Wednesday, 26 June 2019

#BookReview — A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien #Medieval #HistoricalFiction @anne_obrien



A Tapestry of Treason
By Anne O’Brien


Her actions could make history – but at what price?

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV.  Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her.  Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason, tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.



“When two overcomes three, all is lost…”

But it doesn’t really mean anything. Dice cannot possibly predict the future. It was just the confused ramblings of a cheap fortune-teller. No, there was nothing to be concerned about. Nothing at all. The House of York had it all, power, land, and the ear of the King. What could possibly go wrong?

Power, when one has tasted it, is very difficult to relinquish. Constance of York, Lady Despenser, and her family rose to the greatest of heights under the reign of Richard II. But Richard’s throne has been stolen by that undeserving usurper, Henry Bolingbroke, 2nd Duke of Lancaster.

The fate of the House of York now rests in Henry’s hands. Many of the nobles would love to see the House of York stripped of all her power, and her lands given to those who are more deserving. When two overcomes three… This cannot be allowed to happen. Constance will not let it happen. They will grovel if they have to, pledge allegiance to the new Lancastrian King if that will secure their immediate future. But, once a York always a York. United, the House of York is a formidable foe, and they will topple that usurper from his throne one way or another.

However, Henry is no boy at his books. If the House of York wants to pick a fight, then he will be ready for them. All of them. Even Constance.

From lofty heights to the pits of despair, A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien is the unforgettable story of Constance of York, Lady Despenser.

While other royal ladies sat with their embroidery, Constance plotted her revenge. Born to power, she was not a woman who would be happy playing the subservient cousin to Henry IV. Initially, I found it very difficult to like Constance. She is a manipulative and cruel woman. She thinks of nothing other than power, position and of course, wealth. Constance claims to be for York, but she is more for herself than any cause. Constance breathes sedition. That is how history records her life, and that is how O’Brien introduces her. Constance is a devious woman. She has a heart so black that no amount of light could ever penetrate her soul. But, and this is what I love about O’Brien’s books, Constance is not a one-dimensional villain in this tale, far from it. As the story progresses, O’Brien weaves a somewhat different and unexplored Constance to the one that history paints so darkly, and it is this Constance that I found myself weeping for.

Told from Constance’s perspective, O’Brien explores what it was like to be a woman during a time of great upheaval and political change, and what was to be the prelude to the War of the Roses. Constance is a very strong, driven character, but there is another story to her tale, and this was what made this interpretation of Constance so wonderfully enthralling. Love, hate, birth, death, what an incredible story that those who penned history has hidden from us. O’Brien has very carefully put the jigsaw of Constance’s life back together, and with a few educated guesses, she has presented her readers with a story that is tautly gripping and so exceedingly engaging. The hours seemed to fly by as I lost myself in this book. I became enthralled in Constance’s life, the people she loves, and the terrible betrayal that she endures by the hand of one of her closest relatives. The death of her husband and her child, and again another betrayal, but this time by a man she loved with every fibre of her being, made her story unforgettable. This is not a happy story, for how can it be when her life was anything but?

O’Brien has captured the very essence of what life may well have been like in the court of Henry IV. Henry knows that he needs to be lenient when dealing with his enemies. Henry is incredibly forgiving to his York cousins. O’Brien has portrayed Henry as a just king. However, Henry is very much aware that those who profess their undying loyalty one minute would stab him in the back the next. O’Brien has certainly portrayed Henry’s court as a pit of vipers. Constance and her Yorkist kin for all their pedigree, are the venom in the snake’s bite. Henry is well aware that they could bring him down if he dares lower his guard for even one moment.

There are many men in Constance’s life. The treatment of Constance by her brother, Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, is, on the face of it, appalling. Edward is seemingly more concerned about his own neck than his sister’s, but I could not help but wonder if he knew that Constance was more likely to come away with her life, than he would if he confessed to the charges laid before him. Was Edward a shrewd politician, or a coward? I am not sure. Whatever he was, he certainly knew how to play this Medieval Game of Thrones to his advantage.

There is one other secondary character that has to be mentioned, and that is Edmund Holland, 4th Earl of Kent.  Edmund was something of a paradox. I don’t think I have ever adored and disliked a character quite so much as Edmund. I thought he was wonderfully portrayed. He and Constance are the victims of their time. And their story was particularly heartrending.

The historical detailing of this book has to be commended. O’Brien has brought Lancastrian England back to life. The history is so rich in the telling and so very vibrant. O’Brien is a master at writing compelling Historical Fiction.

A Tapestry of Treason was everything I hoped it would be and then some. It is undoubtedly a very emotional story, so do keep a box of Kleenex handy if you are of a tearful disposition!

I Highly Recommended.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.


Pre-order your copy of
A Tapestry of Treason
Released on Kindle August 22nd 2019


Anne O’Brien

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.

Anne loves to hear from readers, you can find her: Website  Facebook Twitter




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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx