"You know when you're reading a good book by how quickly you become immersed in it.
Annie's book quickly creates a real sense of time and place(s). It commands attention with interesting characters given timeless life challenges.
Our heroine is offered as a young bride to cement a strategic alliance. Hence we get arranged marriage, a forced relocation, landing in a strange town and striving to fit in, earning trust, training for a strange job, strategies women use to survive in a male-dominated society. Then there's nation building, troublesome immigrants...and a fair bit of travel.
Add in a young girl flowering into womanhood the discovery of feelings and sexuality, first loves, lust, unrequited love, flirting, the emergence of love and mutual respect developing into true love, loss and death (a fair bit of it) and you'll be hooked.
Yet nothing is gaudy here. Annie always writes thoughtfully; the emotional and physical themes are always an important part of the weave of the story. Plenty of reason to care about the lives of the characters in the story.
Oh and there's blood, guts and an education in the origins of language. Oh and really well researched history.
This is a stunning debut. I've laughed, cried, cheered, hoped, learnt and thought: lots. This is immersive, emotive, sensitive storytelling set in a fascinating world.
I'm ordering the second book from Annie Whitehead."
"Immensely well researched and highly readable, 'To be a Queen' deals with a period of early English history that I knew next to nothing about. The detail is impeccable and the characters all have their own life. Annie Whitehead has created believable people that stride through the pages of her book with dignity and a sense of purpose and place that is not always found in historical novels."
“I really enjoyed this book. This is a period of English history that is sadly neglected by most novelists, and Annie Whitehead really brings it to life. She has clearly researched the period in great depth, but incorporates the details of Anglo-Saxon life so cleverly into a fascinating story with believable characters, that I found myself able to envision the landscapes and buildings they lived in without feeling that the description overwhelmed the storyline at all. The characters are interesting and complex, and the plot flows along beautifully, making it a book I had trouble putting down. Excellent. Highly recommended.”
“A great read and not a period of history that I would normally choose. By setting the scene with Teasel's childhood you want to read more about the woman she becomes, the challenges ahead and find you are drawn into her story very quickly. Fact and fiction are woven very deftly, the characters are well defined and I really enjoyed the historical backdrop. I hope there will be another book from this author.”“I found the “To be a Queen" a highly interesting and well researched book"
“I couldn't put this down; the author had really got inside the heads of the characters and put this across so that I cared about them and wanted to know what happened next. It seemed to me that the author has a thorough and well researched understanding of this period in English history which is not so well known and can be confusing with unfamiliar names and spellings. I noticed she'd modernised the name spellings, which might upset the odd purist but really helped to keep the narrative flowing. I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a rattling good story and a fascinating insight into the life of a remarkable woman and the beginnings of what we know as England.”
“Unable to follow her heart, Teasel, daughter of King Alfred is led by the love and history of her people down a path that gradually allows her to be loved and love again. Annie takes us into a time in history not often written about, where we learn about the everyday lives of the people as well as the horror and hardships of battle. If you like Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma mysteries you will love this book and I very much look forward to her next one.”
“A well written and well researched novel based on such little evidence as we have about this relatively unknown period of history. I found it a little slow to start with but soon became caught up in the story of "Teasel", Aethelflaed daughter of King Alfred, and how she became known as "The Lady of the Mercians". If you enjoy the historical novels of Elizabeth Chadwick, you will find this account interesting and enjoyable.”
“A well-researched and very readable book which brings to life a neglected period in our history. I learned a lot.”
“This book was lent to me by a friend. Couldn't put it down.”
“Such a well-researched book which made the story come alive and taught me a lot more about this period than I ever knew before.” From amazon.com “To Be a Queen, by Annie Whitehead, is a real treat of a historical novel. This is the story of Teasel, the daughter of King Alfred the Great, set against the turbulent background of medieval England (9th-10th century A.D.) These were times when Viking marauders harried England with relative impunity, with none of the island’s several kingdoms strong enough to repel the invaders. I know very little about this time period, and Whitehead’s richly detailed, meticulously researched novel was a wonderful way to learn. As Teasel matures from child to young woman, we see her closeness to her brother Edward and her Uncle Wulf, in contrast to her difficult relationship with both parents. Her father is continually away at war, so he is almost a stranger to the young girl, while her mother lives in morbid fear of her husband dying in battle. As might be expected, Teasel is eventually given in marriage to a stranger – Ethelred, leader of Mercia - for the purpose of cementing an alliance. Her slow transformation from unwilling and unwanted bride to loving and beloved wife and lady of Mercia is beautifully written. At times it brought tears to my eyes. Teasel is portrayed as a woman of rare courage and compassion who indeed knows what it means to be a queen. With Teasel at its centre, the story follows the ever-shifting alliances and fortunes of battle as England struggles to unite and drive the Vikings from the country permanently. I’ll make no attempt to detail the closely woven web of rivalries, friendships and betrayals that play out through the book. I’ll just say that it all makes fascinating reading. Whitehead’s voice puts me in mind of Mary Stewart’s Merlin series. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical novels.”
“This is a very enjoyable historical novel about "the Lady of the Mercians," Alfred the Great's daughter Æthelflæd. It is well researched about the Anglo-Saxon period around the year 900; the wars and some of the political wheelings and dealings are real, and many details of daily life are accurate. Since not much is really known about Æthelflæd, of course the author had to use her imagination to fill in who she might have been as a person, her feelings and family relationships. Annie Whitehead does a great job of inventing a realistic personality, who successfully faced a lifetime of trials.”
“A most enjoyable read; historically accurate yet written in a way that is easy to follow and the type of book I couldn't put down. If you like historical well written books then this is the book for you ... Superb”
from goodreads “This is a wonderfully vivid historical novel, which I enjoyed very much. When I started the book I did have to refer to the “character list” several times partly because several of the people had names either starting with “Ethel---" or “Aethel---" and I did find myself getting a bit confused as to who was who. However I quickly overcame this and soon found myself caught up in a very exciting tale. I loved the character of Aethelflaed, and loved how her character developed into a woman of strength which we had followed right from being a child. All the characters were well fleshed out and the descriptions of places helped to give a real feeling of being there. This was not a period of time that I knew a great deal about, but I feel I know it a lot better now. I can definitely recommend this book.” From HNS (Historical Novel Society) “Everyone has heard of Alfred the Great; not everyone knows of his daughter, Æthelflæd, ‘Lady of the Mercians’. This is a shame as she was a remarkable woman, but history was written by the men and women were not regarded as important during the traumatic years when individual kingdoms were evolving into the single kingdom of England. However, Æthelflæd became the Queen of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom and could not be ignored. Annie Whitehead has achieved a stirring and passionately written account of the woman who thoroughly deserves to have her story told. Born into the royal house of Wessex during the Viking wars, Æthelflæd is sent to Mercia as a foster-child, only to return home when Viking raiding increases. In Wessex she witnesses the horror of war and the reality of being royal-born, for she is given in marriage as an alliance between Wessex and Mercia. The Mercians resent her, making it hard for her to overcome indifference towards her husband. When he falls ill she has to rule; when he dies she leads the Mercian army against the Vikings and, ultimately, her brother. To Be Queen is well-written and researched. The historical fiction author’s task is to blend the real with the made-up, and Ms Whitehead has deftly transferred known fact into entertaining fiction. Æthelflæd’s struggle to survive, as a woman and a queen, makes her a believably strong character – one to care and root for. There is a large cast of characters with unfamiliar Anglo-Saxon names to remember, but all are there for a purpose, and most were necessities for they really did exist. A remarkable novel, a book for the author to be proud of and readers to enjoy."