Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: "The Forbidden Queen" by Anne O'Brien

From Goodreads:  1415. The Battle of Agincourt is over, and the young princess Katherine de Valois is the prize to be offered to Henry V of England. The innocent Katherine is smitten with Henry, but soon understands that her sole purpose is to produce an heir to unite England and France. When Henry leaves her a widow at the age of 21, Katherine is forced to resign herself to a quiet life as the Dowager Queen; her duty is to raise her son, the young King of England, and little more.

But Katherine is still young and passionate. Many desire her, and her hand in marriage is worth a kingdom. Setting aside those driven by ambition, Katherine falls in love with her servant Owen Tudor, and glimpses the happiness that love can bring. But their enemies are circling, all battling for power and determined to prevent their marriage. Katherine will have to fight to control her own destiny…

In this compelling and beautifully written book, Anne O’Brien tells the story of the innocent young princess, Katherine de Valois, a pawn in a ruthless political game between England and France, and the woman who founded the most famous royal dynasty of all – the Tudors.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This is the second Anne O'Brien book I have read and I must say that I definitely need to read more of her books!  The Forbidden Queen is such a good book.  I am really starting to love works of historical fiction that go outside the usual Henry VIII/Elizabeth I mold.  This is one of those books.

Katherine of Valois is the grandmother of Henry VII, the first king of the Tudor dynasty.  I knew almost nothing about her life before I read this book and I have to say she lived a very fascinating life.  Katherine is such a fantastic, strong character.  She had to endure so much hardship in her life but still managed to obtain the happiness she wanted and deserved.  I think O'Brien made Katherine into a very human character.  She wasn't perfect; she fell into fits of despair and could be very naive but I think that's why I liked her so much.  She seemed so real!

I thought the author did an interesting job of forshadowing problems for Katherine's son, King Henry VI.  The story included a prophecy about how he would 'reign long and lose all' and there was a lot of talk about how Katherine's father was mad and the concern that she carried this in her blood.  Knowing that King Henry VI did suffer from some sort of mental breakdown made these parts of the story even more intriguing. 

The one thing I did not like about this book was how the story ended.  I don't know why it really bothered me and was not the way I had hoped to see the story end.  It did make me think I need to read more about Katherine of Valois as I am curious to see how things turned out for her.  I also would have liked to see an 'Author's Note' that explained what was fact and fiction in the story.  Those things aside, I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.  4 1/2 stars.


  1. I read this one last year and enjoyed it as well! Happy reading.


  2. Sorry you did not like the ending, Denise, but that's how it happened. Tragic, and yet a triumph that Katherine took control in her troubled life.
    Thank you for the great review.

  3. I haven't read this one yet but if you liked Anne O'Brien's style I would definitely recommend you read "The King's Concubine" and "Virgin Widow", which is one of my very favourite books. They're nice and chunky and definitely worth a read! :)

    1. I have read "The King's Concubine" and I loved it! I am definitely going to pick up 'Virgin Widow'.

  4. The only book I've read on Katherine of Valois is by Jean Plaidy. And while I don't know how the one you read ended, I do know not much is known about the end of Katherine's life. I don't think anyone knows whether her and Owen Tudor were ever married. I think people suspect they were, but no record of it exists. You would think that the person who really made the Tudors into royalty, would have a little more facts about that part of her life.

    1. I may have to read the Jean Plaidy book. I agree that it is really surprising that there isn't more information out there about her life considering how famous her grandchildren and great-grandchildren were.


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