Published by Viking Juvenille on May 15, 2012
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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.
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.
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.
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.