BOOK CLUB: Queen of the North

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Author: Anne O’Brien
ISBN: 9780008225421
RRP: $32.99
Publication Date: 21st May 2018
Publisher: HQ Fiction – GB
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Anne O’Brien is a Sunday Times bestselling author with a passion for history and a list of historical romances under her belt. She is not an author I have read before I think it might be time to change that.


Her latest release is Queen of the North and set in 1399. A meticulously researched tale that places actual people and events at the centre of an epic novel and allows the unspoken parts of history to be interpreted by the imagination of the author.

The path to the throne has never been straightforward, throughout history there have always been betrayals, lies, plots and conspiracies; not to mention assassination attempts.

Opinion is often divided as to who is the rightful king, because it’s not always who is sitting on the throne.

Elizabeth Mortimer believes her eight-year-old nephew is the rightful king but many are against the idea of a child-ruler. This opinion makes Elizabeth a traitor so she needs to keep her plans, and her activities, a secret to save her own skin.

A tale of betrayal, lies, deception and treason that sets Elizabeth on a quest to turn history on its head.

Anne O’Brien can be found on Faceboook, Twitter and her Website

Queen of the North is published by HQ Fiction and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to HQ Fiction 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Queen of the North so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

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20 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Queen of the North

  1. Political intrigue, plots, and changing allegiances are the background to the historical novel, Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien. The book provides some interesting insight into medieval times, where a nobleman’s backing of the ‘right’ side could mean fame and fortune or on the flip side, death and dishonour. (… a lot like modern day politics…)

    Set in the north of England, where border battles with the Welsh and Irish were common, Queen of the North, follows the fortunes of the powerful Percy family as they back Henry of Lancaster when he ousts King Richard II from the throne. It is told from the point of view of feisty Elizabeth Mortimer, a noblewoman of superior royal stock to the Percy family that she has married into.

    From the start Elizabeth is torn between her role as a dutiful wife showing loyalty to her in laws and their alliances, and the royal claims of her two young nephews, Edmund and Roger Mortimer. Much of the drama early in the book is provided by Elizabeth’s spirited interactions with her husband Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, as she tries to persuade him of the righteousness of the Mortimer boys’ royal claim to the throne.

    Elizabeth and her younger brothers’ championing of the Mortimer claim ultimately leads to tragedy. And we are very clearly shown how being on the ‘wrong’ side of medieval politics stripped nobles of power, position and honour in a very public way.

    Well researched and well written, Queen of the North is a sad but entertaining read about the political power struggles of medieval life.

  2. I received this book from the Beauty & Lace Book Club in exchange for my honest review.

    If you don’t know your 14th/15th Century English history (which I don’t), just be advised that the family trees at the beginning of the book do contain some major spoilers (unless you manage to avoid looking at the Death Dates).

    I started off not liking this book at all. The 4 page prologue is only there to explain the title of the book, and as such, is completely unnecessary. It is badly written and does no favours for the main character (I did not warm to her at all). It also contains some interesting imagery, such as, “The sable lining of my cloak felt chill, like a cold cat, against my throat”. Cold cats? But aren’t all cats warm? Little things like this bother me, and if I had picked this book up from the library, it would have been going back the very next day.

    I read on. So confusing – why does everyone have to be called Henry? (not the authors fault, they are all historical figures).

    By page 22 I was very surprised to find myself enjoying the story. I now understood the main character (Elizabeth), maybe not totally embraced her as a long lost sister, but I liked her. I had my Henrys sorted out from my Harrys from the Authors clever use of various titles and nicknames to distinguish one from the other. This book was looking more promising. There were one or two other strange descriptions that jarred on me, like “I worried at it, as I would worry over a length of knotted embroidery thread until all was smooth, fearing all the time that nothing would ever be smooth again”. Ummm… Political plotting and possible treason against the King (even though it could mean death to everyone that you ever loved), it’s just like unknotting embroidery thread….Errrr…..not really.

    Despite this, I ended up loving the book. The two main characters, Elizabeth and Harry, are well drawn and feel very real to the reader. I was fascinated by their married life and their personal ups and downs more than I was by the political intrigue. They fought and disagreed, and yet they never stopped loving each other. A great read and an insight into what it must have been like to be intelligent and well-connected female in a very male dominant world.

