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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2014
I usually do not like books being compared to other ones, however little the effort may be to be better than an other author, but if Philippa Gregory stands for a standard in wide selling historical novels, this book is really light years better than The Kingmaker's Daughter and only stands a step behind Penman's The Sunne in Splendour because of the more limited time line described in future Richard III's and above all in his wife Anne's life.

The story starts shortly after Edward is acclaimed King after defeating the Lancastrian armies early in 1461 and his youngest brother Richard is sent to his most powerful ally's (Richard Neville Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker) Middleham Castle for knighthood training. There he meets the Earl's daughters and a strong affection grows between Anne and Richard later to develop in passion. Yet the bethrotal is called off when the Earl defies the king, flees to France and has Anne wed the Lancastrian heir to the throne to seal his switch of allegiance to the one time archenemy Lancastrian queen Margaret of Anjou. The marriage will not be consummated and after the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury Anne will find herself a penniless orphaned virgin widow under house arrest in her own sister's household, wife to Richard's brother George of Clarence who tries to prevent Anne from remarrying to anyone, especially to Richard, in order to seize the entire inheritance. Richard eventually rescues Anne, weds her and happy ending sees Anne cradling their newly born son under Richard's loving eyes.

Concentrating on a shorter time span, the author gives detailed description of events and psychological behavioural pattern of the main characters thus making up a 600 pages paperback that you will not want to put down once started. Text is rich and varied, the romance between Richard and Anne is plausibly rendered, given the historical records (see especially Kendall for a thourough and accurate biography of RIII) and you will want to read some passages over and over again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2014
After reading a couple of Anne O'Brien's other works when the opportunity arose to get this one I jumped at it as I have thoroughly enjoyed her work before and this book is no exception, it's totally enjoyable!

In recent years there have been a few books about Anne Neville and her part in the War Of The Roses, most notable probably Philippa Gregory's The Kingmaker's Daughter, which I read and enjoyed too. I must admit that I actually prefer this version of the tale.

The book takes place in the period of Anne's life running up to her marriage to Richard Of Gloucester and as Anne's real life is a bit of a mystery the author has the opportunity to tell the tale in the way she wants and I appreciate that she had chosen the more romantic approach in this instance.

I like this approach for Anne as she probably had a pretty rough life leading up the marriage to Richard. She was pawn to her father's ambition for himself and his family, betrothed several times for political reasons, firstly to Richard of Gloucester, who she has loved since she was a child and then to Edward of Lancaster who she is forced to marry and has no feelings for whatsoever and who has none for her, he still thinks of his new wife as his enemy. She's emotionally tortured my the circumstances she finds herself in, over and over by both her new husband and his mother until she finds herself alone with no family, no husband and no support whatsoever after Edward of Lancaster's premature death. Anne is placed into the household of his sister Isabel and her husband, Richard of Gloucester's turncoat brother George of Clarence and Anne is kept as a virtual prisoner and treated as an enemy of York because of the marriage she never wanted and the inheritance she is entitle too that Clarence wants for himself. Eventually Richard of Gloucester, still in love with Anne, manages to free her from her emotional bondage and marries her, leaving her free to love and be loved.

In general her early life was just an emotional roller-coaster and she deserved so much better but that was the life of women back then, they were often treated as objects and used to further the ambitions of their family and forced into marriages they didn't want but had absolutely no choice over. Both Anne AND Isabel Neville were use in this way and both women suffered for it, granted Isabel only had the one betrothal and marriage to deal with but her husband does not seem to have had much interest in her except for producing his heirs.

Unfortunately history shows that Anne only lived to be 28 years old, dying too young, and while her marriage to Richard of Gloucester was generally a very happy one it has been shown that when Richard become King Richard III and Elizabeth Woodville's eldest daughters returned to court that Richard became very attached to his niece, Princess Elizabeth of York and not in way that a wife would appreciate. This fact taints the love story between Anne and Richard but doesn't feature in this book and makes to romantic story more poignant.

