Anne O’Brien started off writing Harlequin historical romance books set in Regency England, and graduated to ‘big’ books based on historical characters in 2010. This, her first ‘big’ offering, was recommended to me by a mature student who loves historical fiction as much as I do, so much so I bought it first hand in a WHSmith Bad-Day-Bollocks-To-Everything-But-Books station binge last November. Knowing that I was going to be seeing Anne speak at the Leeds Big Bookend last weekend (CRACKING effort guys, WELL DONE) I bumped it up the pile, thinking I’ve read enough books set in the First World War for now…
Anne Neville is the youngest daughter of the Earl of Warwick-known as ‘the Kingmaker’, who I know from Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen as a turncoat bastard whose jealousy extended the War of the Roses for another twenty years.
Anne O’Brien writes her heroine as feisty and spirited (because it’s historical fiction and therefore ALL women are feisty and spirited) and more than a little romantic. Her Mills and Boon past comes through a bit, and it takes a while to get going, but when it does, this book is fun.
The problem is, this book is set in the Middle Ages, and I’ve read 10,000 pages of a popular fantasy series that might as well be set in the Middle Ages this year, so distinguishing between the two is a bit difficult. When Anne is married off to Joffrey, aka Edward of Lancaster, I couldn’t get the Sansa comparisons out of my head, which made her eventual pairings with Richard of Gloucester, whom I’d instantly cast as Jon Snow (because, at the moment, all heroes are Jon Snow. Not only does the man know where to put it, he also knows what to do with it once it’s there. You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to series 3). I was quite glad when Anne O’Brien suddenly turned Richard into Mr Darcy crossed with The Black Moth, as it made my imaginings of their longings all the easier on the brain.
Yes, this book is silly in places, the sex is very much ‘he brought me to such heights’ in-your-end-o and the characters are a little stock; but it is FUN, easy to read, and tells a different side to the Neville myth, although having Richard III (how many killings?) as a romantic hero is a little odd at first. I am truly gutted that Philippa Gregory has now got round to writing about this character, her Anne Neville is out in September. Pretty soon, however, they are going to run out of Medieval Babes and then we can all go back to what we do best and start reading about the Tudors again.
3/5 and a good beach read in the making, I’ve ordered her others.