I am incredibly honoured to be taking part in the HQ Stories Blog Tour today for Anne O’Brien’s new book The Royal Game.
England, 1444. Three women challenge the course of history…
King Henry VI’s grip on the crown hangs by a thread as the Wars of the Roses starts to tear England apart. And from the ashes of war, the House of Paston begins its rise to power.
Led by three visionary women, the Pastons are a family from humble peasant beginnings who rely upon cunning, raw ambition, and good fortune in order to survive.
Their ability to plot and scheme sees them overcome imprisonment, violence and betrayal, to eventually secure for their family a castle and a place at the heart of the Yorkist Court. But success breeds jealousy and brings them dangerous enemies…
An inspirational story of courage and resilience, The Royal Game, charts the rise of three remarkable women from obscurity to the very heart of Court politics and intrigue.
The Royal Game offers a fascinating insight into the world of the Paston family during the Wars of the Roses. Told through the eyes of three strong and enterprising women, based on their insightful letters.
We learn about the many struggles these women and their Paston family faced, the ways they had to adapt and play their parts whilst also being highly courageous, powerful, and influential within the spheres of their world and time. Each with their own ambitions, whether in support of their husband and future for their children, to escape an abusive mother and have a life of their own, or make an advantageous marriage – hopefully with love or in the least a mutual connection and understanding.
The Pastons are a family from a lowly beginning but through hard work and dedication are climbing the ranks in society. However, they find building links with the established nobility and securing a patron to support them difficult, they face opposition and claims to their property at every turn. You can feel the range of emotions they experienced through the author’s writing, the pride, the trepidation, the heartbreak. But also the stoicism, resilience, and the unwavering will to protect their family’s assets at all costs.
The author’s writing is highly descriptive and vivid, transporting you back in time effortlessly. The flow and pace of the novel works well with the back and forth perspectives of the women involved. From the clearly dedicated and thorough research, the author weaves a fascinating and intricate picture of the Paston family’s lives within the backdrop of the political turmoil during this period. Anne’s writing never fails to make history come alive and captivate with every page.
Ending on a perilous (and I’m sure decisive) moment in the Paston’s story has left me impatient for more! I absolutely cannot wait for the second Paston novel to find out what happens next!
Anne was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a B.A. Honours degree in History at Manchester University, a PGCE at Leeds University and a Masters degree in education at Hull University, she lived in the East Riding as a teacher of history. Always a prolific reader, she enjoyed historical fiction and was encouraged to try her hand at writing. Success in short story competitions spurred her on.
Leaving teaching – but not her love of history – she wrote her first historical romance, a Regency, which was published in 2005. This was followed by nine historical romances and a novella, ranging from medieval, through the Civil War and Restoration and back to Regency, all of which have been published internationally.
Since then Anne has sidestepped historical romances to write about the silent women of medieval history. As Virginia Wolfe once said: ‘For most of History, Anonymous was a Woman.’ For this reason, she decided to shake the cobwebs from some of these medieval women of interest and allow them to take the stage, three-dimensional and with much to say.
Here they are. And what a remarkable group of women who deserve to be given a voice:
Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker, a pawn in the game of marriage and power-brokering, but from a family not notable for its silence. Alice Perrers, ambitiously scheming mistress of King Edward III, but also a smart business-woman. Katherine de Valois, a naive political bride for Henry V who managed to snatch some happiness when she found the strength to take Owen Tudor into her tragic life. Katherine Swynford whose liaison with John of Gaunt was not a light-hearted love affair, but a scandal of sinful proportions.
Then there is Elizabeth of Lancaster, dragged into the depths of treason by her marriage to John Holland, thus her husband set in conflict against her brother the King. Joan of Kent, notable for her clandestine marriages, but worthy of so much more in the manipulation of power. Elizabeth Mortimer, forceful wife of the infamous Hotspur. Invisible Queen Joanna of England and treacherous Constance of York, both women of some reputation. Cecily Neville, doyenne of the Wars of the Roses, must of course take a bow upon the stage.
Her new novel for September 2021 concerns the remarkable women of the Paston family who allowed us to see so much of their lives and their menfolk through their letters.
Anne now lives with her husband in an eighteenth century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, a wild, beautiful place on the borders between England and Wales, renowned for its black and white timbered houses, ruined castles and priories and magnificent churches. Steeped in history, famous people and bloody deeds as well as ghosts and folk lore, it has given her inspiration for her writing. Since living there she has become hooked on medieval history.
Sometimes she escapes from writing. She enjoys her garden, a large, rambling area where she grows vegetables and soft fruit as well as keeping control over herbaceous flower borders, a wild garden, a small orchard and a formal pond. With an interest in herbs and their uses, Anne has a herb patch constructed on the pattern of a Tudor knot garden and enjoys cooking with the proceeds. Gardening is a perfect time for her to mull over what she’s been writing, as she wages war on the weeds.