She eyed me dispassionately. ‘You are such a child, Katherine! If you’re expecting a love match, it will not happen.’ Her voice surprised me with it’s harshness, even when, at the distress she must have seen on my face, her eyes softened. ‘We do not deal in love, Katherine. We marry for duty.’
As I’ve previously discussed, I bought three Anne O’Brien books for £5 recently at a discount bookshop, and The Forbidden Queen is now the second of them that I’ve read, after The King’s Concubine. I absolutely loved The King’s Concubine, and even said I liked Anne O’Brien’s writing better than Phillippa Gregory’s (high praise indeed!), and after reading this book I haven’t changed my mind!
The Forbidden Queen tells the tale of the King Henry V’s wife, Katherine de Valois, who is widowed and the mother to an infant king by the time she is twenty-one. Unsure of her position in the English Court now that she is no longer queen, she finds herself subject to the whims of the many men who run the country in her young son’s name. Forbidden to marry, the young dowager queen finds herself entering into a turbulent love affair that could spell ruin for her…
Henry V is one of the most famous king’s of England, famed largely for his victory against the odds at the Battle of Agincourt, and immortalised as a heroic figure in Shakespeare’s play, Henry V. His French bride, however, has long remained a mystery, and very little is actually known about her, which made Anne O’Brien’s fictional reimagining of her life all the more fascinating.
As a character, Katherine is instantly likable and you really sympathise with her, as from a young age she is neglected by her mad father (Charles VI of France) and disinterested mother (Isabeau of Bavaria). She soon finds her dreams of love shattered when she is wed to a cold, unaffectionate man who has far more interest in war than in his new wife, or even his own son and heir. However, I loved how following her husband’s untimely death she proves herself to be a strong character, as she tries to establish her role in the Royal Court and fights against the restrictions placed upon her by Gloucester and his cohort.
I also loved how the romance developed in the book. Although I knew who she ended up with, thanks to history, her love interest is quite a peripheral character for a lot of the book which I liked. Usually in historical fiction books the first time the heroine lays eyes on the hero it’s love at first sight, so it made a nice change to have the love interest function as a minor character until, after a couple of red herrings, they finally start to have feelings for one another.
The pacing was good, especially considering it followed Katherine from childhood through to middle age, and I found myself zipping through this book easily. I didn’t feel bored at any point, and yet again I liked reading about a historical period I knew less about (as I tend to stick with the Tudor period). In fact, it was really interesting reading about Katherine’s life knowing she was the Queen who launched the famous Tudor dynasty.
As with The King’s Concubine, I absolutely loved this book! Yet again the characters were all interesting and well-developed, with Katherine de Valois proving a likeable character who you find yourself really rooting for. Seen as there’s a tendency to depict her as a ‘dumb blonde character’ in history and fiction, I really liked this reimagining of her, and I found her story truly fascinating. I have one more Anne O’Brien book to read now (The King’s Sister), and then I’ll definitely be heading back to the discount book shop to buy some more! I seriously recommend these books to any fans of historical fiction.