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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A contribution of value!
Theresa Tomlinson's review
Mar 24, 14 · edit

4 of 5 stars

I started reading this book with some trepidation as Anya Seton's KATHERINE was the book that started me on a lifelong obsession with historical novels - and I have eventually ended up writing them myself. I didn't like the over glamorous cover design! At first I felt uncertain - the...
Published 8 months ago by Theresa Tomlinson

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Scandalous Duchess
I think any author writing a novel about Katherine Swynford has a hard row to hoe. The quintessential historical novel about this enigmatic and historically important lady has to be Anya Seton’s ‘Katherine’ and for many readers any other novels about her are going to be measured against this classic and found wanting. Unfortunately this new novel...
Published 10 months ago by Jill Weekes


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A contribution of value!, 24 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Scandalous Duchess (Kindle Edition)
Theresa Tomlinson's review
Mar 24, 14 · edit

4 of 5 stars

I started reading this book with some trepidation as Anya Seton's KATHERINE was the book that started me on a lifelong obsession with historical novels - and I have eventually ended up writing them myself. I didn't like the over glamorous cover design! At first I felt uncertain - the book was very easy to read and romantic - starting straight into the Katherine Swynford/John of Gaunt relationship with very little build up, but the more I continued, the more I found that the remarkable historical events seemed to take over. This story cannot follow the classical romance because we know roughly what happened and a lot of it was not romantic at all. I felt that Anne O Brian conveyed the darker moments on Katherine's life very well and I found myself reading late at night, gripped by the heroines hardships - desperate for things to improve, as I knew they must. All in all I think this novel does add something of value to Katherine's astonishing story and I feel that the more writers who tackle this interesting period the better. When I finished it I went straight back to read the Anya Seton version again and then on to Alison Weir's excellent biography of Katherine Swynford. That can't be a bad reaction! Who is going to write the next version? Judging by the interest that has developed in the Tudor period from the many different versions - this could be the next big thing!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The scandalous Duchess is a history lesson without pain. Wonderful descriptions of court life., 24 April 2014
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This review is from: The Scandalous Duchess (Paperback)
Anne. O'Brien has produced her best book to date. Her knowledge of history and her infinite a facility to describe the feelings of people have helped make this the best book yet. She has chosen an extremely difficult subject, as there is so little factual history about her. But the Duchess comes to life under her skilled guidance. Lancaster is the large figure that he has always been, but her sympathic playing of him, makes him become a real person, with a glimpse of the overbearing tyrant that he could be.
The descriptions of life in those days is made real, the dripping of the roof at Kettletthorpe compared to the riches and opulence of The Savoy, makes one realise the different ways, that people existed in in those days. Katherine yearns to return to court life, but she is bound to her moldering keep, in order to preserve it for the son of her marriage.
Katherine is frequently torn between her love for Lancaster and returning to the Keewp and her duties as the land holder there.
A marvelous view of life on those days, which made me feel as though I was sharing the whole story with Katherine, together with her joys and sorrows. A superior book to Anya Setton's Katherine, the previous definite book on her.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A 21st century take on the Gaunt/ Katherine Swynford love story, 13 Jan 2014
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Mondoro (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Scandalous Duchess (Paperback)
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As the BBC's `Big Read' showed Anya Seton's 'Katherine' [l954] has had an enduring appeal to readers for sixty years. It was one of the books on my mother's book shelf and I read and loved it as a young teenager. In later years, memories of enjoying this book led me firstly to undertake a pilgrimage to Lincoln Cathedral to Katherine's grave and more importantly to read Alison Weir's non fiction account 'Katherine Swynford'. Weir's book is a scholarly and fascinating account of the life story of Katherine and John of Gaunt. With these two great books firmly in mind I approached Anne O'Brien's new take on Katherine and John's love story 'The Scandalous Duchess' with some trepidation. I am happy to say this new telling of the old story did not disappoint. The story is broadly[or perhaps I should say `loosely'?] on the same lines as Seton's novel [how could it not be] but this is definitely a fresh take on the story and, although O'Brien does not credit the outstanding research done by Weir,her novel does read as if she has taken Weir's research into account when writing her story . There is no hint in Seton's novel that John of Gaunt had many sexual encounters apart from his liaison with Katherine. However O'Brien does not shirk from writing about this and the effect, we in the 21st century assume, it would have had on Katherine. Nevertheless O'Brien does stop short at speculating, as Weir does, that there is a possibility that the 58 year old John of Gaunt died of a venereal disease. For the romantically inclined reader,however,the main thing is that, as history shows us,despite misunderstandings, the lovers overcame many years of trials and tribulations until in the end : `Reader' she `married him'! The dubious fact that this was to lead to her descendants giving us the perfidious Henry 7th is something even this Richard 3rd fan was prepared to put one side in the sheer pleasure of such a satisfactory, and historically surprising ending. fjs 
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Scandalous Duchess, 2 Feb 2014
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Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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I think any author writing a novel about Katherine Swynford has a hard row to hoe. The quintessential historical novel about this enigmatic and historically important lady has to be Anya Seton’s ‘Katherine’ and for many readers any other novels about her are going to be measured against this classic and found wanting. Unfortunately this new novel featuring Katherine falls into this category.

