NOBLE NOVEMBER: Tarnish by Katherine LongshoreTarnish by Katherine Longshore
Published by Viking Juvenille on June 18, 2013
Pages: 448
Format: eBook
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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.

Anne made King Henry lose his head in lust.
Anne made King Henry lose his head in lust.

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.

Anne Boleyn
A plotting Anne Boleyn

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.

Looks like I'm not the only one who thought Anne should have chose Thomas.
Looks like I’m not the only one who thought Anne should have chose Thomas.

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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NOBLE NOVEMBER: Gilt by Katherine LongshoreGilt by Katherine Longshore
Published by Viking Juvenille on May 15, 2012
Pages: 406
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
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In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free--
and love comes at the highest price of all.
 

When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Jewels, and Bitches, and Boys! Oh, my!

If you have watched HBO’s The Tudors, or nurse a love for English history (as do I), than you have probably been drawn to the Gilt, Tarnish, and Brazen books by Katherine Longshore. The stunning covers on the most recent editions of these books invoke a sense of richness and luxury reserved for kings and queens. I appreciate the hours and hard work spent on Katherine’s part to shine light on the nooks and crannies of court life, and character’s that would have otherwise been forgotten by time. Gilt tells the story of Catherine Howard’s short-lived reign through the eyes of her best friend, Katherine (aka Kitty) Tylney.

Cat Howard
Cat took to court life like a fish to water.

The story follows Kitty, Catherine, and their tight-nit group of friend’s journey from bored and unruly, to courtly and untamed. Catherine is the Queen of Misrule amongst her friends, and there is no shortage of wild, midnight escapades, and cunning sneak-aways where Catherine is involved. When Catherine Howard finally gets her chance at court life, her closest friends are left behind to revel at her new, and exciting  opportunity. As Cat’s best friend, Kitty knows that she plans to play at much more than courtier. Catherine has her eyes set on the King. She wants to be the Queen of England.

I imagine Cat and her entourage partying late at night like this scene from the movie Cracks.
I imagine Cat and her entourage partying late at night like this scene from the movie Cracks.

Things go as planned for Catherine, and it’s not long before she employs Kitty and her other close friends from her pre-court days as her chambermaids. Kitty is delighted to have a chance at a new life, but it means leaving behind a boy she grew fond of after Cat went to court. Kitty finally felt like she was able to flourish outside of Cat’s shadow once she left. Going to court might mean putting up with Catherine’s whims and catty ways again, but it is a risk Kitty is willing to take because she has no family or title to ensure her livelihood.

Kitty quickly becomes ensconced in court-life, and the beautiful dresses and jewels the king bestows upon Catherine have no end. Catherine has secured the King’s love, but she has yet to be crowned. Cat is playing a dangerous game with the men at court, and Kitty fears that the rowdy and less-than innocent behavior of Catherine before she became Queen will come back to haunt all of them.

King Henry smitten with Catherine Howard.
King Henry smitten with Catherine Howard.

The author paints a realistic vision of court-life, and it is akin to a den of vipers. No one can be trusted, and Catherine knows she is loathed by most women at court. Lustful escapades, and treacherous talk come back to convict Catherine, but she is not the only one that is implicated for her bad behavior. No one in Catherine’s fold leaves court unscathed.

In the end, I think being well schooled on English Monarchs and having seen The Tudors hurt my experience with this book. I enjoyed all historical accuracy and detail, but wasn’t very entertained or transfixed. I mean, I already knew what the ending of the story was going to be, so that wasn’t my issue. I think we are meant to despise Catherine Howard and sympathize with Kitty’s character, but that never happened for me. I disliked Kitty as much as I disliked Cat. Even though this was a different take/view on the story of Catherine Howard, it didn’t feel like it offered anything new. This story was through Kitty’s eyes and experiences, but I didn’t feel like it was Kitty’s story. It was still Catherine Howard’s. Catherine and Kitty have their share of rendezvous, but they were all just short of romantic. They read like minor details, and don’t satisfy a romantic sweet-tooth. I wasn’t stunned by this book, but I liked it. I will still read Katherine Longshore’s Tarnish and Brazen. If you are not familiar with the rule of King Henry VIII or the story of Catherine Howard, then I think you will enjoy this well researched Historical YA novel.

 

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