36. The Queen's Choice by Anne O'Brien

Tuesday 2 February 2016

I was very kindly sent a proof copy of Anne O'Brien's latest offering, The Queen's Choice which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Set towards the end of Richard II's turbulent reign, and the uncertain allegiances that would lead to what would be come to be known as The Wars of the Roses, The Queen's Choice follows the life of Joanna of Navarre, as she goes from Duchess of Brittany to Queen of England. 

Joanna is a woman of her time, understanding that with wealth, titles and position love does not always go hand in hand, however she has been fortunate in her first marriage. Her husband respects her opinion and treats her as an equal. It may not be the earth shattering love story of legends, but her life is secure, and happy. She doesn't question it.

Until the future Henry IV crosses her path. Suddenly, Joanna's perfectly constructed calm is thrown into utter turmoil in his presence, and their union is presented very much as a love match by O'Brien. It is a theme I am more than happy to fall into, as while love is theme throughout the book, it is not overwhelming. Joanna ultimately has to make the choice between her life with her children, or her life with Henry, something that is no easy decision to make. Although we do not know if it was a love match, it is interesting to consider given that she had so much to give up, with little to no benefit for herself or Henry. 

As readers, we get to experience their flaws as people, and as a couple, which allows the story to progress through their marital strife and differences as they learn to understand and trust one another. Henry comes to rely on Joanna, and after his death her life is once again thrown into turmoil by his calculating son, Henry V. It shows the swift changing tides of political agenda, and how women, even the nobility and royalty really were at the mercy of the whims of a King. 

I have always enjoyed O'Brien's books over those of Philippa Gregory, and this one is no exception. Easy to follow, and presenting history in an accessible manner, it is written from a first person perspective, it is pleasing to read, and not overly complicated to follow. Joanna is perhaps more of a modern woman for her times, but this can be allowed as it makes her relatable. It is a credit to O'Brien's skill as a writer to weave what could be a complicated tale into one so fluid and page turning. 
I knew little of Joanna prior to this, and had written her off as one of the voiceless Medieval Queens of the time, which is unfair. She was a woman who had to make a difficult choice, and became Queen to a country that was in the throws of an internal chaos and uncertainty. By becoming Queen of the Usurper by choice, it certainly paints her as a much more vibrant character than I had originally thought. 

There are obviously elements of artistic license used along side the known facts, however I feel these lend strength to the story. It is not outrageously unbelievable, and therefore does not detract. As previously stated I do enjoy O'Brien's writing style. I find it descriptive but not overly flowery, and her attention to detail is fantastic. 

If you enjoy reading historical fiction I would definitely recommend you pick this book up, you won't be disappointed.

Published: 16th January 2016

Buy: Here

Rating: 5/5

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