If you haven’t read ‘Katherine’ then you will probably enjoy this romanticised version of what is actually a marvellous love story. John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford overcame many years of separation to achieve what seems to have been a happy marriage and this shines through the book. I found some of the dialogue clunky and unbelievable and found myself skimming some of it. Unfortunately I found this book a disappointing read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Historical Tale, 5 Feb 2014
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Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Scandalous Duchess (Paperback)
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Anne O'Brien's reputation as a writer is well known to lovers of good historical fiction. She always manages to put flesh on the bones of those historical characters of whom too little is written in the chronicles of the time.

She certainly has her work cut out with this one: Katherine Swynford is well known as the long standing mistress of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and third son of the long reigned monarch, Edward 111. That at one stage he publicly repudiated her, only to later marry her and seek a Papal dispensation legitimising their children, all born before their marriage, is a matter of historical fact. That on his death he left instructions he was to be buried alongside his first wife Blanche is also a matter of public record. There is little in between about Katherine and their relationship.

Anne O''Brien weaves her tale using the well known historical markers and gives us the essence of their tale. She uses Gaunt's well documented arrogance and over weening ambition and Katherine's relatively humble beginnings to good effect. With her great talent for characterisation these fourteenth century people jump off the page for the reader. All is deftly set against the huge historical events of the time - at home and abroad. The effects of failure in France, the quest to restore the throne of Castile to its rightful owners, the impact of a child king on the English psyche, the Peasant's revolt are all here. All woven into the tale of a love affair which was so powerful it transcended the wrath of Church and State.

For lovers of historical genre this novel will not disappoint.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful love story, 18 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Scandalous Duchess (Kindle Edition)
Katherine by Anna Seton is my favourite book of all time.Alison Wiers book on Katherine was excellent too.This was a beautiful read and well worth reading.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An intense medieval romance novel, 30 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Scandalous Duchess (Paperback)
First off I would like to recommend that you don't embark upon this novel if you know you're going to spend every second comparing it to Anya Seton's "Katherine". It would be entirely unfair do to this as "Katherine" is one of the most magnificent historical fiction books ever written and it's unlikely to be matched.
That being said, I enjoyed this novel by Anne O'Brien and found favor in how she chose to write her novel based upon the love affair of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. This is a very passionate portrayal of their lives together and is very personal in it's telling. What I mean by this is that this is not a novel that shows their relationship in the grand scheme of things, but rather their relationship IS the focal point of the novel. As Ms. O'Brien writes of their relationship in her author's note "I consider it to be a tale of compulsive desire and need, so much stronger than love" and this is clearly portrayed throughout the novel. Absolutely this is a romance novel BUT it is a romance novel set in the real world, a medieval world full of rigorous protocol and moralistic standards. Therefore the bad comes right along with the good. This is not a light-hearted romance tale, this is a raw and stark account of two people who love each other against all odds and endure a lot in the name of such love. It was an emotional roller-coaster.
As relentless of emotional portrayal this novel was I will say that it could be a heavy-going read at times. I found myself wanting to take a step back from it and wishing there was a wider perspective to be found from another character's point of view. However this was not the nature of this novel, it keeps you centered right in the middle of this fiery relationship and there the reader is stuck throughout. A very interestingly written novel and one I won't forget.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars taking this book in hand I prepared myself for a bad read. However, 29 July 2014
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I cut my historical teeth on Anya Setons Katherine which just mesmerised me so, taking this book in hand I prepared myself for a bad read.
However..after a shaky start I continued to be gripped! My heart broke along side Katherine's and I fell into despair with them both
and their forbidden love! Anne O'Brien has brought them both to life again and I was swept along with magic of it. I highly recommend this book but just a warning... bare with it on the first couple of chapters. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend it for lovers of historical fiction, 18 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Scandalous Duchess (Kindle Edition)
Ketherine Swynford interests me as a person, as does her story. This book is well written, the characters are believable and you suffer with them while they have to be separated for political reasons. It gives a believable picture of how people were used and discarded for political reasons, especially royal brides. I have read the story by another author, slightly different, but that's to be expected in fiction. I recommend it for lovers of historical fiction.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing take on this story from Katherine’s viewpoint, 23 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Scandalous Duchess (Paperback)
Quite a lengthy book which I read in preparation for my annual visit to the Katherine Swynford Study Day at Lincoln Cathedral. I read it with an open and objective mind and with no attempt to compare it to other books about Katherine which I have read by Jeanette Lucraft, Alison Weir or Anya Seton.

It is narrated by Katherine which gives a strong feel of immediacy, though there is little room for alternative points of view from other characters. She shows her resilience, strength and determination from the beginning when she returns to the Savoy Palace to petition John of Gaunt for support.

The author did tell, rather than show, the love between John and Katherine as professions of love did seem to be spoken rather than demonstrated for much of the time. However she did a brilliant job of bringing Katherine, John and the times they lived in to life. All the major historical events were covered with the consequential impact on the lives of individuals. I was moved to tears at the end by the very believable deathbed scene and later by Katherine in the chapel at Leicester.
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The Scandalous Duchess by Anne O'Brien
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