The Shadow Queen
The Shadow Queen is the story of Joan of Kent, a tale of treachery, power-hungry families and legal subterfuges, in which Joan, a woman of considerable charm and beauty, played a central role at the Plantagenet Court.
‘What would enhance the pattern of my life further? One word slid into my
mind. A seductive word. A dangerous word, perhaps, for a woman. Power.’
From her first clandestine marriage Joan of Kent’s reputation was one of scandal and rumour. Her royal blood made her a desirable bride, but her ambition and passion could become a threat to the stability of the Plantagenet dynasty.
Joan knew what she must do to survive, the political games to play, the alliances she must make, even if one man will always own her heart. But would her ambitions bring her happiness?
A dramatic story of love and loyalty and of the cost of personal ambition, this is the story of the woman who would ultimately seek power as the mother to the ten year old King Richard II, from the shadows of the throne.
The Shadow Queen breathes life back into this remarkable medieval woman, Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent of Kent.
What did I think of the Book?
From the opulence and grandeur of court life to the damp and crumbling manor of the Holand estate, journey back in time to the reign of Edward III and see things through the fresh and young eyes of Joan, The Fair Maid of Kent.
Joan of Kent can want for nothing. With a proud lineage, this Plantagenet princess can look forward to a bright future. Wealth, respectability, jewels, land, power, and position, are all hers for the taking. Joan knows what is expected of her. She is to marry well.
Joan's mother, Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell, brings her the most wonderful news. Joan is to be given in matrimony to her childhood friend, William Montacute, the son of the first Earl of Salisbury. This marriage has every advantage and comes with the King's approval. But there is a problem, for Joan is already married to someone who did not look at her and count how much money she would bring to the wedding bed. Instead, she married a man who loved her. She just didn't tell anyone about the wedding! Her husband, Thomas Holland, is away fighting for the King and Joan finds herself in a precarious position. She has no allies to turn to in the face of her mother's ambition. Joan will marry William Montacute, even if it is the last thing she ever does.
Anne O' Brien brings us another captivating story of seduction, scandal, and the most heart-breaking tale of a woman who dared to go against convention and instead, followed her heart. The Shadow Queen was so vivid in its detail that I found myself completely immersed in the story. Time ticked on and yet I didn't notice as each turn of the page brought more drama, more heartache, and a desperate hope that this protagonist, this brave and courageous young woman, would find happiness.
The Shadow Queen is told in the first person, from Joan's perspective. Joan really struggles with who she is, and it was a joy to watch her mature. Her relationship with Ned was portrayed as the pinnacle moment of her life, not just because Ned was who he was, but because this was a real grown-up relationship for her. It came with problems, but they loved each other. Joan sometimes came across as incredibly self-serving, but she really blossomed as a character when she married Ned.
I have to say I was deeply moved by the portrayal of Edward, 'Ned,' The Black Prince of Wales. He was so real in the telling that despite knowing beforehand how his life was to be cut cruelly short, this story, the way O’Brien portrayed him, made me wish for an alternative ending. I didn’t want him to die.
The Shadow Queen is not just a great work of literature; it is more than that, it shows the courage that these remarkable women had. We have all heard about how brave these noblemen were, but the stories of their wives are even more compelling. They all lost so many loved ones in a time where plague and war were rampant. How terrible it must have been for these women who waited patiently at home, hoping never to hear that their husband had died in battle. Such thoughts bring tears to my eyes even now. Life was precarious; there was simply not the time for wasted moments. Their stories—Joan's story—certainly deserves to be told. The Shadow Queen has left a lasting impression on me.
I Highly Recommend.
I received an ARC of this book from the Publishers, via NetGalley, for review consideration.
Links for Purchase
Publication date: 4th May 2017
About the author
Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history.
She now lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, on the borders between England and Wales, where she writes historical novels. The perfect place in which to bring medieval women back to life.