New Read: The Forbidden Queen

The Forbidden Queen

February here in the UK has continued to be wet and windy. I have also continued to be busy with work and college so when I have had a free moment all I’ve wanted to do is curl up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. I picked up The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien hoping to escape and find some comfort in a historical tale.

The Forbidden Queen follows the life of the beautiful Katherine of Valois. Katherine is the daughter of Charles VI of France, becomes the wife of Henry V of England, mother of Henry VI of England and grandmother of Henry VII of England. A glorious lineage and heritage but at heart Katherine only really wishes for love. Katherine has a lonely up-bringing in her aunt’s abbey from which marriage was the only means of escape. Henry hero of Agincourt and the king of England sweeps into Katherine’s life offering not only to make her his wife but the queen of England. By Henry’s side Katherine begins a life of splendour and glory yet while she provides him with the longed for son and heir Henry does not love her. Their marriage is to be short-lived with the death of Henry fighting in France leaving Katherine a young and highly desirable widow. I found myself really rooting for Katherine to find love and while Henry’s death leaves her free to marry again I just knew it couldn’t be that easy! Katherine has a political mine field to work her way through.

The Forbidden Queen centres mainly around Katherine and the men in her life. Katherine grows up isolated from the world inevitably leaving her naïve to the facts of life. Katherine is naïve, young, loving and hopeful as she sets out on her married life and I couldn’t help but like her even though my more practical mind told me she was heading for disappointment. After the death of Henry I found Katherine went through quite a transformation she is still loving and hopeful but she does find a new found bravery which made me like her even more. There are two main love interests for Katherine after she is widowed one is a flamboyant and ambitious man while the other is a stable and strong man both are equally controversial choices for Katherine though. I thought that both love affairs help to develop and mould Katherine further in a positive way regardless of their differing outcomes.

The Forbidden Queen is the first novel I have read by the author Anne O’Brien but I had heard good things about this novel from other bloggers. I thought O’Brien’s style was descriptive and elegant. I felt like a really did get into the mind of this medieval princess and got to experience her world through O’Brien’s detailed narrative from Katherine’s perspective. The Forbidden Queen was a slow burner for me. At first I found myself just reading one chapter a day as I felt the emotions I got from Katherine were pretty powerful and sad. I needed time to reflect on this. Once we got into the chapters following Henry’s death though I found myself hooked. I preferred Katherine as a character after this point and I just couldn’t wait to find out what she would do next! The pace of the story also seemed to speed up for me too. Leading to me polishing off the second half of the book pretty much in one evening when I had tucked myself into bed early.

The Forbidden Queen is a moving and inspiring fictionalised tale of a medieval princess, daughter, queen, wife and mother. I recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction. I would be interested in reading more by the author Anne O’Brien.

I received an ARC of The Forbidden Queen via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read any of Anne O’Brien’s novels? Any recommendations?

The Classics Club: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Mid-August brought cooler temperatures and showers to the UK. The sort of weather that is more typically associated with the British Summer. To go with the traditional weather I needed a traditional read. What could be more traditional than Jane Austen? Northanger Abbey awaited on my bookshelf as did Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest on my Kindle. I thought they would be great accompanying reads.

Northanger Abbey follows the coming-of-age of Catherine Morland the daughter of a country clergyman. Catherine isn’t beautiful but she has grown fair, she is tolerable well-read and skilled in her needlework but what she really adores is to read Gothic novels! Catherine’s neighbours Mr and Mrs Allen are wealthy and without children so when Catherine turns seventeen they ask her to join them for the season in Bath. Catherine has never left the country before and is wildly excited by it all. Bath offers the promise of nights at the theatre, balls, shopping, and new friends. Catherine quickly becomes attached to a Miss Thorpe and siblings Henry and Eleanor Tilney. The two friendships are to clash though and make her time in Bath difficult. Then she is offered the perfect escape. A visit to Northanger Abbey a Gothic pile in the countryside home to the Tilneys. Catherine foresees ruins, ghosts, and mysteries galore!

The protagonist of Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland is a likeable but flawed character. With her honest heart, inexperience, and vivid imagination Catherine has a lot to learn about society and friendship. I enjoyed experiencing how Catherine grows during the story through the experiences of her two friendships. I really loved Henry and Eleanor Tilney. Eleanor is just delightful while Henry is a bit of an eccentric country gentleman but I loved him for it. There is a very amusing scene where he is spinning Catherine a tale on their journey down to the Abbey worthy of any Gothic novel. In stark contrast we have Isabella and John Thorpe who I thoroughly disliked. They are both pretentious, vain, and scheming from day one sadly naïve Catherine seems to be oblivious to it all. This is perhaps the first Austen novel where I have met characters I have truly disliked and would want nothing to do with.

Northanger Abbey is the fifth novel of Jane Austen’s I have read. I love Austen’s work. All the novels I’ve read of Austen’s have been a beautiful glimpse into a by-gone age through the eyes of young women, and Northanger Abbey was no exception. What was different though was all the references to the  Gothic romance novels of the time. Not that a young lady would wish to be caught reading one! I loved all these references and that the heroine herself was unashamedly in love with them. The other main difference I found was the rather abrupt ending. Don’t get me wrong I liked the ending but we are told in hindsight about it like a report rather than viewing it for ourselves. I can perhaps now see why Northanger Abbey was not published in Austen’s lifetime. I imagine it was not what publishers thought the public were looking for from Austen which could still ring true today. This is not a novel I would recommend you reading if you are new to Austen’s writing but well worth a go if you are already a die-hard fan.

Northanger Abbey is an enjoyable coming-of-age tale in the Regency period with a Gothic romance twist! I highly recommend to existing fans of Jane Austen. This is the 16th read off my Classics Club list. Now the only Austen novel I have left to read is Mansfield Park.

Have you read this? Are you a fan of Jane Austen?