  3. Queen of the North – By Anne O’Brien
    Elizabeth is a stubborn and head strong character. Her Mortimer ties control her loyalties, even at the expense of her husband’s family. Treason, plotting, changes of allegiance and tragedy feature paramount throughout the book, culminating in a read that was captivating due to the nature of the story but not in the way it was told.

    Though it is not a book that is reluctantly put down, it merits a good historical tale, describing the powers that hover over the crown in that era, from the point of view of a close family member of the true heir, infact being the heir herself if women of that time could inherit the throne.

    The story itself felt very rushed and contained little detail. It was difficult to develop any relationship or sympathies with the character and felt as though I was being kept at a distance. Still, it warranted an interesting read based on its historical value.

  4. Initially I found “Queen of the North” a book that was a little heavy going for me and I think it was the old-fashioned language that took a while for me to get used to but the way Anne O’Brien wrote this book and the vivid descriptions actually made me feel like I was really living at that time period.

    I loved the setting in the North-East of England as I was born and raised in this area and many of the names of people and places were familiar to me.

    This is the story of Elizabeth Mortimer wife of Harry Hotspur son of the Earl
    of Northumberland around the 15th century.

    She lived in a time when ambition ruled and the family name was everything.

    Elizabeth was brought up with a strong sense of the Mortimer claim to the throne so was determined to make sure that her family was kept in the royal line.

    So much goes on in this story – murder, treachery, betrayal, family disputes, love and sadness and so many twists and turns that had me on edge.

    I was in awe how Anne O’Brien combined both fact and fiction together to bring together this remarkable and gripping novel.

    Thank you to Harper Collins and Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read and review this amazing book.

  5. I tried and tried to get into this book, but I just couldn’t go more than a few pages without wanting to take a break. The writing was lovely and the author has an amazing imagination . But the book just wasn’t something that captivated me and held my attention.

    I’m so happy I had the opportunity to read this, and I’ll continue trying to fall in love with it

  6. I have always enjoyed medieval drama and think Anne O,Brien more than adequately researched and portrayed the historical element of this story. Once I could get my senior’s head around following the lineage of characters I found this book interesting but not particularly enjoyable. For me, although Elizabeth was .endearing as she showed conviction and strength in a male dominated society, I did not find the other characters appealing or vibrant. I think as a historical drama the book has main elements of fact and the combination of fiction does lift the heaviness of the history, but personally I found it was all a bit too confusing. Nevertheless I am sure this book will appeal to the historical minded and those who don.t mind some brain stress while reading.

  7. I am going to do my best to give an honest review.

    I found this book was well written and had a lot of detail. Almost too much, some description bordering on unnecessary for the plot line. I found it to be interesting and well researched, however it didn’t hold my attention, in that all encompassing, can’t put down sort of way. I feel someone more into a detail and highly descriptive story line would enjoy this more than I.

    I find it hard to keep reading this book, having to almost force myself to pick it up at times. Do’t get me wrong. It could be someone’s favourite book. But it’s just not mine at the moment. I will however, continue trying to read and enjoy the book.

    I found parts of the book peaked my interest, while others I had to almost skim read due to the almost unnecessary amount of description and detail. I also found the characters a little confusing, trying to remember which Henry is speaking, and which is the one listening, due to no fault of O’Briens, histories just sucky that way.

    Overall a pleasant book. I would recommend to history geeks and people slightly older then I.

  8. It had been awhile since I had read a historical novel and initially it took a bit to get my head back into this genre. I love the use of the family tree to help assist the reader work out who is who in this novel as I used it as a reference point many times.

    Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien is a highly descriptive historical novel set in 1399 when England’s crown is under threat. The novel is written and based around Elizabeth Mortimer who married into the Percy Family to Henry or known as “Hotspur” he is one of the many Henry’s in the story.

    What I love about historical fiction is that it often leaves you wanting to research the characters more to gain more knowledge about this time, Often as is always the case marriages were based on alliances and politics but often family loyalty runs deep which is the case for Elizabeth. In her eyes there is only one rightful king and that is her 8 year old nephew Edmund but she loves her husband Henry dearly.