The book is the classic tale of true love conquering all and of the constancy of the love held between Anne and Richard, how circumstance never changed the way that they ultimately felt about each other.

Anne O'Brien is a very talented author and had written this story very sympathetically, maybe is not as historically accurate as it could be but so little is known of Anne Neville's life that any author writing about her has to use a certain amount of poetic license to make her story into a book. Anne treats the subject matter in a way that makes it intriguing and interesting to read and not harsh and ugly like it really was, some books needs the ugly side to make them work but in this instances I think the author took the right approach and made it work.

In conclusion, if you like historical romances like those of Philippa Gregory or Elizabeth Chadwick then Anne O'Brien's books are definitely the books for you as they are too good not to read. She makes the books her own and even though these authors often choose to write about the same women from history they all treat there subjects in a different manner so while you may have read another book about Anne Neville do not dismiss another book by another author on the same subject or you may miss a treat of a book!

Would I recommend this book, YES I most definitely would! It's a fantastic book, an easy read and very enjoyable indeed!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2012
I really enjoyed this book. I love historical fiction but the Wars of the Roses is a period I am not so familiar with but like a lot of people I tended to think of Richard 111 as an evil figure with a hump and a limp as depicted in the Shakespeare play. Not so in this version - in fact quite the opposite! He comes over as a loyal, charming and hansome (yes, hansome!) man who you begin to like more and more as the story unfolds. It is his brother, the Duke of Clarence who appears as the villain of the piece. Well, who knows which version is the nearest to the truth but it does make for an excellent read and I am now keen to read more books about Richard and the whole of this troubled period of history.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 22 July 2011
I have mixed feelings about this book to be fair. Although Anne O'Brien does a good job in telling the story of Anne Neville, and quickly elicits the reader's sympathy for the young woman who is just another pawn in the Wars of the Roses, the story irritated me for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, is the use of first person, which means the POV is limited. Although we are very (perhaps overly) aware of Anne's feelings, our view of Richard, Duke of Gloucester and soon to be King, is occluded by romanticism. Secondly, the book ends rather abruptly, and the fact that Anne and her child did not live long is glossed over, which is odd, considering that Richard was accused by his contemporaries of being complicit in her death. So the story of Anne Neville is not fully told, which is rather a shame. To balance this, we have the reasons that AN was a 'virgin widow' handled extremely well, as was the legend of her disguised as a kitchen maid, and the glimpse we do get of Richard shows him in a more kindly light than history has allowed. However, none of the characters apart from Anne are fully developed, Margaret of Anjou being two dimensional, though the hint of incest with her son was an interesting idea, perhaps a little more attention there might have rounded both those characters out. Having also read the authors book on Eleanor of Acquitaine, I would respectfully suggest that her next book leave first person alone!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2013
I really enjoyed this book and the other two I have since read by this author. When I first saw the 'better than Philippa Gregory' sticker on the book I was more than skeptical as I've seen it used before and ended up binning the books. Now, Philippa Gregory is one of my favourite authors ( although not her latest books I must say so this was a tall call by anyones standard BUT, Anne O'Brien is actually very good and very similar in her style to the early PG Tudor books, not as historically accurate and quite romantic but very enjoyable. For me, much more readable than The Sunne in Splendour which was very heavy going. I hope she continues to write like this as she has a new fan in me.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2013
Oh dearie me I should have been forewarned by other reviewers. If you want a romance set in the fifteenth century then this is for you but if you want to get some insight into the life of Anne Neville leave well alone.

Have to admit the author does a good job with the historical side of things - as accurate in the confines of fiction as she can be. She gives a good telling of the conflicts etc of Edward lV's reign and clearly knows her stuff.

What a pity that it is the main theme that lets the story down. O'Brien has clearly set out to write a love story and a love story is what you get! And how verbose this gets - pages & pages of angst from Anne - does Richard love me, has he forgotten me, why doesn't he say he loves me, should I marry him, why don't I know what he's thinking - oh for for heaven's sake, this was worthy of the Twilight saga!! On many occcasion I felt like giving this Anne Neville a real shake.

