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

"The Forbidden Queen" by Anne O'Brien

Being a French princess and English queen does not assure happiness and being loved. It can be a lonely life being royal. You are constantly wondering who you can trust and who really loves you. Are you only useful for your royal blood, royal alliances, and ability to bear heirs? What if there was someone out there that loved you for you and would risk everything for you? This is exactly what happened to Katherine Valois, Queen of England. A neglected French princess turned ignored and un-loved English queen begins to wonder if she will ever be loved for more than her crown. She begins to accept a life of loneliness and disappointment, but the true and pure love from her servant, Owen Tudor changes her life forever. In "The Forbidden Queen" by Anne O'Brien, readers go on a journey of hurt, disappointment, love, and acceptance with Katherine of Valois.

The novel follows the life, loves, and losses of Katherine of Valois. This French princess grew up in a very chaotic household full of neglect and a lack of love. Her father King Charles VI of France was mad and her mother Queen Isabeau of Bavaria cared more about her numerous lovers and greed. Katherine is sent to a convent to learn how to properly become a future queen. Katherine never experiences the love of anyone. Her parents ignore her and the nuns are cold to her. When Katherine grows older she is promised in marriage to the great warrior king, King Henry V of England. Desperate for love, acceptance, and security, Katherine longs for her cold and aloof husband to love her, but King Henry only sees Katherine as a means to have the French crown and a vessel for royal babies. When King Henry V dies, Katherine is left alone with a newborn baby, the future King Henry VI of England and still longing for love. The young king's royal uncle Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector of England puts Katherine in a world of isolation where her only purpose is to be the Dowager Queen and the tie to the French crown, but Katherine is so desperate for love. The handsome and ambitious Edmund Beaufort charms Katherine and she becomes enamored, but Edmund's only use for Katherine is to gain power and the Duke of Gloucester quickly puts a stop to Katherine being wedded and bedded by an ambitious Beaufort. Katherine begins to believe she will live her life in isolation, loneliness, and never experiencing love until the head servant in her household, Owen Tudor changes her life forever by simply loving her. Owen and Katherine risk everything to be together. "The Forbidden Queen" is the ultimate story of a woman's constant disappointments and her finally finding love.

"The Forbidden Queen" is a wonderful tribute to Katherine of Valois. O'Brien has a very special gift in portraying royal females of history. She brings them to life and shows their loves, fears, hopes, dreams, and biggest insecurities. O'Brien does a great job in her portrayal of Katherine. O'Brien's Katherine is a fascinating portrayal because her journey follows her lack of love, her lack of confidence, her growing bitterness, and finally her blooming romance and love. You really get to see Katherine transform from lonely princess to insecure queen to unhappy dowager queen to happy Tudor wife. There have been numerous novels on Katherine of Valois in historical fiction and O'Brien's novel feels the most real and one you can relate to.

O'Brien also does an excellent job in portraying the different relationships Katherine has with the men in her life. Readers will feel Katherine's hurt and desperate longing for love and attention in her cold and impersonal relationship with King Henry V. Readers will cringe as Katherine is wooed by an insincere and phony Edmund Beaufort. Finally, readers will cheer and feel truly touched as Owen Tudor confesses his love, respect, and admiration for Katherine. These are three very different relationships and O'Brien portrays them wonderfully.

O'Brien is a very gifted and special writer. She always gives a well-rounded and complex portrayal to her female heroines. You will feel as if you know them beyond just them being royal and having a part in history. Thanks to O'Brien, Katherine is more than a princess, queen, and dowager queen, she is a person with feelings and emotions, just like we have in present day. Making royals relatable is gifted storytelling!

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