    The novel follows the politics and ambitions of who should be sitting on the throne, it starts with King Richard II only just holding on with Henry of Lancaster back to reclaim is place on the throne. Meanwhile Elizabeth works to get her nephew on the throne.

    Queen of the North will appeal to fans of historical fiction thank you to Beauty and Lace and HQ Fiction for the opportunity to read and review this novel.

  9. Queen of the North by Anne O”Brien was not what I expected it to be. I knew from the start it was historical fiction with all the essential elements to make it an exceptional read, intrigue, murder, ambition, power, deceit and family ties. But, somehow it feel short of my initial high expectations and I had trouble wanting to continue at times much to my disappointment. Thank you Beauty and Lace Book club and Harper Collins Publishers for the opportunity to read this novel.

  10. Thankyou to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins Publishers for the opportunity to read Anne Obrien’s Queen of the North.
    The book is set in England in 1399. The historical events have been extensively researched.
    The story is told by Elizabeth Mortimer, of royal blood , who is married to Sir Henry Percy, known as Harry Hotspur.
    It is certainly apparent that if you were King in these times, it is very hard to remain King! Treason and plots from everywhere!
    I would have been lost with out the Family Tree pages at the front of the book, as I needed it to sort out who was who.
    I found it hard to get into the story until halfway through the book . By then I was quite interested in the outcomes in Elizabeth’s life. Certainly not easy years for a woman to live through!
    You certainly need to be a lover of historical novels to enjoy this book.

  11. As a lover of Historical Novels I really enjoyed this book. I find they are a great way to learn about times in history as although the personal conversations and such are imagined the key points and events in history are there to learn from.
    This book based in the late 100’s through the early 1400’s follows Elizabeth Mortimer and her desire to be Queen and remain so. As a child her marriage was prearranged to ensure the unity of the Mortimer and Percy families. Her marriage to the man dubbed Hotspur suited them both but was a marriage with love. Another true love for Elizabeth was the son that they would have together.
    Life in this time in history is never certain and the book shows us the struggles that the more privileged families must go through to maintain their status. It was all about marrying the right person and befriending those that can help you to maintain or further your wealth and status and once you are there you must fight to hold on to it as at any moment those you trust could turn on you and it could be swiftly taken away.

    If you love Historical Romance then im sure you will love this book. To add to my enjoyment as i read I used google to find each of the castles mentioned in the book which really helped me in seeing the scenes in my mind as I read.

  12. My thanks to Harper Collins & Beauty & Lace for this opportunity to read Queen of the North By a great author Anne O’Brien

    If you love history & the struggles of royal families back in time than I think you should enjoy this book of Elizabeth Mortimers fight to try & maintain her status & that of her son whilst also knowing who to trust

    Heavy going at first but once into the storyline I found it really enjoyable but as I said only if you are into royals & history

    I recommend to any history buffs out there

  13. Interesting and unique. Based on relatively unknown true people and events in the 15th Century and told from the perspective of a female. It’s a little tricky with multiple people having the same name, but what can you do when that’s what they did back then. I got used to it.

  14. Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien is Historical Fiction at it’s best.
    Intrigue, murder, plots and treason abound in the pages.
    We follow Elizabeth Mortimer, born of the Plantagenet bloodline and the upheavel
    of 1399 with King Richard II ruling.
    When exiled Henry of Lancaster returns to Englad to reclaim his rightful inheritence,
    oaths are made, oaths are broken.
    Anne O’Brian has written with an eye for detail
    She has meticulously researched the history of succesion to the Throne,
    and the lengths they whom believe they are entitiled to it will go too to achieve their goal.
    Queen of the North is not a light read,
    but lovers of Historical Fiction will engross themselves in the pages.

  15. Normally a lover of royal history I was so excited to receive this book and eagerly dived in to read.
    I was unfortunately bitterly disappointed. The love story between Elizabeth and Henry was fascinating with their continued arguing and their continual power battle ever though that loved each other fiercely. Unfortunately that is all I got from this story, and was more eager to finish it, then I was to start.
    Normally a lover of this genre, I won’t be too quick to choose another one of the same.