Even though written in the first person (again not one I like for this genre) I felt I never got to know Anne as a person, but only as someone wishing for the stars. The real AN was a shadowy figure, unfortunately, who was the perennial pawn in the political world of powerful men, as were many heiresses & noble women of the time. Regardless of any emotional attachment her marriage to Richard was probably the best decision she ever made - it secured her inheritance not only for him but also for her. Otherwise she would have lost everything. I doubt the real Anne would have hesitated!! I would like to think there was some affection - they had some shared experiences as family members & at Middleham after all. Nonetheless she was a child of her times too and would have seen the expediency of such a marriage - if only to secure a future away from Clarence and/or a convent.

The first person writing never let us see the other characters in any other way than good or bad according to AN's point of view which I felt limiting. Richard's character was a little more rounded as she questioned his actions quite frequently and he had to defend or justify them. I didn't quite understand her abhorence when she thought he had 'murdered' Prince Edward, who was depicted as utterly objectionable. In reality Anne had undergone an arranged marriage to an 'enemy', suffered humiliation at the court of Margaret of Anjou, had heard of the death of her father & the apparent loss of her mother, had suffered the aftermath Tewkesbury, had been imprisoned & hidden quite dispicably by Clarence, and been threatened with loss of inheritance - I doubt whether the question of who killed her first husband would have been really at the forefront of her mind. Especially when Richard, too all intents & purposes had rescued her & was offering back the life that she thought she had lost!!

But of course this is a love story and we must have the 'will she/won't she marry him' convention. All I wanted to say - if you don't want him, let someone else have a go, he's a pretty good catch compared to the alternative!

What a shame this could have been such a good tale of Anne Neville, albeit of necessity a work of fiction as so few facts about her life survive, but at 600+ pages and all the aforementioned angst, it didn't really deliver. For me the too long too romantic format swamped the historical value.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2012
Anne O'Brien's The Virgin Widow centers on Anne Neville, a historical figure I knew little about. The youngest daughter of the Earl of Warwick, Anne is born into a fantastically wealthy and privileged family.

Her father, credited as "The Kingmaker", was instrumental in the deposition of Henry VI, elderly and suffering dementia, into the Tower of London as prisoner and the ascension of Edward IV of York to England's throne.

Anne grows up with a kind mother, a father she adores but often absent on embassies on behalf of Edward, and her older sister, Isabel, with whom she has a frequently acrimonious relationship.

Richard of York, Duke of Gloucester, Edward IV's youngest brother, arrives to reside at the Neville household when Anne was 8 years old, to learn combative skills and courtly manners necessary to his rank. He joins Francis Lovell, who is the Earl's permanent ward. These young boys will become men intertwined throughout Anne's life.

Anne and Isabel, are joint heiresses to their maternal grandparents' vast accumulation of lands, castles and religious houses. As such, both daughters are cream of the crop prospective brides and highly marketable.

Full of her own importance and self-arrogance, Anne often clashes with Richard. She decides at 10 she will marry Richard, but not because of love. She wants him because she can as Lady Anne Neville.

The first inkling of decline of the Neville house arises with Warwick's disagreement with Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. Soon Woodvilles surround the King and Warwick's advice is rejected. Warwick is still sent to broker alliances for Edward, but there is disagreement between them. Eventually, Warwick and the King are at odds.

When Warwick's brother is invested as Archbishop of York and the expected King and Queen do not materialize for the ceremony, the Neville brothers consider this a slight and insult.

Then George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, brother to Edward IV, unexpectedly visits the Neville household. Anne learns she is to marry Richard and Isabel is to be wed to Clarence as soon as papal dispensation is issued. In the meantime, both marriage are secrets. However, Clarence is loose-lipped and Edward immediately cancels the betrothals.

Richard is recalled to his brother's side in London and Anne who, at 12 years, suddenly fell in love with him is devastated.

