Anne Boleyn is the odd girl out. Newly arrived to the court of King Henry VIII, everything about her seems wrong, from her clothes to her manners to her witty but sharp tongue. So when the dashing poet Thomas Wyatt offers to coach her on how to shine at court—and to convince the whole court they’re lovers—she accepts. Before long, Anne’s popularity has soared, and even the charismatic and irresistible king takes notice. More than popularity, Anne wants a voice—but she also wants love. What began as a game becomes high stakes as Anne finds herself forced to make an impossible choice between her heart’s desire and the chance to make history.
Hoes before Bros.
King Henry lost his proverbial head before Anne did.
I wasn’t all that impressed or moved by Katherine Longshore’s Gilt as you know if you read my review of it here, but I really enjoyed Tarnish. Where I felt Gilt was a little stiff and read like ages 9-13 appropriate, Tarnish loosened up and felt YA for an older age group. We’re all familiar with the story of Anne Boleyn. She literally lost her head for King Henry VIII, and pushed him to sever ties with Rome in order to make her Queen of England. She drove King Henry to lustful madness, and to choose her over all of his closest male advisors and friends. King Henry’s lust for Anne made him choose her over his own dignity. Maybe that’s why things didn’t turn out well in the end. Anne Boleyn was a woman on a mission who got caught up in her own tedious game of chess. But all of those things are redundant no matter how you write about them. Katherine Longshore managed to present us with something fresh on Anne Boleyn, in a way that would rival Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl.
We meet Anne a few years prior to her short-lived Queen of England days, and Katherine Longshore gives us a worm’s eye view of what makes Anne Boleyn tick. Anne’s emotions are volatile in Tarnish, and created a person I could empathize with. At the same time, the thoughts and emotions that drive Anne made me annoyed with her. I was constantly questioning her reasoning skills and her motivations. Katherine managed to present Anne’s sister Mary, and brother George in a much harsher light than what I’ve known about them from other texts. I liked this aspect of the story because I think it made Anne’s character that much more believable.
All of the plotting, coying, and toying that come with court life were very entertaining. Katherine perfectly captured the spirit of England and the King’s court. Reading Tarnish was like walking into the lost pages of a history book. My enjoyment of the historically accurate aspects aside, it was the relationship and go-between of Anne and Thomas Wyatt that made this story for me. I have always thought we never hear or learn quite enough about Thomas Wyatt in Historical Fiction or other historical texts for that matter. I really, really, really liked that Katherine fleshed him out for us. As his character takes shape, the harsh things that I disliked about him melt away once he is caught in Anne’s orbit. The build-up and story between them was just right, and just what I wanted from this book.
Tarnish takes us through Anne’s days as naive and wounded Lark, to plotting and powerful Raven. Anne refused to be anyone’s mistress, but why? We learn in this book that it wasn’t about honor, but about being the woman on top. Anne chooses power over love. She chooses to win at her own self-imposed game, rather than lose herself to the many unknowns that accompany her heart-felt love and regard of Thomas Wyatt. Katherine Longshore ends the story at a place in Anne Boleyn’s tale that gives the utmost impact. I loved it.
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