We’ve all heard of Richard III. Edward III. Henry IV etc etc but not so well-known are their women …
Three years ago I discovered a new author. I can’t remember how, a link on Facebook I expect. What caught my eye was the fact she was doing a book signing in Swindon, a couple of motorway junctions from me, so I decided to look up the book. I liked what I saw, a new type of read for me; my favourite genre (HF of course) but the main character was Anne Neville, wife of Richard III. The book being Virgin Widow. I realised I had hardly ever found anything to read about her so I promptly made the journey to Swindon, bought said book plus another about Eleanor of Aquitaine (Devil’s Consort) and had both signed by the author. In all my years of reading, this was my first effort at meeting the author for a book signing and I was surprisingly nervous. I had no need to worry, the author was Anne O’Brien and what an approachable and lovely lady she is.
Her passion for her subject shines through and is animated on her face when discussing her characters. And so it should; her books are warm, succinct and full of meticulous research on subjects that aren’t necessarily widely known. I’ve since collected the novel about Alice Perrers (The King’s Concubine) and Elizabeth of Lancaster (The King’s Sister).
Anne’s books are like a breath of fresh air. Her characters had such influence on history but are always in the shadows of the main players, of which there are books aplenty. I imagine researching from primary and secondary sources for the likes of Alice Perrers, for example, is harder work than researching Alice’s man, Edward III. But Anne manages this with a smooth, interwoven flow of fiction to tell their stories. Alice Perrers is much more real to me now!
I’m yet to find another author who can so richly tell the story of our lesser-known characters in history, making them come alive, teaching readers how important they were and wanting to know more about them. Roll on the next book!