Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Forbidden Queen

Author: Anne O'Brien
Genre: Historical Fiction (Britiain)
Type: Kindle e-book Advanced Reading Copy
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
First Line: "It was in the Hotel de St Pol in Paris, where I was born, that I chased my sister through the rooms of the palace, shrieking like some demented creature in torment."

Book Description from GoodReadsAn innocent pawn

A kingdom without a king

A new dynasty will reign…

1415. The jewel in the French crown, Katherine de Valois, is waiting under lock and key for King Henry V. While he's been slaughtering her kinsmen in Agincourt, Katherine has been praying for marriage to save her from her misery. But the brutal king wants her crown, not her innocent love.

For Katherine, England is a lion's den of greed, avarice and mistrust. And when she is widowed at twenty-one, she becomes a prize ripe for the taking—her young son the future monarch, her hand in marriage worth a kingdom.

This is a deadly political game, one the dowager queen must learn fast. The players—the Duke of Gloucester, Edmund Beaufort and Owen Tudor—are circling. Who will have her? Who will ruin her? This is the story of Katherine de Valois

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres.  There's something awesome about reading a book that puts you back in time so you can learn a thing or two about an era long since gone.  I love the historical tidbits and felt that learning about Katherine de Valois, the mother of King Henry VI, would be a wonderful way to spend the weekend.  Unfortunately, I had a very hard time getting into this book.

I would characterize this book as much more of a romance than a historical fiction novel.  I would have loved to have more historical detail incorporated into the storyline but the book just seems to follow Katherine's love life (which I didn't find very romantic to begin with, truth be told).  Add to the fact that the character development and plot were both weak and one-dimensional and I just didn't enjoy this book.

In the beginning Katherine was a likeable, innocent young girl who has had a hard childhood (I actually would have liked to get more detail into her childhood but that time in her life was glossed over quickly).  As the story progresses Katherine continues to be this innocent, naïve, flighty girl and her lack of character development grated on me quickly.  She was defeatist from the get go and overall just had an utterly bleak feel to her.  It's one thing to be naïve because she was just a teenager when she was sent to England but she came off as whiny, weak and immature throughout the book.  She seemed shocked when Henry didn't have time for her.  He's the KING OF ENGLAND!  He's got countries to conquer and England to run, for goodness sake!  For a girl who grew up never imagining that she'd one day get the chance to be married, let alone a Queen, she sure did have a lot of preconceived notions. 

And for a girl who was raised in a neglectful (albeit royal) home and then sent to a nunnery you'd think that she'd have a lot more trouble fitting into her new life as the Queen of England.  But Katherine seems to worry more about whether Henry loves her than learning about her new role and helping to rule a country.  This issue continues as she is widowed and essentially looking for love in all the wrong places time and again.  There were many times when the story could have gone into further detail to help the reader get a better idea of life during this time but more often than not the details were glossed over to make room for Katherine's beaux.

I love strong female characters but Katherine came off as weak and silly.  Her happiness is solely dependent on her romantic life.  She was very self-absorbed in her own little world and felt very meek, immature, whiny and just generally not a character I could get behind.  If she started out weak and immature but then we got to see some growth in her character that would be one thing but it never felt like her character went through any substantial emotional changes throughout the book.

Another issue I had with this book concerned the writing style.  Throughout the book it felt like I was being told things instead of being shown by the characters actually doing something.  We got glimpses into Katherine's life but never really got down into the details.  For example, Katherine initially has issues with her 'damsels' (ladies in waiting) but other than the odd comment about her damsels not liking her it's not dealt with.  I would also have loved to get a feeling for the political and social issues of the time but instead the storyline felt like it just went from one bad relationship of Katherine's to the next.

Finally, one of the main reasons I requested to review this book was the fact that it dealt with Owen Tudor.  I was eager to get a peek at the early days of the Tudor dynasty but it was overshadowed by the 'will they won't they?' romantic banter between Katherine and Owen and that got old for me fast.

If there was more historical detail, intrigue and character development it would have made for a really good read.  Unfortunately, this book came off as a romantic novel with a weak historical framework that focused more on Katherine's love life and less on the political intrigue and historical details of the time.

My Rating: 2 stars

1 comment:

angstytimelord said...

Hi Laurie!

I've seen your reviews on Amazon, and I got curious about what books you'd reviewed on your blog. Your opinions are usually right about where mine are! I agreed with your review of this book. To me, Katherine of Valois came off as shallow and silly. I got so frustrated with her that there were a couple of times when I wanted to toss the book across the room instead of finishing it!

If you want to read a really interesting take on Katherine, I'd highly recommend Joanna Hickson's "The Agincourt Bride" and "The Tudor Bride" -- TTB is the sequal to TAB. They're both well-written, and quick, enjoyable reads, IMO. Also, I'd recommend Jean Plaidy's "The Queen's Secret," though that one tends to focus much more on the relationship with Owen Tudor.

Hope to see more book reviews! I enjoy reading them!

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