Last year I read and enjoyed The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien. So when another of her novels came up I had to request it. Sadly I allowed The King’s Sister by Anne O’Brien to wallow on my Kindle to-be-read pile for too long.
The King’s Sister takes us back to 1382 where we are introduced to Elizabeth of Lancaster. She is the youngest daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, cousin of Richard II, and the sister of the future Henry IV. This is a turbulent time in England’s history. As tension grows between the Lancaster and York houses. The country is on the verge of the Cousin’s War; what we now call the War of the Roses. In this uncertain time Elizabeth’s father secures a safe marriage for her. Elizabeth however only has eyes for the charming but ruthlessly ambitious Sir John Holland; the half-brother of King Richard.
Elizabeth is not a character I have read about before. Anne O’Brien, the author, said herself she chose Elizabeth because there is little to nothing written about her life. Other than that she was “an over sexed” woman due to the fact she had 3 husbands in her short life. A rather bigoted, one-sided view of history. O’Brien makes Elizabeth a passionate, intelligent and fiery woman. Who has been spoilt and pampered all her life, and thus has subsequently become rather selfish. I didn’t really like Elizabeth but I found her fascinating and could admire what she stood for; a woman breaking the norms. Ultimately though she is the master of her own misery.
Elizabeth’s first marriage was in fact to the 8 year old Duke of Pembroke when she was 17 years old, which was never consummated. This is not the romantic marriage that she imagined, so Elizabeth begins an illicit romance with Sir John Holland. The consequences of which forces her father to annul her first marriage. I could sympathise with the embarrassment and upset her first marriage caused her but I couldn’t condone her actions. John and Elizabeth’s marriage will be a fiery, passionate and turbulent union. While it is a shining success under the reign of Richard II. The marriage is to be tested to its limit when Elizabeth’s brother usurps the throne for himself. Now Elizabeth will find herself torn between her love for her husband and brother. An almost impossible choice to make.
In this book O’Brien has brought the tense, brutal and colourful Medieval England to life. With the pageants, dances, tournaments and courtly love; that were in vogue at the time. At first I felt there was too much romance and not enough history. However in hindsight O’Brien needed to secure Elizabeth and John. As it was then through their marriage we saw the tension, drama, hurt and historical events that unfolded to bring Richard II down and the rise of Henry IV. Once this began I was hooked and even though I didn’t like Elizabeth. I found myself emotionally invested it what would happen to her and her family. From little historical information O’Brien has still managed to create in Elizabeth a rounded and believable character. So much so by the end I was rather choked up.
The King’s Sister was an emotional charged read for me. It is also perhaps the earliest historical fiction I have read. I would like to read more from this time period and by Anne O’Brien. I highly recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction and romance. Great read.
Thank you to Harlequin (UK) Limited for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? What other Anne O’Brien novels should I try?