The Countess, without explanation to her daughters, retreats to Calais. The Earl does not accompany them. The Countess gives no explanations, but Anne senses tension. Weeks pass. The Earl arrives with Clarence, papal dispensation and the wedding is performed within days. In direct contravention of Edward's command.

Warwick and Clarence plot treason and the next years of Anne's life are spent despised as a penniless daughter of a traitor and exile. Forced into marriage with the Lancaster son of demented Henry VI and ambitious, cruel Margaret of Anjou, Anne is caught helplessly in political machinations.

Victim of her own family's conspiracies, Anne is shattered by revelations of betrayals and her own untenable position. She never forgets Richard but, with her status as a Lancaster and traitor, is he lost to her forever?

Heiresses, who enjoyed luxury and seemingly held power of their own, are often romanticized. The Virgin Widow quickly dispels such notions with the brutal realities of political pawns in intrigues abandoned to suffer consequences of decisions not of their making.

I would especially like to mention the Readers Guide "A Conversation with Anne O'Brien". Seldom do readers have such a great opportunity (15 pages!) to gain insight about an author, her/his motivations for penning a novel, thoughts on the subject matter and special historical interests.

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2013
This story is told through Anne Neville's eyes and touches upon the heartless marriage (if you can call it a marriage) between herself and the evil Prince of Wales (Lancaster). This book states to be a love story between Anne and Richard Plantagenet (Richard III), which is heavily emphasized throughout the book, but there is something lacking in this romance novel.
The historic facts have been left out or reworded and changed to suit a 'happily-ever-after' conclusion. It is a shame that this story ends just after Anne has her son. It would have been good if Anne O'Brien had explored the couple's life after marriage and the birth of their son, making it a true romance story between the two main characters.
I did love the story O'Brien had created true to history with the two being close friends in childhood, creating a foundation for their love later on. This is something that Gregory had not done.
This book is definetly worth a read if you love the War of the Roses and want to see a side to Richard III that Shakespeare had forgotten to include when he wrote his play for Tudor propaganda...
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on 22 January 2013
Anne O'Brien is one of the top historical writers at present. She takes you back into history and gives you a perspective not only of history but of the historical characters. We cannot possibly know today what they were truly like but Anne is a true historian and uses primary and secondary sources to try and put flesh and bones on a shadowy character from the past. She sticks to facts as much as possible and where this a gap in history only surmises what could have happened through logical historical analysis using the evidence at hand - this is where the fiction is created as well as putting the flesh and bones on the historical character. Her writing does put you there - in this case mediavel England. Anne not only gets you to imagine the period, but you live it with her characters for however long it takes you to read the novel and yes it does leave you wanting more. Which is the true mark of a good historical writer. A good historical writer not only loves history so much that they want to respect it as much as possible which Anne does but they also want to bring others to like it and well told story set in history that leaves you waning for more will actually get you reaching for the history books or biographies to find out more about the actual characters and events from the novel. That is what Anne O'Brien's book do. A good tale all round and very highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 23 August 2012
This was not a bad effort at all. I think it's rather a shame that the cover tries to liken O'Brien to Philipa Gregory, as the latter's writing has impressed me not at all.

This does fall rather more into the historical romance rather than historical fiction category, but it was in the main historically accurate as far as we can go. As far as I can recollect, the earliest contemporary accounts have Edward of Lancaster slain either in the field or in flight from the battlefield (whether or not crying 'Succour!' unto the Duke of Clarence.....) and O'Brien seems to have picked up a later rather Tudor-embroidered version of events to work from.

The novel is written in the first person, which is not a narrative device I generally care for. In this instance though, I think she pulled it off and gave Anne Neville a convincing voice. The early chapters, especially, did feel like the voice of a girl, but without being too childish or silly.

Overall, I enjoyed this and look forward to reading some of her other works. I can only join my voice to others by stating that I too think that Penman's The Sunne in Splendour is about the best fictional work you are likely to find on the period - enjoy!
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