  16. I did enjoy this book, although it did take a little to get into, but I think that was more getting used to the style of writing that comes with a historical novel. I was not able to binge read early on as the information was a lot to digest and I found that sometimes I couldn’t finish a chapter without needing a little break, but definitely a great read and one I would happily recommend to anyone who likes their history.

  17. Thanks Harper Collins and Beauty and Lace for giving me the chance to read Queen of the North.
    I used to be a big reader of Historical novels but haven’t read one for quite a while. I have not read any of Anne O’Brien’s novels so it was good to read something different.
    I sometimes found the language or tone of the language a bit hard to follow and, although I found the historical story of the dynasties interesting, I thank goodness for the family timeline graph at the beginning!
    Narrated by the female protagonist Elizabeth who has a more noble bloodline than her husband Henry Percy, she tells the drama and stories of medieval times with wit and intelligence. The future of their bloodline and kingdom rests on the shoulders of Elizabeth’s 8 year old nephew but Henry does not think the kingdom should be ruled by another child-king. The characters are based on true historical facts although not much is known about Elizabeth and her role so the author has needed to make Elizabeth a smart noble woman, who’s story should be told.
    There seems to be almost too much happening at once at times then gaps of not much happening at all so I found it sometimes hard to keep going, wondering if that part of the story was finished or not. I feel this novel is for true historical fiction lovers, particularly those who really enjoy royal historical fiction and maybe know a little of the period. It has all the right mixes – politics, wars, overthrows and so on but I found it too confusing at times and I kept having to re-read parts!

  18. This book gives great historical insight into the Lancaster and Plantagenet royal feuding all whilst following the lives of Elizabeth Mortimer and her family.
    If you love historical fictions of this era, then this is the book for you. Unfortunately I found it to drag out a bit too long in parts of the novel for my liking.

  19. Thank you Beauty and Lace Book Club and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read and review Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien.

    This historical novel is set at the end of the 14th century and beginning of the 15th century in England and focuses on Elizabeth Mortimer, a woman who carries within her veins both Mortimer and Plantagenet blood. Marriages in those days were negotiated to further blood lines and land claims, and so before she had yet attained her womanhood Elizabeth was married to Henry Percy, a young man only a few years her senior, in order to solidify the Percy claim to the lands in the North of England.

    For those familiar with English history this was the period that would eventually lead to the War of the Roses. It was a time of treachery, treason and plots, and yet also a time of chivalry. Cousins plotted against each other based on who they considered had the greatest claim to the throne, and the man who pledged loyalty and fought by your side today could just as easily switch sides and fight with your enemy tomorrow. An unsuccessful uprising against the current King resulted in painful and public executions, backing the winning side resulted in titles and land.

    The tale begins with the return from exile of Henry Bolingbroke, cousin of both Elizabeth Mortimer and the reigning king, Richard II, and the decision of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, father of Sir Henry Percy (also known as Harry and Hotspur) to commit the Percy’s to support Henry Bolingbroke to depose King Richard II.

    Despite his assertions that he will support the claim of the best person to the throne, it quickly becomes clear that Henry of Bolingbroke considers that he is that best person, ascending the English throne as King Henry IV after the successful removal of Richard. To Elizabeth this is an anathema, she considers that her nephew Edmund Mortimer, son of her eldest brother Roger (who Richard had executed for treason) had a much stronger claim to the throne as a blood descendant of King Edward III. However no one, it seems will support the claim of another potential child king, until King Henry IV makes one demand too many of his loyal retainers, with treasonous and treacherous results.

    I love historical fiction, the ability to weave a story around known facts is an impressive skill but like others who have reviewed this work I admit to having struggled to become immersed in this work of O’Briens. Some of it is clearly not her fault, the insistence of families to use the same names for each generation makes following who’s who very difficult, the plethora of Henry’s and Edmund’s and all their interrelationships makes following the plot an intense brain exercise. However it does seem that at times O’Brien over complicated the tale herself with the level of description and the usage of language that seems unwieldy nowadays.

    This is an intense tale of a bloody period within English history which is recommended to those who enjoy historical novels, with the caution that it is by no means an easy read. I give it 3.5 stars.

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