending up on opposite sides of the war and by the situation seeming to go from bad to worse.

There was a minor amount of cursing and swearing. The sex scenes were brief and not graphic. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel to those who like historical romances and who want to know more about this period of time.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
APRIL 1469
On board ship, off the English port of Calais

Isabel whimpered. With creaks and groans the ship listed and thumped against the force of water as if it would be torn apart by the next wave, casting us into the depths. Isabel clapped her hands to her mouth, her eyes staring at the heaving wooden walls that hemmed us in, the sides of a coffin.

"Now what's wrong with you?" It was not fear of a watery death. I knew what it was, even as I prayed that it was not. The ship rolled again in the heavy swell, wallowing queasily in the dips before lifting and lurching. Sweat prickled on my forehead. Nausea clutched my belly before fear rapidly drove it out again. "Isabel." I nudged her arm sharply to get her attention. She was sitting in a high-backed chair, the only available chair in the cabin and the property of the captain, her whole body rigid, braced. Eyes tight-closed to shut out the desperate pitch and roll, she kept one hand closed clawlike on the arm. I shuffled forward on my stool. "Is it the baby?"

"Yes," she said with a gasp. Then: " Just a quick pain." On a deep breath her body relaxed fractionally, fingers uncurling from the carved end. "There, it's gone. Perhaps I mistook it."

And perhaps she didn't. I watched her cautiously as she eased her body in the confined space.

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