Author: Katherine Longshore
Series: Companion novel to Gilt
Genre: YA Historical
Summary (from Goodreads)
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.
It must have been frustrating to be a woman at the time of Henry VII. With no outlet for self expression, other than needlework and fashion, the women that inhabit Katherine Longshore’s Tarnish turn to bitching and betrayals to subtly manoeuvre themselves to positions of power. Or at least, as much power as it was possible for a woman to possess.
Which sounds all dreadfully anti-feminist, quick let’s burn some bras to cancel out the degradation, but Anne Boleyn is actually a refreshingly strong female character – realistic within her time frame, but feisty and modern enough for modern girls to relate and look up to. Only not too much, she does get her head chopped off for witchcraft, after all.
Anne’s drive to be her own woman – a near impossible task for the time – is admirable, and makes her an excellent topic for historical fiction. I guess her tragic end means she’s more often explored in a tragic way, but here she’s very much alive and on the cusp of greatness, her sordid end a shadow on the horizon, but never reached. At least, not in this book.
The pageantry of court life is wonderfully brought to life, and Anne’s position as an outsider, her disdain for it all and yet her desperation to fit in amongst it, because to fit in gives her power, make reading the novel like walking on a tightrope. You can see clearly as Anne can that it’s not the sort of place you’d want to spend any time in, but at the same time the glamourousness of it all is an ever present temptation, leaving you to wonder if you would have done any differently.
Like all the best historical fiction, it creates a world that sucks you in and makes you want to hang around, explore, and when you run out of pages to perhaps find some more in another book, perhaps one that isn’t fiction this time.