Author Anne O’Brien puts a new spin on the early life of Anne Neville, daughter of the mighty Earl of Warwick, “The Kingmaker“. Both Anne and her sister Isabel are major prizes on the marriage market (and must marry where papa says), but Anne has her heart set on a Plantagenet husband, childhood *friend* Richard, younger brother of Edward IV. Getting her heart’s desire isn’t quite so easy as there’s this little dispute going on commonly known as The Wars of the Roses (or The Cousin’s War as Phillipa Gregory has decided to call it ;)). This is a very complicated period (read more here), but for our intents and purposes, Warwick and Isabel’s husband George, Duke of Clarence, get miffed at King Edward, turn their coats, hightail it to France and throw in their lot with Margaret of Anjou. George thinks he’d make a better king than older brother Edward, but Warwick’s changed his tune and marries Anne of to Margaret’s son Edward of Lancaster, who is or is not the Prince of Wales depending on whether you are a York or a Lancaster.
Confused? I told you trying to explain this was complicated. SPOILER WARNING going forward. Much of this is known history to those familiar with the period, but for those new to the party it might seem like I’m spilling the beans, so consider yourself warned.
Anne’s narrative covers her early years, her marriage to Lancaster, the failed attempts to reclaim England for the Lancasters and subsequent trials and tribulations as a consequence of her father’s treasonous plots. This book does not cover Anne’s years as Richard’s queen, the plots of That Grasping Henry Tudor, nor the events leading up to Bosworth Field.
While not necessarily a bad book, those looking for insight into Anne will likely be disappointed. From what I gathered at the author’s comments at the end (an interview of sorts, not notes), this was written more with romance in mind and that is what you are going to get. As for O’Brien’s writing itself and her take on the period, I do have a few quibbles. Written in the first person narrative (not a favorite of mine) set some limits on recounting back history for the reader and I was scratching my head a time or two when Anne had long conversations with Richard about past events both of them should know perfectly well. Anne refers to her parents as the Earl and the Countess more often than mother and father, and that is both in her *thoughts* and in private conversations with her sister. Odd, that. As a very well-born medieval lady, Anne should know that marriage is about duty and making powerful alliances and not about *twu wuv*, yet she’s constantly stamping her feet when Richard doesn’t declare his true feelings – dangit by this time she’s in a serious political pickle and anyone with a brain in her head should be jumping at the best offer she’s ever going to see.
Anne’s little episode as a kitchen maid (known history, I am not spoiling) is given an unusual twist, and by the end images of Disney’s Cinderella and Prince Charming were stuck in my head and never let go. All of the baddies are easily recognizable by their “feral” smiles, and that includes Margaret who is given a plot twist that will probably inflame the die-hard Ricardians. That said, I do give the author kudos for giving Anne some backbone, as well as a more rounded Richard without the sugar-coated-to-the-point-of-vomit-inducing-perfection we’ve seen so much of from other authors currently writing about Richard.
All in all, not a bad book by any means, and should do nicely for readers new to the period and looking to get your feet wet, just don’t take everything as the gospel truth. The be-all to end-all book on this period is still Sharon Penman’s fabulous Sunne in Splendour and one I would highly recommend.
FTC? Library loot.